This promises to be an interesting topic for at least two reasons: First, “experiencing” is of paramount importance to our generation. Most go tp church experience God. They wish to feel good about themselves. They do not wish to be told of their sin and depravity. Rather, they want to hear about God’s love, forgiveness, and unconditional acceptance.
Second, people tell me that I have the gift of encouragement; it is just that I have never exercised this gift. To discuss God’s wrath appears to be in keeping with my propensity to dwell on the negative.
Depending on the translation of Scripture that you use, the word “judgement” appears approximately 300 times in the Bible, most refer to God’s judgement of His people. The word “wrath” is used approximately 200 times, and “the love of God” over 170 times. Mostly Scripture calls attention to the importance of our loving God; God’s love for the individual appears almost exclusively in the New Testament epistles, especially those written by the Apostle Paul.
As noted in the series on Eternal Hope, God’s commitment to the individual in the Old Testament is in reference to the nation of Israel. For example, God’s commitment to Abraham was temporal, and thus its benefit accrued primarily to his progeny: “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that cruseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”1
God committed Himself to Moses so he could lead the nation of Israel out of captivity and into the Promised Land. In other words, God committed himself to Moses in order to accomplish His objectives. The same is true of King David. David was “a man after God’s own heart,”2 but David died without God giving him a promise of eternal life. The promise, rather, was “…thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee; thy throne shall be established forever.3
We cannot find in the Old Testament a record of God’s commitment to the individual.
“In the New Testament God’s commitment to the individual is almost to the exclusion of the nation. Paul discusses the future of the nation of Israel in Romans 11, but the rest of the New Testament does not deal with it in depth like Paul; God’s offer of eternal salvation is given to the individual.
Warning Of God’s Wrath To The Nation Of Israel
From the giving of the Law in Exodus until the death of Christ God faithfully reminded the nation of its need to obey Him. It is hard to find a section of the Old Testament where national disobedience is not an issue. You may find exceptions in sections of the Psalms and Song of Solomon but little elsewhere. God warned His people again and again of the consequences of their failure to obey Him.
We read in Deuteronomy 30:10-16 that His commandments are not hard to find; rather they are easy to understand and easy to keep. There are reported to be 613 commands in the Law. This is remarkable when compared to the thousands in existence in every community, plus thousands more in each state, plus tens of thousands in the statutes of the U.S. government.
God’s commitment to the nation of Israel is inviolable, For example, speaking through His prophet Hosea, He said: “And I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgement, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord.”4
Nevertheless, God’s commitment to His nation did not include His commitment to every individual in the nation, When John the Baptist prepared the people for Jesus’ coming, he warned, “…O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore friuts meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”5Paul calls attention to this same truth: “…For they are not all Israel, which are Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children…”6
Warning Of God’s Wrath To The New Testament To Those Who Profess Faith In Christ
Our Lord Jesus, possibly more than any other New Testament character, talks about God’s wrath and judgement. For example, He says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the the wrath of God rests upon him,”“7
Again, our Lord Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”8
The writer of Hebrews warns, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of jusgement and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”9
Indications That You May Be Susceptible To The Wrath Of God
1 – You emphasize your understanding of God’s will without a tender, teachable heart, indicating that you may misunderstand God’s will. For example, God proscribes labor on the Sabbath in the Fourth Commandment. The Scribes and Pharisees prohibits healing on the Sabbath. This is a dogmatic application of a positive commandment.
Or, for another example, Jesus said, “Give to him asks of you…”10 You refuse to obey Him, arguing that the recipient will use your money for drugs and alcohol. Do you acknowledge before God that you may be wrong in concluding this?
2 – You assume that your understanding of justice is absolute, expressed by your concluding, “God does not elect babies to hell,” or “God does not give people cancer or kill innocent people in tsunamis and earthquakes.” Anytime you tell God what He can or cannot do, you provoke His wrath.
3 – You assume God’s commitment to you obligates Him to accept and forgive you. a man once said (I hope he was joking), “It is easier to ask God for forgiveness than to seek His permission.” Another man said of his reprobate son, “I know that he is saved; he made a profession of faith when he was age 11.” I have heard people say, “God has to forgive me; He promised He would in passages such as I John 1:9.”
God obligates Himself with His promises, but this is different from saying that His promises apply to you simply because you claim them. You cannot leverage God or obligate Him with His promises. When you endeavor to do so, you are highly presumptuous and anger Him.
4 – You think that grace means there is no obligation in the Christian life. They reason, “God knows that I cannot keep the law; that is why He died for me. Thus, He does not expect me to keep His commandments, and salvation means that I relate to Him on the basis of grace, not obligation.”
Not only do many think this way and argue emphatically that they are correct, but charge those disagree with them of being “legalistic.” Furthermore, they are conviced that heaven is the same fore everyone, and if there are rewards in heaven, we will throw them at the feet of Jesus.11
Such people fail to consider a plethora of passages that teach the opposite.12 There can be no accountability (in any sphere of existence) without fear. If I have no reason to fear God, and there is no obligation in the Christian life, then I only obey those biblical commands with which I agree. Such people are not only wrong, they tempt God with their faulty assumptions.
5 – You are in rebellion against God and think you can repent later in life and live your life the way you want to. Such people fail to understand that people do not come to God when they wish; “No man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit.”13 “The Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man… One oft reproved may become stiff-necked, But he will be suddenly broken beyond repair.”14
6 – You think you can serve God on your terms. The only people God accepts are those who eagerly wish to be His slaves. Old and New Testament alike teach this important truth. Paul said, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”15 Again, Paul said, “…and, having been set free from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.”16
If you do not seek to follow God more than life itself, if you do not long to obey Him and do His will in every facet of life, there is a strong possibility that He will day to you when you meet, “I never know you, depart from Me, your worker of iniquity”16
Yours, for a life of righteousness,
“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones…to this man will I look, even to him this is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”(Isaiah 57:15 and 66:2)
1 Genesis 12:3
2 1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22
3 2 Samuel 7:16
4 Hosea 2:19-20
5 Matthew 3:7-9
6 Romans 9:6-7
7 John 3:36
8 Matthew 7:21-23
9 Hebrews 10:26-27
10 Matthew 5:42
11 Cf. Revelation 4:11-12
12 E.g. Romans 2:26, I Corinthians 3:10-15, 2 Corinthians 5:10, and Colossians 3:23-25
13 1 Corinthians 12:3
14 Genesis 6:3 and Proverbs 29:1
15 1 Corinthians 6:20
16 Romans 6:18
17 Matthew 7:23