Three Angels Messages Part 71

Thanks for joining us as we continue to study the Three Angel’s Messages! We’re right now studying what constitutes God’s “wrath,” since the angel warns that if anyone receives the mark of the beast he “shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God.” What is God’s wrath? Is it the same as that of Babylon? Does God get angry like human beings do?

Based on solid Bible evidence, we can rest assured that God’s anger is not at all like human anger. When we become angry, our faces turn red and the hair on our necks becomes erect. Our voices become tense and high pitched. We tend to set reason aside and let our emotions have command. This is not what God’s “anger” is like. The Bible presents to us a clear picture of His wrath. It is when God, Who prizes freedom of choice, in sadness and after exercising divine forbearance to the limit, allows His rebellious creature to reap the consequence of his or her own decision, though it results in pain and death. The seeds of death are in sin itself. If the creature will not relinquish sin, the natural consequence of that decision is annihilation. God’s “wrath” is His allowing the sinner to reap what he has sown. Galatians 6:7, 8.

In the first chapter of Romans Paul says that the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” Romans 1:18. Notice the present tense of the verb in this passage. The wrath of God “is revealed.” To some extent, it’s already present. This is an ongoing process, in which God withdraws from those who reject Him and leaves them to their fate.

It must be said, that this “wrath” is of less intensity than will be poured out on that final day, when it is “poured out in full strength.” So far, the cup of His indignation has been mingled with mercy, but that will change in the future. The seven last plagues will be an exhibition of God’s wrath, and the second death, eternal separation from God, will write the final chapter in this regrettable account of God’s giving up the lost sinner.

Paul proceeded in Romans 1 to write concerning those who rejected God and chose their own way, worshiping the works of their own hands. Notice, incidentally, how Paul phrases this as exchanging “the truth” for “the lie,” something we discussed previously. Notice the thrice-repeated expression that “God gave them up,” or “God gave them over.” (In the original, these phrases are all translated from the same Greek verb paradidomi, “to deliver” or “to give over.”)

Romans 1 is the McGuffey reader of God's wrath. Paul declares, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.” Romans 1:20-26, 28.

The Scriptures are saturated with examples of how God struggled to reach the point of letting an unrepentant sinner go. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? My hearts churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred.” Hosea 11:8. Yet, if pushed too far, God will reluctantly leave the sinner to his or her fate. When we push God away, we relinquish His protecting presence, and we are left to fend the enemy in our own strength. Satan, whose powers exceed ours by a great measure, is only too happy to harass, deceive and destroy when this happens. We find instructive illustrations of this in God’s relationship with His people in the past.

The poignant story of Hosea’s love for an unfaithful wife mirrored the conduct of Israel toward their Husband. For this reason He was forced to let them go. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me, because you have forgotten the law of your God. Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone. With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the LORD, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn Himself from them. They have dealt treacherously with the LORD, for they have begotten pagan children. I will pour out My wrath on them like water. Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked by human precept. Yes, woe to them when I depart from them! My God will cast them away, because they did not obey Him; and they shall be wanderers among the nations.” Hosea 4:6, 17; 6:6, 7, 10, 11; 9:12, 17. Think of how relevant that one verse is, as applied to apocalyptic Babylon: “Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked by human precept.” For this, God will have to let Babylon go.

Speaking of Jerusalem, when God stepped back and allowed Nebuchadnezzar to attack her we read, “She revealed her harlotry and uncovered her nakedness. Then I alienated Myself from her, as I had alienated Myself from her sister.” Ezekiel 23:18. The “sister,” of course, was the northern nation of Israel, which fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. “People will call them rejected silver, because the LORD has rejected them. Cut off your hair and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the desolate heights; for the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath. I will hand them over to trouble, to all the kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem. I will give up Zedekiah the king of Judah, his princes, the residue of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt. I will deliver them to trouble into the kingdoms of the earth. Jeremiah 6:30; 7:29; 12:7; 15:4; 24:8, 9. God's wrath was exhibited when, after the persistent disobedience of His people, He withdrew and allowed them to reap the consequences of their choices.

There are literally too many references to quote all of them, but if you wish to read a few more on this subject, look up II Kings 17:5-18, telling why God allowed Israel to be attacked. It contains the summary statement, “Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight.” II Kings 17:18. The chronicle of Judah’s subsequent fall is found a few chapters later. We read, “I will forsake the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become victims of plunder to all their enemies, because they have done evil in My sight and have provoked Me to anger since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.” II Kings 21:14, 15. Later we read the statement, “Because of the anger of the LORD this happened in Jerusalem and Judah, that He finally cast them out from His presence.” II Kings 24:20. See also Numbers 32:15; Nehemiah 13:17, 18; I Kings 14:16; II Chronicles 12:5, 12; 30:7-9; 34:24, 25; Ezekiel 16:27; 20:25.

Listen to the plea of the prophet during the apostasy of Joash. “Therefore they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen. Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoida the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, ‘Thus says God; “Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He also has forsaken you.”’” II Chronicles 24:18-20. For his faithful ministry, Zechariah was stoned.

The Record is clear. Because of their disobedience, God removed His protection from the people called by His name, and permitted the ancient Babylonians to attack. Shortly before this, with words that could not be misunderstood, the prophet Azariah had said to King Asa, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” II Chronicles 15:2.
The happenings on this earth are complex and should not be over simplified, as the book of Job illustrates. But at the same time, this cause and effect relationship between our clinging to God and receiving His blessing, or our shoving Him away and forfeiting it, so clearly enunciated in the Scripture, is often overlooked or de-emphasized. It is a general principle revealed by God's Word: if we push God away, we relinquish His blessing and His protection. That process constitutes His “wrath.”

What volumes of theology are embedded in the introduction to Daniel’s book which says, “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand”! Daniel 1:2. Could God have protected them? Absolutely! We have the record of how one angel slew 185,000 Assyrian troops as they were about to assault Jerusalem back in King Hezekiah’s reign. II Kings 19:35. Could God have defended His city when Babylon came against her? Without question! The promise could have been fulfilled, “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge.” Psalm 91:4.

With the words of that beautiful psalm in mind notice the words of Jesus, as He spoke to this critical issue of the withdrawal of divine protection. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate.” Matthew 23:37, 38. This same principle of the removal of God’s gracious hand of protection was again brought to reality as the Jerusalem of the first century, having pushed God away and having crucified His Son Jesus, reaped the consequences of their choice in the assaults of the marauding armies of Titus the Roman four decades after Jesus’ death.

“My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels. Oh, that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would soon subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries.” Psalm 81:11-14. One would have to be blind to read the Scriptures and not see the concept of a loving God, pleading with the people to whom He had given freedom to choose, then stepping back and withdrawing His presence after exercising “second-mile” forbearance, allowing His people to reap the consequences of their choices. By way of definition, this is what the Bible presents as God’s “wrath.”

Oh, the fearful prospect of being abandoned by God! The woeful prospect of being let go by Jehovah! Let it not happen to any of us! On that last day, Jesus characterized lost sinners as weeping and gnashing their teeth. To know that there was a loving and eternal God Who provided salvation and life, yet you turned Him down! The feeling of abandonment and rejection felt by the one who has refused God’s grace will immeasurable! His wrath will be poured out in the final destruction of the lost, letting them go into eternal oblivion. What a sad, tragic and unnecessary event!

Remember, “hell” was prepared for the devil and his angels. Matthew 25:41. It was never intended that one single human being be destroyed in it. Did not Christ pay for the sins of all humanity when He died on the cross? Yet, honoring the choices of His creatures, those who refuse Him will be cast into the lake of fire.

The “wrath of God” is contained in the “cup of His indignation.” The Bible has much to say about the “cup.” Let us see how the Scriptures use this term in a symbolic sense. “Upon the wicked He will rain coals, fire and brimstone and a burning wind; this shall be the portion of their cup.” Psalm 11:6. “For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down.” Psalm 75:8. The “cup,” figuratively speaking, holds God's judgments.
Because of Judah’s sins, the Lord was going to remove His protection and allow them to go into captivity. “Awake, awake! Stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of His fury; you have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling and drained it out.” Isaiah 51:17. This same cup of judgment would be handed to other rebellious nations as well as Judah. “For thus says the LORD God of Israel to me: ‘Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it. And they will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that I will send among them.’ Then I took the cup from the LORD’s hand, and made all the nations drink, to whom the LORD had sent me.” Jeremiah 25:15-17. See also Jeremiah 49:12; Lamentations 4:21; Ezekiel 23:31. The concepts of punishment, judgment, guilt, sorrow and woe are symbolized by the “cup.”

The “cup” also represents an ordeal, an unpleasant experience. Said Jesus to the mother of Zebedee’s sons, who had asked that James and John be given places of honor in the new kingdom, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”  Matthew 20:22.

When we think of the cup of God’s wrath poured out in full strength, we must also see the Gospel message it declares. The truth is, that Jesus drank the full measure of God’s wrath for the sinner. He experienced all the woe, rejection and abandonment that the lost sinner will feel on that last Day. While in Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that He might be spared from drinking that cup, but closed His prayer by saying, “Your will be done.” To provide salvation, He must go through the ordeal; He must drink from the cup of guilt and sin. This Jesus did, because He loves us so much. He volunteered to drink the cup of woe on our behalf, so that we wouldn’t have to. Thank you, Jesus, for drinking the cup of God’s wrath for us, so that don’t have to!