“I heard a preacher (Paul Washer) put forth an idea that I’d never heard of before concerning the wrath of God and Jesus on the cross. He said that while Jesus was on the cross, the Father poured out His cup of wrath onto Him, and that’s how He paid for our sins. I had always just heard about His death, burial, and resurrection, paying for sins. Does that preacher sound accurate to you? Thanks in advance.”
This is a great question and a controversial one. Why?
Because Liberal Christians think the idea of God the Father pouring out wrath on His Son is a case of divine child abuse and contradicts the idea of God being a loving. Meanwhile, Evangelicals debate whether or not the concept of penal substitution is Biblical. And finally, Free Grace people disagree on how and for whom Jesus satisfied God’s wrath. So, it’s a thorny controversy.
Whenever I’m faced with a theological problem, I begin by trying to find an explicit statement for the doctrine: “Where does the Bible explicitly say that God poured out His wrath on Jesus?”
In this case, the answer is: nowhere. At least, nowhere that I could find. It may appear in the hymns we sing, but it does not appear as an explicit statement in the Biblical texts.
However, that does not make the idea wrong, which brings me to my next question: “Does the Bible implicitly teach that God poured His wrath on Jesus?” Here are six lines of evidence in defense of that idea:
1. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be “struck down,” “afflicted,” “smitten,” “punished,” and “crushed” by God for our sins, rebellion, and iniquities (cf. Isa 53:4-6, 10 CSB). Although Isaiah does not use the word wrath, God is clearly pouring wrath on this Suffering Servant.
2. Jesus became sin for us, and we know that God shows wrath against sin (cf. 1 Cor 5:21; Rom 1:18).
3. Jesus died under the law for us, and the law provokes wrath (cf. Rom 4:15; 7:4).
4. Jesus became a curse for us, and a curse is God's wrath upon lawbreakers (cf. Deut 6:4-6; Gal 3:13)
5. Jesus is the hilasterion—the propitiating sacrifice, or place of propitiation (i.e., the Mercy Seat)—for the world's sins. A propitiation appeases God’s wrath. Elsewhere, we’re told that His blood saves us from the wrath of God (cf. 3:24-25; Rom 5:8-9; 1 John 2:2).
6. Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb of God. That image harkens back to the time of the Exodus when who applied the paschal lamb were spared from God’s angel of death. But also, as a general principle, sacrifices appease God's wrath with their pleasing aroma (cf. Gen 8:21; Leviticus 1-7; John 1:29).
Did God pour out His wrath on Jesus on the cross? While that is only an implication of these texts, I think it is well-grounded. Jesus died on the cross as a substitute for believers. He took the punishment for sin in such a way that if you believe in Him, you will have eternal life; if not, you will have God’s wrath:
The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36).
Send your questions or comments to Shawn.