Wednesday, June 19, 2013

When Jesus said "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" was Jesus suffering the Father's Eternal Wrath? (More problems with Penal Substitution)

I have said for a long time that one of the strongest arguments against Penal Substitution is the fact that nowhere does the Bible state that Jesus suffered the Father's Wrath. And this is especially true when we examine the very place we'd most likely expect to find it, in the Crucifixion accounts in the Four Gospels. Instead, what we see plainly conveyed is that Jesus was falsely accused and put into the hands of wicked men who murdered Him by crucifixion. Obviously, God foresaw that this monstrous crime would take place, but in love He sent His Son to earth anyway, and God turned this monstrous crime on it's head, making it a means of Salvation.

In this post I will go over the Crucifixion accounts in the Four Gospels, along with a brief look at how the Crucifixion was preached in Acts. I will show that nobody in good will and fairness can claim to find any reasonable proof for this Protestant heresy in the place it should be most clearly taught.
I think the best place to start this investigation as to what happened at Calvary is to look at what Jesus said after the Resurrection to some of His disciples:
O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
This text is hugely important, because what it is saying is that the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus had played themselves out in Luke's Gospel. This means Jesus' suffering and glory that he mentions here was likewise recorded in the prior sections of Luke. So if Penal Substitution is the true and central meaning of the Cross as Protestants insist, then we'd better see the Father pouring out the Wrath we deserved on the head of His Son. But that's precisely what we don't find! 

Leading up to the Crucifixion, Jesus tells the Apostles three different times what would happen to Him:
(1) From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31-32; Luke 9:21-22

(2) But I tell you that Elijah [John the Baptist] has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” … 22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. Matthew 17:12, 22-23; Mark 9:30-31

(3) And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Matthew 20:17; Mark 10:32-34
Notice that what is plainly stated is that Jesus would be captured and flogged and crucified and killed at the hands of the chief priests and Romans. There is not a peep of Jesus going to endure the Father's Wrath in our place. Even after the Resurrection, Luke 24-6-8 records the angel greeting the Apostles in the empty tomb: "Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words.
The lesson is clear for anyone without an agenda: what happened to Jesus at the Crucifixion was a murder at the hands of men, and this along with the Resurrection was foretold in the Old Testament. Now to examine the Crucifixion accounts themselves, since it's possible that these prophecies didn't include all the details, including the most important detail of the Father pouring out His Wrath on His Beloved Son.

Since Matthew 27, Mark 15, and Luke 23 record basically the same details, I'll only post Luke's Crucifixion account:
33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.
Taking all of this at face value, there is no indication Jesus was enduring the Father's Wrath. All that's mentioned are physical tortures inflicted by wicked men. Luke here clearly emphasizes Jesus' innocence while undergoing a murder (41, 47-48). This is all very odd if Jesus is enduring some kind of invisible spiritual torments from His Father taking place during this same time.

Some Protestants say (in desperation) that the "darkness" that came over the land signified God's anger upon Jesus. But where does the text really say this? Quite simply, God was indeed angry, but it was not His Son He was angry at, but rather the cosmic tragedy of having His Son murdered. People seeing this would know something is wrong, and indeed many seeing these things (rightly) concluded that Jesus was unjustly put to death, and they "returned home beating their breasts" in lamentation.

It should be noted here that while Luke records Jesus as saying "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit," the accounts in Matthew and Mark leave this out and record another saying of Jesus, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46-47; Mark 15:34-35) Out of complete desperation, many great Protestant scholars and apologists will latch onto this "forsaken me" comment as their chief proof that Jesus was being spiritually forsaken by the Father, having the Father pour out His Fury on Jesus with the wrath that our sins deserve in hell. But the text says nothing of this, and the context is oblivious to it. In fact, the context goes so far as to record that some of the Jews thought that Jesus was calling on Elijah's intercession when Jesus said this, which is the least important detail we need to know about the Crucifixion.

But that's not all. The plain and simple fact is, Jesus was simply calling to mind Psalm 22:1, which beings: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me?" This is a Messianic Psalm about how God allows his beloved to undergo persecution, but that in the end God will rescue them and make everything okay. What Jesus was doing was called Intoning the Psalm, similar to how when we hear "Our Father, Who art in Heaven," we know the priest is talking specifically about the Lord's Prayer. Now consider some noteworthy verses from this Psalm:
7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet
17 I can count all my bones, they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
Consider how these details perfectly match the Crucifixion accounts. They mocked Jesus and challenged God to rescue Him if in fact He was the Messiah. They clearly "pierced his hands and feet" with nails. And all four Gospels record that they cast lots for his clothing. Plainly, this entire Psalm is a prophecy about the suffering of Jesus. And this has nothing to do with the Father's Wrath. Indeed, some Protestant scholars say that God 'Gid his face' from Jesus, and yet verse 24 of this Psalm explicitly says God did not hide His face. So you can see the desperation these Protestant scholars are in.

And finally, if the "forsaken me" quote is in fact the crucial text showing us that Jesus endured the Father's Wrath, then someone forgot to tell Luke (and John) that, for Luke (and John) don't even mention this! So if Protestants are right, that means that Luke (and John) left out the most important detail! Instead, Luke records Jesus as saying something a lot 'softer', "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." The only hope a Protestant has at that point is to say "into your hands" is another way of saying "forsaken me," which is just too absurd to take seriously. 

The only other account to consider is the Gospel of John, Chapter 19:16-29. Since most of this text is the same as the other Gospels, including John explicitly linking the dividing garments and casting lots to Psalm 22 (Jn 19:23-24), I'll only cite the last part:
So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
As with the other Gospel writers, the text is silent about any of the Father's Wrath. But John certainly took the time to talk about Jesus having the alertness to talk to John about entrusting His Mother to him.

As for verses 28-30, many Protestants will point to Jesus' words "It is finished" and come to the erroneous conclusion that Jesus 'paid it all' and that if we attempt to do anything for our salvation we are rejecting "the finished work of Christ." I address this error in another post (Here). Simply stated, this 'finished' in verse 28 corresponds to the "fulfilling of Scripture" regarding "I thirst." It turns out John was appealing to another Psalm very similar to Psalm 22, in this case Psalm 69:21, “for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” Psalm 69 was about David being persecuted unjustly by the Jews, which is a Messianic prophecy for Jesus being persecuted unjustly by the Jews. Also consider that John quotes Psalm 69 in regards to “zeal for your house will consume me” (2:17) and “They hated me without a cause” (15:25).

So in the end, the Protestant should be quite embarrassed to see the non-existent evidence of Penal Substitution in the Gospels and the Gospel accounts.

The one last nail in the coffin evidence to consider is how the Apostles preached about the Crucifixion in the book of Acts. Jason Stellman records the findings in an article devoted to this topic, and the verses he cites I now re-post in brief:
Peter said: “. . . this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (2:23-24)

Peter again: “. . . the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses” (3:13-15).

and again: . . . let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead - by him this man is standing before you well.” (4:10-11).

and again: “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree” (5:10).

and again: “. . . we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day. . . .” (10:37-40).

Now Paul: “. . . And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead” (13:27-30).
This is utterly astonishing, for in every single public preaching of the Gospel the Apostles did in Acts, there is no mention of the Father's Wrath, which is the heart of the Cross according to Protestants. Instead, we repeatedly see a sharp distinction between what man did and what God did: they killed Jesus, but God raised Him.

Now why would Protestants insist on such an unbiblical doctrine? The reason is because Penal Substitution is a crucial part of Justification by Faith Alone, so if Psub falls, so does their pet doctrine. And that's not an easy thing to let go, for it means the Reformation was an entire lie. 
It's really posts like these that vindicate Catholicism as the true religion of the Bible.


Anonymous said...

The true outpouring of the Holy Spirit of truth happens before the 5th shofar and 5th vial is poured. Revelation 7:3-4,13-14 Revelation 9:4! Joel 2:28-29-this happens in the homes of God's people and their family members (read Isaiah 26:20-21)! the people of God flee all man made churches, anything of the identical jesus christ movement. then Joel 2:30 which shows the aftermath of the sixth and fifth shofar sounds and fifth and sixth vial poured. then Joel 2:31-32 happens...

must watch and hear video on youtube titled, "Christ testimony of the churches -around the world." there are two identical Jesus Christ revelation 17:8. most of revelation is happening in the spirit world. that's why Jesus said it would be like the days of Noah and Lot. the abomination of desolation is happening in the spirit realm inside all these man made buildings set up for worship. the Christians and catholics, etc are not aware of what's happening to them and around them in these places, (churches -any four wall building representing God to gather believers of Christ). these churches around the world are all connected to "The Great City" Revelation 11, which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt and Mystery of iniquity. Church leaders around the world are searching of the earthly signs. this will not happen until the very last day and hour. God will not allow man to destroy the earth with nuclear bombs. read matthew 3:12 and Revelation 20:9. God sends his son to the earth with the fire behind him consuming all his enemies which are left from the resurrection of the dead and those that are alive. the body of Christ is gathered as the son of man appears at last sound of shofar, he is coming while the wheat are gathered and the tares are left as the chaff and earth is consumed by the fire of God.

JohnD said...


1. You and Jason have not mentioned Acts 4:27-28 in which Jesus's demise is described as being planned and orchestrated by the Father's hand. Surely, the Father willing that Christ suffer such a brutal death can be construed as an expression of wrath. That is not coextensive with the idea of suffering God's wrath, since as you point out, His suffering was both visible and invisible.

2. The PSA position is quite consistent with Jesus applying Psalm 22:1 to Himself. It is a legitimate to infer that Christ regarded Himself as "forsaken by the God."

3. More evidence that it is not just physical pain and persecution going on is seen in Matthew 26:37-39 and Luke 22:41-45. Christ is in anguish and sweats drops of blood. This evidence is strong considering the fact that martyrs died terrible deaths with songs on their lips. Is the God man so much weaker than the martyrs that He must sweat with such anguish and cry out on the cross?

3. It is unfortunate to hear this type of argumentation, "And finally, if the "forsaken me" quote is in fact the crucial text showing us that Jesus endured the Father's Wrath, then someone forgot to tell Luke (and John) that, for Luke (and John) don't even mention this!" . Non-Christians that attack the reliability of the Gospels and the Christian story will not hesitate to say this. The Gospel writers all had their own context, their own audience, and their own emphases. They had their own sources and wrote with their own style. It is not surprising that they do not include/mention the same details in certain areas. Yet, by faith, we believe the Holy Spirit has included everything he wanted written down, and all of it is inspired and useful.

Anonymous said...

1 - Saying that Jesus's demise was orchestrated by the Father's hand is not the same thing as saying God planned to pour His wrath (or a construction). Job suffered by the hand of God, and Naomi was aflicted by God, but God has no 'punitive' wrath against both.

The theory of God in anger against an innocent is self-defeating.

2 - The face-hiding nullifies the PS thing.

3 - Just wishful thinking. The martyrs sing, but they fell pain and anguish (well, certainly the Holy Ghost is with them too - and in certain sense make the suffering less painful). Or Jesus is not human and He does not feel pain and anguish? Also, there is a HUGE difference between a 'common martyr' like, say, St. Peter, and the Sacrificial Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of whole world.

Also, He said 'In your hands I commit my spirit'. It is a very full-of-victory message! The tears and sweats of blood are not so noteworthy compared with the definitive victory.

3 - In fact, I also think it isn't so good as argument.
But, at least in some sense: if the Wrath theory is so important, why not at least another Jew-oriented Gospel like John said something about it? And even, Luke was very near from St. Paul, and theoretically Paul also said many things about atonement.

Hymeneus said...


1. The observation that God planned Christ's passion is trivial because he "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." By your line of reasoning, we would have to say that all suffering is the outpouring of God's wrath. Was it God's wrath that Job experienced?

2. The quotation of Psalm 22 does not work because the psalmist indicates that God has not truly forsaken him (v. 24) even though it may seem that way when we suffer. Furthermore, even if v. 1 is ripped from its context, there is a lot of work to be done to show that "forsaken" is a synonym for "poured out your wrath on." It's hard to say that this is a plausible interpretation if no external text demands such an interpretation.

3. I guess you are essentially calling our Lord a whimp. Although martyrs have gone to their deaths with varying emotions, it is a very rare thing that people go to their deaths without any trepidation. I hardly think sweating blood, which I understand to be a documented albeit rare medical phenomenon, necessitates that Jesus received the Father's wrath. Is everyone who sweats blood or suffers in similar extremes also receiving the wrath of the Father? There are a number of dimensions to Jesus's agony that I have seen of which I will suggest a few.

Jesus suffered more because, being God, he had fuller and more present awareness of what he was to suffer. When a martyr goes to his death "with a song on his lips," if he has no fear, it is because he has forgotten that he will suffer or because he has been numbed to the effects of that knowledge. Human nature recoils at death because death is unnatural and human nature desires its own good. Christ had a perfect awareness of his sufferings always present before him.

It was fitting that Christ should suffer exceedingly in order to make satisfaction all the more exceedingly for our sins. "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." The depth of his suffering mirrors the depth of his love for us.

It is likely that Christ was under demonic attack in the garden just as his temptation in the desert, and likely to a exponentially greater degree.

There are other things that could be said about this, but the contention that Christ ought not to have suffered so much either boils down to a denial of his humanity, that Christ should not have experienced natural human passions, or an accusation that Christ is a whimp. Was Christ also being a whimp when he wept for Lazarus, knowing that Lazarus would be raised from the dead? Or was Christ crying because he received the wrath of te Father then too?

4. I think it is telling that any explicit statement of this doctrine is totally absent from the New Testament. I have heard penal substitution called one of the few points of Christianity which is so essential that to deny is to deny the very Gospel. You would think that if the outpouring of the Father's wrath was the essence of the Passion, it would be mentioned or alluded to in all four Passion accounts. As it stands, I don't see it in any of them.

Hymeneus said...

That said, I think any complete treatment of this question ought to address Jeremiah 25:15 and Isaiah 51:17 which do link the image of a cup and God's wrath. I almost never see these referenced defending penal substitution, but these could be used and are, in my opinion, the strongest prooftexts that someone could muster in its defense.

JohnD said...


Thanks for the reply. My initial post was more about citing some counter-evidences rather than making an all-out dogmatic defense of penal substitution.

1. You are correct that God orchestrating an evil event does not necessitate His wrath. Nevertheless, when it is mentioned that God brings about evil in a causal way, this is frequently connected with His Divine judgment/wrath.

2. If Christ is applying Psalm 22:1 to Himself, then it is legitimate to say that either He was forsaken by the Father or felt as if He was forsaken by the Father. I'm not sure how He could feel forsaken without actually being forsaken. So, it seems legitimate to conclude the He was forsaken. God does not have to hide His face from the people that He punishes. Some say what makes Hell so Hell-ish is that God is there.

3. The whole point is that I argued that Christ is NOT a wimp. Thus, if He is not a wimp and still cried out in anguish and sweat with trepidation, this is evidence of an extraordinary crucifixion as far as pain and punishment are concerned. This is not proof, but evidence.

4. The atonement and cross of Christ is indeed a central tenet of the Gospel, but to deny the PSA model does not mean someone denies the Gospel. It would be an extreme position to deem anyone denying penal substitution a denier of the Gospel. While those who argue for PSA would say it is the most consistent out-working of the atonement, they would not say that anyone objecting to PSA is non-Christian.

Nick said...


The two other folks pretty much said what I would say. The "forsaking" of Psalm 22:1 is that of not sending divine help against the enemies. When a person is persecuted, it can be seen as a kind of being 'forsaken' when God doesn't come to your rescue.

Hymeneus said...

Dear JohnD

I don't have much more to say on this issue other than what I have already said, so I will just restate a few things quickly.

1. The expressions used in Acts 4:28 and Ephesians 1:11 are essentially identical. The crucifixion was according to what God's "counsel determined." Is this an expression of God's wrath? No, because all things are according to his counsel (Eph. 1:11). God created you according to his counsel. Was that an expression of God's wrath too? Of course not. This is an absurd line of argument.

2. Enough had already been said about this. It suffices to say that Psalm 22 contains nothing about God's wrath or damnation.

3. I'm sure suffering the Father's wrath in the garden (whatever that is supposed to mean) would be a cause of great anguish, but the fact is that there are so many sensible reasons for Jesus's agony that it is unnecessary to bring this explanation into the picture, since it is nonsensical to begin with. It is one thing to say that the world's sins were "imputed" onto Christ and that he was punished for them on the cross, but quite another to say that he was already "suffering the Father's wrath" in the garden. What does it mean that he "suffered the Father's wrath" at this point? I have heard people say such outrageous things as, "and this is the point when God the Father broke fellowship with his Son." What? Is this reconcilable with our doctrine of Trinity? Is this something other than an attack on Christ's full divinity?

4. You are more charitable than many. A quick Google search on "penal substitution" turned up this little article.

"In all of our zeal to contend for every doctrine of the bible (as commendable as such an attitude is), we would do well to remember that only a relatively few doctrines are so vital for the purity of the gospel that, to deny them is, in essence, to corrupt the good news of salvation in Christ. It is only fitting that, when we see these doctrines under attack, we give the primacy of our attention to defending them. And such a doctrine is the biblical conception of the atonement; that is, the conception that the atonement involves the substitution of Christ for us, by which, having taken upon himself our sins, he willingly undergoes the righteous wrath of the Father in our place. In other words, it is vital that we contend for an account of the atonement which views it as penal (that Christ satisfied the penalty of the law, as the righteousness of the Father demanded) substitution (that he underwent this penalty in our place). Any other model of the atonement will both fail the test of biblical witness, and leave us without an adequate plea for forgiveness and acceptance with God."

In sum, I really don't see anything that indicates penal substitution anywhere in the Bible. Rather, these sorts of prooftexts are wrested away from their plain meanings in order to shoehorn double imputation into the Gospels where it doesn't fit. If double imputation were true, penal substitution should be far more clearly stated in the Scriptures, but it isn't. If you currently hold to the view of penal substitution and are not just arguing as the devil's advocate, I would encourage you to reconsider these texts and ask yourself if penal substitution is really what the Bible is saying.

Anonymous said...

Nick, are you saying that Christ did not pay the penalty for our sins? If not, then what happened on the cross other than an innocent person being put to death?

The Lord Jesus was called the Lamb of God by John the Baptist, implying that he was a substitute as the animal sacrifices on the day of atonement were a substitute for the Jews.

Nick said...


Jesus died for our sins, but this did not consist in something akin to taking the electric-chair in our place. In brief, Protestants think that since we deserve hellfire for our sins, then Jesus must have endured hellfire in our place, which consisted in the Father pouring out His Wrath that was due to us on the person of Jesus instead. That's not Biblical at all.

Please go through this blog and search the term "Penal Substitution". See "Atonement according to Scripture" especially, since this shows that the Bible *never* defines or understands "atonement" to involve transferring punishment to a substitute.

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Roger Frost said...

Jesus Son of the Living God was a plan set motion from God the Father

question: "What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God?"

Answer: Jesus is not God’s Son in the sense of a human father and a son. God did not get married and have a son. God did not mate with Mary and, together with her, produce a son. Jesus is God’s Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in human form (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is God's Son in that He was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:35 declares, “The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’”