God's Wrath Explained
“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.”
Romans 12:19 NKJV
What is the difference between divine and human vengeance? What role does God's wrath play in the closing scenes of earth's history?
The explicit reason for our departure from Babylon is because God's wrath is soon to be unleashed upon it. The plagues described in the pouring out of the 7 bowls in Revelation represent punitive judgements from God upon unrighteousness. As Seventh-day Adventist's we rejoice that God destroys rather than eternally tortures the wicked, but how do we come to terms with the pouring out of the bowls of God's wrath described in the 16th chapter of Revelation? These bowls when poured out inflict great suffering upon the unrepentant, could this be the handiwork of a God of love?
It is difficult for most of us to separate our human concept of vengeance from this divine act. The very concept of anger for us holds an almost exclusively negative connotation. Nearly every living demonstration of this emotion we have witnessed has been heavily tainted with sin. Something, however, is fundamentally different about God's wrath. It is an aspect of our Father's character aroused only in response to evil and it serves an eternally protective purpose. God's is not chomping at the bit to inflict pain on evil-doers, he takes no pleasure in allowing men to suffer the consequences of their sin, but when his offer to pay their debt with his blood is refused, love allows each to choose their own way.
From the very beginning of the rebellion, God's mercy has made him appear weak in the eyes of evil. It may have even been a surprise to the rebellious angels when their attempt to overthrow God's government was finally met with force and they were expelled from heaven. God suffers long with evil for one reason only, the deliverance of souls which hang in the balance. When God finally visits upon sin the exact debt it has incurred, he does so without endangering the eternity of a single soul. God is not willing that any should perish.
God's wrath and his mercy serve the same purpose, the preservation of life. While we can readily discern mercy's role in righteousness, we have a more difficult time understanding the role righteous indignation plays. There is a reason God's character is illustrated by both a lamb and a lion. While God's nature is meek and lowly like a lamb and he is ever pouring himself out in love, God's omnipotence, like a lion, will not back down from upholding his righteous law.
God's vengeance is not arbitrary. It is the outpouring of evil's natural consequences which have been supernaturally delayed for the sake of redemption. God has done everything possible to deliver men from the fearful consequences of sin, but the nature of love preserves our freedom to choose our own destiny. Following the close of probation God's patience with the unrepentant will no longer serve a redemptive purpose and the time for evil to receive its reward will be at hand.
Still Seeking His Face,