“And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Acts 2:19-21
I knew this post was coming. This week’s readings have been sitting here for 9 months waiting their turn. Why should I dread writing about the wrath of God if I need not dread His wrath? Perhaps because I know it is real. And it is coming. And I am partly to blame. God’s wrath is a result of my own sin. Because of my rebellion against His holiness, His wrath was first poured out on His willing and righteous Son, Jesus Christ. He bore my sin for me on the cross and therefore He bore the wrath of God against me.
But there’s more wrath to come. And this time Jesus will be the judge, not the condemned.
We did a quick overview of Revelation in a series of devotionals for the ladies up here, looking specifically at who Christ is and how He is worshipped in the vision John is given. I was so struck by the attributes God was being praised for; some expected and very present in our own worship like His holiness, eternality, sovereignty, sacrifice, salvation, power, and righteousness; and others, not-so-much, like His wrath, judgements, rewards, justice, truth, vengeance and destruction of the ungodly.
The Psalms are brimming with the same kind of worship we see in the book of Revelation, but some where along the line, certain elements of God’s nature seem to have fallen out of our praise vernacular. So if I’m going to spend an eternity worshipping God for these attributes, I should at least be able to take a few minutes to write about them.
It’s easy to say passages like Ezekiel 32:1-8 and Micah 3:1-8 are too graphic for our modern day sensibilities, but I’m pretty sure such bloody descriptions weren’t exactly standard Saturday Evening Post fare for the ancients either. That kind of brutality would be shocking to any generation of man. Any human at any time would quake at the threat of being flung into an open field to be food for the vultures and other beasts and then to have ones flesh strewn upon the mountains along with so many others the ravines are flowing with blood.
Sounds merciless, right? And yet that’s exactly the kind of horrid consequence my rebellion demands. That’s how ugly my sin is to the just and holy and righteous God who made me. But when God turned the full fury of His wrath onto my sin, it was His perfect and holy and righteous Son who voluntarily took the blow. The wrath of God poured out on Jesus Christ on the cross was merciless. And all God’s mercy was poured out on me instead.
So can I praise God for His wrath? Yes! Because it is a holy wrath and because He was willing to bear it Himself on the cross for me. But how can one escape the wrath that is to come? For surely, the same Christ who bore my sins in His own body on the tree, who was buried and who rose again and ascended into heaven, this same Christ is coming back as judge over all the earth.
Just as a star announced Christ’s first advent, the heavens will proclaim His second. But dear friend, you need not dread that coming. No, you can rejoice and welcome your King! Peter, one of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ death and resurrection, proclaimed in Acts 2:21 that “it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved!” Now, you might have the same question that Peter’s listeners had, “What shall we do?” His answer was simple. Repent and you will be born again. Your sins will be forgiven and God’s loving mercy will be poured out on you. Then you, too, will have all the reason in the world to praise Him for His wrath for He will have born it for you. Joel 2:12,13, which Peter was quoting from says,
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents from disaster.”