The wrath of God is a neglected doctrine. Well-intentioned but poorly-disciplined imaginists have contributed to this neglect. Transgressing the bounds of Scripture, they have conjured up descriptions of wrath and punishment savoring more of Dante than of the Gospel. God has been misrepresented as a merciless tyrant more reminiscent of the brutal soldiers of Pilate than of the compassionate victim of their violence. This type of hell-fire-and-brimstone preaching serves only to lessen the effect of a true biblical doctrine upon the minds of intelligent and sensitive listeners.

The abuse of this doctrine, however, does not justify its neglect. It is a vital component of the “whole counsel of God.” It is a revealed truth prominently mentioned in the New Testament. As such it ought to be preached and taught to sinful men in each generation.

In The Bible Text

The Greek term for God’s wrath is orgé, and it refers, not to furious outbursts of selfish resentment or petulant anger, but to the intense recoil of divine holiness from sin, and to the equally intense judgment of God upon sin. Although we must not liken the wrath of God to the sinful human passion of selfish vindictiveness, it is just as erroneous to conceive of his wrath as so unlike human emotions that it becomes unreal and irrelevant. Denney well reminds us that “God’s wrath is no empty name, but the most terrible of all powers—a consuming fire in which everything opposed to His holiness is burnt up” (The Expositor’s Bible, on 1 Thess. 1:10).

The Greek terms orgé, orgés, and orgén occur in some 28 New Testament passages. Five references occur in the Gospels, seventeen in the Epistles, and six in ...

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