The wrath of God is a reality that is troubling for many of us. Understandably, it makes us all cringe when we read about it in the Scriptures, and there are many ideas about His wrath as a result. However, the way most of us see God’s wrath is more simplistic than the nuanced way that it has been displayed in the biblical accounts. If you ask anybody to describe what His wrath looks like, it usually fits more of the character of The Hulk than it does the God of Scripture.
Surprisingly, the majority of God’s wrath is revealed subtly rather than explicitly. The main reason for this is that the wrath of God expressed through calamity and destruction is literally called His alien work, or unusual act, meaning it’s not something that He enjoys or normally does in His dealings with man.
For the Lord will rise up as at Mount Perazim,
He will be angry as in the Valley of Gibeon—
That He may do His work, His awesome work,
And bring to pass His act, His unusual act.
I want to focus on how God revealed His wrath subtly, and how it impacts our worldview, because it’s so easy to miss. If you read the first chapter of Romans, it looks like Paul wanted to list a whole bunch of sins, but if you pay close attention to how it starts off, it mentions that God’s wrath is revealed against the unrighteousness under Heaven.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
As Paul continues to explain what is easily known of God, and how man reject Him, he makes a statement that is incredible:
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
When we choose to reject the knowledge of God in our heart and mind, God, in His wrath, will give us up to a debased mind. There are levels to this, so if you read some of the earlier verses, it starts with lust and ends with a debased mind. Most of the time that God reveals His wrath, it comes through God giving us up to something, rather than Him pouring out something. In Joel 2:13 it says “.. He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.” But He warns us to repent and turn away from the sin that so easily kills us, and if we remain stubborn in our rebellion, little by little He gives us up to the sins we long for.
As you can see, the wrath of God has never been a capricious and an uncontrolled outburst of anger as if He is constantly angry with us. Instead, God continues to call us to Himself, while never shying away from making righteous judgments where His wrath is expressed. In His wrath, He literally will let you go. This doesn’t make it easy, and I encourage you to think through these things, but this shows us that there is a depth of God that requires those who really want to know Him to seek Him honestly.