There is a verse in the Bible that predicts that there is yet a “wrath to come” upon our world. According to the Scriptures, this “wrath” will not be localized—for it will be universal. The verse in question is found in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. He says to them:
Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1: 8-10, emphasis added).
As we look at these verses some very interesting points come to mind. First, there is indeed a “wrath” that is yet “to come”—this is not only revealed in these verses, but the entire Bible speaks of it. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, here we are shown the way out, the only way of escape from this wrath that is yet to come: the way of deliverance “from the wrath to come” is Jesus, “who delivers us from the wrath to come.” The question we need to ask ourselves then is this: how exactly does Jesus deliver us “from the wrath to come”?
Just as the people asked Peter at Pentecost after his witnessing about Jesus Christ, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) We also need to ask the same question: what shall we do to be saved? How can we allow Jesus to deliver us from “the wrath to come”? Peter’s response for his time is the same response for us today:
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).
What is new about this? We have all heard this over and over, and most of us have done this already. We believe in Jesus, we have been baptized, we continually repent and ask God to forgive our sins. The problem is that we have not grasped the deeper significance of these words, the deeper meaning of what Peter said.
First of all, most of us have misunderstood the word “repentance.” We have interpreted that word through the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, not through the Tree of Life. The latter is the way that God wants us to understand it. The word “repentance” in the Bible does not mean to feel sorry for our sins. This, as we said, is an interpretation from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, because it is a form of works. This kind of repentance involves a transaction between us and God. This means that if we feel sorry enough for how bad we have been, then God will forgive us. This way of thinking says that God won’t forgive us unless we feel sorry for our sins and feel bad about ourselves.
Dear Reader, if this is true, what happens to grace then? What happens to righteousness by faith? What happens to Paul’s statement in Romans, “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24)? Can you see the problem here?
The problem is that we have not properly understood metanoia—the Greek word for repentance. Metanoia really means “to change one’s mind” (Thayer), “to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider” (Strong’s Concordance). This is what metanoia means. Period.
However, most Bible lexicons go on to say that in addition to meaning “a change of mind,” metanoia also means “morally to feel compunction” (Strong’s Concordance) or “to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins” (Thayer). In other words, to repent. But the concept of repentance from our sins has nothing to do with the change of mind or paradigm shift that the word metanoia describes.
So then, what did Peter mean when he said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”? We believe he meant this: allow Jesus’ gospel of good news about the Father to change your minds about who God is. Jesus taught us the true character of the Father. Allow your mind to accept the good news about God that Jesus declared! Dare to allow yourself to believe that God has already forgiven you—“let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Metanoia means to move away from Satan’s interpretation of the gospel—which is salvation by works—and believe Jesus’ version of it—salvation by grace. Salvation is a gift, an unmerited gift.
What Peter meant to say was, “Let everyone of you accept Jesus’ unconditional forgiveness which He freely gives to the entire world, because ‘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).”
Think of the paralytic that was lowered through the roof; did he ask Jesus to forgive him? Absolutely not! Jesus offered him forgiveness without a single petition for forgiveness coming out of his mouth. And what about Zaccheus? Did he ask Jesus to forgive him? Absolutely not! Jesus offered His love and forgiveness freely, before Zaccheus could even say a word. And what about the adulterous woman? Did she have to ask Him to forgive her? No! He didn’t even condemn her at all. Over and over we see Jesus accepting people unconditionally, forgiving them, without their having to ask him for pardon or even having to repent in the conventional way we have understood repentance.
It was after Jesus showed His unconditional love, which brought a change of mind, that sorrow for one’s sins came. It was after Jesus showed him grace and forgiveness that Zaccheus felt sorrow for his sins and gave back all he had stolen. It was after Mary Magdalene had been saved from stoning and from seven demons that she was so taken up by Jesus’ love that she gave Him everything she had of value mixed with her tears of love and thanksgiving.
This is exactly what Paul tells us in Romans chapter two, verse four:
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance (Romans 2:4, emphasis added)?
Once we understand this foundational good news that is revealed in Jesus’ gospel, we need to go back to Paul’s address to the Thessalonians. Paul made a very interesting statement when He said to them that they had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” The Greek word “turned” is epistrephō, which means “to revert.” What did they revert to?
We believe this means that they had reverted to the original mind that Adam had in relation to God before he ate of Satan’s lies about God, lies which were embedded in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. By giving them the truth about God, Jesus made it possible for them to revert to that original knowledge of God which Adam and Eve had in the Garden before sin entered the world. That is the true and correct knowledge of God which Jesus is giving us even today.
How then did they turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God?” They “turned to God from idols to serve the true and living God” exactly through what we have talked about above: they had a change of mind, a paradigm shift. They began to see God in a new but also old way—through what Jesus Christ was teaching them via Paul. They reverted to the original “old” way of knowing God before the fall, which is the true way. They began to see God again as He truly is: an unconditionally loving God who is non-condemning, non-violent, filled with mercy and forgiveness. A God who is our friend and not our enemy, who is our Father who is for us, and not a harsh judge who is against us.
The Thessalonians had metanoia in the true sense of the word. They stopped seeing God through Satan’s eyes, and began seeing Him through Jesus’ eyes. Satan’s view of God is distorted, skewed, untruthful. But Jesus’ view of God is true, correct, not skewed. Why? Because Jesus Himself is God. His witness of who God is, of His character, stands high above all others. His witness is above all human witness, and even above all principalities and powers in the heavenly places. It is even above the witness of angels:
For to which of the angels did He ever say:
“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You”?
“I will be to Him a Father,
And He shall be to Me a Son”?
But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:
“Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
And of the angels He says:
“Who makes His angels spirits
And His ministers a flame of fire.”
But to the Son He says:
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”
“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You remain;
And they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will fold them up,
And they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not fail.”
But to which of the angels has He ever said:
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?
Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:5-14, emphasis added)?
God never addressed the angels as sons. Rather, He told them to worship Jesus: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” Angels are “ministering spirits,” ministering to us who will be “heirs of salvation.” But God addresses Jesus as God, as Lord, and reveals Him as the One who “laid the foundation of the earth” and who “created the heavens.” Jesus is the One who sits on the throne, ruling with the scepter—or law—of righteousness. All of this makes Jesus the supreme authority in revealing the truth about who God is. No one else can reveal God as Jesus can. No one has the credentials, or the ability or know-how to do so.
Jesus Himself said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). This means that no one comes to a correct knowledge of God except through Jesus.
What great news this is, because Jesus’ revelation of God is filled with pardon, forgiveness, goodness, love! His message is life-giving! Jesus gives us true hope. He gives us an expectation of much better things to come. He reveals to us a God who loves us unconditionally, who is our abba—daddy—a God who is non-violent, non-punitive, and non-destroying. The Creator God is the God of life, which He will give us abundantly and forever more.
In his message to the Thessalonians, Paul referred to God as the “living and true God.” Why did he use the word “living” to characterize God? Who is this “living and true God”? Is Paul using the word “living” to differentiate it from the word dead? Is he inferring that there is a dead God? Is there such a thing as a dead God? No, it makes no sense to think that Paul was differentiating between a “living and true God” and a “dead and false God.” What then is he trying to tell us by calling God the “living and true God?”
Paul is attempting to call our attention to the fact that the true God is a God of life—the “living God.” The true God is a God of life only, because the word “light” is a metaphor for life in the Bible, and “God is light in whom there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
The true God is not involved with death in any way whatsoever, except to overthrow it by giving us back life. The true God is the God who gives life and is involved with life and life only. This means that the “living and true God” has nothing to do with the kingdom of darkness, which represents death.
If the God we believe in is a God who takes life, if he causes death by killing us as a punishment, then we are believing in a false god and not in the “living and true God.” Then we are worshipping an idol, even though we may not be literally bowing down to an image. It was by believing in this truth about God which Paul revealed to the Thessalonians that they had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
It is the demons behind the idols that are involved with death. They are the ones that teach a message of death. Their knowledge, their wisdom, is from the Tree which causes death. They are the ones who kill and cause death. Their kingdom, symbolized by Babylon, is responsible for all death upon this earth:
And in her [BABYLON] was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth (Revelation 18:24, emphasis added).
So then, when Paul states that there is yet another “wrath to come,” what is he saying? He is saying that there will be many that will not turn to God from idols to serve the “living and true God.” He is saying that there will be many that will reject the true knowledge of God that Jesus came to give to the world. He is saying that there will be many whom God will yet have to let go. There will be many that God will yet have to hand over, deliver to Satan, because sadly, they have chosen to remain in Satan’s death jurisdiction of works—reward and punishment, Good and Evil.