In Luke 3:7, when John said, "who warned you to flee the coming wrath" what is a general hermeneutical survey of the view (if any) that he meant God’s mediated wrath was about to take place in allowing the Romans to destroy Jerusalem? In other words, are there any commentators that suggest it be a removal of a hedge of protection, like that described in the book of Job?

In coming across movie portrayals of John the Baptist, which depend on different hermeneutical understandings, many tend to have a hell fire and brimstone final judgment characterization.

Some, also relying on different hermeneutical perspectives, portray him as being more like some "whip up the emotions" leader that is warning about the Romans coming. See for example, this hermeneutical approach that is illustrated in a movie clip (warning minor baptismal nudity & hyper kenosis theology) ]1 from the Last Temptation of Christ.

Some commentators believe John the Baptist was speaking of hell when he said, "Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?" Are there any scholars that take a different hermeneutical view, in that John is speaking of the wrath of God, providentially mediated, through the predicted coming of the Romans to destroy Jerusalem?

As he didn't appear to do miracles, from a hermeneutical perspective, what was likely in the typical sermon that John preached out in the desert that attracted such large crowds?

In John 1:16-17, we hear the baptizer preaching things about the logos: "from the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." And in Luke 3:18, John the Baptist is stated as saying (God’s Word Translation, greek added)) “With many other encouraging (παρακαλῶν) words, he told the Good News to the people.”

Ate there any commentaries that suggest John the Baptist was perhaps more like a spin off representative of the Qumran community? Could he have been a type of Elijah like leader, a second Moses of sorts, that inspired people to be ritually cleansed so that they could be favored by the angels and thereby protected from the wrath to come? Are there any commentaries that suggest he was preaching a type of pre-tribulation rapture or a safe haven from a tribulation by escaping out in the desert?

2 Answers 2


The variety of views about what "the coming wrath" (Matt 3:7, Luke 3:7) is illustrated by the following:

Ellicott (Matt 3:7)

The wrath to come.—This is spoken of as something definite and known, the thought resting probably on the pictures of the great day of the Lord in Malachi 3, 4.

Benson (Matt 3:7):

Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? — To put on this form of humility and repentance? What hath moved you to it? How came you to think yourselves in any danger of divine and future wrath, or to use any means to escape it? since you Pharisees think yourselves secure from it, on account of the sanctity of your lives, and you Sadducees imagine there is no such wrath, and that all that is spoken of it is a mere fable and delusion?

Barnes (Matt 3:7)

Wrath to come - John expresses his astonishment that sinners so hardened and so hypocritical as they were should have been induced to flee from coming wrath. The wrath to come means the divine indignation, or the punishment that will come on the guilty. See 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

who hath warned you—given you the hint, as the idea is.

to flee from the wrath to come?—"What can have brought you hither?" John more than suspected it was not so much their own spiritual anxieties as the popularity of his movement that had drawn them thither. What an expression is this, "The wrath to come!" God's "wrath," in Scripture, is His righteous displeasure against sin, and consequently against all in whose skirts sin is found, arising out of the essential and eternal opposition of His nature to all moral evil. This is called "the coming wrath," not as being wholly future—for as a merited sentence it lies on the sinner already, and its effects, both inward and outward, are to some extent experienced even now—but because the impenitent sinner will not, until "the judgment of the great day," be concluded under it, will not have sentence publicly and irrevocably passed upon him, will not have it discharged upon him and experience its effects without mixture and without hope. In this view of it, it is a wrath wholly to come, as is implied in the noticeably different form of the expression employed by the apostle in 1Th 1:10. Not that even true penitents came to John's baptism with all these views of "the wrath to come." But what he says is that this was the real import of the step itself. In this view of it, how striking is the word he employs to express that step—fleeing from it—as of one who, beholding a tide of fiery wrath rolling rapidly towards him, sees in instant flight his only escape!

Matthew Poole (Matt 3:7)

Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? What comes in your mind, who think there is no resurrection, no hell, or who think you are so righteous that you need fear none, to do any thing that might testify you are afraid of wrath to come?


the wrath to come In a technical sense “wrath” is (1) the divine attitude towards sin, and as a result (2) the divine judgment upon sin (Romans 2:5). “Fleeing from the wrath to come” implies agreeing with God’s view of sin and therefore “Repentance” or change of heart.

All these commentaries are correct in that they identify the coming wrath as divine wrath, not Roman wrath. That this is only possible is confirmed by the fact that John preached a gospel of repentance and was declared the "Elijah" of his day by Jesus, Matt 11:13, 14, 17:11-14, Mark 9:12, 13, Luke 1:17. Thus, John was more interested in preventing divine wrath because of self pride and arrogance that political appeasement of the Roman overlords.


Speculation about John the Baptist and his theology being part of, or a spin-off from the Essene/Qumran movement is just that - speculation, as there is little evidence to support such a contention. However, there are a number of commentaries that hold that view.

Both Jesus and the angel Gabriel (when announcing his birth) taught that John the Baptist would be a second Elijah. 6. Mal 4:5 predicts the arrival of Elijah the prophet before the “Day of the Lord” and the NT claims fulfilment in places like Matt 11:13, 14, 17:11-14, Mark 9:12, 13, Luke 1:17 as John the Baptist. However, the “great and terrible day of the Lord” (Mal 4:5) clearly also has eschatological fulfilment and confirmed by the indirect allusions to Elijah in the book of Revelation.

  • 1
    I have been curious about the Davies-Allison commentary on Matthew (ICC). I would appreciate an excerpt of their interpretation. I haven't seen the commentary yet. Have you read it? Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 10:49
  • The question was: “Are there any scholars that take a softer hermeneutical view that John is speaking of the wrath of God, providentially mediated, through the predicted coming of the Romans to destroy Jerusalem?” While the other views are good to mention, that did not answer that part of the question.
    – Jess
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 14:52
  • I clarified the question to make it less ambiguous.
    – Jess
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 15:03
  • I added an upvote, as you have some good quotes supporting the first view. It is interesting to think how a final tribulation could also be seen as a judgement, even though it’s on this earth before the last judgement. In the early 1970’s a strong pre-tribulation rapture was often spoken of in evangelical circles as a way to escape the great tribulation. It almost appeared as a hell fire & brimstone message, but with the great tribulation as a focus.
    – Jess
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 15:44

The focus of the question is - What is meant by "the coming wrath"? The question asks:

  • Is it the coming destruction of the Romans?
  • Is it something said to "whip up emotions"?
  • Is it going to hell?

Rather than a general hermeneutical survey let's look at Scripture.

"The coming wrath" is the imminent judgement and punishment John expected the Messiah (not the Romans) to execute against all those (even the children of Abraham) who did not demonstrate their right relationship (through repentance) with God by producing good fruit.

Here are the details:

Luke 3
3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

John's task was to:

  • Preach a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins v3
  • to prepare the way for the Lord v4
  • that all people will see God's salvation v5

To summarize John's message - the Messiah "the Lord" is coming (very soon) get your heart right with God. Verse 7 gives us the "or else" part of the message.

Luke 3
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

The "coming wrath" in John's mind has to do with the coming of the Messiah and John's expectation of what the Messiah will do.

John goes on to explain what must be done to avoid the coming wrath and gives a metaphorical description of "the coming wrath".

Luke 3
8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

What did John expect the Messiah to do?

Scripture does not tell us all of the specific details of John's expectations, but Scripture tells us that he expected the Messiah to bring the wrath of God upon "every tree that does not produce good fruit" v9 and he expected it very soon - note the word "already" in verse 9.

"The coming wrath" is the imminent judgement and punishment John expected the Messiah (not the Romans) to execute against all those (even the children of Abraham) who did not demonstrate their right relationship (through repentance) with God by producing good fruit.

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