God Is Angry, and Here’s Why

Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 14

It is hard to imagine anything in religion more repugnant to people than the wrath of God, and it is easy to see why.…The notion of a “vengeful” God strikes us as inconsistent with a God of love. This seems right at first, but the complaint is based on a misunderstanding. God’s love is not a thing in itself, so to speak, but is tied, like all of his attributes, to his goodness, the very goodness we are inclined to question when evil runs rampant. “Why doesn’t God do something?” We wonder. Yet we cry foul when we learn God will do something decisive about evil and we are the evildoers.
—Gregory Koukl1

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder, and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep of the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.
Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”—

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
the apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Romans 5:6-9—

View summaries of all the articles in this series here.

Before distributing the final exam, the college professor told his class his last test would have a strict time limit. “Ladies and gentlemen, you have 90 minutes and only 90 minutes to complete this test. If you go over that time, I will have to lower your grade substantially for this class.”

An hour passed. Seventy minutes. Then the students began to finish—a few at first, then more. They rose from their seats, placed their work on the professor’s desk, and quietly left the room. At the end of the hour-and-a-half period, one student remained, and he kept working. The professor sat silently at his desk and watched him intently—but the student didn’t look up even once. Then, at a full 20 minutes past the deadline, he rose from his chair with paper in hand and walked to the front of the room.

“Young man,” said the professor, “you know you took more than your allotted time to complete this exam. I’m afraid I’m going to have to reduce your grade to a point where it really will hurt you. I would not be fair to everyone else in the class if I didn’t.”

“Sir,” responded the student, “do you know who I am?”

“No, I don’t” said the professor.

“Good!” He then randomly inserted his own test in the stack of exams on the desk. Grateful he’d been able to hide his own paper among those of his fellow students, he smiled at the professor, wished him a good afternoon, and walked out of the room.

Bad News That Gets Even Worse

“Wow, that’s a pretty sharp kid!” someone might say. Maybe so, but his tactic absolutely will not work for the biggest test of all—life’s final exam. You see, God not only knows who each one of us is, He knows all. Moreover, He overlooks nothing, and He doesn’t grade on a curve.

As hard as this news is, there’s more. It actually gets worse. God is angry. In Romans 1:18, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declared, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and righteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Actually, the New International Version translates the tense of the verb even more clearly:2 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,” (emphasis added). Paul went on in subsequent statements to elaborate on ways this was occurring, but for now let’s consider the realities that God is angry, His anger is real, and it affects people directly.


God’s character determines reality, and anything contrary to His character invokes His wrath. This is how things are, regardless of feelings or opinions to the contrary. 


We said earlier that “God determines reality; people don’t.” Moreover, we’ve sought throughout this series to convey that God didn’t arbitrarily determine what reality would be, even though certainly He made deliberate choices. More to the point, God’s character determines reality, and anything contrary to His character invokes His wrath. This is the way things are, regardless of feelings or opinions to the contrary. The Greek word translated wrath in Romans 1:18 reflects not only God’s judgment and punishment for wrongdoing, but also the divine anger on which the judgment and punishment are based.

The Reason for God’s Anger

Why is God angry? We first need to know that the Lord has revealed Himself through nature and the created order. We call this “general revelation.” We use the term “special revelation” to refer to revelation occurring when God transcends nature and reveals Himself in miraculous ways, including through Scripture, and especially through His Son, Jesus Christ. In the Bible God speaks of His unveiling Himself in nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” wrote David in what we now know as Psalm 19, “And the firmament shows His handiwork.

Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world (Psalm 19:1-4).

Asher Brown Durand, The Catskills1859

Note verse 3 in particular. Nature and the ordered world speak a universal language, one everyone can understand. They testify clearly to God’s glory. Furthermore, in Romans 1:20, Paul wrote that God’s deity and power are clearly evident in creation, so much so that people “are without excuse.” Verses 18-23 of Romans 1 provide a context that helps us more fully understand.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things (Rom. 1:18-23).

Please note these phrases and clauses. God is revealing His wrath (verse 18) against this backdrop.

  • Verse 19: “what may be known of God is manifest in them”
  • Verse 19: “God has shown it to them”
  • Verse 20: “clearly seen,” “understood,” “without excuse”

Even though people saw and comprehended the truth about God, the passage tells us, “they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (v. 21). Consequently, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18).

Do you now see why God is angry? He effectively painted a portrait of Himself on the canvas of nature, declaring that He exists and created everything that is. He spoke—and speaks—so clearly that no one can fail to understand. God’s self-portrait is unambiguous. Specifically, since “His eternal power and Godhead” (v. 20) are evident, people know from what they see in nature to look for God, not in nature, but beyond it. Yes, it’s true that we need to know more about God than creation tells us, but here we are concerned with what people have done with the initial information they have received. People have ignored and rejected God’s revelation!


God has made Himself known, and people have ignored and rejected God’s revelation!


We are reminded of the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-14. While this parable has multiple implications, we must not miss this main point: The king invited people to his son’s wedding, and they refused to come. They even “made light of it” (v. 5). We therefore readily understand why the king “was furious” and took action against them (see v. 7). Romans 1 presents a similar scenario.

A Warning for Everyone

The situation is dire for those who turn a cold shoulder to what they know about God, but we must read Romans 1 with great humility. No one is immune from responding to God’s revelation in the way Romans 1 describes. We need only look at Psalm 19 to see this. After describing God’s portrait of Himself in creation and how the Lord’s laws and ways were supremely valuable, David wrote, “Who can understand his [own] errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me.” (Psalm 19:12-13). As God declares in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; who can know it?” If Romans 1:18-32 does not describe you, it is only because of God’s grace that it does not!

A Great Urgency

Again, we return to the truth “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18). This may upset us, but because it is true, we need to know and understand what this means. The Greek word translated wrath in Romans 1:18 appears in numerous other places in the New Testament, including Romans 5:6-9, which we cited at the top. Examining several Bible passages that carry the term will help us gain the understanding we need, along with a sense of urgency about where people—including you and me—stand before the Lord.

Next week, we’ll look at 4 Bible passages that tell us about divine wrath.

Yes, the bad news is bad—no question about it. Even so, we have hope. Just as God’s character exudes wrath, so also is His character the source of our hope.

Don’t miss next week’s discussion!

Part 15 is available here.

 

Copyright © 2017 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

One passages was taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Notes:

1Gregory Koukl, The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017), 97.

2James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Volume 1, Justification by Faith, Romans 1–4, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991), 133.

God Speaks Clearly Through Nature

The High Cost of Denying the Obvious, Part 2

We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures.…If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.
—John O’Keefe, a NASA astronomer1

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.
—Maltbie D. Babcock2

Part 1 is available here.

The apostle Paul was on his first missionary journey when, in Lystra, God used him to heal a man who had been unable to walk since birth. At Paul’s command the man “leaped and walked” (Acts 14:10). Immediately, the people assumed Paul and Barnabas were gods and took steps to worship them.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

Later Paul would write to the Christians at Rome that “since the creation of the world His [God’s] invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they [all people, but especially those who habitually practice ungodliness] are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). Paul went on to say that the ungodly claim to be wise but demonstrate their foolishness by worshiping the creation rather than God, the Creator, the true source of all they deify in their minds.

Paul’s words of warning and instruction in both these instances remind us of David’s poetic words in Psalm 19. Centuries before Paul, David wrote,

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.

Just what are some of the things nature tells us about God and God’s desire for humanity?

First, God exists. There really is a supreme, omnipotent being who is responsible for the world and everything in it. Look around you. Consider creation in all its stunning beauty and splendor. While countless wonders exist in nature, think about those that have been called the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.3 Descriptions of these typically do not give God credit as Creator or Designer.4 Still, failing to acknowledge Him, or at least the possibility He exists, is to be totally blind to overwhelming evidence. Mark it down: Those who choose not to see are the most blind among us.5

The biggest miracle of all is life. Biologist Edwin Conklin once said, “The probability of life originating from accident is comparable to the probability of the unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in printing shop.”6 The ordered world we see around us compels us to conclude that an omnipotent, personal, purposeful force is its source. This leads us to the second point.

Second, God is a God of precision and order. Nature is not chaotic but meaningful. It also is balanced; and, in the many instances in which it needs to be precise to sustain life, it is just that.

In his excellent book The Case for a Creator, journalist and atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel reports on numerous interviews he had with world-class scholars about evidence for a Creator. One of these scholars was Robin Collins, PhD. Strobel describes Collins as “an articulate, physics-trained philosopher who has done his own original research on the issue [of precision in the universe]. I especially liked his reputation—he was known as being careful and conservative in his calculations, unwilling to make judgments that exceed the bounds of the data.”7 Collins serves as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.8

In Strobel’s interview with Collins, the professor stated, “Over the past thirty years or so, scientists have discovered that just about everything about the basic structure of the universe is balanced on a razor’s edge for life to exist. The coincidences are far too fantastic to attribute this to mere chance or to claim that it needs no explanation. The dials are set too precisely to have been a random accident.”9

The areas in which precision has been noted include gravity, the nature of the earth’s atmosphere, the presence and amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, the distance of the earth from the sun, the magnetic field of the earth, and the tilt of the earth’s axis, to name just a few.10,11

The microscopic world likewise has God’s “fingerprints” all over it. In explaining to his employees why he believed in the God of the Bible, Christian businessman Robert Laidlaw12 (1885-1971) wrote of how an astronomer reached an erroneous conclusion about the Creator from observing the universe. His quest, however, finally led him to the truth.

What does God care about this little world of ours compared with the vastness of the mighty universe?

Think of our own solar system, with the planet Neptune 30 times as far away from the sun as Earth, so that it takes 164 Earth years to make 1 Neptune year, and beyond this, suns with planets revolving around them as our solar system revolves around the sun! Of what importance can Earth be to God, and of how much less importance can man be?

So said the astronomer as the faith of his youth fled—this is what the telescope had done for him. The vastness of the heavens had robbed him of faith in his mother’s God, for how long could God trouble Himself with man, who is smaller than a grain of sand in comparison?

But his thirst for knowledge would not let him rest. The heavens were available for study only at night; how should the free hours of the day be spent? Why not a microscope? And lo! Worlds were opened at his feet—worlds as wonderful as those above, and slowly his faith came back. Yes, the God who could attend to such minute details as to make a drop of ditch water throb with miniature life, was sure to be interested in man, the highest form of His creation.13,14

Speaking of human beings, we move to the next point.

Third, God made human beings distinctive and special. Humanity is clearly superior to plant and animal life. For example, no sense of moral order exists in the plant or animal kingdoms, yet it clearly does among people. Humanity also is uniquely creative. Consider, for example, the arts. While it’s true animals build and produce, they do so according to their instincts. They do not have imaginations as do members of the human race. Other qualities set people apart from the rest creation as well, things such as human appreciation of beauty, the practice among humans of wearing jewelry and ornate clothing, and language.

Here’s a story that highlights the uniqueness of humanity. A teacher instructed her students to list the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. After giving them enough time, she told them to pass their papers forward. One student, however, expressed frustration. “There are so many!” she said. “It’s been hard to decide which ones to include.” The teacher asked to see the student’s paper and discovered she had written,

1. the ability to see
2. to hear
3. to touch
4. to smell
5. to taste
6. to laugh
7. to love15

While many animals have some of these attributes, only human beings have them all, and only humans can appreciate them.

The uniqueness of human beings implies strongly that we should work to preserve and defend human life. This is a matter of utmost seriousness. People are God’s highest creation, so He cares deeply about how they are treated. Our culture’s reluctance and even refusal to protect the most vulnerable among us truly is appalling. Often the refusal to defend life is based on shallow reasons like convenience or political expediency. 16,17,18,19,20 God will not overlook these actions but will judge them if we as a people do not repent.21

Fourth, God gives man the resources to live and to improve his conditions, but He does not do everything for him. God expects men and women to work to sustain themselves. He wants them to improve their lives and to thrive through productive work (see Gen. 1:28; Ex. 20:9; Deut. 8:18; Prov. 6:6-11).

Fifth, this implies that every person is accountable to God. Humanity’s sense of morality or right and wrong also says people are accountable to Him (see Rom. 2:12-16). So does death (see Heb. 9:27).

220px-DanielWebster

Once Daniel Webster was asked what the most profound thought was that ever had crossed his mind. Webster replied, “My accountability to God.”22 Thomas Jefferson demonstrated similar wisdom when he said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”23  These words are inscribed on the wall of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

jeffersonmemorial

God’s eternality and wisdom are but two additional divine attributes to which creation testifies.24 The truth is that we can learn a great deal about God just from the natural world, if we only will be observant and open. Furthermore, it is critical that we be receptive to everything creation teaches us. Why? Because the price for ignoring these lessons is heavy indeed. This issue has eternal implications.

While the observations we have made are helpful, we actually need to be even more specific. Next time we will look closely at some of the things God has revealed through nature about sexuality, family relationships, marriage, and the social order. Stay tuned.

Part 3 is available here.

A discussion guide for this post is available here.

 

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For Further Reading:
Evidence for God’s Existence by Sue Bohlin

Notes:

1http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/quotes.html

2http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/t/i/tismyfw.htm

3The Seven Natural Wonders of the World are

  • the Grand Canyon,
  • the Great Barrier Reef in northeast Australia,
  • the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro,
  • Mount Everest,
  • the northern and southern lights or the Aurora,
  • Mexico’s Parícutin Volcano, and
  • Victoria Falls in southern Africa.

For more information, go here, here, and here.

4http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/the-7-natural-wonders-of-the-world

5http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/There’s+none+so+blind+as+those+who+will+not+see

6http://www.quotes.net/quote/12135

7Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 128.

8http://www.messiah.edu/homepage/1662/robin_collins

9Strobel, 131.

10http://blogs.christianpost.com/creationvsevolution/was-the-earth-fine-tuned-for-life-1336/

11http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/designss.html

12https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Laidlaw

13http://www.biblebelievers.com/the-reason-why.html

14http://www.thereasonwhy.net/?p=155 For the beginning of Laidlaw’s essay, visit http://www.thereasonwhy.net

15adapted from Ray Comfort, How to Know God Exists, (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2007), 29.

16http://www.abortionfacts.com/facts/8

17http://freedomoutpost.com/2013/02/resistance-to-tyrants-is-obedience-to-god/

18http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/4-videos-that-show-how-planned-parenthood-harms-women

19http://www.truthrevolt.org/news/gop-congresswoman-laments-lack-house-votes-defund-planned-parenthood

20http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/08/03/planned-parenthood-survives-abortion-defunding-vote/

21http://www.wnd.com/2015/07/where-is-the-uproar-over-mutilated-babies/

22http://fairfaxfreecitizen.com/2015/01/18/american-minute-daniel-webster/

23http://www.dakotavoice.com/2009/04/god-is-just-and-his-justice-cannot-sleep-forever/

24http://gospelway.com/god/evidences-creation.php