Mercy and Wrath Amplified

Evangelical theologian Don Carson says something in a talk that I listened to recently that was really helpful.

So often we hear how people’s view of the God of the Bible is that he is revealed as a God of wrath in the OT and as a God of love in the NT.

In a Sweden of liberal Protestantism the so-called ‘love command’ (supposedly the four Gospels in a nut-shell and hence the reason why these books have the highest status…) has become the commander-in-chief for all doctrine. Anything is silenced with: “but God is love, he could never…” you fill in the rest; i.e. whatever you don’t like.

I remember during a class of religion in high school one Christian student tried to distance herself to the OT by saying that the God of wrath of the OT was not her God.

It was our non-Christian, atheist, teacher who pointed out that God is very merciful in the OT too and that she was misrepresenting the Bible.

I think this misconception of the Bible stems from several things:

  • No personal Bible reading
  • Church teaching exclusively from NT
  • Suppressing what we don’t want to hear

Carson’s point was that in the OT God is shown to be both a God of judgement and mercy. In his dealings with Israel, God is exceedingly merciful despite their rebellion. This is the LORD speaking concerning idolatry in Deut. 5:9-10:

9You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Now, does that not come down on the side of merciful?

Contrast this with Rev. 14:19-20 talking about judgement:

19The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.

Or Jesus’ own words from the Gospels:

Matt 13:41-42:

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Mark 9:47:48:

And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

Don Carson points out that we are much more prone to worry about the judgements of the OT; famine, pestilence and sword, then we are of judgement in the NT – eternal hell.

Why? Because we don’t  believe in hell!

Carson says that rather than mercy replacing wrath in the NT, we see how the revelation of God’s love is in the OT is “ratcheted up” in the NT – it is amplified. Now God no longer focuses on earthly blessings but in the famous words of John 3:16:

16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Equally the revelation of God’s wrath is ratcheted up, amplified in the NT. The imminent threat is no longer exile or sword or pestilence, as in the OT, but eternal hell fire.

It all comes together of course on the cross. Nowhere is God’s wrath and God’s love simultaneously demonstrated as on the cross.

God was so angry with sin that he let his Son die to pay for the sin.

God so loved lost sinners that he let his Son die to save them.

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3 thoughts on “Mercy and Wrath Amplified

  1. Le-havdil,
    Ribi Yehoshua ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth’s authentic teachings reads:
    [Torah, Oral Law & Hebrew Matityahu: Ribi Yehoshua Commanded Non-Selective Observance
    The Netzarim Reconstruction of Hebrew Matityahu (NHM) 5:17-20]
    [Glossaries found in the website below.]:

    “I didn’t come to subtract from the Torâh of Moshëh or the Neviim, nor to add onto the Torah of Moshëh did I come. Because, rather, I came to [bring about the] complete [i.e., non-selective] observance of them in truth.
    Should the heavens and ha-Aretz exchange places, still, not even one י or one of the Halâkhâh of the Torah of Moshehshall so much as exchange places; toward the time when it becomes that they are all being performed — i.e., non- selectively — in full.
    For whoever deletes one [point of] the Halâkhâh of these mitzwot from Torah, or shall teach others such, [by those in] the Realm of the heavens he shall be called ‘deleted.’ And whoever ratifies and teaches them shall be called ‘ Ribi’ in the Realm of the heavens.

    For I tell you that unless your tzәdâqâh is over and above that of the [Hellenist-Roman Pseudo- Tzedoqim] Codifiers of halakhah, and of the Rabbinic- Perushim sect of Judaism, no way will you enter into the Realm of the heavens.” (see NHM)

    The reconstruction is made using a scientific and logic methodology. One of the premises is that the historical Ribi Yehoshua was a Torah-observant Pharisee (why that premise is true is found in the above website, in which you also will find more information about why a reconstruction is needed).

    The historical Ribi Yehoshua and his followers Netzarim observed Torah non-selectively. The above website proofs that the person who want to follow the historical Ribi Yehoshua must do likewise.

    This is what Ribi Yehoshua taught and he taught in accordance with Torah, that anyone who adds a mitzwah (directive or military style order) or removes a mitzwah from Torah is a false prophet.

    You rely on Christian redactions, instead of Torah and Ribi Yehoshua who taught according to Torah.

    Anders Branderud

    1. Hello Anders!

      What you propagate is not Christianity but Judaism.

      Christians do not need any “scientific” or “logical” method to “reconstruct” what the Bible really says.

      The New Testament is in Greek and there is no real indication that it was written in any other language originally.
      What you do is to put meaning in the text which is not there.

      It is beyond dispute that Jesus the Christ (the Messiah), who was himself God, was born a Jew. It is also beyond dispute that He kept the Law of Moses.

      The issue is thus: Do (Jewish) Christians have to keep the Mosaic Law?

      I say NO! The New Testament says NO!

      Your website only proves that what you say is contrary to what Paul teaches in the New Testament.

      The Old Covenant (of Moses) was in place up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Old Covenant testifies of Jesus. The New Covenant is the fulfillment of the OT expectation.

      No-one was ever saved by works of the law. Rom. 3.20:

      “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

      The Old Covenant Law was God’s instructions how to relate to him in obedience to him. Righteousness could not be obtained this way.

      Gen . 15.6 about Abraham:

      And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

      Faith in the triune God that accomplishes righteousness external to us (on the cross) is what saves us – not our own actions (read my recent sermon on the subject, posted 17th May).

      I suggest you read Galatians 3.15-29:

      15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one,”And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
      19Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

      21Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

      23Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

      I sympathise with you and your people who (I hope) want to reverse the alienation of Jews from Christianity.

      This CANNOT however be done by compromising the Good News, the Gospel.

      What you say alienate gentiles. It is one thing for Christian Jews to keep Jewish customs in order to reach out to fellow Jews, but – and this is key:

      The exclusive sufficiency of Christ must never be challenged.

      This is why Paul rebuked Peter when Peter started to separate from gentiles and observe Jewish tradition (Gal 2.11-21). Paul says: “But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel…”

      Anders, I plead with you – do not put trust in anything other than in Christ! Again, what you propagate is not Christianity.

      Jesus has fulfilled the law (Matt. 5.27).

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