In Revelation 15-16 we see people and angels in heaven praising God for the execution of His wrath. That’s hard to swallow. I know that we are to praise God for all of his attributes and all of his actions—but it’s hard to fathom praising God for His wrath.
Watching the news last Friday evening helped me to get a faint picture of how we might praise God for His wrath. The picture to the right is from the Friday evening when Dzhokkar Tsarnaev was finally captured. The crowds gathered to cheer on the police as they escorted the scene.
This gives us a picture of what is going on Revelation 15-16. Justice is being served. Things are being made right. And it’s good for us to clap in those moments. As Wayne Grudem writes:
As with the other attributes of God, this is an attribute for which we should thank and praise God. It may not immediately appear to us how this can be done, since wrath seems to be such a negative concept. Viewed alone, it would arouse only fear and dread. Yet it is helpful for us to ask what God would be like if he were a God that did not hate sin. He would then be a God who either delighted in sin or at least was not troubled by it. Such a God would not be worthy of our worship, for sin is hateful and it is worthy of being hated. Sin ought not to be. It is in fact a virtue to hate evil and sin and we rightly imitate this attribute of God when we feel hatred against great evil, injustice, and sin. (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 206)
God has given us those who “bear the sword” and execute His judgment upon sin and injustice. This is but a preview of the full justice that God will eventually execute. As we cheer on those that brought justice to the Boston bombers—we are in fact cheering on the wrath of God.
Yet, grace gives us pause
I should be in that cop car. I should be the one of whom all the righteous clap as I’m escorted into hell. But I’m not. Grace stepped in. I will never face the wrath of God because it has been swallowed up in Jesus.
This reminds me that I don’t see things quite rightly yet. I do not see human sin in all of its ugliness. I do not yet see the grace of God in all of its fullness. But someday I will. Someday I will, through grace, clap as God’s justice is brought about.
Until that day I have a mixture of emotions and response. I marvel at the fact that I’m not in that cop car, that I have breath in my lungs, and grace poured out upon me. I go as a minister of reconciliation, telling the world that the wrath of God can be averted, that Christ has drank it to the dregs. I weep because people still grieve, justice isn’t fully accomplished, sin still has a say, and the next murderous outrage is still on the horizon. And yet I rejoice in hope, knowing that someday the Lord will set all things right.
Though I still don’t fully know how to worship and praise God for His wrath, I do know that I long for things to be made right. And with that I can only cry out, Maranatha!