Sermons. God's wrath

Golgotha opens a picture of the amazing wrath of God. It is sacred and the Bible says: “By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants?” Who will explain and understand these deeply?

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Sergey Koudrin

The topic of our discussion probably will not be so festive, but I think we don’t suffer for lack of festive speeches. It is always good when we have varieties of our spiritual food and our life’s experiences. For instance, the lamb which the Jews ate during the Easter, had to have bitter herbs as a seasoning, and which especially emphasized the taste. Thus, outlived tragedy emphasized the taste of happy deliverance from it. There is a parable of Jesus Christ from Mathew 21:33-41for our consideration: “…There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son,” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.” So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” (Math. 21:33-41)

Later, we will read the explanation which Jesus gives regarding after that parable. The events described in that parable are referring to the condition of the landowner of the vineyard and to the condition of those wretches who stepped over almost everything, over decency and humanity. Later, we read what the landowner will do when he comes home. What will he do? Jesus answers himself: ‘he will be broken to pieces’.

Villains deserve severe death. We understand that there are different kinds of death and that’s why there are different people’s reaction to the death. In this connection, we touch upon with border of God’s character which, sometimes, goes out from our attention and becomes an unpopular topic to discus. This is God’s wrath. We don’t tend to talk about the wrath especially in the context of New Testament. These considerations, probably, look more artificial regarding the background of Christ’s life, His Forgiveness and shedding of His blood for people’s sins. First of all, all this proves the love and mercy of our God.

I think the limit of this point of view is bound by two reasons. One of them is that people have distorted the understanding of wrath in their hearts. It happens that we face evil and sometimes, even detestable manifestations of people’s anger in different spheres of our lives, in families, politics, etc. The Bible refers to it as:” for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”(James 1:20). We try to determine God’s wrath through dirty and wicked man’s anger, and certainly we withdraw with fear in our hearts.

The other reason is to distract our attention from the truth of wrath and the main task of the wicked world. With what should we agree on thinking about God? God is perfect in everything. If we take, either, God’s wisdom or His mercy and love, it is always good and perfect. Sometimes we see the world through sin and evil which live in our hearts. This is the nature of a human’s heart.

When we talk about God’s wrath, this is, first of all holy wrath, the wrath that is experienced by a loving heart of a merciful God. That’s what we read in the Bible from Psa.30:5:”For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime.” It lasts only a moment but is it the reason to not speak about that which is connected with God’s wrath? Even the salt, which we use in such little amounts, influences the taste of food. That’s why we hear, at the table, so often:” Will you pass the salt, please?” It is a very little product and, at the same time, it is very important. In this type of relation, it can be said of God’s wrath. Even when it takes up a small percentage in the picture of God’s truth, and if we get it out and deprive the whole picture of this part, then we will loose a lot. That’s why, regardless of the holiday, I would like to speak on this topic that touches my heart deeply.

I think, that when we look at Golgotha, we sometimes have only one-sided understanding of what happened there. We see God’s love, as it says in the Bible, “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son,” (John 3:16); we see mercy and forgiveness. But remember what the Bible says about the Lord’s Supper. This was commanded to all Christians. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we do it in remembrance of Jesus’ sufferings. When we look at Golgotha, it is not only vivid evidence of God’s love but, also, God’s wrath, which pours out on human’s sins and crimes. He is the Creator. He is the Owner of all treasures and all beautiful things on the earth, as the landowner of the vineyard. What did the servants do? They stepped over all humanity.

Finally, this is the condition the God of Eternity and Master of the world we live in. He is angry and He is enraged because of that which He created, once and for all, what He owns has been violated and destroyed. This probably happens in our lives. We read about Christ’s crucifixion on the Cross at Golgotha in Isa. 53:10:”Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,..” It was not punishment of God’s Son and we read the verse 53:5:”…he was pierced for our transgressions,..” He was pierced for our sins not for His. He suffered for crimes that are ours. “The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”(Isa. 53:5).

Golgotha opens a picture of the amazing wrath of God. It is sacred and the Bible says: “By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants?” Who will explain and understand these deeply? But this is the picture of God’s anger being poured out for our sins and crimes. Jesus’ crucifixion was not a great performance, as the devil wishes to present, in order to deceive the image of God. This was the anger. The Father turned His back to his Son and the Son cried out from the Cross of Calvary, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Math. 27: 46). He deeply endures this breaking off. I think we partially understand this loneliness when we go through abandonment in our lives. It is very painful. The Father turned His back. He is angry at the evil and crimes. The Great Flood was terrible when He was furious. He destroyed the earth but God’s mercy followed after that. We see this is God’s reaction, His displeasure on how human beings treat all things beautiful that He created in this world.

Friends, the people step over many things. The parable of the vineyard followed some events. First, Jesus Christ comes to the temple and drives out those who were selling and buying. Being angry, He overturns the tables and says,” It is written: ”My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Math.21:13). After that, He sees a fig tree which used to be a fruitful tree. He goes up to the fig tree, which attracts so promisingly with its leaves, to eat something. But He found no fruit there and He curses it in front of his disciples. The fig tree withers. The same chapter tells us that after all these events the chief priests ask Him a question:” By what authority are you doing these things?” And Jesus tells them a parable giving there the foundations of His Authority. Do you know what this parable tells us? It tells about the human’s boundless evil. People step over everything. They step over their conscience that tells them not to do this and to do that because everybody knows in their heart what is right and what is wrong. The conscience is God’s voice in human’s heart. When we did not know Christ, we probably stepped over the voice of conscience also. Thus, the people without a conscience appear and do the lawlessness on this earth. People step outside the law, thus lawlessness and injustice happen at the level of our political system. The people step over, what in reality, protects their lives. That’s why we don’t trust the department of Law and Order. The people abuse the law which serves to protect them, but hence, it comes out against him. The latter of what people did was that they stepped over Christ. Jesus Christ came to this world as a human being in order to show the absolute image of God but the people crucified Him.

Tell me, please, what kind of reaction should it be? We forget and sometimes don’t understand these things. The Scripture says: “When judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.”(Isa. 26:9). It is sometimes difficult for us to understand these things. One day, people came up to Jesus Christ asking Him questions and He answered them by questions too: ”Now there were some people present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. ”(Luke 13:1-5) It was a terrible death. And He is asking:” Do you think they were more guilty than those living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will perish.” Jesus understood the danger of sin and that, we sometimes do not comprehend.

The Bible speaks about the wrath a lot. We know the anger connected with the beautiful and deep feeling of the owner. God is the Owner of the world in which we live. I remember the statement of one of the famous characters who says to his son:” I gave you a birth and I will kill you.” Sometimes we consider these words with an uprising but an offensive feeling of the father’s dignity that was speaking deeply from the heart of that man. From his point of view, the son offended him with his life and his attitude toward his father. It would be easier to put ourselves in the place of that person and try to imagine how we would treat those who are ours: our children, wives and husbands.

In the Book of Proverbs, it tells us what the husband felt when his dignity was offended because his wife had committed adultery. Wise Solomon says:”…for jealousy arouses a husband’s fury and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.” From time to time, we come across some cases in our lives when a husband, being in a rage of jealousy, does some acts. Personally, I am not always ready to reproach such people who are in this condition of rage – the jealousy of the husband. It is the same condition that Holy God endures when something is happening to his creation, when the sin robs the person, and sin and evil inflict a defeat and destroy the person, family and society. The cup of God’s patience is overflowed at a certain period of time. He is getting angry. This is not the reality that will come one day! It is already happening on the earth. Jesus continues the parable:

“Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone: the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes?”

Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.”(Math. 21:42-45).

Look at Jesus! He is like a cornerstone. In one situation, He is the foundation of God’s house that we are building, and mercy and righteousness reside there. The same stone is different under the other circumstances: if it falls on somebody- crushes him and who falls on it- he will be broken. The same happens to the law of gravitation. It helps us live in this world. But I think you will agree that if I ignore this law and go directly out from the ninth-floor building, I will be broken into pieces. Something like that happens to the personality of Jesus Christ. He is a cornerstone, and it is important for us to understand that there is a certain image of that stone which can crush and on which one can be broken to pieces. We can tell there are whole nations, families and certain cultures which are broken to pieces by that stone. I think that it is definitely a difficult time for the American society. They are approaching to meet Jesus, as the cornerstone, falling on which the whole nation can be broken to pieces. There were so many people who talked about mercy and the church occupied a big place in the life of the country. Now there is such disrespect to it.

Thus, the Stone is either a foundation of a house and gives stability to our life or the Stone on which we can be broken to pieces. It is not easy to accept but it is God’s image. If we move it aside, God’s image is not completed and sooner or later we lose or experience something because of that. Speaking about God’s Wrath, we can see it is expressed more in the New Testament than in the Old Testament. There are some words about the eternal fire that is prepared for the devil and his angels, in Mathew. It says about the people who chose that way for themselves:” Then they will go away to eternal punishment.”

Hell is not the devil’s creation. Have you ever thought about it? This is not what the devil created. This is what God prepared and this is the expression of God’s Anger. If we don’t understand that then there is a question:” Lord, why then is it written in the New Testament? Jesus, why did you said the words “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” so often?” Let’s remember the parable about the merciful master. He had to receive a big debt of ten talents from his servant. The servant begged the master to forgive him and he did. After that, the servant met his debtor and started to shake him for some pennies. What was the reaction of that generous master when he heard what had happened? It is said in Mathew: “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” Then we read the following: “In anger his master turned him over…”(Math.18:33) Where? It is written “to the jailers” which means he turned him over to those who will make him suffer for being unmerciful.

If we measure ourselves, from the viewpoint of the world around us regarding mercy, what will we find? The world we live in is notable for its cruelty. There is God’s attitude to the man who had mercy on himself but stayed unmerciful to others. “In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”(Math. 18:34-35). God, something does not fit into my mind! Can’t it be? You are a merciful God. You are the God of Love. You are a good and just God. Can you do that? My friends, read Mathew 18:33-35. If you really want to believe it, read it and ask the Lord to help you to understand it. If you don’t want to believe it, try to cross this place out of the Bible, to cross from all the places where it says:” weeping and gnashing of the teeth”, “they will go to the eternal punishment”. You just cross this out and try to live without it. How do you look at this experience in our private relationships with God? I am telling myself in front of and God:” I will never cross out word’s of God, no matter how difficult it is for me.” Moreover, it is our great foundation because God does not become angry without a reason. His wrath is pure and holy. The Scripture tells us there will be a Great White Throne where all people who make any evil will be judged.

What do you see when we open the book of Revelation. God the Judge does not act as an arrogant administrator:” I wanted to give you mercy but I had to send you to the hell in order that you will suffer.” Nothing like that! We see in the Revelation that God the Judge is angry and He pours out the bowls of anger on the land. The people understand that this is God’s wrath on their immoral lives. “Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.”(Rev. 16:11). God the Judge and Angry God are the same Person. He hates the evil and Golgotha is a vivid expression of God’s wrath toward sin and evil. How will I consider myself and the world around me? How does the rich express his feelings when he comes to hell? (Luke 16). It does not say that it is a parable but this is a story which was told by Jesus. The rich man says:” I am in agony. Send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them.” Being in agony, he is still conscious and he even thinks about his brothers. This is the picture of God’s wrath.

There are wonderful verses in the book of Isaiah:

“Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress? I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me. I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground.” (Isa. 63:1-6).

These are probably difficult verses. But this is that cornerstone falling on which one can be broken to pieces and that cornerstone which falls on can crash. If we don’t understand that and we don’t believe it, then our faith will not be completed. The image of God will be single-sided. These verses reveal to us that even being angry God still seeks for understanding and support from people. “I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I looked, but there was no help.”

Even Moses, who had very strong relationships with God, did not understand Him. When there was immorality in the nation of Israel, God told Moses:” Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight …” (Num. 25:4). He did not do that. He probably was not at ease to kill the best people, the leaders in public. Do you know what he did? He went and told those leaders of the people:” Each of you must put to death those of your men who have joined in worshiping Baal of Peor.” He felt sorry when God was angry. Many people of the Israeli nation were destroyed because God’s anger was on the nation and it says:” So Israel joined in worshiping Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them. The Lord said to Moses, “Take all of the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the Lord’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel.”(Num. 25:3,4).

Do you know what happened at that moment? There was a son of priest Phinehas. He saw that one of the Israelite men took a woman from another nation to his tent right at that time when God’s nation was suffering from God’s wrath because of their lechery. Phinehas’ heart was full of indignation. He took a spear, came into the tent and rooted them to the ground. God saw the man who understood Him and the condition of His heart then God’s fierce anger turned away from Israel and the plague was stopped. God wants to see us understanding Him because Calvary is the expression of His wrath, His hatred to sin. It says that Christ loves the truth and hates the lawless actions.

Friends, we are going to pray and I want you to ask God to help you to understand this truth. God’s Wrath is the expression of His indignation, as the Creator, when the evil and sin steal and destroy His creation bringing the pain and suffering in there. When we come to Jesus Christ, we are covered from this wrath. He is our powerful foundation for our faith because we know that the Lord is coming some day to destroy all lawlessness. We get tired of this lawlessness, in ourselves and the people around us. That’s what the souls of those who had been slain cry out:” How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Rev. 6:10). They wonder when the time of the wrath will come and the true judgment for every sin. David understood this very well and this is what he said: “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.”(Psal. 19:9-10).

Let the Lord teach us the right attitude to His anger and let Him be our Father in this and we will be worthy of being His children who combine the mercy and righteous anger to every evil and sin but not to a person who is loved by God.