The Attributes of God

by Arthur Pink

The WRATH of God

It is sad indeed to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which they need to make an apology, or who at least wish there were no such thing. While some who would not go so far as to openly admit that they consider it a blemish on the divine character—yet they are far from regarding it with delight; they do not like to think about it, and they rarely hear it mentioned without a secret resentment rising up in their hearts against it. Even with those who are more sober in their judgment, not a few seem to imagine that there is a severity about the divine wrath that makes it too terrifying to form a theme for profitable contemplation. Others harbor the delusion that God's wrath is not consistent with His goodness, and so seek to banish it from their thoughts.

Yes, many there are who turn away from a vision of God's wrath as though they were called to look upon some blotch in the divine character or some blot upon the divine government. But what says the Scriptures? As we turn to them, we find that God has made no attempt to conceal the facts concerning His wrath. He is not ashamed to make it known that vengeance and fury belong unto Him. His own challenge is: "See now that I myself am He! There is no God besides Me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. I lift my hand to Heaven and declare: As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen My flashing sword and My hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on My adversaries and repay those who hate Me" (Deuteronomy 32:39-41).

A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God—than there are to His love and tenderness. Because God is holy, He hates all sin; and because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner. "God is angry with the wicked every day" (Psalm 7:11).

The wrath of God is as much a divine perfection as is His faithfulness, power, or mercy. It must be so, for there is no blemish whatever, not the slightest defect in the character of God; yet there would be if "wrath" were absent from Him! Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who does not hate it is a moral leper. How could He who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon both virtue and vice, both wisdom and folly? How could He who is infinitely holy, disregard sin and refuse to manifest His "severity" (Romans 11:22) toward it? How could He, who delights only in that which is pure and lovely, not loathe and hate that which is impure and vile? The very nature of God makes Hell as real a necessity, as imperatively and eternally requisite, as Heaven is. Not only is there no imperfection in God, but there is no perfection in Him that is less perfect than another.

The wrath of God is His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. It is the displeasure and indignation of divine equity against evil. It is the holiness of God stirred into activity against sin. It is the moving cause of that just sentence which He passes upon evildoers. God is angry against sin because it is a rebelling against His authority—a wrong done to His inviolable sovereignty. Insurrectionists against God's government shall be made to know that God is the Lord. They shall be made to feel how great that Majesty is which they despise, and how dreadful is that threatened wrath which they so little regarded.

Not that God's anger is a malignant and malicious retaliation, inflicting injury for the sake of it, or in return for injury received. No, though God will vindicate His dominion as the Governor of the universe, He will not be vindictive.

That divine wrath is one of the perfections of God, is not only evident from the considerations presented above, but is also clearly established by the express declarations of His own Word. "For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven" (Romans 1:18).

Robert Haldane comments on this verse as follows: "It was revealed when the sentence of death was first pronounced, the earth cursed, and man driven out of the earthly paradise; and afterwards by such examples of punishment as those of the Deluge, and the destruction of the Cities of the Plain by fire from Heaven; but especially by the reign of death throughout the world. It was proclaimed in the curse of the law on every transgression, and was intimated in the institution of sacrifice, and in all the services of the Mosaic dispensation. In the eighth chapter of this epistle, the Apostle calls the attention of believers to the fact that the whole creation has become subject to vanity, and groans and travails together in pain. The same creation which declares that there is a God, and publishes His glory—also proves that He is the Enemy of sin and the Avenger of the crimes of men... But above all, the wrath of God was revealed from Heaven when the Son of God came down to manifest the divine character, and when that wrath was displayed in His sufferings and death, in a manner more awful than by all the tokens God had before given of His displeasure against sin. Besides this, the future and eternal punishment of the wicked is now declared in terms more solemn and explicit than formerly. Under the new dispensation, there are two revelations given from Heaven—one of wrath, the other of grace."

Again, that the wrath of God is a divine perfection is plainly demonstrated by what we read in Psalm 95:11: "Unto whom I swore in My wrath." There are two occasions of God's "swearing":
in making promises (Genesis 22:16),
and in pronouncing judgments (Deuteronomy 1:34ff).

In the former, He swears in mercy to His children.
In the latter, He swears to deprive a wicked generation of its inheritance because of murmuring and unbelief.

An oath is for solemn confirmation (Hebrews 6:16). In Genesis 22:16 God says, "By Myself have I sworn." In Psalm 89:35 He declares, "Once have I sworn by My holiness." While in Psalm 95:11 He affirms, "I swear in My wrath." Thus the great Jehovah Himself appeals to His "wrath" as a perfection equal to His "holiness". He swears by the one, as much as by the other! Again, as in Christ "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9), and as all the divine perfections are illustriously displayed by Him (John 1:18), therefore do we read of "the wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:16).

The wrath of God is a perfection of the divine character upon which we need to frequently meditate.

First, that our hearts may be duly impressed by God's detestation of sin. We are ever prone to regard sin lightly, to gloss over its hideousness, to make excuses for it. But the more we study and ponder God's abhorrence of sin and His frightful vengeance upon it, the more likely are we to realize its heinousness.

Secondly, to beget a true fear of God in our souls. "Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28-29). We cannot serve him "acceptably" unless there is due "reverence" for His solemn Majesty and "godly fear" of His righteous anger; and these are best promoted by frequently calling to mind that "our God is a consuming fire."

Thirdly, to draw out our souls in fervent praise for our having been delivered from "the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Our readiness or our reluctance to meditate upon the wrath of God becomes a sure test of our hearts' true attitude toward Him. If we do not truly rejoice in God, for what He is in Himself, and that because of all the perfections which are eternally resident in Him, then how does the love of God dwell in us?

Each of us needs to be most prayerfully on his guard against devising an image of God in our thoughts which is patterned after our own evil inclinations. Of old the Lord complained, "You thought that I was just like you" (Psalm 50:21). If we rejoice not "at the remembrance of His holiness" (Psalm 97:12), if we rejoice not to know that in a soon-coming Day, God will make a most glorious display of His wrath by taking vengeance upon all who now oppose Him—then it is proof positive that our hearts are not in subjection to Him, that we are yet in our sins, and that we are on the way to the everlasting burnings!

"Rejoice, O nations, over His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants. He will take vengeance on His adversaries; He will purify His land and His people" (Deuteronomy 32:43). And again we read, "After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in Heaven shouting: Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants. And again they shouted: Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever." (Revelation 19:1-3).

Great will be the rejoicing of the saints in that day when the Lord shall . . .
vindicate His majesty,
exercise His solemn dominion,
magnify His justice, and
overthrow the proud rebels who have dared to defy Him.

"If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" (Psalm 130:3). Well may each of us ask this question, for it is written, "the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment" (Psalm 1:5).

How sorely was Christ's soul exercised with thoughts of God's marking the iniquities of His people when they were upon Him! He was deeply troubled and distressed (Mark 14:33). His awful agony, His bloody sweat, His strong cries and supplications (Hebrews 5:7), His reiterated prayers, "If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me", His last dreadful cry, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"—all manifest what fearful apprehensions He had of what it was for God to "mark iniquities." Well may poor sinners cry out, "Lord, who shall stand," when the Son of God Himself so trembled beneath the weight of His wrath! If you, my reader, have not "fled for refuge" to Christ, the only Savior, "how will you do in the swelling of the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5).

"When I consider how the goodness of God is abused by the greatest part of mankind, I cannot but be of his mind who said, 'The greatest miracle in the world is God's patience and bounty to an ungrateful world.' If a prince has an enemy surrounded in one of his towns, he does not send them in provisions, but lays close siege to the place, and does what he can to starve them. But the great God, who could wink all His enemies into destruction, bears with them, and is at daily cost to maintain them. Well may He command us to bless those who curse us, who Himself does good to the evil and unthankful. But think not, sinners, that you shall escape thus; God's mill goes slow, but grinds small. The more admirable His patience and bounty now is, the more dreadful and unsupportable will that fury be which arises out of His abused goodness. Nothing smoother than the sea—yet when stirred into a tempest, nothing rages more. Nothing so sweet as the patience and goodness of God, and nothing so terrible as His wrath when it takes fire" (William Gurnall, 1660).

Then "flee," my reader, flee to Christ! "Flee from the wrath to come" (Matthew 3:7) before it is too late. Do not, we earnestly beseech you, suppose that this message is intended for somebody else. It is to you! Do not be contented by thinking you have already fled to Christ. Make certain! Beg the Lord to search your heart and show you yourself.

A Word to Preachers: Brethren, do we in our teaching ministry, preach on this solemn subject as much as we ought? The Old Testament prophets frequently told their hearers that their wicked lives provoked the Holy One of Israel, and that they were treasuring up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath. And conditions in the world are no better now than they were then! Nothing is so calculated to arouse the careless and cause carnal professors to search their hearts, as to enlarge upon the fact that "God is angry with the wicked every day" (Psalm 7:11). The forerunner of Christ warned his hearers to "flee from the wrath to come" (Matthew 3:7). The Savior bade His hearers, "Fear Him, who after He has killed, has power to cast into Hell; yes, I say unto you, Fear Him!" (Luke 12:5). The Apostle Paul said, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Corinthians 5:11). Faithfulness demands that we speak as plainly about Hell—as about Heaven


N.B. Pink has another article on the same subject:


The Wrath of God!

Arthur Pink, 1917

"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."