The Wrath of God

Holiness and Wrath

God is holy, Lev. 19. 2; Isa. 6. 3; 1 Pet. 1. 16; Rev. 4. 8. He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil”, Hab. 1. 13, and “a consuming fire”, Deut. 4. 24; Heb. 12. 29. Old Testament prophets are referred to as “holy men”, 2 Pet. 1. 21, but here the word “holy” is used in a relative sense. Our God is absolutely, uncompromisingly holy.

The human heart, in its natural state, is evil, Mark 7. 21, 22, and “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings”, Jer. 17. 9, 10. Our holy God knows us through and through, better than we know ourselves, and yet He loves us with a divine, sacrificial love. It was that love that gave the Lord Jesus Christ to die, John 3. 16. The Lord Jesus Christ was holy and sinless: He bore the wrath of a holy God and paid the penalty for our sins, Isa. 53. 3-12. He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification”, Rom. 4. 25.

The devil would have us depart from the truth, as revealed in the Scriptures, concerning God’s holiness and His wrath. He would endeavour to prevent the truth of God being taught in all its fulness and completeness.

Some men may be afraid to speak on the wrath of God for fear of causing offence, or of being regarded as “old fashioned”. Other men may fear that they themselves will become unpopular as a result of such teaching and preaching. The wrath of God is not a popular subject with the world, and might well be scorned and ridiculed. Most unsaved people do not want to hear about the wrath of a holy God.

The Word of God is, however, clear and unequivocal on the matter, and throughout the Bible the Holy Spirit brings before us time and time again the wrath of God and the judgment of God. Wrath is the inevitable reaction of a holy God against sin, Rom. 2. 5-8. Consider, for example, the clarity with which the Holy Spirit speaks in Nahum 1. 2-9 and in 2 Thessalonians 1. 7-10.

The Gospel

The wrath of God against sin is continuously revealed throughout the world, Rom. 1. 18.

The Lord emphasizes in a parable the wrath of God against sin and the justness of God’s retribution, Luke 12. 47, 48. Those who preach the gospel of salvation through faith in the Lord must ensure that God’s holiness and hatred of sin are emphasized, together with the fact that “all have sinned”, Rom. 3. 23; 5. 12, and that there is going to be a “day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God”, 2. 5. We must, under the guidance and enabling of the Holy Spirit, ensure that we adhere to the whole truth of the Word of God, and that we make clear that there is only one way of salvation, John 14. 6; Acts 4. 12, and it is not of works, Eph. 2. 8, 9. We must make plain the way of salvation, remission of sins and deliverance “from the wrath to come”, 1 Thess. 1. 10. We can be delivered from the wrath to come only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who is “the propitiation for our sins”, 1 John 2. 2, and only when we accept God’s way of salvation can we say, “being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him”, Rom. 5. 9. The death of the Lord as a propitiation for our sins is at one and the same time evidence of the extent of God’s holiness, wrath, love, mercy and grace.

There needs to be a note of urgency in our preaching of the gospel so that, under the gracious working of the Holy Spirit, listeners might be “pricked in their heart”, Acts 2. 37, and that we might hear the cry, “what must I do to be saved?”, Acts 16. 30.

The glorious gospel reveals the holy love of God. Such is the wrath of God against sin, that His loving us despite our sin and the giving of the Lord Jesus Christ to take the punishment for our sins give some insight into what is meant by “so loved the world” in John 3. 16. God, motivated by love and knowing the terribleness of His wrath and His inevitable righteous retributive action against sin, made possible the way of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some men, knowing the wrath of God and His holy hatred of sin, Rom. 1. 32, sin wilfully and approve the sin of other people. It is commonplace today for sin to be treated lightly, and for men to argue either that there is no God, or if there is a God that He is a God of love who would not be capable of wrath, but will, because of His love, overlook sin. Many might argue that wrath is a characteristic of human life and is associated with unthinking, illogical, uncontrolled reaction to provocation. That is to say, that wrath is a human weakness and a behavioural problem of human life! However, the wrath of man is something which is entirely different from the righteous anger and wrath of a holy, righteous God. We read in James 1. 20 that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God”.

It is but a short step from stressing only one attribute of God - His love - to teaching that which flatters men, by arguing that man is basically good and, given the right environment, education and freedom, he will evolve to a higher standard of goodness. Alongside this teaching we have the idea that the only punishment sin brings is in this life, and that hell is experienced only in the minds of those who commit sin. Listeners to such teaching can hardly be expected to understand the need to be among “them that fear him”, Psa. 103. 11, 13, 17. This and other devil-inspired teachings have been around for a long time, and must be countered by a greater awareness of God’s holiness and righteousness. These attributes result in His righteous wrath against disobedience, rebellion and sin, and will result, ultimately, in just judgment and punishment.

Wrath Revealed

“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse”, Rom. 1. 18-20.

These verses tell us plainly that God has revealed Himself in the creation, and therefore could be known by men. Because of this fact, men were responsible for not knowing God to the extent that such knowledge was available. Men deliberately suppressed the knowledge that God made available to them; therefore they were without excuse. Having suppressed the knowledge of the true God, men became worse and worse. They thought that they were wise, but were foolish— “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, Psa. 111. 10, and “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God”, Psa. 14. 1; 53. 1. Men changed the truth into a lie, and God gave them up to all manner of uncleanness, so distortion of truth and sin abounded, Rom. 1. 21-32. It will always be the same if men reject God and His commandments, living and doing as they wish. They will descend further and further into sin; they will experience the consequences of their sin, and experience ultimately the terrible outpouring of the wrath of a holy God.

Nothing is hidden from an all knowing God, “be sure your sin will find you out”, Num. 32. 23, and “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”, Gal. 6. 7. Those who bring upon themselves the “fierceness and wrath of Almighty God”, Rev. 19. 15, cannot possibly escape, for He is infinite in power and knowledge and ultimately His wrath will be shown, Rom. 9. 22.

The inevitable outpouring of the wrath of God is emphasized throughout the Bible. His dealings with the children of Israel make salutary reading. When the nation or individuals turned away from God they were punished and suffered. John the Baptist spoke of fleeing “from the wrath to come”, Matt. 3. 7; Luke 3. 7. The Lord said to His disciples, “fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”, Matt. 10. 28.

The holiness of God is revealed in the law given to Moses. We cannot keep the law in our own strength, and the law reveals our sinfulness. The law is “our schoolmaster”, Gal. 3. 24, and shows us our need of a Saviour. Those who reject God’s way of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are “condemned already”, John 3. 18, and remain under the wrath of God.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him”, John 3. 36.

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