Worshiping God for His Wrath

The concept of the wrath of God is far from unanimous agreement.  Many make a distinction between the God of wrath of the OT and the God of love of the NT.  Some debate that wrath is even an attribute of God at all (e.g., C. H. Dodd).  They think the notion of a wrathful God to be repulsive and pagan.  Others acknowledge it but seem to be somewhat embarrassed by it or at least view it as part of the “dark side” of God.  But have you ever considered worshipping God for His glorious wrath? A text in Revelation quite unmistakably makes the point that God is to be worshipped for His wrath:

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” (Rev 11:15–18; cf. 6:9–11; 15:1–8; 18:20)

A few of the dominant themes in Revelation are (1) the worship of God and the Lamb, (2) the sovereign kingship of God and the Lamb, and (3) the wrathful judgment of God and the Lamb as a display of their sovereign authority.  These three themes come together beautifully here in this passage.  The final trumpet of judgment is blown, and the hosts of heaven respond by ascribing sovereign, universal dominion to the Lord and His Christ.  The twenty-four elders fall down and worship God and give Him thanks.  Their thanks includes a few things: (1) that He is the Lord Almighty who reigns in power, (2) that He is the eternal one, (3) that He pours out His wrath and destroys the destroyers of the earth, and (4) that He rewards His servants and finally vindicates them.

This worship is not the flawed worship of vengeful believers on earth but the holy worship of the glorified saints of heaven.  God is to be praised and adored for the greatness of the display of His wrath on those who oppose Him and defame Him of the glory that He deserves from every creature.  God upholds the great value of His glory by this manifestation of the fierceness of His fury on those who fail to ascribe to Him the glory and praise that belong to Him.  As hard as it may be to contemplate now, the glorified redeemed will eternally worship and praise God both because they have been the undeserved recipients of His abundant grace and because the wicked have been the recipients of His severe wrath.  God will be eternally glorified as His grace and wrath are unendingly displayed in the bestowal of rich blessings upon His people and in the dispensing of just judgment on those who hate God and the Lamb.

While it is true that God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures as one who delights chiefly in showing mercy and in forgiveness, there is also a sense in which He delights in showing His wrath (e.g., Deut. 28:63).  None of God’s perfections should be esteemed any less than another.  They are all equal in splendor.  Thus, both wrath and grace display His greatness and glory.  Both call forth the worship of His people.  Christians should not blush or be embarrassed at the displays of God’s wrath and, as many have, try to ascribe to Satan that for which God’s Word gives Him credit.  Let us unite in the worship of our great God, let us despise our own sin more intensely, and let us rejoice that the totality of His wrath toward us was born for us in the effectual, vicarious, propitiatory atonement of His Son!

Gons, Philip R. “Worshiping God for His Wrath.” Συναθλουντες 1, no. 5 (December 2002): 2–3.

One Response to Worshiping God for His Wrath

  1. Jeffrey Ross October 19, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    Thank you for a very helpful article on a difficult subject. When Jesus Christ judges the wicked it’s easier to imagine an awkward silence than a shout of hallelujah, but then we shall know that our righteousness is not our own, but solely His.

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