“I can’t believe a loving God would send people to hell.” You’ve probably heard it before. It’s a common objection to biblical Christianity. It’s an argument that assumes God’s love erases his wrath. And it’s a truth many Christians struggle with themselves. So, how can we show unbelievers from the Bible that God’s wrath is not only true, but also good?
1. God’s Wrath Shows His Worth
Moses says, “Who understands the power of your anger? Your wrath matches the fear that is due you” (Psalm 90:11). This “fear” is the worship God deserves, and we worship something or someone because they are worthy. When God is not worshiped, though, the measure of his wrath displays the measure of his worth. God will display his infinite worth in one of two ways: never-ending worship or never-ending wrath. So, just as God’s wrath is incomprehensible, his worth is also incomprehensible.
2. God’s Wrath is Part of Who He Is
Ignoring God’s wrath means ignoring who God truly is (Psalm 5:4-6). Not only does this reject reality, but it also misses the joy of fully knowing God. Only a relationship with God supremely satisfies the appetites of our hearts (Psalm 63:1-5; Philippians 3:7-10), and this includes knowing his wrath.
When discussing why God would allow evil to exist, Jonathan Edwards wrote,
“It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all…. [T]he creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect.”1
3. God’s Wrath Highlights the Greatness of His Love
God’s wrath not only gives us an accurate knowledge of God, but it also deepens our appreciation of his other attributes—specifically his love, mercy, and grace. Paul argues this in Romans 9:22-23 when he says, “And what if God, wanting to display his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath prepared for destruction? And what if he did this to make known the riches of his glory on objects of mercy that he prepared beforehand for glory?”
If God did not display his wrath, Edwards says, “the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint… nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all…. How much soever happiness he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired, and the sense of it not so great.”2
Could we fathom the depths of God’s love for us if we didn’t fathom the depths of his hatred against our sin? Would we appreciate his freely-given, undeserved grace if we didn’t understand his righteous wrath we deserved? The stars of God’s love, mercy, and grace shine brightest against the black sky of his wrath.
4. God’s Wrath Should Make Us Hate Sin
God hates sin. And as born-again Christians grow in their love for the Lord and are gradually transformed into his image, they will hate sin, too (Psalm 97:10; Ephesians 4:20-24). If you need fresh motivation to kill your lingering sin, meditate on how much God hates that sin.
5. God’s Wrath Makes Us Stand in Awe of the Cross
In six hours on the cross, Jesus bore an eternity of infinite wrath in our place (Isaiah 53; Mark 15:20-39). Without God’s wrath, the cross means nothing. But the more we peer into the depths of God’s wrath, the more we behold the depths of Jesus’ suffering for us. And the more we comprehend Jesus’ suffering, the more we comprehend both God’s wrath and love. The wrath of God poured out on the Son of God should humble, silence, and amaze us. It should move us to love him supremely and worship him with joyful grief.
6. God’s Wrath Increases Our Gratitude for Salvation
If you shove someone off the road, they probably won’t appreciate it unless they realize you saved them from getting hit by a truck. Similarly, we won’t fully appreciate our salvation unless we realize what we’ve been saved from. Displays of God’s wrath, including the never-ending lake of fire, will forever remind us of what we’ve been saved from, and they will fuel joyful, grateful worship for eternity (Psalm 32; Revelation 20-22).
7. God’s Wrath Assures Us of Ultimate Justice
Our world brims with evil and injustice, from huge issues like human trafficking to smaller issues like academic plagiarism. Will this world ever be rid of evil? Can justice prevail? God’s wrath guarantees that this will happen. Whether you are vexed by a personal affront or a massive corrupt system, let God’s righteous wrath assure you that he will execute perfect justice someday (Romans 2:1-16; 12:19-21; Revelation 19-20).
8. God’s Wrath Motivates Evangelism
Unbelievers are headed straight for God’s holy, righteous, unfathomable, eternal wrath. Only the gospel can save them (Romans 1:16-18). We should weep for those headed for hell. God’s wrath should spur us to evangelize the lost. As Paul says, “Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people…. We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God’” (2 Corinthians 5:11, 20).
God’s wrath is terrifying, and it can be unpleasant to dwell on. But it is good. Let the reality of God’s wrath energize your evangelism. Share the goodness of God’s gospel with others so that they no longer have to fear God’s wrath, but can see its goodness as well.