J. I. Packer writes: “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil” (Knowing God, 151).
It is common to think of the Old Testament God as mean, harsh, and wrath-filled, and the God of the New Testament as kind, patient, and loving. Neither of these portraits are representative of Scripture’s teaching on the wrath of God. We read about his wrath in both the Old and New Testaments:
Behold the storm of the Lord! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. (Jeremiah 30:23)
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. (Nahum 1:2)
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)
From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Revelation 19:15)
God’s wrath is real and it is to be feared:
God’s wrath is to be feared because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
God’s wrath is to be feared because we are justly condemned sinners apart from Christ (Romans 5:1).
God’s wrath is to be feared because he is powerful enough to do what he promises (Jeremiah 32:17).
God’s wrath is to be feared because God promises eternal punishment apart from Christ (Matthew 25:46).
It is “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
God must act justly and judge sin, otherwise God would not be just. But we have the ultimate good news: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Because of Christ, God can rightly call sinners justified (Romans 3:26). God has done what we could not do, and he has done what we didn’t deserve.
All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:3-9)