My shield is with God, Who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day. Psalm 7:10-11
God’s wrath is not a subject most churches address and of the few that do, some exclude adequate teaching of God’s grace. Focusing on either one, while ignoring the other, distorts the Gospel and hurts any congregation. A right view of the character of God can only be attained when His wrath, and His grace, are understood in balance.
One of the reasons people prefer not to think about God’s wrath is because of their experience with angry people. God’s wrath is not of the human kind. We all know an angry person who never stops being angry. Those near them can’t do anything right.
There are two New Testament words for wrath. One is ‘thymos’; meaning a panting rage. The other is ‘orge’; meaning something which simmers and ripens. ‘Thymos’ is used in the book of Revelation to describe the wrath of God that will be poured out one future day in all of its fury. However, in every other instance in the New Testament, ‘orge’ is used. God wants us to know that he does not reach out to strike just because He has been momentarily offended. He’s not temperamental. Instead, He’s longsuffering in nature. His anger simmers over a long period of time as He sees wickedness spread over the earth. A ripened anger results and will one day culminate in the eternal condemnation of all who have not trusted Christ as their Savior.
Jesus’ death provided a way of escape from God’s wrath; both the panting kind of rage and the simmering kind. My unrighteousness, the sin which deserved His full punishment and condemnation, went to Christ instead. He took God’s wrath in my place. Because I am dressed in His holiness, I get to live in a tender, intimate relationship with His Father. I don’t have enough words to express what that privilege means to me.
Sin suppresses the truth of God’s character. It encourages people to reject a God who tells them that they are sinners and need to repent or face His wrath. But God’s people, sinless and justified, love the Truth and are willing to listen to God regardless of how much the Gospel once offended them. That small test is one way to tell whether or not I am God’s child. Do I love the truth even when God’s wrath is the subject matter? Am I able to understand that God is just and yet embrace Him with the confidence of a forgiven child?
Knowing that the full manifestation of Your wrath is still to come, I am compelled to tell the story of the cross to those still under the curse with even more urgency. Forgive my laziness, Father. Amen