The wrath of God
by Henry Miranda
1/31/2022 / Bible Studies
Behold the storm of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. (Jeremiah 30:23)
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. (Nahum 1:2)
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)
From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Revelation 19:15)
“God must act justly and judge sin, otherwise God would not be God.” “God’s wrath is His love in action against sin.” But is that what God’s wrath is? Getting revenge on humans who have offended Him? I do not believe that it is. In Romans 2:1-17, Paul talks about the wrath and judgment of God that will come to those who have rejected the truth and followed evil.
We live in a day where we have set ourselves as the judge, and God’s character is on trial. “How can hell be just?” “Why would God command the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites?” “Why does God always seem so angry?”
The fact that so many people struggle with these questions, and many more like them, means that more than ever, right thinking is needed about the doctrine of God’s wrath. It is needed for motivation for Christian living, fuel for proper worship, and as a toolbox to confront objections to Christianity.
The concept of God’s wrath can be challenging for us to understand. And that, in large part, is probably due to confusing it with human wrath. Merriam-Webster defines wrath as “strong vengeful anger.” The concept of man’s wrath is the idea that someone has wronged me, and I am making every effort to hurt them as much as I can. Human wrath is generally not considered as a commendable attribute.
God’s wrath is not angry retribution against those who have offended God. Rather, it is His righteous judgment against those who do evil. God is righteous. And He will judge us according to His righteous standard. God’s wrath against sinners is nothing more than giving them what they deserve.
Romans 2:5 offers a good perspective on just what God’s wrath is, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” His wrath appears to be synonymous with His righteous judgment. God’s wrath and judgment are functions of His love. We would not want a God who was not just. A God who didn't have wrath towards sin would not be a God of love, because how could a God of love allow sin to go unpunished?
There are a number of words in both the Old and New Testaments that are translated as wrath. These words are also frequently translated as anger. Most generally, they refer to God’s response to human disobedience. As parents, we punish our children if they don’t behave well because we want them to be doing the right things. But the words are also used in relation to a negative human response to other people. There is really no good way to soften “the wrath of God” to mean anything other than an angry response of God on our part towards our sinful nature.
There are also dozens of references to God’s wrath in the New Testament, including Romans 1:18, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” Even though Jesus and His disciples proclaimed the kingdom of God and expressed God’s love for humanity, they did not dismiss the wrath of God. The wrath that would come to all who were disobedient to the gospel message.
In fact, all of culture cries out for justice. I mean, the highest-rated shows on TV are what? Crime shows, Law and Order, all these, we yearn for justice.
Now on the cross, we see the juxtaposition of God's love and wrath met in one person in Christ, poured out on Christ on Calvary, that's where God's love and justice met, in Christ. However, while God's justice demanded a response to sin because we want a God of justice, His love provided the solution. And so there it met at the cross. The answer is don't just look at the Old Testament and say, "Oh, it's an angry God." Look at the New Testament. You have to take them both together. And Jesus has the answer for God's wrath.
Is a wrathful God at odds with a loving God? If you understand wrathful as vengeful, then it might be hard to reconcile these two attributes of God. But if the wrath of God is simply His righteous judgment against sinful humanity, then there is really no conflict between the two.
All of humanity is deserving of punishment. And a righteous God would correctly give us what we have earned. But God is also love. And He has provided a way of redemption, faith in the atoning blood of His Son. For those who respond to God’s offer of salvation, His righteous judgment is satisfied by Jesus’ sacrifice. But those who reject that offer of salvation will receive the justice they rightly deserve. God’s desire is that all be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). But those who refuse will suffer the consequences of that refusal.
Throughout the Scriptures, God’s wrath is reserved for those who are in rebellion against Him. But wrath is never the experience of those who are responsive to His call. Believers may and do experience discipline from the hand of God. But that discipline is intended to help us to grow and mature in the faith and in relationship with God. Wrath, though, is the final judgment against all those who are accounted as God’s enemies, those who have turned their faces away from God.
Throughout the Scripture, you find this division between God’s wrath directed towards sinners and His protecting love toward His own people. His wrath is poured out on the people of Noah’s day by the waters of the flood, but righteous Noah and his family are rescued. Judgment is levied against Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot is rescued. Egypt is destroyed by the plagues while the descendants of Abraham are delivered. Over and over, we see this repeated in the Old Testament. And that same story is also vividly portrayed in the visions of John recorded in Revelation.
Some want to ignore any mention of God’s wrath. Others seem to delight in proclaiming God’s wrath against sinful humanity. But how should we respond to those passages that express the wrath of God? I believe it is appropriate for us to place the same emphasis on God’s wrath as did Jesus and His apostles. They clearly proclaimed that God’s wrath was reserved for those in rebellion against God. Never did they seem to minimize or gloss over it.
But God’s wrath was not the emphasis of their proclamation. That was reserved for the gospel of the Kingdom. That God loves us and has invited us to escape from His wrath and to experience His love and membership in His kingdom. So, I believe it is proper for us today to focus primarily on the gospel of Jesus Christ. But we should not ignore the consequences of rejecting the gospel, the wrath of God.
The doctrine of the wrath of God has fallen on hard times. In today’s world, any concept of God’s wrath upsets our modern sentiments. It’s too disconcerting, too intolerant.
Here Are Five Biblical Truths About the Wrath of God:
- God’s wrath is just because God’s wrath is His love in action against sin.
It has become common for many to argue that the God of the Old Testament is a moral monster that is by no means worthy of worship.
However, biblical authors have no such problem. In fact, God’s wrath is said to be in perfect accord with God’s justice. Paul writes, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5). God’s wrath, then, is in proportion to our sinful nature.
Similarly, Proverbs 24:12 says, “If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?”
- God’s wrath is to be feared.
God’s wrath is to be feared because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). God’s wrath is to be feared because we are justly condemned sinners apart from Christ (Romans 5:1). God’s wrath is to be feared because He is powerful enough to do what He promises (Jeremiah 32:17). God’s wrath is to be feared because God promises eternal punishment apart from Christ (Matthew 25:46).
- God’s wrath is consistent with the Old and New Testaments.
It is common to think of the Old Testament God as mean, harsh, and wrath-filled, and the God of the New Testament as kind, patient, and loving. Neither of these portraits is representative of Scripture’s teaching on the wrath of God.
We find immensely fearful descriptions of the wrath of God in both the Old and the New Testament. Here are just a few examples:
God is love, and God does all things for His glory (1 John 4:8; Romans 11:36). He loves His glory above all. Therefore, God rules the world in such a way that brings Himself maximum glory. This means that God must act justly and judge sin; otherwise, God would not be God. God’s love for His glory motivates His wrath against sin.
Admittedly, God’s love for His own glory is a most sobering reality for many and not good news for sinners. It is, after all, “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
- God’s wrath is satisfied in Christ.
“In saving us from His own wrath, God has done what we could not do, and He has done what we didn’t deserve.”
1 John 4:9 (NKJV) In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
Henry Miranda earned a Bachelor of Christian Ministry degree @ Christian Leadership University. Henry Miranda is an Evangelist, Bible Teacher, Author, and Guest Speaker and with the help of the Holy Spirit has written seven life-changing books. You can contact Henry Miranda through his website: http://www.evangelize-for-jesus-ministries.com/
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