Contemplating God’s Wrath

Posted on February 4, 2021

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By David Ettinger

A Few Facts
The wrath of God.

Not only does the topic not receive much attention in modern-day churches, it doesn’t even register a blip on the radar screen of popular sermon topics. Rather, the subject of God’s wrath is treated more as a plague, one many pastors feel will drive their congregants racing from the sanctuary never to return again.

And, all too sadly, they could well be right!

Instead, most pastors tend to preach sermons on God’s love, patience/longsuffering, kindness, mercy, and faithfulness. And though the content and breadth of these basic attributes of God can never be exhausted, they are preached repeatedly at the expense of the most dreaded of God’s attributes: His wrath.

Yet, consider the following: Where direct biblical references to God’s love number about 100; His faithfulness, 35 times; His lovingkindness, 30 times; and His patience/longsuffering, 15 times; direct references to God’s wrath number about 125. God’s mercy, at well over 200 times, is the only attribute directly referred to more times in Scripture.

The topic of God’s wrath is obviously an important one, and its many references in Scripture support this fact. And yet, despite the somberness of God’s wrath, there is also another dimension to it: the aftermath. For following God’s wrath, those who repent may expect God to: pardon guilt (Joel 3:21); grant restoration (Amos 9:11); pour down mercy (Isaiah 30:18); bestow compassion (Isaiah 60:10); and bring salvation (Romans 5:9).

Saved From Wrath
For the most part, Christians don’t like to talk about it, don’t like to hear about it, and don’t like to think about it, but the wrath of God is as real as the love of God and the mercy of God.

The wrath of God is a fact of history, as attests the destruction of such former peoples as the Philistines and the Ninevites (Zephaniah 2:3-5, 13-15). The wrath of God is a reality of the present: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). The wrath of God is an inevitability of the future (Revelation 6:16-17).

The question, therefore, is: How can the human race be saved from it? The answer is simple and precise: People are saved from the wrath of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Listen to the apostle Paul and judge for yourself: “Among them we too … were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest” (Ephesians 2:3), but “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Romans 5:9).

And John 3:36 tells us: “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life [i.e., will be saved from God’s wrath]; but the one who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

The Christian and the Wrath of God
Planet Earth is destined to encounter the Day of the Lord’s wrath. This is a certainty, not a possibility. Paul writes: “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord is coming just like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Though the day will be fearful and terrible, it is one Christians need not fear:

  • For unbelievers, the apostle Paul tells us: “While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction will come upon them like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
  • However, Paul assures believers: “… But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, so that the day would overtake you like a thief” (5:4).
  • Furthermore, it is not God’s intention that His children be subject to His wrath: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him” (5:9-10).
  • Paul, in fact, goes to great lengths to assure believers that we are protected from God’s wrath by telling us that our deliverance from it is an ongoing event. Indeed, it is Jesus “who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1:10).

Before accepting Christ, we were all destined to suffer God’s wrath (Hebrews 9:27). However, at the crucifixion, Jesus took that wrath upon Himself, therefore rescuing those who would one day believe upon Him from the wrath which will one day fall upon the earth.

Knowing that wrath is reserved for those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ, may we who have been saved from it be diligent in warning those who are drawing ever closer to it.

Let us be found faithful in sharing the Good News that there is a Savior who longs to rescue them from the wrath to come by bringing them into the peace and goodness of His eternal kingdom!