IS THE PANDEMIC AN EXPRESSION OF GOD’S WRATH?

As the global pandemic continues to sweep across the nations bringing panic, uncertainty, mayhem and death, many are asking the question, “Is the pandemic an expression of God’s wrath being poured out on a sinful world?” This is a question that pops-up every time some type of disaster strikes or some major upheaval takes place. Giving an answer that would be characteristic of a politician, let me answer the question by saying,  “The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no!’” Now, let me explain.

Even from a casual reading of the Bible one discovers the inspired text teaches that found in the character of God is the expression of wrath. One learns from reading the first few chapters of Genesis that man was placed in a perfect environment, the Garden of Eden, and walked in harmony with his holy and loving Creator. In time man, by his own choice, deviated from God’s moral order and sin entered the world. As result of man’s deliberate rebellion, division, disease, devastation, and death made their entrance upon the earth. Not only was man cursed by sin, all creation was thrown out of balance and groans in anguish (Romans 8:22).  Because God is holy and created man and all creation to function within His established holy and moral order, when that balance was violated the fall of man and a fallen creation resulted, and it threw our existence on earth out of kilter.

The widespread effect of the fallenness of humanity, resulted in the expression of God’s “wrath” being manifest against “fallenness.” How was/is God’s wrath expressed? While theologians may use different terminology and categorize the expression of God’s wrath differently, this writer for simplification divides the expression of Divine  wrath into four categories.

First, wrath as cause and effect of violating of God’s holiness and moral order. God’s holiness is the standard of all that is morally right and wrong. Man has failed to give the Creator His rightful place in his life and has clearly defied His holiness and His moral order. When we violate God’s standards it sets in motion hostile consequences from the effect of human sin. C.H. Dodd and A.T. Hanson are major proponents of God’s wrath as the cause and effect of living contrary to divine law. They describe the wrath of God as “an inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe…. as the effects or consequences of sin” [1]

In other words, when we defy God’s holiness and moral order, adverse consequences inevitably occur. Ultimately, diseases, disasters and natural calamities are not God’s fault, but they are our fault as result of violating God’s moral order. When humanity examines its violation of God’s divine law in regard to the sanctity of life, in embracing moral perversion, the destruction of biblical marriage, denying God’s existence, etc., then one could place the current pandemic in the category of the “inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe.”

Second, wrath in the character and nature of God who actively opposes sin. While there is a sense in which all moral and natural calamities is an expression of God’s wrath in terms of the cause and effect of sin, His wrath is much more. God’s wrath can’t be reduced to simply the impersonal cause and effect of sin. The Apostle John tells us that God is love (I Jh 4:8). Can love and wrath reside together in God’s nature? The love of God and the wrath of God are not in contradiction, though there is a tension between them. For God is not just love, but holy love at war with sin. The love of God will be seen as anemic unless seen in the light of God’s holiness and his hatred toward sin. Hanson says it well, ”Absolute love implies absolute purity and absolute holiness: an intense burning light…. Unless God detests sin and evil with great loathing, He cannot be a God of Love.” [2]

The Bible clearly teaches God’s wrath is His expression of divine hostility to all that is sinful and opposes His holy-love. Seeing that sinful humanity abides under God’s opposition (wrath) to all that is evil which arises out of His very nature (John 3:36), P.T.  Forsyth insightfully writes, “The love of God is not more real than the wrath of God. If we spoke less about God’s love and spoke more about His holiness, more about His judgment, we should say much more when we speak of His love.” [3]  Forsyth continues, “There is no real intimacy with the gospel which does not bring a new sense of God’s holiness, and it may be long before we realize that the same holiness that condemns is that which saves. There is no new insight into the Cross which does not bring, whatever else come with it, a deeper sense of the solemn holiness of the love that meets us there.”  [4]

There can be no love of God that is not holy, His wrath being His revulsion to evil and all that opposes Him. God’s wrath is rejection of all that is sinful. If one rejects God’s wrath, one cannot fully understand His love. An awareness of the wrath of God creates enhanced gratitude for Hs love. In wrath God is active in opposing everything that threatens His holiness, and He is active in His purpose to lead humanity to embrace the Holy. J.I. Packer has written, “God’s wrath is a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil.” [5] The active wrath of God against evil debunks moral relativism, and reveals to us that right and wrong objectively exists and points us to the consequences of our actions and need of repentance.

The Bible teaches us that God is actively involved in His creation and there are times when He brings about judgment and actively expresses His wrath through circumstances and situations in order to bring men to repentance. In such incidents God’s active wrath is an act of love to persuade men to repent of their sin which separates them from the His grace and mercy. While one can not be absolutely certain the current pandemic is the active wrath of God or is the result of cause and effect, one can be certain either way God can and will use it to bring many wayward sinners unto Himself and bring about purposes which are beyond our finite minds to grasp.

Third, wrath as the consuming outpouring of God’s judgment upon unrepentant sin and sinners during the Great Tribulation. There are basically two Greek words used in the NT to denote God’s divine anger or wrath: θυμός (thumos) found 18 times in NT and ỏργή (orge) found 36 times. While there are times the two are used interchangeably, there seems to be a distinction between the two words. Some scholars deny there is a distinction [6], but orge speaks of God’s wrath as a present reality, a steadfast opposition against sin, while thumos refers more to eschatological judgment as found in Revelation (Rev 12:12; 14:8, 10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 18:3; 19:5). [7]   Orgē suggests a more settled or abiding emotion, a passionate yet controlled opposition to all that is evil (Jh 3:36); while Θυμός (thumos) speaks of a burning, blistering, boiling-over and fierce anger, a passionate wrath that spills over like a volcano, as seen in Revelation and speaks of God pouring out His righteous wrath in the Great Tribulation on unrepentant sin and sinners who have refused His grace and love. [8]

Even though such fierce judgements are experienced during the Great Tribulation, it says of many hardened in their sin, “They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds” (Rev. 16:11). Even in the outpouring of wrath (thumos), God’s fierce opposition to sin is an act of love for the redemptive purpose of restoring holiness and moral order in a fallen world.

While this current pandemic seems harsh and global, it is only a foretaste of events more horrific  to come as revealed in the book of Revelation. The coronavirus and the havoc it has wreaked  pales in comparison to the disease, destruction and devastation of the bowls of wrath that will be experienced during the Great Tribulation. A prelude of things to come, the current pandemic should arouse and alert our hearts that time is drawing near for the return of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Fourth, wrath in Christ’s great work on the cross. Scientists are frantically working to find a vaccine for the coronavirus, yet God has provided for humanity a vaccine for sin and holiness’ judgment upon sin. The cure is found in Jesus Christ, who on the cross bore the full weight of our sin and all our fallenness entails. Since divine holiness responds and reacts to sin in judgment, human sin requires an atonement. God has dealt with sin in Christ. Paul writes, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses [sins] to them” (2 Cor 5:19). On the cross God not only provided the Sacrifice for our sins, in Christ He was the Sacrifice. On the cross we see both God’s love and God’s wrath.  On the cross  our sin was dealt with, and grace is extended to all who will come and kneel before the finished work of Christ and receive God’s redemptive provision. It is at the cross we grasp the horror of our sin and holiness’ judgment against sin, but in worshipful thanksgiving we see demonstrated the vastness of God’s loving grace in His provision for our sin.

While we are all fallen, broken, defiant sinners deserving of the wrath of God, but He in His great mercy performed a divine transaction whereby our sin was transferred to Christ who received the wrath of the Father which we deserved, so that those who repent of their sin can find free pardon and forgiveness. Now that is the Good News in the midst of much bad news we hear over the airwaves today!

Now back to our original question, “Is the pandemic an expression of God’s wrath?” Well, my answer of “yes” and “no” may not be considered one of certainty, but this I know with certainty:  on the cross God, in saving us from His own wrath, has done for us in Christ what we could not do for ourselves, and He has done what we didn’t deserve. Now that  is the victory we can daily celebrate regardless of the circumstance.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

                                                                                Footnotes
[1] Dodd, Romans, 1959, 22; Hanson, The Wrath of the Lamb, 1957, 69,110,126,186,197.

[2] Hanson, The Wrath of the Lamb, 192-94.

[3] Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, 1910, 73.

[4] Forsyth, The Soul of Prayer, “The Vicariousness of Prayer, Chapter VI,” 1916, 71-82.

[5] Packer, Knowing God, 1970, 151.

[6] D.E. Whiteley, The Theology of St. Paul, 1966, 69.

[7] Alan Johnson, “Revelation,” Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol 12, 1991, 476; Leon Morris, New Testament Theology, 1986, 63-64.

[8] Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, 1965, 179-183; Rogers and Rogers, Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, 1998, 636, 639, 641-42, 644, 646.

THE LOVE OF GOD AND SIN

John the Beloved writes, “God is Love” (I John 4:8). There is a misconception as to the meaning of the Love of God. Many picture God as a Heavenly Grandfather who lets the grandkids get by with anything without fear of any reprisal. Many people who live recklessly in sin hide behind the truth that God is love. They interpret God’s love to mean He is tolerant of any kind of behavior regardless of how ungodly it might be. After all, if God loves me what difference does it make how I live, for He will forgive me anyway. There are those in Christendom today who endorse all kind of bizarre and depraved lifestyles under the umbrella that God loves everyone and, in the end, it matters not how one lives; therefore, we must be tolerant, accepting, understanding, and nonjudgmental no matter how debased one’s behavior.

One who defines God’s love under the pretense of toleration regardless of the kind of behavior one engages in, does so because they either (1) have a total misunderstanding of the essence of Divine Love; or (2) they do so to give themselves an excuse to live as they please. In most instances I think it is the latter reasoning. Let it be said, the Love of God is not to be a shield to hide behind so one can indulge in deliberate unbiblical behavior. Such an abuse of God’s love is an offense to the holiness of God which necessitated the work of Christ…and called for it and provided for it.

One must forever embrace the truth that God’s love cannot be divorced from His holiness. God’s love flows forth from His holiness (His moral and transcendent purity), which of divine necessity effects judgement upon sin. God’s love seeks to bring about repentance and transformation in man, but He does so within holy-love’s character which detests sin. Judgment is holiness’ reaction to sin, which is the enemy of God and the destroyer of man. One cannot have an adequate grasp of the love of God in Christ Jesus until one has an understanding that God’s holy-love came to condemn sin which is incompatible with God’s holy nature. His love cannot be separated from His holiness The horror of the cross pictures the ugliness of sin in the face of holiness, yet the love of God is exhibited in Him bearing and judging sin in Himself as our Sacrifice for our noncompliance to the demands of His holiness. His love didn’t and doesn’t tolerate sin, but exposed its hideousness on the cross. His love didn’t excuse sin but judged it. There can be no offer of forgiving grace without an affirmation of the moral majesty of His holiness which despises sin. His love didn’t dismiss sin but in Christ dealt with sin.

God’s Loving grace has no meaning apart from His holiness which exposed on the cross sin in all its horror and the judgment it deserves. It is the holiness in God’s love that necessitated the cross. While in the Christ of the cross God provided redemption for humanity, the cross is foremost the self-justification of God to the world that He is holy and sin is an affront to His holy character. On the cross the holiness and love of God merged, revealing the darkness of sin and love of Christ who not only complied with God’s holiness but bore in Himself our judgement, paying the debt we owe for our inability to comply with the demands of His holiness. The message of the New Testament from John the Baptist, to Jesus, to Peter, to Paul, to John is “Repent.” In repentance we acknowledge the despicableness of sin is exceedingly sinful in the face of a holy God. True repentance is realizing that God took the broken law of his holiness so seriously that it entailed the perfect obedience of Christ and His death upon the cruel cross. The terror of sin’s judgment should fall upon us, but in love the judgment of our sin was laid on Him. At the cross we see the severity of God in His dealing with sin and we see the love God in Christ in the giving of Himself as the Sacrifice for our sins. Our salvation was not secured by dismissing judgment upon sin, but by judgment upon sin. God’s holy-love accepted and bore in Himself His own holy judgment upon sin. He being the only One who had the right to judge sin, absorbed in Himself the judgment we rightly deserved. Now that is LOVE.

One who claims Christ as Savior and continues in their sin, in an antinomian lifestyle, under the pretense that God’s Love will overlook their willfully sinful lifestyle, has failed to grasp the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross. His death was not to preserve us in our sin, but to save us out of our sin. His death was not for the purpose of making us comfortable in our sin, but for us to grasp the horror of sin for which Christ died and turn from those sins. His death was not for purpose of continuing in the old life, but walking in newness of life. His death was not for the purpose of tolerating sin, but seeing the blackness of sin and turning from it. His death was not for the purpose of being acceptant of sin, but expelling from our lives the very sins for which God judged in Jesus Christ. The judgment due us willingly became His, the repentance remains ours. It was because of man’s sins that Christ suffered; it was punishment of sin that fell on Him. And the worst of sins is to with ingratitude continue on in those very sins for which Christ suffered the judgment of the holy Father  on our behalf.

God in grace through Christ calls us unto Himself. Seeing that only holiness can be in communion with a holy God, by the grace of God He has made provision in Christ for us to come unto Him; and by a living faith in Christ we become partakers of that same eternal holy-love which God from everlasting to everlasting bestows upon His Son.  O, what a Savior.

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

A LOVE LIKE NO OTHER

Valentine’s Day is a time when we share gifts, cards, and roses with those we love and hold dear to our hearts. As Valentine’s Day approaches let us not forget the holy-love of our God, who when He gave us Christ gave us His heart.  As John 3:16 so clearly declares our Lord’s love is like no other. valentinesday

When we think of the awesome love of God, we must not separate His eternal love from His eternal holiness. The Bible teaches that God is holy, a concept we have lost today. God as holy does what is right and never does what is wrong. God as holy is uncompromising with sin. God as holy always acts in a righteous manner. Holiness has to do with God’s perfect nature, His moral purity and perfection. Holiness is love morally perfect.

Because God is holy sin must be opposed and judged; therefore, man is in a predicament since he is a sinner by nature and choice. What is man to do since he cannot in his own good works and deeds comply with the holy demands of God?
In Jesus Christ that which God’s holiness demands loving grace has provided. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). On the cross Christ became the bridge between a holy God and sinful man. While the cross reveals a holy God who opposes and refuses to accept sin, it is where Jesus dealt with sin so man could know the peace of forgiveness. Now that is love, a love like no other!

In the perfect life of Christ and at the cross we find God personally acting in holy-love to provide for man what he cannot provide for himself. Christ is our bridge to a restored relationship with the Father. Sinful man is guilty before a holy God, needing not aid but deliverance; needing not reform but redemption. God’s holiness makes two demands: answering holiness in obedient love and judgment upon sins defiance to holiness. On the cross Jesus met both demands. Christ, as our Substitute, presented loving and holy obedience to the Father, and then in love willingly yielded to the suffering of judgment upon sin. Christ was no martyr on the cross, but He willingly went to the cross in loving obedience to the Father. His sacrifice must always be linked to His holy-love for you and me.

Christ, as the God-man, lived the life we could never live and then took our deserved punishment upon sin and in so doing acted in loving grace to offer forgiveness to humanity. Only a sinless Christ could pay for our sins, for only He could see the true nature of our sin and be our Redeemer. The Sinless One was judged but it was not His own judgment He bore, but ours. Christ did for us what we could not do for ourselves. Christ, in His living satisfied the holy demands of God and in his death willingly suffered the judgment for our sin. Christ assumed our judgment; He became our Substitute.

Now that is grace; loving, amazing grace! The marvel of the Christ of the cross is not that He won grace, but the grace of God was revealed. On the cross Jesus did not purchase grace; the offering of Himself was an act of grace. The cross is the result of God’s loving grace for you and me. Our God was not only the Giver of the Offering, but in Christ He was the Offering. God in Christ dealt with the world’s sin on the cross. What love!

At the cross Christ, who offered Himself to God, was also eternally offered by God. Our redeemer was both the Giver and God’s Gift. P.T. Forsyth succinctly states, “Only He who had lost us could find us, only He who was wronged could forgive; only the Holy one could satisfy His own holiness…Only the Creator knew the creature so as to redeem. And to know mankind He must live in mankind.” John, the apostle of love, writes, “The Word [God] became flesh [in Jesus] and dwelt among us“(John 1:14). Christ became one with humanity in His identification with us, taking the curse of our sin upon Himself (2 Peter 2:23-24).

When one’s eyes are opened to what happened on Calvary, what happened on the cross, the words, love, grace, forgiveness, mercy and redemption take on new meaning. For those beautiful words have little meaning until we understand that our sinful nature and actions are an affront to a holy God who must judge that which is unholy. But the grace found in divine love is that God in Jesus Christ met both the demands of holiness in the face of sin and on the cross assumed our just judgment upon sin. Jesus didn’t just preach Good News, He is the Good News. He didn’t just speak of sacrifice, He was our Sacrifice. He was not a victim but the Victor, and by faith in Him we share in His victory. What grace, what love! It is a love like no other.

This Valentine’s Day the greatest love gift we have been given is the Gift of a redeeming Savior!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan