Saturday, December 30

The end of God’s wrath

Scripture: Revelation 15-18

Revelation 15:1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.

Observation

These chapters are a vision of the final outpouring of God’s wrath.  Two observations:

First, God’s wrath is real and we need to take it seriously.  We’d rather not talk or think about it, but we must, because it is real.  God feels anger.  Sin and injustice and unrighteousness anger Him.  Why?  Because those things are wrong, and hurt those He loves.  Many people have rejected the idea of God’s wrath.  This is a mistake.  Miroslav Volv wrote about this, and I’ve copied it in the illustration at the bottom of this post.  Bottom line: God is angry because God is love, not in spite of His love.  Don’t minimize His wrath, or ignore it—and you certainly don’t want to be the target of it.  These chapters describe the awful result of being on the receiving end of God’s wrath. It’s real.

Second, God’s wrath ends.  Revelation 15 begins by saying this of the seven last plagues: “with them God’s wrath is completed.”  When the seventh angel pours out the final plague, he cries, “It is done.”  (Rev. 16:17)  There is an end to God’s wrath; but there is no end to His love and grace.  The Bible says that God is love; it doesn’t say that God is anger.  His anger ends, but His love endures forever.  “For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime.”  Psalm 30:5

Application

The most important application I can think of is to warn people of God’s wrath and remind them of His love—help people find and follow Jesus.  It is Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10)—so I need to help people find and follow Jesus.

And I need to know what makes God angry and work to change those things.  We pray, “May your kingdom come, may your will be done.”  Then we work to answer that prayer—doing God’s will, resisting evil and injustice and unrighteousness…doing good.

Prayer: Lord, I don’t think about this much—thanks for the reminder.  Use this to adjust my thinking, perspective and behavior.  May your kingdom come and your will be done—in and through and around me!

Illustration

Miroslav Volf, a Christian theologian from Croatia, used to reject the concept of God’s wrath. He thought that the idea of an angry God was barbaric, completely unworthy of a God of love. But then his country experienced a brutal war. People committed terrible atrocities against their neighbors and countrymen. The following reflections, from Volf’s book Free of Charge, reveal his new understanding of the necessity of God’s wrath:

My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry.

Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandfatherly fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators’ basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them?

Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.

Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge (Zondervan, 2006), pp. 138-139