In our previous blog, we learned that the climax of Christ’s suffering was when God, His Father abandoned Him when He bore the sins of His people. Abandonment as the Father’s response, no matter how painful it was for the Son, is not the thing that caused Him to agonize intensely, but the wrath of God that struck Him. We can never understand Christ’s suffering apart from the wrath of God.
We should not limit the severity of Christ suffering in the Father’s abandonment. It is more than that. When He abandoned His Son, He poured out the heavy mixture of His wrath. It also means that He was stricken by God’s rod of justice. The law of God had been violated and justice had to be satisfied; the scales had to be balanced. On the cross, Christ bore the guilt of His people, was forsaken of God, and suffered the full measure of God’s retributive justice and wrath.
THE REALITY OF GOD’S WRATH
Many people today do not like the idea that God is angry or can be angry. They ask, Is it reasonable for God to be angry? With men, it is NOT. We tend to be angry without valid reason and most of the time the reasons are irrational. But with God, His anger flows from the fact that men are sinful rebels. God is Holy, so He must be angry. In fact, He has no other response to sin than to loathe, detest and hate it. It is God’s holiness set on fire.
In Psalm 7:11-13, we observe three things about God’s wrath:
- Its basis: If God is righteous, he must be angry against unrighteousness.
- Its nature: “indignation” comes from the Hebrew verb zaám, which means, “to denounce, to express indignation, or to be angry toward what one abhors.”
- Its severity: metaphors such as the war bow of His vengeance and the sharpened sword (vv.12-13) prepared to strike His enemies without mercy.
What is God’s attitude toward sinners?
Psalm 5:4-6 NASB
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil can dwell with You. The boastful will not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do injustice. You destroy those who speak lies; The Lord loathes the person of bloodshed and deceit.
Psalm 11:5-6 NASB
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, And His soul hates one who loves violence. He will rain coals of fire upon the wicked, And brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.
With the passages above, we can firmly believe that the statement “God hates the sin but loves the sinner” is incomplete. This can only be true for those who are in Christ. God hates both sin and the sinner, those who live in continuous rebellion against Him.
“Awake, sword, against My Shepherd, And against the Man, My Associate,” Declares the Lord of armies. “Strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones.
Most of the commentators agree that this verse is generally understood about Jesus Christ, the Messiah. To rescue God’s people from His retributive justice, the Son took it upon Himself for His people’s sake. Adam Clarke comments on this passage that the sword is that of Divine justice (Psalm 7:11-13) which seemed to have been long asleep, and should long ago have struck either Man, or his Substitute, the Messiah. Jesus is here called God’s Shepherd (Matthew 26:31), because he had appointed him to feed and govern, as well as to save, the whole lost world.
A. Barnes properly understood this as the beginning and fulfillment of the passion of Christ. In his commentary on the same passage he writes, This smiting began, when the Lord was taken, and His sheep began to be scattered; but the prophecy which, before, was being gradually fulfilled, was fully fulfilled in His death, and the apostles were dispersed till the day of the Resurrection at eventide.”
None can withstand the full force of God’s wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, but the begotten Son of God alone.
THE CUP OF GOD’S WRATH: LUKE 22:41-44
The unspeakable suffering that awaited Christ on Calvary is clearly seen from the following observations by Paul Washer:
- Christ’s petition to have the cup of suffering removed from Him v.42
- the presence of angels to strengthen Christ in preparation for the cross v.43
- the fact that Christ wrestled in prayer with great fervency and agony (the word “agony” comes from the Greek word agonía, which was often used with reference to gymnastic exercises or wrestling; it can also be translated, “anguish”); v.44
- the fact that Christ was sweating drops of blood. The medical term for this last point is hermatidrosis. It occurs when blood actually mingles with perspiration during times of terrible mental anguish or physical suffering v.44
Sin is not a light matter. Jesus Christ drank the cup of wrath against it (John 18:11, Jeremiah 25:15).
THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST UNDER GOD’S WATH: ISAIAH 53
- Stricken v.4 – The Hebrew word carries the word violence. When the Son was made sin, as our Substitute, the Father struck Him judicially.
- Smitten v.4 – Not actually but men thought so. When He was on the cross, the people around Him thought that it was a divine infliction as if He deserved it because of His claims. Little do they know that it was because of their sins and for the sins of His people.
- Afflicted v.4 – He was afflicted not on account of His own sins. The Jews tried to prove that Jesus was a blasphemer and deserved death. He was afflicted for others.
- Pierced through for our transgressions v.5 – Fulfilled literally: with the nails at Christ’s crucifixion. Fulfilled metaphorically: as Christ was pierced with His Father’s abandonment and the outpouring of His wrath.
- Crushed for our iniquities v.5 – The word crushed is used of ruthless agony that leads to death.
- Chastised for our well-being v.5 – This is not father-son but judge-criminal vindictive chastisement.
- Scourged for our healing v.5 – Literally, he was inflicted with wounds and stripes
The suffering of the Messiah in the passages above is a vivid description of what took place on the cross. It is as if he was describing what was actually occurring before his eyes (A. Barnes). That’s why Jerome in his Prologue to the Translation of Isaiah (Latin Vulgate) states, “He should be called an evangelist rather than a prophet because he describes all the mysteries of Christ and the Church so clearly that you would think he is composing a history of what has already happened rather than prophesying about what is to come.”
The Messiah, the burdened Servant was stricken, smitten, afflicted, pierced, crushed, chastised & scourged for His people when He took their infirmities upon Himself. In all of these, the Father did not obtain some sadistic pleasure from crushing His own Son under the full weight of His wrath; but through Christ’s suffering and death, the will of God was fulfilled (Isaiah 53:10)
Christ was ruthlessly crushed by the Father with inexpressible agony that His church might be reconciled to the Father.
THE WRATH OF GOD AND THE WICKED: REVELATION 14:9-11
But for those who remain in unbelief, this is the portion of every sin, and will suffer God’s fierce wrath in the lake of fire for all eternity: no grace, no joy but all is misery.
If you won’t repent, in hell, God’s wrath is upon you.
If you will not trust in Him who suffered God’s wrath because of your sin, you will be forsaken and abandoned in hell forever. You can never pay for your sins.
But Jesus paid it all. You do not have to suffer under God’s wrath for eternity. Jesus did. Repent and trust in Him. Jesus was the only one who was able to drink the cup of wrath up to the dregs (Psalm 75:8).
Avail of and appeal to this empty cup of wrath that Christ drank up to the dregs. Your tears are not your savior, Jesus is your only Savior. Rest your soul to Jesus.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
Note: This lesson is from our weekly Youth Bible Study Based on Paul Washer’s Discovering the Glorious Gospel.