The painting above is John Martin’s, Great Day of His Wrath. (It hangs in the Tate Gallery in London.)
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient” (Eph 5:6, emphasis added).
Biblical hermeneutics is the art and science of biblical interpretation and is perhaps summarized best by 2 Timothy 2:15,
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
- Grammatically, and
In Paul’s letter (epistle) to the Ephesians he was probably writing primarily to Christ-following Gentiles, or Greeks — and not Jews. (Ephesus was ranked with Rome, Corinth, Antioch, and Alexandria as the foremost urban centers of the Roman Empire.) In writing to Gentiles, Paul, as a well educated rabbi and also a citizen of Rome was, no doubt, aware that in the Rhetoric, Aristotle defined wrath (orgē) as, “a longing, accompanied by pain…” Aristotle additionally ascribed value to wrath (or anger) that has arisen from perceived injustice because it is useful for preventing injustice.
Misconceptions of the wrath of God have led to a false picture of God. One such is reading into the phrase “wrath of God” the idea of a “wrathful” or “angry” God. Here God is often seen as stern and cruel, a mean Judge who loves to revenge and punish humankind whenever there is an opportunity to do so, and at times even does so arbitrarily. Such a picture of God, however, is a grave distortion of God’s character and often leads to unhealthy fear or reward-motivated obedience — disconnected from love.
The Old Testament certainly states that opposition to God’s will results in God’s anger. In reference to anger, the Jewish Encyclopedia states: God is not an intellectual abstraction, nor is He conceived as a being indifferent to the doings of man; and His pure and lofty nature resents most energetically anything wrong and impure in the moral world. Christ-followers also subscribe to the perspective of God’s holiness and anger welling up in the sight of evil and this anger is not inconsistent with God’s love. We also believe that the wrath of God comes upon those who reject Jesus.
Yet, could this wrath (or anger) of God be focused more on the effects of sin than on the sinner? In Romans 1:18 Paul states, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” Could this be speaking of the longing and pain that God has for people to repent of their godlessness and wickedness?
The totality of Scripture makes it very clear that the wrath of God is not the last horizon. God is love (1 John 4:16). God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but is pleased when they turn from their sinful ways and live (Ezekiel 18:23). God wants all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the saving truth (1 Tim. 2:4-6). Reconciliation has its starting point in Christ. God wants the world to be reconciled with him, both in and through him (2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 5:8-11). God does not desire revengeful punishment. Within the context of biblical judgment, divine wrath is not an expression of a despotic deity, but a just and legitimate reaction against the effects (or, sinfulness) of sin. God’s wrath is aroused against sin, because sin is a rebellion against God’s nature and character. But even in God’s wrath mercy is remembered (Is. 54:7, 8).
The ultimate test of biblical scholarship is whether it serves effectively to equip God’s people for discipleship. The essentials of the Christian faith include:
- The authority of Scripture
- The existence of a Triune God
- Humankind is a physical and spiritual being who is created in God’s image
- Jesus Christ is by God’s grace, was born of a virgin, is fully God and fully man, died for our sins, physically rose from the dead, will one day return to judge the world and fully deliver his people, and was sent to save us from our bondage to sin
- Faith in Christ is the only means by which humankind can escape eternal judgment
- The church as God’s ordained institution headed by Christ, composed of all believers, and organized for the furtherance of the kingdom of God.
What are your thoughts??