As we engage in the investigation of “the wrath of God,” we must keep in mind that everything that pertains to God must harmonize with the essence of His character of agape love as revealed through Jesus Christ. Thus, even His so-called “wrath” must harmonize with His agape love.
Romans chapter one, verses eighteen and onwards addresses “the wrath of God” specifically. But before we look at these passages, we will examine the two well-known verses that precede them:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17, emphasis added).
The gospel—the good news given by Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ only—is the “power of God” to save those who believe in it. This is “salvation” from the bad news that Satan has been feeding us through his Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil for the last six thousand years.
In the gospel, God’s righteousness is revealed “from faith to faith”—from a former or present faith to a future faith based on better understanding, better information and more knowledge. There is a sense of progression here—a forward movement, a growth in insight in regards to the God whom we are to have faith in. This means that we are to move from a former faith which was based on a misguided perception of God, to another faith altogether, one which is anchored on the truth about God as revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This truth revealed by Jesus in His gospel is the “power of God for salvation” for everyone who dares to have a paradigm shift and believe in “the only true God” (John 17:3) whom Jesus Christ revealed.
What is the “gospel of Christ?” The Greek word for “gospel”—evangelion—means “good news.” The “good news” of Christ is centered on what He revealed about the Father—that He loves us unconditionally and holds no condemnation toward us.
It is the “good news” about God that Jesus came to give us that “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” His “good news” is encapsulated in His words to Nicodemus: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).
The link between the gospel and salvation is clear. The good news is that God is not out to get us, to condemn us, or to kill us. God is interested in saving us from an enemy who would get us, condemn us, and kill us. God does this by saving us from the lies of this enemy—lies which destroy us. This is good news indeed, because “if God is for us, who can be against us?”
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:31-35)?
Where is the “righteousness of God”—God’s way of being, His law, His character which was expressed in “the love of Christ”—revealed? It is revealed “in it”—in the “gospel of Christ.” According to this verse, His righteousness is not revealed anywhere else—it is only in “the gospel of Jesus Christ.” In this revelation there is salvation, “for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” Everyone who believes in what? Everyone who believes in “the righteousness of God” which is revealed “in it”—revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And what is the righteousness of God? “The righteousness of God” is the essence of His being, which is His agape love: “God is love” (1 John 4: 8, 16).
In the Garden, Adam lost sight of the righteousness of God—he lost sight of God’s character of agape love. We know this because Adam became afraid of God once he ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Bible is very clear on this—whoever is afraid of God doesn’t know God:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment [KOLASIS: PUNISHMENT]. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:18-19, emphasis added).
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15, emphasis added).
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7, emphasis added).
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7, emphasis added).
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8, emphasis added).
Adam exchanged God’s righteousness—His unconditional love—for the unrighteousness of Satan’s principle of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which is the conditional reward and punishment system. Adam thought this “unrighteousness” was God’s righteousness. This terrible and confused situation is explained by Solomon in this way:
Moreover I saw under the sun:
In the place of judgment,
Wickedness was there;
And in the place of righteousness,
Iniquity was there (Ecclesiastes 3:16).
Through the literary device of Hebrew parallelism, we learn in this verse that “judgment” is the same as “righteousness,” and that “wickedness” is the same as “iniquity.” The gospel saves us from the foundational error of confusing God’s “righteousness” with Satan’s “iniquity,” and the consequent confusion and disaster involved in making such a terrible mistake.
In the Book of Hebrews, we learn that Jesus loved “righteousness” and hated “iniquity:”
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness (KJV: INIQUITY); Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions” (Hebrews 1:9, emphasis added)
Paul goes on to say that “the power of God to salvation” is revealed to the “Jew first.” Why? Because “to them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3: 2). The Jews had the Old Testament which pointed them to Jesus Christ. But how does this passage apply to us, who are living today, two thousand years after Paul wrote these words? Notice what Paul says later, in Romans chapter two:
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God (Romans 2:28-29, emphasis added).
In our times, the word “Jew” must be applied to those who are spiritual Jews—inwardly. The person that is a Jew “inwardly” has an advantage in that he also takes hold of the blessing of accessing the oracles of God. There he can find the good news of Jesus Christ regarding the real character of God. If the “inward Jew” believes and obeys, he is saved from wrath. If he doesn’t believe, “the wrath of God abides in him” (John 3:36). This word “abides” in Greek means “remains.” This means that “the wrath of God” was somehow already there in all of us to begin with. In order for something to “remain,” it has to be already there. If a person does not believe Jesus’ good news, then “the wrath of God” remains or continues to be his by default.
Just like those who are born Jews “in the flesh”—physical descendants of Abraham—the spiritual Jew also has the Scriptures, which, if he is a spiritual Jew indeed, he will study and know. This spiritual Jew will start connecting the dots, and the light will shine in his mind.
But not only for those who are steeped in biblical information this knowledge is given; it is for “the Greek” also. Paul used the word “Greek” to address specifically the Greeks and their philosophies, which they learned from ancient Egypt. The Greeks used to go to Egypt to learn “The Mysteries” of Egypt. Greek philosophy is completely antithetical to Jesus’ teachings. But by “Greek” Paul also meant anyone who is a “Gentile.” In our days we can interpret this word to mean anyone who is not a believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We can then take this a step further, and say that the gospel is also for those who are not necessarily thoroughly grounded in biblical knowledge, but who, outside of Bible knowledge accept God’s Spirit (which is striving with every living person, Genesis 1:2). “The Greek” may then even refer to those who respond to God’s call to love their fellow human beings unconditionally. Those who have the moral law of unconditional agape love etched in their hearts are “a law unto themselves”:
for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, (Romans 2:14).
Everyone reading this book has more than likely memorized John three sixteen. But verse seventeen is also fundamental to Jesus’ message:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16-17, emphasis added).
Jesus spoke these words to Nicodemus, a leading spiritual figure of his time. Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus was trying to tell him. We may be prominent spiritual figures in our own time, yet just like Nicodemus have no clue as to what Jesus is saying.
To Nicodemus, Jesus said, “You must be born again.” To use a modern, technological metaphor, Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he had to reset his understanding of God to factory setting again. Sometimes when a computer, tablet, or phone malfunctions, the best way to fix it is to reset it to factory setting—to the original settings it had when it came out of the factory. Our minds need to be reset to look like Adam’s original mind in the Garden before he ate of Satan’s Tree. That is the only way we can see God as He truly is—as a God of agape love.
What Nicodemus and all of us need to be born again to, is the good news about God which Jesus came to share with us. We have to let go of all our preconceived and wrong ideas about God’s character which Satan has taught the human race. We have to stop believing that God is a stern, harsh, punishing despot, and instead we need to listen to the good news being declared by Jesus.
That is why Jesus continued saying to Nicodemus, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Saved from what? Saved from the condemnation, the wrath that is integral to Satan’s system of reward and punishment. This is the gospel; this is the good news! Eventually Nicodemus was indeed reborn to the truth that God is not in the business of condemning or punishing anyone, thus he became a true disciple of Jesus.
Who brings a charge against us? Satan does, as shown in Zechariah chapter three. Who condemns? Satan does—he is the accuser—as shown in Revelation chapter twelve, verse ten. But what does God do? He justifies us. “It is God who justifies.”
Satan, through his principle of reward and punishment, declared us guilty and as such, deserving of punishment. But God declares us innocent, just. This means that He annuls Satan’s system of reward and punishment, which condemns us. Instead, He declares us innocent according to His law of unconditional agape love, which holds nothing against us and gives us a completely clear slate:
for all have sinned [THROUGH THE MORAL LAW OF REWARD AND PUNISHMENT—THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL] and fall short of the glory of God [FALL SHORT OF HIS LAW OF Agape LOVE], [ALL] being justified freely by His grace [BY HIS Agape LOVE] through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation [MERCY SEAT] by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness [Agape LOVE], because in His forbearance [Agape LOVE] God had passed over the sins that were previously committed (Romans 3:23-25, emphasis added)
I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22, emphasis added)
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12, emphasis added).
God has blotted out, removed our sins—He has freely justified us. This does not mean that God held our sins against us before, and now, because Jesus sacrificed Himself to appease Him, He is forgiving us. No, in God’s law of agape love those sins had never been held against us to begin with. Jesus didn’t come to appease God—He came to reveal Him.
What Jesus has done is this: He has removed Satan’s power over us by showing us that the Father does not use the system of reward and punishment as Satan made us believe He did. In other words, by showing us the truth about God, Jesus completely removed reward and punishment out of the way and introduced God’s true way, which is the way of agape love:
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh [DEAD BECAUSE OF THE CONDEMNATION OF THE REWARD AND PUNISHMENT SYSTEM], He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses [UNCONDITIONAL Agape LOVE], having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us [SATAN’S MORAL LAW OF GOOD AND EVIL/REWARD AND PUNISHMENT], which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it (Colossians 2: 13-15, emphasis added).
God’s justification is not based on our own goodness—on our works from the system of the Tree of Good and Evil. His justification is based on His law of grace: “being freely justified by His grace.” This is good news indeed! Our hearts ought to rejoice at God’s mercy and grace towards us by sending Jesus Christ to free us from the bondage of Satan’s moral law of Good and Evil. We ought to be shouting from the mountain-tops this good news, which applies to every human being on this earth. He has taken the whole system of reward and punishment “out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” By doing this He “disarmed” Satan and his angels—“disarmed principalities and power, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
But there are further concepts we must understand before we fully grasp what this all means: the gospel of Christ saves us, but what does it save us from? Notice how Paul answers this question in Romans chapter five:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him (Romans5: 8-9, emphasis added).
Did you notice what we are to be saved from? We are to be “saved from wrath”! But whose wrath are we to be saved from? Is it from God’s wrath?
For years we have thought that this was the case. And yet this just doesn’t make sense! Did God love us so much that He had to send His Son in order to save us from Himself? Is God so out-of-control that He has to ask someone else to hold Him back, otherwise, He might lash out at us in fury?
Consider again these words: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.” Is God trying to save us from His own condemnation? No! God didn’t send His Son to condemn the world! Then what? “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved” from Satan’s wrathful reign. It is that simple.
As we move forward, we will see how God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom are two separate jurisdictions, and we, the human race, just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, have a choice to make regarding them. This choice will determine whether or not we receive “the wrath of God.”