The Revelation of God’s Wrath

In a Brief  Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Base on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 4c of 83

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” (Romans 1:18a)

The word translated “is revealed”(ἀποκαλύπτω) is in the present tense in the Greek. The Greek present tense is a continuous tense. Paul is saying that the wrath of God is not hidden in heaven secretly. It is constantly being revealed or unveiled to man. God’s wrath, in other words, is not only being stored up for the final day. It is manifested to man constantly.

Think of the picture of the dam again. The wrath of God is building up behind an enormous dam. One day the dam will burst. But even now cracks have appeared. The water of wrath is gushing out at numerous places everyday. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven” everyday!

But how is the wrath of God being manifested? Commentators have different ideas.

·    Matthew Henry suggests that it is revealed “in the providences of God [and] His judgments executed upon sinners”

·    Dr Lloyd-Jones suggests that it is manifested in our conscience, in diseases and illness, in death, in painful history and in the Cross.

·    Robert Haldane speaks of the great deluge, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the groaning of creation, the reign of death, and the suffering and death of Christ.

·    Charles Hodge speaks of “actual punishment of sin”, “the voice of conscience” and “the inherent tendency of moral evil to produce misery.”

All these, no doubt, are the ways in which the wrath of God has been, and is being revealed from heaven. And we can agree with Dr Lloyd-Jones and Mr Haldane that the greatest manifestation of God’s wrath is at the Cross of Calvary. There on Calvary’s Tree, the perfect Son of God, bore the full brunt of wrath against sin that the church throughout the ages deserve. If our reconciliation to God requires the only begotten Son of God to be punished for us, what can we say about the wrath of God,—but that it is infinite, and cannot be satisfied by mere man no matter how righteous?

b.   But perhaps Charles Hodges captures best what the apostle Paul is trying to convey when he speaks of God revealing his wrath through “the inherent tendency of moral evil to produce misery.” The apostle Paul, you will realise, continue after this verse to the end of the chapter, to speak about how one evil leads to another. Unbelief led to idolatry, idolatry led to immorality, immorality leads to grosser evils. So we read of how God gave up the Gentiles, which had progressed from unbelief, to vile idolatry, to gross immorality.

Sin is never without consequence. Apart from storing up the wrath of God unto the day of judgement, sin is incurring the tokens of God’s wrath in terms of the misery and hopelessness that arise from it.

There are many people in the world who are living as if God does not exist and there will be no day of judgement. The apostle Peter speaks of these jeering at Christians and scoffing at them: “Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet 3:4).

Well, the judgement is coming! And those who scoff at Christ are filling up the bowl of God’s wrath. But if you think about it, you will realise that they need not wait that long to experience tokens of God’s wrath. Think of the poverty, misery, diseases and crime that arise from ungodliness. Think of the world. Look at the big picture. Which are the countries that suffer the greatest misery, strife and sorrow? Are they not Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Communistic countries? Which are the countries that have enjoyed most stability and wealth? Are they not mostly those which have had Christian influences. Yes, most Christian nation are on the decline for forsaking Christ. But did they not prosper especially when God was honoured?

Or look at the more micro level. Look at families and individuals. What kind of families are more likely to experience painful divorces, squabble over inheritances, drugs abuse, teenage pregnancy, AIDS, drunkardness, family violence, murders, bankruptcy, etc, etc. Are they not unbelieving families? Of course there will always be apparent exception both ways. But what I am saying is that in general this is what happens.

Unbelief breeds idolatry, immorality and hopeless lives. Lives that are without God are empty, full of pain and sorrow. God’s wrath is being reveal from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. If only man will take heed to this trickle of wrath that is being revealed.

c.   Dearly beloved brethren, have you ever been tempted to think that whether or not you are a Christian will make no difference to you and your family? Well think again. The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against unrighteousness and ungodliness. Sin has consequences.

Asaph who wrote Psalm 73 was also tempted to become envious at the godless. He says: “I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps 73:3). Asaph thought about the prosperity of the wicked on the one hand and how on the other hand, he himself was suffering through some difficult circumstances. This thought brought pain to his heart.

But as he thought about it more in prayer, light dawn upon him and he was able to say:

“…I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. 18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. 19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. 20 As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image” (Ps 73:17-20).

The prosperity of the wicked is an illusion. The prosperity of the wicked is like that of a man being loaded with more and more pieces of gold so that when he falls it will be a great and terrible fall.

But the apostle Paul teaches us that the wrath of God against sin, will not only be revealed in the last day, or even at the day that the sinner leaves the present life. The wrath of God is being revealed daily in the lives of godless persons. It is revealed through the pain and misery that comes upon them daily. “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps 7:11) says the Psalmist.

…to be continued next issue