The Wrath of God

Tom Pennington • Romans 1:18

  • 2014-11-02 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons

PDF

Well, I invite you to turn with me this morning to Romans 1 as we enter a new section of Paul's letter to the Roman believers. Romans 1, and we come to the paragraph that runs from verse 18 down through verse 23. Let me read it for us as we begin our study Romans 1:18. This is the word of our God to us.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and the birds and four footed animals and crawling creatures.

The theme that Paul introduces in this paragraph is certainly not a popular one in 21st century America. It's not even popular in the 21st century church. In fact, there are two typical responses to the wrath of God today. One of those responses is simply to deny it, to deny its reality. This is the response of those we would call "theological liberals," those who reject the truthfulness of the Scripture, those who deny its integrity, who question its teachings. They simply deny that the reality of God's wrath exists. The same is true, by the way, for the neoliberals, those like Rob Bell who in his book, Love Wins, basically denies all reality of a future wrath; instead, insisting that there will be only love, only grace, only mercy.

But that's not the most common response to this truth. The most common response is to simply downplay it, or even in some cases to sort of ignore it, to act like it doesn't exist. This is true wherever there is a man-centered gospel. If you go to the typical seeker sensitive church where a man-centered gospel is preached, you will find a gospel presented that appeals to the sinner on the basis of his felt needs, on the basis of his human longings, on the basis of his desires.

The reality of God's wrath is also entirely ignored in churches that promote the prosperity gospel. I can promise you this; you will never turn on the television and hear Joel Osteen preach a message about the wrath of God. Tragically, even among those who can loosely be called evangelicals, some downplay this truth, even ignore it. Honestly, I think it's fair to say among many evangelicals there's almost a sense of embarrassment about the truth of God's wrath. Why is that?

I think it's because of two misconceptions that they have about the wrath of God.

First of all, I think they believe that to emphasize this theme is somehow mean and unloving. And they sort of captured this from the culture. I mean after all when unbelievers talk about someone who preaches about the wrath of God, what do they label that person? He is a hell fire and damnation preacher. And the implication is clearly: this person is just mean spirited. And it is true, by the way, that there are those who preach on this theme in a mean spirited unloving way. There are those who seem to take some sort of twisted pleasure in God's wrath on the wicked, on the suffering of the ungodly. Or they may simply overemphasize the wrath of God. This is their only message, never balanced by the corresponding truths of God's love and His grace. But that doesn't mean that all who address this theme are mean spirited and unloving as we will see the writers of Scripture do again and again. Our Lord Jesus Christ does.

A second misconception that I think makes even some evangelicals a little squeamish about the wrath of God is: they think to attribute wrath to God is somehow unworthy of Him. It just doesn't seem to fit His person. And the reason for that is because they conceive of God's anger as identical to man's anger, and because man's anger, human anger, is capricious. It's self-centered. It's often irrational. Human anger is a rage that is characterized by the loss of self- control. It's motivated by wounded pride or just by a bad temper. And so, they say, "Well, God couldn't be like that." And it's true. God couldn't be like that. If that were God's wrath, it would be unworthy of Him. But that is not the biblical picture. God's anger is not at all like that. J.I Packer in his book, Knowing God, writes,

God's wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is instead [listen carefully] a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil. God is only angry when anger is called for.

God's wrath is not something that somehow is connected to an irritable disposition. It's connected instead to His justice. God is only angry when it is completely right to be angry. And let me put it to you this way: God is only angry when failure to be angry would be immoral. We understand this at a human level. I mean what if I told you about a man who witnessed, God forbid, the abuse of a child, and yet was not angry at that violation of that child and didn't respond in a desire for justice to be done to the perpetrator of that crime. What would you think about that man? You'd say he's a bad guy. Why? Because good men are angered by such terrible sins and injustices. A.W. Pink writes (listen carefully to this), "Indifference to sin is a moral blemish." Let me say that again. "Indifference to sin is a moral blemish. And he who does not hate it is a moral leper."

You see the opposite of wrath is not love as the liberals would have us believe. The opposite of wrath is indifference and apathy toward evil. And God could never be like that. So, it is part of God's holy character to find sin utterly repulsive and to desire that it be punished. God's anger is the holy righteous expression of His justice. Because of that the writers of Scripture are not squeamish at all about talking about God's anger. They do it everywhere and often. And His anger not merely against sin, but this will surprise some Christians, but also against sinners. Now, talking about divine judgement from God was just as unpopular in the first century as it is today. But Paul, when he starts to lay out the gospel to the Romans, so they can understand the gospel he preaches, he doesn't begin by telling them that God loves the sinner and has a wonderful plan for his life. He doesn't begin by trying to address the sinners felt needs. He doesn't offer the sinner a better relationship, personal fulfillment, a successful career, a better marriage, health and wealth or some other human blessing. When Paul set out to explain the gospel he first underscored our need for the gospel by reminding us of all things of God's wrath against our sin. Verse 18 begins, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven."

Now with that phrase Paul begins a new section in this letter to the Romans. So far in our study of this great letter we have examined really just the opening of the letter found in the first 17 verses of chapter 1.

Today we begin the first major section of this letter. Let's call it the gospel explained. In this section he explains the gospel which is nothing other than justification by faith alone. This begins in 1 verse 18 and runs all the way through the end of chapter 4, this section does.

Now let's break that down a little bit more so you see the flow of Paul's thought. In this first major section, the gospel explained, Paul begins by asserting the universal need for justification by faith. This begins in verse 18 of chapter 1 runs through all the way to 3:20. He wants to prove to us that every single one of us needs the gospel.

The second movement in this first section is Paul's initial explanation of justification by faith. After he's presented the universal need in 3:21 and running down through the end of 3:31 he gives his initial explanation of what the gospel really is, and he explains justification by faith alone. Then all of chapter 4, he gives a biblical defense of justification by faith. He goes back to the Old Testament and says, listen, I'm not preaching something new. This was the experience of Abraham. This was the experience of David. And let me use them as a as a biblical defense for what I'm arguing.

So, that's the flow of this first section.

Now, that we see the entire first section I want to go back and analyze how Paul lays out his argument for just the first movement in this section, the universal need of justification by faith. beginning in verse 18 of chapter 1 and running through 3:20 this is where Paul presents this universal need. Let me show you how even his own words sort of demonstrate this.

In verse 17 of chapter 1 notice Paul introduces the gospel and he says it is this righteousness from God. Verse 17, "For in it …." that is, in the gospel "…. the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith …." that is from faith from beginning of faith from beginning to end as it is written "…. but the righteous man shall live by faith." So, there he introduces this theme of the righteousness from God as a gift to the sinner based on faith alone. He returns to that theme all the way over in 3:21. Look over there. In 3:21 he comes back to this for the first time. "But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been revealed …." [or manifested] "…. being witnessed by the law and prophets even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe." So, he mentions it in verse 17 in chapter 1 he picks it back up in 3:21. Between those two verses, between those two texts, Paul presents the evidence for man's universal need of the gospel. The reason we need this righteousness that comes to us by faith is because of our utter lack of personal righteousness.

Now, why does Paul begin here? To paraphrase the words of our Lord it's only those who are sick who go to the doctor. You don't just go to the doctor for fun. You think something's wrong. You come to the awareness that you are sick. As Jesus put it the, the sick are the ones who need a physician. I didn't come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. It's only when you understand that you are spiritually sick or to use Paul's metaphor "dead" that you begin to seek help. And that's what Paul does in these chapters. He wants us to see our need. So, in 1:18, he sets out to prove man's universal need for the righteousness that God gives in the gospel because it's only then that sinners are going to be interested in the good news when they understand the bad news. And he presents in this section overwhelming evidence to prove our guilt and to secure a guilty verdict against us. By the time Paul is done, there isn't one of us there's not one person on the planet who can say, "I'm ok with God."

Now, as he proves our need for the gospel, as he convicts us all of being in sin and deserving of God's wrath, he begins by picking on the Gentile pagan. He wants to prove the need of the Gentile pagan. This is in chapter 1 beginning in verse 18 and running through the end of chapter 1. This is the person who doesn't claim to worship the true God of the Bible. Ok. There are people all over the planet like that. There are people in your life who don't really claim; they may know about God. After all they live in north Texas, but they don't claim to worship Him. They don't claim to be devoted to Him. This chapter is aimed at them. Now, the verse that unlocks this first section and helps us know that; look at verse 23 of chapter 1. Here's who he's talking about in this section. It's those who exchange the glory of incorruptible God for an image in the form of either corruptible man or birds or four-footed animals or crawling creatures. In other words, they were they were into idolatry. They replaced the worship of the true God with something else. These are Gentile pagans.

The second group that he indicts are: the Jews. Beginning in 2:1, and running through 3:8 is the confrontation of the Jews, but it's more than just the Jews. It's a confrontation really and indictment of every moral, religious person who claims to worship the God of the Bible. Ok. Every moral, religious person who claims some attachment to the true God, the God of the Bible. They may be Jewish, or they may be Gentile. They may be moral and religious and somehow connected to the true God. Now, the key verse that marks out this section for us comes in 2:17. Here's who he's talking to in this section, "But if you bear the name Jew and rely upon the law and boast in God the true God and you know His will and the Scripture. And you approve the things that are essential being instructed out of the law; you're confident that you are a guide, etc. So, here are people who claim to be connected to the true God, and Paul indicts them.

The third group he indicts is all humanity. This begins in 3:9 and runs down through the end of this section, verse 20. Here is Paul's comprehensive indictment of all humanity. Now, the key verses in understanding this section, verse 9, look at 3:9. "What then are we Jews better than they …" [that is the pagan Gentiles] "… not at all. For we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks …." [and Greeks here is used in the sense of Gentiles] "… are all under sin." That's what he's done in the first couple of chapters. As it is written. And now he's going to get completely comprehensive. "There is none righteous, not even one …." and this whole passage flows that way but go down to verse 19. "Now, we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law." Here's the key. "So that every mouth may be closed." What Paul is dealing with in this section is to bring every single human being to the point that when he stands before God and the judgement he has nothing to say. All he can do is cup his hand to his mouth and shut up. Because he has no excuse. He goes on to say and all the world may become accountable to God. That's the focus of this section in 3:9 - 20. It is a comprehensive indictment of all humanity.

Now, today we begin the section that runs from 1:18 down to 32. Go back, go back to chapter 1. We begin this section that begins in verse 18 and runs down through verse 32. This is Paul's indictment of all pagan Gentiles. This is every human being who is not Jewish, or if he is Jewish, he doesn't try to follow the true Scriptures. So, this is every person who is disconnected from the true God the true Scripture. Now that we've oriented ourselves go back to verse 18. Here's how it begins. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven."

Now, the first thing to note here is that this sentence flows in the context. Notice it begins with an important word, "for". Because, what's the connection? Paul links the wrath of God to the gospel that he mentioned in verses 16 and 17. The righteousness from God. What's the connection? Listen carefully. God's gift of righteousness revealed in the gospel is necessary because, verse 18, His wrath is being revealed against man's sin. In other words, you need the gospel because you and I, we are completely destitute of any righteousness that will satisfy the demands of God. And therefore, we all are worthy of and are exposed to the wrath of God. Our only hope is the righteousness promised in verse 17 that comes to us not by works but by faith in the work of Jesus Christ alone.

So, let me give you the theme of this paragraph I just read for you verses 18 - 23 as we look at it over the next several weeks. This is the theme: the Gentile pagan has rebelled against God's general revelation in creation and therefore he is without excuse and deserves God's wrath.

Now, next time we study this text together we will work our way through the text itself, but this morning I just want us to get our arms around this subject that is so foreign to most Christians. Frankly, our thinking is very fuzzy about this idea of the wrath of God. Let's look at it together. We need to begin with a definition, a definition of God's wrath. Understand that men have tried to deny this part of God this aspect of God for millennia. Before Christ there were Greek philosophers who said, "to say that God inflicts wrath on people is only for those who are unenlightened." You just you're not really enlightened if you think that way, the Greek philosophers said.

It continued after the time of Christ in the second century. There was a heretic an agnostic named Marcian. And Marcian cut the words "of God" out of verse 18. He argued, this is an old, you've heard this argument. You didn't know where it came from, but you've heard it. Marcian in the second century, an agnostic, argued that there was a dichotomy between the loving, heavenly Father that Jesus taught about and the wrathful, vengeful Jehovah of the Old Testament.

Same ideas continue in our time. Last century, C. H. Dodd, famously taught that the wrath of God is not some personal reaction of God. Instead, "It is an inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe." In other words, when the Bible talks about wrath, it's not talking about God. It's talking about this this sort of process God has put into this universe where there's cause and effect. Folks, those are simply attempts to evacuate the clear meaning of the biblical text. Scripture teaches that, are you ready for this, that wrath is a part of the God we worship. As one author put it, "As long as God is God He cannot behold with indifference His holy will trodden underfoot. Therefore, He meets sin with His mighty and annihilation reaction."

Now, when we refer to God's wrath, what do we mean? Let's come up with a working definition. Here's a pretty good one. This is from Alan Cairn's Dictionary of Theological Terms. Here's wrath:

It is the settled opposition of God's nature against evil. His holy displeasure against sinners and the punishment He justly metes out to them on account of their sins.

Now, notice what's in that definition. First of all it makes it clear that this is not something foreign to God. This is part of His nature. This is part of who He is. And it is not the sort of blow up anger that humans struggle with. It is instead a settled disposition; a settled opposition in the nature of God against evil and not just against evil generically but against people who practice evil so that He moves to punish that evil. That's God's wrath. J.I. Packer in his book, Knowing God, defines wrath this way: "It is God's resolute action in punishing sin."

Charles Hodge defines it as "God's determination to punish sin." So then, wrath is the divine reaction against evil. But let me ask you this question. What makes God angry? You say well, sin. Good answer. But let's get a little more specific. Specifically, what in provokes God's wrath? We can summarize the teaching of Scripture and what Paul teaches in the first two chapters of Romans by saying that there are three responses to God that make God angry. That provoke His wrath. Let's look at them. These are very important.

First of all: God gets angry when we refuse to properly honor His person. Think about it for a moment. God is the Creator. He made all things. We are merely the creatures of His hands. He breathed into us the breath of life. He gives us all things. The reason your heart is beating this moment is because God makes it beat. He is the One who has supplied you with the capacity to work and earn a living. Every good thing you have comes from God.

And for you to take those good gifts from Him and yet not to respect Him, not to honor Him, is the ultimate affront to God and it makes Him angry. Look at 1:21. Here's the heart of Paul's argument in this paragraph. He says of the pagans, "Even though they knew God…." And we'll talk about how they knew God, obviously in the creation, and what they knew about God. But he says, "Even though they knew God they did not [literally] glorify Him as God nor were they thankful." There's the ultimate affront of God. To take His good gifts, to enjoy the life He's given you and to despise His person, not to honor Him as God, not to be thankful for all the good things that He's given. And when human beings respond that way to God it makes God angry.

There's a second thing that makes God angry and that is: disobeying His will and His commands. Again, He is the moral Governor of the universe. He has every right [the One who gives us all things] has every right to tell us how to live. And He has issued commands. He has written them on the human heart in every conscience. He has given us His law in writing. And it makes Him angry when we disobey. Look down in verse 32 of chapter 1. Paul has just gone through a list of sins characterizing all of mankind but especially pagans. And he says in verse 32, "Although …." and here's something else they know. "They know the ordinance of God." How? Because it's written on their hearts. The substance of God's law is written on the heart according to chapter 2. They also many of them have this Scripture. They know the ordinance of God that those who practice such things are worthy of death. So, they know that God says don't do that. And they know that to do that is to invite God's judgement in their lives but knowing all of that, notice, "They not only do the same but they also give hearty approval to those who practice them." There's something right off the front page of our newspaper. Listen, when we know God's will in His Word; when we know the law of God written on the heart and we disregard it, and we do what we want, it makes God angry.

There's a third thing that makes God angry that may be a surprise to you: it makes God angry when we despise His holy love in the gospel. Look at chapter 2 of Romans verse 4. "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" God is urging you to repent, Paul says, and when sinners (and in the context of Romans he's talking about repent and believe the gospel, the good news.) And when sinners refuse to do that, what happens? It makes God very angry. Look at the next verse. "But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgement of God." God says, listen, when you when you hear the gospel, when you hear of My holy love and kindness revealed in the gospel, and you know it and week after week you walk out of church and say, "Yeah, yeah. Yawn. Let's go to lunch." And you ignore that, and you ignore that, it makes God angry because you are trampling His gracious gift under foot.

In fact, keep your finger here but turn back to Hebrews. Hebrews 10. The warning passages are in Hebrews are really about this. Hebrews 10:26. There were Jewish people who had attached themselves to the church who had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ but who had not believed it. And to them in Hebrews 10:26 the writer puts it this way. He says,

… if we go on sinning willfully ["willfully" is the key word; to know the truth of the gospel and to say ppfffftttt. I'm done with that "after receiving the knowledge of the truth [the knowledge of the gospel] … [there's] no longer … a sacrifice for sins. [There's no other way but this way. Instead for you there is] … a terrifying expectation of judgement and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME … [God's enemies.] [And then he uses an argument from the lesser to the greater.] He says, you remember that … [If somebody disregarded Moses' law, they died] without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses? How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and … [he's] regarded as unclean, the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified…? [Here, not meaning he was a believer, but meaning he knew the truth and was set apart by the truth by his understanding of it.] and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him Who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE. I WILL REPAY." And again, THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE. [and then the writer of Hebrews ends this section with this sobering reminder.] It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

And the context is to know the gospel, to know the gospel, to know the gospel, but to refuse to believe it, to renounce it, and walk away. It makes God very angry. You have trampled underfoot His Son. So, understand this is God's wrath. It is His just and righteous reaction against evil, and He can't help Himself. It is Who He is.

So, that's the definition of God's wrath.

I want us to consider secondly the pervasiveness of God's wrath. You know, this is not an easy topic for me to teach on. It's not an easy topic for you to hear. It's not immediately warm and encouraging; although, I hope by the time I'm done you will be encouraged. But, regardless of whether we like it or not, this theme is pervasive in God's revelation to us about Himself. A. W. Pink notes that there are more references in Scripture to God's anger and wrath than there are to His love and tenderness. It permeates the Scripture. It permeates the Old Testament. Martin Lloyd Jones points out that in the Old Testament alone there are more than twenty words used to describe the wrath of God, and the Old Testament uses those twenty words in their various forms more than five hundred and eighty times. Let me just briefly walk you through the biblical record. I'm just going to touch on a couple of highlights.

Go back with me to Genesis 3. This is where the wrath of God begins. The first display of God's wrath comes in response to the first sin, and don't forget the first sin was eating a piece of fruit God said don't eat: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In response to that God pronounced a curse on the serpent, a curse on the woman, and a curse on the earth. And He threw Adam and Eve out of the garden. Look at verse 24, "So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword, which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life." Paul reminds us in the book of Romans that at that point God subjected the entire creation to vanity, and it groans under the weight of God's curse even to this day. But of course, the greatest evidence of God's wrath in the account of the fall was what? The sentence of death on every human being from Adam on. If you want to know whether or not God is serious about sin, if you want to know whether or not God is a God of wrath, look around you. Every person in this room will die if Jesus tarries. And the reason they will die is because thousands of years ago God said they must in response to sin. It was His wrath.

The next great and terrible expression of the wrath of God was the flood. It always amazes me how many how many you know, have pictures of Noah's ark and the little animals all over their nurseries and the kid's room, and I understand that. I mean there's a part of that story I understand the reason for that. But here's what you won't see on the nursery walls. Look at chapter 7, 7:21,

    All flesh that moved on the earth perished. Birds and 
    cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that 
    swarms upon earth and all mankind of all that was 
    on the dry ground. All in whose nostrils was the 
    breath of the Spirit of life died. Thus .;.. [God] blotted 
    out every living thing that was upon the face of the land…. 

Listen, if you want to know whether or not God is a God of wrath remember that He destroyed an entire world; only 8 people survived. Why? Look back at 6:5.

Then the LORD saw the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. [And,] The LORD said, [verse 7] "I will blot out man whom I've created from the face of the land…."

God's wrath expressed itself in the utter destruction of the twin cities, the plain Sodom and Gomorrah. Look at Genesis 19:24. "Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities and all the valley and all the inhabitants of the cities and what grew on the ground."

Fast forward to the exodus, Egypt. God destroyed the Egyptians. Psalm 78 said

He sent upon them His burning anger, Fury and indignation and trouble, A band of destroying angels. He leveled a path for His anger … [in Egypt.]

In wrath when the children of Israel came out of Egypt, went to the land of Israel, to the land of promise, God commanded them that they would completely annihilate all of the nations who had formerly lived there. Why? Look at Deuteronomy 32. Deuteronomy 32, this is in the song of Moses. Deuteronomy 32:39.

"See now that I, I am He, And there is no God besides Me; It is I Who put to death and give life." [God says listen I have the right to say these people ought to die.] I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. Indeed, I lift My hand to heaven And say, As I live forever if I sharpen My flashing sword, and My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on my adversaries, and I will repay those who hate Me."

This is what Ezra said in Ezra 8:22. He said, "… The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him." That's just a sampling. Read the rest of the Old Testament, and you will discover a constant record of God's wrath. God destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel with the Assyrians. He destroyed the southern kingdom of Judah with the Babylonians. He destroyed the entire city of Nineveh. You remember Jonah went and preached there. They repented. God relented, but a hundred years later they were back into the same sins. A different generation of people back into the same sins. And this time through the prophet, Nahum, God says it's done. I'm going to destroy this city. In fact, turn to Nahum 1. Here we learn something else about God. And this attribute, this aspect of God, Nahum 1:2.

A jealous and avenging God is … [Yahweh.] [Yahweh] … is avenging and … [literally a possessor of wrath.] … [Yahweh takes vengeance on His adversaries,] And He reserves wrath for His enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.

Look at verse 6. You know God is slow to anger, and we love that, but when God gets angry, verse 6, "Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger?" [Nobody stands up when God gets angry.]

So, does all this mean that the liberals are right? That the God of the Old Testament is harsh and angry and cruel, but the God of the New Testament is loving and kind? Of course not. The Old Testament is filled with expressions of God's love and grace. And the New Testament is filled with expressions of God's wrath against sin. Let me give you just a couple of examples. Look at Matthew 3. Matthew 3, here's John the Baptist, the forerunner announcing the Messiah. What's his message? Matthew 3:7, "… when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, 'You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?'" John the Baptist was preaching a message of wrath. It's coming. You better run. You better run for refuge.

So, who's going to bring this wrath? Look at verse 12. The Messiah. He uses agricultural language, but notice he says, "His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; … [The Messiah] will gather His wheat into … [His] barn," [In other words, those who are His own He will He will treat with care and tenderness. "but He, [the Messiah] will burn up the chaff [the unbelievers] with unquenchable fire." Same message is in the Epistles. Turn to Romans 2. Romans 2:6. "… [God] WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS." Verse 8, "… to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, [they will experience] wrath and indignation." 3:5, God will inflict wrath. Verse 6, God will judge the world. Turn over to an interesting one. Ephesians 5. Ephesians 5 in context here Paul is talking about sexual sin. He's talking about sexual sin of the mind, lust, sexual sin of speech. That is, of dirty jokes, sexual innuendo, and sexual sin of action. Acting it out. And notice what he says in reference to all of this. Verse 5. Ephesians 5:5,

… [But] this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or [lustful] … [man] who is an idolator, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ in God. [If this is the practice of your life, this is how you are described, then you're not in God's kingdom.] Verse 6, Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things, [sexual sin of the mind, of the speech and of action] the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Turn over to 2 Thessalonians 1, 2 Thessalonians 1:6,

… it is only just for God to repay … those who afflict you. [When will this happen?] Verse 7, … when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels … [and] flaming fire [Now watch here what Jesus will do when He comes.] Verse 8, d ealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power….

In fact, John the apostle in the apocalypse in the book of Revelation tells us that there's a time coming that could be called the day of His wrath. Turn to Revelation 6. Revelation 6:16. After the sixth seal is broken and the judgement of God is unleashed on the earth the people of earth at that time verse 16 of chapter 6,

… they … [will say] to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us … hide us from the presence of Him Who sits on the throne …" [and watch this] "… from the wrath of the Lamb." This is Jesus. for the great day of their wrath has come. [And here he borrows from that Old Testament Scripture,] … and who is able to stand?" Who can stand before the anger of God? The anger of the Lamb? Turn over to chapter 19. Here's the Second Coming. We love the talk of the Second Coming. For us it means in the Rapture, Christ's eternal presence and joy, but for those who aren't in Christ here's what it means. Revelation 19:11, "… I saw heaven open[ed], and behold, … He who sat on … [the white horse] is called Faithful and True…." this is the one, verse 16, is called the "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS". This is Jesus Christ. But watch what He does, verse 15, "From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations. And He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the winepress of the fierce wrath of God the Almighty."

When Jesus comes back in the Second Coming, it will be like He is tromping His way through the winepress. He is stomping on the grapes. And earlier in this passage it describes His robes as covered with blood. This is the New Testament. This is our Lord Jesus Christ. What I want you to see is that this is part of our God. This is who He is. He cannot look on sin without being moved to act and to punish. The reality of God's wrath against individual sinners is absolutely pervasive in the Scripture.

Now, very briefly, how should you respond? How should you respond to the truth of God's wrath? Let's briefly consider the right response to God's wrath.

Number one, run, run from God's wrath to Christ. Look at chapter 5 of Romans. I love this. Romans 5:9. "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood," [that is by what Jesus accomplished in His death on the cross] "we … [will] be … [rescued] from the wrath of God through Him." Listen, your only hope, your only hope of surviving the coming wrath of God is to be found in Jesus Christ. There are a lot of people here in north Texas who have storm cellars so that when or a place that they can hide from the tornado when it comes. Listen, there's only one place of safety in the universe when the storm of God's wrath unleashes, and it will. And that's to be found in Jesus Christ. It's the only safe place. That's the only deliverance from the eternal wrath of God that we all deserve. It's in Christ alone. That means, listen carefully, your response to Jesus Christ is absolutely crucial. Turn to John 3. We love John 3, John 3:16. But notice how John 3 ends, verse 36.

There are only two possibilities. You are described by one of these as you sit here this morning. "He who believes in the Son has eternal life. But he who does not believe, [that is he who does not] obey the Son will not see life but [right now] the wrath of God is abiding on him." It's remaining on him like a stain you can't get rid of, like a storm cloud above your head that will one day unleash in its full fury. I plead with you. If you're not in Christ, there is only one place of safety in the universe. You better run from the wrath of God and find your safety in Jesus Christ. If you're already in Christ, here's the wonderful news: you and I, we, deserve God's wrath as well. The wrath that is coming upon all the people around us. But if we are in Christ Paul says in Romans 5:9, "We will be rescued from God's wrath in Him." It's an amazing reality. Packer writes,

Between us (and sinners or excuse me between us) sinners and the thunder clouds of divine wrath stands the cross of the Lord Jesus. If we are Christ's through faith, then we are justified through His cross, and the wrath will never touch us. Neither here nor hereafter. Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come.

Now, how does Jesus do that? Look at Romans 3. Romans 3:25. Here's how He does it. Because God publicly displayed Jesus as a propitiation as the satisfaction of His wrath. That's what that word means. In His blood received through faith. The reason you can be rescued from God's wrath is because that Jesus suffered in your place. He took God's wrath for you. And it's done, satisfied.

If you're here this morning, and you're not in Christ, understand this. To believe in Christ this morning: if you will repent of your sins, and believe in Jesus Christ, you will have eternal life, and you will be rescued from God's wrath. But if you refuse to do that, your very refusal makes God more angry with you, and you are storing up God's wrath as Paul puts it for the day of wrath when it will be unleashed. The early church father, Ignatius, wrote, "Either we must fear future wrath or love present grace. One or the other." Now for us for those of us in Christ already there are a couple of responses I want to remind you of.

Number one: fear God. Fear God. Our Lord said to His disciples in Luke 12:5, "I will warn you whom to fear. Fear the One Who after He has killed the body has authority to cast the soul into hell. Yes, I tell you fear Him." Now was Jesus saying that His disciples could lose their salvation and be thrown into hell? No. He was saying you better take God very seriously. Don't trifle with God.

Thirdly second one for us who are in Christ: don't take your own revenge on the sins of others. Romans 12:19, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God for it is written, 'VENGEANCE IS MINE. I WILL REPAY' says the Lord.'" You don't need to get even with anybody. Wrath belongs to God. Vengeance belongs to Him. And if that person doesn't repent for the sins they've committed, all the sins, including the ones against you, there's payday someday.

And number four (and this one is maybe a surprise to you; it was to me as I thought about it): Praise God for His wrath. Thank God that He's not apathetic and indifferent to evil, that it matters to Him, and that He has to act in justice and make it right. In Revelation 11 the saints in heaven are praising God for this. Revelation 11:16 says,

… the twenty-four elders, [representing the church] who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God," [For what?] "We give you thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because … Your wrath came and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to … destroy those who destroy the earth."

Listen, this is part of who God is. Be thankful that we have a God who is so morally pure, who is so pure in His person that He cannot tolerate evil. He's repulsed by it, and He has to act. Praise Him for who He is.

This is your God. We sang this morning, "Behold Our God". This is your God. Praise Him not merely for those things that warm and fill your heart, but for those things that describe the fullness of His person. The reason we need the good news of the gift of righteousness is because of the bad news of God's growing anger against sin and sinners. Paul begins to lay out our need for the gospel with these sobering words, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven."

Let's pray together.

Father, we admit to you that we deserve, we deserve Your wrath. We have despised Your person. We have not honored and respected You as we ought. Father, there was a time in our lives when we utterly disregarded Your laws and commands. And there was even a time many years for some of us when we despised Your holy love and the gospel, giving you every reason to be angry with us.

But we thank You, oh God, that because You are also a God of grace and mercy You made a refuge from Your just wrath against us in Christ. You publicly displayed Him as the satisfaction of Your wrath so that You could forgive us and receive us. So that we would never face Your wrath. Father, we thank You, and we praise You for Your wrath. We praise You that You are not indifferent to evil, that it matters to You, that You, that Your whole person finds evil repulsive, and You must respond to it.

Father, we pray as well for those here this morning who are still under Your wrath because they have not believed in Your Son. Lord, don't let them add to Your anger against them by walking out yet again refusing to bow the knee to Your holy love, to receive Your offer in the gospel. May this be the day when they repent and believe.

We pray in Jesus Name. Amen.

Romans