The wrath of God is directed against the wicked or unrighteous (rasa) (Jer. 23:19). The Prophet Malachi taught us how to distinguish between the wicked person and the righteous person. The righteous person serves God, but the wicked person does not serve God (Mal. 3:18). Malachi also taught us that the Book of Remembrance contains the names of the righteous, who serve God (Mal. 3:16-17). Every one of us is free to examine ourselves and judge whether or not the focus of our existence is serving God. Some may be shocked to learn that the “wicked” include those who believed in Christ but then drifted away from their walk of faith (Phil. 3:18; Heb. 2:1). The Apostle Paul explained that such believers are enemies of the cross of Christ, and whose end is destruction (Phil. 3:18-19). The writer of Hebrews explained, “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1).
The Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23). When a nation is approaching historical judgment, God prefers that we would turn away from our unrighteousness and live (Ezek. 18:23). However, if the righteous fail to warn of the approaching judgment, the wicked shall die for his or her wrongdoing, but God will hold the righteous accountable for failing to warn (Ezek. 33:8).
The Apostle Paul taught that the wrath of God is equivalent to the righteous judgment of God. Paul wrote,
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL REPAY EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, He will give eternal life; but to those who are self-serving and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, He will give wrath and indignation.
In anticipation of God’s coming judgment, we should ask ourselves the following simple questions. Do we believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Have we remained faithful in our walk of faith? Do we love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and do we love our neighbors as ourselves? Finally, as Paul mentioned above, is our life characterized as self-serving or God-serving?
The Bible uses a number of different stories, words, and phrases to describe the wrath of God. The above featured painting by John Martin (1852) depicts the famous destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Before their destruction, Sodom and Gomorrah were described as being “like the garden of the Lord” (Gen. 13:10), but the people were exceedingly wicked (Gen. 13:13). The Lord explained to Abraham that the outcry from and the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was very great (Gen. 18:20). Nevertheless, Abraham pled with God to not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham said, “Will You [God] sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen. 18:23). Ultimately, God declared that if there were 10 righteous persons in Sodom and Gomorrah, He would spare the cities (Gen. 18:32).
Both the Old and New Testament describe God as being a “consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29). Jesus warned that all of the rebellious humans and angelic beings will experience “eternal fire” (Matt. 25:41). It is my opinion that the wrath of God, the righteous judgment of God, eternal fire, consuming fire, Gehenna, and the Lake of Fire (as found in the Book of Revelation) are all semantically equivalent. They all describe God’s punishment of the rebellious. The Psalmist proclaimed that God’s wrath burns like fire (Ps. 89:46). At Jeremiah 4:4, we read that God’s wrath spreads like fire. In other words, “fire” is a stock literary image associated with God’s wrath. As in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah or in the destruction of Jerusalem in BC 586 or AD 70, God’s wrath sometimes includes fire, but God’s wrath often does not include literal fire. For example, sometimes God’s wrath is manifested in a plague (Num. 16:46), the unfruitfulness of the land (Jer. 7:20), famine (Ezek. 6:12), captivity by a foreign nation (Deut. 29:28; Ezra 5:12), or an untimely death (Ps. 106:23). It is important to note that God’s wrath can be directed at believers. For example, Hezekiah became proud in his heart but then humbled himself before God and thereby avoided God’s wrath and his untimely death (2 Chron. 32:24-26).
God’s wrath has a dual purpose. First, God’s wrath punishes the disobedient. Second, God’s wrath humbles the arrogant so that he or she will accept God’s rule and authority. At Ezekiel 20:33, we read, “As I live,” declares the Lord God, “with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I assuredly will be [K]ing over you.” This promise is ultimately extended to all.
I have sworn by myself; the word has gone out from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back. That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
There is an infinite difference between God and humans. As good leaders, we can seek to influence and train our children according to God’s will. As good leaders, we can also seek to run our businesses in accordance with godly principles. Ultimately, however, for the most part, we have a limited capacity and ability to change or reform arrogant humans. But God has such authority and ability. When confronting Job, God stated that He (God) can “look at everyone who is arrogant and humble him [or her]” (Job 40:11-12). At 1 Samuel 2:7, we read that God “humbles and exalts.” At Psalm 75:7, we read, “But God is the judge; He puts down one and exalts another.” At Isaiah 2:11, we read, “The proud look of humanity will be brought low, and the arrogance of people will be humbled; and the Lord alone will be exalted on that day.” Finally, at Isaiah 13:11, speaking for God, the Prophet Isaiah wrote,
So, I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their wrongdoing; I will also put an end to the audacity of the proud and humiliate the arrogance of the tyrants.
I became a Christian in 1977, after my freshman year of college. For over thirty years, I believed and accepted the traditional view that those who had never believed in Christ were destined for a literal Lake of Fire. However, a little over ten years ago, I started to take notice of the many verses of Scripture that supported a different Endstate. Now, I believe that in the Endstate “every knee will bow” to God. God’s wrath will both punish and humble the disobedient. There will be eternal consequences for our rebelliousness. However, it should be noted that I still believe that those who do not believe in this life will go to Sheol (or Hades) after their death (Luke 16:19-31). Sheol (or Hades) is a prison and place of punishment that will humble the arrogant unbeliever. In a similar way, certain rebellious angels are being held in prison (Tartarus) until the Final Judgment (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6). The story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) is a figurative story of a literal place (Sheol or Hades). As discussed in earlier blogposts, before the First Advent of Christ, the believing dead were held in a compartment of Sheol, often called Abraham’s Bosom. Now, since Christ, the believing dead reside in Heaven with Christ (2 Cor. 5:1-8). Then, as stated by our Lord Jesus Christ, there will be a resurrection of the wicked and the righteous. Jesus said,
Do not be amazed at this; for a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come out: those who did good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who did bad deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
This idea was first proclaimed by the Prophet Daniel. He said, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but others to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). There will be a resurrection of all, but there will be dramatic differences in eternity for the righteous and the unrighteous. The righteous will enjoy many unique blessings as a reward for their faithfulness. On the other hand, the unrighteous will experience an eternal stigma and loss of blessings associated with their rebelliousness.
Many Christians believe that the Lake of Fire (mentioned five times only in the Book of Revelation) is the literal destiny of the unbeliever. As I have stated before, I believe that the Lake of Fire is an apocalyptic image of the wrath of God. The Book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature, and it uses other-worldly images to explain spiritual truths. For example, the four living creatures surrounding the Throne of God were described as being “full of eyes in front and behind” (Rev. 4:6). This image should not be interpreted literally. Rather, we are to simply understand that the four living creatures possess great wisdom. Likewise, the Lake of Fire is not a literal image. Normally, lakes of water extinguish fire. In the Book of Revelation, the apocalyptic image of the Lake of Fire is simply a synonym for the wrath of God and its lasting consequences for the rebellious and disobedient.
“With a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out,” God will be King and bring about His new and visible Kingdom (Ezek. 20:33). In the Endstate “every knee will bow and every tongue will swear allegiance to God” (Isa. 45:23; see also Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10). God has the power to subdue all things to Himself (Phil. 3:21). Humanity will be divided as the Shepard “separates the sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:32). “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). Some will be co-inheritors with Christ; most will not.
The image on this page courtesy of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Destruction_of_Sodom_and_Gomorrah
 “H7563 – rāšāʿ – Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 10 Apr, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h7563/nasb20/wlc/0-1/>.
 Matt. 22:36-40.