Day of Wrath

The day of “wrath” is coming when the wicked will pay the ultimate price for their disobedience to God – Romans 2:5

Lightning over Bangkok - Photo by Dominik QN on Unsplash
The proclamation of the gospel unveils two forces that are at work in the world - “
righteousness” and “wrath.” But they will produce two very different results - “salvation” and “destruction.” One will culminate in the “day of wrath and God’s righteous judgments,” the other in salvation, resurrection, and new creation - [Photo by Dominik QN on Unsplash].

Which result a man reaps will depend on his response to the gospel in the present, for it is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the “righteousness of God is being revealed from faith for faith.” And in this clause, “being revealed” translates a present tense verb, apokaluptetai, meaning “reveal, disclose, unveil, uncover.” The present tense signifies an action in progress, that is, this “revealing” is an ongoing process - (Romans 1:16-17).

RIGHTEOUSNESS AND WRATH

The “righteousness” of God is revealed whenever Jews and Gentiles respond in faith to the gospel. Thus, there is a definite present tense to His “righteousness,” and He demonstrates it by saving men who respond to the message in faith.

But at the very same time, His “wrath” is also “being revealed from heaven” against all “who possess the truth in unrighteousness,” and this is evidenced by the very sins practiced by the wicked. God gives the unrepentant over to the very sins they crave (“Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness”).

The sins of the wicked demonstrate they are under “wrath,” and their trespasses validate God’s coming judicial sentence on the “day of wrath.” Elsewhere, Paul even refers to such men as the “children of wrath,” for they are under divine “wrath” already - (Romans 1:18-32, Ephesians 2:3).

Thus, Paul contrasts two present processes - “Righteousness” and “Wrath.” Both occur in the present age whenever the gospel is proclaimed.

DAY OF WRATH

But there is also a coming “day” when God will impose His judicial ruling on both the righteous and the unrighteous. For the latter, it will be the “day of wrath,” but for the former, a time of salvation:
  • (Romans 2:5-11) – “But after your hardness and impenitent heart you are storing up for yourselves wrath on the day of wrath and revelation of the judicial sentence of Godwho will render to every man according to his worksto them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, everlasting lifebut for them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish on every soul of man that works evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that works good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek, for there is no respect of persons with God.
  • (Romans 13:11-12) – “And this, knowing the season, that already it is time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand: let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

Paul’s logic indicates the wicked and the righteous receive either “wrath” or salvation on the same final day. The sinner may already be under the “wrath of God,” but that is a process that will culminate in his final sentence on the last day.

For the “sons of disobedience,” His “wrath is coming.” Likewise, the righteous will receive “salvation” at that time - everlasting life in the age to come - (Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 3:6).

To the church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote that Jesus is in the process of “rescuing us from the coming wrath.” Deliverance occurs whenever a man “turns from idols to serve the living and true God.” And his use of two present tense verbs clarifies that the process is ongoing - “rescuing” and “coming” – (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

JUDGMENT AND SALVATION

But one day, the final “wrath” will come. For the unprepared, the “Day of the LORD” will arrive “like a thief in the night,” bringing with it “unexpected destruction… and in no way will they escape.”

Believers, on the other hand, will not experience “destruction” because they live in the “light,” and because God has not appointed them “for wrath, but for acquiring salvation.”

Thus, Paul links the time of “wrath” with the “day of the LORD.” But elsewhere, he also associates the “gathering” of the saints to Jesus with the same day. Thus, on that day, both salvation and wrath will be dispensed - (1 Thessalonians 5:1-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, 1 Corinthians 1:8).

IN REVELATION

In the book of Revelation, when the “Lamb” opens the “sixth seal,” the entire creation is shaken to its core. The “stars of heaven fell…and every mountain and island were moved out of their place.” All men flee in a futile attempt to hide from the “wrath of the Lamb.” It is the “great day of the wrath” of the “Lamb” and of “Him who sits on the throne,” and no one is “able to stand.”

Not coincidentally, the language used to portray the “sixth seal” draws heavily from several Old Testament passages about the “day of the LORD” - (Revelation 6:12-17, Isaiah 2:1013:9-10, Joel 2:28-32).

In contrast to the opening of the “sixth seal,” John saw the men who had the “seal of God” portrayed as an innumerable multitude that was “coming out of the great tribulation standing before the throne and the Lamb.” This group is composed of men who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” and so, they are well able to “stand” before him – (Revelation 7:9-17).

When the “seventh trumpet” sounds, the “twenty-four elders who sit before God on their thrones” declare that the “time of your wrath is come, the time of the dead to be judged and to give their reward to the saints.”

On that day, the wicked will be judged and the righteous rewarded. And by God’s “wrath,” those men who were “destroying the earth” will themselves be “destroyed” – (Revelation 11:15-19).

When the “seventh bowl of wrath” is emptied, a “great voice” declares, “It is finished.” Just as John was informed at the start of the series the “seven last plagues” bring the “wrath of God” to completion.

This means that “Babylon,” the “Great Harlot” that persecuted the saints will drink fully of the “cup of the wine of the fury of His wrath. As a result, “every island fled away, and the mountains were not found,” a verbal link to the “sixth seal” when “every mountain and island was moved out of its place.” In short, the same final day is in view in both visions – (Revelation 15:1, 16:17-21).

The vivid images from Revelation tell the same story as the Apostle in his epistles. The “day of wrath” is coming when those who reject the gospel will reap their just reward.

Like the men of Judea who “killed the Lord Jesus” and opposed the proclamation of the gospel, they have “filled up their sins,” and on that final day, “wrath will come upon them to the uttermost” - (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).

In the New Testament, the “day of wrath” coincides with the “day of the LORD.” The arrival of that day will mean the destruction of the wicked. But it will also result in the salvation of the saints by the Lord Jesus Christ. The same day will bring final destruction on the unrighteous but vindication and reward for those who embrace the gospel.

In the end, what differentiates the wicked from the righteous, and their respective fates is how they respond to the gospel of Jesus in the here and now. For anyone who responds in faith, it is “the power for salvation.” But for all who reject it, Christ’s return will become a “day of wrath.”



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