1. A search of current sermonic literature reveals no single sermon devoted to "The Wrath of God"; and in sermon topics in preachers' manuals and even the most extensive commentaries, it is mentioned, if at all, in the most casual and incidental manner.
2. There is also a noticeable opinion to the effect that any preaching on such a subject derives from a mean and vicious spirit on the part of the preacher.
I. However, the greatest and best men of both the Old Testament and the New
Testament were the ones who most emphatically and sternly stressed God's wrath.
a. Isaiah, Paul, John, and our Lord Jesus Christ were among those who most clearly and vigorously emphasized it; and they were precisely the ones in whom love was most appealingly manifested.
b. Therefore, preaching on the wrath of God is fully compatible with the most gentle and loving attributes of the Christian life.
A. Isaiah, the great Messianic prophet, whose knowledge of God's love equals that of any other in the Old Testament, said:
"Behold the day of the Lord cometh cruel, both with wrath and fierce anger to lay the land desolate. And he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it ... Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall move out of her place in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and in the day of his fierce anger" (Isaiah 13:9, 13).
B. Hosea has been hailed as the greatest preacher of God's love in the Old Testament, but read Hosea 9, for as terrible a denunciation, as any to be found in the Bible.
C. Paul's love knew no boundaries or limits; and he could say,
"I could wish myself anathema from Christ for my brethren according to the flesh" (Romans 9:3)
1. But he, more than any other apostle, thundered the message of the wrath of God.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18).
"But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God who will render to every man according to his deeds" (Romans 2:5,6).
"Because of these things (the works of the flesh) the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 5:6).
D. John, whose writings abound with such admonitions as "love one another," and who identified God Himself as love, also spoke most eloquently of God's wrath:
"And the kings of the earth, and the great men and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath has come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:16,17).
E. When we come to the words of Jesus, we must remember that he made love perfect; he gave his life for all men; he loved us before we loved him. Yet he said:
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth upon him. To the hypocrites he said, O generation of vipers who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matthew 23:7).
1. Thus, from the lives and messages of the great disciples of love in both testaments, as well as from those of Life and Love incarnated, we have the solemn and eloquent assurance that God's wrath will certainly and eventually break forth against the wicked.
II. The object of God's wrath is sin.
A. All sin is against God.
1. When Joseph was tempted to sin with the wife of Potiphar, he said,
"How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9).
2. When the prodigal son came to himself, he said,
"I will arise and go to my father and say, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight" (Luke 15:18).
3. This profound truth should temper the indignation of men against the wrath of God.
4. The righteousness of the universe, the very justice that underlies creation and undergirds all things is the basic reason for the wrath of God.
5. God's holiness is utterly and eternally opposed to sin.
6. God and sin are as irreconcilable as light and darkness, truth and falsehood, good and evil; and this is the basis of strong confidence on the part of men.
7. All men of good will rejoice that the time will come when God shall rise in righteous wrath and cast evil out of his universe.
8. People become objects of God's wrath only when they reject the benign and peaceful government of the Creator and choose to become servants of the Devil.
9. That man is capable of making such a choice derives from the inherent gift of God, the freedom of the will; and it is in man's highest self-interest that he should face up to the fact that, free as he is to choose, he cannot escape the ultimate consequences of whatever choice he makes.
10. People should read again, and again, Matthew 25 in which Christ divided all mankind into just two classes, those on the left who make the wrong choice, and those on the right who chose wisely.
11. No more terrible words were ever written; and yet they were spoken by the loving Savior himself.
III. All people are, by nature, the children of wrath.
A. Such an indictment was made by Paul when he said:
"We all had lived in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others" (Ephesians 2:3).
1. This does not teach total hereditary depravity, but it surely fingers something that resembles it.
2. A striking fact of man's religious history reveals his invariable tendency to evil.
3. Adam did not sin gradually, but all at once.
4. Noah had scarcely left the ark until he was drunk and dishonored by a grandson.
5. Israel had hardly escaped Egypt before they murmured against God and joined themselves to the Baalim at Baal-Peor.
6. After God gave the Decalogue, the first recorded event thereafter was the breaking of the tablets of stone on which the Law was written.
7. The redeemed of all ages have had sin very much with them.
8. Only through constant love and adoration of the saving Christ is it possible for men to find the strength to overcome temptation.
B. Satan is the primary cause of sin; but he has strong allies in the pride, lusts, appetites, and ambitions of men; and to the extent that men do not avail themselves of the redemption "in Christ" they become easy prey to the destructive influences of the evil one.
1. When one thinks of all the sorrow, frustrations, defeats, violence, bloodshed, and savage wickedness engulfing mankind because of their service of "the god of this world" it should become understandable enough that God's wrath should abide upon the Cause of all mankind's wretched unhappiness and misery.
2. It should always be remembered that God's wrath is ever against sin, evil, and Satan, and not against men.
3. Hell itself was not prepared for men, but for Satan and those who choose to serve the evil one (Matthew 25:41).
C. These solemn considerations show the disparity between practical and theoretical religion and the utter impossibility of any man's ever deserving salvation.
1. The great and indescribable mystery is the manner in which God through Christ has achieved salvation for fallen humanity; and despite all human failings and shortcomings, God is able to do so in full harmony with the principles of eternal justice.
2. The Divine wrath is indeed tempered with mercy, enshrined as the central truth of the Word of God; but that is incapable of excusing any man who persists in the service of Satan and will most certainly share in the evil one's ultimate destruction.
D. True righteousness is now available unto all men through "the faith of Christ"; but what shall be thought of that person who neglects or rejects heaven's proffered mercy?
1. Is there anything that should be expected except the fullness of Divine wrath?
2. The answer is negative.
A. Today, all people are in the same position as that of queen Esther who went unbidden before the king, and who would have been summarily destroyed if the king had not extended to her his golden scepter.
1. Who could describe such a folly as hers would have been if she had refused to touch?
2. In a similar way, all men are sold under sins, condemned to eternal death, but God, through Christ, holds down to us the golden scepter of his love and righteousness; and men, through the gospel may touch and LIVE!
3. And what of him who will not?
"For if we sin willfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins; but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation that shall devour the adversaries" Hebrews 10:26, 27).
IV. The time of God's wrath is "the day of the Lord," the final Judgment
of the great day when all men shall be judged simultaneously (Matthew 25).
A. However, there are, throughout history, many tokens of that day evident in the summary judgments executed upon wicked men and nations, as recorded in the Bible.
1. These are of two kinds:
(1) great natural disasters such as the great Deluge, and many lesser things recurring at frequent intervals throughout time, and
(2) overwhelming destruction executed upon wicked cities, nations, or cultures by divine commandment, such as Sodom, Gomorrah, Tyre, Sidon, Assyria, Nineveh, Babylon, Jerusalem, Rome, etc.
2. Even the minor catastrophes such as floods, earthquakes, etc., are part of God's plan, and are to be identified with God's cursing the ground for Adam's sake, having the benign purpose of making it easier for men to repent.
3. The minor prophets frequently, and Nahum in chapter one, make bold and unequivocal reference to such things.
B. This study of the wrath of God reveals that Nahum was not a case of "arrested" spiritual growth, as alleged by some, but that he was in line with the teachings of the most perfectly developed spiritual giants of the ages.
1. Another criticism of Nahum was written by Graham to the effect that, "He failed to apply to himself and to his people the standards by which he measured others!"
2. That of course, was based upon the fact that Nahum made no mention of Judah's sins during the warning to Nineveh; and this is a classic example of the unfairness of Biblical critics.
3. It will be remembered that in our studies of Amos, the occasional pointed and stern warnings addressed by Amos to Judah were edited out of the sacred text on the basis that "they did not fit."
4. Well, Nahum left them out of his prophecy; but they faulted him anyway! Such handling of the Sacred Scriptures is its own refutation.
By Gary D. Murphy
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