By Elizabeth Prata
The year 2020 has been a hard one. There hasn’t been a lot of good news. In fact it has been a grief to see countries close and cities lock down, churches shuttered, and missionaries booted out, making it difficult to personally gather to worship Jesus and share the Good News. Time has passed and we’re now looking at 2021, but no one except God knows if the upcoming year will be any better for us here in America or elsewhere.
People are asking, “Is the wrath of God upon us?” “Is the wrath of God about to be poured down?” “Is judgment here?”
Yes. But it has been since the Garden. Let me explain the different kinds of wrath related to different kinds of judgment. Because there are different types of wrath and except for the eschatological wrath due to come at the end of the last days, the other kinds of wrath have always been in play.
When we think of ‘God’s wrath’ or ‘Judgment’, we think of the stark example of what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah (and Admah and Zeboiim) in Genesis 19. Those sinful cities serve as an example of what happens when a town gives itself over to indulging in immorality, like widespread homosexuality. (Jude 1:7). God rained down fire and brimstone, destroying the cities and all flesh that were within them.
But there are actually different types of wrath. Some are unseen because they’re internal, others are seen but difficult to identify specifically as wrath or simply a ‘natural’ a consequence of the Fall. Some wrath of God abides on the ungodly every day, and it always has since Genesis 3.
Thomas Hooker, a Puritan preacher of the 1600s, said in his book The application of redemption by the effectual work of the word, and spirit of Christ, for the bringing home of lost sinners to God (don’t you love their lengthy titles, lol? And their antiquated spelling? )
who shal comfort, who can releeve what ever he doth, wherever he is, the wrath God abides upon him, thou art not within the Mercy nor the compass of that Redemption?
Jonathan Edwards said the word “wrath” 52 times in his famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. He said “anger” 6 times. He preached,
The Wrath of God burns against them, their Damnation don’t slumber, the Pit is prepared, the Fire is made ready, the Furnace is now hot, ready to receive them, the Flames do now rage and glow.
What IS the wrath? Most people, if they think of God’s wrath at all either think of Jesus exhausting it on the cross for forgiven sinners, or the last day when Jesus returns in wrath, blood, fire etc to pour His wrath out on unforgiven sinners.
The wrath of God is not an easy topic. It is not a popular topic. It is not often directly preached from pulpits, nor spoken of on social media or in conversation. But it is an important topic. Upon death, the final state of all humans who were not saved during life will be to endure horrific wrath forever. The wrath hangs over every unsaved person while they are alive.
The wrath is an attribute of God. And though we love to think of Jesus the babe meek & mild, especially during Christmas season, He is also wrathful. He will return to deliver His stored-up wrath one day.
John MacArthur preached on this a number of times, here is a paraphrase / excerpt from one of the sermons. Please note that MacArthur took the biblical evidence of wrath and placed them in a descriptive list.
1. Eternal wrath – because it is the punishment that God brings upon unbelieving sinners forever in hell. (Matthew 25:41-46, many other verses).
2. Eschatological wrath, that is the wrath of God that is released at the end of the world described by some of the Old Testament prophets, described by Jesus Christ Himself in the Olivet Discourse, and clearly laid out for us in the book of Revelation. (Luke 21:23, Romans 2:5, Revelation 6-18).
3. Cataclysmic wrath, like a tsunami, a volcano, a hurricane, an earthquake… Noah’s Flood and the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, & Zeboiim are examples of this wrath. Cataclysms are a reflection of the judgment of God. (Numbers 16:31-35).
4. Consequential wrath. Consequential wrath is the sowing and reaping wrath, you live a certain kind of life and you set in motion certain forces that will produce judgment. The resulting wrath can be reflective of the consequence of the sin-choice a person makes. (Acts 5:4-5, 1 Corinthians 11:29-30). AIDS was a consequential wrath for indulging in homosexuality.
5. The wrath of abandonment. It is that wrath exhibited by God when He turns His back on a group, society, or individual. (Romans 1:24, 28, 28).
We should be careful though, not to attribute any particular event as an example of a specific kind of wrath. The tornado-wind that destroyed Job’s house was not wrath. (Job 18:18). The man born blind was not experiencing a lifetime of infirmity due to sin. (John 9:2-3). The Tower of Siloam fell over because the Tower of Siloam fell over. (Luke 13:4). Someone whom God has seemed to have turned over to their sin in a wrath of abandonment could become the unlikeliest convert (Saul/Paul).
Unlike in Edwards or Hooker’s time, in today’s Christianity God is talked of as a kindly grandfather in the sky, or Jesus is treated as a romantic boyfriend or buddy. However, God’s wrath is real. It is already present and it is also to come. Humans may not live any way we want and God will sit idly by smiling upon His wayward children. He has high moral standards and a high holy standard. Departure from His standard will result in wrath. Since none of us can attain these standards on our own, it means we are all due to experience His wrath. This presents a problem because none is righteous, no, not one. We are all separated from God. Yet He desires communion with His creatures.
Graciously, Jesus lived a perfectly holy life, died on the cross as the sacrifice, having exhausted all of God’s wrath for those whom He will save, and after laying dead in the tomb for three days, God raised Jesus to life. Those who repent of their sins and turn to Jesus as Lord and Savior will never experience His wrath. Praise God for that.
We do seem to be experiencing a wrath of abandonment here in America at present. I’ll write about that tomorrow on why I think so and explore Romans 1 as the biblical foundation for why I believe it.
Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! (Romans 5:9).
Repent now, while there is still time.
After the arrest of John, Jesus went into Galilee and proclaimed the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15).
Delivered By Grace: The Wrath of God
GotQuestions: What is the biblical understanding of the wrath of God?