Updated: Jun 22
N.T. Wright says of the first century Jews and Christians: "They were not understanding themselves as living in a narrative which said, 'All humans are sinful and will go to hell; maybe God will be gracious and let us go to heaven instead and dwell with Him'."
The view of first century Jews and Christians is radically different than our modern, Western view. They did not see themselves as living in a world in which humanity was doomed to burn in the flames of God's wrath, unless God intervened. There are no scriptures in the Old Testament that would show us that Jews believe they were suffering under the wrath of God and looked to a future day when their Messiah would finally relieve them of His anger against them.
The idea of an angry God requiring payment or satisfaction through the
death of another is just simply not a Biblical idea.
What is wrath?
Wrath - the two words we translate to get this word are ogre and thymus and these words simply speak of displeasure or powerful emotion. God's wrath is not a singular thing and can manifest in several ways.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
What does the wrath of God look like? God “gave” them over.
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know Godʼs righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
1. Sinful desires 2. Shameful Lusts 3. A depraved mind
According to Paul wrath looked like a lifestyle that men lived in response to God allowing them to go their own way. They became subject to their own human desires. When we abandon God He allows us to experience the consequences of our choices. This is not some type of fresh judgment from God, but the consequences that exist in the choices a person makes.
Jeff Turner writes, “The “wrath” and the “punishment” are not the result of God pressing some big, red wrath button in the heavens, but are things inherent in the choices we make when living lives that are in disharmony with His nature. Regarding the Romans 1:18 brand of “wrath”, Paul said that people, “received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Romans 1:27), which is to say that the “penalty” is contained within the choice to live in a disharmonious way. The action itself becomes its own punishment. God is not actively tormenting anyone, it is the choice of the individual that becomes the penalty. The wrath that “remains” on the one who rejects Christ’s offer of eternal life is, I believe, precisely that. They will continue to live a life in disharmony with the Spirit, and continue to reap the consequences of such a life, but it is not that God is angrily sending calamities and misfortune their way, and it most certainly isn’t that God is angry at them for being born with an evil nature.”
God's wrath is never an end in itself!
“For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (NIV)
Mercy and Salvation are always the endgame of God's wrath.
John 3:34-36- 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (ESV)
With these truths in mind it is easy for us to discover that God is not an ACTIVE agent of wrath. God allows mankind to choose their own desires because He esteems the freedom of love over the desire to control His children.