In our politically correct society it is not accepted to talk about a God that will destroy people for the sins that they commit. The world frowns on the idea of anger, vengeance, and righteous indignation. Yet, while the world doesn’t like these concepts, the Bible makes it clear that God has been, can be, and will be to some a God of wrath and anger. Not too long ago the ABC Corporation released a new version of “The Ten Commandments” in which sinners were killed for the sins that they committed. The movie drew the picture that God’s wrath was unjust. In a society that values inclusiveness and tolerance, that picture doesn’t go over too well. However, the truth is that we don’t need to be ashamed of God’s wrath, but warn people that indeed God will be vindicated one day.
The American Heritage dictionary defines the term “wrath” as follows: “1. Forceful, often vindictive anger. 2. a. Punishment or vengeance as a manifestation of anger. b. Divine retribution for sin.” The word wrath occurs 194 times in the King James Version of the Bible. The word “anger” is mentioned 228 times. There are times when men with such attitudes are condemned within the scripture, no doubt. However, in many of these instances, it is God who is angry or wrathful with man. Such descriptions of God need not be overlooked as we seek to understand who God is, but rather, examined. Why would God be angry or wrathful? Finding the answer to that question will help us understand the reason for God’s anger.
First, sin is what kindles God’s wrath. Genesis 6:5-6 states, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Because of man’s sin, God destroyed the earth with a great flood. God’s wrath was present in the beginning of the Bible and it is present at its end as well. Again, in response to man’s sinfulness, the book of Revelation says of Christ, the executor of God’s vengeance, “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:15). The bottom line is that God’s wrath isn’t God’s fault; it is the fault of those who sin.
Second, God’s wrath will fall on some men because man’s sin offends God. God doesn’t punish sin simply because He gets some kind of “kick” out of doing it as some cartoonists have tried to convey. Sin is offensive to God. God’s character is such that He is holy, righteous, and pure (1 Peter 1:15-16). Because sin is unholy, unrighteous, and corrupt, it is offensive to the very nature of God. Consider Psalm 106:40. The Psalmist writes, “Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance.” God had already explained to Israel that idolatry was offensive to Him (Exodus 20:3-5). So, it was due to Israel’s sin (idolatry) that God was offended and therefore angry with them. If we become angry when we are offended, and rightly so, why ought God not to be angry when He is offended?
Finally, God will ultimately execute his wrath upon sinful man because the wicked cannot go unpunished. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 states, “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” In this passage we see that God’s wrath flows directly from the fact of His righteousness and justice. Justice demands that some penalty be paid for those who commit wickedness. And for those who will not accept God’s generous offer of payment via the death of Jesus on the cross, some other form of payment must be made. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Yes, God’s wrath is something of which we all need to be aware. Paul wrote, “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God.” (Romans 11:22). If we are in the love of God, then we need not be concerned about God’s wrath. However, if we are not, then we need to beware lest it is God’s wrath we experience at the Day of Judgment. Hebrews 10:31 tells us, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”