In this lesson we examine the wrath of God by looking at what it is, some characteristics of it, and how we should respond to it.
We are going to take a look at God’s wrath and see that God hates sin and has to do something about it. For some, God’s wrath is not a comfortable subject, but let’s think of it like this…
- What would you say about a dad who saw his child running toward a street, which had a car driving down it, but didn’t say anything to his child? You would have to conclude that he was not being a good dad.
- What would you say about a friend who saw you going down a dangerous road and knew disaster awaited you at the other end, yet offered you no counsel and made no attempt to stop you? He would not be a very good friend.
- How about a doctor who knew you had cancer but decided not to tell you because it’s not popular and comfortable to talk to someone about cancer? He wouldn’t be a very good doctor.
- Suppose a police officer saw smoke rising from your roof, or witnessed burglars breaking into your home, but never tried to intervene or alert anyone? He would not be a very good police officer.
- I could go on, but let me ask you one more question. What would you say about a pastor who told you about God’s goodness, love, forgiveness and patience, but never warned you about God’s wrath? He would not be a very good pastor.
God’s wrath is not an easy subject to talk about. You can go to plenty of places if you don’t want to hear about the wrath of God. Many churches run from the subject. They skip it, bypass it, jump over it, ignore it because it’s hard to talk about. Even though it may not be popular it is a part of God that we must look at and take seriously if we are going to have a more balanced view of God.
So let’s start with a quick definition. The wrath of God is His necessary, just and righteous punishment against sin.
The wrath of God is His necessary, just and righteous punishment of sin.
Even though we are looking at one characteristic of God, thirty minutes is never enough time to understand it. God is just too big and too awesome. But I do want you to recognize the fact that God is a God of wrath and He does take sin seriously. Let’s try to grow in our understanding of God’s wrath along with discovering how God wants us to respond to it.
I believe the most concise statement about God’s wrath is Romans 1:18, “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (NLT).
From that one verse we discover several aspects of God’s wrath.
The Richness of God’s Wrath
The richness of God’s wrath is seen in His character. The quality of God’s wrath is divine. Notice that this wrath is God’s wrath, not man’s wrath. God’s wrath is not like human anger, because people’s anger is messed up with sin. God’s wrath is not at all like ours. Probably one reason people run from the subject of God’s anger is that they think God gets mad the way people get mad. We get ticked off when someone does us wrong- or if we think someone has done us wrong. We get hot when people get on our nerves, when they do something we don’t like. And, too often, we unload on them with both barrels. We think God’s wrath is like ours, but it’s not.
God’s wrath is affected by who He is. For example…
- God is patient so His wrath is going to be patient. That’s why He allowed Noah to build His ark for 120 years and preach to the people before the flood came.
- God is sovereign so His wrath will not be out of control because God is always in control. God will not lose His temper, because God doesn’t lose anything.
- God is also a God of justice so when His wrath is released it will be the just and right thing to do.
- God is holy so His wrath will be without sin or error.
- God is good so whenever God decides to reveal His wrath it’s always a good thing.
God’s wrath is affected by who He is.
Man’s wrath is affected by who man is. Man gets impatient. That’s why some parents who get irritated and impatient with their child will grab their child by the arm and snatch them up and verbally or physically abuse them. That’s man’s wrath, not God’s. Man’s wrath is often mean and cruel… as seen when a parent locks a child in a closet. Man’s wrath is tainted and messed up by sin, but God’s wrath is not messed up. It’s perfect. It is the wrath of God. It is God’s wrath. It is a divine and perfect wrath. God’s wrath is rich with the quality of God in it.
The Revealing of God’s Wrath
How does God reveal His wrath? Look at Romans 1:18 again, “God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven….” God does not hide His wrath. He is not ashamed of it or embarrassed by it. God’s wrath is as much a reality as God’s love is. Just as God reveals His love, He reveals His wrath.
This word revealed means to be “constantly revealed.” Ever since there has been sin in the world God has been revealing His wrath. When Adam and Eve disobeyed Him in the Garden of Eden, God kicked them out. That was His wrath being revealed against sin.
How does God reveal His wrath? There are three main ways God reveals His wrath.
God’s wrath is revealed through catastrophes
First, God’s wrath is revealed through catastrophes. Let me give you some examples.
- The whole world started resisting God in the days of Noah, so God revealed His wrath by sending a flood to wipe out the human race because they were so evil. God’s wrath was revealed.
- The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are nowhere to be found today because they were blown off the map by the fierce wrath of God. God revealed His wrath through the fire and brimstone. All that’s left of Sodom and Gomorrah is a layer of ash that archeologists have found and they think its Sodom and Gomorrah.
- Pharaoh told Moses he was not going to let the children of Israel go. Then ten times God demonstrated His wrath to the Egyptians. But pharaoh still didn’t get the message, so his army drowned in the sea at the hands of God’s wrath. God’s wrath was revealed. God revealed His wrath through all those catastrophes and plagues.
- The greatest demonstration of God’s wrath was when Jesus was on the cross and God placed mankind’s sin on His Son. When Jesus was hanging on that cross for our sin, it was a picture of God’s love and God’s wrath at the same time. God’s wrath was revealed. While Jesus was hanging on the cross the sky grew dark, Jesus died for our sins and there was a tremendous earthquake. God was revealing His wrath.
All catastrophes are not God’s wrath on display, but God does use catastrophes to display His wrath.
God’s wrath revealed through consequences
God has, is and will reveal His wrath through catastrophes. But He also reveals His wrath through consequences. One of the ways God’s wrath is revealed is by allowing people to reap the punishment of their sin. Letting them experience the consequences of their sin. Remember, Romans 1:18 and following is about God’s wrath and in Romans 1:26 we see one of the ways He reveals His wrath when it says, “This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural. The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty for their perversion” (NLT). That appropriate penalty for their perversion could be a physical disease, an emotional trauma of loneliness or rejection, it could be a mental breakdown or something else or all the above, but that penalty for their sin was a result of their sin. It was a consequence of their sin. There are times when God will deliver people over or give them up to their sin and let them experience the consequences of their sin… that’s called God’s wrath. He reveals it through consequences.
God’s wrath revealed through the day of judgment
God reveals His wrath through catastrophes, consequences and through the day of judgment. There is coming a day when God will reveal His wrath completely. It want be through catastrophes or lifestyle consequences but through the ceaseless punishment of hell. God’s ultimate revelation of His wrath is the horrible place called hell. Look at Romans 2:5, “Because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed.” God’s Word tells us there is a day of wrath coming. Sometimes we get upset because evil people seem to keep getting away with evil. No, their sin account keeps growing. Many people will never have much trouble in this life. But if you could only see the bill awaiting them in eternity!
The psalmist pictured the wrath of God like a bow being drawn back (Psalm 7:12). The more sinners sin, the further God pulls back the bow and when His arrow of wrath is released it is going to go deep. Some day God’s wrath will be revealed.
The Reach of God’s Wrath
The reach of God’s wrath is to everyone. Back to Romans 1:18, “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people….” God’s wrath is universal, being given out against all who deserve it. Even if you are a little ungodly and a little unrighteous you will get God’s wrath. Apart from Christ, every person is considered an object or target of God’s wrath (Eph. 2:3). Listen, you may be morally and ethically better than most people, but without Christ, you are under God’s wrath and some day God is going to release the arrow of His wrath and it’s going to hit you and it’s going to hurt. We all start off as targets of God’s wrath, but there is hope.
The Reason for God’s Wrath
The reason for God’s wrath is people suppress the truth. Back to Romans 1:18, “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” To suppress something means to hold back, restrain, smother, block out or cover up. People suppress the truth by what they believe, by what they say and by how they act. People will suppress the truth about God and His wrath by saying it’s not real and it doesn’t exist.
- They will chose not to believe there is a God. They will tell others there is no God and they will act like there is no God. They will suppress the truth.
- They will chose not to believe a certain sin is sin. They will tell others it’s not a sin and they will act like it’s not a sin. They will suppress the truth.
- They will chose not to believe Jesus is who He said He is. The will tell others Jesus is only a myth and they will live like Jesus is not real. They will suppress the truth.
Because of this truth suppression God has to pour out His wrath and when He does it proves He is both real and right. He does this because He is holy, just, and righteous.
The Remedy for God’s Wrath
The remedy of God’s wrath is Jesus. How can we escape the coming wrath of God? A choice must be made. Anyone who perishes in hell goes by his or her choice. God made hell for Satan and his angels, not for people. However, God’s justice demands payment for sin, but in His mercy He provided a substitute to take our punishment for us.
This is good news! God’s system of justice allows for a substitute. That substitute is Jesus. He is our rescuer from God’s wrath. In 1 Thessalonians 1:10 we are told “to wait for [God’s] Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead- Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” The only way to escape God’s wrath and hell is through Jesus.
Look at Romans 5:8-9, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!” (NIV). You are saved from the wrath of God through Christ, not through attending church, by being a nice person, or by doing good in the community. You will be saved from the wrath to come only by the eternal provision of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the remedy. No ifs, ands or buts.
The Response to God’s Wrath
But how do we respond to God’s wrath? When you hear something like this what should you do?
First of all, accept Jesus Christ’s payment for your sin. Ask Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sin and accept His Lordship over your life. The Bible says anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Saved from what? God’s wrath.
Two, warn others about the coming wrath. Once you become a Christian tell others there is a heaven and there is a hell. There is a time and a place for everything. Just as you would warn a friend about a bridge being out up ahead, you need to warn those about the wrath of God up ahead.
Three, tell others about Jesus Christ. Tell them God is a God of wrath but He is also a God of forgiveness, grace and mercy. He demonstrated that through Jesus Christ. Tell them about how they can be saved from God’s wrath. Tell them how much Jesus loves them.
Four, praise God for His wrath. Just as we praise God for His love, grace, and mercy we should praise God for His wrath. I can’t imagine what God would be like if He didn’t hate sin. If He didn’t hate sin there would be no heaven to look forward to. If He didn’t hate sin He would not have sent His Son to die for our sin. I know it sounds odd, but we should praise God for His wrath.
Five, feel no fear of God’s wrath as a Christian (Eph. 2:3-5). Because of God’s mercy and grace through Jesus we are saved from God’s wrath and there is now no condemnation for us who are in Christ.