Romans 1:18 God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodly behavior and the injustice of human beings who silence the truth with injustice. (CEB)
We tend to think of God as a loving, merciful God but we seem to forget about God’s wrath. Churches today preach love and joy, peace and happiness all the feel good things that come with being a Christian. Unfortunately, the sermons preached in many, if not most, churches don’t include teaching and preaching about the wrath of God. The reason they don’t is that they feel that messages on God’s wrath, hell, and judgment would probably scare some people off and they are probably right. What would you rather hear? A message about God’s eternal love for you or a message of the punishment that awaits those who reject God and the Lord Jesus Christ in the fiery pit of hell where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth?
As believers in and followers of Christ, we need to understand God’s wrath because it is part of his character and in order to get closer to Him, we need to understand as much as possible so that we can worship in spirit and in truth.
We hear the word wrath and negative images come to mind of an incredibly ill-tempered person who screams and yells and even causes bodily harm every time he’s upset. This isn’t the way God works or behaves toward humanity. He created us in his image and he knows mankind intimately and especially knows that we’re going to let him down most of the time.
The word for wrath used in the Greek is orge. Orge is not an uncontrollable anger that comes out in bursts. It refers to an anger that is slowly burning and swelling. God’s patience toward us is immense. He puts up with us but only for a time. Eventually God’s anger does have an end. Revelation 15:1 says “Then I saw another great and awe-inspiring sign in heaven. There were seven angels with seven plagues—and these are the last, for with them God’s anger is brought to an end.”
The Chinese philosophy of “yin and yang” describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. The idea is that good cannot exist without evil and evil without good. This doesn’t mesh with the nature of God. God and evil are neither interconnected nor interdependent. God is pure good and can and does exist without the need for evil.
To understand God’s wrath, you must first understand that God is the opposite of evil. God is holy, righteous, and good and thus despises unholiness, unrighteousness and evil.
Ungodliness is in all human beings and manifests itself in our wrongful actions that are opposed to God’s level of godliness. Colossians 3:6 tells us to “put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth, such as sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). The wrath of God is coming upon disobedient people because of these things.” Additionally, in Ephesians 5:5-6 we read “Because you know for sure that persons who are sexually immoral, impure, or greedy—which happens when things become gods—those persons won’t inherit the kingdom of Christ and God. Nobody should deceive you with stupid ideas. God’s anger comes down on those who are disobedient because of this kind of thing.” While God despises the behavior, the one who is doing that behavior is considered disobedient to God and thus headed on the conveyor belt toward the wrath of God.
God’s wrath is not directed toward people but toward their acts and behaviors. His wrath is directed toward ungodly behavior and the injustice of human beings who silence the truth with injustice. The justice spoken of here is not our human understanding of justice. It is God’s opposition to ungodliness that requires justice in the form of the destruction of ungodliness.
The message of the gospel is that God’ justice has been served and that all we have to do is accept the justice served as payment for our ungodliness. Through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God has destroyed the ungodliness that dwells within us by looking at us through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the human embodiment of godliness. By taking the place of humans, he accepted the punishment for ungodliness that God requires. Justice was served when Jesus died on that cross. God punished injustice through the death of the only godly person on earth and in history. This is the truth that is being silenced by the injustice of human beings with their injustice.
It is precisely because of God’s opposition to ungodliness that He wants His creation, human beings, to be godly and therefore be able to live in His realm eternally. In His love for mankind, God has given us the choice. John 3:36 declares “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever doesn’t believe in the Son won’t see life, but the angry judgment of God remains on them.” Once you accept the sacrifice of Christ as the once and for all punishment for your ungodliness, God no longer sees your ungodliness but sees you through Jesus Christ’s godliness. Because Jesus went through the punishment for ungodliness and died, God sees you as having died. In Colossians 3:2 it says that “you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” This means that the wrath of God no longer applies to you and you will not be subjected to it.
This is God’s gift to all human beings, that a holy and righteous God loved humanity in such a way that He took the form a man, in the person of Jesus and willingly accepted the punishment for our ungodliness with the ultimate goal that we as humans would accept that as payment for our lack of godliness and righteousness. This is done by faith, believing in that sacrifice as the only payment for our unrighteousness and that nothing further is required. God now considers you righteous and godly because He sees you through Jesus; therefore you will not be subject to the wrath of God but instead you will be accepted as godly and can be part of God’s realm forever.