By Robert Berendt
What is the cup of God’s wrath? Why is it given? On whom does it fall?
Photo: Roger Nettles
When we think of God and read of what He is, the concept of a cup of wrath seems to be hard to grasp. We are told that God is love (agape I John 4:8) and that He is seated on a throne of mercy (Exodus 25:20). We are told that He has everlasting mercy (Psalms 136). We are informed that He loves the whole world and sent His Son so that every person could be saved (John 3:16, I Timothy 2:4). Long before Jesus Christ walked the earth, Job knew his Redeemer lived and had a plan that would raise him from the dead (Job 19:25, 14:15). But we are also told “vengeance is Mine” says God and we humans are cautioned not to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:30-31). God removed King Saul from the throne for disobeying His command to exterminate the Amalekites (I Samuel 15:18-23). The God of the Old Testament seems fierce because people do not understand what seem to be contradictions of His character. How can God be loving and yet destructive?
What is the cup of God’s wrath? Why is it given? On whom does it fall? The wrath of God is written about in dozens of places in the Scriptures. There were times in the past when the wrath of God was executed on earth and there are times in the future that His wrath is once again prophesied to come. In almost all of these Scriptures, His wrath lands on human beings and all who are adversaries to God (Isaiah 59:12, Nahum 1:2-3). We do not want to think that God’s wrath can fall upon us as individuals and like the accounts of Adam and Eve and later Cain – we make excuses and do almost anything to hide our guilt and divert His anger (Genesis 3:10-13).
The first time the wrath of God is mentioned towards a nation is at the time of God’s punishment on Egypt (Exodus 15:7). His wrath was sent out to overthrow those who rose against Him. In that case, it was the Egyptians. God also exhibits a degree of wrath or anger against individuals as He did to Moses (Exodus 4:14). Moses wrote extensively about the wrath of God as he was expressing his concern over Israel. Moses warned them strongly to follow every commandment God had given and he spoke of the deeds that were done against Egypt. It was to Israel that God revealed much about Himself because in their tabernacle the mercy seat was placed to mirror that which was in heaven (Hebrews 8:5).
Moses described God as a “consuming fire” and said that they had provoked God to wrath from the day He took them out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 9:3-24). Although little was written, there can be no doubt that the wrath of God landed on Lucifer and one third of the angels before Adam and Eve were created and that may have been the first time God actually acted out of anger (Revelation 12:3-9). God is fair and just. He had to deal with a third of the angels to whom He had given eternal life. They rebelled against God and all His authority. God removed them from the great positions of responsibility He had placed them in, took away many of the gifts He had given them and “chained” them to restrict their movement within His creation. Humans have chosen to follow Satan in a similar manner as those angels. The only difference we could see is that humans do not know what they are doing. Angels understood in an insane sort of way, because rebelling against God was madness, though perhaps they too knew He was love and His throne was a throne of mercy, goodness and kindness. They had never seen God in great anger.
One of the great reasons the wrath of God was incited was rebellion. Refusing to follow His commands and rebelling right in front of Him so to speak brought a quick response. We can also see that the wrath of God was aroused for a time and then allowed to fade. It was roused until that which God planned to do was completed and then the “cup” was empty. So it is with Israel who God was angry with many times and who He punished, scattered throughout the world and brought enemies against then. God still promises to gather them to Himself and put His laws into their hearts and minds. The only possible reason that the fate of mankind differs from that of the fallen angels is that the angels knew and wilfully rebelled against God. Paul wrote that humans who wilfully reject the blessing God has given will also be rejected (Hebrews 10:26).
God owns all
In the beginning there was only God and the Word (John 1:1-4). Everything that followed after that including the creation of the angels, the universe and life on this earth was made by God and came from Him. Everything belongs to God – including the earth and water that we humans are made of and the spiritual bodies God gave to angels. Since everything is His, only He has the ultimate responsibility to say how He wants things done. This universe is His house in a way and the house owner tells others how to behave in that house. When sin and destruction appear, God has to deal with it or His name and reputation would be tarnished. God must protect His name (Exodus.20:7, 33:19, 34:14).
Anything or anyone who directly acts in a demeaning or disrespectful way towards God desecrates the future He has planned. God will never let that happen because He is Almighty and His purposes will never be thwarted (Ephesians 1:4-10).
God told Israel that He smote them in His wrath, but in the same verse He had mercy on them in His favour (Isaiah 60:10). The book of Jonah is an account of the wrath of God toward a wicked people that was diverted because they repented and sought mercy (Jonah 1:2, 4:11). Throughout history God has acted in various ways and times to control outcomes and ensure His overall purpose is not diverted. Humans did rise to such a point of evil and rebellion at the time of Noah that God responded with a worldwide flood. He also promised He would never do that again (Genesis 6:5, 8:21). Although God can foresee evil and wickedness in a world in which He still allows Satan and his followers to have a great influence on mankind, God promises He will never again destroy every living thing as He had done. However, He takes responsibility to stop the acts of Satan.
The Bible refers to “the great day of His wrath” in several places (Zephaniah 1:14-18, Revelation 6:17). Evil and wickedness seems to ebb and flow throughout history. Catastrophes such as disease and war have sometimes severely impacted the events of this world. The population of the world did not increase rapidly until the last few centuries. Today there are over 7 billion humans on earth while from the time of Adam and Eve the population did not exceed 1 billion until about 1804. It is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2050. The world cannot support these numbers with food and other needs and since humans have never learned to live together in peace – a great catastrophe is about to unfold. Distrust, hunger, greed and other forces due to the growing population will bring about the greatest wars this earth has ever known.
God can see that coming and He is angry at the attitude Satan has planted in the human mind. God can see the threat to His purpose and out of love as well as anger He will respond with great power and force. Christ will lead an army of saints and angels to pour out the wrath of God on earth (Revelation 19:13-21). He will also bind Satan and his followers (Revelation 20:2). This wrath of God is against all evil and comes at a time when God says ‘enough is enough’. God’s great army and the wrath of God is needed to allow the great love of God to flourish on earth. His great army is coming to rescue mankind from itself and from Satan (Matthew 24:21-24). God is justified in His anger and wrath. It is followed by His great cup of love which defines what He is.