By Chaplain (Col) Stephen W. Leonard, USA, Ret.
“…and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:10
The wrath of God is something you ought to avoid at all cost. But what is His wrath? Does He even have wrath? Some have a view of God as a kindly, old, insipid grandfather who never gets angry. Others view God as vengeful and overly cantankerous, especially, they erroneously think, because He is “the Old Testament God.” But this is only because they do not read it, and they falsely believe the rumors that such a God exists.
The war presently in Israel and Gaza, between Hamas and Israel, gives a view of what God is doing in Scripture. After Hamas’ attack on Israel of horrendous and evil proportion, Israel is intent on completely destroying their perpetrators, who wish their destruction. Part of their plan is to bring air strikes on Gaza, which is “governed” by Hamas, to stop the incessant, murderous rocket attacks and to render Hamas unable to attack them again. But before every airstrike, the IDF gives warning to the Palestinian civilians to vacate the area they are going to strike. A warning Hamas themselves were unwilling to provide Israel.
This is what God does consistently in Scripture. He gives warning over and over again to those who have ears to hear of how to avoid His wrath. Of course, a holy God has wrath! He has wrath on evil and on sin and the destructive behavior of man. Left to himself, man will destroy not only himself, but everyone else too. God warns man of the wrath to come. Genesis 6:5 expresses, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
So, after warning them for hundreds of years and specifically through Noah’s faithful preaching, God brought a universal flood that destroyed all people, except for Noah’s family. The rising, tempestuous, and drowning water was a wrath borne out upon an evil, rebellious, and unhearing people.
Again and again, God’s wrath comes as a result of his consistent warning throughout the history of the Old Testament. But He only visits His wrath after an enduring, over-abundant patience, always manifested by a gracious, long-suffering God. But He never promises or warns what He does not faithfully, honestly, and ultimately fulfill. 1 Corinthians 10:6 says, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.”
Destructive fire on Sodom and Gomorrah! The plagues on Pharaoh and Egypt, the terrible, ghastly killing power of enemies wrought upon rebellious Israel, the poisonous killing snakes in the wilderness, sicknesses, boils, plagues—over and over, we see God’s wrath eventually bringing what He warned in the face of their destructive and abominable evil.
So what today is “the wrath to come”? It is the consequence of God’s final judgment! There will be a Final Judgment! You can surely count on it. And those who are judged then to have ignored the Son of God and His provision of the path to salvation and to God Himself, will reap the wrath of God, namely, consignment to an eternal hell.
The warning is long-suffering and abundantly clear. All of Scripture is replete with the free offer of the Gospel, and also the consequences of turning your back on God. You may say the consequences are unfair. Yet, it is abundantly fair and totally just. Most importantly, it is true. It will happen just as God in His Word says it will, whether you think it unfair or not.
Scripture is constantly warning: flee from the wrath to come! Flee instead into the arms of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will always receive the repentant sinner with wide, open arms. But then, if you really have believed this Gospel, exhibit your belief. Go out and witness to others of its truth. Let them know with genuine and persuasive love that you, yourself, believe God’s Word! And your greatest desire is that they believe it, too. And thus escape the wrath of God.
“But sinners, filled with guilty fears, behold His wrath prevailing; for they shall rise, and find their tears and sighs are unavailing: the day of grace is past and gone; trembling they stand before the throne, all unprepared to meet Him.”
(3rd verse of William Collyer’s hymn, “Great God, What Do I See and Hear,” 1812)