“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete”
– Revelation 15:1
There’s a great deal of debate right now about whether or not a candidate for the Supreme Court is suited for this life appointment. Some, based on accusations, say that he is disqualified. They have forgotten about the baseline of our legal system, “innocent until proven guilty.” Others claim to see right through what they believe to be obstructionist tactics by the opposing party. It’s turning out to be a big mess. The process in electing people to the Supreme court is in tatters. The debate is bringing into question our legal system itself. Truthfully, there is no perfect legal system. As long as imperfect human beings are involved, whatever system of justice there is will be flawed in some way. But I have to admit I’m a bit partial. I believe our system of justice is more just than most if not all other human led systems. This all brings to mind the only truly perfect and just system of justice, God’s righteous system of justice. And God’s holy plan of justice involves perfect and just penalties for those who offend. God’s system of justice uses His wrath as a deterrent and final penalty for those who persist in sin and offense. That system of justice, which we will all answer to, is what this teaching is devoted to. And I pray, that at the end of this teaching you’ll agree with me that God’s wrath is great and marvelous.
Revelation 15 is a prelude to the final outpouring of God’s wrath on a sinful Christ rejecting world during the future seven-year Tribulation. This prelude contains an immensely important aspect of God’s wrath for us to understand. There may be some of you who have thought, “How much longer until God judges this evil sinful world? How much longer do we have to wait?” Others may have a different question and ask, “Boy, this is awfully bloody. I mean, could a loving God not only allow but orchestrate such a terrible time?” Those are questions that many have asked.
But the introduction to the final outpouring of God’s wrath is described by John as “great and marvelous.” In this chapter we will see that God’s wrath is like no other wrath we might know of. God’s wrath is just and true, it’s perfect and appropriate. God’s wrath is “great and marvelous.”
Some people have rejected God or His word because of what they have perceived as unjust brutality on the part of God. But that notion is the product of a superficial consideration of the Biblical testimony and history of humankind. In chapter 15 we will address two questions which will respond to the notion that God is slow to act, and or, unfair, unjust and brutal in His dealings with humankind.
God’s wrath is real. And because God’s wrath is real, it deserves, no demands our attention. When we examine when God pours out His wrath, we will understand why God pours out His wrath. Then we will see that the wrath of God is perfectly consistent with a loving heavenly Father.
The Great and Marvelous Wrath of God? How can we use such adjectives to explain something so fearsome? How can something so hot and punitive be called marvelous? Let’s see. Revelation 15 opens as follows:
Revelation 15:1a – “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.”
This section begins with “another sign in heaven.” This sign’s origin is in heaven. And John describes it as “great and marvelous.” The sign consists of “seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.” This is a prelude to the final outpouring of God’s righteous wrath upon a Christ-rejecting world.
The word “great” (Greek megas) means big, exceedingly great, great in size, great in weight, great in extent, great in dimension, great in number, great in age, great in intensity. The word “marvelous” (Greek thaumastos) means wonderful, marvel, marvelous, worthy of pious admiration, admirable, excellent, passing human comprehension, causing amazement (joined with terror), striking, surprising. These two adjectives are used to introduce a procession of angels carrying with them the final bowls of God’s wrath. And John depicts this as a marvelous sight.
When we think of God’s wrath we might associate the word “great” with it, but maybe not “marvelous.” What John is looking at is awe inspiring. When God’s wrath is introduced, it is marvelous, awesome, worthy of holy thought and meditation. We should wonder and ponder the wrath of God. It is righteous wrath. God’s wrath is not like human wrath. Human wrath is more a rage and out of control. God’s wrath is measured, controlled, appropriate and just. God’s wrath is powerful and incredible. Because of all of this when John sees God’s wrath introduced by the angels, he marvels. God’s wrath is marvelous.
God’s wrath is not marvelous because finally some bad people are going to get their comeuppance. God’s wrath is marvelous because it is totally called for and appropriate in light of the persistent sinful rebellious rejection of His mercy and grace. God’s wrath is marvelous because it is just and true. We live in an age where humanity is made to feel guilty for every offense. Humanity has a lot to be guilty of, it’s true. But the proper response to guilt is repentance of the offense, not sentimentally excusing others who exact their revenge. God’s wrath is not vengeful, it is just, it is what is called for. And it is a perfect fit for the sinful rebels of this earth, especially Antichrist, the false prophet, Babylon, and the devil himself.
What makes God’s wrath great and marvelous?
First, God’s wrath is great and marvelous because it flows out of His omnipotence. No One is as powerful as God. Therefore, no one can resist God’s outpoured wrath. God’s out poured wrath can overcome and overwhelm any enemy or obstacle. God’s out poured wrath is irresistible and unquenchable because it flows out of God’s omnipotence. When God pours out His wrath on a Christ-rejecting world, no one will ever doubt again the omnipotence of God.
Second, God’s wrath is great and marvelous because it is tempered with His mercy and grace. God is not quick to wrath. In fact, God is longsuffering and patient. He does not take pleasure in pouring out His wrath on that which is sinful. God pours out His wrath only after it has been tempered and measured by His mercy and grace.
Third, God’s wrath is great and marvelous because it is always just. God’s wrath is never poured out unjustly or mistakenly. When God pours out His wrath it is always the appropriate response. God’s out poured wrath is always the just recompense for sin of some kind. God’s wrath is never too much or not enough, it is always just what is required for a just response.
Fourth, God’s wrath is great and marvelous because it is holy. God’s wrath is holy; it is unique. There is no other wrath like God’s wrath. It would be completely inadequate to gauge God’s wrath from a mere human perspective on wrath. The only way we can properly measure God’s holy wrath is from His word.
God’s wrath is great and marvelous for these reasons. We stand in awe of God’s wrath on a Christ-rejecting world and all who oppose God. When God’s wrath comes, it will completely overcome those who oppose Him. And when that happens, we will understand how great and marvelous God’s wrath is.
When God’s final outpouring of His wrath does come, everyone who sees it will be in awe of it. It will be the ultimate shock and awe. It will be the ultimate answer to injustice. It will be the ultimate solution to rebellion. It will be exactly what is called for in order to justly deal with the persistent sinful rebellious fallen world. Yes, God’s wrath is marvelous.
When “the wrath of God is complete. John notes of the angelic payload of Gods’ wrath that, “. . . for in them the wrath of God is complete” (Revelation 15:1b). Did you ever watch or read a news report about some present-day evil and wonder, “God, why do you allow that? How come you don’t judge those people? Is it because you are impotent to do so, or worse, You condone such evil?” There are things happening in our world today that are startling in their depth of sinfulness and evil. Things like the harvesting of fetal body parts and pedophilia and sex trafficking bring us face to face with the depravity of humanity as well as pure evil. And when we see such depravity in the world it brings to mind the question of the martyred Tribulation saints who said:
- Revelation 6:10 – “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Why hasn’t God judged such predators? Is He apathetic? Is He impotent? Can he do something to stop such horrific offenses? Does He approve? It is important to Him? To answer these questions let’s examine a bit of Old Testament evidence.
The Amorites – Genesis 15. In Genesis 15 we are given the account of the establishment of the Abrahamic Covenant. In the covenant God predicts the future enslavement of Abraham’s descendants by the Egyptians for 400 years. After this 400-year period by way of the exodus, God will bring Abraham’s offspring back to the Promised Land of Canaan. Why 400 years? In verse 16 we are given an important piece of information:
- Genesis 15:16 – “But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
The Amorites were given 400 years by God to turn to Him, to repent, and mend their ways. They did not respond to the mercy and patience of God. Instead they became reprobate and beyond redemption. The Amorites performed incredibly evil practices. One such practice was that when they built homes or other structures they would take their 3 – 5-year-old children and enclose them alive in the walls of the structure where they would die a slow torturous death. They did this to appease their pagan gods.
GOD IS INCREDIBLY PATIENT WITH SINFUL HUMANKIND. We see this expressed in a number of verses:
- Exodus 34:6 – “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,”
- Romans 2:4 – “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”
- 2 Peter 3:9,15 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. . .. 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,”
When will God pour out the full measure of His wrath on an evil Christ rejecting world? As we look at the unjust, evil and wicked state of this sinful world, we need to understand some things. God is not approving or condoning this sin. He is not impotent or unable to change things. And God is not slothful to judge this world. God is awaiting the time when His patience is totally exhausted. At that point His wrath will be poured out on the Christ-rejecting world in full force. Then and only then will He judge the world.
The Right Response to God’s Impending Wrath. What is the right response to God’s wrath? How should it move us? The passage goes on to describe a scene with saints who have been martyred for their faith in the Tribulation. Their response will provide us with a good model to follow for ourselves. We will also consider here who are the targets of God’s wrath. The passage continues:
Revelation 15:2-5 – “And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.3 They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!4 Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.”5 After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.”
Right now, God’s wrath has yet to be poured out. We have seen historically, glimpses or bits and pieces of God’s wrath such as at the Flood (Genesis 6-7), Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19), and at the Plagues of God on Egypt at the Exodus (Exodus 5-12). But we have not seen the complete outpouring of God’s wrath.
The Bible tells us very clearly who the wrath of God is directed toward. If you find yourself in one of these categories, it would be best for you to turn from your sins (i.e. repent), acknowledge your sin to God and ask Him to forgive your sin not based on your efforts or works, but based on Jesus completed work of atonement on the cross. Then receive His forgiveness by faith. When you do that you will be forgiven your sins and God will give you spiritual life by filling you with the Holy Spirit (i.e. the second birth; being born again). Then live out your life for Him.
But let’s review who the wrath of God is aimed at before we continue.
First, God’s wrath is directed toward all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people. In Romans 1:18 it states:
- Romans 1:18 (NKJV) – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,”
Here we are told God’s wrath is against “all ungodliness,” or against all who refuse to have a relationship with God; to worship Him only; to follow Him exclusively. This can be summed up in loving God with all your heart; with everything you have. Ungodliness has to do with a person’s vertical relationship with God. God’s wrath is against all “unrighteousness,” or all those who do not act right toward their neighbor or other people. This has to do with loving your neighbor as yourself. Unrighteousness has to do with a person’s horizontal relationships with other people.
And God’s wrath is against all those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” God’s wrath is against those who through their unrighteous interactions with people, “suppress” (Greek katĕchō) or hold down, hide, withhold, or keep down God’s truth. We should be proclaiming not hiding God’s truth. God’s truth tells the world how to be saved from sin and have an eternal life relationship with Him by His grace through faith in Jesus. To suppress God’s truth is a terrible sin deserving of God’s wrath.
Second, God’s wrath is directed toward those who are persistently ungrateful and disobedient. God’s wrath came against His people in the Old Testament when they persisted in unbelief, unthankfulness, ungratefulness, and disobedience. In the Psalms it states, “The wrath of God came against them, and slew the stoutest of them, and struck down the choice men of Israel” (Psalm 78:31; see in context of the psalm). God’s wrath does not come on the righteous. We see this truth as early as Genesis 18 when Abraham discusses His judgment on Sodom. But God’s wrath does come upon people who disbelieve Him, disobey Him, and disregard Him; those who have no relationship with Him. This is true even if they are called by God’s name. Being a “Christian” or “child of God,” or Israelite in name only is no protection from God’s wrath.
Third, God’s wrath is directed toward those who live in sin. This truth is clearly conveyed in a couple of passages from Paul’s epistles:
- Ephesians 5:1–7 (NKJV) – Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. 3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.
- Colossians 3:5–6 (NKJV) – 5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,
The sins listed here by Paul are examples of the sinful living that targets a person for God’s wrath. This is not an exhaustive list of sins that bring God’s wrath. Sinful living brings God’s wrath no matter what form it takes.
Fourth, God’s wrath is directed toward those who refuse to believe in Jesus as Savior. Jesus taught that refusing to believe in Him brought condemnation:
- John 3:16–21 (NKJV) – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
Jesus speaks very clear here; unmistakably clear. John the Baptist tells us what the condemnation of God on unbelievers entails when in the context of Jesus’ words, he states:
- John 3:36 (NKJV) – 36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
God’s wrath is on those who disbelieve and reject Jesus as Savior and Lord.
The right response to the threat of God’s wrath. Having clarified the target of God’s wrath, what is the right response to the threat of God’s wrath? When we look at Revelation 15:2-5 we see what is the right response to God’s wrath, or the response that will save someone from Gods’ wrath that is coming.
It should be further mentioned here that these right responses to God’s wrath are immensely practical. God’s wrath is reserved for the unjust and Christ-rejectors, but there is a principle here that can be applied for any situation of tribulation, trial, or life turbulence. Try applying these responses next time you encounter a difficulty in life.
First, the right response to God’s wrath is to have victory over sin and God’s enemies through faith in the Lamb Jesus. It states, ““And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.3 They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, . . .” They wouldn’t be singing a song of worship that included lyrics from the Old Testament (i.e. Moses) and the New Testament (i.e. the Lamb) unless they believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And even though it cost them their lives, they trusted in Jesus as their Savior.
That the song they sing involves the Old Testament via Moses and the New Testament via “the Lamb,” tells us that they are balanced in their faith. They are not one or the other, but both or have a faith that encompasses the whole counsel and revelation of God. That is how our faith should be.
Victory in Jesus is appropriate for every difficulty in life. There is victory in Jesus and through Jesus. Go to Jesus in times of hardship. Run to Jesus when you’re hurting. Trust in Jesus. Lean on Him. He won’t let you down.
Second, the right response to God’s wrath is worship. These saints, once born again, once saved from God’s wrath, instinctively worship the LORD! Here worship takes the form of singing. “They sing the song. . .” Those who are genuinely saved, worship; they sing to the Lord. When you’re genuinely saved, you will have a heart to worship. It doesn’t mean you’ll have the best voice or be miraculously enabled to sing like an angel, but when you are saved from God’s wrath and aware of God’s goodness toward you, you will worship your Savior.
In 2 Chronicles 20 there is a situation where a confederacy of surrounding people’s come up against King Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah. Jehoshaphat and the people sought the LORD in prayer and fasting asking Him for help. God’s response was, “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of the great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:1-6). God’s further affirmation and instructions were, “’You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’’ (2 Chronicles 20:17). Then Jehoshaphat and the people “stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with voices loud and high” (2 Chronicles 20:18-19). The next day Jehoshaphat “appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness as they went out before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the LORD, for His mercy endures forever.’” (2 Chronicles 20:20-21). Then it states, “Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, and they were defeated” (2 Chronicles 20:22). I wonder how often a discouraging thought, a depressing dart from the enemy, a down feeling, could be defeated with some worship of God’s beauty and holiness? There’s a principle to be applied here. Try it next time.
Third, the right response to God’s wrath is to turn from self to revere and glorify God. Their glorifying God is expressed with the beautiful words: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!4 Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.” They don’t boast or dwell on their sacrifice or martyrdom, they give glory to God for His marvelous works. Their sacrifice isn’t mentioned as anything special. Their focus is completely on the LORD and His works. They “fear” (Greek phobeo) or revere the LORD. They glorify God’s name. They proclaim Him as holy. They proclaim the majesty and Kingship of God. They boast in the judgments of God. There is no focus on themselves here. They have turned from self and exult in the Lord. That is the right response to God’s wrath.
So much of mental health is due to an inordinate obsession with self. When your focus is on you and all your problems, no wonder you’re depressed. If you struggle with discouragement and depression or some other thought related issue, I encourage you to try a different tact. I encourage you to set your burden at the feet of Jesus in prayer, and then seek His instructions about who and how you might help someone else. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Just try to do something for someone else. Maybe write a note of encouragement to someone. Maybe give them a call or send them a text. Maybe help a shut in. Maybe help a senior go shopping. Maybe help a mother with her children. Maybe help someone for free in some way. And when you do it, do it for the glory of God.
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). When I was a young Christian I got involved with a group of brothers from the church I was attending at the time. They started group called “The Nazarene Nighthawks.” Sounds formidable, but it was a group. What we would do is keep our ears open to find out who in our congregation or neighborhood was in need. Then, anonymously, we would go shopping and leave what was needed at the door fo the person in need with a note from “The Nazarene Nighthawks.” We gave Jesus all the glory. And you know what, that was an awesome feeling to give to someone who needed help and to do it all for the glory of God. Maybe God is calling you to put together such a group. Maybe He’s calling you to do it on your own. But there is a blessing for those who would give to others. The Tribulation martyrs of Revelation 15 gave their lives for the sake of Jesus. And I’ll bet they were blessed beyond belief to do so.
From Wrath to Worship. In our last chapter we came across a verse which pronounced a blessing to the Tribulation saints:
- Revelation 14:13 – “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”
Revelation 15:2-5 tells us why those who die in the Lord during the Tribulation are blessed.
First, those who are martyred for their faith during the Tribulation not only see something special but will experience something special – God’s peace. It states, “And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, . . .” John sees this sea like glass. When a sea or a body of water is like glass, smooth as glass, it is peaceful. These Tribulation saints will go from the turbulent and tumultuous Tribulation to a place of total and complete peace in the presence of God. Awesome!
It states the sea is mingled with fire. It is a special sight. Further down in the passage we see these saints “standing on the sea of glass.” They are on this sea. They are experiencing it firsthand. The Bible says eye has not seen nor ear heard the things God has prepared for those who love Him but for us now, the Spirit has revealed them to us (1 Corinthians 2:9-14). These saints don’t have to wait to see the revelation of the Spirit fulfilled, they are in it!
Second, those who are martyred for their faith during the Tribulation are victorious! It states, “and those who have the victory . . .” These are victorious. They have the victory. They have tasted it and experienced victory in Jesus. There’s something special about the victory we have in Jesus. How sweet will the victory be for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice? It will be sweet.
Third, those who are martyred for their faith during the Tribulation will have experienced a complete victory. It states their victory was, “over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, . . .” Their victory is complete. It is over the beast himself, over his lying image, over his mark and over the number of his name. They have resisted every temptation of the Beast and done so unto victory. How wonderful will that feeling be; a feeling of accomplishment; of having resisted temptation unto death.
Fourth, those who are martyred for their faith during the Tribulation will be especially equipped to worship God. It states, “standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.” They will stand on the sea of glass and be given harps with which to worship the Lord. They will be equipped and enabled to worship the Lord. They will be given the means to express their adoration to the One for Whom they gave their lives.
Fifth, those who are martyred for their faith during the Tribulation are given a special song of perfect completeness to worship with. It states, “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: . . .” Notice this song is “the song of Moses” alluding to the Old Testament, and “the song of the Lamb” who is Jesus and alludes to the New Testament. This song is perfectly balanced between old and New Testaments. Their death, their martyrdom connects Old and New Testaments. It’s a beautiful song of fulfillment. What a glorious song they are given to sing.
Sixth, those who are martyred for their faith during the Tribulation are given a song to worship God for His perfect prophetic plan. The words of this heavenly worship song are: “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!4 Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.” This song exalts God for His marvelous works, for being ‘Lord God Almighty” all powerful. This song exults God for His justice and truth in all His ways. It worships Him as “King of the saints!” This song points out the fearsomeness of God. No one doesn’t’ fear God in His Almighty presentation. This song calls everyone to “glorify Your name.” “You alone are holy,” points out that there is none like Almighty God. All nations will come and worship before God. His “judgments” will be manifested or come to pass. This is a gloriously beautiful song of praise to God.
Seventh, those who are martyred for their faith during the Tribulation are given a song that opens the heavenly temple. It states, “After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened.” This is a song that opens access to God’s presence. This is a painting of the holiest of holy places opened to those who have resisted temptation on earth to the point of giving their lives. Peter in his first epistle spoke of those who suffer as having ceased from sin (1 Peter 4:1). They cease from sin in that they resisted saving their life in preference to the presence of God in heaven.
Tribulation saints who were martyred on earth must have seemed to be losers to those allied with Antichrist, but in God’s eyes, the martyrs were victors. Many now may seem to be losers as they remain in illness, or deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow Jesus, but they will be victors in heaven!
Not all of those who accepted Jesus as Savior during the Tribulation were protected from the persecution of the Antichrist as were the 144,000. Some saints gave their lives. As those martyred relinquished their “rights” to God and surrendered their lives to the purposes and will of God, they found glorious victory on the “sea of glass” as they worshipped the Lord. In heaven they all “walked on water.”
Why the wrath of God? This is a difficult question for us to comprehend, especially in today’s culture. Much of today’s culture seems to more than bend over backwards at times to side not with victims, but with offenders. A lot of times it seems there are more safeguards in our system of justice for offenders and for victims. The reasoning behind such a tact is that we want to guard against enforcing justice unjustly in some way. We fear “cruel and unusual punishment” more than just punishment for those who do indeed break the law and leave the shattered lives of victims in their wake. But God’s justice is perfect justice. God’s wrath is a part of His system of justice. God’s system of justice considers the human condition. Why is the wrath of God necessary? Let me try to answer that by beginning with a couple of illustrations.
First, a few years ago The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien was made into a movie. In the movie there is a character named Gollum. Gollum used to be a Hobbit, a kind, peace loving, gregarious type of being. But by a series of fortuitous circumstances Gollum came into possession of a ring of great responsibility and power. The ring could make a person who wore it invisible. The ring was the last in a series of rings that gave complete power to its owner. The only problem with the ring is that it tortured its wearer with an addictive type of obsession. When the ring was worn, it ate the wearer alive with obsession and lust for power and pride and evil. When Gollum came into possession of the ring at first, he thought it a great blessing. However, as time went on and the ring began to have its ill effects, Gollum degenerated into a hopeless emaciated pitiful shell of his former self. Gollum got to a point where he was beyond redemption. He ultimately met his demise clutching after the ring as it plummeted into the fires of Mordor. It was a pitiful story with a pitiful sight in the end.
Sin kills. Sin, like the ring, causes a person to lust after it even when they know it will destroy them. And if a person does not turn to the Lord to have the shackles of sin broken, they will ultimately get to the point where they, like Gollum, will lurch into the fiery flows of God’s wrath. The only difference with the real situation is that God’s wrath does not annihilate the sinner, it enforces on them a just eternal punishment.
Second, when my kids were growing up, every morning in our home we would have family devotions and then I would drive my children to school. When we arrived, I’d walk them to the front door and give them a hug and kiss good bye. I’d watch carefully as they walked into the school. I made sure to get three waves from my daughter. I didn’t leave unless she turned three times and gave me three waves good-bye. My kids were always precious to me and I watched them like a big papa bear to protect them.
During the summer the children have what is called “Field Day” when the entire population of children in the various grades compete in games on the playground. I make it a point to come and watch them and help in any way I can. Now what do you think I would do if while at the Field Day I saw a rabid dog fiercely snarling and growling and bearing its teeth come running onto the field and begin attacking the children? Would I? A.) Watch quietly and do nothing; B.) Try to run up and pet the dog; C.) Grab a child and coax the dogs, “Here boy, here boy! Come to supper!”; or D.) Do whatever I could to save the children even if it meant killing the rabid dog. You know it would be “D!”
Let’s make it a bit more personal. What if a rabid dog rushed into your home and began attacking your family? Would you say, “Oh, poor doggy, don’t hurt him, he’s only expressing his frustration. He can’t help himself. Don’t punish him. He’s a product of his upbringing, he’s dysfunctional and besides the First Amendment assures him freedom of expression doesn’t it?! . . . .” But rabies is a terminal condition much the same as sinful rebellion is if not repented of and forgiven by God.
In these such situations when a dog threatens the welfare of a helpless child, action must be taken. During the Tribulation, the people who refuse to repent, who persist in their sin and rejection of God, will become more and more like rabid dogs. They will be dealt with by the Lord. They only difference is that, unlike the rabid dog, sinners, who could have chosen differently, are not annihilated, they are justly punished for eternity.
People who persist in their sin become a lot like a rabid dog. They aren’t only a danger to themselves. They are also a danger to others. God is patient, but His patient has an end point. Those who exhaust the patience of God and refuse to turn from their sin to God for forgiveness will eventually reach a point of no return.
This explanation may not be enough for you. But we also should add to this that God is perfectly able to make His judgments based on the heart conditions of humanity. We should also add that God is omniscient. God has foreknowledge to draw on to make His decisions of justice. God knows the thoughts and intents of the human heart. God is able to judge justly where human beings fall short in their attempts to do so.
Rejecting God leads to Total Degeneration. Why is the world so wayward? Why does the world receive with open arms those who profess adultery, homosexuality, immorality, and irreverence? Man is born in sin. Every person is born with the propensity to sin, the inclination to sin. You don’t have to teach a child to disobey or hoard their toys, they just do it. The Bible puts it this way:
- Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
- Romans 5:12 – “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned”
- Ephesians 2:1-3 – “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
All sin is inherited. Sin manifests itself in the form of perverting desires. God creates mankind with normal desires for worship, food, love, acceptance, relationships, sexuality and procreation. But sin perverts those desires and seeks to fulfill the desires in a way that is outside of the original intent of God. For a homosexual to say, “I was born this way,” is no excuse for their behavior any more than it is for an adulterer, thief, murderer or arsonist. The philosophy of the world is that because a person is “born” with this propensity, they should be excused for their actions. Not only that, but the world tells us everyone else should TOLERATE and ACCEPT such sinful behavior. Those who refuse to do so are labeled bigots and hateful. But what if Hitler, Timothy McVey, Charles Manson, Richard Speck and a host of other murderers, terrorists and crazies all claimed they should be excused for their behavior because they were born that way? What if they said, “Wait a minute here. This is unfair. All my life I’ve had these feelings and impulses to hate, blow things up and mutilate people. I shouldn’t be held accountable for things I was born with a propensity to do!” Would we release such people if they said that would we? No, because EVEN THOUGH THE SINFUL IMPULSES ARE IN THEM, THEY SHOULD RESTRAIN THEMSELVES FROM FOLLOWING THROUGH ON THEM. THEREFORE, WHEN HOMOSEXUALS OR ANYONE ELSE LIVING IN SIN CLAIMS WE SHOULD ACCEPT THEIR BEHAVIOR BECAUSE THEY ARE “BORN THAT WAY” IT IS A BASELESS CLAIM AND DOES NOT EXCUSE THEM FROM ACTING IN A WAY THAT THE BIBLE CALLS SINFUL. We are ALL BORN IN SIN, and unless that sin is dealt with, we will all die in that sin. Any sin if not repented of, will separate a person from God and if left unattended it will grow worse and worse and ultimately lead to death or eternal separation from God. But there is good news! God has provided a way out for sinners. The scriptures say:
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Persisting in Sin Leads to Degeneration. The Bible states that those who reject God and His persistent patient offer of salvation in Christ, will degenerate into a muddy moral morass. The apostle Paul explained the degenerative process in his letter to the Romans:
Even though we are born with sinful impulses, we are not excused for sinful behaviors. Sin in any form should not be tolerated or viewed as acceptable! God has provided a means to victory over sin in His Son Jesus Christ.
- Romans 1:18-32 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”
There is a sequence which leads to the depravity of mankind. The wrath of God is revealed against those who follow this downward willful spiral of rebellion against God and His truth.
This sequence is as follows:
Suppression of revealed truth of God (1:18) – Of this verse A.T. Robertson comments, “Truth is out in the open, but wicked men, so to speak, put it in a box and sit on the lid and ‘hold it down in unrighteousness.’ Their evil deeds conceal the open truth of God from men.”
The inexcusable rejection of what God has clearly revealed (1:19-20) – There is no excuse for those who reject God’s truth because He has revealed what needs to be known about Himself in order to be saved.
The rejection of God leads to the deification of creation, i.e. humans and animals (1:21-23) – As the true solution to people’s inherent desire to worship is rejected, sinful rebellious mankind seeks to fill the void. Again A.T. Robertson states, “Originally men had some knowledge of God. No people, however degraded, have yet been found without some yearning after a god, a seeking to find the true God and get back to him . . .” The apostle Paul said as much to the Athenian scholars in the book of Acts:
- Acts 17:27 – “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;” (See context of Acts 17:22-32).
Once God is rejected the focus of man turns to himself. Man exalts other men as gods and ultimately, he desires to become a god himself. Self-rule is the aim of the rebel against God.
The rejection of God leads to false worship, false perceptions, perversity and self- destructive tendencies (1:24-31) – Once man rejects the true Piece to the puzzle of worship, (that he inherently craves), he then delves into false worship and those things meant to enhance human relationships are perverted and warped. Such indulgence in sin actually changes the personality of those involved. The concept of truth is lost and everything becomes subjective. Everyone is left to live by his or her own opinions regardless of the consequence.
The rejection of God leads to outright rebellion against God and all that is holy (1:32) – Not only do people reject God, but this rejection leads to rebellious opposition to God. Misery loves company and so those who rebel against God seek to sooth their conscience by drawing greater and greater numbers of people into their camp as though the greater numbers of those in agreement with them could cancel the sense of God’s wrath and judgment that will come upon them. Sin left alone increases and fatally infects. One time a dear friend and brother in Christ of mine When this word is used in the sense of knowing someone it means:
Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). The word “know” here is translated from the Greek term ginosko. The idea of this word “know” in the original language meant to become aware, perceive (as in “seeing is believing”), to understand, to be conscious of, to see something or someone as it/they truly are (not merely opinion or speculation).
What’s the alternative to God’s wrath? The alternative to God’s wrath is an eternal, loving, safe, and profoundly blessed personal relationship with God. God will not allow sin into heaven. Sin would ruin heaven. Heaven is the ultimate safe space. That’s why sin is not allowed there. And God has provided this alternative as a free gift of His grace. All you need to do to receive this gift of eternal life is, trust Him.
God’s wrath is marvelous because it flows out of God’s omnipotence, is tempered with His mercy and grace, is always just, and is holy. God is patient and He is longsuffering. But a time will come when the wrath of God will be poured out on a Christ-rejecting world and is completed and filled up. Then it will be too late to repent. A day will come when God will clean house, when He will remove the rabid dogs of degeneracy. He patiently awaits their possible repentance. But that time is rapidly coming to an end.
GOD’S WRATH IS THE SPIRITUAL SURGERY REQUIRED TO REMOVE SIN FROM THIS WORLD.
A man saw a young boy walking along the road with fishing tackle in hand and inquired, “How they biting?” The boy responded in a peculiar way, “The fish aren’t but the worms sure are!” He drove off pondering the response when he came to a terrible realization. He immediately turned the car around and returned to find his worst fears realized. The boy was dead along the road. This young boy had mistaken baby rattlesnakes for worms and been bitten to death. SIN MAY SEEM HARMLESS, BUT SIN HAS A SHARP POISONOUS BITE. SIN NEEDS TO BE REMOVED OR IT WILL KILL YOU.
I once had a friend and brother in Christ who was diagnosed with cancer of the prostate gland. That is a very scary thing to have happen to you and there are a number of ways to deal with the cancer. When he was prayerfully deciding what needed to be done some treatments were less obtrusive than others but the less obtrusive treatments were also less effective in removing the cancer. He opted for the only reasonable treatment, removal of the prostate. That surgery would be painful and it would take months of rehabilitation until he was back to normal. But the cancer cells had to be removed because if they remained, his condition could prove fatal. The same is true of sin. If we do not allow God to perform radical surgery to remove sin in our lives, it will grow and kill us in the end.
Since sin is like a cancer that ends in death (Romans 6:23), God in love seeks to remove this cancer in order to protect His children who have received eternal life in Christ. The wrath of God is on those who reject Him because those who choose to abide in and cling to sinful ways threaten the peace of the universe. Sinners threaten disruption of God’s original intent to have an eternal personal loving relationship with people. And so, God’s wrath is the perfectly just response to those who have chosen their sin over God’s redemption (cf. also 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; 2:9-12).
- To know someone personally
- To be personally acquainted with someone
- To trust someone
- To have a friendship with someone
- To have an intimate personal relationship with someone
It is possible to know personally the only true God and His Son Jesus Christ. In light of this the question arises, do you know Jesus?
The Good News is that we can have a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Entering into such a relationship is as simple as ABC: Admit/Ask, Believe/Receive, and Confess/Call.
First Admit your sin and ask God’s forgiveness for them. Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). And we all have sinned and fall short of what it takes to enter heaven (Romans 3). We need to admit this truth before God. Once we admit our sin before God we need to ask God’s forgiveness for our sins. This implies turning from our sins to God (i.e. repentance). This is humbling but necessary. We come to Him on His terms not our terms. We come humbly before God who is Awesome and Holy.
Second, believe in Jesus and His atoning work. Jesus and Jesus atoning work on the cross alone, not our efforts or works, is the basis for God’s forgiveness of our sins. The wages or consequences of our sin is death. Jesus died on the cross in our place, paying our punishment for sin. God offers us salvation from our sins freely as a gift of His grace through Jesus’ death on the cross (Romans 6:23). We are saved from our sins because of His work not our work. To believe, trust, or put our faith in Jesus as Savior is not a “work,” it is God’s grace working in us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Once we believe in Jesus and His atoning work, we believe and receive forgiveness for our sins based on Jesus and His work. God has a just basis to forgive our sins because of Jesus justifying work on the cross on our behalf. Jesus paid our death penalty on the cross for us. He’s the only One qualified to do that. Jesus took our sins on Himself on the cross and when we trust in Him and His work, He offers us His righteousness to be put to our account (cf. Isaiah 53; 2 Corinthians 5:21). God did this for us in Christ because He loves us. God is Love with a capitol “L” (e.g. John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:8 and 16).
Lastly, Confess and call. We confess our sins to God and receive His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). But we also confess Jesus to those around us; we tell others about Jesus; we call others to follow Jesus too. These are not a works that lead to salvation. This is a fruit or evidence that salvation has genuinely taken place in us. The Bible states, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
 A.T. Robertson, word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV, Epistles of Paul (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1931) p. 328
 A.T. Robertson, Ibid., p. 329.
 Jon Courson, Ibid.
 A.T. Robertson, word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV, Epistles of Paul (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1931) p. 328
 A.T. Robertson, Ibid., p. 329.