Wrath That Endures Forever -- By: William V. Crockett

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 34:2 (Jun 1991)
Article: Wrath That Endures Forever
Author: William V. Crockett

Wrath That Endures Forever

William V. Crockett*

Universalists commonly talk about the love of God that endures forever. They often argue that since God is love he will eventually draw all humanity to himself. Further, they cite Paul’s letters as evidence that even the apostle assumed God loves all his creation, wicked and righteous, with an everlasting love. Whatever the merits of the philosophical argument—that God to be God must always love his creation—this article challenges the latter assumption that Paul believed God always loves. Rather, it will be argued that the apostle assumed that once the wicked portion of humanity was under eschatological wrath, God would withdraw his love from the wicked.1

I. The Wrath Of God

Paul uses many words to denote God’s anger. The most serious is orgē (“wrath”) because in Pauline theology, as we shall see, it expresses the utter hopelessness of the wicked in the face of an angry God.

Other Pauline words such as apobolē (“rejection”), apotoma (“sternness”), ekkathairo (“cleanse”), epitimia (“punishment”) and echthros (“enemy”) indicate anger but have more breadth. Unlike orgē, often Paul uses them in a way that suggests salvation still lies within the grasp of the unrepentant even though God is angry with their behavior.

For example, in Rom 11:15 Paul talks about God’s plan to save the world. He says of Israel, “For if their rejection (apobolē) is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” Here Paul hints that those rejected might eventually be accepted. In 11:22–23 Paul’s use of apotomia in relation to the unbelieving allows for hope even though God is said to be a stern Father: “Consider therefore the

* William Crockett is associate professor of New Testament at Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, New York.

kindness and sternness (apotomia) of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in.” Here again hope surfaces for eventual salvation.

These terms for anger diff...

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