People believe that God has changed. They believe that from the stern, wrathful God that he was in the Old Testament, he has somehow transformed himself into a loving and merciful God in the New; immensely patient with his errant children, waiting with open arms to embrace them, and ready to forgive them anything they might do. This myth, like several other myths we have bought into, is false, and in subscribing to it, we endanger our very salvation.
Yes, God is loving and merciful; immensely so. He loves us more than we can possibly imagine. He is also merciful and will forgive us readily if we go to him with a truly repentant heart. But then, he always has been a loving and merciful God, even in the old days, when he forgave his repentant children time and time again.
And yes, God was stern and wrathful. His sternness came from his insistence that we obey his commands, and his wrath was incurred when we did not. He has shown evidence of his wrath as well, time and time again. We are not wrong in believing that. Where we are wrong is in believing he is no longer wrathful.
Part of the reason for this is because hardly anybody speaks about the wrath of God. Modern day evangelizers don't because they believe that the way to make people Christians is by talking about God's love to the exclusion of all else. Preachers don't because they realize all too well that speaking of God's wrath is a certain way of becoming unpopular with their audience. Writers don't because they want to sell books and know that a book that doesn't make you feel good when you put it down will not sell many copies.
So all we generally hear are stories about God's infinite love and forgiveness. We are, consequently, lulled into a false sense of complacency, not realizing that at this moment in time, God is perhaps more angry with the world than he has ever been before. And with reason. He sent His only Son to die for us, so that we could be redeemed, and consequently, become the children he wanted us to be. Yet, we persist in our wicked ways, excusing and justifying our sins at every turn, believing that by merely saying we are Christians we are saved from eternal damnation!
True, faith in Jesus is the only condition that God requires for salvation, but faith is more than a profession about Christ. Faith is also an activity coming from the heart of the believer, which includes, among several other things, total and unconditional obedience to God. We, unfortunately, are anything but obedient. And God's wrath, when it descends, is going to be truly terrifying, more upon us who know the truth (or should know the truth), than those who do not.
The warning comes from no less than Jesus, who cautions us repeatedly about "the weeping and gnashing of teeth" that will take place on the Day of Judgment. He doesn't speak of tears or teeth in this passage, but his warning here is very explicit.
"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them.
"Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them.
"It will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed." (Luke 17:26-30)
We all know about the Great Flood, when God destroyed everybody with the exception of Noah and his family. We also know about Sodom, where he rained down fire and brimstone over an entire city, letting only Lot escape with his wife and two daughters. Jesus promises the same thing will happen to those who do not walk in the path of righteousness when the Day of Judgment comes.
Surely he doesn't mean us? We are good people, aren't we? Yes, true, we get drunk from time to time; we flirt with other women when our wives aren't watching; we tell the occasional tall tale every now and then or engage in some mild gossip, but we are just having fun and what's wrong with that?
Consider, if you will, the thousands and thousands of people who died in the Great Flood. How wicked do you imagine they were? Did they all worship false Gods? Did they all engage in orgies and other forms of debauchery? Were they all rapists and murderers and sodomizers? That is highly unlikely. Many must have believed in God as we do, paying him token obeisance once in a while. Many must have tried to live good lives, making the sort of "normal" compromises that we all make. For the most part, they must have been people like us. Just having fun. Yet, only eight people were saved in the Flood, because there were only eight that God found truly righteous.
Please ask yourself if God would find you righteous? And if yes, on what basis? That you go to church once a week? That you make a donation to charity every now and then? I'm afraid God expects a lot more than that. The fact that you don't steal or rape or murder is not enough either. He expects true holiness of his children.
For it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)
We cannot be holy without a healthy fear of God! And we are not afraid, because we have come to believe that God is some kind of a cosmic teddy bear. He is not! He is a powerful being, the creator of the universe and everything in it, who demands awe and reverence and honor and total obedience, and you will meet his wrath if you don't give it to him. Fear of the Lord — as Proverbs 9:10 says — is the beginning of wisdom, and it is time we got wise. So be afraid!
If we fear God, we will live a life of obedience to his commandments and speak a resounding no to sin. It is what God expects of us; demands of us. It is not too late to repent and mend our ways and I urge you to do so now, while you still can. Remember that the day the Son of Man is revealed to the world need not be the same day that he is revealed to you — you could very well die before the sun goes down, so please don't wait until tomorrow to make your peace with him. Make it today. Make it now.
"Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
"Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:42-51)
May the Spirit be with you.