The Wrath of God
Is it a Myth or
by Dr. David
A popular radio talk show host on an Oklahoma
City secular station recently interviewed me live on the air via
telephone. He had seen an article I had written about the financial
accountability of Christian ministries, and he had liked it.
He began the interview by graciously
giving me the opportunity to talk non-stop for about ten minutes
about the way God had transformed my life and called me into the
ministry. We then moved on to a discussion of the scandals that
had recently rocked the Christian community nationwide.
The Unmentionable Word
Everything went well until
the host asked me to summarize the fundamental message of my ministry.
I responded by saying that God had called me to proclaim "the
soon return of Jesus in wrath."
Before I could proceed with
my explanation, the announcer cut me short. "What do you
mean, 'wrath'?" he asked.
"I mean that Jesus is
going to return very soon to pour out the wrath of God upon those
who have rejected God's love and grace and mercy."
"Your God is a monster
God!" he snapped. He then added, "I happen to be a Christian,
and I can tell you that my God wouldn't hurt a flea!"
That was the end of the interview.
He hung up on me. I was not given an opportunity to respond to
his blasphemy of God.
Satan's Grand Deception
The radio host's vehement response
to the wrath of God did not surprise me. It is characteristic
of both Christians and non-Christians, and I have encountered
it many times.
Satan has sold the world a
bill of goods concerning the nature of God. Most people, both
Christian and non-Christian, tend to view God as being a sort
of cosmic teddy bear.
They see Him as big and warm
and soft, full of infinite love and forgiveness. He couldn't hurt
a fly, and He certainly wouldn't be so cruel as to condemn or
harm any beings created in His own image. On the Day of Judgment,
God will simply give everyone a big hug and wink at their sins.
The only problem with this
wonderfully comforting image is that it is a lie straight from
the pit of Hell.
The True God
Yes, the Bible teaches that
God is loving, patient, caring, and forgiving (Psalms 86:15 and
John 3:16). As the apostle John put it, "God is love"
(1 John 4:8).
Two of my favorite passages
in the Bible emphasize the personal loving nature of God. One
was penned by the apostle Peter. In 1 Peter 5:6-7 he says that
we are to cast all our anxieties upon God "because He cares
for you." That is a very comforting thought.
The other passage that I love
to read over and over consists of words spoken by the prophet
Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-24 (RSV):
steadfast love of the Lord
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is Thy faithfulness,
'The Lord is my portion,' says
'Therefore I will hope in Him."
But the Bible also clearly
teaches that there is another aspect of God's character that is
equally important. It is the aspect that Satan wants us to ignore,
and he has been very successful in prompting ministers to overlook
it. After all, it doesn't produce popular sermons! I'm speaking,
of course, of the holiness of God (Leviticus 11:44; Isaiah 6:3;
1 Peter 1:16).
Grace or Wrath?
The Bible teaches that God
is perfectly holy. Because of this attribute of His character,
He cannot tolerate sin (Numbers 14:18). The Bible says God must
deal with sin, and He does so in one of two ways either
grace or wrath.
Every person on the face of
this earth is at this moment under either the grace of God or
the wrath of God. Jesus Himself made this point in His discourse
In the same conversation in
which Jesus spoke the glorious words about God's love in John
3:16, He also spoke of God's wrath in a verse that we like to
ignore: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but
he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath
of God abides on him" (John 3:36).
The apostle Paul emphasized
this point in his preaching and teaching. In Ephesians 5 he warns
against immorality, covetousness, and idolatry, and then he adds
this observation: "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).
We come under God's grace by
placing our faith in Jesus and appropriating His atoning sacrifice
for our lives ( 1 John 1:7). There is no salvation apart from
Jesus (Acts 4:10-12). Those who have rejected God's free gift
of grace in Jesus are under God's wrath (John 3:36), and they
have no one to blame but themselves.
The Coming Wrath
God's wrath will fall when
Jesus returns (Jude 14-15). The passage in Revelation which pictures
the return of Jesus says that He will return in righteousness
to "judge and wage war" (Revelation 19:11).
The first time Jesus came,
He came in loving compassion with eyes filled with tears. But
when He returns, He will come in vengeance (Revelation 6:12-17),
with eyes like a flame of fire (Revelation 19:12). He will come
to destroy the enemies of God (Revelation 19: 11).
The presidents and kings and
prime ministers of the world will get on their knees and cry out
for the rocks and mountains to fall upon them, so great will be
the terror of the Lord (Revelation 6:15-17). The unrighteous will
stumble about like blind men, and their blood will be poured out
like dust (Zephaniah 1:17).
The Meaning of Wrath
Does this make God a "monster"?
No! On the contrary, it proves His goodness, for how could a good
God ignore the evil of sin and allow it to go unpunished? His
wrath against evil will demonstrate His righteousness.
The prophet Nahum summed it
up best. Writing of the love of God, he said, "The Lord is
good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who
take refuge in Him" (Nahum 1:7). But a few verses earlier
Nahum had also spoken of the holiness of God:
Lord is avenging and wrathful.
The Lord takes vengeance on His
And He reserves wrath for His enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger and great
And the Lord will by no means leave
the guilty unpunished."
God's wrath is never motivated
primarily by a desire to punish. Rather, it is designed to bring
people to repentance so that they might be saved. Even in His
wrath, God remembers mercy.
God demonstrates His mercy
in wrath by never pouring out His wrath without warning. He tried
to warn Sodom and Gomorrah through Abraham. He warned Noah's world
through the preaching of Noah for 120 years. He sent both Jonah
and Nahum to warn the pagan city of Ninevah.
Consider too how He sent prophet
after prophet to call the nations of Israel and Judah to repentance:
"And the Lord, the
God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His
messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His
dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of
God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the
wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no
remedy." 2 Chronicles 36:15-16
God's mercy in wrath is also
manifested in the fact that He always leads up to His final outpouring
of wrath through a series of progressive judgments. These judgments
are outlined in detail in Deuteronomy 28:15-57.
This characteristic of God's
wrath is demonstrated in the prophecies concerning the Tribulation.
Rather than simply pouring out His wrath on the rebellious nations
of the world, destroying them in one instant of overwhelming catastrophe,
He subjects the world to a series of judgments that sequentially
increase in scope and intensity (Revelation 6,8-9,16).
Although most people refuse
to repent in response to these judgments (Revelation 9:20-21),
there is "a great multitude, which no one could count, from
every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues" who
do repent and respond to Jesus in faith (Revelation 7:9).
These radically different responses
to the wrath of God illustrate the point that is often made by
Billy Graham: "The same sun that melts the butter also hardens
the clay." The wrath of God melts some hearts in repentance,
but it has the effect of hardening the hearts of many others.
Wrath and the Redeemed
Many Christians respond negatively
to Bible prophecy. It's not at all unusual to hear a Christian
say something like this: "I don't want to hear anything about
prophecy because it's too full of gloom and doom."
Well, there is a lot of gloom
and doom for those who refuse to respond to God's gift of love
in Jesus. But there is only good news for the Redeemed.
The Old Testament ends with
a passage that presents both the gloom and the joy of end time
prophecy. Malachi says that when the Lord returns, the day will
be "like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer
will be chaff" (Malachi 4:1). That's the bad news.
But consider the good news:
"But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will
rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip
about like calves from the stall" (Malachi 4:2).
There is no reason for any
child of God to fear the wrath of God. Paul wrote that since we
have been justified by the blood of Christ, "we shall be
saved from the wrath of God through Him" (Romans 5:9). And
in a most comforting verse, Paul told the Thessalonians that Jesus
will "deliver" the Redeemed "from the wrath to
come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10). The reason, Paul explained,
is that "God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining
salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians
Are you under grace or wrath?
The choice is yours. Jesus is coming soon. When He appears, will
He be your Blessed Hope or your Holy Terror? Will you cry for
the mountains to fall upon you? Or, will you go forth leaping
with joy like a calf released from a stall?
God loves you and He wants
you to accept His Son as your Savior so that you will come under
grace and can participate in an event described by Isaiah:
"And the ransomed
of the Lord will return,
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads.
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away."