So, what do we do?
1) Well, we could just avoid all the texts that seem to refer to another future judgement and coming wrath from God
2) We could make up some stuff about "truth being in tension".. So, we can tell people, "Yes! it is finished.... BUT, well... it also is not completely finished yet - and then revert back to response No.1
3) We could just become more comfortable with having a schizophrenic god and make sure our gospel stays very "reformed". (You don't need to ask any real questions because your reformed theological suitcase was neatly packed for you over the last 400 hundreds so you never have to ruffle through it again.)
4) Lets start with who God is.
Scripture tells us that God loves the whole world (all people), and that nothing could ever separate mankind from His love - not even death!!(despite popular "christian" teaching)
But even further to the idea of Gods unconditional love for man is the reason this is so..... Because God IS Love! (1John 4:8)
Just as it is the nature of birds to sing, and dogs to bark, so too is it the nature of God to Love. Its who He is. Everything that He does is love flavored. He can do nothing that does not have love as its motive!
These days if some Christians were asked to define or describe to what "wrath" is, they would probably say something like.... "It is fierce anger", or in a religious context, "Its how God will act towards sinners at the end of time when he displays his anger at them - ultimately expressed by allowing them to burn in a place called hell, forever and ever.... that's God expressing his wrath"
Well, that is what we have been led to believe about what wrath is by Tradition. However, what does the word that's been translated as "wrath" in our English bibles actually mean?
The Greek word used for Wrath is "Orge'" - it is defined as any expression of intense emotion or Desire
In fact this self same word, "Orge" (wrath) is where we get our English word, "Orgy" from as well as "Orgasm" - yes that's right!
Continuing: The root of "Orge" is defined as "straining or reaching out in an intense or violent way for the object of one's desire. (In Gods case - thats mankind!!)
Q: So, from the modern traditional view of Gods wrath, when will God "pour our his wrath"
A: (from a modern traditional stand-point) At the end of time - when there will be YET ANOTHER JUDGEMENT. God will then Judge the world again and pour out his wrath on sinners...
(this common view is based on a very confusing view of the Revelation, which hopefully ill write about in a post soon: Update: its here)
Well, here's a thought. Scripture actually tells us what Gods "wrath" being poured out looks like, and that it also seems to be happening now - in this age as well:
What does His wrath look like? How is this outworked?
In Luke 15 Jesus tells a parable of a son who wanted his inheritance early from his father. He didn't want to stay in His fathers house.
So, what did his loving Father do?
He gave him what he wanted... he entrusted him over to worldly riches and his selfish desires so that he would reach the end of himself and realize his Fathers Goodness.
Q: Did the Father's love and desire for his son diminish towards his son at any stage?
A: Nope, in fact the Fathers desire to have his son back with him remained relentless as evidenced by his continuous searching for him - "even while he was a long way off, his Father saw him" Luke15:20
This is what Gods wrath does! It remains on those who do not believe (which is to Trust the Good news). His INTENSE Love for them (his wrath) will graciously allow them to reach the end of themselves, then when they turn around, there is - running towards them with arms wide open and kisses of unconditional forgiveness!
How perverted has modern western churchianity made this beautiful parable that Jesus told?
To the unbeliever churchianity says, "Repent!! Come to the Father and then He will be Good to you" (This is Crazy!! ... and NOT THE GOOD NEWS, this is religious crap!)
Scripture tells us that it is His Goodness that comes first and then repentance:
"..do you despise the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the GOODNESS of God leads you to repentance"
(It certainly seems as if most modern believers today actually DO despise Gods goodness towards ALL men.....)
Continuing: So Gods wrath - His intense Desire and love for mankind - will often allow unbelievers to reach the end of themselves. Remember, God is Love.....Love is patient, Love is kind, ......does not dishonour others, is not self seeking, Love keeps no record of wrongs.
All instances in Scripture of seemingly future "wrath"and "judgement" MUST be seen through the lenses of the *FINISHED work of Jesus and the Nature of God.
There can be no future judgement that in anyway dishonors the judgement that Jesus endured.
*On the Cross, when Jesus said "it is finished" he wasn't talking about the wine he was offered on the sponge!!
He was talking about completing what he was sent to do. He uses the word "Tetelestai" which means that nothing further can be added to the work. It is absolutely complete. As a master painter would stand back after painting a masterpiece and say, "It is finished". Not one additional brush stroke needs to be added. The work is perfect.
Now, with "Tetelestai" in mind:
1) Remember that just before Jesus went to the cross he said, "Now is the hour of the Judgement of the world..."
Q: So, is there another judgement of the world to come?
A: No, the judgement of the world is Tetelestai) * Of course this raises questions about "future Jugement"in Revelation. Once again, i will go through the book of Revelation soon, and point out how its all about Jesus and what was ALREADY accomplished through him. (UPDATE: its here)
2) John, "Behold! the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world"
Q: Did the Lamb of God TAKE AWAY the sin OF THE WORLD?
Q: Is there still sin that separates Man from God?
A: NO! The worlds sin has been taken away. It is Tetelestai - "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed or sin from us". - Ps 103:12)
So, will God really pour out His anger on unbelievers (as commonly understood), or will he pursue the very last one because he sees the intense value in all his creation?
In Luke 15, while talking about the prodigal son, he also tells of a Shepard who had 100 sheep and one goes astray. He relentlessly tracks it down until he finds it and brings it back home. The parable ends with a party over the found sheep and Jesus says that in just the same way there is great joy over one sinner who "changes his mind!" (repents)
Q: What made the one stray sheep (sinner) change his mind (repent)?
A: The goodness of God.
Scripture says, "we ALL like sheep have gone astray, each has turned to his own way..." Isa 53:6
and then that text in Isaiah carry's on to say that he will not count our sin against us....
Then immediately after this - same sitting - Jesus tells a parable of a lady who looses a valuable coin and how she relentlessly searches for it until she finds it. The point Jesus was making is that this is what God is like!
Then again he says there is much rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who changes his mind (repents).
Again, here Jesus is comparing the lost coin to a lost sinner. And the owner searches and searches until it is found. This is what God is like.
He has WRATH towards the lost sheep, lost coin, lost son.
His Wrath is his Intense love and desire to see ALL the sheep in one flock, All the valuable coins together again, All the lost sons come home again. He is NOT angry at the lost object. He loves them and he Saves them!
Q: What causes them to be saved?
A: The relentless Goodness of God
In fact Jesus actually said that the very reason He came was to seek and save (sozo) the lost!!
Q: Did Jesus accomplish all he came to do?
A: Yes. He even said, Father i have accomplished all you sent me to do (John17:4).
So when he said "It is Finished", it really was finished.
If he said that He came to seek and save the lost, then it is Finished/complete.
If, like John said, he is the Lamb of God that takes away the Sin OF THE World, then, it is Finished!!
Is God counting sin against man still OR has Sin been removed as far as the east is from the west?
So, is God's wrath to punish sinners OR is it to rescue them from the detrimental effects of living as a sinner so instead they can live in the freedom he always intended?
If sin has been removed by God himself and he "remembers it no more", then having "wrath"(as wrongly interpreted) against unbelievers is the height of hippocracy. - LOL!!, unless you make up some stuff about truth being in tension....
It IS finished.... already. The Good News of this reality, when we trust (believe/have faith) it causes us to partake in His freedom.
But Andrew!! People have to make a decision to follow God (who, by the way, scripture calls "The Great Shepard")
Well, that's not what Jesus himself explained as mentioned above. He said the Shepard (God) went looking for the one who chose NOT to follow him (unbeliever).... and found it and brought it home to be with the rest of the followers.
LOL - i can hear some already... Am i saying now that nobody need follow Jesus because he is just going to save everybody anyway?
I am saying that according to scripture some will choose Him in this age as they hear the GOOD NEWS and some wont hear the Good News in this age (Or perhaps they will hear but have too much baggage or indoctrinated minds about who God REALLY is and reject him out of ignorance).
The Great Shepard will bring in every last one! This we can be assured of.
We don't need to try to force a decision out of them by fear-mongering. If people believe and "choose" to follow God out of fear of torment (bad interpretation of wrath) then its NOT the Gospel they have believed - and it is NOT freedom they are living in, it IS BONDAGE.
Friends, we MUST see that the Gospel message is one of LOVE, not Fear. There is NO fear in love.
Paul quotes Isaiah 65:1 in Rom 10:20 when he says that Isaiah said BOLDLY about God, "I will be found by those who were NOT looking for me and i will reveal myself to those who DID NOT ask for me".
It seems to me that God loves people more than our modern western fickle "gospel" will allow for.
We want "WRATH" (bad def.) and judgement on unbelievers and so we have developed - over time - a doctrine to make room for this.
Meanwhile, God desires MERCY over Judgement.
(Remember when the disciples wanted to call down fire on the unbelieving Samaritans.... and Jesus rebuked them saying they are of the wrong spirit?)
So to conclude: Gods wrath upon people is a Good thing!! - It's His full commitment to see them free from the ravages of sin - and be fully who they were made to be. (God will continue to reveal the riches of his Grace to us through Christ Jesus in ALL the AGES TO COME (Eph 2).
God will continue to have his wrath rest on unbelievers until they finally see who He really is, that God is LOVE. Trust/Faith works through LOVE.
Perfect love casts out all fear because fear has to do with torment - 1 john 4:18
Thanks for reading. It is for freedom that you have been set free, so do not go back under a yoke of slavery again. God is GOOD. God is LOVE. It IS Finished.
PS: I am fully aware that for some reading this, the playing field (or lenses through which you read this) may not be even and you may have hundreds of questions.
1) If you believe in the modern western traditional of "hell" where God throws people into fire for all eternity this blog post will make no sense to you.
2) If you are unaware that the word "eternity" and "forever" are not actually in the original language of scripture, but rather the word "aeon" refers to an age - a space of time with a starting and ending point, then this post might not make any sense to you. read here
3) If you believe that God only loves Christians, then this post might not make sense to you.
4) If you believe that the book of Revelation is a future tense event and not the revelation of Jesus and what he accomplished, then this might not make sense to you. read here