God’s Wrath

“It is sad to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which they need to make an apology, or at least they wish there were no such thing. While some would not go so far as to openly admit that they consider it a blemish on the Divine character, yet they are far from regarding it with delight, they like not to think about it, and they rarely hear it mentioned without a secret resentment rising up in their hearts against it.”

Arthur Pink, “The Attributes of God”

This quote by A.W. Pink really resonated with me. So many Christians I’ve met seem to be either outright ashamed of the wrath of God, or they seek to dismiss it such as insisting on apokatastasis (universal salvation). Both positions are problematic.

If we understand who God is, we will delight in all of His attributes. To stress and preach the love of God, yet not mention His righteous wrath is a serious error.

In my view, the Gospel is incomplete unless you preach what Christ has saved us from by His sacrifice and His penal substitutionary atonement for our sins. It is a deficient and false Gospel to just say that Jesus loves you and wants you to have a better life. No! Let us preach the full unadulterated Gospel! This alone is truly the Good News.

John 3:36 explains that whoever rejects the Son of God will be under God’s wrath. But this verse also explains that whoever believes and follows the Son will have eternal life and experience God’s grace. Luke 16:19–31 is a perfect example of how a person who does not follow God’s commands and rejects His message will experience the Lord’s wrath. A person will not suffer from God’s wrath if he believes in the message of Christ taking our place on the cross (Romans 5:6–11). Romans 2:5–6 says that those who do not receive Christ as their Savior store up wrath for themselves on the day of God’s judgment.

Man’s wrath is quite different from God’s wrath. While God’s wrath is holy and justified, man’s wrath is warned against in the Bible. Ephesians 4:26–27 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Man is told to leave vengeance to the wrath of God (Romans 12:19), and to put away all “anger, wrath, malice, [and] slander” (see Colossians 3:8–10). Because God is the only being with perfect judgment, only He can express wrath without sin. Wrath is not akin to our new spiritual selves, which we inherit from our salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Spirit was given to us to cleanse our hearts, so now we can experience freedom from the domination of wrath (Romans 8:1–39). The mind-controlled by the Spirit is not controlled by anger or wrath, but by peace (Philippians 4:4–9).

Romans 5:9 says, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” We can experience comfort instead of fear in regards to God’s wrath because when we are saved, we are free from His judgment. Only those who put their faith in Christ and trust His death on the cross as atonement for sin and believe in His resurrection are saved from the wrath of God. Hallelujah!

In Jonathan Edwards famous sermon, “SINNERS IN THE HANDS
OF AN ANGRY GOD”, he preached explicitly and vividly on the great wrath of God that would befall unrepentant sinners.

During the 20th century with the rise of theological liberalism, and a new emphasis on positive thinking guiding preaching a la Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale. Many pastors no longer preached on God’s wrath. This was a serious error.

Here are 5 truths about God’s wrath by John Piper’s ministry Desiring God.

1. God’s wrath is just.

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 human sinfulness.

“God’s wrath is his love in action against sin.”

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?”

J.I. Packer summarizes: “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil” (Knowing God, 151).

2. 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).

3. God’s wrath is consistent in 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 are 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 must act justly and judge sin, otherwise God would not be God.”

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)

4. God’s wrath is his love in action against sin.

This is counter-intuitive, but hear me out.

God is love, and God does all things for his glory (1 John 4:8; Romans 11:36). He loves his glory above all (and that is a good thing!). Therefore, God rules the world in such a way that brings himself maximum glory. This means that God must act justly and judge sin (i.e. respond with wrath), 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).

5. 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.”

Here we have the ultimate good news: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Because of Christ, God can rightly call sinners justified (Romans 3:26). God has done what we could not do, and he has done what we didn’t deserve. Charles Wesley rightly exulted in this good news:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain!
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Here are some relevant Scriptures on the wrath of God:

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

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 3:36

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon them.”

Ezekiel 25:17

For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain.

Isaiah 26:21

God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.

Psalm 7:11

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

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Matthew 10:28

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 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 19:11-21

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,

2 Peter 2:9

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:15

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Romans 5:9

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 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? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” …

Hebrews 10:26-31

If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

John 15:6

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

1 Thessalonians 5:9

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Ephesians 5:6

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Romans 12:19

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

1 Thessalonians 1:10

Calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Revelation 6:16-17

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

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, …

Romans 1:18-32

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Romans 5:8-9

On account of these the wrath of God is coming.

Colossians 3:6

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Matthew 3:7

When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, …

Revelation 6:12-17

For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

Romans 13:4

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