Tag Archives: Wrath

Van der Weyden’s Last Judgement Spooked Atheist Peter Hitchens in Broad Daylight


Scoffing, he said, ‘Couldn’t these people think of anything else to paint?’

If there ever was a case of art in the cause for Christ then this anecdote will certainly qualify.

In fact, as Peter Hitchens put it in his book , 500 years after his death Van der Weyden was still earning his fee.

Stumbling across The Last Judgement

The story starts with Hitchens and his girlfriend visiting the u in Beaune in search of fine foods and wines. Being seasoned travellers they strayed off the beaten path to explore the ancient hospital.

According to their Green Michelin guide, Roger Van der Weyden’s fifteenth century polyptych  , was a must see. So he and his girlfriend hoofed it to find it.

Upon coming across the apocalyptic altar piece Hitchens’ instinct was to scoff. He then leaned in to peer at the details of the painting–and gaped.

What struck Hitchens was the naked people in the painting didn’t appear to be from the fifteenth century A.D. Nor did they appear to be tribesman from the Neolithic Age. Nor any remote age for that matter.

They appeared to be his contemporaries. And “one of them is actually vomiting with shock and fear at the sound of the last trumpet.”

How The Last Judgement Changed Hitchens

Hitchens points out that this didn’t lead to a mystical experience. No vision or swoon. Just a sense that religion was real. It was current. Not distant or remote. But something just as important as the study of economics or psychology.

If not more important.

The other effect that Van der Weyden’s altarpiece had on Hitchens was that it gave him a sense that he was among the damned. If there were any damned. And like the feeling any good horror novel would give, Hitchens was scared.

Unlike a good horror novel, however, Hitchens couldn’t close the altarpiece and sink into the comfort of a bed or couch with the horror gone. This time his conscience had been spooked, and the fear remained. Yet he began to think very clearly.

Hitchensexplains that fear is a gift. It puts us on high alert when physical danger is near. It could be during a motorcycle accident, in a car surrounded by an angry mob or when a soldier is shooting into the crowd you are in. Whatever the situation, fear keeps us sober and calm so that we make wise decisions.

People who are blind to fear miss the danger. In this case, their rebellion towards a gracious God.

Hitchens walked away from Van der Weyden’s altarpiece chastened. And a little embarrassed. Embarrassed that it was fear that motivated him to seek God and atone for his sins. But he regards that the lesser of two evils.

Well said, Mr. Hitchens.

Your Turn

Has a piece of art–a painting, a novel, a play–ever scared your conscience? Did it play a part in driving you back to God?

Please comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

You Have No Idea What God’s Wrath Could Do to You

Our relationship with our wives and each other is small potatoes compared to our relationship with God.

If we sin against each other, the worst thing that can happen is a busted relationship and a mark on our reputation.

Sin against God and we are at odds with the sinless being who created and rules everything in the universe.

His holiness, something we don’t have in and of ourselves, demands that he punishes our sin. One way the Bible describes this punishment is with the word “wrath.”

That attribute of God gets little work in the church, which is unfortunate.

Jesus on the Wrath of God

It’s unfortunate because we lose sight of the magnitude of our condemnation when we sin against God.

As Jesus said in , “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

In case you missed it, that’s Jesus talking about our heavenly Father.

The One who loves us so much “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

And did you catch that?

In John 3:16, one of the most famous scriptures of all time, Jesus again talks about God’s wrath and his ability to destroy those who reject him. He said they will perish.

I think he intends we not miss that.

The Scary Bit about God’s Wrath

Salvation is meaningless if we do not comprehend what we are being saved from. The prevailing perception is that we are saved from ourselves and our addictions. But we don’t need biblical salvation to achieve behaviour modification.

Biblical salvation is so much more.

Look at it this way. Science allows us to marvel at the creation and power of God. Over 100 billion galaxies, each containing one billion stars?

The immensity should blow our minds.

So if God is powerful enough to create this universe, what is to be said about the opposite, namely his wrath? If you went down the same imaginative path that I did, then your cage should’ve been rattled.

Mine was.

A Grander Comprehension of God’s Wrath

A greater and grander comprehension of God’s wrath then packs more weight to a line like Paul wrote to the :

And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.

Regarding the opponents of Jesus Christ, :

They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.

Define “utmost” as “the greatest or most extreme amount.”

And that wrath that has come upon them is the condemnation that Jesus says abides over those who do not obey him ().

It seems sins is not merely stupid, but deadly. On a cosmic scale.

Why We Will Never Experience God’s Wrath

Paul reels our fears back in when he says, again to the Thessalonian church:

For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us to wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us…”

Because of Jesus Christ believers will never experience God’s wrath. And we should fall to our knees for having averted not our best life now…but the worst life forever.

In the end, our wives might kick us to the curb. Our kids might spit in our faces. Our friends might stab us in the back.

But whether these outcomes are consequences of our own stupidity or not, they nevertheless do not compare to the outcome of our stupidity towards God.

Propitiation in Plain English


Haunted. Convicted. Blessed. Condemned. These are words that often describe people’s response to Jesus’ death.

But before we can even talk about that, we first need to establish what Jesus’ death accomplished.

We need to talk about propitiation.

What DID Jesus’ Death Accomplish?

Propitiation. Big word. Probably means nothing to you. But this is the New Testament term for what Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished for you.

You can find propitiation four times in the New Testament:

Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. 

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 

What Does Propitiation Mean?

In a nutshell, propitiation means a gift that satisfies God’s wrath.

Unlike the pagan conception of gods–moody, volatile and violent gods and godess, prone to punishing humans with disease, drought and death at the drop of a hat–God’s anger is not irrational or unpredictable.

Neither is God inactive in this appeasement like pagan gods. God Himself stepped out on His own and provided the sacrificial offering that covers human sin and makes reconciliation possible.

That’s propitiation. God took the first step towards us.

The Overwhelming Problem of God’s Wrath

Propitiation–and the idea of God’s wrath–may offend some people. [Like .]

They have a difficult time wrapping their head around the idea of a personal, loving God being so furious at them that they needed a sacrifice to avoid the terrible consequences.

However, there are two good reasons to face this truth about propitiation:

1. The problem of sin. God is without sin. We are steeped in sin. And though God loves us, he hates sin. In fact, God is so profoundly troubled by sin that he feels both sorrow and anger over sin. Detests it. The  is so severe that He hates them. Even hides His face from them. So, by definition, a loving, holy God is required to be angry at sinners who destroy that which he loves.

2. The problem of the Bible. Eh? This is what I mean: The Bible speaks of God’s anger, wrath, and fury toward sin more than His love, grace, and mercy.  to describe God’s anger in the Old Testament. And though less frequently, these words and concepts are .

Verses 18, 24 and 26 in Romans tells us that . And the place of God’s unending active wrath is hell, which  than anyone in the Bible as an eternal place of physical torment.

 that Jesus described hell like someone getting flogged, butchered or burned.

Incomprehensible debt. Unconceivable punishment. No picture could prepare us for the biblical experience of God’s wrath.

We have to deal with it.

Propitiation Is the Supreme Answer to God’s Wrath

But, because God is loving, merciful, and kind, He has chosen to save some people. So, to both demonstrate His hatred of sin and love for sinners, Jesus averted the wrath of God by dying on the cross as a substitute for sinners.

That’s why salvation is defined as . The anger of God is diverted from us to Jesus. What this does is show how  and thus replaced it with His own work on the cross.

If you think about it, one of the most poignant pictures of propitiation is the . The angel of death “passed over” all houses that had lamb’s blood on their door posts and lintel.

In the same way, if you are a repentant believer who trusts in Jesus, your sins are covered by Jesus’ blood–that is, his death–and God passes over you in his wrath and judgment.

Why Does Propitiation Matter?

There are a number of good reasons to allow this seemingly abstract truth to penetrate your soul.

1. Believers often punish themselves when they sin, thinking they are paying God back. . Punitive fasting. What propitiation teaches is that the penalties for our past, present and future sins are taken care of. They are covered. Our response when we fall into sin is to simply ask for forgiveness. That’s it.

2. Unbelievers often punish themselves because of shame and guilt. Think  and . Suicides and alcoholics. What propitiation does is wipe that guilt and shame away. Forever.

3. When we suffer, God is not punishing us. Sometimes it might be the case that he’s disciplining us so that we might grow in holiness. But never is he using suffering to punish us for our sins. That’s not what the Bible teaches.

And with Christmas looming, this doctrine seems all the more relevant to me. Think about it: The birth of Christ is the first step of propitiation.

Without the birth of Christ, we’d have no substitute. No sacrifice. No savior.

How to Teach Your Children about Hell

Implied in my headline is this: we SHOULD teach our children about hell.

As I mentioned yesterday in my post on the justice of eternal punishment, the doctrine of hell is there in the Bible…

And we, as Christians, are liars if we neglect it and cold-hearted if we refuse to warn the unregenerate.

John 3:36 states the wrath of God . Mind you, this is the same unbeliever God loves and does not want to see perish.

Yet his fate rests in his decision on who Jesus Christ is.

And you may not like this, but before their conversion, our children are unregenerate. Like it or not, God’s wrath abides over unregenerate children.

Thus, it’s our pre-eminent duty as parents to guide them in the ways of salvation. This includes teaching them about the doctrine of hell.

Objections to Teaching Children about Hell

Some Christians may resist this on the grounds that teaching children about hell may give them nasty nightmares…

Keep them awake for days on end. As a parent the last thing I want to do is upset my children.

But let me ask you a question: Is it justified in the prospect of a fatal eternity for them that I withhold a biblical doctrine that has its greatest defender in Jesus Christ to save my children a little grief?

The answer would be “no” since the doctrine of hell is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What We Can Learn about Hell

We ourselves could lose a few nights of sleep over the doctrine of hell. Our culture doesn’t fear the Lord enough. Doesn’t respect his majesty, strength and wrath…

The neglect of hell by the church is partly to blame.

By neglecting hell we’ve drained the gospel of it’s potency, God’s mercy of it’s power and our sense of dependency on God has become a carnival devoted to amusing ourselves.

If there are no consequences clearly articulated [whether God’s wrath in this life or the life to come], there is no good news.

There is only a hollow, somewhat baffling sense of why Jesus died on the cross. Without God’s wrath and Jesus is just another man executed on a cross.

Abandon God’s wrath over sin and we do not have a god of justice. Nor a god of holiness.

Instead, we have one of complacency and promiscuity. In other words, we have an unbiblical god. One Jesus did not affirm.

Our Teacher on the Subject of Hell

I don’t know about you, but I want to be on the side of Jesus. I want to affirm what he affirmed. I want to teach my children what he taught his children.

Did you see that? I’ve given you a clue on how to teach your children about hell.

Look to Jesus and what he said in the Bible. In other words, crack open the Bible with your children and systematically walk them through the New Testament.

Eventually you will cross paths with the doctrine of hell. That would be a perfect time to tell them what hell means. [Keep it age appropriate.]

But please, don’t wallow in the doctrine. Let curiosity guide them, answer their questions, but at some point you must direct them to Jesus Christ, the cross and God’s grace.

A Way to Teach Children about Hell

You must tell your children it’s not hell, demons or Satan they should fear. It is : ”And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’”

Tell them hell is real because sin is real. Tell them that the wrath of God will abide over them as long as they remain unrepentant sinners.

They must know “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” And then show them the :

And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.

Tell them the glorious end of repentance is fellowship with God. It is joy unimaginable. Peace unsurpassed. Love sublime.

Bathe the whole procedure in public and private prayer. And push the beautiful grace of God from there.

The Healthy Tension Hell Creates

Yes, in the back of their minds a fear of hell will persist. Therefore it’s our duty to smother that fear with the grace of God.

Sing with your children : “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

Yes, a tension survives in the Christian’s walk [whether a child or an adult] when we allow space for the doctrine of hell. But that’s a healthy tension. One that reminds us that God’s grace does not come freely.

This tension is a small price to pay for the never-ending riches a comprehensive, genuine relationship with God brings.

And that, in my humble opinion, is how we teach our children about hell. What do you think?

Children of Wrath [Our Condition Apart from the New Birth]

Part of the 10 Hard Truths about Being Born Againseries.


Not you. Not my wife. Not my father. Not my birth city. Nor my childhood friends.


That’s my main problem. Namely, my wicked heart.

My wicked heart that finds great pleasure in self-indulgence. That finds great pleasure in ignoring the pain of others. That finds great pleasure in emotionally torturing those close to me.

My wicked heart that’s hell bent on lying, cheating and stealing to get to the top. To write the best novel. To provoke people to like me. To love me. To praise me.

Didn’t know this about me, did you? Surprised? Guess what…it describes you, too. And unfortunately, because of this disposition to sin, you and I rest under the anger of God.

In :

Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

In other words, whether we’re prone to sensual or spiritual wickedness…all men and women…are naturally children of disobedience.

And  also…by nature…children of wrath. God’s wrath.

Not that we we’re born children of wrath. Rather, that we grow into this wickedness…

See, “nature” in the Greek . Yes, we’re born with a bent for evil. A love for evil. And we grow into that love… against the coming day of judgment.

In other words, we’re identified as children of wrath by our behavior. Our actions. Our deeds of disobedience.

We are sons of death. Sons of perdition. And the . Thus, if we died in that state…we’d be judged…and damned.

So you ask the question, “Why do I need to be born again?” My answer is this: You are a child of wrath. You are subject to God’s anger…and the punishment that cascades from it…because you refuse to obey him.

And all this just because you are YOU.

The good news of the New Testament is that  of God.  Jesus even “delivers us from the wrath to come.”

Apart from Christ you are dead. Enslaved to sin. And an object of God’s wrath. In Christ, however, you are alive. Enthroned. And an object of grace…

This is why , “You must be born again.”

Are you?

Seven Ways of Looking at God’s Wrath


From dreadful to delayed, a summary of holy punishment.

This may be a strange way of leading into Christmas–as was the post Propitiation in Plain English–but bear with me.

Believe it or not, but the Bible is the book of God’s wrath.

It travels from the  to the  and the great court sessions of Revelation 17, 18 and 20.

In fact, one of the most striking things about the Bible is how heavy both Testaments pour on the reality and terror of God’s wrath.

Yet, something most people miss is this is the very context into which Jesus was born.

Thus, with Christmas so near, it’s not such a bad time to explore in seven ways one of the most overlooked aspects of God’s visit to the earth. First, let’s define this wrath.

God’s Wrath Is Punishment

In both Testaments, God’s wrath meant burning anger. Think  fury and rage. Hatred of sin. And indignation at all evil. It’s punishment, pure and simple.

God’s punishment is seen in hell.  as the final home for the unrepentant godless. That means hell is the final punishment for the wicked.

However, when , “God has set bounds to every man’s wickedness; he suffers men to live and go on in sin, till they have filled up their measure, and then cuts them off ” he was doing nothing more than  who said that God gives wicked men and women over to their depraved minds to do with their bodies what ought not to be done. That’s God’s punishment here on this earth.

God’s Wrath Is Revealed

We all have a sense of impending doom.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 

Here’s the deal: The fear of God preserves the moral society of men. It sustains, protects and governs. However, take that fear away, and man descends into wickedness.

Look at America: Each generation creates a greater gap between it and the knowledge of God. Each generation sinks deeper and deeper into evil.

Yet, the conscience will not let us rest. It is gnawing at us with the truth of sin and evil. We sense impending punishment. We sense God’s wrath.

God’s Wrath Is Discipline

In a nutshell, God’s wrath is His reaction to our sin. It’s an expression of His justice. Moreover, it’s correction of wickedness.

once said, “For that which is called God’s wrath and His anger is actually a means of discipline.”

“If he has put thorns in your bed,” , “it is only to awaken you from the sleep of spiritual death–and to make you rise up to seek his mercy.”

Now, if you are toying with his goodness and have not come to repentance and faith in Christ–you stand under the severity of his discipline. The good news is that Jesus has come to deliver us from the wrath of God.

God’s Wrath Is Pure

Unlike human anger or rage, God’s wrath is never impulsive, unpredictable or self indulgent. Instead, it’s a measured and meaningful reaction to sin.

Jesus himself–who actually had more to say on this subject than any other New Testament figure–made the point that punishment would be equal to what we deserved. It would never be more or less. It would be perfect. It would be pure.

God’s Wrath Is Necessary

Would a God who did not punish evil be morally perfect? The answer is no. It is necessary because he is:

  • Holy: You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong. 
  • Righteous: But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 
  • Jealous: Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name. 

The sin of the incorrigibly wicked is sin against the eternal God. So, sin against the eternal deserves eternal punishment.

God’s Wrath Is Longsuffering

God’s long-suffering is a remarkable virtue. However, it doesn’t exclude or contradict God’s justice. In time, the kindness found in His patience and longsuffering is meant to lead you to repentance.

In fact, one of the greatest wonders of the Bible story is that the patience of God in giving us a chance to. Yet, God’s patience isn’t limitless:

…endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction… 

God’s Wrath Is Satisfied

Reading Romans 1-3 and you might come to the conclusion that there is no escaping the judgment of God. Yet,  says this: “We have now been justified by his blood.”

In other words, Jesus’ death is a sacrifice that averts God’s wrath. And through the self abandoning trust in the person and work of Jesus, Jesus  that is to come.

Why You Should Care about God’s Wrath

The more we contemplate and understand God’s vicious judgment on sin, the more we will see sin as the abomination that it is. It breeds a genuine fear in our souls for God.

But understand this: The purpose of God’s wrath is not to destroy humanity. He disciplines His own people through his wrath with the .

On the one hand, hell is the measure of the severity of God. It’s purpose is to influence us. On the other hand, Calvary is the measure of the goodness of God. It’s purpose is to comfort us.

And without the birth of Christ, we would have no Calvary.

So, let me ask you, have you ever looked at Christmas and thought about God’s wrath? Does thinking about God’s wrath make you cherish the birth of Christ more? I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

**Part of The Nature of God: A Quick and Dirty Guide series.**