I don’t know if you understand how much our way of thinking and processing has been hijacked. Really. Our insistence on good-bad fruit and socratic methods and Aristotelian cosmology and Neo-Platonism concepts have so messed up our heads we can’t really “see” apart from His revelation. This is what John calls the darkness:
John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (ESV)
But Jesus is the true light:
John 1:9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. (ESV)
Jesus came to show us the Father:
John 1:16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (ESV)
And when we “see” the Father through the eyes of Jesus as illuminated by the Holy Spirit we see this:
John 14:20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (ESV)
Jesus came to show us the Father and include us in His family and reveal to us the Trinity. When we “see” the beauty and Love of the triune divine dance of the Father, Son and Spirit we “see” a different God than our hijacked understanding has perceived. In the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus He joined mankind and brought us out of the darkness and into the light. He defeated religion and the need for religion. We are no longer trying to cross a fictional and imaginary chasm dug by an irrational and deceptive “fear of God” in our fallen minds. The beauty is we don’t ask Jesus into our lives, we come to “see” and believe and embrace and participate in the fact that we have all been included in His life. This is our inheritance and adoption. From before the foundations of the world we were included in Him. We had no choice. We had no vote.
Yes, we can absolutely reject the truth of our divine inclusion in Jesus. We can stand there before God, before the judgment seat of Christ, and point our good-bad finger at our Abba and scream “it isn’t fair.” We can give Him the “shove it” sign and bellow from down deep “You can’t let them off the hook.” We can lay out a systematic point by point argument with tons of scripture to “prove God can’t be that good.” and curl our lips in disgust as we declare “I worked too hard for you to let them in this family!” Come on. Any of us can stand there in front of God and throw a giant temper tantrum seething with self-righteousness as we insist on our complete and total judgment and exclusion of every single group and person who doesn’t believe what we believe. We can do it, yes we can…He is that good.
We will all find our way to God’s place and His fiery Love manifest. We will stand there in the face of His overwhelming compassion and complete forgiveness and unlimited mercy and infinite grace and totally unconditional acceptance and cross bearing inclusion. Some will call it Heaven. Some will call it Hell.
Our fallen thinking insists on human fairness which isn’t fair at all but is a product of deceptive lies about our Abba Father. Even our Bibles and the translations from Greek to English are so influenced by separation and division and punishment and exclusion we can’t “see” the truth that Jesus reveals apart from the Holy Spirit. Think about it. Did anyone every explain the word Orge (wrath) outside the preconceived understanding of an angry God that can’t wait to torture us all for ever? The word is simply to be engorged like a really ripe fruit. How concepts like these are understood and interpreted has everything to do with how we think, the condition of our blindness, the hijacked nature of our minds. If we are living from a fallen Adam way of thinking then the words like wrath give us an image of Zeus or Molech or Janus instead of our Loving, kind, good…Abba.
That is why Jesus came and included us all. Now we can “see” our Triune creator in all of His (Her) glory and beauty and majesty. We come out of the bushes and embrace Love. OK that is a long diatribe disguised as an intro so the meat please…. Check out this verse:
John 15:6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (ESV)
I can imagine all the horrible images this verse brings to mind. Now take a deep breath and say out loud “God loves me and wants me to know my inclusion in His family and has always had a plan of redemption for me and everyone else.” Feel better? Want to see that this verse actually says that?
Here are a few of the words defined:
abide: wait on or say or sojourn or remain with.
thrown away: placed or dropped, passive – to lie sick abed, be prostrated by sickness.
withers: wait away, parched, to grow old.
gathered: collect, assemble, receive with hospitality, entertain, to take in.
fire: heat of the sun, lighting, strife, trials.
burned: completely consumed… also used in this verse:
1 Cor 13:3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (ESV)
1 Cor 13:3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (NIV)
13:3 Love is not about defending a point of view; even if I am prepared to give away everything I have and die a martyr’s death; love does not have to prove itself by acts of supreme devotion or self sacrifice! (Mirror Translation)
So imagine this vine. Jesus is the vine you are a branch and you are in Him. This is a fact not a condition. You are in Jesus and He is in you and He is in the Father. Your person is joined to Jesus. You can’t be separated from Him. He holds all things together including you. Jesus said we would come to know, through the Spirit, that we are in Him. Go back and look at John 14:20.
OK, now then what is abiding? Agreeing, participating, walking with, enjoying…it is relational. How much does it suck to see to married people (of one flesh) ignoring one another? So Jesus is saying don’t ignore me. Hold my hand. Have fun on the sojourning. Enjoy the journey itself.
If we are not holding His hand then what happens? We wither. We are not living in and from Love. We are trying to live a false and imaginary independent life. How dumb is that? Anyway, the vine image is a branch (you or me) that has been ignoring the source of life, the light of life, the river of living water. Of course if we are that stupid we will wither, dry up, get parched and droop down below the rest of the vine into the shadows. Can you see it? We wilt and fall down, maybe even on the ground, instead of lifting our leaves to the sun. We are still in the vine. You can’t get out of the vine.
So what does the vine dresser do? He lifts up the wilted branch and puts it into the fiery heat of the sun which is needed since we were “hiding” in the shadows. In our wilted state it is really hot and uncomfortable and revealing and transparent and intense. As a branch what do we do? In the heat, when we are parched, what do we do? We better take a really BIG DRINK from the living water. Tell me you can see it? This is really awesome. Even the religious Bible thumping, fire and brimstone, Molech worshiper will be lifted up into the Sun of the Son. The intensity they feel to pound all of us with their religious rigor is the power of the heat of His love.
Can you see that this picture is “wrath” and “judgment?” Can you see that our driest moments of independent stupidity are so we can take a deep drink? Can you see that the “wilderness” of religious effort is exactly the thing that brings us to the Jordan river? Can you see that God will not give up or relent or stop mending us and lifting us up? We are His children. He created all this stuff for us. He died for us so we would know His love for us. He became one with the flesh of man so that man would overcome its own flesh-deceived thinking. He came so we could know Him.
Verses and passages like this all say the same thing about our good good Father. He is not a beast and a monster. He is not a judicial tyrant of perfect morality filled with disdain for our sinning. He became our Sin so we could be right with Him He became our flesh so our flesh would always be joined to Him. He brings a revelation of a our family and shows us our family and includes us in Him in our family and always reminds us of our family. I say that is really good news.
P.S. If we insist on correcting God and telling Him we have to have our region instead of accepting His assurance and acceptance apart from our effort (or vote)…He will honor our request on the “final day.” I don’t know what that looks like really but even He is so good He will honor our request to be “burned up completely” by His love. Anything that is opposed to His free and unconditional inclusion will be consumed by the fire. For some (or many) that may be all of them. So if you think I am a universalist, check out what they say. There is a real Hell and and a real “eternal destruction.” It isn’t a place for sinners to roast. It is a place for all those who reject Him.
4 thoughts on “Fiery Wrath of God!?”
My heart hurts when Christians have to point out they are not universalists, as if that is SO opposite of Christianity. We believe everything you just stated. We just believe that hell is not ETERNAL, and that if we truly all are God’s children, then we will eventually all be reconciled. Why is that so different from what you just said? It’s as if Christians have to make that line, “I’m not a part of THAT group of people, Rob Bell and all those crazy liberals who don’t believe in hell… Don’t worry, I’m still a REAL Christian”. So once again I’m reminded that I no longer belong, just because I believe that the salvation Jesus brings will continue until all the sheep are brought back. And yes, I believe hell will be emptied out, which makes me a crazy universalist and obviously not a Christian.
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My heart is broken. Why do Christians always have to point out that they are not a”universalist”. It seems to me it’s to make sure other Christians know they are still a “real” Christian…”Don’t worry, I’m not like Rob Bell”. I believe in hell… I just don’t think it’s eternal. I believe we are all God’s children, and eventually the work of reconciliation will be done, and every last sheep brought home. I understand that makes me an outsider universalist, and not a real christian, and I thought I had made peace with that, but my tears reveal to me that it still hurts.
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Thank you for rewording your comments on univeralists. I know it hits me hard (maybe harder than it should) when I’m reading stuff that I totally relate to, and then there is this disclaimer of “but I’m not a universalist!” at the end. It’s happened so many times, and continues to make me feel so very much on the outside of Christianity. Anyway, I appreciate your sensitivity. 🙂 I found your blog because I have a “secret” FB group of mom’s that I belong to, and we ask the hard questions. One mom posted this rant about how much it bugged her when her friend was celebrating her 4 year old daughter getting “saved” because she “confessed with her mouth” that Jesus was Lord. It’s so upsetting, right, to think that a child needs to jump through these hoops in order to avoid hell; but the church is not addressing it. I gave a link to your post “we need more confessing”, because so many people are desperate to see these verses and teachings in a new light, which you provided. Anyway, here is a link to something I wrote about my mom “peeps”, and if your interested the other posts explain more of my journey out of fundamentalism. We share many of the same insights. Thanks again. http://kellbell-justmythoughts.blogspot.com/2014/06/i-have-found-my-peeps.html
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Kelly, thank you so much for your comments. I read your story and it makes me sad, no maybe even angry. How can the body of Christ reject anyone, ever, for any reason, on any occasion…You get the point. My opinion? It isn’t the body of Christ but maybe anti-body of Christ. Too strong? I don’t think so. As for the whole universalism thing, that is such a loaded concept I try too keep away from the labels, and I bet you understand. I believe that God loves His kids and will see them all come to know it. I believe we are all His kids. I believe Jesus is what God looks like to us and in Him we come to know our Father. I believe God will not give up and His Grace doesn’t run out. So will some stay in the outer darkness like the older brother forever? Don’t know but it won’t be for a lack of trying on God’s part. Heaven is God’s reality and ours if we “want to be there.” That means we must be compatible with His nature or we would be looking for the outer darkness, right? Running from his fiery love so to speak. Jesus shows us and is in us (with all the family) working out that compatibility thing. And it is happening to every single person who has ever existed. Christianity and Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism and whatever else has a name is just another religion that can be doing good or bad. Jesus is universally working in all mankind (including our silly religions) because he is joined to all mankind. So Jesus is still the way, the truth and the life. Nobody comes to know the father apart from the incarnate Jesus. Put that in a label? Probably not. Oh yeah, I could be wrong but Jesus isn’t and won’t let me go. Thanks again. I look forward to more dialogue. Floydmac@me.com