Have We Lost Wrath?

The word gospel means good news. The gospel is the good news of Jesus. It is the good news of his life, death, and resurrection. The gospel is the good news of the perfectly fulfilled plan of god to save for himself a people.

It is interesting that, as we talk about the gospel in today’s culture, there are words that are emphasized and words that are whispered. Take, as an example, the word brokenness. In many presentations today, there is tremendous emphasis placed on the fact that our sin leads us into a broken state. As we step away from the plan of God and the ways of God, we break our lives. We hurt ourselves emotionally. We harm our families, our friendships, and our very own souls. And this is surely a true thing.

What I wonder, however, is if some who emphasize the soul-damaging effects of sin are failing to emphasize the biblical result of sin.

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 – 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul emphasized the turning of the people to the gospel. But notice, in verse 10, that Paul has a word that is seldom used in popular circles these days. The people who were transformed in Christ were awaiting the arrival of Jesus, the one who delivers us from the wrath to come.

I am wondering if, in popular Christianity today, we have lost the concept of wrath. The wrath of God is his perfect, righteous, furious judgment for sin. Wrath is not God getting mad or getting his feelings hurt. God’s wrath is a set position of the Lord to always hate sin in all its forms with all that he is. And his wrath, poured out, leads to the judgment of and destruction of the wicked. A person who experiences the full wrath of God experiences hell forever.

Paul was not shy in his letter to remind the Thessalonians that Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come. The gospel is a salvation from the wrath of God. And the wrath of God is coming. The result of sin is that wrath. And I believe that, if we fail to talk about this fact, we fail to paint a true picture of the gospel.

Please do not hear me attempting to knock those who use terms like brokenness when they discuss the effects of sin. The present experience of those who have walked away from God is quite often a strongly felt, strongly experienced brokenness. People in our modern culture may well be able to identify with the fact that, no matter how hard they have tried, they have not been able to escape their experience of being less than what they were created to be. And I do understand that this can be a significant entry gate to a gospel conversation.

What I am suggesting, however, is that brokenness is a symptom on the disease track, not its final dark end. Yes, sin results in brokenness. But, even worse, that brokenness, without a true gospel cure, leads to spiritual death and the wrath of God. The Bible tells us that Jesus is our only rescue from the wrath to come. So, whether a person feels broken or not, the final judgment is on its way. Christ will return. God will judge. All who refuse the grace of God in Jesus will face, unprotected, the wrath to come. And none of us can survive that.

Christians, if you wish to talk about the soul-harming effects of sin, do so. If you can show a person that sinful choices lead us to personally experienced destruction in the here and now, that is a great conversation starter. But do not lose the wrath of God. Sin is an affront to the Living God. We are all guilty of it. Sin leads to wrath. And we need Jesus to rescue us from that wrath, or we will suffer the right consequences of rebellion against the Creator and Lord over all.

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