John 3:36

Sermon preached on March 17, 2002 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

A few years ago we were visiting some cousins and they were asking me about my preaching. As we were sitting around the kitchen table, one of them asked,

"Do you preach fire and brimstone?"

I'm not sure what was behind the question but I got the impression that if the answer was "yes", that they would have been disappointed in me.

That's pretty typical of people today.
J.I. Packer writes, (Knowing God, p. 134)

"The subject of divine wrath has become taboo in modern society and Christians by and large have accepted the taboo and conditioned themselves never to raise the matter."

Even for those of us who do raise the matter—it's a difficult subject. God's wrath is not a pleasant thing to think about. Yet, having said that, we must recognize that the Bible has much to say about God's anger. Packer writes, (p. 134-135)

"One of the most striking things about the Bible is the vigor with which both Testaments emphasize the reality and terror of God's wrath."

That being the case, there must be great value in knowing about God's wrath. So this morning I want to look at this attribute of God with the intention that it should affect us as it should. John the Baptist said,

"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever rejects the Son will not see life,
for God's wrath remains on him."

The first thing I want you to see about God's wrath is that

the proclamation of God's wrath is designed to lead people to Christ.

John the Baptist's job was to point people to Christ. One of his strategies in doing so was to warn people to flee the coming wrath. Remember what he said in Matthew 3:10? He said,

"The ax is already at the root of the trees,
and every tree that does not produce good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

In order to point people to Christ he spoke about God's wrath. He knew that there's a great incentive for people to go to Jesus—that if they don't the consequences will be exceedingly horrible—that they will have to face the wrath of God.

The wrath of God is horrific. The thought of it should strike terror in anyone who is not in Jesus. Think of how Revelation 6:15f describes the terror of those who face it. We read,

"Then the kings of the earth,
the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty,
and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.
They called to the mountains and the rocks,
'Fall on us and hide us
from the face of him
who sits on the throne
and from the wrath of the Lamb!
For the great day of their wrath has come,
and who can stand?'"

Remember a few weeks ago we looked at Isaiah's reaction to seeing God on His throne? Isaiah felt like his very being was being pulled apart. He felt like He was becoming undone. That's somewhat of what we see in Revelation 6. The feeling that those people will have will describes the worst feeling that can ever be.

Or consider how
2 Thessalonians 1:7f describes how God will pay back those who trouble Christians. We read,

"This will happen when the Lord Jesus
is revealed from heaven in blazing fire
with his powerful angels.
He will punish those who do not know God
and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
They will be punished with everlasting destruction
and shut out from the presence of the Lord
and from the majesty of his power
on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people
and to be marveled at
among all those who have believed."

How horrible it is going to be for those who aren't in Jesus when He comes again. They are going to be shut out from the presence of the Lord, from the majesty of his power. God is the source of all good and to be put away from His presence will be exceedingly awful. But there's even more. Hebrews 12:28 describes God as,

"a consuming fire."

That's what He will be for those who are not in Christ. They will be cast into the lake of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. What Jesus said about Judas Iscariot (Matthew 26:24) will be true of all those who are not in Christ. It would be better for them if they had never been born.

Yet, having said that, notice how our text begins. John said,

"Whoever believes in the Son
has eternal life…”

God's wrath is not designed to lead anyone to despair, but is designed to get them to find the one way to avoid it. Herman Ridderbos speaks about the apostle Paul's proclamation of the wrath of God and tells that it's important that we remember that it was always as a minister of the gospel that Paul spoke of the wrath and judgment of God. He writes, (Paul, An Outline of His Theology, p. 111)

"The wrath and enmity of God are not for a moment in contradiction with God's reconciliatory will and love, and pointing to the wrath of God has the constant intention of disclosing to man God's grace and love in Christ."

On July 8, 1741 Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon in Enfield, Connecticut. That sermon started a series of events that led to the salvation of many people. What was the title of his sermon? It was, "Sinners is the Hands of an Angry God". In that sermon Edwards used the imagery of sinners being held in the hand of God over the pit of hell. His illustration made unbelievers feel the horror of their position. What is important to note is that Edwards did not leave things there. How did Edwards end his sermon? He concluded it with these words,

"Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: 'Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.'"

Edwards used the wrath of God to urge people to find life in Jesus Christ. Edwards did not preach or talk about the wrath of God for its own sake. Quite the contrary, he used it to urge people to find safety in Christ.

Thus I ask you,

Are you in Christ? Are you safe from the wrath that is coming?

Have you gone to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins? Have you received His righteousness which comes by faith? Have you trusted in Jesus?

If you are not safe in Christ I would urge you, in the strongest terms—to go to Him now. It's too important to put off for even one second. The great day of God's wrath is coming and the only way for you to stand is to be in Jesus. Go to Him now.

The second thing I want you to see about God's wrath is that

it is in accord with His righteousness and all His other glorious attributes.

There's a contrast in our text. Those who believe in the Son have life. But those who reject the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them.

Notice how John tells us that God's wrath '
remains' on anyone not in Jesus.

This gives us a great clue on how we should think of God's wrath.

It is something that 'remains', 'abides'.

In this regard, we are not to think that God's anger is in any way like man's unrighteous anger.

We must not think God God's wrath in terms of something that is unbridled, out of control. J.I. Packer suggests that some Christian people don't like the idea of God's wrath because they misunderstand it. He writes, (Knowing God, p. 136)

"To some… 'wrath' suggests a loss of self-control, an outburst of 'seeing red', which is partly, if not wholly, irrational. To others, it suggests the rage of conscious impotence, or wounded pride, or plain bad temper."

But God's wrath is not like that at all. There is no irrationality to it. There is no loss of self-control by God. Herman Ridderbos writes on Paul's teaching about the wrath of God,

"every thought of an unbridled and normless exercise of vengeance, such as is to be found in the heathen representations of the wrath of the gods, is entirely lacking here."

There is a righteousness about God's wrath. There is a rightness about it. The fact is that when Adam and Eve sinned they exposed themselves to the wrath of God. What they did was evil. It was an attack upon God's character, upon His authority, upon His goodness. All of their descendants have inherited this rebellion against God. In our natural state, we are evil. Ephesians 2:3 tells us that we are,

"by nature objects of wrath."

God's wrath upon sinners is not something that is unrighteous. Quite the contrary, His wrath is good and holy. As Leon Morris writes on God's wrath,

"It stands for the settled and active opposition of God's holy nature to everything that is evil."

Herman Ridderbos writes, (Paul, An Outline of His Theology, p. 109)

"God's wrath is altogether determined by his righteousness and holiness."

It's good that God hates sin, that He reacts against it. A.W. Pink writes, (The Attributes of God, p. 83)

"Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper. How could He who is the Sum of all excellency looking with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly? How could He who is infinitely holy disregard sin and refuse to manifest His 'severity' (Romans 9:22) 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?"

Thus it's important for us to see that God's wrath is worthy of Him. A few weeks ago I spoke on the beauty of God. Our text was Psalm 27:4. David desired to dwell in the house of the Lord,

"to gaze upon
the beauty of the LordÖ"

God is beautiful. Why is God beautiful? It's part of His essence. He's beautiful because of who He is. He's beautiful because of all of His attributes. One could even say that God is beautiful because of His wrath. It's good that God hates sin, that He's angry with it, that He judges it. Imagine what it would be like if God failed to punish wickedness. That would mean that wickedness would triumph. How horrible it would be.

But it's not going to be like that, for God's wrath also has a purpose.

One of the goals God has in working His wrath is to cause His plan of redemption to triumph.

God is going to make His people safe. Evil is not going to be allowed to harm them or come near them. We usually think in terms of God's love accomplishing that. But His wrath plays a part as well. We will be safe because evil will be removed, because the devil and the false prophet and the beast will be thrown into the lake of fire where they will experience the wrath of God forever and ever.

So you see, God's wrath is in accordance with God's righteousness and all His other glorious attributes. Our God is perfect in every way. His wrath is not unworthy of Him. His wrath is perfect. His hatred of sin and evil is perfect. He hates sin. He cannot approve of it. He must react against it. This is part of His glory.

In order to help us to see this even more clearly, we need to look at the other side of the contrast in our text.

Adam and Eve sinned and exposed themselves to God's wrath. We, too, are sinners and by nature we are objects of God's wrath. But there's another side to it. John said,

"Whoever believes in the Son
has eternal lifeÖ"

How can that be? How can any of us escape God's wrath?

The answer lies in the fact that Jesus bore God's wrath for us.

God's love and His wrath worked together in our salvation.

Romans 11:22. It speaks of the 'kindness' and 'severity' of God accompanying each other. How can that be? How can you have kindness and severity go together? In Romans 11 it's talking about God's kindness to some and His severity to others. Yet there's a relationship between the two. Because of the falling away of the Jews, salvation came to the Gentiles.

God's kindness and His severity also came together in our salvation. How can we escape God's wrath?

It's because Jesus died in our place. It's because Jesus bore God's wrath on our behalf.

Remember His cry on the cross? (Matthew 27:46)

"My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?"

Righteousness accompanied God's wrath. Jesus chose to die in our place. What happened was in accord with perfect righteousness. Our sins were placed on His account, His righteousness was given to us. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says,

"God made him who had no sin
to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become
the righteousness of God."

God's wrath was also in perfect accord with His love. It was His love that prompted the Father to send Jesus. John 3:16 says,

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

So you see, God's righteousness, His wrath and His love were all involved in our salvation. God worked in both His love and His wrath to save us. His love was in Christ. It was God's love for us that sent Jesus. It was love for us. But God's wrath was also there. Jesus on the cross suffered God's wrath. That wrath was the punishment that was due for our sins. God's love and wrath worked together—to save us.

Now for you unbelievers here, this, too, should lead you to Christ.

Today God is teaching you something about His perfect character. He's teaching you that He must react against evil, with sin with anger. It cannot be otherwise.

But in revealing His wrath to you, God is also being very kind to you. Consider Jesus on the cross. God's wrath was there, coming down on His beloved Son. That wrath there shows you how much God loves sinners. Surrounding that wrath, you should see God's love. You should see the way of escape. You should see Christ, offering Himself to you. Go to Him. He will not turn you away. Go to Him. He will accept you with open arms.

Lastly, for Christians, I have three applications for you. There are at least three benefits from meditating on God's wrath.

First of all,

God's wrath shows us how horrible sin is.

We often look too lightly on sin. We make excuses for it. We don't see it as it really is.

But God's wrath shows us how truly repulsive it is. He abhors it. He takes frightful vengeance against it. He must do so.

Christians, hate sin. See it for what it is. Don't make any alliance with it. Flee from it.

Secondly, meditation upon God's wrath should help us to fear God as we should.

Hebrews 12:28-29 reads,

"Therefore, since we are receiving
a kingdom that cannot be shaken,
let us be thankful,
and so worship God acceptably
with reverence and awe,
for our 'God is a consuming fire.'"

We serve a wonderful God. It is so wonderful to think of His love, of His mercy and grace. But let us never forget that He hates sin. Psalm 111:10,

"The fear of the LORD
is the beginning of wisdom;"


how you ought to praise God for the salvation He has provided.

How thankful you ought to be that you will escape God's wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:10) Jesus will rescue us from the coming wrath. On that last terrible day, unbelievers will ask, "Who can stand?" Those in Jesus will stand. Our lowly bodies will be transformed and be made like His glorious body. We will stand in His righteousness and hear words of acceptance and joy. Jesus will say to you, (Matthew 25:34)

"Come, you who are blessed by my Father;
take your inheritance,
the kingdom prepared for you
since the creation of the world."