Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What is the Wrath of God

Often when one thinks of the word wrath, images brought to mind are those of an individual who is red faced and overrun with rage. Packer notes that his dictionary defines wrath as “deep intense anger and indignation.” Anger he says is defined as “stirring of resentful displeasure and strong antagonism by a sense of injury and insult.”  The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defins wrath as “exterme anger.” Jonathan Edwards sees anger and wrath as two different words. Wrath is expressed in the torments of hell and sinners will “bear the fierceness of his wrath.”[1] He describes wrath as having “glowing flames,” “black clouds,” and “great waters that have been dammed for the present.”[2] John Stott says there is a close relationship between God’s holiness and God’s wrath. It is a holy reaction to evil.[3]

Packer calls the wrath of God, His action in the punishment of sin. “It is as much the expression of a personal, emotional attitude of the Triune Jehovah as is His love to sinners; it is the active manifesting of His hatred of irreligion and moral evil.”[4] It is possible that the phrase “the wrath of God” may refer to the future manifestation of this hatred on “the day of wrath” from Romans 5:9. But it may also refer to “present providential events and processes in which divine retribution for sin may be discerned.”[5]

There are several Hebrew words that illustrate a “highly personal character” that are used in the Old Testament as a description of God’s anger. Frequently used of God is hārâ which “refer to burning with fury, and is frequently used of God.” The word hārôn used exclusively to describe diven anger which means “a burning, fierce wrath.” Qâtsaph means bitter and often refers to God as in Deuteronomy 1:34, “Then the Lord heard the sound of your words, and He was angry and took an oath saying.”  Often linked with jealousy is the word hemâh which can also refer to a venom or poison. Psalm 7:11 says “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.” The word indignation is zā,am has the meaning to foam at the mouth.[6] The wrath of God when focused against sin is in close relation to His holiness and justice. There His wrath may defined as, “God’s wrath means that he intensely hates all sin.”


[1] Edwards, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Vol. 2. Banner of Truth Trust, 1974. 8.

[2] Ibid. 9.

[3] Stott, John R. W. The Cross of Christ. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2006. 105.

[4] J. I. Packer Knowing God. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1973.. 139.

[5] Ibid.

[6] MacArthur, John F., Jr. Romans. MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991. 65.

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