One thing that trips a lot of people up, especially those who really see the revelation that God is love, is the idea of wrath. What are we to make of the wrath of God?
Again and again, our English language fails us. The pictures of an angry God who seems to take great delight over the destruction of man is not the God that Jesus revealed. This picture also doesn’t really capture what the word “wrath” actually means. So what is the “wrath of God” all about then?
Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (Luke 9:51-56, NKJV, emphasis mine)
In this passage, sending down fire from heaven, in the pattern of Elijah, is rebuked as somehow belonging to “another spirit.” This verse is quite clear … the Son’s purpose … thus the purpose of the Trinity … is to save man not destroy man. Whatever we understand of “wrath” must be housed in that framework.
Of course the New Testament makes reference to the wrath of God. Indeed there are 45 verses which make reference to wrath. It is little wonder that interpreters should want to make a theological point out of so common a reference. Of course many of those verses refer to our own wrath and tell us to put it away from us.
Here is one New Testament passage on the “wrath” of God:
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience (Colossians 3:5-6, NKJV).
The Greek word we most often see in the New Testament for “wrath” is orge (ὀργή). This word basically means: natural impulse, passion, mood. It does not imply anger. Now, if a person were passionately against someone, orge could be expressed in anger. But by itself, ogre just means passionate intention. I’ve known some people who were orge for chocolate … others for coffee … others for music.
The word orge is actually the root for our English word “orgasm.” I will leave that topic without much discussion to avoid potentially sounding crude, but I don’t hear many people using that word to mean angry wrath.
Our problem is that we read into this word “anger.” We read about being saved from this orge of God, and we assume this must be something “bad” like wrath or anger.
So what does this mean?
We will look more into this issue in our next blog post.
For further study, here is an excellent resource called The River of Fire.
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