What does the phrase, "wrath of God” mean?

Anyone who angers you conquers you. (Source Unknown).

Wrath

What do you think of when you hear that phrase, “wrath of God"? It is true that hell and all that may follow are an expression of the wrath of God. But that is not what it means in these verses. Many think of the wrath of God as thunder and lightning, and judgment, fire and brimstone, and the sudden destruction that comes upon obviously guilty sinners. It is true that these are all manifestation of the wrath of God, but the wrath of God is not just something to come; it is also present now.

This is one of the clearest passages in the Bible on God’s wrath (vv. 18-32). As the text says, it is “revealed from heaven” (v. 18) - that is, it is going on right now. The rest of this verse reveals the cause of this wrath. The Apostle explains that it is the godlessness, and the wickedness of men who suppress the truth of their wickedness, that cause God’s wrath. Notice the order of this godlessness and then wickedness. The order is never reversed. It is the godless attitude that produces the wicked actions, and that is why the wrath of God is being revealed constantly from heaven against man. Godlessness isn’t necessarily atheism, the belief that God doesn’t exist, but it is acting as though He doesn’t exist. That attitude is widespread in our society today; it is what we call the “humanist” attitude. It doesn’t necessarily deny that there is a God, but it never takes any account of Him; it doesn’t expect Him to be active.

God gives everyone enough knowledge of His existence so that all men everywhere are without excuse, (18-21) This sets before us the nature of the truth that is refused (vv. 19-20). Man, in his puniness and weakness, struts about acting as though there were no God. We find here a declaration that knowledge concerning God is available to every person, as it is seen in the created world around us. The Apostle tells us in detail how men suppress the truth about God (vv. 21-23):

  1. They neither glorify God nor give thanks to Him (v. 21). In other words they ignore Him.
  2. They claim to be wise (v. 22). They try to imitate God. The result is that they become fools. Man’s refusal to acknowledge and glorify God leads to worthless thinking, moral insensitivity, and idol worship. Dr R.A. Torrey used to say “Professing themselves to be wise, they become “Foolosophers.”

Application

The Bible is filled with warnings about God’s wrath and about eternal judgment. God has made no secret of His wrath, and neither should I.

Romans 1:18-23 (English Standard Version)


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