Having looked at every description used to convey God’s judgment upon the lost and disobedient, we have only to explore one last term – Wrath.
But here lies a problem, at least for me. I desire truth, I seek it with all my heart. But as of yet the concept of God’s wrath escapes me. So b/c of my strict standard for truth I spurn the idea of trying to project my beliefs into Scripture (I’m sure I am guilty of it on some level, as I believe we all are). I have spent much time pondering the verses concerning God’s wrath and I have to admit that they do not seem to portray that brilliance of hope that shines out so brightly in all the other terms for judgment – at least on the surface level.
I have to admit that the verses describing God’s wrath seem to paint a somewhat darker picture than the other terms for judgment. Take a look for yourself,
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,” (Romans 1:8)
“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” (Romans 2:5)
“…and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)
There seems to be a distinct division between those who believe and obey Christ and those who do not. Unfortunately for me this is at odds with the overarching concept I see with the rest of the terms of judgment in Scripture. The concept that I have been exploring in this series on judgment involves all men, including believers, enduring judgment – namely the judgment of their old man. This has very clearly been the case with the terms; the Baptism of Fire (a.k.a the Lake of Fire), Death (the Second Death), Destruction, Judgment and Discipline. But it seems that believers will escape whatever “the wrath of God” is. (Wrath is the Greek word Orge, and literally means “desire, passion;” and by implication punishment or vengeance taken out of anger – a.k.a – wrath)
I have tried to communicate throughout this series on judgment the overarching concept that we all have a wicked nature in us, and it is this wicked man within us who is put to death, judged, destroyed, etc… until he is no more; thus leaving us with only the New Man, the image of Christ in us. But the wrath of God doesn’t seem to fit with this principle. I am, therefore, very hesitant to include it as proof of Universal Reconciliation.
However, that does NOT mean that everything we have looked at thus far is null and void. In fact, if Wrath could somehow be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it did in fact refer to a hopeless judgment, and if I was forced to choose a side, I would not hesitate to side with UR. Wrath would simply be far too outnumbered and it doesn’t take a genius to see which side all the evidence stacked upon.
Anyways, that is neither here nor there; it is simply a hypothetical situation, the kind that rubs me the wrong way. I don’t like it b/c I am a firm believer that truth will ALWAYS be confirmed by ALL the evidence. So I believe that its really just a matter of time. Perhaps in time God will open my eyes to understand exactly how His Wrath plays into all of what we have seen so far and it will no longer “seem” like a contradiction.
His Wrath is But a Moment
Having said all that, there is still ample evidence that God’s Wrath does NOT portray any sort of endless damnation. In fact, what we find is the opposite. Scripture says that,
“His wrath is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime;” (Psalm 30:5)
So His wrath is not forever, its only for a moment; and this is in contrast with God’s love and mercy which never come to an end.
“The LORD’S love indeed never ceases, for His mercy never comes to an end.” (Lamentations 3:22)
In addition to this, the book of Revelation says that at some point God’s wrath will be finished. In looking at His wrath it seems clear that it concerns the time of Christ’s return and we find God’s wrath being poured out upon the world at or very near the time of Christ being revealed from heaven (see verses above),
“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.” (Revelation 15:1)
The Law is Passing Away
Another insight that is encouraging concerns Wrath’s connection to the Law.
“By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)
“…for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.” (Romans 4:15)
Wrath is part of the outworking of the Law upon sin. But what is encouraging is that the Law (the Old Covenant) is passing away; the Gospel (the New Covenant) which is replacing it will remain.
“When He said, “A New Covenant,” He has made the first (the Old Covenant) obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13 – parenthesis mine)
“But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones (the Old Covenant), came with glory…how will the ministry of the Spirit (New Covenant) fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation (Old Covenant) has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness (New Covenant) abound in glory…For if that which fades away (Old Covenant) was with glory, much more that which remains (New Covenant) is in glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:7-11 – parenthesis mine)
So if the Law is going to pass away (be done away with, disappear, etc…) that means that it is no longer needed for judgment. Therefore if Judgment and God’s Wrath are dependent upon the Law, then both of those things will also be finished when the Law disappears.
We also find this principle in the concept of Death, which we have looked at previously; for Death is the penalty of the Law upon those who sin (the wages of sin is death) and yet Death will eventually be abolished.
“For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. When all things are subjected to Him, then…God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:25-28)
This is why Scripture says that His wrath will only last a moment; in comparison with His Mercy, which will endure forever.
God’s Wrath may apply only to the disobedient and unrepentant, it may not carry with it the sense of restoration as the other terms for judgment do, but it is not forever. This side note concerning the Law leads perfectly into the next blog, which concerns more principles of the Law as it relates to judgment.