I love it when preachers, teachers, theologians talk about the Wrath of God. I do love the wrath of God because it is part of Him and His holy and perfect attributes. I do not love that people will undergo the suffering of His wrath due to the penalty of their sins. The wrath is a serious, serious thing.
I love it when preachers, teachers and theologians speak of the wrath because many others of them who are supposed to teach the full counsel of God do not. I know of churches where a pastor might go into a long, involved altar call, pleading with folks to come forward as music softly plays, and yet never mention wrath, sin, death, or hell. This is not the full counsel of God. Here, Bob DeWaay explains what the full counsel of God actually is.
As I have had people explain it to me: “people don’t go to church to feel worse about themselves.” So, it is deemed irrelevant to discuss the sin nature, and relevant to help people feel better about themselves. What about the glory of God? Are we to hear a powerful, Biblical presentation of God’s glory, His holy nature, our fallen condition, and the necessity of a blood atonement to appease the wrath of God (Romans 3:25)? Again, these matters are not likely to be deemed relevant to many.
Before my own conversion, I heard people say things like ‘the lost need to be saved’. I did not understand what “lost” meant. I joked that those dumb Christians were always going on about being lost but I knew exactly where I was. Har har har. And as for “saved? I had no clue what the threat was that we needed saving from. Yet this is exactly the reason why we should not dilute or on any way water down the message Jesus gave to us, His ambassadors. Ambassadors in real political jobs must convey the message from their superiors exactly as stated. It is not up to the Ambassador to change the message. (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are only witnesses and messengers, and the message has been set. It includes the “unpalatable” doctrines of sin, death, hell, and wrath.
The fact is, God’s wrath is the threat. And it is very real. Here are some theological thoughts from J.A. Milliken, and E.E. Carpenter, on what God’s wrath is and why we need saving from it.
WRATH, WRATH OF GOD
Used to express several emotions, including anger, indignation, vexation, grief, bitterness, and fury. It is the emotional response to perceived wrong and injustice. Both humans and God express wrath. When used of God, wrath refers to His absolute opposition to sin and evil. When used of humans, however, wrath is one of those evils that is to be avoided.
The OT speaks very frequently of both God’s wrath and human wrath, but the wrath or anger of God is mentioned three times more often than human wrath. There are some 20 different Hebrew words, used approximately 580 times, that refer to God’s wrath in the OT.
… These anthropopathic terms must not be construed in such a way as to attribute to God the irrational passion we find so frequently in man and which is ascribed to pagan deities. They do, on the other hand, point to the reality and severity of God’s wrath in the OT (Isa. 63:1–6). God’s wrath is not capricious but is always a moral and ethical reaction to sin. Sometimes that sin may be spoken of in general terms (Job 21:20; Jer. 21:12; Ezek. 24:13) and at other times specified as the shedding of blood (Ezek. 8:18; 24:8), adultery (Ezek. 23:25), violence (Ezek. 8:18), covetousness (Jer. 6:11), revenge (Ezek. 25:17), affliction of widows and orphans (Exod. 22:22), taking brethren captive (2 Chron. 28:11–27), and especially idolatry (Ps. 78:56–66). The means by which God expressed His wrath was always some created agency: His angels, His people the Israelites, Gentile nations, and the forces of nature.
In the prophetic books the wrath of God is commonly presented as a future judgment. It is usually associated with the concept of “the day of the LORD” (Zeph. 1:14–15), or simply “that day.” That day will be a great and terrible day, a day of darkness and gloominess, day of the vengeance of God (Joel 2:2, 11; Isa. 63:4). While some of these prophetic utterances may have referred to the judgment of God in history, their ultimate fulfillment will come in a final act by which the world and its inhabitants will give account to God (cp. the NT use of the “day of the Lord,” 1 Thess. 5:1–9; 2 Pet. 3:10).
The wrath of God is not mentioned as frequently in the New Testament nor is there the richness of vocabulary that is found in the OT. There are only two primary NT terms for wrath: thumos and orge. Both are used to express a human passion and a divine attribute or action. When used of human passion, wrath is repeatedly named in lists of sins that are to be avoided, and if not, may incite God’s wrath (Eph. 4:31; 5:6; Col. 3:8; Titus 1:7).
Some have seen a distinction in meaning in these synonyms, the difference being that thumos expresses a sudden outburst of anger whereas orge emphasizes more deliberateness. There may be an intentional difference in occasional uses of the terms, but this does not prevent both terms from being condemned as vices when applied to human passion. In addition, both terms are used to describe the character of God, particularly in the book of Revelation.
There is great emphasis in the NT placed on the wrath of God as a future judgment. John the Baptist began his ministry by announcing the wrath of God that is to come, from which men should flee (Matt. 3:8). Jesus, likewise, pronounced a wrath that is to come upon Israel and produce great distress (Luke 21:23). Paul speaks of a day of wrath to come that awaits some, but from which believers are to be delivered (Rom. 2:5; Eph. 2:3; 1 Thess. 2:10). The idea of a future wrath of God is unfolded on a large scale in Revelation. It is described in very graphic terms, as cataclysmic upheavals in the universe (Rev. 6:12–17), “the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 19:15 HCSB), and “the cup of His anger” (Rev. 14:10).
In the NT the wrath of God is not only a future judgment, it is a present reality. It does not merely await people at the future judgment. Jesus stated that the wrath of God abides on unbelievers, and consequently they stand presently condemned (John 3:18, 36). For Paul, God’s wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom. 1:18), all people in their natural state are “children under wrath” (Eph. 2:3 HCSB).
Theological Considerations: The doctrine of the wrath of God is unpopular in much modern theological discourse. Some deny that there is ever anger with God. Others think of God’s wrath as an impersonal moral cause-and-effect process that results in unpleasant consequences for evil acts. Still others view God’s wrath as His anger against sin but not the sinner.
God’s wrath is real, severe, and personal. The idea that God is not angry with sinners belongs neither to the OT nor to the NT. God is a personal moral being who is unalterably opposed to evil and takes personal actions against it. Wrath is the punitive righteousness of God by which He maintains His moral order, which demands justice and retribution for injustice.
Moreover, God’s wrath is inextricably related to the doctrine of salvation. If there is no wrath, there is no salvation. If God does not take action against sinners, there is no danger from which sinners are to be saved. The good news of the gospel is that sinners who justly deserve the wrath of God may be delivered from it. Through the atoning death of Christ, God is propitiated and His anger is turned away from all those who receive Christ (Rom. 3:24–25). Therefore, those who have faith in Christ’s blood are no longer appointed to wrath but are delivered from it and appointed “to obtain salvation” (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9).
SOURCE: Millikin, J. A. (2003). Wrath, Wrath of God. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 1688–1689). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
What do the wrath and salvation have to do with each other?
“Wrath” is a strong term, reserved in the English language almost exclusively for describing “God’s anger” with human beings and their sinful actions. The Greek word orgē expresses the idea of “justifiable anger for unjust actions.” It is used throughout the New Testament to describe God’s anger toward the sins and unbelief of humanity.
The Old Testament and the New Testament both teach that God is storing up His anger for the great and final day of judgment. This day is frequently called the Day of the Lord. The concept of the Day of the Lord was developed by the prophets to warn Israel and the nations that no one can escape the righteous outpouring of God’s wrath (Amos 5:18–20). This day was still spoken about by the New Testament prophets, John the Baptist and John the visionary (Matt. 3:7; Rev. 6:16–17).
Those who do not profess faith in the risen Christ remain in their sins and will be subject to God’s wrath, whereas those who believe in Him are delivered (Eph. 2:3; 1 Thess. 1:10). The good news of the New Testament is that Jesus has come to deliver us from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:9). Those who have been delivered are reconciled with God because they are no longer under condemnation (Rom. 5:10; 8:1).
God’s wrath will be poured out on the devil, his angels, and all who rebel against Him. This is graphically portrayed in the book of Revelation, as we see scene after scene of God executing judgment on the ungodly. God’s stored-up wrath will be unleashed in awful ways, as He brings destruction on: the earth, those dwelling on the earth, the merchants of the earth, false religions, the antichrist, and all the enemies of the gospel. Ultimately, God’s wrath will be satisfied when He has put the devil, his angels, and all unbelievers in the lake of fire, to be tormented for eternity in eternal separation from God (Rev. 14:10; 20:10–15).
SOURCE: Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 427). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Do we have hope to escape the wrath, then?
Here is how Jonathan Edwards concluded his masterpiece sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“
And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has flung the door of mercy wide open, and stands in the door calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God; many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are in now an happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him that has loved them and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.
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