“The whole idea of the wrath of God seems to make people angry,” Dr. Sproul has observed. “It provokes our wrath because we don’t like to think of this wonderful God of grace and of love and mercy as being given to anger. … [but] if we want to deny the reality of the wrath of God, we’re going to have to take some very large scissors and a whole lot of paste to the Scriptures themselves, because even a cursory reading of the Bible will indicate that the theology of sacred Scripture is one that takes very seriously this idea of the wrath of God.”
Wrath in itself is not an attribute of God or a dimension of God’s personality, nor is it simply an emotive response. Wrath is God’s just reaction to all that is not holy. Far from being unbecoming of the character of God, wrath is the righteous application of God’s holiness to his own judgment. It expresses the Lord’s displeasure toward sin and evil, proceeding from his inherent attribute of holiness. The notion that “GOD IS NOT ANGRY” is actually a diminution of his holy character.
In the first half of the 20th century, two of the most respected theologians in America were H. Richard Niebuhr and his brother, Reinhold Niebuhr, were. Reinhold, who wrote the “Serenity Prayer,” taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and Richard taught at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Both studied the intersection of culture, politics and religion. Though H. Richard Neibuhr was not known as a religious conservative, he observed a religious secularization of the gospel and “a loss of religious heritage.” In his 1937 book, The Kingdom of God in America, H. Richard Niebuhr characterized the creed of liberal Christianity as “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” (The Kingdom of God in America, p. 193)
Even this not-particularly-conservative theologian critiqued the liberal movement to ignore humans’ sin, God’s wrath and judgment, noticing its consequences as religious trivialization and superficiality.
God’s Word depicts us as sinful and under God’s wrath rightly deserved and poured out on our sin. Scripture uses strong images and graphic terms to communicate the idea of God’s sore displeasure. Here are a few samples of what Holy Writ actually has to say about God’s fury toward unconverted, unrepentant sinners:
(Psalm 7:11-13) “God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day.
If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.”
(Deuteronomy 4:23-24) “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
(Psalm 2:12) “Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
(John 3:16-18, 36) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. … Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
(Acts 17:31) “He [God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
(Revelation 14:19-20) “So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.”
(Revelation 19:15) “From his [Jesus’] mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.”
(Isaiah 59:18) “According to their deeds, so will he repay,
wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies;
to the coastlands he will render repayment.”
(Romans 9:22-23) “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory?”
And perhaps the most apropos line of Scripture for this particular situation:
(Ephesians 5:6) “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”