A Present Reality
With the recent debate on hell still being fresh in my mind, I wanted to say some things about the wrath of God. All too often, this is spoken of as a future reality only by those who adhere to both annihilationism and the orthodox doctrine of hell. However, the Scriptures are very clear: The wrath of God is a present reality that is revealed from heaven to us by God. Here is what Paul says about the matter –
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
[Rom 1:18-32. (emphasis mine)]
Paul explains that the wrath of God is demonstrated in the mental/spiritual and physical ruination of man. Because men did not see fit to honor God, he gave them over to debased minds, debased passions, and corresponding physical practices (i.e. homosexuality and idolatry). This is not prolepsis, it is wrath revealed from heaven.
And the significance of this is simple: If we want to see the wrath of God, we can. We need not speculate about it. It is the physical and spiritual ruination of man. The perpetual turning inward and destructive moral corruption of which Paul speaks in Romans 1, and the physical actions correlative to that inward corruption.
Embodied, Conscious Torment
If what Paul is describing is the wrath of God, then what will those outside of Christ face in eternity? They won’t be engaging in sexual intercourse or committing idolatry, will they?
Of course not.
They will be stripped of all that is good, being objects of wrath, and only of wrath. As Paul states in Romans 2:8-9:
…for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil…
Is this distinct from the wrath already revealed from heaven? Yes, because the wicked will be stripped of God’s mercies altogether. The righteous will receive “glory, honor, and peace” (ibid.), but the wicked will receive none of these things. Instead, they will remain internally and externally corrupt and being corrupted, with nothing to satiate their lusts. While the righteous will be comforted, the wicked will be afflicted with everlasting destruction, ruination in body and soul.
More than a Debate Topic
The subject is grim, but it is a necessary one to speak on. For when we say that Christ died for sinners, in order to save us from the wrath of God, we are implying that we know what God’s wrath is – and yet some do not. God’s wrath is not annihilation. Paul clearly demonstrates this in Romans 1 & 2. God’s wrath is the embodied conscious corruption and suffering and ruination of the person who remains in their unbelief and sins. And there is only one way that this embodied conscious experience is brought to an end – through faith in Christ Jesus, the sacrificial lamb of God who suffered in body and soul on Calvary’s tree for sinners.
When Christ returns, and the righteous inherit the earth, where will the wicked be? Scripture tells us: In the outer darkness, that place prepared for the devil and his angels. It is a place that is, it appears, distinct from the New Heavens and the New Earth in which only the righteous will dwell. It is a place of isolation from the creation that would otherwise be put to corrupt use by the enemies of God. It is a place where there is no satiation, no comfort – a place of torment.
Hell is more than a debate topic, it is a reality facing all those who have not repented and believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us always keep that in mind, and go out and preach the Gospel to the lost. Reminding them that they are now under God’s wrath and they will never be removed from under it, unless their sins are remitted by the blood sacrifice of the Son of God. And he calls all men everywhere, even now, to repent and believe. Today is the day of salvation!
Soli Deo Gloria