"THE WRATH OF GOD-WHAT IS IT ?"
In I Thessalonians 5:9 God makes one of the most comforting and truly significant promises to the born-again child of God: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." This great promise of deliverance from the wrath of God is repeated in Romans 5:9: "Much more then, being now justified by His Blood, we shall be saved from (the) wrath through Him."
The word 'wrath' is defined as "the strongest of all passions...a settled abiding condition of mind" by W.E. Vine in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words pp.55. This aspect of anger does not manifest itself in uncontrollable, impulsive outbursts, but instead is a thought out resolved attitude of justified indignation results in calculated responses of vengeance through acts of judgment when God is the one demonstrating the ‘wrath’.
God, in His past response to Israel's sinful conduct when they tempted Him in the wilderness, manifested His "wrath" by not allowing them to "enter into My rest" (Hebrews 3:11). His present response of "wrath" to the unbelieving Jew is documented in Romans 9:22: "What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction."
He will pour out His wrath in the future on the unbelieving Jew and Gentile alike during His devastating time of judgment at the end of the age: "And said to the mountains and rocks, fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sits on the Throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:16, 17).
God through the prophet Zechariah proclaimed:
"And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined and will try them as gold is tried..." (Zechariah 13:8, 9). God will most definitely use His wrath to penalize, purge and purify His earthly people, the nation of Israel, during the Day of the Lord.
His wrath will also be poured out upon the ungodly Gentile nations, who have been given abundant opportunity to turn and repent of their sin, as shown in Revelation 9:20, 21:
"And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues; yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood; which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk; Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts."
However, in order to accurately answer the specific question "The Wrath of God-What is It?" we must first turn to the vivid portraits painted by the Old Testament prophets of this unprecedented time of cataclysmic judgment on the earth. As we survey these prophetic passages of Scripture, we will be looking for and identifying:
1. The Distinguishing Name/Title given for the wrath of God
2. The Defining Description of the wrath of God
3. The Definite Person responsible for this fierce, unprecedented wrath of God which will be poured out upon the earth.
In Isaiah 13:6, 9, 10, 13 this description of God's wrath is given:
"Howl ye; for the Day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. 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 out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger."
Zephaniah also pinpoints and describes the wrath of God:
"The great Day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hastes greatly, even the voice of the Day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness. A day of trumpet and alarm...Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the Day of the Lord's wrath." (Zephaniah 1:14-18)
These two Old Testament writers speak as one, the Distinguishing Name/Title for the wrath of God is unmistakable and without question called the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord will be an unprecedented time of judgment which is yet to come upon the world. Also, their Defining Descriptions of the wrath of God are unmistakable for God "will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place.”
Descriptions such as: "lay the land desolate...destroy the sinners...sun shall be darkened...the moon shall not cause her light to shine...day of trouble...distress... wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness...thick darkness" show that this judgment from God can not be mistaken for any thing which has gone before because this global devastation is yet future.
Therefore, the Definite Person responsible for the wrath of God is unmistakably and obviously the Lord of heaven Himself! The text of Isaiah emphasizes the fact that this horrendous judgment is from the Lord: "a destruction from the Almighty...in the fierce day of His anger."(Isaiah 13:6, 13)
Isaiah and Zephaniah specifically use the word 'wrath' to describe the Day of the Lord, but, they are not the only prophets to speak of the wrath of God known as the Day of the Lord. The prophet Joel's entire book focuses on the Day of the Lord as the following passages indicate:
"Alas, for the Day! for the Day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come." (Joel 1:15)
"Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain: Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: For the Day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand." (Joel 2:1)
"The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. And, the Lord shall utter His voice before His army: for His camp is very great: for He is strong that executes His Word: for the Day of the Lord is great and very terrible, and who can abide it?" (Joel 2:10, 11)
"And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke! The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible Day of the Lord come." (Joel 2:30, 31)
"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the Day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake." (Joel 3:14-16)
The prophet Amos also gives his view of the Day of the Lord:
"Woe unto you that desire the Day of the Lord! To what end is it for you? The Day of the Lord is darkness and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into a house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Shall not the Day of the Lord be darkness, and not light? Even very dark, and no brightness in it? (Amos 5:28-20)
The distinguishing features of these passages are extremely important, for much of the present day prophetic teaching says the wrath of God/Day of the Lord starts at the beginning of the so-called "tribulation period" which is identified in the Bible as the Seventieth Week of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27). Most agree that the first of the seven seals is opened at the beginning of this future seven year time period with the remainder of the seals following sequentially.
But, are the results of these seals characteristic of the wrath of God/Day of the Lord, or are they the work of wicked men, Satan and his Antichrist? The answer to this question will help determine what the Bible teaches concerning the all important timing of end-time events!
For this reason a careful evaluation of the Old Testament prophets text is invaluable in determining just when God is the Definite Person responsible or direct cause of events. With this in mind let us examine and categorize the title, descriptions and person responsible given by these prophets with an eye toward determining the Biblical answers.
Name/Title Description Person Responsible
Wrath of God Wrath of God Wrath of God
Isaiah: Day of the Lord destruction from the Almighty... the Lord
Wrath of the Lord of hosts cruel both with wrath and fierce anger... the Almighty
Day of His anger lay the land desolate...destroy the sinners the Lord of hosts
sun shall be darkened...moon shall not
cause her light to shine...shake the heavens
the earth shall remove out of her place
Zephaniah: Day of the Lord day of wrath...trouble and distress...wasteness the Lord
Day of the Lord's wrath desolation...darkness and gloominess...clouds
and thick darkness. A day of trumpet and alarm
Joel: The Day of the Lord destruction from the Almighty...earth shall quake the Lord
the heavens shall tremble...the sun and moon Almighty
shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their
shining...Day of the Lord is great and very
terrible who can abide it?
Amos: The Day of the Lord Woe unto you...darkness and not light... the Lord
even very dark and no brightness in it
The wrath of God as unmistakably described by these four prophets is given the Distinguishing Name/Title 'the Day of the Lord' which is the most prophesied event in Scripture! Their Descriptions of the wrath of God are supernatural in nature as the very heavens are altered out of their normal ways as Isaiah and Zephaniah's vivid description portray. God's divine activities are openly evident in the writings of these two men as these supernatural events are unmistakably God's working.
Isaiah 2:11, 12 gives us additional insight into God's prominence during this time of judgment: "The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one".
God and God alone will be exalted and recognized as the only one responsible for this time of cataclysmic judgment! When He is the author of events there will be no question as to the supernatural nature of His working, unlike the results of the first five seals of Revelation when the one causing the turmoil on earth is neither openly obvious nor supernatural in nature and does not parallel the wrath of God as described by these four prophets.
The descriptions given by these prophets in the passages above focus on the judgment of the Day of the Lord which is the wrath of God from which the saints will be delivered. In each of these passages one outstanding and significant feature is mentioned which ties all of them together. This feature is the supernatural darkness! The wonders in the heavens will result in the total darkening of the entire planet earth! Joel tells us this will occur "before the great and terrible Day of the Lord come." (Joel 2:31)
This is echoed by Peter in his sermon found in Acts 2:20 when he too proclaims the prophecy of Joel: "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable Day of the Lord come." This pre-cursor or sign of the wrath of God/Day of the Lord is the defining element that binds together with almost word-for-word accuracy four other New Testament end-times passages! Yes, these wonders in heaven, that will bring about total darkness to the planet and thereby signal that the wrath of God/Day of the Lord is about to begin, are also recorded in Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24, 25; Luke 21:25; and Revelation 6:12, 13!
The Old Testament prophets in harmony with the New Testament writers sound the alarm documenting with pinpoint accuracy that the wrath of God which the believer will be miraculously delivered from by the Rapture is the Day of the Lord judgment which God will bring upon an unbelieving world culminating in the battle of Armageddon! The Rapture, the great deliverance of the Lord, is our 'blessed hope' (Titus 2:13) and will occur with precise 'just in time' accuracy: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation [deliverance] by our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:9).
Just as God delivered Noah and Lot saving them from His “same day” judgment upon a wicked and unbelieving people, in like manner, He will deliver the saints by Rapture and the very “same day” (Luke 17:26-30) pour out His Day of the Lord judgment upon an unbelieving and unrepentant world!
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