God's Wrath and Christmas Wrappings

By Bill Brenner

The wrath of God demonstrates His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. Those who rise up against God will ultimately learn with certainty that God IS the Lord, and all will come to know this either in this life or the next. The severity of divine wrath should not cause us to see this as inconsistent with God's love and goodness. It is quite accurate to state that our wrathful God is also loving. God's love and mercy are integral to His nature, but His wrath is called forth by sin and corruption of his creatures. Rejection of God's mercy by refusing to repent of our sins, and rejecting His forgiveness for our sins invokes God's holy wrath.

God actively punishes and warns us of the eternal consequences of unforgiven sin throughout the Old and New Testaments. Frederick S. Leahy expressed this in this way:
If, for example, we do not believe that God is a God of wrath as well as a God of love, and that his essential holiness means the inevitable punishment of sin, then we shall not believe in the substitutionary and vicarious nature of Christ's death on the Cross. That is why the doctrine of God's holy wrath borne by his Son at Calvary is repugnant to the liberal theologian. He has an erroneous view of God.
The unforgiven sinner stands under God's curse and "the wrath of God rests on him" (John 3:36). Leahy continues:
When it is stated that "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13), not only is it implied that we were "the children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3), and under God's curse, but also it is implied that when Christ was made a curse for us he was the object of divine wrath. On the Cross Christ bore the full penal sanction of the law of God which was our due. Our punishment was transferred to him. The curse which he endured consisted especially in his experience of being forsaken by God. There was awareness in his human nature of a complete withdrawal of God, and that is the essential element of damnation and eternal death: that is hell.
So, the wrath of God is a perfection of His divine character. We could expect nothing less from a sinless, flawless God. Our hearts should be so deeply impressed by God's detestation of sin, even though we are prone to regard sin too lightly and to make excuses for it. The fact is, the more we understand God's abhorrence of sin and His frightful vengeance that He will rightfully take upon it, the more we will realize its heinousness. It's easy to think happy thoughts around Christmas and lay aside the need to also have true fear in our souls for God. His glory shines brightly, but His wrath burns like fire as well:
Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29
How can we truly serve Him unless we first have deep reverence for God's awesome sovereignty over every aspect of our lives? He is sovereign in the good times and the bad. Both in our celebrations and in our times of sorrow. In the Old Testament, His wrath is expressed as a personal, subjective free will of Yahweh. The Holy One of Israel clearly will not hold back His judgment: "It is I the Lord who strikes the blow" (Ezekiel 7:8-9).

God's wrath is continually revealed in the New Testament right up through Revelation, when God returns as mankind's Supreme Judge:
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty."Revelation 19:15

Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever." Revelation 15:7
God's day of wrath is the Lord's final judgment against sin, and irrevocable condemnation of those unrepentant sinners who defy His sovereignty and mercy.

The wrath of God is not simply an emotion or indication of God's cruel, short temper. On the contrary, the Old Testament describes God as slow to anger and abounding in mercy:
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." Exodus 34:6

The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. Numbers 14:18
Based on a fuller understanding of the complete Holiness of God, the wrath of God is simply a reasonable response to all opposition of his holiness by evil and sinful people. This emphasizes the overpowering magnitude of His mercy in his free offering of forgiveness for our sins through grace in our faith. Psalm 30:5 states, "His anger is but for a moment, his favor is for a lifetime."

This is the reason for Christmas. We've reduced the celebration of the birth of our Lord to shopping, parties, and special foods we want to prepare. But the Christmas season is actually about the joyful fulfillment of God's long-anticipated promises of salvation: our reconciliation with God and escape from His wrath. The birth of the Messiah foretold centuries before in the Old Testament fulfills God's promises of our redemption made possible only through His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary and His glorious resurrection from the dead.

The point of Jesus' birth is that He came to die on our behalf to justify us before a Holy God. We are called to have faith in Jesus, repent of our sins, and be baptized in the name of the Lord who saves us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). When we are justified by the death and resurrection of God the Son, we are saved from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9-10). W.C. Robinson wrote, "The most poignant word about God's punishment is that it is the wrath of the Lamb who took upon himself and bore the sins of the world." Christ's atoning death was substitutionary on our behalf and by it Jesus satisfied the holiness of God and rendered him favorably disposed to his people.

If there is "a righteous wrathful anger" of God, and the New Testament clearly indicates that there is, then our sinful condition cannot be ignored. We each stand in need of God's forgiveness to receive His mercy to avoid His wrath and our eternal punishment. God's mercy is offered to all who seek it. We would be foolish to reject this or delay seeking God's forgiveness. Something to really think about this Christmas season, isn't it?

Image Credit: 107319; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Salvation  | Biblical-Truth  | Celebrating-Holidays  | God-Father  | Jesus-Christ  | Witnessing-Evangelism

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Published 12-19-16