The Winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God

October 18, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 10:28 am   Category: Theology

One argument some make for the idea that Christ takes our punishment for us (like some form of whipping boy) in the atonement is found twice in the Doctrine and Covenants. It is found in D&C 76:107 and in D&C 88:106.

These read (with context)

D&C 76
These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work; When he shall deliver up the kingdom, and present it unto the Father, spotless, saying: I have overcome and have trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.

D&C 88
And again, another angel shall sound his trump, which is the seventh angel, saying: It is finished; it is finished! The Lamb of God hath overcome and trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God


These scriptures are then taken and used to say that Christ has overcome the winepress and Christ has trodden the winepress. [1] So here, treading the winepress alone is seen as Christ ringing out his atonement in order to take upon himself the fierceness of the wrath so that we don’t have to. It’s the loving grace-filled Jesus who loves us and wants us to be happy at all costs, even to the taking of pain upon himself.

It’s a nice idea, but completely incorrect.

The first clue should be that D&C 76:106 (quoted above) says that when Christ notes that he treads the winepress, he has just kicked the cast the sons of perdition down to hell to suffer the wrath of the Almighty, so it would be a bit of a non-sequitter for him to then say he has overcome and trodden said wrath alone.

The second clue is that after making both of the above statements, the D&C does have a third scripture invoking the trodden winepress. It quotes (pretty much quotes it, anyway) Isaiah 63 and says:

D&C 133:50-51
And his voice shall be heard: I have trodden the wine-press alone, and have brought judgment upon all people; and none were with me; And I have trampled them in my fury, and I did tread upon them in mine anger, and their blood have I sprinkled upon my garments, and stained all my raiment; for this was the day of vengeance which was in my heart.

So Christ treading the Winepress alone is his bringing forth judgment upon the people and trampling them in his fury. This is not Christ taking God’s punishment for us, but is his giving it out to us!

In fact, The winepress of the fierceness of the Wrath of God in the D&C is referential to scriptures and ideas found in the King James Version of the New Testament (this inter-relatedness, I believe, is the primary reason why Latter-Day Saints are encouraged to use the KJV when it is available.) It is found in the Book of Revelations 19:15, and Joseph Smith, in his revelatory work upon the meanings within the bible further clarified the meaning:

JST Rev. 19: 15
And out of his mouth proceedeth the word of God, and with it he will smite the nations; and he will rule them with the word of his mouth; and he treadeth the wine-press in the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

So again it is Christ who is fierce, and Christ who is wrathful. Which brings me to my question.

Often, I take the “warm fuzzy” view that the hell ascribed to the sinner is the sin and the natural consequences of the sin. The Judgment is our shrinking from the father due to our sins, not his wrath. Hell is having no friends because you’re a jerk, rather than a place where jerks go. Blake says God loves us so much that the only condition on his unconditional love is our choosing not to be in the relationship, at which point it pains him to let us go, which he does because he loves us.

So where does that leave the Wrath of God? What is the Wrath of God?

Discuss. [2]
_________________________________________________________________________________
[1] Personally, I think these scriptures should be read with some sort of breaking marker to clarify their meaning. I suggest the following:

D&C 76
These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work; When he shall deliver up the kingdom, and present it unto the Father, spotless, saying: I have overcome; and have trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.

D&C 88
And again, another angel shall sound his trump, which is the seventh angel, saying: It is finished; it is finished! The Lamb of God hath overcome; and trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God

[2] I hate when blog posts end with the word discuss. It bugs me.

21 Comments »

  1. I’ve always thought that the ‘wrath of God’ was another way of saying the ‘natural consequences of sin.’ He won’t take that away.

    Comment by Hal — October 18, 2007 @ 10:52 am

  2. Might the wrath of God be allowing us to suffer on account of our own sins. Either repent, ‘or else’. And the ‘or else’ being described in D&C 19.

    Since Christ serves as judge, will he not be a type of executioner of eternal law? He will judge if our repentence is sufficient, and if not, then unpleasant things happen.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — October 18, 2007 @ 11:41 am

  3. King Benjamin talks about “divine justice” and drinking from “the cup of the wrath of God” as being “consigned to a view of their own guilt and abominations.” (Mosiah 2:38, 3:24-26) I think God’s wrath is simply letting us see ourselves as we really are in contrast to God; sinful, carnal, and not able to be in a relationship with a holy being. I think it’s our accusing finger being pointed–God simply provides the mirror.

    Comment by Derek — October 18, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

  4. No one says that hell isn’t a real place, it just isn’t forever. The idea that people go to hell is real, Alma the Younger knew that, but that is prior to the resurrection to glory. It is during judgment when the veil is removed and those who are not in a covenant relationship with Christ must wait until the second resurrection.

    There is judgment coming to the living on this world as well, and I think it is in the mortal sphere that this statement mainly applies to. Christ has been given the keys of judgment since he is the perfect judge, and he will destroy those who work against his purposes in order to usher in the Millennium.

    Comment by Kent — October 18, 2007 @ 1:01 pm

  5. D&C 19 seems to support the idea that the wrath of God can be attributed to Christ. It seems quite clear that Christ is taking punishment for us. However:

    Verse 10 states that “I” [God] am endless, and that endless punishment is “my” punishment. Verse 15 commands us to repent or else we will be smitten by “my” wrath and anger; and our sufferings will be sore and hard to bear. Then in verse 16: “I, God” have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent. Verses 18 and 19 then make it clear that “I, God,” is indeed the Savior, who drank the bitter cup, glory be to the Father.

    Interesting…

    Comment by (BiV) — October 18, 2007 @ 1:53 pm

  6. What’s wrong with Christ being mad at us for a refussal to live together in love?

    Comment by Jacob M — October 18, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

  7. Kent:

    Would you say “hell” is not forever for the Devil and the Sons of Perdition?

    BiV:
    Due to divine investiture of authority in the use of the first person in the D&C, I wouldn’t read to much into it. I mean this is Joseph Smith speaking for Jesus Speaking for Heavenly Father or the Godhead…

    Comment by Matt W. — October 18, 2007 @ 3:24 pm

  8. Matt: So where does that leave the Wrath of God?

    It leaves it as a metaphor. If it doesn’t then God is much more petty and uncharitable than the scriptures indicate.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

  9. If it doesn’t then God is much more petty and uncharitable than the scriptures indicate.

    I don’t see that. Anger is not the contrary of love. Indifference is the contrary of love.

    I don’t believe in a God who can’t get angry at sin and oppression.

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — October 18, 2007 @ 4:56 pm

  10. Matt – I believe that hell is only forever for those who choose for it to be forever. Even Satan can repent in my view.

    Geoff – If God takes people out of this life because they cause suffering that is too great for him to bear, why is it uncharitable for those he leaves behind. (Again, wrath is a mortal thing as I see it).

    Comment by Kent — October 18, 2007 @ 5:20 pm

  11. Adam – I’m not saying God can’t get angry. I am saying that the way the term “the wrath of God” is used in scriptures is generally allegorical. God doesn’t get all pissed off and beat his children.

    Kent – I don’t understand your question.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2007 @ 7:51 pm

  12. Matt, I know what divine investiture is. But I think many times we use the term to explain away problematic passages. I just don’t think Joseph, Moses, Jesus, or anyone else speaks for God one second and then in the same sentence speaks for themselves. Read the passage and try to explain it with divine investiture.

    Comment by BiV — October 19, 2007 @ 12:17 am

  13. Kent: I can agree with that, but I would say we probably would be able to easily identify those who choose it forever. Further just because Satan can repent, technically speaking, doesn’t mean he ever will repent, based on who he is. So, from my point of view, Satan can not repent because He will never repent.

    Geoff, the winepress is a metaphor, the furrows full of blood the winepress fills are a metaphor (See Rev 14). Smiting us with the words of his mouth is metaphorical. A lot of things surrounding the Wrath of God are metaphorical in many scriptures, but God’s Wrath, seems consistently mentioned. I do think it is innapropriate to apply the typical Human understanding of Wrath. I agree with you and Adam. A God with parts and Passions is going to get angry. This makes me think of President Hinkley’s Caveat on his most recent PH talk.

    Anger may be justified in some circumstances. The scriptures tell us that Jesus drove the moneychangers from the temple, saying, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). But even this was spoken more as a rebuke than as an outburst of uncontrolled anger.

    Lastly, I wanted to add that apparantly, as usual, I am not the first to think about this. While looking for examples of misuse of the phrase “winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of the Almight God” on lds.org, I did come accross this aricle by Truman Madsen where he uses the phrase correctly, to interesting effects.

    For those who don’t like Links, he says:

    To merit that name, to take it upon him, to seal it everlastingly upon himself—to become the Light of the worlds—Jesus was required to tread the press. In eventual triumph the Messiah was to say, “I have trodden the … press” (in this case the winepress, not the olive press, but the two merge in allegory as in life) “and none were with me.” “The Lamb of God hath … trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.” [14] It is one thing to take off one’s sandals and trample the grapes in the stone vat. It is another to be trodden upon, trampled, crushed until the very tissues of the heart cry out for relief and release and until “mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own” (D&C 88:40), “that he may know, according to the flesh, how to succor his people.” (Alma 7:12.)

    The footnote says:

    14. See Isa. 63:3; JST, Rev. 19:15; D&C 76:107; D&C 88:106; D&C 133:50. In Joseph Smith’s translation of Rev. 19:15, the “of” is changed to “in.” The “of” renderings make it appear that Jesus was the object of the fierce wrath of God. The “in” revision suggests that as the Son of God he brought his own fierce wrath to bear against sin and sinfulness.

    And I thought I was all original and brilliant… Shows what I know…

    Comment by Matt W. — October 19, 2007 @ 6:10 am

  14. Biv: There are several instances where in the same breath Christ says- “This is my Beloved Son” and “I am Jesus Christ” throughout the scriptures. Due to this, I have given up on sorting out who is who. (One prominent example that comes to mind is Moses 1)

    Comment by Matt W. — October 19, 2007 @ 6:13 am

  15. Matt:
    In my wrath, I have pressed my children in punishment for their wrongdoing. In doing so, I have felt bad for them – that they had to experience this punishment because of their wrongdoing. So, in a very real sense, I feel the stain of their wrongdoing because I am the instrument that brings their wrongdoing back in line with accepatable behavior. Making them right is a painful experience for me. But, I do it because I love them and know they need it to return to fellowship with the proper way.

    I feel that we can only administer punishment in a proper way, when is is done primarily for the benefit of the individual. That it may have societal benefit also is secondary or tertiary to the propriety of administering punishment.

    I admit that I do not comprehend this correlation of justice and punishment and probably cannot while here in mortality. I only know that nothing else makes sense.

    Comment by mondo cool — October 19, 2007 @ 10:35 am

  16. Also, as you say Blake says, it pains Him to let us go; but, my take is that it pains Him to bring us back.

    Comment by mondo cool — October 19, 2007 @ 10:40 am

  17. Mondo:
    Blake definitely maintains that it pains him to bring us back. That idea is central to his atonement theory, in fact. I’ll give you my book, if I ever finish it.

    I would also point out you are equating wrath with punishment and not anger. I think this is what many others are doing as well.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 19, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

  18. I wonder if our interpretation of God’s wrath or anger is just that – our interpretation. My take is that we see God as one way towards us when we are in harmony with the principles of eternity; His will, if you will. When we are not, we see Him much differently.

    But, in reality, He is always consistent with those same principles of eternity – that what is really out of kelter is us and, therefore, our interpretation of His “attitude” or “feelings” towards us.

    I’m not sure that wrath, punishment, and anger are from different kettles. I acknowledge the many, many difficiencies of the following illustration but the ant hill is a pretty orderly place until it is disturbed. Then, it is “angry” until the formicidae orderliness is re-established.

    Comment by mondo cool — October 19, 2007 @ 1:25 pm

  19. So the wrath of God is like the wrath of an animal. Intersting.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 20, 2007 @ 6:52 am

  20. Anyone else want to point out the deficiencies?

    Comment by mondo cool — October 20, 2007 @ 9:48 pm

  21. I believe the term “wrath of God” is one of those “more express” phrases, designed to “work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for [His] name’s glory.” (cf D&C 19:7)

    God’s wrath can only be in righteousness, never out of spite or malice or any form of “pay back”. We should know and believe, if we are believers, that God is all-loving and full of grace. His work and glory is our immortality and eternal life. We know He loves us because it cost the suffering and death of His Beloved Son to bring salvation within our reach. But reach we must.

    God’s wrath, for what it is, is I believe the natural consequence of the violation of the eternal laws within which all intelligent beings dwell. God’s wrath is, in my humble opinion, His warning of consequences that follow our wrong choices as naturally as thunder follows lightning.

    God knows we make wrong choices, which is why in His mercy He has provided our escape, then with His Son’s very life, paved the way out. However, if we do not walk that path, then we are unavoidably prey to the forces He seeks to shield us from.

    His wrath is a just and natural consequences of wrong choices made, unless the natural law is satisfied in some other manner (ie via the Atonement and our repentance).

    All life is choice. Choice is, after all, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (Eve: “I chose to partake and will be cast out.” Adam: “I choose to go with you.” The consequences of mortality followed necessitating a Saviour.)

    Right choices = happiness and joy and God’s blessings for all eternity.
    Wrong choices (if unrepentant) = misery and sorrow and the inevitable consequences of eternal law, not to our blessing.

    God’s wrath is not His desire. But as brother Madsen puts it, with the proud He needs to use a jackhammer…

    The Bish

    Comment by The Bish — December 31, 2007 @ 4:32 am

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