There seems to be an aversion to speaking of the eternal wrath of God these days. I noticed it in my debate with Rob Bell, and it is also seen in the following quotes from his book (anyone who knows the page numbers, please send them to me as I read it on the Kindle:
“…some stories are better than others. Telling a story in which billions of people spend forever somewhere in the universe trapped in a black hole of endless torment and misery with no way out isn’t a very good story. Telling a story about a God who inflicts unrelenting punishment on people because they didn’t do or say or believe the correct things in a brief window of time called life isn’t a very good story.”
“… gates are for keeping people in and keeping people out. If the gates are never shut, then people are free to come and go.”
“A gospel that repeatedly, narrowly affirms and bolsters the “in-ness” of one group at the expense of the “out-ness” of another group will not be true to the story that includes “all things and people in heaven and on earth.”
The Bible on the other hand is clear:
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph 5:6)
“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:5)
If there is anything missing from evangelicalism today it’s the fear of God. People don’t take God at his word. But the God of love is also a God of justice. This Christian God makes a way for us to be saved. But it is not apart from justice.
The atonement as God actively punishing Jesus on the cross for our sins has long gone from some circles.
Do people today believe in a God who enacts his punishment at all let alone eternally?
Bell makes God very passive in the following quote:
“God gives us what we want, and if that’s hell, we can have it” (page 72).
John’s gospel says on the contrary, “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.” (John 3: 36)
And Paul tells us, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” (Romans 1) The rest of the chapter shows us that nobody has any excuse. If God choses to punish sinners he is only doing right.
How does Bell deal with Jesus’ many comments about judgement?
“…it’s important that we don’t take Jesus’s very real and prescient warnings about judgment then out of context, making them about someday, somewhere else. That wasn’t what he was talking about.”
All I can say in response to that is SAYS WHO??? Jesus IS warning us about a FUTURE punishment! I cannot read those verses any other way.
The gospel is PLAIN it is SIMPLE. Perhaps someone can explain simply for me if there is no punishment for sin, why was the cross needed? IF God’s anger did not need to be turned away so we would not experience hell, why did Jesus have to experience hell on the cross?
Some today have NO SENSE THAT SIN IS AGAINST GOD
What about the mother who wants justice for her murdered child. Will the murderer be forgiven eventually, not punished? She wants to know that someone is going to PAY for what just happened. Once we accept that such heinous sin must be punished it is a small step to agree that ALL sin must be punished! Obviously we believe repentance is possible in this world but unrepented of sin is punished, and repented of sin is punished in Jesus.
So many today minimize their view of sin. But even a “white lie” to Peter about money led to sudden death of Ananias and Sapphira. In the Old Testament someone tried to steady the ark to stop it falling and breaking, helping God out, and was struck dead. What kind of God do we serve, the God of the Bible or one we make up?
Can you sing ““There on the cross where Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied”? That hymn “In Christ Alone” is something of a touchstone today. Churches that wholeheartedly sing that line are very different from those who couldn’t.
Tim Keller said at The Gospel Coalition, “Its not that God’s love wins and his holiness looses. On the cross all of the attributes of God win”
Mark Driscoll also says, “Don’t set Gods attributes against each other. God is holy AND loving. Love is not God.” Wrath is a major characteristic of God in the Bible. It is mentioned more than 600 times. Hell really does mean conscious eternal torment. We can’t presume on the grace of God. The preachers job is to tell us the truth. The Bible is true. We are not to use human reasoning to wiggle out of what the Bible says. Jesus is not a liar. The blood of others will be on our hands if we lie to them about their eternal destiny. How can we be casual when Revelation tells us “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night”
Here are some more verses about God’s future punishment on the unrepentant sinner:
God’s “judgments are true and just” ’ (Rev. 19:1–2).
Jesus Christ is the one who will judge the living and the dead. (2 Tim. 4:1)
Matthew 25:46 says “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” If eternal punishment is not for ever, neither is eternal life,
“For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality” (Col 3:25).
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” ’ (Rom. 12:19)
Rev 6 tells us sinners will cry out “to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
Bell does say “We crave judgment, we long for it, we thirst for it. Bring it, unleash it, as the prophet Amos says, “Let justice roll on like a river” (chap. 5).”
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
CULTURE is key here. Objections to the wrath of God are totally grounded in a Western view of the goodness of man, and of the need for love and acceptance of everybody. We are not allowed in our culture to state what is right and wrong. This doesn’t allow true diversity. Heaven help the person who tells an aggressive secularist that they do believe there is a God and that there is such a thing as sin! It is very much in keeping with the spirit of this age to have a problem with the idea of judgement and the holiness of God but rejoice in his love.
A non Westerner would never buy this! Brought up around the idea of justice, and of shame, and the wickedness of people, they have more of a problem with the love of God, they get his justice! They would ask “Have people like Bell really seen evil?” If we had seen the wickedness personally how would we want God to just wipe out all sin. We would have less problem with God’s justice if we had lived under a brutal dictator for example. Only the idea that God will one day right all the wrongs of this world allows us to make sense of it.