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God Displays Wrath for Sin, Part 2
Characteristics of God, God is Judge
Fire from heaven. The earth splitting open. Thunder and lightning. When you picture God’s wrath, what do you imagine?
How is God’s Wrath Displayed?
Part 1 of this lesson told us that God has wrath against sin because he is holy and righteous; and God displays wrath against his enemies, which includes anyone who rejects him or disobeys his commands. In this part, we’ll discuss what God’s wrath looks like. How is it described in the Bible? What happens when God displays his wrath?
Descriptions of God’s Wrath
The Bible uses many words to describe what God’s wrath looks like. The most common descriptions associate God’s wrath with anger. The Bible describes God’s “fierce anger” (Jeremiah 30:24), his “hot anger” (Psalm 78:49), his “fiery anger” (Ezekiel 22:31), and his “burning anger” (Isaiah 13:13). God’s anger often includes an element of fire to it. This fiery anger or burning anger consumes anything in its path (Psalm 59:12-13, Ezekiel 22:31).
What is the result of this burning anger? Punishment and destruction. Deuteronomy 7:10 says:
But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction;
he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.
This is stated even more eloquently in Isaiah 13:9-13:
9 See, the day of the Lord is coming
—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—
to make the land desolate
and destroy the sinners within it.
10 The stars of heaven and their constellations
will not show their light.
The rising sun will be darkened
and the moon will not give its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
12 I will make people scarcer than pure gold,
more rare than the gold of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble;
and the earth will shake from its place
at the wrath of the Lord Almighty,
in the day of his burning anger.
What is the reason that God destroys those who sin and reject him? His motive is vengeance. God is the only one who has the right to take revenge on those who sin against him. Just as a father might take revenge on those who have violated his daughter, God takes revenge on those who have violated his name and his commands. We see God’s vengeance clearly in these verses:
Micah 5:15: “I will take vengeance in anger and wrath
on the nations that have not obeyed me.”
Romans 12:19: Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
God’s greatest anger and harshest punishment are reserved for those who do not worship him or obey his commands.
God’s Wrath Produces Immediate Punishment
Stories of God’s wrath are prevalent in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. Although God’s wrath is displayed in different ways, the end result is always the same: death for those who reject or disobey him. Let’s look at a few stories.
Genesis 6-9: Noah and the Flood – Humans had become so wicked on the earth that God sent a flood to cover the face of the entire earth and kill every living being. The only ones who were saved were Noah and his family and the animals that he took onto the ark.
Exodus 32: The Golden Calf – Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments and the law from God. When he returned to the Israelite camp, he heard singing and saw the people worshipping a golden calf that they had created from their jewelry. God rallied those who still worshipped him and had them kill by sword those who were worshipping the golden calf.
Leviticus 10: Nadab and Abihu – Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, and in his anger, fire came out from God’s presence and consumed them.
Numbers 11: Quail – The Israelites complained that God sent only manna and no meat, so God sent them quail to eat. But when they ate the quail, God struck them with the plague and many people died because they were not satisfied with the food God provided.
Numbers 16: Korah and Followers – A group of Israelites, led by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, decided to follow Korah and abandon God. God was so angry that he separated them from the rest of the Israelites, and the three men, all of their possessions, and their families were swallowed by the earth.
Numbers 21: Snakes – Once again, the Israelites complained about the food God provided, so God sent venomous snakes to bite the people, causing death.
2 Kings 2: Elisha and the Bears – Some boys decided to make fun of God’s prophet Elisha, and when Elisha called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord, bears came out of the woods and mauled them.
Acts 5: Ananias and Sapphira – During a time when Christians were selling their possessions and bring their profits to the church, Ananias and Sapphira sold a plot of land and gave the money to the church. But they lied about it—they said they gave the whole amount, when in reality they held some back for themselves. Because they lied to God, they both instantly fell down at Peter’s feet and died.
These are but a few examples of what God’s wrath looks like in the Bible. God used flood and fire, he used snakes and bears, he used plagues and the earth itself. Through it all, there are two constants: God’s wrath is only against those who reject or disobey him, and the people’s sin results in their death.
God’s Wrath Produces Eternal Punishment
For those who are on the receiving end of God’s wrath, this isn’t just a temporary or one-time punishment. God’s wrath has eternal consequences, as is shown in the following verses:
Matthew 10:28: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9: 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
Sometimes we don’t want to believe that hell is a real place or that God would really send people there. But the Bible is clear that if you do not know and obey God, hell is a real place where you will spend eternity.
This seems like a hard way to end a Bible lesson. Don’t forget to come back for Part 3, where we receive some news of hope for avoiding God’s wrath.
Each individual characteristic of God study will come with two resources: a word search just for fun (including an answer key), and a list of verses for if you want to investigate that individual characteristic of God more completely.
You can access these resources by clicking here: God Displays Wrath Resources