And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39
When we hear the word wrath, it usually does not mean something good will happen. So, what does it mean when we hear the term “The Wrath of God.” Wrath is defined as “the emotional response to perceived wrong and injustice,” often translated as anger, indignation, vexation, or irritation. As humans, we can experience the emotion of wrath, but it is hardly, if ever, without sin manifesting in us. However, God’s wrath is holy and always justified. Ours is never righteous and rarely justified. God has anger against our sin, and that wrath has to be appeased. Every person born from a woman deserves God’s wrath to be poured out on them. But, God is rich in mercy and grace, and He made way for sinful men and women to be made right with him by Jesus Christ’s sacrificial atonement. Jesus was the lamb of God who became the propitiation for our sin. Jesus took upon Himself all of the anger God had against all who would believe and bore the sins of the world upon Himself. In other words, Jesus’ suffering and death satisfied God’s wrath against our sin.
However, there has been a growing dismissive attitude when it comes to the wrath of God. During the Great Awakening in this country in the 18th century, Jonathan Edwards famously preached a sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God.” The passage is a vivid exposition of Deuteronomy 32:35, which reads, “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will stumble; For the day of their disaster is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.”
Focusing on the second line (“their foot will stumble,” LSB), Edwards illustrates the dangerous position of the lost. Those without Christ dangle over the flames of hell like a spider over a flame. That kind of preaching ignited a revival as it set salvation in the context of God’s holy wrath. But today, God’s wrath has been dumbed down or eliminated from pulpits all across this nation.
As an example of this dumbing down happened in 2013, a committee of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) dropped the hymn “In Christ Alone” from their hymnal because Getty refused to allow them to change the lyrics. The original lyrics say, “on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.” The Presbyterian committee wanted to change that phrase to “the love of God was magnified.” Songwriters Stuart Townend and Keith Getty objected to the change, so the committee dropped the song from their hymnal. The committee wrote the following:
The issue is not the “wrath” of God, as some might think, but rather the word “satisfied,” which the committee says does not conform to their theology. The Rev. Chris Joiner of First Presbyterian Church in Franklin explains the words of the song don’t work. “That lyric comes close to saying that God killed Jesus,” he said. “The cross is not an instrument of God’s wrath.”
Instead of preaching on the wrath of God, we are told that preaching on God’s wrath sends the wrong message to the lost. Instead of preaching against sin, we are told to preach about God’s love and forgiveness. We are told that there is no absolute truth, and it is wrong to tell somebody that God hates them if they are outside of Christ. It is not love to tell a person a lie. We need to be bold in proclaiming the Gospel because the consequences for someone not receiving Christ as Savior is an eternity of torment, suffering God’s wrath in hell. Jesus declared in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Josh Buice says this about the wrath of God,
“In some circles today, the love of God is elevated above the wrath of God with clear emphasis, and that’s a tragic mistake. It does not reveal the true nature and revelation of God as he has put on display in the pages of Scripture. We must be balanced and true to what God’s Word actually states. God is not a loose cannon losing his temper with people. God’s wrath is not a reckless rage, an uncontrollable anger, a senseless fury, or an unjust vengeance. The wrath of God is a precise and controlled response to the belittling of his holiness. Everyone who perishes under the wrath of God in eternity will not be because God lost his temper with them and mistreated them. On that day, everyone will know that God has treated them with precise justice. Three trillion years into eternity every sinner who is cast into hell will still know that God never mistreated anyone.”
For Christians, there is no need to fear the wrath of God. Jesus drank of the cup so you and I could have eternal life through the sacrifice of the Son of God. What say you? Is Jesus your Lord and Savior, or is God’s wrath against your sin going to pour out on you for all of eternity?