Yet again we find ways to picture God as angry. This time I challenge the idea that Jesus bore our punishment because it misrepresents God. It suggests that God really needed to pour out His wrath on someone so He made Jesus into our whipping boy. This is a tragic misrepresentation of the Father but you have to see how we got things all back-the-front so you can avoid this thinking.
Sometimes a slightly exaggerated metaphor can help visualize something. The Bible is full of different ways to visualize what Jesus did on the cross. They all help but none by them self can tell the whole story. Try these concepts:
Now, I have made it clear that God is not angry with us so much as angry with how we have hurt ourselves by our sin. The wages of sin is death. This is what we bring upon ourselves. It is not a punishment. All along God has been offering ways for man to avoid the consequences of our sin. This is not, I repeat NOT, an angry God. However we are fallen and keep missing the point.
Even today, I hear really good preachers say that God poured out His anger on Jesus at the Cross and so we no longer need to fear God but can enter His presence with full assurance of His love. Though no-one quite said it like this, they made Jesus into our whipping boy. They made Jesus take our punishment. I bought into that idea for a while until I heard another very humble man declare that it was rubbish. God was never angry with His son Ė He was delighted with Jesus. So how did I get swayed? Well, itís easy. Like everyone we know that we deserve His anger and somehow we think that Jesus took the Ďpunishmentí for our sin, so Jesus bore Godís anger for our sin. ...Wrong!
Iíll just say that again: WRONG! OK, now you can start rolling out all the scriptures that you think support Jesus bearing our sin on the Cross. These are all right. If you want to dig up some scripture talking about unbelievers who will suffer Godís wrath, then that is also OK. But try and remember that He is angry because they are rejecting His son whom He sent so that they, the ones He loves, could avoid eternal separation from Him. He is jealous for us, the ones He loves, not wanting a single one to be lost. So I hope you have got that.
The disciples of Jesus really struggled with some very basic issues. Jesus said, if you have seen me, you have seen the Father. But the disciples asked that he show them the Father. The disciples did not know the way to the Father even when Jesus declared that he was the way, the truth and the life. But the disciples were Jews and they understood sacrifice, and for sure they understood that Jesus offered himself as a perfect sacrifice. So it is with scripture ó many ways are presented to see Jesus as the savior of the world.
What I want to present next is some insight to help you grasp what the disciples missed...
We are dead in our sins but the example of creation is that only life brings forth life. Only Jesusí life can give us life. Only a perfect life can wash away sin and none of us are perfect. Do you see any anger or punishment in what I just said? My life was gone, eternally lost, and Jesus had to come and give His life to me so that I might have life.
It was Jesusí life that gives me life, not him taking my punishment. Yes, scripture does say that he carried my sin to the grave, but that was part of the confusion. There really was an exchange, but we pictured ďcarrying our sinĒ as ďtaking our punishmentĒ. However Jesus was flogging and nailed to the Cross. This was a punishment inflicted by man and we got side tracked. This was manís ultimate rejection of God but in Godís awesome wisdom it became the way to being saved. The last paragraph nailed it. It was His life given so I could have life Ė donít lose that. Sin is real. It had to be washed off me and He poured out his life, his blood, to do that. It was a brutal and horrible death. That was not showing Godís anger or punishment. It was showing how great the price was. Never forget that!
Jesus is the way. No one seems to grasp this. We think that there is some path by which we can walk that will lead us there. Look, that is not bad, and we can supplement the idea by imagining Jesus or the Holy Spirit walking with us. But that is still short of the reality. Jesus is literally the conduit for us to get to heaven. Would I seem more scriptural if I described Him as a staircase or ladder? (Genesis 28:12, John 1:51) We are truly hidden in Him and bear His righteousness. It may seem hard to picture at first but it is the most precious picture you can grasp. As He was resurrected to heaven so we will be. His resurrection was not just the example of Godís promise for all who believe, but it made and became the way for us to be saved because we are with and in Him.
Itís funny how easily we can picture these things now-a-days. We can imagine portals that are a door between one place or world and another. Jesus made himself that living way Ė that open door between this world and heaven (Revelation 3:8, 3:20, 4:1). So, why is this a contentious image? Because anyone can walk through the door Ė there is no room for religious pre-requisites. Anyone can walk through, but sadly not everyone will choose to walk through. Itís all about, and only about, what Jesus has done. There is no other door and there is no other way. The focus is only on Jesus and his life ó that has become my way. Can you also let this be your way? Itís the way to a loving Father who was never angry with His Son and will never be angry with you.
I really hate the way we so easily fall into the trap of seeing God as angry. This is so contrary to His stated goal that none be lost, but that all be saved. But we develop strongholds in our thinking. While writing this article (Feb 2014), I found a new freedom. A line of attack against my Father seemed shutdown. When this happens the underlying truth gets clearer.
Heaven has effectively just one rule, or better stated as one eternal reality: ďThere is but one GodĒ. All sin attempts to set us up above God. Our rebellion created a barrier between man and God. Jesus tore this barrier down on the Cross. Now, if you can accept the one eternal reality, then you can spend eternity with God. Jesus is God. Jesus is God manifest to us. If you can accept Jesus then you can spend eternity with God. How do you know if you have accepted Jesus? Itís easy ó you will want Jesus as your Lord and savior; as your friend and King. There are no theological or religious hurdles to cross because Jesus made the way open for you on the Cross.
Wow, I felt good about that last paragraph. Surely now you can read that and just confess Jesus as Lord? Itís good news! Why do you hesitate? Probably it is because you donít see a loving Father on the other side waiting for you; even longing for you to return. The day before Jesus was crucified; he told his disciples that he was returning to the Father and that they should rejoice in this. They did not understand it. For Jesus and for us the Cross is the way to the Father. Jesus poured out his life to give us life. He carried our sin to the grave. The door is open. Look who is waiting for you.
Initially I wanted to correct a misunderstanding about the way we view Jesus as taking our punishment. I have reviewed a lot of my earlier articles, and the punishment word is sprinkled around. ďAbout punishmentĒ is a good example and has some good follow-up.
Though I used the punishment word, it was clear in my mind that Godís heart was not to punish. But somehow it became very important that we do not see God as needing to punish anyone. Itís so easy to imagine His righteousness and His judgement and somehow think that these things demand retribution. That poisons our image of God. Who would turn to a God that they think is waiting to punish them?
In hindsight I found that many of my articles have sort to correct the image of God that we have picked up. I find that my own image has been refined in the process. I am not going to go back and try and adjust all my previous articles to magically dance around this concept of punishment. We pick it up, but what we need to do is to see that punishment is not in Godís heart or in His plan. Sin has consequences and we have to make a choice.
This article ended up with several salvation pitches that I did not expect. I felt a pleased but frustrated because I frequently look for the definitive, bullet proof argument that will lead people to Jesus. But I cannot fabricate it. All I can do is to show you the Fatherís heart and hope that that you will see His ardent passion for His children. Perhaps then you will want this God as your Father.
I finished the above yesterday. I donít want to change it, but things related to guilt cropped up. Consider these things about Jesus:
...but the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate all had him beaten.
The Sanhedrin accused Jesus of blasphemy because he claimed to be the Messiah, the son of God. But it was not blasphemy because it was true, and even the people acknowledged that the signs he performed confirmed it (John 7:31). In fact Jesus challenged anyone to prove him guilty of sin. (John 8:46)
...If there is no guilt then there is no punishment. Certainly God did not punish him.
Now look at all of Isaiah 53 which is a prophecy about Jesus as the suffering servant. In Jesusí day the people could not understand how their Messiah could fulfil this and be the King to rule and reign. In particular look at verse 4 where the NIV makes it clearest that, ďwe considered him punished by GodĒ. WE thought him punished or stricken by God. It was we who mistakenly thought him punished by God, but it was not God punishing him. Then we see in verse 10 that Jesus offered himself as a guilt offering and that this was by Godís will (NIV), or pleased God (NASB).
How on earth could this be pleasing to God? Not on earth but in heaven, God could see His children made one with Jesus Ė our sin taken off of us and transferred to Jesus who took it to the grave. Then Jesusí righteousness tis ransferred onto us when we are resurrected to heaven.
Look, I donít think I or anyone will ever remove the punishment word. In reality we deserve punishment. But you have to see that punishment was never from God or required by God. It was all about separating us from our sin so that we could be with God in His heaven. Now try and re-read Isaiah 53 and see that all the consequences of our sin were being taken by Jesus in exchange for our peace, well-being and healing. In several places it says that we did not esteem him; that we interpreted it as Godís punishment; yet all this was for us so that we could avoid the judgement we deserved.
Oh dear, I just mentioned the judgement word and off we go again. See if you can imagine this:
ďOK, believers are not punished, but there is Godís judgement, and that is where the non-believers are punished.Ē
WRONG! Judgement is another one of those words that is fine but we read the wrong things into it. Judgement is the un-avoidable reality that sin cannot enter Godís presence and His presence fills all of Heaven. In eternity God does not change and still desires that not one be lost. But once we enter eternity with our sin still upon us we cannot enter heaven. Godís desire is that we avoid this ó that we avoid the torment in the Lake of Fire or judgement.
Well, what about the tribulation? Is that where God gets to punish us? No, that is a last chance to repent. If we would not repent by seeing His Grace and Mercy through Jesus, then as a last chance, that sadly will not be taken up by many, He will allow this terrible thing while protecting those already His.
Timeís up. There are no places where it is Godís desire to punish His children. Iím not going back through Old Testament examples under a different covenant where consequences where laid down. It was just there to show that we could not do it by our own abilities. Stop thinking like mere man and try and see the truth about our loving Father God. ďAbout punishmentĒ may help. Amen, Hallelujah!
Before God pronounced judgement of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:14-19, He made a promise that a descendent of Eve would defeat Satan, the ancient serpent. That victory was finally won on the Cross. The Cross is also the place where we are born again. After making this promise, God told Eve that He would increase her pain in childbirth. All this torture that Jesus went through was the fulfilment of this increased pain to Eve. Then God spoke to Adam about the ground being cursed by thorns. Man is but the dust of the earth and Jesus, the man, was given the crown of thorns, taking the curse upon Himself. The consequences of Adam and Eveís sins were completely taken by Jesus on the Cross.
Godís judgement on Adam and Eve was exactly correct. They wanted to be like God. Their actions brought great grief and pain to God. Eve usurped Godís role as the source of life, so she received pain when giving life. Adam usurped Godís role as provider, so he received pain in providing food. Jesus suffering was not punishment but the demonstration that He took the pain and curses on Himself. That is how He defeated Satan and set us free!