God’s wrath is unpalatable to many. It supposedly archaic, brutal, and unloving. Reflecting this sentiment, one scholar writes of Jonathan Edwards, “Edwards was popularly known only as one who had preached a distasteful and happily outmoded brand of hell-fire and brimstone.” Despite its broader unpopularity, the wrath of God is both reasonable and comforting.
Regarding its reasonability, the wrath of God provides the proper framework for a morally-ordered universe. The universe is governed by God. He reigns and rules. Part of his rule is executed through his law. God tells us what to do. His law is supreme. Conceptually, law is different than suggestion. Suggestions can be followed or not followed. “Take it or leave it,” kind of deal. Law is not like this. Law is firm and absolute. It carries with authority, something suggestion does not. The reason why suggestion lack authority while law carries authority relates to the idea of penalty. Penalties are attached to laws, not suggestions. Law without penalty is just suggestion. Suggestion with penalty is law. Understood broadly, God’s wrath is the penalty for breaking his law. Without this penalty, his law would be suggestion.
Regarding its comfortability, God’s wrath provides the hope of retribution. In this life, there are great evils perpetrated. History is riddled with examples. These incidents of evil involve victims—innocent peoples whose lives have been destroyed due to the wickedness of others. For these victims, they long for the day of retribution. Their greatest fear might be that those who harmed them will never be held accountable for their crimes. That their sufferings will never be truly recognized. The wrath of God ensures that justice will be upheld. God’s wrath is the bedrock for their hope. No matter what happens in this life, God promises “vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Deut 32:35).
Don’t blush at God’s wrath. Smile at it. It plays an essential role in God’s moral governance and provides hope for those who have suffered harm. God is good. “All his ways are justice” (Deut 32:4).