The wrath of God is not an easy topic to tackle, but any study of the book of Revelation must do so, because it is here that the most frequent references to God’s wrath are found. We are uncomfortable with the idea of God’s wrath, often feeling that the New Testament message of love and forgiveness act as a negation of any idea of wrath. Some see the God of the Old Testament as a wrathful deity appeased by Jesus in the New Testament, but the unity and immutability of God remain at the heart of both Testaments. God’s love is evident in the Old Testament; His wrath is found in the New Testament as well as the Old. We cannot divide God and hope to remain true to the Biblical account of who He is.

Another reason we are uncomfortable with the subject of God’s wrath is that we know only too well the fickleness of our own human anger. Wrath is defined as “the emotional response to perceived wrong and injustice,” often translated as “anger,” “indignation,” “vexation,” or “irritation”, and we know only too well how our anger is often unjustified and leads to further problems. We have to differentiate between human anger (which James reminds us does not produce the righteousness God desires (James 1:20)) and God’s anger or wrath, which is always holy and always justified.

The wrath of God is a divine response to human sin and disobedience, which cannot be condoned for justice to be done. There must be consequences to sin and disobedience, and God’s wrath ensures that these consequences are fulfilled. He is patient and has made a way for all people to avoid the consequences of wrath (separation from God and hell) (2 Peter 3:9-10), but Revelation 15-16 make it plain that the wrath of God will come on those who persistently refuse to listen to God. The one who believes in the Son will not suffer God’s wrath for his sin, because the Son took God’s wrath upon Himself when He died in our place on the cross (Romans 5:6–11). Those who do not believe in the Son, who do not receive Him as Saviour, will be judged on the day of wrath (Romans 2:5–6).