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Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Wrath of the Lamb

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (ESV)

There are a lot of things about Revelation that aren't clear to me. They aren't clear to a lot of other people, either, although some of them understand more than I do. One thing that is clear is that the Lamb is Jesus Christ, Messiah and Son of God.

The passage says that the Lamb has wrath. (The KJV and NIV agree on that phrase.) How is it that the meek, mild teacher of Galilee can have wrath?

I don't have all of the answers, but I shall muse about this.

What is wrath? The Free Dictionary says this:
wrath . . . n.
1. Forceful, often vindictive anger. See Synonyms at anger.
2. a. Punishment or vengeance as a manifestation of anger.
b. Divine retribution for sin.

Anger is defined thus: "A strong feeling of displeasure or hostility."

Wrath, then, is strong anger acted out.

The word, wrath, is found over 200 times in the Bible. It seldom indicates that it is specifically the Son who is wrathful, but sometimes it does. The first clear indication of God's wrath, although the word is not used, and the role of the Lamb is not made clear, is in Genesis 2:16-17, where Adam (Eve hasn't appeared yet) is warned that he will die if he eats the fruit of the Tree of Life. It is possible that God's wrath was responsible for the state of the earth in Genesis 1:2, but there is disagreement about that. Eventually, Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden, punished by God's wrath for their disobedience.

God was displeased with mankind in the time of Noah, and sent a flood to destroy all of the humans except Noah's family. God was angry with Pharaoh, in the time of Moses, and sent disaster after disaster upon Egypt, finally drowning Pharaoh and his army. God was displeased, over and over, with the protracted deliberate disobedience of the Israelites, and sent occupying powers to their country, over and over again, and finally allowed them to be taken into a 70-year exile.

Jesus asked the crowds that came to hear him, particular the Jewish religious leaders, "Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come." (Matthew 3:7, Luke 3:7)

He was angry at the commerce conducted in the Temple, according to Matthew 21 and Mark 11. Both passages also tell about Jesus not finding figs on a fig tree, and commanding it to wither and die, which it soon did. Mark says that it was not even fig season. Why did Jesus do this? Probably as a sign of His authority.

The word, "wrath," is used about God's wrath ten times in Revelation, with 6:16 the only place where it is the wrath of the Lamb, specifically, but presumably God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all angry about human disobedience.

In Revelation 20, the writer describes final judgment, carried out by God. His ultimate wrath. I don't want to experience that. Commentaries by John Wesley, Matthew Henry, and Robert Jamieson agree that the judge will be Christ. More important, so does Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:10: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (See also 2 Thessalonians 1.)

Thanks for reading.

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