Where’s the Wrath, Part Two
By Fred Pruitt
Having established in Part One in our understanding in a beginning way that the universal God is “above all, through all, and in you all,” we next ask the question, just what is this “God” all about? What kind of God-Person in He?
While there is not a passage of scripture that says, “God is wrath,” there IS a passage of scripture that says, “God is love.” (1 John 4:16).
I learned that in a childlike way very early in life. My mother, who later in life recounted that she had been “agnostic” during my early childhood years, nevertheless instilled in me when I was very little a sense of the goodness of God. She had grown up in a “fire and brimstone” Methodist church, but she came all the way around in her life to find the sweetness and comfort of the Lord in herself. Unconsciously she had passed that on to me when I was little, despite being in the middle of her supposed (on her part) “agnostic” period.
Here are just a few of the hundreds of passages in the Old Testament that speak of or demonstrate this major attribute of our Living God:
“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 65:25)
“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9) This is God’s true heart: not vengeance and wrath, but “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.” His arm is always stretched out to save, not to wreak havoc and destroy!
Remember John and James, Jesus’ disciples, who asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to consume some folks that didn’t receive His ministry when they passed through their town. Here is Jesus’ reaction: “He … rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Lk 9:55,56).
While the “Promise of the Father” (the sending of the Holy Spirit) didn’t occur until after Jesus’ ascension, nevertheless the Spirit was “with” them during their training time with Jesus. They could not have known and loved Him or been sent out to heal and deliver if that had not been the case. They had not yet been enlightened to who they were or whose Life they were living, so Jesus had to inform them that bringing forth vengeance and destruction was not what He was sent to do. He did not come to destroy, but to SAVE!
(It amazes me how many “Christians” seem to thirst after the “destruction of the wicked.” I KNOW that is not what the Father thirsts after! They may say “Lord, Lord,” but anyone’s heart that is filled with a desire for destruction and vengeance are not walking in the Spirit of Christ. In fact, they are just participating in another form of hate, and therefore they cannot know God, nor does He know them. He only knows those who are in and of His Spirit of love.)
When Jesus announced Himself as the Messiah in the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4, he quoted Isaiah’s Messianic commission with which most of us are familiar:
“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” (Isaiah 61:1,2).
I love that whole story, but what is notable about His reading is where He stopped. The next phrase in the verse, Isaiah 61:2, is “and the day of vengeance of our God.” He left that part out. Does that mean that part of the verse is wrong? No, it just means that it was not time to proclaim that truth. To bring the “vengeance of God” was not His office as Savior and Sin-bearer. It was reserved for another time.
Instead of the “day of vengeance,” He came to bring another kind of Day, which would prevent that “day of vengeance” in those who participated. He was declaring an open-door policy, the “acceptable year of the Lord.” I like how that verse was rendered in the Revised Standard Version: “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor!” He was saying to one and all –
“Listen to me, folks, listen up, this is of the greatest importance! This moment, this moment in time that you are experiencing now, this is the moment to take full advantage of the Lord’s favor. He is announcing it for all, to all, and available to all. Won’t you come? Please come, because the gate is open now and the way is made through my Cross and Resurrection that anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. No exceptions! Whosoever will, no exceptions, all you have to do is want it, and the water of Life is freely available to anyone and everyone who would like to to come on up and take a drink. You don’t need money, you don’t even need permission. The gate is open, the invitation is extended, and our Divine Hand is stretched out to receive you.”
He doesn’t even resort to that next phrase (the day of vengeance of our God) to stimulate the invitees. His love alone draws all who are His.
“God is love. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:7,8)
Now, we know the attributes of love: Paul listed them for us in 1 Cor 13.
“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails… But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:4-8,18 NASB).
Despite man having sized up the “God of the Bible” as sort of “two” different “Gods,” i.e., the “wrathful, vengeful God of the Old Testament,” contrasted with the “kind, loving God of the New Testament,” the truth is that it is the same God of love with the same attributes in both Old and New Testaments. God does not change. How man generally “sees God” is what undergoes a change from one covenant to another.
Some of the most beautiful loving literature to come down to us from the ancients is expressed in the pages of the Old Testament. The Old Testament, Moses and the Law as well as the Prophets, foreshadowed Christ, and much of the Old Testament is a parable form of New Testament truth. I see people in our current time almost trash the Old Testament, finding in it nothing of value, and recommend that we no longer read it since it has nothing to do with us. Do they not know the New Testament is built on the Old? Do they not know the New Testament is filled with passage after passage quoting from the Old Testament? What TREASURES of PURE GRACE they are missing!
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18). Does that sound like the boiling mad vengeful God so many describe?
“Thy loving kindness is better than life.” (Ps 63:3) One doesn’t learn that from a theology book or a class. The person who wrote that, David most likely, KNEW GOD! It may be that they didn’t “know” all that we have come to know in the New Covenant, as far as “head” knowledge, but this psalmist KNEW the one of Whom he was speaking. He knew Him as love, and though it may be that David and other “Old Testament saints” did not know “union” as we have been privileged to understand it, nevertheless it is what they walked! They “knew” God, just as Adam “knew” Eve. Adam and Eve’s sexual union produced “one flesh,” and spiritual union with God produces our being “one spirit with Him.” (Eph 5:31; 1 Cor 6:17). (More Old Testament words speaking New Testament truth!)
“Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD.” (Ps 25:6,7).
Check out these other “Old Testament” witnesses to the love of God and His “tender mercies,” expressed as His “lovingkindness.” (These are just the tip of the iceberg.)
Psalm 36:5-10; Psalm 40:10-11; Psalm 143:8; Psalm 25:6,7. I could spend all night looking up and quoting these kinds of passages from the Old Testament. Don’t throw it out. Devour it instead, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the love of God and the power of His grace that shines out of page after page after page of the “Old Testament.”
Love love love love love! It is as much the truth of the Old as it is the New! When Jesus asked what was the greatest commandment, what was His answer? “
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deut 6:4,5).
And the second greatest: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD!” (Lev 19:18).
Of course, I do know the tendency of some these days to find fault with Jesus’ quotes of Old Testament “commandments,” dismissing them as merely “law,” but I do not agree. There is more to those passages than Jesus just being the “last” Old Testament preacher (as some perceive Him these days). Just because something comes in “commandment” form, doesn’t automatically exclude it from “grace.”
It’s like the controversy over whether Christians are “under the ten commandments” or not. It’s a bunch of silliness. The difference in the “ten commandments” between whether they are “grace” or “law,” is simply how we take them. When we are “under law,” we live in a separated mindset from God and the Spirit, in sort of an independent isolation zone of just ourselves, with ourselves “responsible” to keep the commandments by our own strength (calling upon God for help).
So, when we hear the commandment say, “Thou shalt,” we see that as a responsibility we’ve been handed that we must perform. However, if we know we are not under law but under grace, we know that God is the “doer” in us. The “commandment,” which in our former state we saw as something we had to fulfill because we were not fulfilling it, in grace becomes the empowerment to do it and to see it as done! “Thou shalt” becomes not a commandment for us to do, but rather a statement from the Lord that “Thou shalt” do this because the Lord does it in us. It’s like God saying, “Of course you’re going to have no other Gods but me, because there aren’t any others!” It is not a negative thing, that we’re not doing what we are supposed to be doing, but instead a positive statement that this very thing is fulfilled in us right now by the Spirit! He does the doing and it is done!
The last “way” we can Biblically say “God is love,” we find in an otherwise rather obscure passage in Titus: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” (Titus 1:2).
God “cannot” lie, the passage says. We were always told God could “do anything.” I remember in my teen years having discussions in church youth groups and the question would always come up, “Could God create a stone that would be too heavy for Him to pick up?” That “cannot lie” passage seems to be possibly a nonsense question like that, until we consider what it is saying.
What is a “liar?” A liar is someone who deceives another with his words in order to gain some advantage over the other or for some form of self-protection. Basically, a liar is “for himself” and acts for himself. God has forever said an eternal NO to that way of being for Himself! In a way almost infinitely beyond our capacity to understand, God has forever chosen to be a lover, a “lover of others,” Who even goes so far as to give His Life through His Son, that others may live. From the Eternal there has been in the midst of the Throne of God in the center of the Deity, a “Lamb as it had been slain.” THAT is the heart of God – which is the exact opposite of wrath and vengeance!
From the beginning, we were the “apple of His eye.” Where did He display any wrath or even anger toward Adam and Eve when they ate the fruit? None, contrary to what we have been taught. God’s heart toward us from the beginning (at the Fall) has always been one of love and Divine compassion, because He knew the tough road we had chosen to walk. (And of course, He already knew they were going to go that way.) However, He also knew the end of that road would be life from the dead, and that what looked like in the beginning to be the end of man and God’s “experiment” in the Garden of Eden, would in the end become the all-encompassing kingdom of Love which in God would be above all, through all, and in all.
He knew we had been deceived and had fallen into the devil’s trap. Adam and Eve, though we might consider “disobedience” to be purposeful on their part, in truth were just trying to have their cake and eat it, too. They weren’t being willfully rebellious as much as they were simply tricked by the enemy in their own thoughts and desires, who made them think it was the right thing to do and to be ultimately pleasing to God, in their own right. (Self-effort!) Of course they didn’t know “self-effort” was from the enemy, so it wasn’t too hard to trick them. (God knew that, too!)
Therefore, the Lord God’s first action toward us after the Fall, was to give us the Promise of the Redeemer through the Seed of the Woman. (Gen 3:15). At the very moment of the Fall, God moved to provide the complete solution, seen in shadow, not yet understood by man, but nevertheless provided by God to bring man into the already established reconciliation that was the Father’s Heart from eternity.
The next thing to examine is what it means when the scripture says, “Our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:29; Deut 4:24).
I often say the wrath was not really in the Godhead, as we have mostly been taught. The consuming Fire of God eternally manifests through the Son as the Lamb Slain. In Christ, the consuming “fire” is divested of its heat and ferocity, and comes out as light, gentleness and outgoing love. That is ALL God is in Himself! He is NOTHING ELSE but love, light, and truth!
However, the “fire” was hijacked by Lucifer/Satan and became in him a raging inferno of unquenchable anger and self-elevating pride, into which that vile serpent also caught and drew every single one of us.
The wrath, therefore, which is God’s in the sense that everything is God’s, is actually not in the Triune Godhead where He calls Himself God, but came “alive” in the devil and his minions. Then through the devil, it came alive in man. So that the result for us, as Paul said, we became “by nature the children of wrath,” (Eph 2:2,3). The devil is the “wrath-God!”
That same “consuming fire” of God came forth in gentleness and ultimately power in the “burning bush” that caught Moses’ sight. That bush was a true picture of our life in God when we are in right relationship to Him. When we are His, we are filled with that consuming fire, not to be burned up and consumed, but as the inner dynamo that constrains us to say, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” (Ps 69:9).
The reason is because this fire, burning eternally in the heart of God, through the Lamb becomes the working Life of the Universe to bless, lift up, and manifest the Love of God in Christ throughout all creation. It was never meant to be manifest as the devil manifested it, that is, in the possessiveness of self-for-self, which can only turn it into self-elevating pride, narcissistic covetousness, unbridled envy and finally exploding into unrestrained cruel wrath!
To give an example, think of a modern luxury automobile. Inside the passenger compartment there is climate control, comfortable seating, entertainment faculties and even these days communications with the outside world! What makes all that possible?
The engine and the drive train, through friction, heat and speed, cause all the creature comforts in the car. The engine operates by that friction, through the turning of the various shafts, the firing of the spark plugs, the up and down of the pistons, all of which produce excessive heat and powerful energy, sending that energy through the drivetrain and transmission, producing motion in the automobile as well as powering all the comfort and convenience devices inside the passenger compartment.
The engine may be operating at temps of several hundred degrees, but all that is “muted” in the transference of energy from one system to another, so that it comes out first as motion (which is the whole point of the car) and then the comfort in that motion. Nobody in the passenger compartment is supposed to feel anything but comfort, instead of the intensive heat and energy produced by the engine system.
And that’s what it means when it says, “God is a consuming fire,” and yet at the same time, that “fire” comes out of the life of the Spirit as light, consciousness, and finally the manifested kingdom of heaven.
Until Christ comes on the scene, the fire burns so hot it can never be quenched or put out, never satisfied, but only raging and seeking to devour everything within itself. But in Christ, that fire becomes the energy of the Love, the power which raises up, that does not seek to destroy, but only to edify and to save!
Therefore, it remains only for the creature to participate in the reconciliation that God has already accomplished. By the free exercise of the singular royal function of our person-hood, i.e., the one facility God has given us by which our way is determined, the receptivity of faith, we speak the word of agreement or faith, speaking life and confirming life!
END OF PART TWO