A few days ago, I read about a Chinese billionaire who put down $500,000 for several bottles of rare vintage wine. I’m not a wine drinker, so it’s tough for me to understand why someone with more money than sense would plop down such a huge sum for something they’ll end up transporting from the bottle to a glass to their liver to a toilet. To me, it’s not worth it. But a good cigar or root beer, maybe…
Wine shows up all over the Bible. And in spite of what a lot of religious people say, it’s not the “devil’s brew”. Several Scripture references declare it to be a blessing, a gift from God, and something to be enjoyed (in moderation). But there’s a flip side to wine–its use as a metaphor. Several Bible prophets use an abudance of wine and grape harvest as a metaphor for abundant spiritual blessing in the time of the Messiah (so the point of Jesus turning water into wine in John 2 has nothing to do with the alcohol content of his brew–it has to do with Him showing everyone that He was the Messiah). But there’s also wine used as a metaphor of God’s judgment. The wine making process, specifically the pressing of grapes, is used many times by the Bible’s authors as a picture of God’s wrath and judgment on the wicked. Look how the author of Psalm 75:8 puts it,
For a cup is in the hand of the Lord, and the wine foams; it is well mixed, and He pours out of this; surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.
The dregs are the sediment of the wine that settles at the bottom. In other words, the wicked will experience every part of God’s judgment (to steal a phrase from a coffee commercial) “down to the last drop.”
Depending on the circles of people you run in, this is either a very popular or very unpopular concept. There are still a lot of Christians who seem like they’re trying to fast forward God’s time table on judging the wicked. They’re busy pointing out the evils of society, the wickedness of certain groups of people, and are completely leaving out the love, grace, and forgiveness of God. On the other hand, a lot of people are so uncomfortable with God’s judgment that they completely throw it out because they feel that God is a solely a God of love. So what are we to make of it–Is God a God of judgment? Is He a God of love?
Yes. He is both. It is most clearly seen on the cross of Christ.
On the cross, God poured out His wrath and judgment for sin on Jesus because of His great love for us. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, those who decide to become Christians no longer have to fear God’s judgment. Our reaction should be that we don’t want to see others have to suffer it. That’s what makes evangelism (helping others become followers of Jesus) so important. It’s why I do what I do–I started a church for people who would be stunned to find themselves in church, a church that starts churches for people who would be stunned to find themselves in church.
There must be a balance. Yes, we must talk about the wrath of God. Yes, we must talk about the love and grace of God. One without the other presents a distorted picture of God. In order to present a biblical picture of God, both in wrath and in love, we must point people to the cross.