Even the casual observer can see that America is on a collision course with God’s wrath. To say that our Lord is “livid” is to say that He is furiously angry. No doubt God is enraged, infuriated, and irate over America’s moral collapse.
This concept of God’s anger is biblical. Paul writes to the Ephesian believers that “the wrath of God (cometh) upon the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6). Many times in Scripture, in both the Old and New Testament, we see examples of God’s wrath unfolding on sinful people.
Isaiah 9:19 is one of those examples: “Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire.” Likewise, Psalm 90:7 says: “For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.” Psalm 2:1 also asks, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?” Verses 2 and 3 of Psalm 2 explain that “the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, 'Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us'.”
The powerful people of the psalmist’s day were plotting against the Lord. They said, “Let’s get God! Let’s do away with God!” God’s response to their defiance, as He sits in the heavens, is to laugh and to have them in derision (v. 4). “Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure” (v. 5).
In verse 12 the psalmist instructs the rulers to “kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.” He is saying that, when God’s wrath is even a little kindled, people perish. From these texts we see God’s wrath is extremely serious and potentially deadly.
In this article, we will consider the cause of God's wrath, His character, a cure, and the proper conduct for Christians in the midst of a country under the wrath of God.
The Cause (vv. 5-6)
What causes God to pour out his wrath? Ephesians 5:6 explains it this way: “for because of these things cometh the wrath of God.” What is it that makes the Lord livid? What is it that causes God to be angry? Simply, the cause is sin.
The text of Ephesians 5 lists people who commit specific sins. Among them is the “whoremonger, unclean person, covetous man, and idolater.” (v. 5). From other places in Scripture, we see additional sins that make the Lord livid: any form of dishonoring Him, rebelling against Him, or calling Him into question. The wicked leaders in Psalm 2 were doing all of those things.
Romans 1:18 famously mentions that, generally, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness.” Ungodliness is further and specifically defined as exchanging “the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man” (v. 23). The objects of God’s wrath were exchanging His glory for the foolishness of man’s glory. They were changing the truth of God into a lie. They were worshiping the creature more than the Creator. This is exactly what we are seeing in 21st century America.
Reading the sins listed in Romans 1:18-32 is almost identical to reading the current headlines and trends in our country today. Those sins are what causes our Lord to be livid. Sin like the Bible describes and America commits is what causes God’s wrath to unfold upon a nation.
The Character (v. 6)
Secondly, consider the character of God. Who is it that gets livid? It is the Lord God. Ephesians 5:6 uses the phrase “the wrath of God.” It is His wrath, not the wrath of a human. The wrath of God is righteous in every way, while human wrath can be unrighteous, self-serving, or wicked.
As we think about the character of our God, we must recognize that wrath is not an abiding aspect of His character. Rather, His wrath is a response to our sin. Abiding aspects of God’s character are attributes such as His love and holiness. God is love in an ever-abiding way; it is part of His essence (1 John 4:8). God is also essentially holy; He has always been and always will be perfect in His holiness.
Unlike in His love and holiness, God is not wrath in His essence. God‘s love and holiness are constant while His wrath is contingent. That is, His wrath only exists if it is provoked. If there is no sin, there is no wrath. It is God‘s holiness that requires His wrath, yet it is His love that facilitates His longsuffering nature.
2 Peter 3:9 explains that God is indeed longsuffering. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. To be clear, if God is wrathful towards me, it is not because He is wrath; it is because I am sinful.
A helpful Biblical example of the constant and contingent aspects of God’s character is seen in the biblical record of the worldwide flood. Genesis 6:5-6 explains how “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…and it grieved him at his heart.” We see God’s love in His grieving heart, but, in verse 7 we see also God’s holiness and wrath expressed. “The Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth’”.
More of God’s love is seen in verse 8: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” God is holy and therefore wrathful, but He is also loving and therefore gracious and longsuffering. It is important to consider the character of the One expressing the wrath. He is not hasty, and He is never unrighteous.
The Cure (vv. 8-9)
With the cause of God’s wrath and His character in mind, what is the cure? Is there a way to avoid being the recipient of God’s wrath? The answer is a resounding “yes!” Ephesians 5:8-9 uses words like “light, goodness, righteousness, and truth” to describe Spirit-enabled godliness. The Lord Jesus is the perfect embodiment of each of these works of the Spirit. He is the light of the world; He is perfect goodness and righteousness; and John 14:6 famously says that Jesus is the truth.
Ephesians 5:8-9 indirectly teaches us what many passages directly indicate: Jesus is the cure to God’s wrath. For our nation to avoid the wrath of God, it must turn to Christ.
Remember when Jesus prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39)? That “cup” was the cup of God’s wrath. Jesus drank from that cup and, through His death on the cross (Matthew 27:27-50), He propitiated the wrath of God. 1 John 2:2 explains that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins.”
A definition for “propitiation” is the averting of the wrath of God by the offering of a gift. It is the turning away of the wrath of God, which is the just judgment for our sins, by His own provision of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Because of Christ, believers won’t go to hell. Because of Christ, believers won’t face God’s eternal wrath. Before I received Christ, I was under the wrath of God like every sinner. Now that I’ve been born again, I’ve received the cure to God‘s wrath.
The song writer said it like this:
In Christ alone, who took on flesh—
Fullness of God in helpless babe;
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save,
’Til, on that cross, as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied,
For every sin on Him was laid.
Here in the death of Christ I live!
The Conduct (vv. 7, 10)
In view of God’s wrath, how should we conduct ourselves? Ephesians 5:7 tells us to “be not ye therefore partakers with them.” Christians must no partake in sin, even though the world around us is doing it. We cannot celebrate sin; we must “abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9). Ephesians 5:10 tells us, instead of becoming involved in sin, to be busy “proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” Verses 15-16 explain that we are to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
Another aspect of our conduct is that we are to be busy evangelizing the lost. We are to be faithful to offer them the cure to God’s wrath. This is a major difference between Christians and Muslims: Christians evangelize infidels; we don’t execute them. We are to die for our enemies; we don’t kill them. We plead with them to come to Christ.
Romans 12:19-21 says, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [of God]: for it is written, ‘“Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” saith the Lord.' Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” God executes His wrath according to His will. In the meantime, He instructs Christians to love our enemies.
The most famous verse in the Bible highlights God's love. John 3:16, written by the apostle of love, explains how “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The last verse in that same chapter cautions that “he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
How does knowing God’s anger rests on sinners make you feel? How do you respond when you think about unbelievers who are abiding under the wrath of God? Remember when Jesus said “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, … how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not” (Matthew 23:37)! Jesus is saying, “I will, but you will not” and then He weeps over Jerusalem’s unbelief.
In contrast to the response of the Lord Jesus, sometimes Christians rejoice smugly at the idea of the wrath of God being executed on the heathen. But Jesus wasn’t smug as He considered Jerusalem; He was sorrowful. May this understanding of God’s wrath give us a burden for the lost like never before. May we be busy urgently offering the cure before it is eternally too late.
The above article was written by James C. Johnson. He is the pastor of NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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