God's Anger 

God’s wrath is the inflexible active opposition of a good and holy God to all evil, wickedness and associated rebellion to His rule. It is also His anger against those unbelievers who refuse to turn from their sins to Him. It is the reaction of God’s holy nature to the sinfulness of humans and fallen angels. The wrath of God is His intense dislike of all sin and His passionate resistance to every proud will which is set against His will. His anger sometimes expresses itself in His punishing of sinful rebellious humans and angels.

 

God’s wrath explained

 

The Bible speaks much about God’s wrath or anger. Because the word “wrath” is used little by English-speaking non-Christians these days, it is possibly better when witnessing to them to use more easily understood expressions such as: “God’s great anger against evil and against those who refuse to turn from evil.”

It is wrong to compare God’s anger to human anger too closely. This is because human anger is often a result of the selfish attitudes and sin of the angry person himself. Because God is not selfish or sinful, His anger must be seen as being totally pure and without any evil in it. Comparing God’s anger to human anger is like comparing His love to human love. The love of fallen humans is a poor reflection of His perfect love.

God is never angry like a spoilt selfish child. Nor is God an unpredictably moody Person Who becomes angry for no justifiably good reason. He is not like the bad-tempered, moody and mean pagan “gods” whose favour had to be bought or earned. Nor does God have a dark evil side to His character which enjoys hurting others for sadistic purposes.

God’s anger is closely linked to His holiness (see Ezekiel 22:26 and 30 taken together and Habakkuk 3:2-3), His right judgements (see Romans 2:5 and Ezekiel 7:8-9) and His justice (see Romans 3:5-6). God’s holy nature results in Him being very angry with unbelievers because they do not centre their lives on Him, His love and His right ways.

 

Is God angry with unbelievers during the New Covenant period?

 

Many Christians have been taught the false idea that God is never ever angry with sinful unbelievers during the graceful New Covenant period. They say His anger toward sinful unbelievers only occurred in Old Testament times and will occur in future during the Great Tribulation. Such ideas are contrary to Paul's words in Romans 1:18-19: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…” These verses show God is very angry about and actively opposed to every form of evil and wrong. God does not overlook even the smallest sin of unbelievers.

In the broader context of Romans 1:18-31, the phrase “is revealed” is used by Paul in Romans 1:18 in the sense of God’s wrath or present continuous inflexible opposition and intense hatred of all sin and wickedness being revealed or manifested to humans. Such wrath from heaven can either be being revealed to human hearts by the Holy Spirit or can on occasion be being manifested in present earthly punishments. Acts 12:20-23, 1 Thessalonians 2:16 and Revelation 2:20-23 are three examples of the latter.

Note the expression “is revealed” in Romans 1:18 is in the present tense in Greek. In Greek, the present tense usually refers to an ongoing or continuous action. If it was in the future tense, this would probably mean Paul was referring solely to the manifested wrath of God associated with Jesus’ future Second Coming and the Final Judgement Day. But Paul does not use the future tense of “is revealed” in Romans 1:18. Paul wrote these words about God’s wrath in Romans 1:18 to refer to the period he was then presently living in – the New Covenant dispensation of grace and of the Holy Spirit – and possibly also to God’s future wrath associated with Christ's Second Coming and the Final Judgement.

Later in Romans 2:1-16, Paul refers to God’s future wrath and judgement. In verse 5, he says: “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God.” In Romans 2:1-16, Paul uses five action words about the future judgement which each are in the future tense. The expressions “will escape” in verse 3, “will render” in verse 6, “will perish” and “will be judged” in verse 12 and “will be justified” in verse 13 are all in the future tense in Greek. Paul's use of the future tense in these verses suits the context of Romans 2:1-16 referring to God’s future wrath and judgement.

In Romans 1:18, the expression “is revealed” is exactly the same as the present tense phrase Paul used in Romans 1:17 when he referred to the righteousness of God being revealed at present in the Gospel.

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul refers to God’s dealings, manifested wrath and punishments upon unrepentant unbelievers. In verse 27, Paul said some of them received the penalty or punishment which was due. So Romans 1:27 is referring to God paying people what they deserve because of their sins. Because the surrounding context of Romans 1:18 does mention punishment by God of some sinners, this suggests Romans 1:18 can partially refer to His wrath being sometimes presently manifested in punishments on unrepentant unbelievers.

 

God is angry both about sins and with people

 

God is not only very angry about every sin. John 3:36 reveals He is also angry with people – those who reject Jesus Christ: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” In Greek, the word “abides” here is a form of the word “meno” which means in the context of John 3:36 “figuratively of someone who does not leave the realm or sphere in which he finds himself: remain, continue, abide”. [1] So God’s anger continues or remains on those who do not believe in Christ.

Romans 5:10 shows unbelievers are regarded as God’s enemies. This relates to His wrath mentioned in Romans 5:9. In Psalm 5:5-6 and 11:5-6, David teaches that God abhors sinful unbelievers. These verses refer to the fact God sets Himself against unrepentant unbelievers, opposes them, separates Himself from them and regards them as His enemies. This is despite the wonderful truth God still loves them (see John 3:16 and Romans 5:8).

Psalm 7:11 shows God is angry with unrepentant unbelievers and their sins every day. “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”

In 1 Corinthians 16:22, Paul states that everyone who does not sincerely love Jesus Christ is under God’s curse: “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed…!” Matthew 22:1-7 and Luke 14:16-21 record parables about God being furious with those who rejected His invitation into His Kingdom. See Matthew 22:7 especially.

 

Reasons God hates sin and is angry about it

 

God hates sin and is extremely angry about it:

 

         because it is so contrary to His own totally unselfish, holy loving nature.

         because of its destructive effects on the person doing it and on others who are affected by the person doing it (see Job 35:6-8).

 

The anger of the Trinity

 

One common wrong view teaches that only God the Father is angry with sinners. But note Matthew 22:7, Luke 12:46, 13:25-28, 19:27 and Revelation 19:13-16 refer to Jesus Christ’s great anger against unrepentant unbelievers being expressed in future. Mark 3:5 and 11:15-17 record two examples of Jesus’ anger towards unrepentant sinners during His earthly life. God is a Trinity. Therefore, the expression “the wrath of God” means the Holy Spirit is also angry with unrepentant sinners and their sins.

God loves all unrepentant sinners perfectly (see John 3:16, Romans 5:8 and 1 John 4:8). Only God has the ability to love someone perfectly while being extremely angry with them at the same time.

 

True believers are not under God’s wrath

 

Those people who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour by faith, are not under God’s furious wrath. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 refers to people at Thessalonica who had been soundly converted from their sins to faith in God. Note 1 Thessalonians 1:10 shows Jesus delivered Paul and all real believers from God’s future wrath: “…even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Paul shows God did not appoint those, who had received Jesus Christ as their personal Lord, to experience His future furious anger against sinners and their sins: “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In Romans 5:9, Paul reveals it is because of Jesus’ death that we have been saved from God’s future manifested wrath: “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

Note when Paul teaches in Romans 5:9, 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 5:9 that Jesus’ death has delivered believers from God’s future furious wrath, Paul is not saying God does not care if believers sin. God is very displeased when believers sin (see Revelation 2:4-5, 2:14, 2:16, 2:20 and 2:22-23). He hates all sin. He does not like looking at evil being done (see Habakkuk 1:13). But His being displeased with the sins of believers is different from Him having furious anger towards them which will manifest itself in eternal punishment.

 

Paul preached about God’s grace, love, anger and judgements

 

Paul, the great preacher of God’s grace, taught about God’s anger numerous times and about God’s judgements and eternal condemnation very frequently. For example, in the Book of Romans alone, Paul mentioned God’s wrath in Romans 1:18, 2:5 (twice), 4:15, 5:9 and 9:22 (twice), God’s judgements in Romans 1:32, 2:2, 2:3, 2:5, 2:6, 2:16, 3:6, 3:7, 5:16, 5:18 and 12:9 and eternal condemnation in Romans 5:16, 5:18, 6:21 and 6:23. By comparison in Romans, Paul mentioned God’s love in Romans 5:5, 5:8 and 8:39, Christ's love in Romans 8:35, the love of the Holy Spirit in Romans 15:30, God’s grace in about 20 verses, His mercy in 9 verses, His longsuffering in 2 verses, His forbearance in 2 verses and His patience in one verse. This is in total 20 verses on His wrath, judgements and eternal condemnation and 39 verses on His love, grace, mercy and so on.

The New Testament teaching about eternal judgement must include an emphasis on God’s great anger. This is because God’s eternal judgement of unbelievers expresses His anger (see Romans 2:5).

In the Middle Ages, many preachers concentrated too much on God’s wrath, earthly punishments and eternal condemnation. But today, many have gone to the other unbiblical extreme by rarely or never mentioning these. Compromising humanists in the church say it is “too negative” to talk or preach about these things.

 

A good God must hate evil and be angry about it

 

Because God is perfectly loving and gracious, some churchgoers reject the idea that He is also angry about all sin and evil. But God would not totally love good right things unless He also hated all evil wrong things and was angry with those who do the latter things. If God was not very angry about rapes, murders, bashings, child molesting, burglaries and all other forms of wickedness and with those doing these things, He would not be a perfectly loving and good God.

 

The relationship between the Gospel and God’s wrath

 

One popular view today teaches that God’s wrath has no connection to the Gospel of grace. This view claims God’s wrath and the Gospel are opposite and totally separate. But note Paul taught in Romans 1:16-18 that the Gospel and God’s wrath are connected. The Gospel itself teaches us that because of our sin, everyone of us deserves to experience God’s future wrath in being eternally condemned to hell in a state of permanent separation from Him. The Gospel also reveals that God has appointed Jesus Christ as our substitute. Christ experienced the fury of God’s anger against us as sinners and our sin when He willingly died on the Cross.

The Gospel also stresses that anyone who does not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is still under God’s wrath (see John 3:36).

 

 

Humanistic people-pleasing teachings for itching ears

 

It is tragic but at present, some Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Charismatics are abandoning the teachings of the New Testament about God’s wrath. They are teaching instead what the itching ears of the flesh want to hear (see 2 Timothy 4:2). Such false teachings derive mainly from humanism, similar worldly philosophies and a false understanding of the New Covenant dispensation of grace.

For example, an American Charismatic tele-evangelist and founder and president of a Christian television station, wrote an article in the magazine of a fellow American tele-evangelist: “I have some good news for you today: God is not mad at you. In fact, He’s not mad at anybody.” He was correct in saying God is not madly angry with born-again Christians. But his statement “He’s not mad at anybody” reveals a sad misunderstanding of the New Testament. John 3:36, Romans 1:18, Ephesians 2:1-4 and 1 Thessalonians 2:16 show God is angry with unbelievers now.

In Ephesians 2:3, Paul reveals that the Ephesians as unbelievers had been previously by nature “children of wrath”: “Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” Paul here shows that he and the Ephesians were objects of God’s wrath up until their conversion. The Ephesians and Paul had not been converted until years after the New Covenant began. The Book of Ephesians was written about 30 to 40 years after the beginning of the New Covenant dispensation.

The above tele-evangelist’s liberal attitude to God’s wrath is similar to his teaching about God’s judgements. He said: “Many believers may understand this but are confused about God’s righteousness and God’s judgement. They think God is currently judging America. He’s not. God is not judging America any more than He is judging Mexico or Guatemala or Italy or Africa. God has already judged sin and Satan…We are in the Church Age, the Age of Grace.”

The above teaching is based on a false understanding of the difference between the Mosaic and New Covenants in relation to God sending earthly punishments on unbelievers. Acts 12:20-23, 1 Thessalonians 2:16 and Revelation 2:20-23 record God sending severe punishments on unbelievers during the New Covenant grace dispensation.

Churches who refuse to preach about God’s anger against unrepentant unbelievers and their sins, are rebelliously disobeying Him.

 

Dodd’s errors about God’s anger

 

The now deceased neo-Orthodox scholar C. H. Dodd and others have argued God’s wrath is not actually personally felt by God against unbelievers. [2] But verses such as Isaiah 30:27-31, Jeremiah 23:19-20 and Ezekiel 7:8-9 reveal how wrong such ideas are. God personally experiences great anger against unrepentant unbelievers. Ezekiel 7:8-9 says: “Now upon you I will soon pour out My fury, and spend My anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, and I will repay you for all your abominations. My eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; I will repay you according to your ways, and your abominations will be in your midst. Then you will know that I am the Lord who strikes.”

Dodd argued that mercy is a personal feature of God’s character, but wrath is not. [3] Dodd taught that the expression “the wrath of God” merely symbolises an impersonal process of cause and effect, sin causing disasters in the lives of those who practice it. Some Evangelicals and Pentecostals have accepted this idea. But note verses like Micah 7:18, Psalm 85:2-3 and 103:8-9 show God’s mercy and anger are personal features of His character. Micah 7:18 says: “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy.” These verses do not infer mercy is personal and wrath is impersonal.

 

Hebrew and Greek words for God’s wrath or anger

 

There are a number of words used in the Old Testament which describe God’s anger against sin, wickedness and unbelievers. The first is “hema” which means “burning anger, rage”. [4] The word “hema” is used in Deuteronomy 29:23: “The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and His wrath.”

The Hebrew word “ap” means “anger which shows itself in hard breathing” [5] and is used in Ezra 8:22 when it records what Ezra told the Persian King: “…The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.”

The Hebrew word “ebra” means “fury, anger, rage, wrath”. [6] “Ebra” relates to “the fierceness of God’s wrath (Psalm 78:49) expressed in an overwhelming and complete demonstration (Isaiah 13:9). God’s wrath burns, overflows, sweeps away everything before it (Ezekiel 22:21,31)” (page 643) and is used in Nahum 1:2: “God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; the Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies.”

Another relevant Hebrew word is “qasap” meaning “a strong emotional outburst of anger, especially when man is the subject of the reaction”. [7] “Qasap” is used in Deuteronomy 9:7, 8 and 22.

Another Hebrew word “qesep” means “wrath” [8] and is used in Zechariah 7:12: “Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.”

The Hebrew word “ka’as” means “be vexed, angry” [9] or “to vex, agitate, stir up, or provoke the heart to a heated condition which in turn leads to specific actions…The term when applied to God, implies that man can affect the very heart of God so as to cause Him heat, pain or grief to various degrees of intensity”. [10] “Ka’as” is used in 2 Chronicles 33:6 in relation to God’s anger towards King Manasseh: “Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritualists, He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.” “Haron” is a Hebrew word meaning “burning anger” [11] and is used in Exodus 15:7.

The two main words used in the original Greek New Testament for wrath are “orge” and “thumos”. Vine says the word “orge” refers to “the anger of the Lord Jesus, Mark 3:5; God’s anger with Israel in the wilderness, in a quotation from the Old Testament, Hebrews 3:11, 4:3; God’s present anger with the Jews nationally, Romans 9:22, 1 Thessalonians 2:16; His present anger with those who disobey the Lord Jesus in His gospel, John 3:36; God’s purposes in judgement, Matthew 3:7, Luke 3:7, Romans 1:18, 2:5, 2:8, 3:5, 5:9, 12:19, Ephesians 2:3, 5:6, Colossians 3:6, 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 5:9”. [12] Bauer defines “orge” as “anger, indignation, wrath…the divine reaction to evil; it…more often is to be expected in the future, as God’s final reckoning with evil”. [13]

The Greek word “thumos” in the New Testament means “anger, wrath, rage” [14] or “hot anger”. [15]

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.       What does God’s wrath or anger mean?

2.       What verses reveal God is angry with unbelievers during the New Covenant period?

3.       What do Psalm 5:5-6, 7:11 and 11:5-6 teach us about God’s attitudes to unrepentant unbelievers?

4.       God loves everyone. But are unbelievers living as God’s enemies?

5.       What are the reasons God hates sin?

6.       Are true believers under God’s wrath?

7.       In the Book of Romans, did Paul concentrate solely on God’s love, grace and mercy while ignoring His anger, judgements and eternal condemnation? Provide verses as support for your answer.

8.       Can God be perfectly good without hating evil and being angry about it?

9.       Is there a connection between the Gospel and the teaching about God’s anger being directed towards unrepentant unbelievers?

 

 

 


 


[1] Bauer, page 503.

[2] Leon Morris, “The Atonement”, I.V.P., Leicester, 1983, pages 163-166.

[3] Dodd, “The Epistle of Paul to the Romans”, London, 1944, pages 22-23.

[4] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 404.

[5] Wilson, page 491.

[6] Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 643.

[7] Vine, page 297.

[8] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 893.

[9] Ibid, page 494.

[10] Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 451.

[11] Vine, page 5.

[12] Ibid, page 26.

[13] Bauer, pages 578-579.

[14] Ibid, page 365.

[15] Vine, page 688.

 

 


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