Our Calling This Shemitah Year, Part 1: The 5 Primary Events of Wrath
In 2014, the Feast of Trumpets kicked off the Shemitah year. Nine days later was the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and just three days after that the second of four blood moons occurred. The Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, the Shemitah year, the tetrad of blood moons – what do all these have to do with each other? What do they have to do with us? And what can we do to participate in God’s plan?
We’ll start by looking back and let that point us to what’s ahead. First, let’s set the context for all of God’s actions. What is God’s ultimate goal with man? We see it in the beginning, and we see it at the very end.
In Genesis 3:8-9, the Bible tells us,
“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”
Here we see God walking among Adam and Eve in the Garden, he speaks to them, he desires to be with them. There is no separation between them, no unrighteousness coming between God and man.
We see the same thing again at the very end of the story of man in Revelation 21:3:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’”
Then in verse 5 it says,
“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.’”
This is his goal: to dwell with man. Everything in between the fall of man and our eternal dwelling place with God is for the purpose of reconciling his holiness with our free will. To understand God’s heart for this time, we have to keep his true desire in mind: dwelling eternally with his creatures by their own free will.
Yeshua’s Second Coming
The Fall Feasts – the Feasts of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles – are a rehearsal of Yeshua’s second coming. The events of Yeshua’s first coming exactly lined up on the Spring Feast dates, and it’s understood that the Fall Feasts are symbolic of his second coming.
His glorious coming commemorated and celebrated by his followers each year on the Feast of Trumpets is a joyous time for his followers, but not good news for those who have not accepted Yeshua as their atonement.
Remember Yeshua’s words in Matthew 25:31-41 about the sheep and the goats:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world’…. Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”
This is a sad day for those on his left — and a sad day for YHVH who wishes for none to perish, but for all to have eternal life with Him (2 Peter 3:9).
God’s Wrath in the Feasts
After this judgment comes God’s wrath, brought to mind on the Day of Atonement. We don’t like to look directly at YHVH’s wrath – and understandably so. As believers we see it through his mercy and through the understanding that we will be saved from his wrath. Unbelievers don’t believe there is any wrath coming, or at least not for them. No one wants to look at it face on.
But YHVH has to. He’s the one who decides and executes judgment on those he has loved, those he’s been calling all their lives, those for whom he sent his Son to die, hoping they would choose to accept his gift and live with him eternally.
His righteousness is just – sin cannot go unpunished, un-atoned for. We cannot live with a righteous God in our unrighteous state. Blood atonement is what makes it possible for us to live with our holy God. By the time we get to the point of judgment, those who didn’t accept Yeshua’s payment for their sin, have to pay for it themselves.
What a horrible predicament for God. This is what he’s faced with on the Day of Atonement.
The Progressive Revelation of God’s Wrath
As with all of God’s plan, the details of how it will happen are progressively revealed, repeating themselves over and over as time goes on. It’s the same when it comes to his wrath.
I want to look at five of the most prominent events of wrath discussed in the Bible. All of them have to do with our reconciliation back to God and the progressive revelation of his wrath. These events have many similarities and a pattern which led me to greater understanding of just where we are today on the timeline of his wrath to come.
The five events of God’s wrath we’ll look at are:
- The Flood of Noah’s Time
- The Day of Atonement in the Tabernacle
- Yeshua’s Death
- The Tribulation
- The Great White Throne
- THE FLOOD
The flood of Noah’s time is the biggest demonstration of God’s wrath that we see in the Hebrew scriptures.
First of all we see judgment. Genesis 6:11-13 tells us:
“Now the earth had become corrupt in God’s sight and it was filled with violence. God observed all this corruption in the world, and he saw violence and depravity everywhere. So God said to Noah, ‘I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I will wipe them all from the face of the earth.’”
God sees their wickedness and pronounces judgment on them.
Then there was a period of repentance before his wrath came. It took Noah many years to build the ark. During that time was a time of repentance for anyone else who would listen and believe, but no one did.
Next, we see the ark, which houses the only righteous people and animals on earth.
In deciding who got on the ark, we see that God separated the righteous from the unrighteous. God appoints Noah and his family to go into the ark, and God appoints specific animals to go into the ark – one male and one female that were not corrupt and could replenish the earth after the flood.
Next, we see atonement. Because there was no repentance, the wicked atoned for their own sins with their lives, their own blood.
Then we see God’s wrath. The earth was destroyed.
In the account of the flood we see the pattern of God’s cycle of wrath: judgment, a time of repentance, the standard of righteousness inside the ark, a separation of righteous from unrighteous, blood atonement, then wrath.
- PRIESTS AND THE TABERNACLE
The institution of the priests, tabernacle and sacrifices in the wilderness reveals more to us about God’s wrath and his plan for reconciliation with man.
Numbers 1:53 explains,
“The Levites are to set up their tents around the tabernacle of the covenant law so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelite community. The Levites are to be responsible for the care of the tabernacle of the covenant law.”
In Numbers 18:5 God tells Aaron, “You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelites.”
Preventing God’s wrath from falling on the people is also why we see in the instructions for the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16:16:
“He will make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleannesses of the people of Isra’el and because of their transgressions — all their sins; and he is to do the same for the tent of meeting which is there with them right in the middle of their uncleannesses.”
The covenant instructions and this means of mediation by the priests on the Day of Atonement are God’s next method of reconciliation with those who are pursuing righteousness.
In the instructions for the Day of Atonement we see repentance. Leviticus 16:5: “From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.”
The people brought the goats for the Day of Atonement, representing their acknowledgement of sin and their desire to reconcile with God.
We see judgment represented in the lots. Leviticus 16:7-10:
“7 Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. 9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.”
The priests cast lots over the two goats, then God decided which was worthy to have its blood applied to the mercy seat, and which would bear the sins of the people into isolation. This, again, is a picture of God separating the unrighteous (sin) from the righteous, once they are atoned for.
We see atonement by the goat that is sacrificed. Leviticus 16:15-16:
15 “He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been.”
The scapegoat symbolizes God’s wrath: Leviticus 16:20-22:
“…he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.”
The scapegoat can be likened to those who do not accept God’s atonement: Their sins are laid on their own head, they are sent outside the camp into “the desert,” an isolated place, their spirits do not die, but are taken alive to exist outside of God’s presence, left to fend for themselves among the predators.
We see the ark when the blood is applied to the mercy seat. Leviticus 16:15:
15 “Next, he is to slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, bring its blood inside the curtain and do with its blood as he did with the bull’s blood, sprinkling it on the ark-cover and in front of the ark-cover.”
Remember Exodus 25 when God explained the ark to Moses: He said,
“Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law that I will give you.22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.”
This ark can be likened to Noah’s ark. Both arks represent God’s presence on the earth, and both arks contain a representation of God’s righteousness – Noah and his family inside the first ark, and the tablets of the covenant law inside the second ark. We’ll see the ark in each event, because God’s righteousness and instructions are what mankind is compared to during a time of judgment.
So again, in this account, we see the cycle repeating itself, but with more definition of each aspect – repentance, judgment, separation of the righteous and unrighteous, blood atonement, the ark representing the standard of righteousness, and God’s wrath.
- YESHUA’S DEATH
The next major milestone where we see further revelation of God’s wrath and reconciliation is in Yeshua’s death.
Isaiah 53 explains the purpose of his death:
4 Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him…
12 because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
God’s wrath was poured out on Yeshua instead of on all mankind. Accepting Yeshua’s blood atonement became our path to reconciliation with God.
Let’s look at the similarities between this event and the others.
Yeshua’s message over and over was, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near.” During his three years of ministry was a time of repentance.
We see God’s judgment, his decision that mankind was, again, in need of cleansing, so that God can dwell among them.
So Yeshua’s blood atones for our sin and uncleanness.
We see God’s wrath poured out – this time on Yeshua: “He was crushed for our iniquities.”
“1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.”
Yeshua felt the separation from God as he took on the sins of the world. He felt far from God, like those separated by sin.
As soon as he died, the veil in the Holy Place was torn. This points to the ark. The judgment, atonement and blood all point to God’s standard of righteousness, his commandments housed in the Ark of the Covenant.
So here, again, we see a time of repentance, then judgment, blood atonement, a separation from God, wrath and the ark.
But, with the Messianic era that began with Yeshua’s life, we see a new symbol in the mix of these events, a new marker is going to be added to the signs of his unfolding plan. It comes in the form of a phrase. That phrase is, “It is finished.”
It is Finished
Yeshua proclaims it from the cross: John 19:30: “When he had received the drink, Yeshua said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
What is finished? We take it to mean his life, his purpose here on earth. While that’s true, I want to follow this statement into our other pictures of wrath going forward.
- THE TRIBULATION
Another major time of wrath is during the tribulation – the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven bowls/plagues. These progress until everyone who’s going to repent does so.
With each of the points of wrath in the Tribulation we see a reference to those who repent or don’t repent:
- At the end of the Seal Judgments we see those who have come through the Great Persecution dressed in white robes before God’s throne.
- At the end of the Trumpet Judgments, We see that even then those who were not killed by the plagues did not turn from their sinful lives. This means there was opportunity to do so.
- At the end of the Bowl Judgments we see that again the people cursed God for the plagues instead of repenting.
- Angels warn everyone not to take the mark of the beast, but to fear God.
Throughout the book of Revelation we see one opportunity after another for people to repent.
It’s during this event that Yeshua returns and separates the sheep from the goats as we read about in Matthew, continuing the theme of separating the righteous and unrighteous.
Obviously we see God’s judgment and wrath.
We also see that those who do not call on Yeshua’s blood atonement pay their own penalty with their own blood.
Then in Revelation 11 the ark appears – God’s symbol of the standard of righteousness to which mankind is compared. Verse 19 tells us, “Then the temple of God in heaven was opened, and the Ark of the Covenant was seen in his temple.”
In Revelation 16:17, again we see this phrase: It is finished. “The seventh angel poured out his bowl on the air, and a loud voice came out of the Temple from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’” (Most translations say, “It is done” or “accomplished.”)
What is done in this case? God’s wrath poured out during the tribulation. Could this be what Yeshua was referring to as well, when he said, “It is finished”? With his death, God’s wrath was satisfied. That was the first option mankind had for reconciliation with God, and atonement. Whoever doesn’t choose that option, comes to the second option: facing his wrath during the tribulation.
So again, the pattern repeats throughout the tribulation: A chance for repentance, God’s judgment, God’s wrath, separation of the righteous and unrighteous, blood atonement, a view of the ark, and the phrase, “it is finished.”
- THE GREAT WHITE THRONE
Then there’s the final wrath for all who have never repented – The Great White Throne judgment, where the books are opened. This is after the tribulation, after the millennium, after Satan has been loosed again and then thrown into the lake of fire. (Regardless of the eschatology you subscribe to, the repeating pattern is still relevant.)
“11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Each of these people would have had a chance for repentance during their lifetime. Here we see judgment, and wrath and those who never accepted Yeshua’s payment for their sin, atoning for their own sin.
Where’s the ark? In the next chapter it describes the new heaven, new earth and new Jerusalem. Revelation 21:22 tells us: “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”
After this wrath, there is no longer a separation between righteous and unrighteous – Everything and everyone is righteous after God’s final wrath.
And so we arrive back where we started in Revelation 21:1-6:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ 5 He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6 He said to me: ‘It is done.’
There it is – It is done/finished. What is finished in this case? God’s plan to reconcile man to himself and dwell with him with no separation. This is the plan from the beginning. This is what he’s been working toward all these centuries. In the new heaven, new earth and new Jerusalem, it is finally finished.
This is the pattern of God’s wrath throughout the Bible: A time of repentance, judgment, blood atonement, God’s standard of righteousness and separation of unrighteousness, God’s wrath, and this phrase it is finished/done.
But, it’s only finished when God dwells with man again.
One Has Passed, Two are to Come
I believe that each time we see this phrase, “It is finished/done”, it’s a marker that we’ve reached a giant milestone in God’s ultimate plan of dwelling with man, removing the wall of separation. There are three instances where it appears – all three in conjunction with God’s wrath:
- Once on the cross as God’s wrath for all mankind is poured out on Yeshua,
- Once after the tribulation when God’s wrath is poured out on all those who did not accept His Son’s death as their payment,
- Once when his final wrath is poured out on Satan, death and those whose names are not written in the book.
All of these are the major milestones in the progression of God’s plan for reconciling the righteous to himself and dwelling with them for eternity. They are also what has to take place in order to sift mankind and separate out the unrighteous.
One of the milestones has passed, two more are still to come.
This is what we are reminded of on the Day of Atonement – the wrath that’s required in order to reconcile God’s children to Himself. It’s the bittersweet scroll spoken of in Revelation.
In Part 2, we’ll look at how this pattern relates to us today and specifically this year – 2015 and how we can participate with what God’s doing in these last days.