From dreadful to delayed, a summary of holy punishment.
This may be a strange way of leading into Christmas–as was the post Propitiation in Plain English–but bear with me.
Believe it or not, but the Bible is the book of God’s wrath.
In fact, one of the most striking things about the Bible is how heavy both Testaments pour on the reality and terror of God’s wrath.
Yet, something most people miss is this is the very context into which Jesus was born.
Thus, with Christmas so near, it’s not such a bad time to explore in seven ways one of the most overlooked aspects of God’s visit to the earth. First, let’s define this wrath.
God’s Wrath Is Punishment
In both Testaments, God’s wrath meant burning anger. Think fury and rage. Hatred of sin. And indignation at all evil. It’s punishment, pure and simple.
God’s punishment is seen in hell. Jesus described hell as the final home for the unrepentant godless. That means hell is the final punishment for the wicked.
However, when Jonathan Edwards said, “God has set bounds to every man’s wickedness; he suffers men to live and go on in sin, till they have filled up their measure, and then cuts them off ” he was doing nothing more than echoing Paul who said that God gives wicked men and women over to their depraved minds to do with their bodies what ought not to be done. That’s God’s punishment here on this earth.
God’s Wrath Is Revealed
We all have a sense of impending doom.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. Romans 1:18
Here’s the deal: The fear of God preserves the moral society of men. It sustains, protects and governs. However, take that fear away, and man descends into wickedness.
Look at America: Each generation creates a greater gap between it and the knowledge of God. Each generation sinks deeper and deeper into evil.
Yet, the conscience will not let us rest. It is gnawing at us with the truth of sin and evil. We sense impending punishment. We sense God’s wrath.
God’s Wrath Is Discipline
In a nutshell, God’s wrath is His reaction to our sin. It’s an expression of His justice. Moreover, it’s correction of wickedness.
Origen once said, “For that which is called God’s wrath and His anger is actually a means of discipline.”
“If he has put thorns in your bed,” George Whitefield said, “it is only to awaken you from the sleep of spiritual death–and to make you rise up to seek his mercy.”
Now, if you are toying with his goodness and have not come to repentance and faith in Christ–you stand under the severity of his discipline. The good news is that Jesus has come to deliver us from the wrath of God.
God’s Wrath Is Pure
Unlike human anger or rage, God’s wrath is never impulsive, unpredictable or self indulgent. Instead, it’s a measured and meaningful reaction to sin.
Jesus himself–who actually had more to say on this subject than any other New Testament figure–made the point that punishment would be equal to what we deserved. It would never be more or less. It would be perfect. It would be pure.
God’s Wrath Is Necessary
Would a God who did not punish evil be morally perfect? The answer is no. It is necessary because he is:
- Holy: You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong. Habakkuk 1:13
- Righteous: But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Roman 2:5
- Jealous: Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name. Ezekiel 39:25
The sin of the incorrigibly wicked is sin against the eternal God. So, sin against the eternal deserves eternal punishment.
God’s Wrath Is Longsuffering
God’s long-suffering is a remarkable virtue. However, it doesn’t exclude or contradict God’s justice. In time, the kindness found in His patience and longsuffering is meant to lead you to repentance.
In fact, one of the greatest wonders of the Bible story is that the patience of God in giving us a chance to repent before judgment finally falls. Yet, God’s patience isn’t limitless:
…endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction… Romans 9:22
God’s Wrath Is Satisfied
Reading Romans 1-3 and you might come to the conclusion that there is no escaping the judgment of God. Yet, Romans 5:9 says this: “We have now been justified by his blood.”
In other words, Jesus’ death is a sacrifice that averts God’s wrath. And through the self abandoning trust in the person and work of Jesus, Jesus removes the judgment for our sins that is to come.
Why You Should Care about God’s Wrath
The more we contemplate and understand God’s vicious judgment on sin, the more we will see sin as the abomination that it is. It breeds a genuine fear in our souls for God.
But understand this: The purpose of God’s wrath is not to destroy humanity. He disciplines His own people through his wrath with the desired end that they return to Him.
On the one hand, hell is the measure of the severity of God. It’s purpose is to influence us. On the other hand, Calvary is the measure of the goodness of God. It’s purpose is to comfort us.
And without the birth of Christ, we would have no Calvary.
So, let me ask you, have you ever looked at Christmas and thought about God’s wrath? Does thinking about God’s wrath make you cherish the birth of Christ more? I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
**Part of The Nature of God: A Quick and Dirty Guide series.**