TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 21-22
“And I will pour out my indignation upon you; I will blow upon you with the fire of my wrath, and I will deliver you into the hands of brutish men, skillful to destroy.” – Ezekiel 21:31
“I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of my wrath, and yu shall be melted in the midst of it.” -Ezekiel 22:21
“Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God.” – Ezekiel 22:31
It seems that for many, if not the majority of, Christians they read the phrase “fire of my wrath” referring to God’s wrath and immediately jump to the notion of unbelievers being tormented in hell or in the lake of fire forever and ever by God. Wrath is an intense anger. Fire destroys. Therefore, it seems safe to assume that this is what God the fire of God’s wrath will be like – an intense anger that destroys all people that don’t believe in Jesus.
But, what if that understanding of “the fire of my wrath” says more about our own evil and wickedness, our own wrath, our own carnal mindset, than it does about what “the fire of my wrath” truly means?
For, the only way we can truly understand “the fire of my wrath” is to see it through the lens of Jesus Christ crucified.
First, we need to see that the New Testament makes a distinction between our wrath and God’s wrath.
Ephesians 2:2-3 says, “The spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Before Jesus, before God’s mercy made us alive together in with Christ, we were children of wrath, sons of disobedience, because we in Satan’s kingdom, not God’s
Now, in Ephesians 5:6, Paul says, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”So, we were sons of disobedience, children of wrath, as Paul says earlier in the letter. But, God’s wrath is going to come upon those that were sons of disobedience, children of wrath.
However, in Ephesians 4:31, Paul says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” So, God’s wrath is going to come upon the sons of disobedience, but we are told to put away all wrath. Since we are told to be holy as God is holy, we are called to exhibit God’s character. So, clearly the wrath that we display is different than the wrath God displays. Paul even uses two different words for wrath in Ephesians 4:31 and 5:6
We see the same thing in Colossians 3:6-8. “On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” Again, there are two different Greek words translated wrath – one for God’s and one for ours.
Second, in two of the three verses from Ezekiel that mention “the fire of my wrath,” God says that he will “blow on you the fire of my wrath.” In other words, God will breathe the fire of his wrath on you.
In the Bible, we only see a few instances where God blows on someone. The first was when God made Adam and breathed into him the breath of life, as if God was breathing the Spirit into Adam. The second was when Jesus breathed on the disciples and told them to “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And, the third was when the Holy Spirit was blown like a rushing mighty wind onto the 120 disciples in the upper room. Not coincidentally, tongues of fire appeared to the disciples and rested on them.
Third, two of the three verses also say that God “will pour out my indignation upon you.” The Hebrew word for “poured out” here also means shed blood. In the light of Christ, we can read this as God will shed the blood of his indignation upon you. And, in Ezekiel 22:24, the word of the Lord came to the son of man and talking about the day of indignation.
Indignation means anger aroused by something unjust, unworthy, or mean. So, how does God pour out his indignation, his anger, at unjust, unworthy, and mean acts? The same way Jesus did. He shed his blood on the cross. That was how Jesus poured out his indignation aroused by his unjust treatment.
We see these statements in Ezekiel further linked to the cross because God says, “I have returned their way upon on their heads.” On the cross, Jesus turns our own evil ways back upon our heads. Not by doing his own evil to us, but through the conviction of the Holy Spirit as he shows us just what our evil acts have wrought. This is exactly what happened to Paul on the Damascus road.
And, have you ever wondered why Jesus was crucified on Golgotha, the place of the skull? In order for the cross to be stood up, to erected, it had to be pushed down into Golgotha, jammed down into the place of the skull. This is symbolic of God turning our own evil ways back on our heads. Not through physical violence, but through the mental anguish one experiences when they realize an evil act they have performed.
Through the lens of Jesus Christ crucified, we see all of this as the context for “the fire of my wrath.” This wrath, the effect of the shed blood of Christ and the cross being driven into our own skulls, returning on our own evil ways upon our heads, melts our ungodliness, unholiness, and unrighteousness. This wrath melts every work that is not like God and therefore every sin.
This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, which says, “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
What does the fire of God’s wrath do?
It identifies what type of work we have done. That’s interesting because the Hebrew word for wrath in “the fire of my wrath,” ebrah, is used 34 times in the Old Testament. The number 34 symbolizes identification, which is just what the function of the fire of God’s wrath is.
This is what Ezekiel 22:22 says, “As silver is melted in a furnace, so you shall be melted in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the Lord; I have poured out my wrath upon you.”
Silver is melted in a furnace, not to destroy the silver, but to remove the impurities. This is why God pours out his wrath. The fire of his wrath burns away every impurity. But, we must always remember that the fire of his wrath, the pouring out his indignation upon us, and the returning of our own ways upon our heads look like Jesus dying on the cross to save us.
Yes, there is a fire of God’s wrath. It is not a fire that burns people forever in eternal torment to achieve some sort of justice, which really would be just vengeance. But, that the of God’s wrath identifies those things that are not like God and melts, or burns, them away from us. But, we will be saved.