Dear Reader, Last week (May 1st,
2009) I published a critique against a treatise by Kevin Straub on the
character of God. I made the mistake of commenting before I had read all
of what Kevin had written on the issue, so I publicly apologize to Kevin
for misapprehending his views on this subject. The misunderstanding was
not intentional. Here are the three parts to Kevin’s study on the
character of God.—rwb
The topic of God’s Wrath is a subject
into which many people are now inquiring.
Numerous writers and leading teachers have produced their
arguments which sustain the position of God’s “Active Wrath”, which
“God has intervened personally, intentionally,
and in some cases violently to put down evil in the past – and that He
will do so even more forcefully in the future. The purpose of His active exercise of
wrath is either to punish evil people for their sins or to deliver His
own people from their grasp, and often both purposes merge into one” Marvin Moore, Reflections on the Wrath
of God, 5.
There is no need for me to take up much
space by repeating their arguments.
Most of us have grown up in this paradigm, where God’s wrath,
anger, retribution, judgment, vengeance, jealousy, etc., are read with a
sinful human understanding and from the perspective of our sinful
experience of these things. The
Bible, upon cursory reading, does seem to make God the active agent of
death and destruction on innumerable occasions. Apparently, Mel Gibson has nothing on
God in the violence department.
But let’s look at what God thinks of that idea:
“. . .You thought that I was
altogether like you; But I will rebuke you. . .” Psalm 50:21
“The wrath of man works not the
righteousness of God.” James 1:20
“For My thoughts are not your
thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the
earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isa. 55: 8,9
How does God think and what are His ways?
“Earthly kingdoms rule by the
ascendancy of physical power; but from Christ’s kingdom every carnal
weapon, every instrument of coercion, is banished.” AA 12.
“The exercise of force is
contrary to the principles of God’s government.” "DA 22.
“Compelling power is found only under
Satan’s government. The Lord’s
principles are not of this order.”
“[Men] fail of a satisfactory
understanding of the great problem of evil, from the fact that tradition
and misinterpretation have obscured the teaching of the Bible concerning
the character of God, the nature of His government, and the principles of
His dealing with sin.” GC 492.
Those who are steeped in this vicious
view of God can end up with some horrific conclusions. Moore says:
“So did Christ suffer God’s active wrath
or His passive wrath on the cross? Certainly He suffered God’s passive
wrath – God’s abandonment of sinners to the results of their sins. . . .
Did God take an active hand in the death of His Son? . . . it would certainly
be consistent for God to have taken an active role in the death of His
Son on the cross. . . . Christ suffered God’s passive wrath on the cross
and very likely His active wrath as well.” Moore 15.
Is this the kind of "consistency”
of character that we want to develop?
The Bible does contain the keys to
understanding the wrath of God.
Remember this principle: one text may never be used to destroy or
negate another, but the Bible will give us definitions by which we can
decode the difficult passages. The
mechanism of God’s wrath, as defined Biblically, is when He turns aside,
withdraws Himself, and lets the law breaker reap the consequence. Those who write against this truth say
that it is “a mistake to make the passive model the complete explanation
of God’s wrath” Moore 7. Really?
Here is the wrath of God explained as
His hiding His face:
“In a little wrath I hid
my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have
mercy on thee. . . .” Isa. 54:8
“How long, LORD? wilt thou hide
thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire?” Ps. 89:46
“Hide not thy face far from me;
put not thy servant away in anger. . . leave me not, neither forsake
me.” Ps. 27:9
“. . . thou didst hide thy face, and I
was troubled.” Ps. 30:7
“. . . hide not thy face from me, lest I
be like unto them that go down into the pit.” Ps 143:7
“. . . My anger shall be kindled against
them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from
them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall
befall them, so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come
upon us because our God is not
among us? And I will
surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have
wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.” Deut. 31:16-18
This is an immutable principle that we
can apply to God’s dealing with His creation at the entrance of sin,
throughout the history of fallen man, and at the ending of the great
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and
today, and for ever.” Heb. 13:8
“With whom [the Father] is no
variableness neither shadow of turning.”
“For I am the LORD, I change not. . .
.” Mal. 3:6
“We have only one perfect photograph of
God, and this is Jesus Christ.” 7BC 906.
“He who has seen me has seen the
Father.” John 14:9
God gives up
Another Bible way of explaining God’s
wrath is that He “gives over” or "gives up” as depicted in Romans
1:19-23, 26, and 28. When one
persists in idolatry and sin, God at last honors them, lets them have
their pleasures, and pleads no more.
“Ephraim is joined to idols: let him
alone.” Hos. 4:17
This sense is also employed in 2 Thes.,
speaking of those who cling to the way of lawlessness:
“God will send them strong delusion, that
they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not
believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thes. 2:11, 12
When God’s wrath is in play, the Bible
language will use terms such as “spare not,” or “deliver up.” This is how Jesus went to His
destruction at the cross:
“He . . . spared not his own son, but
delivered him up for us all. . . .”
It is in this same sense that God hardened
Pharaoh’s heart, sent the flood, rained fire on Sodom and Gomorrah and
sent an evil spirit to Saul, as a few examples.
TO BE CONTINUED. . .
The Wrath of God and His Strange Act – Part II of III
So far, we have looked at the concept
that God’s wrath is completely something other than man’s wrath or man’s
concept of wrath. We have seen
that there is no coercion or violence in God’s ways. We have identified in the Scriptures
the wrath of God as the “hiding of His face,” or His “giving up/over” to
delusions and destructions, or “sparing not,” and “delivering up” to the
The Bible says that God destroys. How can that be? Satan is known as “Abaddon,” the
Destroyer. What does it mean that
Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin
is death. James 1:15 says the same
thing in that lust conceived brings forth sin and the result is
“God destroys no man. Everyone who is destroyed will have
destroyed himself.” COL 84
“But your iniquities have
separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his
face from you, that he will not hear.” Isa. 59:2
The fall of Jerusalem
I thank my friend and author Marilyn M.
Campbell for the insights into God’s wrath regarding the fall of Jerusalem
to Titus’ armies in A. D. 70. God
did not raze the city personally, yet it is an action resulting from His
John the Baptist did, in fact, prophesy
the coming “wrath of God” against Judea. “Who hath warned you to flee
from the wrath to come?” (Matt. 3:7).
Connecting John’s reference to the
“wrath to come” with the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70, Great
Controversy, p. 20, she says:
“The hour of hope and pardon was fast
passing; the cup of God’s long deferred wrath was almost full.”
Page 28 continues, describing events in
the invisible world in A. D. 70:
“God withdrew His protection from them
and removed His restraining power from Satan and his angels, and the
nation was left to the control of the leader she has chosen.”
Page 36 reinforces this thought:
“We cannot know how much we owe to
Christ for the peace and protection which we enjoy. It is the restraining
power of God that prevents mankind from passing fully under the control
of Satan. . . . God does not stand toward the sinner as an executioner of
the sentence against transgression; but He leaves the rejecters of His
mercy to themselves to reap that which they have sown.”
The Spirit of Prophecy is clear that the
“wrath of God” which destroyed Jerusalem symbolizes the “wrath of God”
which will finally destroy our world.
“In the fate of the chosen city we may
behold the doom of a world that has rejected God’s mercy and trampled
upon His law” (GC 36).
God no longer interferes with the Destroyer
Soon God will show that He is
indeed the living God. He will say
to the angels “No longer combat Satan in his efforts to destroy. Let him work out his malignity upon the
children of disobedience; for the cup of their iniquity is full. . .
. I will no longer interfere to
prevent the destroyer from doing his work. SEP 17, 1901
“Like Israel of old the wicked destroy
themselves; they fall by their iniquity.”
God does not exhibit a wrath that is
anything akin to human wrath. When
God is no longer able to fulfill His role of Saviour and Protector, the
unchecked forces of nature in chaos, evil spiritual forces and wicked
human activity will execute the reward of sin. God has no part in it, for it is the
direct result of sin, or separation from God.
Those who are coming into the light
about the Character of God are of the understanding that we must take a
different approach to the Bible language in order to be consistent and
that God does not stand as the executioner. Sin itself is what destroys. God ever works only to save, never to
destroy. God Himself claims to be
eternally consistent. He would not
act in violence, contrary to His law, to quell the rebellion at its first
stages and He will not act in violence to end the rebellion in the final
The theodicy of Job
Theodicy is the term given to an
explanation of the existence of evil in a universe ruled by a God of love
Satan himself, angling to get permission
to personally smash Job, said to God:
“But put forth thine hand now,
and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy
power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.” Job 1:11
Later, in the same story, the
destruction brought upon Job’s children by Satan was called the “fire of
God” v. 16. What does this tell
This same mechanism will also be
employed in the final destruction of the wicked. Am I saying that Satan will bring down
fire from heaven? It is quite
probable that his activity will have at least a part in it. A nuclear storm may be unleashed in the
war on the Holy City at the end of the millennium. There will be a time given for the
archenemy to move amongst the lost and organize them to war and build the
tools of war. You can read all of
this in the closing chapter of The Great Controversy.
Peter compares the flood and the fire
Peter says that the world of old was
sustained by the power of God. See
2 Pet. 3:5-7. That world was an
entirely different ecology. There
was a canopy of water over the earth and it was not watered by the same
hydrologic cycle that we know today.
When God withdrew His sustaining hand, the water came out of
suspension and the fountains of the deep also broke up and water came
from hidden places of the earth.
In the same way the final fire of destruction is held in check. God ever acts in mercy, while there are
yet souls who will repent. When
all decisions are made, then according to His government’s constitutional
principle of granting free choice, He will turn aside and the forces of
wicked men, demons, and nature unchecked, will cause complete chaos and
TO BE CONTINUED. . .
The Wrath of God and His Strange Act – Part III of III
So far, we have examined how that God’s
wrath is the “hiding of His face,” and that when He turns away from His
role as Sustainer and Protector, the forces of chaos and evil will have
their way, just like an uncontrolled nuclear reaction will destroy. We examined a little of the Bible
language and saw how in the book of Job, the curtain is drawn back on
“fire of God,” which is in reality, the fire of Satan.
The Wrath of the Powers of God
“God’s wrath is not the expression of
His personal feelings, for while His wrath is busily destroying man and
the world, God is feeling anything but wrathful. He is pained with sorrow and distress
to see His handiwork and His children being committed to so terrible a
fate. . . .
“See the blasting might of the roaring
hurricane, the thunder of a thousand falling buildings and opening
crevasses as the earthquake strikes. . .this is wrath. It is the complete picture of anger and
fury and these are the things which the Bible terms “the wrath of God.”
“From the message God gave through
Moses’ rod [when the rod was out of Moses’ hand, it turned into a snake;
when it touched the river, it showed where God would withdraw His
sustenance and it turned to blood] He plainly showed that when nature is
in this state it has passed out of His control. . . .
“It is the wrath of God simply because
every power which has gone into the state of wrath through God’s
directing and controlling power being withdrawn, is of God. [e.g., the orbital control of the
earth, regulation of the sun, maintenance of the cosmological constants,
etc.] They are the powers of God in a wrathful state, therefore it could
be called the wrath of the powers of God.
Instead, it is simply called, “the wrath of God.” Fred T. Wright, Behold Your God,
The constitution of God’s government
When we maintain that God will at last,
by His own action, put down the rebellion by a final act of violence in a
global destruction, we are actually saying that God will finally resort
to that which He refused to do in beginning of the rebellion, and by that
action admit to the claim that the constitution of His government -- and
by extension, His law and character --
are faulty and that an executive judicial extermination is indeed
the final solution.
This constitution has as its foundation
a) coercion will never be employed
and; b) freedom of choice is
granted to all.
How then, can He punish these for
exercising the rights and freedoms He gave them? There is no way out of this, except to
understand that sin itself destroys and that the wrath of God is when God
honors a perverted choice and lets the wayward one reap the inevitable
results of being separated from His sustaining and protective power.
God’s Strange Act
So then, what is “God’s Strange
Act?” We have used this phrase to
depict God’s final destruction of the impenitent by the issuance of
"His” fire. Doesn’t the Bible
say it comes from God out of heaven?
(Remember, so did the fire that killed Job’s children.)
Again, I lean on M. M. Campbell for the
following segment, edited from various of her writings.
God does His strange act at close of
probation, not at executive judgment.
This is an absolute fact, but not one we
have historically believed. We have been mistaken in saying God does his
strange act at executive judgment, and we have many inspired references
to back it up: Isaiah 28:21; DA 582-3 (quoting Hos. 13:9); DA 580-588; GC
17-38; 2 Sam. 5:17-20; Joshua 10:12-19; 4T 151; 5T 77; 2 SM 373; GC
627-628; RH 3/9/1886; 7BC 90; 2 SM 378.
There is not one inspired statement that
God does His strange work at executive judgment.
“For the Lord shall rise up as in Mount
Perazim; He shall be wroth as in the Valley of Gibeon -- that He may do
His work, His strange work; and bring to pass His act, His strange act.”
For the Lord shall rise up as in Mount
Perazim; He shall be wroth as in the Valley of Gibeon—that He may do His work, His
strange work; and bring to pass His act, His strange act (Isaiah 28:21,
To Him [God] the work of destruction and the denunciation of
judgment is a strange work. . . . ‘O Israel,’ the Lord says, ‘thou hast
destroyed thyself’” (DA 582-3, quoting Hosea 13:9. Read in context).
Adventists have believed and taught that
God’s “strange work” is the final destruction of the wicked following the
millennium. Certainly, raining fire upon people would be a strange work
for humans to do, especially holy humans, but we have granted our holy
God the right to do this. A careful study of the Bible and Spirit of
Prophecy, however, does not support this view. God’s strange work is, in
fact, an act of destruction, similar to the destruction of the city of
“To Him [God] the work of destruction
and the denunciation of judgment is a strange work. . . . ‘O Israel,’ the
Lord says, ‘thou hast destroyed thyself’” DA 582-3, quoting Hosea 13:9.
Read in context.
God’s strange work is also “as in”
incidents that occurred on Mount Perazim and in the Valley of Gibeon. We
must find how these incidents are similar, because God’s strange work of
destruction will occur in a similar way.
The Bible records only one significant
incident occurring at each of these locations—both confrontations between
the forces of God and those of paganism:
Mount Perazim: David versus the Philistines. 2 Samuel 5:17-20)
The Valley of Gibeon: Joshua versus Amorites. (Joshua 10:12-19
The Canaanites had filled up the measure of their iniquity, and
the Lord would no longer bear with them. His defense being removed from
them, they would fall an easy prey to the Hebrews (4T 151).
In each case the Lord delivered up the
Canaanites for destruction, because . . .
“The Canaanites had filled up the
measure of their iniquity, and the Lord would no longer bear with them.
His defense being removed from them, they would fall an easy prey to the
Hebrews.” 4T 151
God’s strange work is the handing over
of the unrepentant to their enemies:
“Who knows whether God will not give you
up to the deceptions you love? . . . When God shall work His strange work
on the earth . . . woe will be upon the people".” 5T 77
Spirit of Prophecy pinpoints the exact
point in time when God will do His strange work:
Every century of profligacy has treasured up wrath against the day
of wrath; and when the time comes and the iniquity is full, then God will
do His strange work. It will be found a terrible thing to have worn out
the divine patience; for the wrath of God will fall so signally and
strongly that it is represented as being unmixed with mercy; and the very
earth will be desolated. It is at the time of the national apostasy, when
acting on the policy of Satan, the rulers of the land will rank
themselves on the side of the man of sin—it is then the measure of guilt
is full; the national apostasy is the signal for national ruin (2SM 373).
“Every century of profligacy has
treasured up wrath against the day of wrath; and when the time comes and
the iniquity is full, then God will do His strange work. . . . It is at
the time of the national apostasy, when acting on the policy of Satan, the
rulers of the land will rank themselves on the side of the man of sin—it
is then the measure of guilt is full; the national apostasy is the signal
for national ruin. 2SM 373
“God’s judgments will be visited upon
those who are seeking to oppress and destroy His people. . . . ‘The Lord
shall rise up as in Mount Perazim, He shall be wroth as in the valley of
Gibeon, that He may do His work, His strange work; and bring to pass His
act, His strange act.’ Isaiah 28:21. . . .
“ When Christ ceases His intercession in
the sanctuary, the unmingled wrath threatened against those who worship
the beast and his image and receive his mark (Rev. 14:9, 10) will be
poured out. The plagues upon Egypt when God was about to deliver Israel
were similar in character to those more terrible and extensive judgments
which are to fall upon the world just before the final deliverance of
God’s people (GC 627-8).
Protestantism shall give the hand of
fellowship to the Roman power. . . . Then there will be a law against the
Sabbath of God’s creation, and then it is that God will do His strange
work in the earth. . . . God keeps a record with the nations: the figures
are swelling against them in the books of heaven; and when it shall have
become a law that the transgression of the first day of the week shall be
met with punishment, then their cup will be full. RH 3/9/1886; 7BC 910
God’s strange act properly understood is a true definition
of His wrath
So, when we are speaking about the
subject of the wrath of God, invariably “God’s Strange Act” will be
brought up from the arsenal of misconception. Now we can show that this phrase does
not apply to the final destruction of the wicked, but to the outpouring
of the plagues upon the earth. But
even better than this, we can show how that God’s Strange Act is actually
a revelation of His Wrath as a withdrawal of His hand of protection and
mercy, leaving the impenitent to the consequences of their choice.