Thirty-six times in the New Testament we see the term “wrath.” Preachers who like to use scare tactics to motivate their congregations refer to these passages in the hopes of frightening their listeners into following Christ. Preachers who like to emphasize God’s love and grace often downplay, or even ignore, the concept of God’s wrath.
But what if I were to say that God’s wrath is essential to his love? What if they were interwoven so tightly that each concept defined the other?
What if I told you that the “all love” preachers are wrong to ignore God’s wrath? What if I told you that the “hell-fire and brimstone” preachers were wrong in scaring people “into heaven”?
In Greek, there are a few words that translate into the English wrath. In Greek poetry and mythology, the gods are described as having menis and xolos. This kind of wrath is implacable. It’s eternal, angry, and vengeful.
But in the Septuagint (the Hebrew Scriptures translated into Greek) and the Greek New Testament, the terms translated into wrath are orge and thumos.
Orge depicts an action of wrath, not necessarily the feeling behind the action. To understand the emotion or feeling that God has, the Greek language uses thumos.
Thumos is a pretty loaded term. In Greek literature, it often denotes the concept of desire. It is a deeply seeded emotional urge that generally expresses an internalized grief.
Desire mixed with grief.
Orge is God acting out of his desire and grief.
God wants us. He loves us. He will stop at nothing to have us back.
But something is grieving him. Something about this desire hurts.
Sin is universal. It is everything that is destroying our lives. It is the elimination of lives at the hands of natural disasters. It is the violence against innocents in the clutches of evil men. It is all the ways that God is kept away from entering society.
Sin is personal. It is everything that eats away at our inner beings. It is the greed that keeps us from contentment. It is the guilt that holds us back from reaching our full potential. It is the desire inside us to reject God’s love.
And God’s love drives him to destroy sin. He will destroy it. And his thumos of desire for mankind moves him to take radical orge on sin. His wrath leads to wrath.
And mixed into that wrath is implacable, ineffable love.