That’s not exactly a title for an article that would draw a reader in. Who wants to read about how mad God is at the human race? Nevertheless, it accurately describes these later chapters of the book of Revelation (14-18). No matter how you cut it, the wrath of God is a prevalent theme of the entire book of Revelation, especially these later chapters. It seems that despite popular belief, God is still mad at people.
It is obvious many in the Church today studiously avoid this topic, especially many preachers. It would seem the God often presented in the Church today is a God who is incapable of wrath. One of the reasons for that is that we have chosen to present his so-called ‘softer side’ in the belief that by so doing, Christianity will be more appealing to outsiders. After all, who wants to hear that God is mad at them? So we choose texts like John 3:16 that speak of God’s love and appeal to people to receive his love as a free gift, playing down or avoiding altogether any mention of his wrath towards sinners.
But in so doing, we have distorted the proper portrait of God as he is presented in Scripture. Just this morning I read again the account of God’s call of Noah to build the ark (Genesis 6) so that he and his family could escape the wrath of God which was coming in the form of the flood. The same God whom Scripture says loves the world was so angry with sinners at that time he blotted out all living things, except for eight people and some hand-picked animals. And throughout the Old Testament there are many instances of God’s wrath being poured out on people that John 3:16 says he loves. There is no way to read the Old Testament without the realization that God is angry at sinners because of their sin. How do we reconcile these accounts with John 3:16?
One way of doing so is by positing the notion that though God was angry with sinners in the Old Testament, the death of Jesus pacified Him so that his anger is now abated. The problem with that is that it buys in to the idea that we ‘changed Gods’ at Calvary—the angry God of the Hebrews is now the loving God of the gentle Jesus. But two things nullify such an idea. First of all, the New Testament teaches clearly that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Old Testament is also the God of the New. Jesus is the incarnation of that God, and if we know anything from studying our Bibles we know that this God cannot change. Who he is in the Old Testament is who remains in the New. He is the great “I Am”; Jehovah who changes not!
Secondly, if this theory is true (that Jesus pacifies the Old Testament God), then there would be no more need for a manifestation of wrath revealed in the New Testament. Clearly, this is not the case. These chapters alone (Revelation 14-18), are nothing more than one long string of manifestations of God’s wrath, leading up to its final manifestation. This should not be surprising since Jesus himself in his teaching said that wrath remained on sinners who refused to believe. We rarely read the Scriptures immediately following John 3:16 which speak of certain judgment (3:17-19).
While the love of God and the wrath of God seem contradictory, they both describe the true nature of God as the apostle Paul stated in Romans 11 (‘Behold, the kindness and severity of God’). It is true that God loves sinners, yet in their unreconciled state they are in deep trouble. And this has to figure in to our presentation of the Gospel. Jesus didn’t come merely to round out our lives and make them a little better, but to rescue us from the wrath of God (see I Thessalonians 5:9). I have searched the sermons of the apostles as well as their teaching in the letters and I have yet to find anything akin to an evangelistic message consisting of the message “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Most of their sermons in Acts call people to deeply repent of their transgressions and be reconciled to the God they have offended. That’s because sinners are not just people who need to be healed, helped, or renewed—they are law-breakers who are in desperate need of reconciliation.
If you have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, you are now an object of God’s love. If not, you are in serious trouble with the God who created you. I urge you therefore to repent and be reconciled so that his wrath no longer abides on you.