Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed saying, ‘Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.’ He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.”
The Spirit of Christ speaking through David in Psalm 2:1-5
“Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word! Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified!’ But he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed. A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the Lord that rendereth recompense to his enemies.”
God, in Isaiah 66:5-6
These verses strike me with awe and fear of God whenever I read them, not merely because of the reality of God’s wrath, but because of how the great wrath of God’s was poured out.
Both these portions of Scripture refer to the time of Jesus and the abuse that he and his followers suffered at the hands of Israel’s elders and others. In the second Psalm, quoted above, the Spirit of Christ declares that the elders of the Jews (“the rulers”) and the Romans (“the kings of the earth”) both schemed to rid themselves of Jesus. Then, in the verses from Isaiah, God is speaking to Jesus’ friends, who were “excommunicated” from the temple by Israel’s leaders for confessing faith in Jesus. “When they cast you out,” said the Lord, “They said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified.’ ” In other words, they claimed to be doing service to God when they “excommunicated” humble believers; they claimed they were keeping their religion pure by casting out people who had been corrupted by Jesus.
The wrath of God then fell upon those wicked rulers. That wrath was to be excluded from eternal life, it was for the holy Ghost to be poured out on other people, it was to be given no desire from heaven for the Spirit baptism and to despise becoming a member of the body of Christ. The day the holy Ghost was sent from heaven was the most precious moment in human history. The golden opportunity for eternal life had at last been purchased for men, but God had darkened the hearts of Israel’s elders so completely that they were glad to have no part of it. They despised the men and women staggering in the street under the power of God and speaking in languages they had not learned. They felt contempt for the testimonies of those who were being overwhelmed by the touch of God’s Spirit and who were crying out praises to God in their own language and in the languages of both men and angels.
But, unknown to them, the voice they were hearing was not the voice of men but of God. Long ago, Isaiah had foretold of this glorious day. “For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people, to whom He said, ‘This is the rest wherewith you may cause the weary to rest!’, and ‘This is the refreshing!’ Yet they would not hear” (Isa. 28:11-12). They would not hear God’s voice calling to them on Pentecost morning because He was not calling to them; He was inviting others to His feast and was excluding them from participating in “the blessing”, the only hope of all mankind. They had cast out of their presence the humble souls who loved Jesus, and now God was excluding them from His. Moreover, because they did not understand what was happening to them, because they did not realize they were being cut off from all hope of eternal life, they were glad about it.
To be given a heart of stone toward the truth is to receive “God’s curse”, according to the prophet Jeremiah. He had seen many highly exalted priests and prophets in Israel receive that curse, and he knew it well. When God’s greatest wrath comes, when God curses a soul with His greatest curse, that poor soul is usually so blinded by God’s wrath that he is glad for the curse he has received.
This is what strikes me as particularly terrifying about the wrath of God. It can be so complete that those upon whom it falls do not even realize what has happened to them! God’s greatest curse on living men is to be given a hard heart toward Jesus (Lam. 3:64-65). This curse came upon Israel’s elders, and they were so blinded by God by that time that they were thankful it had happened to them! They probably sent prayers up to heaven thanking God that He had prevented them from being among that tongue-talking crowd.
It seems to me, my friends, that to suffer such wrath from God, to be cursed and denied access to the fellowship of the Father and the Son and not even to realize that it has happened to us, is to be feared above all else.