The Wrath of God!
"Because there is wrath, beware lest He take you away with one blow! For a great ransom would not help you avoid it." Job 36:18
This is one of the danger-signals which God has placed across the sinner's pathway to Hell. At every turn of the Broad Road there are warning signs of the destruction which lies ahead. The Sunday School teacher, the prayers of godly parents, the sermons of faithful preachers, the little Gospel tract, the warnings of conscience, the innate fear of death, the declarations of Holy Writ, are so many obstacles which God places in the way of the sinner-so many barriers to the Lake of Fire.
One chief reason why God wrote the Bible was to warn the sinner of the awful consequences of sin, and to bid him to flee from the wrath to come. Our text is one of these warnings. There are many such scattered throughout the Bible. We mention one or two at random.
"Be sure your sin will find you out!" (Numbers 32:23).
"It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment!" (Hebrews 9:27).
"Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish!" (Luke 13:5).
"How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3).
Our opening text naturally divides itself under three heads:
I. A Terrible Fact
"Because there is wrath."
The reference here is to God's Wrath. In regard to the wrath of God let us now contemplate four things:
1. The FACT of God's Wrath
Men try to forget that there is such a thing as Divine wrath. The realization of it makes them uneasy, so they endeavor to banish all thought of it. At times they are terrified at the bare mention of God's wrath—hence their anxiety to dismiss the subject from their minds.
Others try to believe there is no such thing as God's wrath. They argue that God is loving and merciful, and therefore God's anger is merely a bogey-man with which to frighten naughty children.
But how do we know that God is loving and merciful? The heathen do not believe that He is. Nor does nature clearly and uniformly reveal the fact. The answer is, we know God to be such, because His Word so affirms. Yes, and the same Bible which tells of God's mercy, also speaks of His wrath, and as a matter of fact, refers more frequently (much more so) to His anger than it does to His love.
The fact of God's wrath is clearly revealed in the Scriptures. "He who believes on the Son has everlasting life; but he who believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him!" (John 3:36). "For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men!" (Romans 1:18). "Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things comes the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience!" (Ephesians 5:6). In these, and in other passages too numerous to mention, the fact of the Divine wrath is affirmed. And now let us consider:
2. The NECESSITY for God's Wrath
Wrath is one of the Divine perfections. If God did not punish evildoers . . .
He would be a party to evil-doing,
He would compromise with wickedness,
He would condone sin.
Of necessity, God is a God of wrath. Consider an argument from the less to the greater. In the human sphere he who loves purity and chastity and has no anger against impurity and unchastity, is a moral leper. He who pities the poor and defenseless and has no wrath against the oppressor who crushes the weak and slays the defenseless, but loves them too, is a fiend.
Divine wrath is divine holiness in activity. Because God is holy He hates sin, and because He hates sin His anger burns against the sinner. As it is written, "You hate all workers of iniquity!" (Psalm 5:5). And again, "God is angry with the wicked every day!" (Psalm 7:11). And now:
3. The MANIFESTATION of God's Wrath
God's wrath is not an abstract quality. God's wrath is not something that is inactive and inoperative. During Old Testament times God's wrath was openly displayed against evil-doers, notably . . .
at the destruction of the human race, except for eight people in the Flood;
in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone from Heaven;
on the Egyptians and their haughty king, when He visited their land with plagues, slew their first born and destroyed their armies at the Red Sea;
and in His dealings with the Nation of Israel, in selling them into the hands of their enemies, sending them into captivity and destroying their beloved city.
God's wrath against sin was publicly manifested at the Cross, when all His billows and waves passed over the head of the blessed Sin-Bearer! "I have suffered Your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; Your terrors have destroyed me!" was His solemn cry. (Psalm 88:15-17). And now:
4. The GREATNESS of God's Wrath
Human wrath is oftentimes an awful thing. Scripture likens the wrath of a king, to the roaring of a lion. When a man's anger gets the better of him and he allows his fury to burst all restraints, it is a fearful thing to behold.
Scripture also speaks of the Devil having "great wrath because he knows that he has but a short time" (Rev. 12:12).
But what shall be said of the Wrath of God? To what shall we liken it? How indescribably awful must be the unrestrained and unmixed wrath of such a Being! With what shall we compare the wrath of Him who made the heavens and the earth by the word of His power, who spoke and it was done, who commanded and it stood fast! What must the wrath of Him be like, who shakes the earth out of its place and makes the pillars thereof to tremble! What must the wrath of Him be like, who rebukes the sea and makes it dry, who removes the mountains out of their places and overturns them in His anger! What must the wrath of Him be like, whose majesty is so solemn that no fallen man can live in the sight of it, and in whose presence the very seraphim veil their faces!
Scripture speaks of God's wrath "waxing hot" (Exodus 23:14).
It declares "Great is the wrath of the Lord" (2 Kings 22:13).
It makes mention of "The fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Rev. 19:15).
It refers to God's wrath coming upon sinners "to the uttermost" (I Thessalonians 2:16).
Everything about God is infinite.
His power is omnipotent.
His wisdom is a great deep.
His love is unsearchable.
His grace is unfathomable.
His holiness is unapproachable.
And like all His other perfections and attributes, God's wrath is incomparable, incomprehensible, and infinite.
It is the wrath of the Almighty God! And what will the wrath of the Almighty be like, when it comes upon sinners "to the uttermost"?
And what power of resistance will poor, frail creatures of the dust have for enduring the full weight of it? None! None whatever. It will overwhelm them. It will utterly consume them. It will crush them more easily than we can crush a worm beneath our feet. It will sink them into the lowest depths of hopeless despair. It will be intolerable and unbearable. And yet it will have to be endured—consciously endured, endured day and night forever and ever!
May these unspeakably solemn thoughts prepare the unsaved reader for the next division of our text.
II. A Solemn Warning
In view of this terrific fact, "Because there is wrath, beware lest He take you away with one blow!"
Sinners are even now threatened with God's wrath. Yes, they are by nature "children of wrath." It is true that God's wrath now slumbers for a while, because this is the day of salvation. It is true that the time for the full and final and open manifestation of God's wrath has not yet arrived. It is true that sinners often defy God now with apparent impunity. "Yet they say to God: Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?" (Job 21:14, 15).
Let all such heed the Divine warning, "Because there is wrath, BEWARE lest He take you away with one blow"
Sinner, do not be deceived, God is not mocked. "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! To Me belongs vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time, for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste!" (Deuteronomy 32).
The sinner is treading a path more slippery than ice, and unless he forsakes it, in due time his foot shall slide. The bow of God's wrath is already bent! The arrow of His vengeance is even now fitted to the string, and nothing but His infinite forbearance stays its release.
My reader, the only reason why you have not already been cast into Hell-fire, is because it has been the good pleasure of the Most High to stay your doom. Flee then from the wrath to come while there is yet time.
"O man, do you think that you shall escape the judgment of God?" (Romans 2:3). Did Adam escape the judgment of God? Did Cain, did Pharaoh, did Achan, did Haman? The only reason God has not "taken you away with one blow" before this, is because He endures with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
The time of the sinner's opportunity for fleeing from God's wrath is exceedingly brief and limited. The sad and tragic thing is that so few realize it. The sinner sees little cause for alarm and fails to apprehend his imperative need of promptly believing and repenting. He imagines himself secure. He goes on in his sin, and because judgment against his wicked work is not executed speedily, he increases in his boldness against God.
But God's ways are different to ours. There is no need for God to be in a hurry—all eternity is at His disposal. When one man robs another, instantly the cry is raised, "Stop thief!" lest he should soon be out of reach. When a murder is committed, the hounds of the law at once seek to track down the guilty one. A reward is offered lest he should succeed in escaping justice. But it is different with God. He is in no haste to execute judgment because He knows that the sinner cannot escape Him. It is impossible to flee out of His dominions! In due time every transgression and disobedience shall receive a just recompense of reward."
"Because there is wrath, beware lest He take you away with one blow!" The immediate reference is to death—the removal of the sinner from this earth to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. Scripture furnishes many solemn examples of God's stroke suddenly cutting off sinners from the land of the living.
"Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD!" (Leviticus 10:1, 2).
Again, "Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. In the same hour fingers of a man's hand came forth, and wrote on the wall of the King's palace. And this is the writing that was written, You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting! In that night was Belshazzar the King of the Chaldeans slain" (Daniel 5).
Unsaved reader, you may be enjoying the health and strength of youth, yet, you know not how soon the dread summons shall come, "This night shall your soul be required of you." Turning now to the last clause of our text, we have mention of:
III. An Utter Impossibility
"Because there is wrath, beware lest He take you away with one blow! For a great ransom would not help you avoid it."
Every member of Adam's race richly merits God's wrath.
Our sins have mounted up to Heaven!
Our profitless lives have been spent in selfish gratification with no regard for God's glory.
Our indifference and carelessness respecting our soul's future welfare.
Our repeated refusals to respond to the invitations of God's grace—all cry aloud for judgment and wrath to descend upon us.
But God's Mercy has provided a "Ransom"—a "covering" for sin—Christ! Our text speaks of this ransom as "great"—
great in its value,
great in its scope,
great in its effectiveness,
great because it delivers from so great a destruction and secures so great salvation. But as great as this "ransom" is, it avails nothing for those who ignore and reject it.
"Because there is wrath, beware lest He take you away with one blow! For a great ransom would not help you avoid it." If this ransom be despised, then there is no possible escape for the sinner. If Christ is rejected, there remains nothing but wrath.
How this text repudiates any possibility of a "second chance" in the next world! How effectually it closes the door of hope against all who die in their sins! Let the stroke of God remove such from this world and "then a great ransom cannot deliver" them. There are other Scriptures equally explicit. "He who being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1). For the sinner there is no remedy, no deliverance, no hope whatever beyond the grave.
"Then a great ransom cannot deliver you." Why? Because it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that—not a second chance, not a further probation—but the judgment. Why? Because at death the sinner goes immediately to Hell (Luke 16:22, 23) and there there is no preaching of the Gospel and no Holy Spirit to quicken into newness of life. Why? Because there awaits all such nothing but "the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:29) and the judgment.
"Then a great ransom cannot deliver you." Why? Because repentance then will be too late. " Therefore I will deal with them in anger; I will not look on them with pity or spare them. Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them." (Ezekiel 8:18).
Then a great ransom cannot deliver you. Why? Because, Whoever's name was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the Lake of Fire—and a "lake" has no outlet!
Here then is a solemn warning against indifference, "Because there is wrath."
Here is a solemn warning against procrastination, "Beware lest He take you away with one blow!"
Here is a solemn warning against hoping in another chance after death. "Then a great ransom cannot deliver you."
Here is a powerful plea for accepting Christ NOW. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" We shall not! There will be no escape! Then "Seek the Lord while He may be found! Call upon Him while He is near."