It seems somewhat inappropriate to think and write and talk about the wrath of God at Christmas time. Shouldn’t we be thinking about gifts, friends and family, food and fellowship, joy and happiness? How can we think about wrath — God’s judgment and condemnation at Christmas?
Yet the wrath of God is linked to the advent of Christ. Jesus was clear that His first advent was not about judgment — it was to offer himself as the Messiah so God’s people could avoid the judgment of God (John 3:17).
But His second advent will be about judgment. And that’s the message of the book of Revelation.
During the Tribulation — the judgment of God on the earth just prior to Jesus’ second coming and the final judgment — there are some brief interludes between the various judgments. And in the interlude of Revelation 15, two particular aspects of God’s wrath are revealed.
First, there is an end to God’s wrath (v. 1). Or perhaps it might be better to say, there is an end to God’s wrath on earth. There is coming a time when the earth and the heavens will never again see any demonstration of the wrath of God. It will be over. Yet don’t confuse that to mean that God will cease being wrathful. Whatever God is, He always is. So because one of God’s attributes is that He is wrathful, He will always and infinitely be wrathful. His wrath may cease to be exhibited on earth, but Hell will always receive the full demonstration of His limitless wrath (e.g., Rev. 14:10). For those under the wrath of God, there will never be an escape from it.
Secondly, the right response to the wrath of God is worship (vv. 3-4). When the redeemed and victorious martyrs in heaven (v. 2) see the wrath of God they respond with the song sung by the people of Israel at their deliverance from Egypt. They see God’s judgment and they worship Him. That seems to be incongruous. How can one worship a wrathful God? (In fact, that is one of the most commonly voiced objections against God — “I could never worship an angry God — I believe only in a God of love…”) And the answer is clear from the song that is sung: God is worshiped when He judges because His judgment is the ultimate demonstration of His righteousness.
“Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!” (v. 3)
“For You alone are holy; For all the nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (v. 4)
It is in His judgment that God demonstrates that He will set all things right; there is nothing of injustice in Him. His judgments are the revelation of his singular holiness (no one is holy like Him). It would be unjust for God to leave sin unpunished. And since there is nothing unjust in God, no sin will be unpunished. All sin will either be judged against and born by Christ, or it will be eternally judged against the offender who rejects Christ. But God will not fail to judge sin, and when the redeemed of Heaven see it, they will rejoice in His righteousness.
In these final days of December, we remember the advent of Christ. It’s a wonderful remembrance and reflection. But be sure to link the first coming with the second coming. Remember that there is an offer of forgiveness and a provision of redemption from sin as well as a sure judgment for those who reject Christ. And give thanks and worship God and Christ for both advents; worship the incarnate God-Man who came to save people from their sins and worship the One who will unfailingly and unflinchingly pour out His judgment on those who reject Him.