I recently took my kids on an epic nine-day, 3100-mile road trip out West across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. I am what you would call the “outdoorsy type,” and I am admittedly fascinated with the beauty found in Creation around us. I often marvel at how stunning it is, even though it’s in a broken and deteriorating state. Can you imagine what it looked like in the days before the fall of man? Anyway, back to our road trip. We visited four national parks, including the Grand Canyon and saw endless natural wonders as we drove between the parks. The experience was one we’ll never forget. The beauty and grandeur we took in were more than a person deserves to see in a lifetime. And throughout the trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about something that was said at church recently. We’ve been studying the book of Revelation in our Lord’s Supper meeting at my church, which mentions quite a bit about a future outpouring of God’s judgment and wrath upon the earth, and the teacher commented once about God’s wrath being glorious. As I stared at the Grand Canyon and the many other mouth-dropping formations throughout the week, I started to understand this statement even more. Go on a word trip with me (see what I did there?) as I attempt to explain.
What Does God’s Wrath Look Like?
When most people hear or read about God’s wrath, they automatically assume that it refers to hell. But what does the Bible really say? Let’s take a look at Romans 1:18 (NKJV)
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…
Stop. The wrath of God is against whom? ALL ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. That includes both believers and unbelievers alike. Well, that’s a problem if we’re talking about hell here. Those who have believed in Jesus for everlasting life have been saved from perishing (spending eternity separated from God in hell) (John 3:16). Also, note the present tense “is” that Paul uses in Romans 1 to describe when God’s wrath is being revealed. It’s being revealed presently. As much as we dramatize our bad experiences in life, hell is not a present experience but an afterlife experience. So, again, Paul can’t be talking about hell here. And in fact, that’s just what we find when we examine the context. Paul goes on to expound on what God’s wrath looks like in 1:24-28 – He turns us over to the consequences of our sins. He allows us to feel the full and natural consequences, and these consequences build upon each other. I have seen this play out in my own life (yes, even after I became a believer) and in the lives of loved ones. I bet you have too. If you go on to study the remainder of Romans, you will see that the purpose (1:16) of Paul’s letter to the Romans is to help those who have eternal life be delivered from God’s wrath in their experience of this life. Second best news ever.
So, to summarize, God’s wrath does not refer to hell. His wrath is experienced temporally, right now, in this age.
The Flood and God’s Wrath
The temporal wrath of God has been revealed before. We see in Genesis 6:5, 7a (NKJV):
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth…”
Later in chapter 7, we see that God followed through (11b, 24):
…on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days.
The earth was full of people who were living in an ungodly and unrighteous manner, so much so that God needed to cleanse the earth with His wrath and start over. And He did so by flooding the earth with water from above and from below that killed every living thing that wasn’t safely placed within the ark that He commanded Noah to build.
Now, here we are in the aftermath of this expression of God’s wrath. The waters that God sent were enough to cover the whole earth, even the tallest mountain (7:19-20). That’s a lot of water. And it sat still for 150 days (8:3) or five months. Then the waters receded, quickly. We’re told that Noah entered the ark in the second month of the year (7:11), and we see that the waters receded enough for the ground to be dry by the first month of the following year (8:13) – a total span of only 10-11 months. No doubt, the physical processes of the breaking open of the fountains of the great deep were earth-shatteringly violent. But the recession of this incredible volume of water over such a short time period, I contend (from my background in natural science, meteorology/hydrology in particular), were equally violent. The physical impact of such cataclysmic events no doubt changed the earth in a big way.
God’s Glory Found in Arizona
So, what does this have to do with me being all philosophical on my vacation? Well, I believe that the Grand Canyon, and likely a great deal of the spectacular geological wonders I saw throughout my family’s trip, were formed as a direct result of the global, catastrophic Flood described in Genesis*. God’s wrath is indeed glorious! These breathtaking canyons, mesas, and hoodoos are an awesome display of how God’s wrath results in glory to Himself, and are just a tiny glimpse of the glory we’ll experience in the not-too-distant future. May this motivate us to pray for the return of Christ and the full revelation of His glory in and around us!
*The reasons I hold this view are rooted in my belief that the earth is much younger than our modern scientists would say, based upon my view of the Bible as God’s inspired, written, inerrant, infallible Word, and my own education, experience, and research as a scientist. (If you want to know more about this young-earth view, I highly recommend answersingenesis.org. I disagree with their views on how to have eternal life, but they do a great job with scriptural inerrancy and other matters related to how the Bible compares to modern science.)