The greatest peril facing every person, in every ethnic group, in every place on earth, and at every time in history, is the righteous wrath of God against guilty sinners, leading to everlasting suffering — unless God himself rescues us from his own judgment. Poverty, hunger, disease, war, crime, climate change, addictions, homelessness, ignorance, sex trafficking: these bring great global suffering — and they pale in comparison to the peril of being under the wrath of God. They are all tragic, but they are all temporary. They may last a lifetime, but the wrath of God lasts forever.
One of the pillar convictions of this conference is that Christians care about all suffering. I hope this is true of you. Christians care — feel-care and act-care — about all suffering, especially eternal suffering. Let me say six things about the wrath of God.
1. The wrath of God is terrible and eternal.
To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he [God] will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans 2:7–8)
There is eternal life or wrath and fury. And the fact that wrath and fury are contrasted with eternal life at least implies this is eternal wrath and fury. This is confirmed in 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9:
The Lord Jesus [will be] revealed from heaven . . . in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
So, my first point about the wrath of God is that it is terrible. I get that from the word fury. And it is eternal, as 2 Thessalonians 1:9 says.
2. The wrath of God is present. It has already begun.
The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)
“Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.”
In America today, it would not be wrong to say that we are collapsing morally at every level of society and ripening for judgment. That would be a true statement, I believe; it’s just misleading because the collapse itself is judgment. And if you want to read how that works, just look at the rest of Romans 1, and you will see what Paul means by the present activity of the wrath of God giving men over to their sin.
So, think about America’s judgment in two ways: (1) we’re under the wrath of God; it’s being poured out everywhere, and (2) it’s coming. Now, don’t hear me saying revival is not possible. Oh, you have no idea what God is capable of doing, and I don’t want any of you to say, “Bring it, Lord: wrath.” The judgment of God begins with the household of God, and you don’t want to taste it as a believer even (1 Peter 4:17). The righteous are scarcely saved (1 Peter 4:18).
You pray for revival. You pray for awakening. You pray for healthy churches and strong witness. You pray for amazing things to happen in the church of Christ.
3. The wrath of God is coming in final judgment.
Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5)
God’s wrath is present in God’s giving people over to their licentiousness, their sin, their bondage to evil. And he is saying they are storing up more wrath, as he gives them up to wrath.
4. The wrath of God is owing to our sin, which exchanges the glory of God for the glory of man.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
[They] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:23)
All . . . are under sin. . . . None is righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:9–10)
Therefore, every mouth is stopped (Romans 3:19) — meaning nobody can fault God rightly for his wrath. It is totally warranted. It is totally just. It is totally righteous because of how serious it is to exchange the glory of God for any other glory.
5. The wrath of God is righteous.
What shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? . . . By no means! For then how could God judge the world? (Romans 3:5–6)
In other words, it is not unrighteous. It is totally righteous.
6. The wrath of God is God’s prerogative, not ours. This is the great difference between Islam and Christianity.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
“We die for our enemies; we don’t kill them. We don’t pronounce damnation on infidels; we evangelize them. ”
If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If your enemy is thirsty, give him something to drink (Romans 12:20). Overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Christians don’t take God’s prerogative and become the mediators of wrath. We die for our enemies; we don’t kill them. We don’t pronounce damnation on infidels; we evangelize them. We plead with them. We love them. We call them. We go to them.
That’s why this conference exists. We’re not those who go out looking to show wrath to our adversaries. That belongs to God, and he assigns us to love our enemies.
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