John Bunyan, Puritan author of the classic novel Pilgrim’s Progress, in one of his lesser-known works summarized the biblical teaching on hell:

“Now, when the wicked are thus raised out of their graves, they shall, together with all the angels of darkness, their fellow-prisoners, be brought up, being shackled in their sins, to the place of judgment; where there shall sit upon them Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord Chief Judge of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. On whose right hand, and left, shall sit all the princes, and heavenly nobles; the saints and prophets, the apostles and witnesses of Jesus; every one in his kingly attire, upon the throne of his glory. (Joel 3:11-14) Then shall be fulfilled that which is written, ‘But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them.’ (Luke 19:27)” (The Resurrection of the Dead and Eternal Judgment or The Truth of the Resurrection of the Body both of the Good and Bad at the Last Day: Asserted, and Proved by God’s Word, Chapter 7: The Judgment of the Wicked)

It’s interesting that in Psalm 7:11, the wrath of God is couched in its relationship to God’s justice. A perfectly “just judge” of all of the world who is incapable of being angry about evil could not possibly be good. That God is angry, as we say, is “righteous indignation” an appropriate reaction to the reality of injustice. It is injustice that angers God, and it is because he is just, righteous and holy, that he has wrath.

If Jesus in his incarnation ever had occasion to be righteously angry but wasn’t, it was when he was betrayed by one of his closest associates, Judas with a kiss, no less (Matthew 26:47-50, Mark 14:43-45). That truly added insult to injury. Yet, Jesus took it with the utmost equanimity, and in his High Priestly Prayer, he almost passively alluded to Judas as “the son of destruction,” as he petitioned the Father to keep his faithful disciples (John 17:10-12).

In his incarnation, Jesus’ anger was most clearly seen in his cleansing of the temple (Matthew 21:12-17, John 2:13-15). If anyone tries to distance the wrath of God the Father from God the Son, let’s remember the terrifying words in the Psalmist’s admonition to (Psalm 2:12) “kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.”

Even the money-changers, the chief priests and the scribes knew to get out of Jesus’ way, because they understood enough not to stand in the way of an apoplectic Christ. If we would evade that fury, we must embrace him, giving him not the kiss of Judas, but the kiss of love in which he delights.


Further study

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Jonathan Edwards

God in the Hands of Angry Sinners, R.C. Sproul

Is God Angry?, Jim Harnish

God’s Furious Anger, Robert Rothwell

Real Love Wins, Burk Parsons

The Disappearance of Hell, John MacArthur

Hell on Trial, John Blanchard

The Biblical Evidence for Hell, Christopher Morgan

Natural Men in a Dreadful Condition, Jonathan Edwards

Wrath to the Uttermost, Jonathan Edwards

The End of the Wicked Contemplated by the Righteous, Jonathan Edwards