There are many people (Christians included) who are uncomfortable with the idea of a wrathful God. An angry God does not sit well with their thinking. We hear people say, “I don’t like the idea of the wrath of God. I want a God of love.” This is incredibly naïve. If you want a loving God, you have to have an angry God. If you as a parent are walking down the street and your young child veers into the main road with fast approaching oncoming traffic what do you do? “You will shout at them to get off the road rush up to them and yank them by the arm off the road. You will then angrily address them.” If you are walking down the road and see an unknown child veering into a road with fast approaching traffic – what will you do. “You will shout at them and rush up to them and yank them by the arm off the road. You won’t however angrily address them. Why not? Why is a parent angry whereas a stranger isn’t? A parent gets mad out of love. The more closely and deeply you love people in your life, the angrier you can get. God’s anger is a function of his love and goodness.
“Wrath” is an old English word defined in the dictionary as ‘deep, intense, anger and indignation.” The modern church plays down this aspect of God’s character. We mumble on about God’s kindness, but say virtually nothing about His judgment. AW Pink said, a study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. To cite just a few of them, (Romans 1:18, 2:5, 5:9, 12:19, 13:4f; Ephesians 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:6; Revelation 6:16, 17, 16:19, 19:15). In his book Knowing God, JI Packer writes, the Bible could be called the book of God’s wrath, for it is full of portrayals of divine retribution, from the cursing and banishment of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 to the overthrow of “Babylon” and the great assizes of Revelation 17, 18 and 20. Perhaps the most terrifying passage that deals with this subject is Revelation 14:14-20. It recounts two harvests at the end of the age – that of the righteous (vrs 14-16) and the unrighteous (17-20). The second harvest is the most fearful. An angel with a sickle is commanded to harvest grapes and they are tossed into the great winepress of God’s wrath. Harvested grapes would have been stored in huge vats with holes in the bottom. Servant girls would trample the grapes and the juice was collected. In vrs 20 the metaphor changes. Now, instead of grapes being tossed into the vat it is people and servant girls are replaced by God Himself (Rev 19:15) who is trampling them until the blood flows for 300 kilometres and rises to the height of the horses bridle. This is one of the most fearsome pictures of God’s wrath in the bible.
The picture of God’s wrath in Revelation 14 should lead us to ask the question – how can I escape that winepress of God’s wrath? If we scour the entire bible to find the place where God’s anger is most clearly displayed, we would find a number of possibilities. In Genesis 6-9 God’s was so grieved by the sin on the earth that he sent a flood which washed away every single person except Noah and his family. Later in Genesis 19 we see God’s anger rain down in the form of burning sulphur and destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Of course, God’s anger is clearly manifested in these (and other passages), but the place where God’s anger is most visible in Scripture is at Calvary. For three hours darkness descended over the land as wave after wave of this world’s sin cascaded on Christ’s sinless soul. This was a supernatural darkness. In the Bible, darkness during the day is a recognised sign of God’s displeasure and judgment (Isaiah 13:9, 10, Jeremiah 15:9, Amos 8:9). When darkness descends over Jerusalem it was a sign that God was acting in judgment. But who was God judging? His judgment is not falling on the whole world. Rather it was focused on Jesus Christ. Why? At the cross Jesus was acting as our sin bearer. As Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2, 4:10 remind us, Jesus bore our sin and turned God’s anger away (propitiated) from us. At Calvary we see a clear demonstration of God’s anger, but we also see bright rays of His love. God’s anger is a function of His love. Through simple faith in Christ God’s anger that we ought to have endured is absorbed by Christ so that we can be forgiven and enjoy an eternity of fellowship with God.