Was God’s wrath satisfied in Christ? If so then how can sinners suffer God’s wrath in hell? This question is one that is often asked by Calvinists to those who do not hold to the teaching of Calvinism. The question implies that Jesus could not have died for all people since many people experience God’s wrath in hell. Yet, John Piper, one of the better known Calvinist teachers, admits that those for whom Christ died can still be subject to God’s wrath. Piper concedes that God’s wrath is “being poured out on us” in our unrighteousness. He references those for whom Christ died when he says:
In other words, the reason we need God to reveal HIS righteousness to us in the gospel and give it to us as a gift through faith is because we are unrighteous and resist the truth in unrighteousness and, therefore, God’s wrath is against us. We need righteousness. We don’t have it. God’s wrath is being poured out on us in our unrighteousness. Is there any hope? Yes, the gospel is the power of God to save because in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.
John Piper also makes a statement that all people without a Saviour are under the wrath of God and sentenced to eternal torment in hell. He says in his sermon:
Virtually no one, outside a fairly small group of evangelicals, seriously believes
1. that without a Savior all people are dead in sin and incapable of any spiritual good; and
2. that without a Savior all people are captured and blinded by an evil, supernatural person named Satan; and
3. that without a Savior all people are under the wrath of God and sentenced to eternal torment in hell.
Salvation is an unbreakable chain?
Consider this; Piper also says that your salvation extends back into eternity and is an unbreakable chain:
Picture it like this. Your salvation is like a chain that extends back into eternity and forward into eternity. It is an unbreakable chain. Wherever you look on this chain, you find links of iron forged by God himself.
…God took charge of your salvation at the beginning before you existed, and God is securing its great goal before you ever get there in the future.
At the same time that John Piper teaches eternal salvation (one that extends back into eternity), he admits that you were also sentenced to eternal torment in hell. This is eternally elect yet still sentenced to eternal torment in hell. If John Piper can see two opposite things as being true at the same time, why does he teach that it is double jeopardy if someone ends up in hell for whom Christ died?
Double Jeopardy and “Paying” for Sins in Hell
Double jeopardy is considered a problem for some Christians who think that their sins were all forgiven at the cross. Some are challenged by John Piper’s teaching that Jesus could not die for every person because that would mean that sinners in hell would be paying twice for the same sins for which Jesus had already paid. Do sinners “pay” for their sins in hell the same way that Jesus “paid” for their sins? Let’s look carefully at this challenge.
The wages of sin is death
The wages of sin is death, but who is paying in hell? Some say that sins must be paid for by Jesus or by us in hell. Does the Bible say this?
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The wages of sin is not what the sinner pays. The wages of sin is what sin pays the sinner. In other words, the consequence, the result of sin is death. There is nothing that a sinner can pay to have his sins taken away. Billions of years in hell cannot provide a payment for one’s sins. Payment in hell is impossible because we cannot bear our own sins to take them away. The redemption is costly and must be sinless.
7 No man can by any means redeem his brother Or give to God a ransom for him— 8 For the redemption of his soul is costly, And he should cease trying forever— 9 That he should live on eternally, That he should not undergo decay.
John Piper denies universal redemption because he claims it would amount to a double payment. Piper writes in his article, “For Whom Did Jesus Taste Death?”
But what would it mean to say of an unbeliever in hell that Christ died for his sins? Would we mean that the debt for his sins was paid? If so, why is he paying again in hell?
The answer to John Piper’s question is that hell is not a place of debt-paying. Hell is a place of consequences.
Was the wrath of God removed from us as unbelievers at the cross?
John Piper asks a second question about why unbelieving sinners would experience God’s wrath if Jesus died for them. Piper writes:
Would we mean that the wrath of God was removed? If so, why is the wrath of God being poured out on him in punishment for sins?
In other words, if the death of Jesus was for the whole world, and the death of Jesus took away God’s wrath, then how could God pour out His wrath on someone for whom Jesus died? In essence John Piper is implying that a person for whom Jesus died cannot still be under the wrath of God. But is this true? The Bible tells us that God’s wrath and His condemnation was on all of us at one time.
Ephesians 2:3 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.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
Romans 5:18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
Ephesians 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Colossians 1:21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,
Just as the rest of the world
Just as the rest of the world, we were by nature children of wrath, condemned by God, sons of disobedience, alienated and hostile to God, and subject to the wrath of God because of our sin. Even though Jesus died for us, our position as enemies of God did not change.
Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Was it fair for God to condemn us and treat us as children of His wrath? Yes, it was fair for we were not yet reconciled to Him.
John Piper affirms that our being children of wrath is not believed by many when he gives two reasons for such an unbelief in God’s wrath on us:
There are two fundamental reasons why these things are not believed
1. because they are unflattering to human nature, and
2. because they have to be learned from God not man.
Piper also concedes under the heading “Whose wrath” that the term children “of wrath” refer’s to God’s wrath. Piper writes:
But there remains one more thing to say concerning our condition without a Savior. At the end of verse 3 Paul says that “we were by nature children of wrath.”
Ephesians 5:5–6 puts it like this:
Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
So it is God’s wrath that is coming. We were “by nature children of the wrath OF GOD.” Which means that we naturally did those things which God hates. By nature we rejected the knowledge of God (Romans 2:28), and by nature we refused the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:14), and by nature we were filled with desires that amounted to idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
So, under John Piper’s line of reasoning, we ask how could God be righteous if He treated us as enemies of God, treated us as children of wrath, and condemned us for our sin as he did the world, if Jesus had already died on our behalf? Why was this condemnation on us if Jesus died for us? John Piper answers this question himself. He writes:
And what we learn from Scripture is that God would be unrighteous if he looked with indifference on our sin, because our sin dishonors him so much.
We were under God’s wrath not because Jesus did not die for us (because He did) but because we were not yet in Christ, our rock of safety.
God’s Righteous Wrath
God’s righteousness requires that He not be indifferent to the sin of any person. Sin dishonors Him and the fact that He condemns sinners, whether it was us before we trusted in Christ, or whether it is unbelievers who die in their sin, shows God’s justice. The fact that we were children of God’s wrath even after Jesus died for us, proves that the payment for sin does not stop God’s wrath. Until a person is in Christ he/she is subject to God’s condemnation and wrath. Paul affirms that the condemnation is gone “now”. When and for whom is God’s condemnation gone? Only for those who are IN Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
While John Piper believes that God cannot judge, He cannot condemn, and He cannot apply His wrath to a person in hell if Jesus died for that person, he is very wrong. God is just and righteous in judgment. If God cannot judge an unbeliever in hell, then by the very same standard, He could not judge us as enemies of God and children of wrath before we were saved. But He did.
The Curse of the Law
John Piper continues to argue that one can’t bear the curse of God if Jesus died for that person’s sin.
Would we mean that the curse of the law was lifted? If so, why is he bearing his curse in the lake of fire?
John Piper is challenging 95% of Christians who say that Jesus died for everyone.
My guess is that most of those 95% who say Jesus died for everybody would have a hard time explaining just what it is that the death of Jesus really, actually accomplished for everybody—especially what it accomplished for those who refuse to believe and go to hell.
But Paul who knew the gospel well, gives a testimony that is powerful in that he requests something of God that Piper says is impossible.
Paul’s testimony about God’s wrath and his request for his own destruction in hell
Paul knew that Jesus died for him. Paul said:
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
However, while Paul knew that Jesus died for him, he also testified that he had great sorrow and grief in his heart to the point that he expressed a desire to go to hell (be accursed) and be separated from Christ on behalf of his brethren.
1I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,2that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.3For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,
Paul’s expression was a specific real desire to God for the sake of his brethren.
The grammar that Paul uses is indicative – The mood in which the action of the verb is presented by the writer as real, as opposed to possible.
Paul was willing to suffer the wrath of God for the sake of his brethren. Paul’s intention to be accursed was expressed as real and was not a lie. Paul did not see a problem of double jeopardy in his desire to be accursed by God for the sake of the lost. And Paul was not alone in his faithful desire to see the lost saved.
The testimony of Moses and his request for destruction
Moses was also very passionate for the salvation of his brethren, those who had wickedly sinned against God. Moses tells Israel that he is going to the Lord and requesting atonement for the sin of the people. And if God would not just forgive Israel, Moses would ask God to be destroyed from God’s book of life. Moses was asking to make atonement for the sin of Israel.
30On the next day Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the Lord, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31Then Moses returned to the Lord, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32 “But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!”
The removal of the wicked from the book of life is documented in Psalm 69:26-28. This is a Psalm about the death of the Messiah and the the wickedness of those who persecuted Jesus.
26For they have persecuted him whom You Yourself have smitten, And they tell of the pain of those whom You have wounded. 27Add iniquity to their iniquity, And may they not come into Your righteousness. 28May they be blotted out of the book of life And may they not be recorded with the righteous.
Blotting one out of the book of life is an eternal judgment against those who were in the book of life to begin with. The intention of Moses was to seek atonement for Israel’s sin. His cry to God was to suffer destruction and a removal from God’s book of life rather than to see his brethren lost. Although God denied the plea of Moses (Exodus 32:33), Moses was said to be faithful in God’s house as a foreshadowing of the faithfulness of Christ.
5Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 6but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
Paul and Moses fought for their unsaved brethren as faithful mediators before God. They did not see their request to God as impossible or as “double jeopardy” because Jesus died for their sin.
Freedom from God’s Wrath is Experienced in Christ
Salvation, forgiveness, and righteousness are found IN Christ. Salvation is conditionally found in Christ even though it is unconditionally paid for by His death. Can God do it this way? Of course even though Israel called this way “not right”. God argued with Israel that His ways are right even they were accusing God of injustice. They refused to accept God’s conditions. Here is what God said about a righteous man:
24“But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die. 25“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Hear now, O house of Israel! Is My way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right? 26“When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and dies because of it, for his iniquity which he has committed he will die. 27“Again, when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life. 28“Because he considered and turned away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 29“But the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Are My ways not right, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not right?
Is God wrong when Jesus stated that forgiven debt can be put back onto the account of the one who has been forgiven, if the person does not forgive?
32“Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.33‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’34“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.35“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
It was to Peter that Jesus made this important comment. Peter was one for whom Jesus died, yet Jesus said that if Peter did not forgive, what was forgiven would be unforgiven him.
Is God’s way wrong?
Can we say that this way is wrong? Are we to accuse God of double jeopardy, like Israel did, if what was forgiven can be brought back? God’s conditional way for remaining in safety in Christ is that we must forgive others. God’s way is conditional. God’s way is right. God’s way is IN Christ.
Was God’s Wrath Satisfied in Christ?
Yes, God’s wrath was satisfied in Christ! However, God’s wrath is not available outside Christ.
The Giving Video
At this time we are getting ready to film our last segment of our video The Giving. The Giving answers the challenges of Calvinism from John chapter 6. Please subscribe to this blog to be notified when the DVD and video download will be available.
For more on the death of Christ and answering Calvinism, see Was the Death of Jesus Evil? Calvinism and Ordained Evil.
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