Florida is hot. Walking out onto a blacktop on a sunny July day in Florida might as well be walking onto a giant asphalt griddle. The Florida heat sometimes reminds me that the Bible’s depiction of fire in hell symbolizes a reality that must be far, far worse. Occasionally when I am cooking, my arm strays near the stovetop and I feel the surge of heat get too close for comfort — and I am in that moment reminded of what I have been spared by God’s hand alone. Just that brief encounter with extreme heat makes me want to rid myself of any remote smudge of impurity that would put my soul at risk of everlasting hellfire.
Of course, I am in the grip of Almighty God, and as one who has put his faith in Christ alone, I have no reason to fear God’s wrath. I have confidence in his ability and his promise to sustain me. I am suspended over a lake of fire, held only by his righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10), but nonetheless should have a healthy respect for the power of unatoned sin, and its consequence of eternal damnation and torment. It’s through the knowledge of where his redeemed people came from that God reminds us of where we’re going. We may find God’s wrath and justice to be a distasteful aspect of preaching, but until we are inclined to these aspects of God’s holy character, we will not be able to appreciate the grace that saves us.
“And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence,” Edwards closed his classic sermon. “Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: ‘Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.'”
I get that the people who put up this billboard probably want to emphasize God’s grace in a hurting world with many injustices and evils, and send a message to those who view tragedies as God’s punishment. But again, to strip God of his anger is actually counterproductive to their point. As a general observation, people tend to write in all capital letters when they are miffed, losing patience or angry, as if that will make their point more clear or convicting to the reader. But God didn’t need capital letters to make his point — in fact, he made the reality of his wrath palpable in Scripture without even using vowels. If God no longer has any reason to be angry, then we as subservient creatures certainly have no right to ever be angry.