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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45am Service, 2005-04-17

Text: Romans 1:18; Hebrews 12:28,29

This is a topic that people often very much dread to speak about, but at the same time, it is a topic which must be carefully understood and known to all, for without it, our view of God would not be complete and accurate. It is too easy to become so caught up with the love and compassion of God that we overlook His firm opposition to all evil and sin. The wrath of God is not a popular subject today but it takes up a large part of biblical teaching. Those who choose to neglect or overlook the wrath of God do so to their own peril. Let us first consider:

1. Why Does the Bible have so much teaching on God's Wrath?

The wrath of God is mentioned at least 32 times in the Bible. One example is Jeremiah 10:10 - 'But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.' Another is Nahum 1:2 - 'God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for His enemies.' Other synonyms of the word 'wrath' used of God include the words 'anger' (28x, e.g. Deuteronomy 6:15 '(For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth. ') and 'indignation' (5x, e.g. Ezekiel 22:31 - 'Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.')

All these verses and more tell us in no uncertain terms that God is a God of wrath and judgment, a God of anger and indignation. Why does God want to reveal this seemingly unpleasant things to us? If you search the scriptures you will find that there are at least three reasons for this:

A. It is meant to make us understand His righteousness:

The wrath of God is the outcome of His righteous judgment of the world. Psalm 9:7,8 'But the LORD shall endure for ever: He hath prepared His throne for judgment. And He shall judge the world in righteousness, He shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness.'

Romans 2:5 says 'But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God.' I want you to notice that the Bible makes absolutely no apology at all for this doctrine, nor does it attempt to soft-pedal or tone it down. Our God is a God who must execute judgement.

Now look at Ezekiel 28:21,22 - 'Son of man, set thy face against Zidon, and prophesy against it, And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Zidon; and I will be glorified in the midst of thee: and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall have executed judgments in her, and shall be sanctified in her. '

I want you to listen to this carefully: What this means is that God will be as much glorified by His wrath as He is by His love or by any other attribute that He has. So let us never regard this attribute of God's wrath as being something unpleasant that God would rather not carry out, and cannot help but to carry out. The scriptures even tell us to praise God for His great wrath!

I am sure that you must have heard the glorious strains of the Hallelujah chorus of Handel's Messiah before, with the powerful words, 'Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!' But do you know where these words come from in your Bible? Revelation 19:2-6 which describes God's righteous destruction of Mystery Babylon, the Great Harlot (Revelation 17:5) that sits upon many waters. These words of glorious praise will be sung even as the smoke of this anti-God and anti-Christian movement's complete destruction billows upward.

At the same time, let us understand that God is not a capricious God venting His fury unreasonably and without any restraint. We are not at the mercy of the changing whims and fancies of a selfish, unfeeling, indifferent god. God is not at all like us, who might mete out punishment which is too severe in a fit of rage. God does not lose His temper. He is in fact very gracious and slow to anger. Whatever wrath and indignation He has is good and righteous indignation. The objects of His wrath fully deserve it from Him. 

That is why we must be careful not to conclude that since God can be full of wrath and anger, it is all right for Christians to be angry for any cause, Most of the time, our anger is not righteous at all, but sinful, self-centred and unjustified. Colossians 3:8 tells us that anger and wrath are sins we need to put away from our lives - 

'But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.' God's anger is different from that. It is always pure, justified, righteous and holy because it is designed to reveal these things about Himself. Now let us look at another important reason for the revelation of God's wrath.

B. It is meant to comfort us that all the evil in the world will be punished

Romans 1:18 'For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.' Throughout all ages, God's people have often suffered at the hands of the ungodly and unrighteous men who are mentioned in this verse, and they are not able to do anything at all to stop it in this sinful world. Evil men often take advantage of those who are weak and poor and they get away scot free. Recently, we were appalled to hear about tsunami relief funds that end up in the pockets of influential government officials instead of helping the needy victims. We say, how wicked they are to seek their own prosperity at the expense of thousands of people! How often we wish that there could be a final end to all the heartless injustice, exploitation and evil in the world. How we wish that the people who perpetrate these terrible things would get exactly what they deserve.

Whenever we feel like this, the doctrine of God's wrath assures us that God will ultimately bring all the evil that is in the world to a just end. Psalm 10:17-18 - 'LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear: To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress.'

Besides that, Psalm 7:11 tells us that 'God is angry with the wicked every day.' Wicked men who seem to do all their evil deeds with impunity will therefore receive the righteous punishment that they fully deserve. Psalm 11:5,6 'The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence His soul hateth. Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.'

All these verses open our eyes to the truth that though the wicked may seem to prosper well now, they are actually standing on very slippery ground. At the moment that they least expect to fall, they will both slip and fall. And by allowing them to prosper in their evil, without any restraint, God has actually set them up for that fall. They will never be able to find a way to evade the arm of the Greatest Judge of all: God Himself. 

God's wrath will come upon them. No one can escape from it. Judgment is most certain therefore, for all the wicked, even though, for a time, they may seem to carry on their wicked deeds without any restraint or retribution. And if they do not receive judgment before they die, they will certainly receive it after they die, when they find themselves being cast by God into the eternal fires of hell for all their sins. For them, it will be like waking up from a dream, to a reality which is an eternal living nightmare! So from now on when you see the prosperity, power, wealth and greatness of the ungodly, please see them for what they really are: nothing but short.-lived dreams, momentary images that are here today, but gone tomorrow.

Now, we go on to a third reason why God has revealed His wrath:

C. It is meant to inculcate in us the right attitudes toward God

Let us look at the passage which we read before the message: Hebrews 12:28,29 - 'Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For God is a consuming fire.' If you read the earlier part of this chapter, you would come across v.21 which records that when Moses saw God's awesome presence manifested in the earthquake, fire and smoke at Mout Sinai, he said, 'I exceedingly fear and quake.' This is a healthy fear. It is good to have a God-fearing attitude.

This should be reflected in our worship. The worship service should not be regarded as an entertainment. The whole object is not to make us 'feel' nice and uplifted. We must always be careful to remember that the real object of worship is to please God and serve Him, not ourselves. Let us maintain an atmosphere of godly reverence and fear in our worship by remembering this important doctrine. Psalm 89:7 tells us - 'God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him.' This is why we inform all worshippers to turn off their mobile phones at the beginning of each service. There should be no SMSing or talking during the service, but keeping silence in holy reverence before the Lord. 

This principle applies not only to our worship. The doctrine of God's wrath and judgment is meant to inculcate the proper attitude of reverence in us toward God in our daily life and service to God. It teaches us that God is not One to be trifled with. He says that He will deal very sternly and decisively with sin, and He will certainly carry it out. No Christian can purposely or carelessly flout God's commandments and say to himself, 'I am sure God will not mind it too much.' Be not deceived: God is not mocked! We cannot play around or fool around with the things of God. We are not just playing at religion. We need to take our Christian life and service very seriously because our God is real and will not tolerate any fooling around from us.

In contrast to all that, we can see that many human rulers and authorities today are increasingly unable to implement stern measures that are needful, without incurring much criticism and even violent reactions from without and within. The tendency today is that governments are being feared and respected less and less. In some countries today whenever the death sentence is given, it no longer evokes any significant degree of terror in the hearts of hardened criminals, because they know that they can easily get the death sentence commuted to life imprisonment and even to get away with something lighter than that.

So let us remember that even though we who are saved through Jesus Christ will be graciously and mercifully spared from facing God's tremendous wrath for our sins, it is still very profitable for us to study the doctrine of God's wrath so that we may realise the awesome judgmental capability and power of the God whom we serve, the God with whom we have to do. Dear friends, whenever you find yourself becoming cold or slack in your devotion to God, or becoming a little too presumptuous toward God, or becoming too lax with regard to questionable practices or moral matters, please make full use of this remedy - Remind yourself that this God whom you serve is as much a God of wrath, as He is a God of love. Meditate on the passages of Scripture that speak of His wrath and consider the examples of God's Wrath:

II. What examples are there in the Bible of God's Wrath?

A. The Great Flood

The very first demonstration of God's judgment was the Great Flood (Genesis 6:5-7). God sent a huge worldwide flood that destroyed every living thing on earth, except those that were saved in the ark that God told Noah to build.

The tsunami waves that hit many countries over 3 months ago are only a fraction of the intense fury of natural disasters like the Great Flood. We can thank God that we in Singapore were spared from that, but each time something like that happens in the world, let us listen carefully to what they testify to us concerning the awful wrath of God!

B. The Destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah

This is described in Genesis 18. God destroyed these great cities 'Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous.' The devastation of these cities was so great there there is no trace of them left today!

C. The Plagues of Egypt

The book of Exodus tells us of the 10 plagues that totally disabled the great nation of Egypt. God's wrath was so greatly felt by the Egyptians that they pleaded with Pharoah: 'let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?' (Exodus 10:7)

D. Nadab and Abihu

In Leviticus 10 we have another vivid account of God's wrath, when the two older sons of Aaron named Nadab and Abihu were burned to death in the course of their priestly duties. And the reason given was that they: 'offered strange fire before the LORD, which He commanded them not.' (Leviticus 10:1)

E. The Years of Wandering in the Wilderness

The book of Numbers relates the sad account of vast numbers of Israelites dying in the wilderness because of their sins of rebellion against God. God judged them for worshipping the golden calf, for trying to usurp Moses and Aaron's authority, and for complaining against God when they experienced difficulties. Miriam was struck with leprosy for questioning Moses' right to remarry. Even Moses himself was not spared - He was forbidden to enter the Promised Land because he had failed to give glory to God to obtaining water from a rock.

F. The Captivity

The Books of Kings and Chronicles relate how God caused the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC by the Assyrians, and the Kingdom of Judah in 586 BC by the Babylonians, because of their sins. Many died from starvation, sicknesses and the sword. Those who survived were sent into captivity.

G. The Cross

All of these judgments from God however, cannot be compared with the judgment that our Lord Jesus Christ endured for us on the cross. He endured for us the full anger, wrath and indignation of God against our sins. The pain and suffering that Jesus bore was not merely physical, but the intense spiritual agony of being forsaken by God the Father. But there is a coming judgement where Christ will not be the one suffering the wrath of God, but where He will be the one meting out the wrath of God:

H. The Last Judgment

This judgement will take place at the Great White throne. It is described in Revelation 20:11-15 - 'And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.'

For those who face this judgment, that day will be too late for regrets. There will be no escape. Dearly beloved, sometimes when I tell people about the Lord and His salvation, I wish I could just transport a person to that future time, so that he can see exactly this kind of hopeless plight he will be in if he does not change his ways now.

Jonathan Edwards, the New England revivalist, once preached a famous sermon called 'Sinners in the hands of an Angry God.' In this sermon he sought to show sinners their awful perilous state, by likening them to horrid spiders that are being crushed to bits by a person who utterly reviles them. We should earnestly warn our friends and loved ones that this is the judgment they will face one day, if they refuse to turn to Christ.

My prayer is that this morning's message on the wrath of God will give each of us here a greater sense of urgency to bring the Gospel of Christ to people around us. The Gospel of Christ is the one and only way of escape for sinners to flee from the wrath to come! And we should not be afraid to tell people about the horrors of facing God's wrath if they do not repent of their sins and turn to Christ while there is still time for them to do so. Let us not think that this is using a 'scare tactic' to get people saved. It is merely telling them the truth and waking them up to their dangerous ignorance of God's awesome wrath. They need to know this, as much as they need to know of God's love.

We have seen that the revelation of God's wrath helps us to understand His righteousness, it comforts us about the evil that is going on in the world and it inculcates in us the right attitudes that we should have toward God. Now we have just seen that the revelation of God's wrath is even more needful for those who are still outside Christ to know about it, as they must be warned that they are going to be objects of God's wrath because of their sins, unless they turn to Christ. May the Lord move all of us here to faithfully warn people to flee from the wrath to come by giving them the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25