If you could imagine the wrath of God occurring at this moment, what do you believe it would it look like? Would it be earthquakes and fire engulfing and destroying the earth as we know it? If you were to imagine God executing his wrath upon unbelievers, what would you see? When does God’s wrath occur and upon whom is it coming? Does it come upon unbelievers only or does it also come upon God’s people, too? Is it possible to know for certain what it is? I believe we could not only have a general idea, but many of us have experienced it, and it is occurring all around us today!
The word translated “wrath” in the New Testament is orge (G.3709) in the Greek. It is a noun meaning: wrath or anger. Aristotle said that orge is desire with grief (compare Mark 3:5; Romans 9:22; 12:19). The noun is taken from the verb orego (G.3713) meaning, covet after, desire. Although it is possible for believers to come under the wrath of God (Revelation 16:19; 18:4), it is not God’s intention that this would be so (1Thessalonians 1:10; 2:16). God’s wrath is intended for those who have rejected Christ (John 3:36; Romans 5:9; Hebrews 3:11; 4:3). It comes upon those who live and move and have their being in the flesh (Ephesians 5:1-7; cp. 4:30-32), executing their desires in unrighteous behavior. It is because of this behavior that God has given authority to governments, namely, that they would keep wickedness in check (Romans 13:3-5) by punishing those who rebel against good behavior. Ultimately, all rebellion held in unrepentance will be punished in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 14:10; 21:8).
Nevertheless, I believe, when thinking about the wrath of God, we must keep in mind God’s anger toward evil, just like his thoughts and ways (Isaiah 55:8), is not at all like man’s own anger. As the Scriptures conclude:
“…for human anger does not promote divine righteousness;” (James 1:20 Moffatt NT)
The implication is that the wrath of God would work or promote righteousness! James warns believers:
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).
We are not to take wrathful action against those who have wronged us. Scripture plainly says,
“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
Although we were made in the image and likeness of God, we are very different from him in our behavior because of the fall. The wrath of God is not at all like many of us would assume it to be.
For God’s [holy] wrath and indignation are revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who in their wickedness repress and hinder the truth and make it inoperative. (Romans 1:18 AMP)
In other words, the wrath of God is not revealed against any and every sin. Although the Scriptures do show we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7), the wrath of God is revealed against those who call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20-24). It is not something that is poured out at some future date, but is very much a part of our daily lives in this world. The wrath of God comes from heaven and falls upon all who live as though God’s truth is evil. But, what exactly is the wrath of God?
Notice what chapter one of Romans shows us concerning God’s wrath as it pertains to the people who reject knowing him. In verse-21 men “became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” They thought they were wise, believing that the “truth” hid wisdom from them. Nevertheless, by holding the truth as evil, they became fools (verse-22). Their worship became corrupted as their imaginations dishonored the form of God, assuming him to be like the creature. God, therefore, gave them up to unclean and evil desires, dishonoring their own form. Then men exchanged the relationship they had with God with what they had with one another. They worshiped other men and the works of their own hands, giving them the honor that belonged to God. Therefore, God gave them up to dishonor the natural relationship mankind had with one another (Romans 1:25-27). Finally, as men became unwilling to give weight to the truth of God as an accurate means of knowing reality, God gave them over to a spurious understanding. This bred all kinds of evil behavior (Romans 1:28-31). They not only mocked at what they knew to be God’s judgment of such wickedness, but took great pleasure in others who did the same (Romans 1:32). Thus, man fell into an ever-deepening spiral of depravity, moving further and further away from God and real truth.
This is the “revelation of the wrath of God” (Romans 1:18). It is unrepentant rebellious men sinning to a greater and greater degree, becoming more disgustingly evil, more hateful, more depraved and more foolish and more and more to be found under the control of that which they pursue. Man believes he is so wise, pointing to his great accomplishments in science, art and the business arena. Yet, his cities have grown more and more dangerous. Crime runs rampant and corruption has all but overcome the very institutions of men that God had ordained to keep such in check. Men desire peace but have no real peace in his own city, in his business, his neighborhood or his family. He never considers that his foolish heart has been darkened because of his rejection of God. This is the wrath of God. Yet, the Lord administers punishment with the intent to separate man from his sins (Jeremiah 2:19; cp. James 1:20)! It has never been his desire to destroy man (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11), only his evil works (Micah 7:19; John 1:29; 1John 3:8). May God have mercy on us all, and may we praise him in his righteous judgment. Yes, even so, Lord Jesus, come!