The Wrath of God

Romans Chapter One

I remember a great preacher once saying that the job of the preacher is two-fold: “to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comforted.” Most messages today are designed to bring comfort and encouragement, but fewer and fewer messages are designed to cut with deep conviction those who are “comfortable”!

In our day of Pseudo-peace and prosperity, bad news is quickly dismantled. However, just as the mailman delivers the mail as he received it, so must we. Oftentimes, the mailman brings good news, but other times, the messages are sad and even terrifying.

Speaking about the wrath of God is not a very comforting thing. In fact, it is rather disturbing, and rightly so. The Apostle Paul states plainly, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

Paul was a faithful preacher who declared all the word of God. He says, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). While Paul preached unflinchingly the Gospel of Christ, he also preached about the wrath of God being revealed upon men.

Paul begins verse eighteen with the word “for” which is a vital word that connects this verse with two preceding verses. Paul states in verses 16 and 17 that he is not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for us. However, the point of verse eighteen is that the Gospel is necessary because there is such a thing as the wrath of God. Thus, it is this preacher’s observation that the whole weight of verses sixteen and seventeen rest on the truth that all men are under the awesome wrath of God. Apart from this biblical fact, there is no need for the Gospel.

Therefore, the reality of the wrath of God provides the essential foundation for the Gospel.

In the New Testament there are two primary words for “wrath” which are oftentimes used interchangeably: the first is: Thumos–this word refers to the hot and vehement surge of wrath or ferocious outrage. This is not the word used in this passage. The second one is: Orgos — this word refers to the slow but deliberate rise of deep indignation. This is the word used in verse eighteen.

God does not have, nor does He display, uncontrollable wrath. His anger is very calculated and deliberate. One could say then, that the wrath of God is that disposition of God which stands opposed to man’s disobedience to divine revelation, and responds with calculated and deliberate punishment against the sinner.

The wrath of God can be observed in three distinct phases, namely: past, present and future.

First, the wrath of God past points back to Golgotha. It was there that God the Father unleashed all of His divine wrath against us, upon God the Son — the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:24).

The Bible declares that we all are sinners in Romans 3:23, and that the wages of sin is eternal death in Romans 6:23. Thus, Christ willingly came to take the wrath of God against us unto Himself. Isaiah states, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we were healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5, 6).

Thus, the wrath of God intended for us was given to Jesus Christ–the spotless Lamb of God.

Second, the wrath of God present is displayed today before our very eyes. The verb “reveal” is better translated “is being revealed,” because of its present tense. Right now, the wrath of God is being revealed through the results of God giving sinners over to their dark and sinful passions. Please note the following verses:

  • Romans 1:24: “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts.”
  • Romans 1:26: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections.”
  • Romans 1:28: “God gave them over to a reprobate mind.”
Today, God’s wrath is seen, for example, through AIDS, because God is giving homosexuals over to their vile lusts of unnatural affections. Also, God’s wrath can be seen in the destruction of our society through drug abuse, sexual abuse, mass murders, high suicides, etc.

In fact, the Bible states that, “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).

Third, the wrath of God is set for the future. The Bible speaks extensively about God’s future wrath. “For there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21).  “And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come” (I Thessalonians 1:10).

There are many other Scriptures which speak of the “tribulation” to come upon the earth, and the ultimate act of God’s wrath seen in the lake of fire. No prophet spoke of hell more than the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Matthew 5:22, 29; 10:28; 11:23; 16:18; 18:9; 23:15, 33).

Hell and the lake of fire is the future for all who reject Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. As for the believer, he will not face the tribulation (that is all those who accept Christ before the Tribulation) or the lake of fire, for Christ has taken our hell and paid the price for our redemption (cf. Romans 8.1). However, each believer will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and will be held accountable before God for the deeds he has done in the body both good and bad (cf. II Corinthians 5:10).

May God help each of us to be faithful, knowing the fear of the Lord to get out the Gospel and disciple all who believe on His name.

Rev. Robert Anderson is pastor of the Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Maryland.

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