THE TRUE MEANING OF GOD’S WRATH
“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent.” Numbers 23:19. If you can understand what “God’s repentance,” means, then you will be ready to grasp the true meaning of “God’s wrath,” as it is used in the Scriptures. The principle is the same. God’s repentance is synonymous with pity and divine grief. The Hebrew word is “nacham,” meaning “to sigh, breath strongly, pity, console.” (Strong’s 5162).
Malachi 3:6 tells us that “I am the Lord, I change not.” Yet, we read in 1 Samuel 15:11, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king.” Again in Genesis 6:6, “And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” I want to explain this “repent” aspect of God, for it all ties into my main point, that God never changes as man does, and we all know that to “repent,” basically means to “be sorry,” to “change direction and go another way.” But, I am telling you that God is not like this. When the Lord “repents” it simply means He is sorry man has failed to obey and cooperate with Him so He could bless him. He then has to alter His plans to accommodate man’s lack of understanding and cooperation.
Jesus is the Lord of the Old Testament who “repented that He had made man,” and that He had made Saul King of Israel. See Genesis 6 and 1 Samuel 15:11. This same Lord permitted a flood to destroy the old world and let Saul be led by Satan to kill himself, thus removing him from being king. He simply let him follow his own will and counsel and thus destroy himself. “Destroy thou them O God. Let them fall by their own counsels.” Psalms 5:10. For the flood, see Job 18:7,8, Job 22:15-18; Isaiah 54:5-10.
An angry God of the Old Testament who poured out His wrath on those who disobeyed His laws is the opposite of the God of the New Testament who became one of us and “offered us the way of salvation.” But hasn’t this been the basic theology of most of Protestantism since the Reformation? I know there are many varieties among Christian groups today.
But somehow I believe that our theology in this last hour should have a more consistent and appealing ring to it than the preaching of a watered down Jonathan Edward’s version of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
Whether it be for all eternity that they suffer at His hands or “just for a little while” in the lake of fire, it is still a slander and a blight on the Character of God. It just doesn’t harmonize or ring true to the picture we see of Jesus in the New Testament.
“Oh, but Brother Mike,” some will say, “this is God’s strange act.” What you really mean is that at the end of time Jesus is going to blow His cool and act out of character for just one last time before eternity begins. I am aware that this is the common understanding of many people. Until I began studying this subject of God’s character in depth, I had no other explanation for it either. But, knowledge and truth are progressive. Now, I will deal with this concept of “GOD’S STRANGE ACT” later on, but for now, I want to examine the phrase, “THE WRATH OF GOD,” with you and show what it really means and how and why it is used in the Bible.
“The Wrath of God,” is an expression that is used over and over again in both the Old and New Testaments. Since Grace and Law and Character are the same in both Testaments, then it must follow suit that this expression would also be the same.
By my count from “Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible,” the word “wrath” is used more than 240 times in many different ways. There are, at least, eight different Hebrew words for wrath, maybe more, and, at least, five different Greek words for wrath in the New Testament.
It is not my intention in this study to examine each of these words and consider the different meanings, but it is my desire that we understand what the various phrases mean in context.
In Romans 1:18, we read, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” This is the first time in Scripture where the Holy Spirit inspired a writer to declare that God’s wrath was going to be explained. Now, we have to pay close attention as Paul develops his thought in order to catch this revelation of God’s wrath.
In verse 19, he says that God has showed people in the past the truth about Himself, and in verse 20, he calls these manifestations the “invisible things of him from the creation of the world.”
Another translation says on verse 19, “For the truth about God is known to them instinctively, God has put this knowledge in their hearts.” Living Bible. The King James Version says, “is manifest in them”; and Romans 2:14,15 explains what Paul means. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness…” The Living Bible says, “for down in their hearts they know right from wrong.”
We have two factors established now. First, that God’s wrath is revealed against those who go against what they know to be right or what the Bible calls “righteousness.” Compare James 4:17 and 1 John 5:17. Second, the law of God is automatically built into a person when he is born. He is preprogrammed to recognize sin, for the law of God is in his mind to blow the whistle on him each time he breaks one of those Ten Commandments, even if he has never heard of the Ten Commandments or the name of God.
We know this is true from a study of anthropology, which shows that even in the most backward tribes, there are laws governing conduct, and these laws invariably are based upon the principles of the Ten Commandments. Of course, it is granted that not all ten of the precepts may be there, but even those that are left out or ignored condemn the people; and, to the extent that they disregard the inner voice, to that extent they are degraded. Anthropologists also tell us that every race in every age has worshiped some kind of deity, which proves that there is a built-in, innate, inner urge to worship something above and beyond themselves. Later on we will examine verse 16 of Romans 2, which will help us to understand “God’s Strange Act.”
WHEN GOD LETS A MAN GO HIS OWN WAY
Paul continues to build onto his definition of the WRATH OF GOD in verses 21,22, and 23 of Romans 1 and comes to his conclusion in verse 24 with this: “Wherefore, God also gave them up.” That is God’s Wrath. When He is unable to plead with human beings any longer, He is forced to “give them up” to their own lusts and passions and weepingly and sorrowfully watch them self-destruct.
Many people will carry into this verse their Old Testament concept of a God of wrath instead of a Jesus filled with love, weeping over the city of Jerusalem.
In A.D. 54 Paul wrote to the Church at Thessalonica about the Jewish persecution and opposition he was encountering everywhere he went. “For ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved TO FILL UP THEIR SINS ALWAY: FOR THE WRATH IS COME UPON THEM TO THE UTTERMOST.” See 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16.
JESUS WEEPS OVER JERUSALEM
“And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” Luke 19:41,42, Isaiah 26:11.
Let me ask you a question; was Jesus the one who was “hiding the truth from the eyes of the Jews” at this time so they would not accept Him? You would say, “No, of course not.” What then did Isaiah mean when he said under the inspiration of JESUS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, “also I heard the voice of the Lord, (Jesus) saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us: Then said I, Here am I; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; LEST THEY SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” Isaiah 6:8-10.
Why did Jesus tell Isaiah to go “BLIND THEIR EYES”? Didn’t He want them to see the truth? “Oh,” you say, “that is just a figure of speech. It really doesn’t mean that. It wasn’t Jesus’ fault. It was the people’s fault.”
Oh, I see. Well, then maybe that reasoning would help us to understand the passage in Jude 6 which says, “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the great day.” Cf. Psalms 73:6, Proverbs 5:22, John 8:24.
What does “everlasting chains under darkness” mean? Did Jesus bind Satan and all of his Angels with chains and kick them out of heaven so they could never get back in no matter what? Is that the way Jesus operates? You say, “No, Jesus is always kind and loving to everyone.” I wonder if He wept over Lucifer and the angels when they “LEFT.” Did the Father weep over His prodigal son when he left? Luke 15:11-32. Would it not simply mean that all of Satan’s angels are still in darkness regarding the truth about God’s true character? They still believe He kills. Mark 1:24. This is a doctrine of devils.
Consider Romans 11:7-10. King David spoke of this same thing when he said, “Let their good food and other blessings trap them into thinking all is well between themselves and God. Let these good things boomerang on them and fall back upon their heads to justly crush them. Let their eyes be dim,” he said, “so that they cannot see, and let them walk bent-backed forever with a heavy load.” Living Bible.
“Even now when the Scripture is read it seems as though Jewish hearts and minds are covered by a thick veil, because they cannot see and understand the real meaning of the Scriptures. For this veil of misunderstanding can be removed only by BELIEVING IN CHRIST.” 2 Corinthians 3:14,15 Living Bible. The veil represents our fleshly, carnal mind.
Friend of mine, let us pray that Jesus will lift the veil from our eyes so we may see the true beauty of His Character which is in His law. Jesus and His Father are total pure love. They have never changed. They have never hurt or killed anyone. Lucifer and his hosts left heaven because they wanted to leave. Lucifer was convinced that He was wrong, but pride would not let him go back. Ezekiel 28:15-17, Isaiah 14:12-14, Lam. 2:1.
Does pride blind a person? Yes, it does. It also leads to destruction—self-destruction or suicide. “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18. Because God is a God of love, He tries to show people their errors so they will not die. But, the more you show people how they are wrong, the more they rebel—most of them at least. And God always takes the blame. He says, “I blinded them with my truth. I killed them with my law, which revealed their sins and made them mad so they will not come to me. Now my WRATH IS UPON THEM.”
And what is God’s wrath? Romans 1:24 and 26 tells us. “So God let them go ahead into every sort of sex sin, and do whatever they wanted to—yes, vile and sinful things with each other’s bodies. Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they prayed to the things God made, but wouldn’t obey the blessed God who made these things. That is why God let go of them….”
Can you picture God hanging on to a person He loves? Let’s picture Jesus again weeping over the city of Jerusalem and the whole nation. He was hanging on to them just as long as He could, and they kept on kicking and hitting Him saying, “Let me go, let me go, I hate you, God, I don’t want you to tell me the truth. Let me go so I can kill you, then I won’t have to listen to you tell me about my sins anymore.”
Did Jesus hit back? No. He never has and He never is going to in the future. But, all the time, Jesus takes the blame with His Father. Even on the cross He prayed for them, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Have you ever wondered why He prayed for them? Because very few others were praying for the Jews. Satan was just gnashing at the bit to kill them, and finally got his chance in A.D. 70.
We will deal with that in depth in a moment, but let us now go to Psalms 78 and look at a few texts. Notice in verses 46-48 that the Psalmist uses the word “gave,” which has the connotation of “permitting,” just as we read in Romans 1:24,26, that God “gave them up;” it is the same thing. Now, look at verses 45,47,49, 50, and 51 of Psalm 78.
Notice the words and phrases as I list them in order: “sent,” “He sent,” “He destroyed,” “He cast,” “He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence; and SMOTE all the firstborn in Egypt.”
Now, I quoted the last two verses of Psalm 78: 50, 51, completely, for a reason. Even though these are all different words, they all are saying the same thing . . . “I did not prevent it from happening. I, the Messiah, Jesus, of the Old Testament, let these things happen because the people chose to go their own way and do their own thing. They would not listen to me. I wept and begged them to listen, but they told me to stop talking and to let them go. And, so, I had no choice, for they have the right to choose which way they will go. I made them that way. I, Jesus, am weeping.”
I want to say something about prayer. Prayer is power of attorney. It gives God the authority to act in your behalf or in the behalf of the one for whom you are praying. Jesus’ prayers for His people who killed Him and for His disciples gave God the authority or power of attorney to protect the nation, to preserve it until 70 A. D. Psalms 122:6 is an admonition to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” We should pray for it today as never before, because when Jerusalem is in trouble, the whole world is in trouble.
Now, let us consider the mechanics of how the wicked are destroyed today and in the past. “He cast upon them (notice the word, ‘cast’) the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.” Psalms 78:49. God always gives little keys to unlock the doors for those who really want to know the truth. Only those who truly want to be like Jesus in character will pray for the Holy Spirit to give them the keys to unlock these doors to God’s heart so that we can go inside and see what He is really like.
Revelation 12:9 tells us that Satan was “cast out” of heaven when Jesus made “war” against Satan and his hosts. Job 18:7, 8 shows us how God casts down. Notice, “The steps of his strength shall be straitened, and his own counsel shall cast him down.” Remember Psalms 5: 10, “Destroy thou them O God. Let them fall by their OWN COUNSELS.” God always takes the blame. He always remains sovereign by saying, “I did it.” “For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walketh upon a snare.” Job 18:8. See also Lamentations 2:1.
Now let’s read Psalms 9:15,16: “The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.” Compare Proverbs 26:27. Now read verse 16, “The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.” “Higgaion.” “Selah.” In other words, God is known (to those who want to know the truth) by the DECISIONS WHICH HE CARRIES OUT. Read Revelation 15 very carefully and you will see that God is fully understood and vindicated in the end. This study will also help explain the WRATH OF GOD in the book of Revelation. God takes the blame for us now, but the day is coming when He will no longer be able to take the blame for us.
DEATH OF KING SAUL
The death of the first king of Israel is a perfect example of how God always takes the blame and says, “I did it.” In 2 Chronicles 10:3-5 we see that Saul loses the battle and commits suicide by falling on his sword. But in verses 13 and 14, God says through the Holy Spirit, “therefore He slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.”
In 2 Samuel 24:1, we read, “And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” The marginal reference says, “That is, Satan,” instead of “He,” which means that the truth of the matter is Satan was the one who moved or incited David to number Israel, but the Bible writer wrote it up as if God did it, even though 1 Chronicles 21:1 says bluntly, “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.” These two accounts were written 500 years apart which reveals progressive revelation on the part of the scribes themselves.
Now, why does God always take the blame? First of all, it is the only way He can save us from destroying ourselves because of the guilt of sin. Secondly, He never bad mouths people. He did not expose Judas. He always tries to shelter everyone from blame as much as possible. He only reveals what we can stand so that we will repent and turn from our sins and be saved. Thirdly, God must remain sovereign over all His creation so He can receive worship. He takes all the credit and all the blame so people will not worship Satan. He would rather have people worship Him out of fear and be saved (Jude 23) than for Him to say, “I don’t do the bad things; he is the one over there who does the bad; so you better watch out for him (Satan).” Satan must be allowed to expose himself.
He did not do that in the Old Testament, for they would have worshiped Satan out of fear instead of God. But, in the New Testament, He reveals Himself a lot more. Yet, we do not see it unless we are praying for the Holy Spirit to help us to see it. Notice who the Death Angel of Egypt was. “FOR THE LORD WILL PASS THROUGH TO SMITE THE EGYPTIANS: (Notice the word, “smite”) AND WHEN HE SEETH THE BLOOD UPON THE LINTEL, AND ON THE TWO SIDE POSTS, THE LORD WILL NOT SUFFER THE DESTROYER TO COME IN UNTO YOUR HOUSES TO SMITE YOU.” Exodus 12:23.
Notice here the word SUFFER. That is the key word. Suffer or allow or permit could be used here. Who is it that hurts and destroys and kills? John 10:10 says, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Exodus 12:13 tells us the Firstborn died of a “PLAGUE.” Psalms 91 is a promise that all who “dwell in the secret place of the Most High” will be saved from the plague. “There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” What is the secret place of the Most High? Jesus says, “Abide in me.” John 15:4. Jesus is the “Rock,” the great secret hiding place of the ages. The Hebrew word in Judges 13:18 translated “secret,” is peli, which also means wonderful. This is the same word that is used in Isaiah 9:6, “And His name shall be called Wonderful.” He (Jesus) is surely our “Peli,” hiding place. In Psalms 91:1 the Hebrew word is “sether,” which is translated the SECRET place. So Jesus is truly our wonderful “Peli” and “Sether,” in all the troubles of life. And how does God “hide” us in His “Secret” place? Psalms 91:11. “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” Psalms 34:7. The Bible tells us, “O Israel, thou has destroyed thyself, … thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” Hosea 13:9; 14:1.
The Jewish nation in Hosea’s day, as well as Jesus’ day, brought all of their troubles upon themselves by their own stubborn disobedience. They simply reaped what they had sown. And yet the Bible, in most places, wrote it up as if God was bringing these terrible calamities upon them. He was continually covering up for Lucifer and his angels. “The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart.” Deuteronomy 28:27,28.
But when Jesus came, he healed the sick, blind and mad. In fact, the Scriptures point out that Satan was the cause of the people’s oppression. “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him.” Acts 10:38. See also Luke 13:16. It will be the objective of this book to explain and remove this seeming contradiction from the mind of the reader.
It is most important that we understand how God has been operating throughout the centuries, so we will understand what is happening in this last hour of earth’s history, for God never changes. The “TIME OF TROUBLE,” spoken of in Daniel 12:1, is coming upon the world very rapidly. We must understand that Satan, not our wonderful Heavenly Father, is responsible for this terrible TIME OF TROUBLE. It must be clear in our minds just what God’s wrath, God’s anger, and God’s judgment mean. Psalms 9:15, 16, proves that God executes judgment (carries out His decisions) by allowing the wicked to become “snared in the work of his own hands.” See also Psalms 5:10 and Psalms 7:15.
Let’s notice how God executes judgment. We, in our carnal nature want to serve a God who acts and thinks like we do so we can blame “our carnal” Father when we get angry or fed up. God’s Wrath, God’s Anger, God’s Repentance, God’s jealousy, yes, all of His ways are much different than our ways. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8, 9.
GOD DOES NOT STAND AS AN EXECUTIONER
GOD DOES NOT STAND AGAINST US AS AN EXECUTIONER OF OUR SENTENCE AGAINST TRANSGRESSION: BUT WHEN WE REJECT HIS MERCY, HE IS FORCED TO LEAVE US TO OUR SELVES. Here it is again. “Wherefore God also gave them up.” Romans 1:24. Notice also in Hosea’s writings how God let Jerusalem go. “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.” “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee?” Hosea 4:17 and 6:4.
A modern translation reads, “O Ephraim and Judah, what shall I do with you?” It sounds like an exasperated mother or a wounded spouse, doesn’t it? But, go back to Hosea 6:1 and notice, “Come, and let us return unto the Lord; FOR HE HATH TORN, AND HE WILL HEAL US: HE HATH SMITTEN, AND HE WILL BIND US UP.” SEE HOW GOD ALWAYS REMAINS KING OF THE UNIVERSE, BOSS OVER ALL CREATION, AND SOVEREIGN RULER OVER HIS OWN BY TAKING ALL THE BLAME. This is how He has even kept Satan and his angels alive.
If we can understand this one concept of the Hebrew Scriptures, it will open up a thousand locked doors. God takes the blame for man and Satan. “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms: but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love; (compare Psalms 2:1, 2) and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them…. HOW SHALL I GIVE THEE UP, EPHRAIM? HOW SHALL I DELIVER THEE, ISRAEL? … MINE HEART IS TURNED WITHIN ME, MY REPENTINGS ARE KINDLED TOGETHER.” Hosea 11:1-4, 8. It is the JERUSALEM SCENE all over again. The Hebrew root word for “repentings” is “nachum,” meaning “consoled” or” comforted,” Psalm 23:4—God’s staff or Holy Spirit “comforts” us. It also means to “sigh,” and “breathe deeply” as in mourning or weeping. Our Heavenly father is a very emotional and romantic person. John 11:33-35. Song of Solomon 8:6.
God will have to leave the finally impenitent to themselves, to reap what they have sown. The city of Jerusalem, the Jewish nation and Judas are examples of what happens when God is forced to let them go. The leaders in Christ’s day and even Peter and the other disciples misunderstood Christ’s mission. They expected Him to humiliate and destroy their enemies. When He humiliated Himself by washing their feet and dying on the cross, they were horrified. So it is today! Christ’s professed followers serve a God of wrath and vengeance instead of the lowly Nazarene. Another disappointment is coming for the Church.
The only people who will recognize the “true” Christ when he finally comes are those who have received the divine nature, 1 Peter 1:4. The “carnal mind” or nature we are born with is “enmity against God.” Romans 8:7.