“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
(Romans 5:9 ESV)
Old-time preachers often warned of God’s wrath. Some of them purposely aimed to scare people into the kingdom of God.
Nowadays people seem to want a kind old man in the sky who pats them on the head and gives them whatever they want; never mind the fact that what they want may not be in their true best interest. Some have gone so far as to question the existence of hell—something that Christians had, until recently, taken by faith.
People want to gloss over what they view as the less appealing aspects of God’s character. But God is perfect, which means that everything about him is perfect, including his righteous anger.
The wrath of God is the punishing of sin, what Paul called the revelation of God’s “righteous judgment” (Romans 2:5 ESV). The term “righteous” should alert us to the fact that the wrath of God is nothing like human anger. God is not self-indulgent or out of control or irritable. He is not subject to moods or whims; every time he releases his wrath, people have been forewarned about it.
In short, God’s wrath is his right and proper reaction to sin, and his settled purpose to bring it to justice. Part of God’s holiness and justice is that he must respond to sin. And really, we wouldn’t want it any other way—we want there to be standards of right and wrong, and for right to win in the end. This wouldn’t be possible without God’s wrath.
It’s important to note that God’s wrath and his love are not in conflict; God is not sometimes loving and sometimes angry, he is always both. In fact, it is because he loves us that he cares about the wrong we do. He is close enough to us to be grieved by our sin. He loves us enough to correct our course when we are headed toward the chaos and self-destruction that always come with wrongdoing. God’s wrath is a warning of the terrible consequences of sin and a form of loving discipline by the Father who wants all people to come to him and live for his glory.
God’s wrath and love were perfectly mingled at the cross. There, God unleashed his wrath against sin—but in Jesus, he also bore that wrath for us. Jesus became sin for us. He took on all the hate, selfishness, adultery, murder, and hatred of every person who would believe in him. He died for all of their sin—past, present, and future.
God saved us so that now we who are in Christ will never have to bear the wrath of God. God the Father looks at us and sees Christ’s righteousness credited to us, and we no longer bear the stain of sin.
So in the true and final analysis, the wrath of God is a deep expression of his love.