The wrath of God is real. It is not something to trifle with or make light of. God is angry over man’s sin. Not until we understand just how awful sin is, we will never understand God’s righteous indignation.
I am a Christian in part because of that wrath. Oddly enough, many non-believers use the wrath of God as a supposed reason to show that God does not exist. In fact, without wrath we would wonder at how sin could be so bad without the expression of his wrath.
God’s Wrath is Real
The very first display of God’s wrath came in the garden of Eden when he banished mankind from the beautiful garden. How dark the day that the serpent entered God’s garden! As a result of their sin the first couple suffered immediate spiritual death and the immediate onset of physical decay and death. This was the wrath of God flashing against sin (c.f. Genesis 3:13-19; 3:22-24). Although Adam would live to be 930 years old, he was literally a dead man walking (Genesis 5:4).
The greatest single expression of wrath in history came with the flood of Noah in Genesis 6-9. Because of continual evil (Genesis 6:1-8, esp. 5) God obliterated his entire fleshly creation except for the family of Noah and a sampling of all life on the planet (Genesis 6:7, 17, 19-22). This was righteousness overcome with the ugliness of sin. This was the anger of a divine God poured out upon all the earth.
Many other examples could be offered from the heavenly assault upon evil Egypt to the crippling of the Canaanite nations who opposed God’s people. No one who studies seriously will deny that God has promised and delivered his wrath upon the unrighteous.
God’s Wrath is Present
Although we do not like to think about the prospects, God’s wrath is with us today. Paul wrote in Romans 1:18 that the wrath of God “is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men…”(NIV). The word translated by the phrase “is being revealed” is in the present tense and indicative mood which makes no comment on the completion of the action. Many translations simply say “is revealed.” But in the context we may reasonably conclude that the outpouring of God’s wrath, since it was happening in Paul’s day, continues even until now.
Keep reading Romans 1 and you will see one way in which his wrath is being revealed. Three times, in verses 24, 26 and 28, the Bible says of God that he is giving them over to their own evil. This is confirmed by what we see in the world when men seem to become more and more wicked (c.f. 2 Timothy 3:12, 13). The restraining power of a good conscience and inborn morality is taken taken away and the wicked suffer both here and in the coming age of eternity.
We do not see the expression of God’s wrath now in the sense of immediate punishment as was often seen in the Old Testament. But the wise man will not assume that God is less angry at sin. He is being patient. Having demonstrated his wrath in the Old Testament, he is now giving men limited time to repent (2 Peter 3:9).
God’s Wrath is Coming
Held in reserve by God’s own love and pity, wrath is certain. There is no question that the day is coming when the Father will unleash his pent up anger toward sin.
God’s wrath is not capricious or haphazard. It is not the result of some divine temper tantrum. His wrath is the deliberate, well planned outcome resulting from wickedness which cost the life of his son. It is not remarkable that God will release his wrath. What is remarkable is that he has not already done so!
The Corinthians were warned to be prepared for the Day of the Lord. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). In the very next verse we then find this phrase, “…knowing the terror (fear) of the Lord…” We conclude that the inspired apostle knew of coming judgment and its horror for the wicked. He wanted to make sure his readers were well warned and prepared.
The writer of Hebrews comes to the end of a section on willful sin with this remark, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31; c.f Amos 5:18-20).
Revelation is often a challenging book although very understandable. In Revelation 14:10 John reports the words of an angel who speaks of the wicked man. The angel says of that man, “he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the lamb” (Revelation 14:10, ESV).
Wrath, terrible wrath such as has never been seen is yet to come.
God’s Wrath is Demonstrative
Now I said at the beginning that I am a Christian, in part, because of the wrath of God. How so?
First, God’s wrath demonstrates an expected consistency within his own character. How could Jehovah be pure and holy if he allowed or tolerated that which is unholy. Can truly pure gold be mixed with anything? Were not God wholly angry over sin, he would not be the pure light of righteousness that the Bible teaches. Indeed, a holy God can be no other way.
Second, God’s wrath is expected when once considers the extreme lengths to which he has gone to save men. Sin is the reason there is a plan of salvation. Sin is the reason God has injected himself into our lives. Sin is the reason God’s only son died! It is not surprising that God is angry is it?
But it is in this last point that we see a powerful contrast and it is in this contrast that I am so motivated to love and serve God. God knows that he must pour out his wrath upon sin. God also knew that we could never be with him fully in our sin-drenched state. So, God chose to give his son to save us from his necessary wrath (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-11).
When God goes to such extremes to save mankind, is it any wonder he becomes angry and wrathful when that love is rejected and demeaned? Again, we turn to the writer of Hebrews, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of Grace?” (Hebrews 10:29)
God’s wrath is proper, expected and instructive and presses me more and more to be faithful unto him.
God’s Wrath is Avoidable
An article such as this might be depressing were it not for the hope that is in Christ Jesus. I can avoid God’s wrath. I can be shielded from it through the blood of Christ which saves (Romans 5:9).
Access to God is only through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). It is in the gospel message preached by Jesus and his inspired apostles and disciples that we learn of obedience (Romans 1:16).
New Testament cases of conversion always included the hearing and reception of the word (Romans 10:17; Mark 16:16), repentance of past sinful living (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 2 Corinthians 7:10), confession that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 10:9,10), baptism (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21) and lifetime faithfulness (Revelation 2:10).
I am thankful for God’s wrath for it teaches me the true horror of sin and the extent to which God will go to save souls.
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