Can You Explain What the Bible Says About Wrath?
In this Q&A, we will focus on the kind of wrath which is ungodly and which we must not have. In the next installment, we will continue to discuss a different kind of wrath or indignation which is righteous and godly.
To begin with, we need to understand that this world is Satan’s world. Satan is the ruler and the god of this world (John 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4; compare Ephesians 6:12)–the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). He has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9), and the whole world is in his power and lies under his sway (1 John 5:19).
Satan is God’s adversary. He is a spirit being and invisible to the human eye, but he is very real. He is an exceedingly angry being, full of wrath and contempt for God and for all of mankind. He has influenced every human being from birth; and even though God’s creation of man was very good (Genesis 1:31), man became very wicked under Satan’s influence, and “every intent of the thought of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
God destroyed wicked man in a worldwide Flood and saved only eight people in Noah’s Ark, but God knew that human nature would not change for the better, declaring after the Flood that “the imagination of man’s heart” is “evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). Paul confirmed that carnal human nature is hostile towards God (compare Romans 8:7), and that there is “none righteous, no, not one… they have all turned aside… there is none who does good, no, not one… their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways” (Romans 3:10-16).
Man’s “human nature” is actually Satan’s nature, but most don’t realize it. As his “children” (compare John 8:44), human beings conduct themselves in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, being “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). At this present time, God is delivering some from this evil world (Galatians 1:4) to become partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
But acquiring God’s nature and overcoming Satan’s nature is a process which requires time and effort. Bad habits and characteristics die only very slowly. And even though we are to come out of this world, we are still living in this world, and Satan is still on his throne, anxious to destroy us physically and spiritually. And if we are not careful, his wrath can become our wrath.
The Bible warns us that especially in the end time, Satan has “great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12:12). A future martyrdom of Christians is prophesied, because Satan–the Dragon–will be enraged with the Church of God and persecute and attack those who will not be protected at a place of safety here on earth (Revelation 12:17).
Under Satan’s influence, man has built, designed, invented and constructed his political, economic, military and religious systems, which are not godly, but destructive and full of wrath, violence and corruption. The Bible calls all of these aspects of the God-defying system, “Babylon.”
The Book of Revelation tells us that Christ will destroy this wrathful Babylonian system of this world, when He returns. This event is described in vivid terms: “And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication’ (Revelation 14:8). And again in Revelation 18:2-3: “And he [an angel] cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a habitation of demons, a prison for every foul spirit… For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”
As Satan is the real originator of this world’s Babylonian wrathful system, we are told by God to “‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues'” (Revelation 18:4). This includes the godly command to come out of Satan’s wrath, in which we all walked in times past. James 1:20 tells us succinctly that “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Rather, man’s wrath–which is actually Satan’s wrath–caused wicked Cain to murder his righteous brother Abel (Genesis 4:4-8). Cain did so because he was of the wicked one (1 John 3:12). King Herod became so angry that he killed all male children in his jurisdiction, from two years old and under, thinking that he would thereby kill the Christ child as well (Matthew 2:16). Herod was being influenced by Satan, the great fiery Dragon, when he acted in this way (Revelation 12:4).
People reacted with wrath and anger towards Christ when they did not agree with His teaching, and they were willing to throw Him down over the cliff (Luke 4:28-29). They were as much under Satan’s direct wrathful influence as those people in Paul’s day who rejected his teaching (Acts 19:28).
Human wrath (which is actually produced by Satan) is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) which will prevent us from inheriting the Kingdom of God. We are admonished to put away such wrath and anger (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8). Rather, as the children of God, we ought to pray without wrath and doubting (1 Timothy 2:8). As Christian parents, we are not to provoke our children to wrath (Ephesians 6:4), and as wise people, we are to turn away wrath (Proverbs 29:8).
We are not to fret because of the wicked who prospers in his way and who brings wicked schemes to pass (Psalm 37:7), but we are to wait patiently for God while ceasing from anger and forsaking wrath (verses 7-8). David even continues to tell us in verse 8 that fretting only causes harm. In fact, his son Solomon informs us that “A man of great wrath will suffer punishment” (Proverbs 19:19); and that “Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent” (Proverbs 27:4); and this is especially true for a “fool’s wrath” (verse 3).
At the same time, there is a different kind of wrath which does not originate with Satan and with carnal human passions and desires. But even when addressing this different kind of justified wrath, we are admonished to be very careful, as Satan is anxious to take advantage of us.
Proverbs 14:29 says: “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, But he who is impulsive exalts folly.” Psalm 4:4 adds: “Be angry [the margin states: Literally, tremble or be agitated], and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.” In quoting part of this verse, Paul adds an important aspect to it, when he says in Ephesians 4:26-27: “‘Be angry, and do not sin,’ do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place [Margin: an opportunity] to the devil.”
Even when we may have righteous indignation in a given situation, we must be aware that Satan–that angry, wrathful, destructive spirit being–will try to influence us in such a way that our righteous anger will become unrighteous. That can happen if we dwell too long on a bad situation or on injustice which someone may have perpetrated against us.
If we go to sleep with anger and hatred in our hearts towards another person, we are giving in to Satanic wrath. Rather, we should make sure that our wrath, even if justified, is short-lived. We are to cease quickly from our anger and forsake our wrath.
Jeremiah 48:30 states: “‘I know his wrath,’ says the LORD, ‘but it is not right…'” This indicates that there is wrath or anger which is right; and we will discuss this aspect of righteous indignation in the next installment.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link