When is Wrath not Wrath?

Just this morning a friend and I, were discussing various biblical topics, and got onto the Wrath of God and what it actually is? I pulled out the dictionary, given my very questioning turn of mind, and found –

Wrath –

1. Forceful, often vindictive anger.
2. a. Punishment or vengeance as a manifestation of anger.
b. Divine retribution for sin.
1. angry, violent, or stern indignation
2. divine vengeance or retribution
3. Archaic a fit of anger or an act resulting from anger

So I shared those definitions with her .. and she grumbled ‘Ama, don’t be so literal!’ .. but how can I not be? If the Bible is our only authority on God, how can we not take it literally? Here I will add my usual grumble .. it’s supposed to be without error, addition or editing .. not true, of course, but .. let’s just take it literally for a while.

Ok, so the definition seems pretty clear to me. Wrath means unbridled and destructive anger. And then something on that Free Dictionary page reminded me that Wrath, or wroth, is a deadly sin. Oh heck? Does that mean God sins? Either that or ‘he’s’ a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing another? Neither fits well with the NT God who teaches ‘Love one another as I have loved you’, but we know the OT one can get mighty angry.

So I went into Strong’s Concordance hunting wrath. There’s plenty in the OT .. and quite a few in the NT .. but then I noticed, book by book, that some of the Strong’s wraths are now translated mostly as ‘anger’ .. so let’s eliminate them. And, just for the sake of argument, let’s also eliminate what other people said of what either Jesus or God said, which left us with the four gospels. Now I’m doing that because our true source of what God is comes to us through Jesus Christ. The rest is other people’s interpretations. And what is in the gospels .. two comments about John the Baptist, in Matthew and Luke, which, while not contradicting each other, do define a group of Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 3:7) as only a crowd of people (Luke 3:7), so whom do we believe there? I would have thought that Luke would delight in naming those converts to John’s God? But I am getting off topic, or not really, given John’s temper. 🙂

Where was I? Oh yes, Luke 21:23 “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people …”. My question had to be ‘which people’? In the passage Jesus is talking directly to his followers of their lives after his death. And the time of wrath will see ‘Jerusalem surrounded by armies and destroyed’. And given Jerusalem’s history, I think that time has past, or is history going to repeat itself? I wonder if He thought He was thinking about 2000 years in the future, or simply looking around Him knowing the society as He did? We can only speculate.

John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath”. What did the Son actually say “love one another as I have loved you” and “obey the laws” .. and along came Paul, and various others, and shot it all down. Who do you want to believe? Personally, since He’s God’s son, I’d go with Jesus, but the Christian church now follows Paul .. so is God’s wrath going to land on Paul’s followers .. and they are Paul’s followers since they are ignoring Jesus words, unless it suits them to do otherwise.

And that’s all the wrath I can pin down in the NT. Oh yes, I did find one thing though .. can’t help being fascinated and taking notes .. 🙂

Paul in Romans 12:19 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’.”

Then in Romans 13:4 we have “It is for the servant of God (those who act for the authorities) to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.”

I am a bit confused. 🙂 First we are not allowed to act in wrath, and then we are supposed to .. or is wrath and vengeance two different things? Technically yes, since the first is the anger and second is the act, but we are not supposed to act in anger, so does a person seek vengeance in cold blood instead? But wait ..

Attributed to Paul, but generally agreed not actually written by him:

Ephesians 4:31 “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” And it continues in Ephesians 5:1 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Lovely words, very un-Paul-like.

So who is this God of the NT, whose Son spoke only once about Wrath, perhaps referring to the murder of the first born sons of Egypt .. since it reminds me of that? Jesus Christ spoke of love, not hatred, of peace and not war .. and the smiting had stopped. Unless I am mistaken no one has died by God’s hand since Jesus came into the world, and even before that.

Do we have to fear God’s wrath since Jesus came? Well, if you live in Revelation you do, but if you see it as it is, a commentary on Christian persecution in the time of Nero, I don’t think so .. but that is only my opinion. I side with Jesus in the fact that God loves all of His Children, and a loving person might correct his children, but he doesn’t let wrath guide his hand.

Love & Peace
Ama

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