The Wrath of God


His Strange Act – Parts I – III


By Kevin Straub, January 18, 2007





Click to go to our Home Page




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 asserts that

“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.”  DA 759


“[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?


Inspired keys


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 controversy.


“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.”  James 1:17


“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. . . .”  Rom. 8:32


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.




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 same.


The Bible says that God destroys.  How can that be?  Satan is known as “Abaddon,” the Destroyer.  What does it mean that God destroys?


Sin destroys


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 death.  


“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 wrath.


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.”  GC 37


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 scenes, either.


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 and mercy. 


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 you?


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 annihilation.




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, 389-90.


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 principles that:


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.” Isa. 28:21


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, KJV).


     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 Jerusalem.


“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:


a)  Mount Perazim: David versus the Philistines.  2 Samuel 5:17-20)


b)  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.