Let’s begin our talk of hell with the wrath of God. It is appropriate to think about this at the beginning because it is precisely what we are dealing with when we are talking about hell – for it is the wrath of God that comprises hell and therefore it is primarily the wrath of God that we are dealing with when we reflect on hell.
The wrath of God is one of the perfections of God, in other words it’s one of his attributes, one of his characteristics. We should study it because it gives us a fuller picture of who God is (if we didn’t it would be like getting to know your friends without letting them talk about themselves).
“The wrath of God is a perfection of the Divine Character on which we need to meditate frequently, “ for three reasons, “First, that our hearts may be impressed by God’s detestation of sin… Second, to beget a true fear in our souls for God (Heb 12:28-29)… Third, to draw our souls in frequent praise to Jesus Christ for having delivered us from, ‘the wrath to come,’ (I Thess 1:10)(A.W. Pink).”
It would seem that the wrath of God is a rather unfashionable thing to talk about; it’s not often that folks preach sermons about how amazing and terrible is the God we worship and use texts about the utter destruction and torment of the wicked in hell as their preaching passage. However we must talk about the terribleness of which hell is comprised. And quite frankly I think Jonathan Edwards expounding on I Thess. 2:16 are much better words than mine here (don’t be intimidated that it’s Edwards I modernized it),
“How dreadful the wrath of God is, when it is executed to the uttermost. To make you in some measure sensible of that. I desire you to consider whose wrath it is. The wrath of a king is a roaring lion; but this is the wrath of Jehovah, the LORD God Omnipotent. Let us consider what we can rationally think of it? How dreadful must the wrath of such a Being be when it comes upon a person to the uttermost, without any pity, or moderation, or merciful circumstances! What must be the uttermost of his wrath who made heaven and earth by the word of his power; who spoke and it was done, who commanded and it stood fast! What must his wrath be, who commanded the sun and it doesn’t rise, and seals up the stars! What must his wrath be who shakes the earth out of its place and causes the pillars of heaven to tremble! What must his wrath be who rebukes the sea and makes it dry? Who removes mountains out of their place and overturns them in his anger! What must his wrath be whose majesty is so awful that no man could live in the sight of it! What must the wrath of such a Being be when it comes to the uttermost, when he makes his majesty appear and shine bright in the misery of wicked men! And what is a worm of the dust before the fury and under the weight of this wrath, which the stoutest devils cannot bear but utterly sink and are crushed under it. Consider how dreadful the wrath of God is sometimes in this world only in a little view or taste of it. Sometimes when God only enlightens consciences to have some sense of his wrath it causes the stout-hearted to cry out; nature us ready to sink under it when indeed it is but a little glimpse of divine wrath that is seen…. But if a slight taste and comprehension of wrath be so dreadful and intolerable what must it be when it comes upon a person to the uttermost! When a few drops or a little sprinkling of his wrath is so dreadful and overbearing to the soul, how must it be when God opens the flood-gates and lets the mighty deluge of his wrath come pouring down upon men’s guilty heads and brings all his wrath to sink them! ‘When his wrath is kindled but a little, blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Ps. 2:12)’”
(It’s a long quote I know) We must be aware that the wrath of God is terrible and a part of his divine perfections and as such we must not think to small of our God to imagine that his wrath will not be or is not utterly horrifying. While it may not be the cool thing to talk about it is indeed part and portion of the God we worship and therefore must be considered. But while considering it we cannot think that his wrath is mixed with the same limitations or imperfections that we have in our ‘wrath.’ Surely we are justly angry at times be we are also imperfect and ignoble in our anger – but God is not.
In studying God’s wrath we will see exactly what we are saved from through the propitiatory death of Jesus who stood, “Between us sinners and the thunderclouds of divine wrath… (J.I. Packer).”
Passages to look up on the wrath of God:
Ex. 22:18-24; 32:10-12
Deut. 29:23-28; 11:16-27
Nahum 1:2-3, 6-8, 14
Lk. 12:47-48; 21:22-24
Rom. 1:18; 2:5; 3:5-8, 24-25; 12:19; 13:4-5
I Thess. 1:10; 2:16; 5:9
II Thess 1:7-10
I John 2:2
Rev. 6:16; 16:19