And said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth 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?”
The wrath of God is not a popular subject for preaching in large parts of the Church. If we are remain true to the principle of objectivism, we must preach the wrath of God, regardless of how uncomfortable it may make us feel. It is a significant part of the counsel of God, found throughout the bible, not merely in Revelation. For this reason, those with preaching authority and responsibility should cover it every so often.
A number of errors are common in explorations of this topic:
- Confusing the wrath of man or the spirits with the wrath of God;
- Confusing suffering in Gehenna with the wrath poured out upon the earth;
- Concluding that the wrath of God was exhausted in the past (e.g. in 70 AD) and will never come again; and
- Spiritualising language to such a point that physical realities are denied.
Other than the appearance of this theme in the bible, why should Christians preach the wrath of God? One reason is that this message reveals an aspect of God’s character. If we claim to know and love the Lord, then we must love His whole personality, not merely the parts that appeal to our need for forgiveness. The wrath of God tells us how God feels about sin; the Jesus who forgave our sin also had harsh words to say about it. God did not intend our world to be dominated by sin. Sin was permitted because it was entailed as a contingent eventuality in the decision to give creatures free will. A time is coming when God’s wrath will cleanse the earth, making it a place fit for righteous inhabitants. The Book of Revelation declares that the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ during the time of God’s wrath, at the Seventh Trumpet (Revelation 11:15). God’s wrath is thus an instrument of deliverance and a declaration of the wickedness of sin.
The wrath of God is also a suitable topic for preaching whose aim is to provoke repentance. While it is desirable that people should be drawn to Christ by His love, repentance presupposes first an acknowledgement of our sin. If we were not sinners, we would not need to repent. The wrath of God is a reminder that sin exists and that it merits punishment. If we are to escape punishment, be reconciled to God, and learn true righteousness, we must turn to Christ. He is the only way to the Father. Apart from Christ, the Lord of Life, there is only death – only death.
Lastly, a literal interpretation of the wrath of God makes it a series of real events that are to befall the earth following the resurrection and gathering of God’s people to meet Christ in the air (Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). Those who are not part of God’s people at this time will endure horrendous suffering. The suffering earth-dwellers are presented in Revelation as unrepentant -but it is possible that some will repent at this time. (Indeed, premillennial theology presupposes that a subset of these people will populate the earth following the wrath of God.) This picture of stubborn resistance to God tells us that the time for repentance is NOW. Do not leave it to the future, because that future may never come.