Did God Pour Out His Wrath on Jesus During His Violent Death on the Cross?: Angry God Part 3

Many believers align with a God whom they think is angry, violent, and vindictive. Perhaps they identify with the angry god of Old Testament stories, or maybe they create God in their own image. I addressed each of these issues in previous articles and contended that those who follow angry god for either reason are mistaken in their conclusion that God is angry with us or that God is violent and vindictive.

I know some will protest that God clearly displayed his anger and vindictiveness toward us by punishing Jesus for our sins. They might even refer to Isaiah 53:

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

This is a favorite passage used to support the penal substitutionary theory of atonement, which is the majority view among fundamentalists and evangelicals.

Crucifixion by Grünewald Matthias

The Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory

The broad outline of penal substitutionary atonement is:

  • We are all sinners
  •  God is so holy that he cannot look upon sin
  •  God’s justice must be satisfied, so we are all bound for eternal punishment in hell
  •  But God provided us an escape with sinless Jesus as a substitute in our stead
  •  God poured out his wrath against us upon his son, Jesus, on the cross
  •  Now we can find forgiveness for our sin and escape eternal punishment in hell

This reminds us very much of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, ‘the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ However, the Isaiah passage has nothing to do with Jesus; it is NOT a prophecy of Jesus’ mission and death but relates to the Nation of Israel. The identity of the suffering servant is unclear but might have been an individual or, more likely, the nation of Israel itself.

Has penal substitutionary atonement always been a widespread view among believers? No, it has not. In fact this theory only arose about 500 years ago with John Calvin, who also used the Isaiah 53 passage as support. Calvin built upon Anselm’s Satisfaction Theory developed about 500 years before that (about 1100 AD). But, while Anselm needed a substitute to satisfy God for sins against his honor, Calvin needed a substitute to pay for sins against God’s sense of justice—just 500 years ago.

The earliest commenters on the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross were Jesus’ earliest followers and other New Testament writers. What they experienced as a community was that Jesus was with them and was then unexpectedly executed on a Roman cross. In a second surprise, Jesus rose from the dead and walked among them for a short period, speaking to them further before his final departure.

After Jesus departed, the question among Jesus’ followers was ‘What just happened? What is the significance of Jesus death and resurrection?’ The New Testament writers suggested a number of answers from different angles using Old Testament imagery, creativity, and other sources. This resulted in a variety of thoughts in the New Testament that do not present a consistent perspective, though those embracing penal substitution try to force these disparate ideas together into a ‘revealed, authoritative’ answer to the question.

For the first 1000 years of Christianity after the New Testament writers, the prevailing understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection was Christus Victor—Jesus as victor.

Christus Victor: the Ancient, Widespread Atonement Theory among Believers

The idea of Christus Victor is that Jesus was victorious in his death and resurrection. Many of the ancients understood this as involving victory over Satan, but those who embrace Christus Victor today usually see Jesus’ victory to be over the ultimate powers of evil and death.

The power of evil, in the persons of the Romans and the Jewish leaders, killed Jesus very publicly and very painfully. Jesus was dead. However, the resurrection of Jesus defeated the ultimate power of evil by his rising from the dead—the power of evil ultimately was not successful against Jesus. Evil now has no ultimate power over us! But why such a terrible death? Jesus’death was dramatic, public, and brought about by the powers of evil. His dying of an accident or illness would not have served to expose and defeat evil.

Jesus also defeated the ultimate power of death, and this impacts us in that we will also experience resurrection from death! If you feel like saying ‘Hallelujah!’, go right ahead.

So, as you can see (hopefully), Jesus’ death on the cross was not an action of angry god against us or against Jesus. It was a demonstration against power—specifically the powers of evil and death. We do not have to fear an angry god, nor do we need to fear eternal punishment in hell; the Bible does not even teach such a thing.

God’s attitude toward us, as we discover from Jesus’ teaching and example is not anger, harshness, and vindictiveness but empathy, compassion, and care—for all of us. And Jesus teaches us to have empathy, compassion, and care for others—for all others. So let’s do it!

Articles from this series: Angry God:
We Often Become What We THINK God is Like: Angry God Part 1
We Often Create God in Our Own Image: Angry God Part 2
Did God Pour Out His Wrath on Jesus During His Violent Death on the Cross?: Angry God Part 3



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36 Responses to Did God Pour Out His Wrath on Jesus During His Violent Death on the Cross?: Angry God Part 3

  1. Anthony Paul says:

    Hi Tim…. Your view that “God’s attitude toward us, as we discover from Jesus’ teaching and example is not anger, harshness, and vindictiveness but empathy, compassion, and care—for all of us” is something we’ve all pretty much agreed on time after time on this blog. But If I may say so in the loving spirit of brotherhood as well as constructive criticism, this was not the strongest case you have ever made for your position. I will just highlight a few examples…

    Isaiah 53: your emphasis that this passage is not prophetic of Jesus’ suffering but points to the nation of Israel instead is pretty much out of the Jewish tradition which denies the messiahship of Christ. The Bible which is so full of symbolism, myth, and allegory, could quite easily be pointing to Christ even if we do not have to accept the evangelical view that God poured out His wrath upon His Son at the crucifixion.

    On penal substitutionary atonement, much has been written and I’ll not attempt to write another book on it here…. I believe that it will be enough for me to say that much of one’s belief on the subject rests with how we view ourselves as individuals before a Holy God. I have my view apart from your own…. But it does not alter our view of how we feel God operates in the world on a basically human level of existence…. On that we can agree and that’s enough for me.

    I was taken back a bit by your comment that Jesus was killed by the “power of evil” as personified by the Romans and Jewish leaders of His day. In my mind, it tends to diminish Christ’s passion and death, and more importantly evil itself, to a temporal-local phenomenon which allows us all today to declare, “Well!! At least I wasn’t involved in anything as horrible as all that. I certainly had nothing to do with any of Jesus’ suffering.” Really? I personally cannot accept that as my view in the God-man equation…. Evil must be seen as going far deeper in nature else it becomes little more than the back-room machinations of a handful of Pharisees manipulating the Roman Governor to pronounce a sentence of death against a most bothersome Jew.

    But… I found the conclusion you drew to be very sound… I liked it very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Anthony, I don’t expect anyone to agree with me on everything because if two people agree on everything then at least one of them is not thinking for themselves. I will respond to your comments.

      Isaiah 53. You are correct that Jewish writers favor this view that the suffering servant is connected to the history of Israel, probably as an unknown individual or, more likely, the nation of Israel itself. But I don’t think their denial of Jesus as Messiah has much bearing on this passage; most Christian scholars of today agree with them.

      Penal substitution. I agree with you that our view of atonement is partially based on how we view ourselves, but, on the other hand I think our view of atonement is heavily informed by the theory of atonement we believe.

      Romans and the Jewish leaders. This is a valid point as you describe it–limiting evil to an isolated time and locality, and I agree this would not be sufficiently significant. I should have made the point more clear that Jesus’ victory over evil goes far beyond those limitations. The evil powers that combined to kill Jesus represented the powers of evil everywhere and every when. In his resurrection, Jesus defeated the ultimate power of all evil.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. newtonfinn says:

    A most helpful discussion here about the various ways that followers of Jesus have tried to explain the mystery of the crucifixion to themselves and to others. I would only add a supplementary thought to Tim’s convincing “ultimate victory” explanation. If God chose to become human in every sense, perhaps to fully understand and experience His creation, then He would have had to subject Himself to the mortality which undergirds and pervades it. Thus God would have to die. And if He lived His fully human life according to the transcendent values of His Kingdom, then there would inevitably come a head-on collision with “the kingdom of this world.” In this scenario, culminating in the “trial” before Pilate, Jesus would indeed die because of our sins–not to make satisfaction for them, but rather as a direct consequence of them and indirect judgment upon them. Kierkegaard explored this idea in depth, and I’m just hitting the highlights to flesh out Tim’s “ultimate victory” interpretation, which, as he points out, was predominant until the Reformation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Newton, I really like your statement, “culminating in the “trial” before Pilate, Jesus would indeed die because of our sins–not to make satisfaction for them, but rather as a direct consequence of them and indirect judgment upon them.”

      Well said!


  3. Chas says:

    Tim, you have not given an opinion as to WHY Jesus died, although I agree with you that it was not in atonement for our sins. In regard to Isaiah 52/53, the Suffering Servant appears more likely to be the view of the writer as to the suffering that a prophet to Israel would have to endure. The support for this view is that in the so-called books of the major and minor prophets in the Bible, almost all of the references to prophets are against false prophets. The vast majority of the others refer either to God’s prophets who were ignored, or to ‘my servants the prophets’. Having spent a lot of time on a study of the synoptic gospels, it seems more likely that the original author actually based his Jesus on the suffering servant (i.e. wrote the crucifixion around what was in Isaiah 52/53). He also based a good deal more of his gospel on passages from the OT. These passages do not foretell Jesus to us, rather they tell us on what Jesus was based by the writer.
    Finally, why did Jesus die? It was necessary, so that his friends could begin the process of passing the message about their own particular view of him to others.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, you very well might be correct that the original writer of the crucifixion scene could have been influenced by the suffering servant story. And I agree that Jesus’ followers could not pour themselves into spreading the good news as they did were Jesus still with them.

      I think another reason for his death, other than the obvious–his creating concern among the Romans and the Jewish leaders, was his need to confront the powers of evil in order to defeat evil by his resurrection.


    • sheila0405 says:

      “Having spent a lot of time on a study of the synoptic gospels, it seems more likely that the original author actually based his Jesus on the suffering servant (i.e. wrote the crucifixion around what was in Isaiah 52/53). He also based a good deal more of his gospel on passages from the OT. These passages do not foretell Jesus to us, rather they tell us on what Jesus was based by the writer.”

      I call this the Sharpshooter fallacy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Paz says:

    I think Jesus’ life of achieving God’s will demonstrates and inspires us to further understand that he accomplished this also by overcoming death itself in his human experience.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Liz Hull says:

    There is also the thought that has developed among Franciscans that Jesus death also satisfies human need to blame and scapegoat. Ultimately it confronts is with our own fallibility and desire to blame others rather than confessing our own failures and learning to forgive failings in other people because we know we too are fallible and forgiven. When we look at Scripture and reflect on the Easter narrative it is hard to articulate one specific narrative but when we experience a loving relationship with God we realise that to suggest God desires our or Jesus suffering is obscene. Rather God willingly identifies with us in our suffering to transform it with resurrection hope.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. sssbeast says:

    The bible says, I turn my away from you a moment, meaning God the father turned his watch from Christ a moment allowing him to be sacrificed and enter corruption. It also says they were amazed at how quickly he died and did not break his leg bones for he was dead and the soldier stabbed him in the side and blood with water came forth. I do not think God set his fury of Christ the least evil of all men for God and him were able to touch and he did not offend God and God did not annihilate him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Beast, I agree with your statement, “I do not think God set his fury of Christ the least evil of all men for God and him were able to touch and he did not offend God and God did not annihilate him.” I could not find the reference you shared about God’s being turned away. Can you tell me where that is found?

      Liked by 1 person

      • sssbeast says:

        In my heart it is found. Isaiah 54:7 says, for a brief moment I forsook you etc 8. God makes evil, he makes woe, he brings that rod over his and he has mercy and raises them out of the hurt.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Thanks, Beast. I don’t think this passage from Isaiah is a prophecy of Jesus’ experience.


          • sssbeast says:

            Maybe so, I do not claim to be any expert but I do consider Jesus the least evil of any person ever; who was tempted (endured against lust) that was found in all mankind and would not bow or abandon his inner God and do evil. I love discipline; so such a discipline or self soul control against any and all temptation is a mighty manly quality I do not worship but I do praise, I praise America as well for factors I see as upright.
            I worship One God, A Father of All Fathers and Sons and Husband if All Wifes and ends. He is a friend of Abram he renamed Abraham and Isaac he prenamed Laughing, he gave Jacob a name for the reason of his Promise to All Mankind. He set Israel with a King, eternal in Jesus and White Roman Authority set, gentiles beneath.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Beast, I also worship one God–the God of Jesus. I also think it appropriate to say that Jesus is King. I usually say it as ‘Jesus is Lord and Caesar (political government) is not’. I am pleased to be part of the kingdom of God.



  8. Wendy says:

    Have you read Isaiah 53 in the Septuagint? (which is, after all, is the Bible of the time of Jesus and the Apostles). It does not place the Father’s hand anywhere near the suffering servant. It is thus possible to refute penal substitution by appealing to the Septuagint, without having to argue the case for Isaiah 53 to be about Israel. Take a look at this…

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Wendy, I have not read Isaiah 53 from the LXX; my Greek is far too rusty for that! However, I found the comparisons in the link you gave to be very interesting. Thanks for sharing!


      • Richard F says:


        There are at least two well-known English translations of the LXX – an older one by Brenton which I prefer over the more recent NETS version. The Brenton version is available free as part of e-sword which is also free to download and invaluable though not infallible. Brenton renders the key verses in Isaiah 53 (esp v5 and v10) as

        5  But he was wounded on account of our sins [not ‘for’], and was bruised because of [again ‘on account of’] our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his bruises we were healed.
        6  All we as sheep have gone astray; everyone has gone astray in his way; and the Lord gave him up for our sins.
        7  And he, because of his affliction, opens not his mouth: he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.
        8  In his humiliation his judgment was taken away [or ‘judgment was taken away from him]: who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken away from the earth: because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death.
        9  And I will give the wicked for his burial, and the rich for his death; for he practised no iniquity, nor craft with his mouth.
        10  The Lord also is pleased to purge him from his stroke. If ye can give an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed:

        ‘purge him from his stroke’ in v10 suggests as much the resurrection after the cross, as it does anything about anger

        Liked by 1 person

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  11. Now there is an alternative to the big three traditional theories. My free eBook “Achieving Atonement” presents a new atonement model that is biblical, ethical, reasonable, comprehensive, ecumenical, and avoids the problems of traditional atonement theories while retaining their truths. The book explains how God is achieving atonement and the place of Christ’s violent death on the cross. The book is 170 pages plus 98 pages Scripture Index. Various eReader formats are available from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/838364. A PDF version with numbered pages may be downloaded from http://www.5icm.org.au/Resources/Achieving_Atonement_-_Derek_Thompson.pdf.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Richard F says:

      Derek hi

      I think I agree with everything major you say but surely you are advocating the Christus Victor view of the early church, of the eastern orthodox church, and brought back to the west by Gustav Aulen; it is not necessary to give it another name ‘Lumen Christi’ (which, at first glance, might be the name for the ‘Christus Exemplar’ model which Paz mentions above)

      I think there are more than three atonement models but they can be clumped together. (i) The ransom theory which developed into the Christus Victor model (since clearly God does not need to pay anything to Satan but in the CV model God ‘deals’ with evil); (ii) Abelard’s ‘Exemplar’ model in which God ‘deals’ with man’s faulty perception of how the world should run.

      Then there are a cluster of models in which God is dealing essentially with Himself. First Anselm’s Satisfaction theory where God upholds His honor in the face of us upstarts. Then Calvin changes that into the ‘Penal’ view where God upholds his justice against guilty men, and finally Grotius’ ‘Moral Government’ theory where God likewise upholds His holiness but without the same anger/wrath as in the Penal view

      I think the early church got it right with Christus Victor, which is I think what you too are maintaining

      I too found Wendy’s ‘Gospel Coalescence’ very useful

      Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Richard, I am also an advocate of Christus Victor.


      • Thanks, Richard for being the first to comment on my eBook. The Lumen Christi model is a multifaceted model that proclaims the light of Christ overcomes the darkness of sin in every facet of Creation. It aims to be ecumenical and heal the divisions in the church to which the traditional atonement theories have contributed. As you say, there are more than three traditional atonement models, but my aim was not to write a book on them but I briefly sketched three for the benefit of readers who may not have heard about the atonement debate. It is not something that is taught in church. The truths of the traditional theories need to be maintained. What sets Lumen Christi apart is its multidimensional nature and the use of critical reasoning for each of Creation’s dimensions (which makes it reasonable and comprehensive), the rejection of redemptive violence and retributive justice (making it ethical), and its faithfulness to Scripture.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Richard F says:


          I wondered whether a reply would contribute much

          But, to repeat myself, I’m not sure what Lumen Christi offers that is new

          Also I have to disagree with “The truths of the traditional theories need to be maintained”. Most of them contradict each other as to what God was doing, and penal substitution paints a picture of God more like something than pagans would believe.

          Someone, please tell me on what scripture passages does penal substitution base itself?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks Richard. I agree that there are errors in the traditional theories, but whatever truth there is needs to be maintained. For example, Christ defeating evil as with Christus Victor, Christ as a substitute as in the forensic theories (although substitute is not understood in the same sense), and Christ as an exemplar as in the moral influence theory (but he is more than this). Lumen Christi is a multi-faceted model, but as you say, the traditional theories cannot be combined because they contradict each other. This is what makes the Lumen Christi model different. Atonement is seen as God addressing evil in each and every dimension of his creation. Traditional theories focus on only one aspect the damage done to creation, e.g. justice, power, honour, love, and our environment (which is usually forgotten). Penal substitution seems to arise out of the Isaiah 52-53 Suffering Servant passage but I don’t think Isaiah needs to be read in that way. I have tried to write as a peacemaker and to bring together the different parties in a model they might all be able to accept. Seeing the temptations of Christ in the wilderness repeated at the cross is a better way of understanding what happened so that God is not seen as requiring violence, even to save his people.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Richard F says:

            I agree that Isaiah 53 does not support, let alone be the lynchpin for, Penal Substitution. ‘PS’ paints a view of a God who cannot forgive until he has first punished; and Anselm’s Satisfaction theory and the Governmental theory are not much better. But, yes, Christus Exemplar can sit alongside but be subsidiary to Christus Victor; I say ‘subsidiary to’ because what God has done for us is always primary, and over and above, what might follow in terms of man ‘copying’ him
            I can see that ‘Lumen’ can suggest ‘Exemplar’, but I don’t understand your Lumen Christi model enough to see what it adds to the existing mix set out above. Sorry

            Liked by 1 person

        • Wendy says:

          Hi Derek, your eBook is clearly a labour of love. I would say I agree with most of it, tho I have a few comments to add.
          a) I don’t think there’s any such thing as ‘free will’. We are dead in sin, have scales over our eyes, and hearts of stone. Without God’s intervention we would not see him for who he is, nor desire him. What I would say is that we desire what we choose (so in that sense our choice is free because it is not forced) but we don’t choose our desires; we learn/inherit them. Hence the need for the Spirit’s intervention and thus prayer [ ‘open their eyes, Lord’, a clear ‘violation’ of their free will!]
          b) I think God’s notion of Justice is wholly different to ours. His is an ‘act’ (you ‘do’ justice) and it involves mercy, it is not counter to it (Zech 6:9, Micah 6:8).
          c) propitiation shouldn’t enter our vocabulary at all. It is pagan and Bible translators had no right to use it.
          d) I’m not sure about ‘substitution’. It is a word which is totally absent from the NT. Christ dies ‘for us’ but never ‘in our place’. I thus think ‘sin offering’ is a metaphor.
          e) Have you read Darrin W Snyder Belousek’s “Atonement, Justice & Peace”? There’s a lot of overlap, I think. You will know better than me!
          Best wishes.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks, Wendy for your comments on my eBook. I will have to make it clearer in the next edition. I was focussing on the atonement, but this has unavoidable ramifications for wider theology. I understand free will to mean that we can choose to do this or that course of action but not including the free will to do what we are incapable of, like flapping our arms and flying like a bird or doing something untainted by sin. I don’t think anyone is saying we have an absolute free will. Since God holds us responsible for our sins, it seems to me to follow that we must have sinned of our own free will.

            I don’t know of anywhere in Scripture that says “open their eyes, Lord” as a prayer to God to violate anyone’s free will. Paul was sent to the Gentiles “to open their eyes” (Acts 26:18) by proclaiming the gospel to them. Their response was their responsibility. The song “Open the eyes of my heart” is loosely based on Eph 1:18 which is a prayer of Paul addressed to Christians (not unbelievers) that they might come to know Christ better.

            There is nothing a sinner can do to save himself. Even if a sinner’s eyes were in some sense opened by God to desire Christ as Saviour, a sinner is still a sinner. The Son of God would not have taken on human form with its implication of death on the cross if there was any other way of saving sinners (Mt 26:39).

            I agree that God’s justice is wholly different from the world’s payback justice. I had a look at Belousek’s “Atonement, Justice & Peace” on Google Books and noted that he takes hundreds of pages to criticise the traditional atonement theories but does not offer a new theory. There are many scholars who have done this. I agree that justice and peace need reinterpretation. But justice is only one aspect of the atonement. My model deals with six aspects of creation in need of repair by Christ.

            Propitiation refers to averting the wrath of God, but Paul says “I speak in a human way.” (Rom 3:5). God is not angry with his people. When God removes evil, he removes the associated guilt. In Lumen Christ, God removes evil by raising his people to righteousness and destroying his enemies.

            The concept of Christ’s death as a substitute comes from such verses as Mt 20:28 where Jesus said he came “to give his life as a ransom for many.” It does not need to be understood as Jesus took our punishment. I take it to mean that Christ was a substitute for God’s people by being the sinless and faithful champion of humanity in overcoming evil with good.

            Thanks again for your stimulating observations.

            Liked by 1 person

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