Thursday, September 19, 2019

"The wrath of God remains on him"? - More problems with Penal Substitution

I was talking with a friend and I remembered a fascinating verse (John 3:36): "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." This verse is powerful in two ways, which I'll now discuss.
First, as some observant folks have pointed out, we see John clearly show the opposite of "believes in the Son" is not "disbelieves the Son," but rather "does not obey the Son." This means that in John's mind, to "believe" and to "obey" are synonymous. This obviously causes problems for the surface-level reading of many Protestants, wherein they think John is advocating a one time act of faith saves you forever. Rather, John is using the verb "believe" and "has" in the Greek Present-Tense, meaning that a person only presently "has" eternal life only so long as he is presently "believing," which is to say he is only saved as long as he is presently "obeying" the Lord Jesus. If the believer stops believing, or stops obeying, the having of eternal life also ceases as well. (See THIS POST to learn about how the Bible defines having Eternal Life, and how Protestants completely misunderstand it. Also THIS POST to see that a person "for whom Christ died" can be lost.)
Second, and more importantly for this post, the verse says that for those who do not believe, "the wrath of God remains on them." This is fascinating because it indicates that everyone (except Adam, Eve, Jesus, and Mary) begins this life with "the wrath of God" upon them by default. Only when a person turns to believing in Jesus does the "wrath of God" stop being on that person. Otherwise, it "remains" on you if you don't accept Jesus. But this means that the "wrath of God" was upon all of us at some point, which is impossible in the Penal Substitution model, since it teaches that Jesus endured the wrath of God in our place. And imagine a person who did not start believing in God until he got to his deathbed, maybe even the "Thief On The Cross" (See THIS POST), this means that the wrath of God was upon them for 99% of their life. Does that make any sense? No. Penal Substitution clearly didn't protect the Good Thief from being under God's Wrath, nor does it for any adult convert for all their prior years. But really, it doesn't matter how long God's Wrath is upon you, what matters is that it could never be upon you per the Penal Substitution claim. This also refutes the minority view among Calvinists which teaches that the Elect are "eternally forgiven" so that they are never born under God's Wrath (which I addressed HERE).
Furthermore, we learn another valuable lesson with this "wrath of God" upon the unbeliever, namely that the "wrath of God" does not automatically mean something along the lines of God's eternal wrath suffered in hellfire. But regardless, whatever this "wrath of God" refers to, it is not something that is everlasting or so sever that a person cannot survive, otherwise it wouldn't be able to be removed by faith. It is worth noting that the verse does not even suggest the Son takes this wrath in your place, especially given that you don't have eternal life should you ever cease to believe (obey). So even if a Protestant were to ever push the issue, saying that Jesus suffered "the wrath of God," the burden would be upon them to prove what exactly this meant, since this verse (and other wrath verses) do not suggest the wrath of God is some eternal infinite hellfire punishment, but something more pertaining to earthly suffering (e.g. Romans 1:18-27 suggests falling into a sexually depraved lifestyle is a form of God's wrath being upon a person, and many people prior to converting have lived sexually depraved lifestyles, cf 1 Cor 6:9-11). 
Finally, consider what Paul says about the civil authorities:
Romans 13: 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes...
Notice that not only are pagans suffering God's wrath when they disobey legitimate authority and are (justly) punished by that authority, but Paul is going further and warning Christians to obey legitimate authority so that they can also avoid suffering "God's wrath" in the form of civil punishment. This is even more devastating, since it doesn't make sense for a Christian to be at risk of suffering God's wrath if Jesus allegedly suffered it in their place. (This Romans 13:3-6 passage is similar to the bind that 1 Cor 11:32 puts on Protestants, as I pointed out HERE). 
And to drive the nail finally into the coffin, my friend noticed that on Good Friday, the Good Thief says:
Luke 23: 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 [i.e. the Good Thief] 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.”
Notice that the Good Thief explicitly says he is being justly punished for his sins, and even after turning to Jesus, Jesus does not take the Good Thief down from his cross, but rather leaves the Good Thief to suffer the penalty of his crimes. So Jesus did not take away the Good Thief's punishments, which is a concrete example of Jesus not taking the punishment a person deserved.


JohnD said...

I know this objection (the application of PSA atonement *at a moment of time*) is addressed in a chapter of "Pierced for Our Transgressions." I have to try to find my copy, but I think you could strengthen your points in this post if you interact with their explanation and show why you think it doesn't go through.

Nick said...

I'd be curious to hear what they have to say.

R. Zell said...

Hi Nick,

I'm hosting a discussion on James 2:14-26 based on one of your blog posts. Please be there as I will need help. 09/24 at 8pm EST.

Its on the Zell Challenge Channel.