What is the “Coming Wrath”?

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? (Luke 3:7)

When John the Baptist said this to the Pharisees and Sadducees, what did he mean? What is the coming wrath? And is this something we should be concerned about?

Some say John was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem. The venerable Victorian Adam Clarke said the coming wrath refers to “the desolation which was about to fall on the Jewish nation for their wickedness.” But this doesn’t square with what Paul said to Gentile Christians:

They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thess 1:9-10)

The Thessalonians didn’t need rescuing from the Roman armies. So the coming wrath has nothing to do with the destruction of the Jewish capital.

Others say the coming wrath is a reference to the great tribulation.

“It’s all in Daniel somewhere. Don’t ask me where. I heard someone preach on it once. I think it has to do with bar codes and guillotines.”


Tell you what. Why don’t we stick with John the Baptist, since he’s the one who brought up the subject? John described the coming wrath as:

  • something that would make snakes flee (Matt 3:7)
  • Christ with a winnowing fork burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matt 3:12)
  • fruitless trees being cut down and thrown into the fire (Luke 3:9)

Snakes and fire – that’s the common thread. That might remind you of something Jesus said to the Pharisees:

Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matt 23:32-33)

Snakes are afraid of fire, but you are not a snake. Those in Christ need not fear the coming wrath.

Why do you need to know about wrath?

Why am I telling you this? Two reasons. One, hardly anyone teaches on the wrath of God anymore. Two, in the absence of good teaching, bad teaching has emerged to fill the void. Some examples:

  • God is judging American for her sins; so put on sackcloth and ashes and get busy repenting
  • natural disasters are the wrath of God in action; turn or burn baby
  • there is no coming wrath – it came already when God destroyed Jerusalem; so no need to do anything 
  • there is lots of wrath coming – at least three and a half years’ worth; be scared, be very scared!

None of this corresponds with what Jesus, John, or Paul said about the coming wrath.

Here are three things you need to know about the wrath to come:

  1. It’s coming
  2. It’s wrath
  3. For those who love life, it’s something to look forward to

Paul says in Romans 1:16-19 that everyone ultimately receives something from God – either we receive his righteousness or his wrath. We receive righteousness by receiving the goodness of God revealed in Jesus. We get wrath by hardening our hearts, thrusting away his free grace, and rejecting the Life that he offers.

Now here’s the important bit – God has no interest in pouring out wrath on people, not even the worst, most diabolical sinner. Indeed, God loves everyone more than he loves his own life (Rom 5:8).

But at some point God must react to ungodliness with wrath, or he isn’t God. At some point God must confront all the evils of this world – the violence taking place in Sudan, the sex-trafficking in Eastern Europe, the lunacy in North Korea – and say “Enough!”

Light and darkness cannot coexist.

So wrath is coming – as Jesus, John, and Paul foretold. But wrath is not about God going all Rambo on the heads of bad people.

Jesus died for bad people.

Wrath is for those things which are opposed to God’s character. Wrath is for the chaff of demonic doctrines that deny Jesus. And wrath is for manmade traditions that deprive us of grace.

So why should the Pharisees be scared? Not because God hates Pharisees. God loves Pharisees. But he surely hates their religious practice of prostituting his love. He hates their death-dealing religion that sees the poor oppressed and the widow kicked out of her home (Luke 20:47). He hates everything that hurts his kids.

What’s the takeaway?

We can choose to be like Saul or Paul.

Saul the Pharisee went around clobbering people in the name of religion and Jesus took it personally. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul picked a fight with the Author of Life and this is never a smart move. Resist life and you end up dead.

But Paul went around telling people the good news of God’s grace, which is this…

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess 5:9)

God is not in the condemning business. He’s in the saving business. He’s in the business of turning murderous Sauls into life-saving Pauls.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Rom 5:9)

You thought we were saved from sin but Paul says we are saved from wrath. (Remember, this is not God’s wrath towards sinners, but his wrath towards ungodliness and unrighteousness and those things which keep us from him.) You’ve not only been delivered from cancer of sin, you’ve also been spared from chemotherapy of wrath.

What is the coming wrath?

The coming wrath is bad news for everything that stands in the way of God’s good plans for us. The coming wrath is the end of all that hurts us.

It’s the end of tears and trafficking.

It’s the end of ethnic violence and slavery.

It’s the end of mental illness and brokenness and dead religion and thuggery and injustice in all it’s twisted forms.

Wrath is God cleansing the universe and removing all that is contrary to his good nature. Wrath is God making things right.

Wrath is God saying “Yes!” to his kids and “No!” to those things that cause us to stumble.

You could say that everyone has a date with wrath. For Saul the Pharisee, that date was in the future. By clinging to the anchor of hate-fueled religion, Saul was going down. He was on the road to ruin and a highway to hell (whatever that is). But for Paul the believer, that date was in the past, as it is for all who trust in Christ.

This is why you have nothing to fear from the coming wrath. “The chastisement of our peace was upon him” (Is 53:5). 

On the cross, God’s wrath against sin was fully satisfied.

In Christ, you are unpunishable and eternally secure.


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47 Comments on What is the “Coming Wrath”?

  1. I’m confused Paul. If His Wrath has been satisfied on the cross, then how is it that it needs to be poured out again? Has it been building since the time of the cross?

    • On the cross, God poured out his wrath against sin (Rom 8:3). When he returns he will pour out his wrath on “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who in their wickedness repress and hinder the truth and make it inoperative” (Rom 1:18). Think of it like this. At the cross he defeated our captor sin. The prison walls came down and in Christ we are free indeed. But not everyone leaves the busted prison. Some remain because of religious lies and mistrust and dead traditions. When Christ returns he will deal with those things.

      The Message Bible translates Romans 1:18 as “God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth.”

      Jesus is not returning to condemn sinners – sin has not been the problem since the cross. When he returns he will deal with unbelief and this he does simply by showing up. At his return some of us will be happy, while others will be filled with hatred. Those who reject Life will have what they want. This is not God’s will but their own.

      • Didn’t he defeat Satan at the cross as well as sin?

      • that is really good paul. it makes me think of 2 cor 2:15-16: how Christ is the sweet fragrance of life for some – but the smell of death to others. i think the plagues of egypt are a shadow of what God’s wrath will be like: they brought death and destruction for unbelieving pharaoh and the egyptians, but to the sons of believing abraham, they brought life and freedom….

  2. well done my brotha,I have often felt over the years that yes God has wrath,but for the most part, all he would have to do is withdraw his presence and look out……………….ps: im glad about the “not being a snake thing”….although some would disagree.

  3. The last paragraph sums it up beautifully. Thank you

  4. Michael Jenkins // January 22, 2014 at 2:28 pm // Reply

    Really good post and makes things more reasonable. He is coming to deal with the unbelief in his goodness.

    powerful truth.

  5. That was helpful, thanks for that. Could you please cover the subject of the 70AD destruction of Jerusalem. So many scriptures that I was taught, now seem to refer to this event… like… most of Revelation! Still a few bits missing for me, and would love to hear your thoughts on it Paul. Thanks 🙂

  6. Deborah Dillihant // January 22, 2014 at 5:41 pm // Reply

    It is my belief that the world and not just America, will deal with the wrath that is promise, and people can’t escape the word “Consequences”. We are forgiven and Jesus paid the price, so that we could be reconcile to our Father, but the consequences of our fathers actions was still put into place. The good things though Is Revelation 3: 8-14: and it is exciting that he see me and you as such. The even better things is that he is not a man that HE should lie, The world has denied “HIM but not Us”, and since we are predestinated, he already knew what and where we would be and since HE wrote my script ahead of time I believe that HE got this and ” HE GOT MY BACK ” as HE has promised…

  7. If the coming wrath is against ungodlimess, we better make sure we are holy, perfect, and righteous. If you are worried about Gods wrath it is for good reason be afraid be very afraid.If you are not worried about Gods wrath , congratulations you Holy. Perfect, righteous, child of the creator of all things.

    • The good news declares that in Christ you are just as holy, righteous, and perfect as he is (see I john 4:17).

      • The best news that man will ever hear, what a scandle to believe we could in any way add to this or not accept the price paid and throw in a couple of coins.

  8. So…what’s the tribulation then?

  9. Thank you Paul for your article. Yes, our Heavenly Father’s wrath is coming upon the entire world, soon to be here, but if we have accepted our Heavenly Father’s free Gift of Grace through Faith in His Son Jesus Christ, we repent of any iniquity in our heart, we call on His Name; Yahuah Father will Immerse us in His Holy Spirit and His Love, and we will receive Eternal Life, Salvation. This is His Promise to us under the New Covenant through Jesus Christ. There is nothing to fear. Stay One in Christ. Trust and Believe in His Word, for He is Faithful and True. The question I have is about 1THES1:9-10. The wrath that was coming that apostle Paul was addressing to the Assembly of the Thessalonians was the Visitation or Judgment of Messiah upon apostate Israel and the religious leadership, which finally came in 70AD, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, doing away with the Old and establishing the New Covenant…right?

    • I’ll talk about the destruction of Jerusalem in my next post.

    • Why do we always use eternal life in the future tense we will receive eternal life. Is this an indication of not believing the promise, or not understanding the promise, that you have it now.

      • Squawks 5000 // August 13, 2018 at 3:19 am //

        Jesus says that he has come to give life and have it to the full [John 10:10].

        When we accept Jesus as L/S, we are guaranteed eternal life in heaven [John 3:16]. Although we actually get heaven later, the promise is a present guarantee.

        But that’s not the only reason why Jesus died — he wants us to have the best life on Earth, so when we walk with him, we actually get a first taste on what “eternal life” looks like.

  10. Wonderful! As usual, i love every word. But in dealing with ungodliness etc, He is in fact executing wrath upon non-believers, isn’t He? Not just the concepts of ungodliness, but those who are ungodly. Because of unbelief. Correct?

    • In a manner of speaking. Think of a landowner who rents out some land. The tenants of the land dig a great pit which becomes a menace to travellers. People keep falling in and getting hurt. The landowner hears about it and says, “One day I’m going to fill in that pit.” But some people – the pit-diggers, the pit-worshippers, and those who just can’t imagine the landowner ever doing anything good – say, “We love our pit!” So they go and camp in the pit. The landowner says, “You should get out of the pit because I’m going to fill it in. Can’t you see people are getting hurt?” But they don’t leave. So he sends his son into the pit to help them see their folly but they kill the son. Amazingly, the landowner still waits, literally thousands of years, and he continues to warn them again and again with tears because his heart is for people. Can’t they see that? The only reason he wants to fill in the pit is because it hurts people. But they don’t listen and eventually, after an incredibly long time, he says “Enough! I hate this pit! Too many people have been hurt!” And he fills in the pit.

      God’s wrath is only ever against the pit. It is a tragedy that some choose to lay down in front of the bulldozer while God deals with the pit.

  11. I really like your illustration, Paul. I think it also applies to something that’s been on my mind lately. Which is when we share truth it shouldn’t be just so we can be right or to even try and correct someone’s theology. Rather, our motive should be to remind them of their true identity in Christ to restore them. That motive of love changes the way we communicate with people. God wants us to believe right for the purpose of our well being, not just to be right. We can get caught up in the wrong tree, thinking it’s all about being right, when it’s about Life. The eternal life of Jesus in us. Anyway, I think you’ve touched on that in previous posts, but I needed a reminder. 🙂

  12. Awesome guys! This blog + theshovel blog (not my blog, but hope it’s okay to post because it has been of tremendous help to see the clear, true, pure, undefined Gospel of Christ being accurately spoken of on Escapetoreality & that site!)

    Good work Paul! Have probably read 75% of all posts on this site over the past month or so! Extremely refreshing! It has been very very difficult to sift through false holiness preachers (who just preach their own standards) and also through those who just accept any doctrine (as in Jesus isn’t the only way & isn’t THE WAY etc)

    Keep it up! Great comments too, we can all definitely see true raw LIFE happening here!

    *please approve this one and delete the other*

  13. Jonathan Welton // January 26, 2014 at 3:27 pm // Reply

    The first mention of wrath is not definitive as to what it is regarding. By saying “us,” Paul could mean himself and those with him, or he could mean himself and those reading the letter in Thessalonica. Either way he and non-specified “others” will be spared the coming wrath. “Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” 1 Thessalonians 1:10b

    The second mention of wrath puts the Pharisee persecutors squarely in the crosshairs of God’s wrath.
    “For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.” 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

    The target of wrath here is clearly demonstrated. It could not be anymore clear that this is referring to wrath coming upon the first century Jewish leaders that killed Jesus.
    The third mention of Wrath.

    “Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night[Mt 24:42-44]. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly[Mt 24:37-39], as labor pains on a pregnant woman [Mt 24:8], and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:1-9

    And we are back to the ambiguous “us,” yet the language is obviously pulled from the Olivet Discourse regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

  14. God is not driven by emotion he is one Love. Gods wrath is not a reaction to a situation it is a pre determined event .

  15. But the Apostle paul said, no slanders, immoral person, fonicators, and drunkerds, will inherits the kingdom of God.
    My question now is this, among all this things that paul mentioned are they not sin? (Wrong behaviour)

    • Hi Ogunwa, blessings!
      Yes they are sins, but for the christian these sins are in the physical body only, but not in the born again spirit. The old man/sin nature is already crucified.
      Romans 8:10 And if Christ be IN YOU, the body is dead because of sin; BUT the Spirit is life because of (God’s) righteousness (in you).

      Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh/body,) DWELLETH NO GOOD THING: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

      What Paul said in Galatians 5 was that any christian who do not respond to the Holy Spirit’s fruit in their hearts (led by the Spirit, verse 18) are allowing that old sin’s influence to continue have dominion/linger on in their body. And these cannot inherit/manifest the kingdom/ power of God in their physical body.
      They’ll continue to be sick, depressed, etc until they respond to the Comforter’s guidance to have Love, Joy, Peace. Against the fruit of the Spirit there is no law that can condemn, which brings out the power of God (such as healing) to the physical body.

    • Squawks 5000 // August 13, 2018 at 3:24 am // Reply

      Yes the things are sinful! But if it truly separates EVERYONE (not just unbelievers) from heaven, how did David and Moses make it to heaven (since they both murdered before)?

      LSS, although many commit sin, Jesus died so we can inherit his righteousness and give up our broken record. On final judgment, God never sees us as sinners because he sees that we trusted in Jesus’s perfect record to take our place.

  16. The coming wrath is the Day of the Lord (2 peter 3:10), the day when the 6th seal is unlocked.
    The day when man because of unbelief, hardened their hearts and continuously rejects Jesus as the payment for all their sins.. john 8:24.
    But all who believe that all their sins has been forgiven through Jesus will be caught up to be with the Lord on that day.. matthew 24:31.

  17. Hi denn, Thanks for your concern to my question;

    Please I’m not that cleared through your explanation to my question; are you trying to say that sin committing I the flesh but not being proud of it is worthy to condemn us? Because truly I am asking out of experience, at times I see myself doing things the natural men are doing like having sex with the same lady, and after everything would still hear a voice telling about my righteousness in christ, and I would feel like I am ot acting I acordance to my real nature in christ.
    After hearing all this witness to my spirit I would still go on and do the same thing, but just don’t know why I acted that way, but just wish it won’t continue that way.
    But in case it happened again which I don’t wish for, will it bring the wrath of GOD on me?

    • Hi Ogunwa,
      No, it will not bring God’s wrath because ALL (your past, present and future) of your sins has been punished on the body of Jesus.
      However, you are opening your soul to the devil’s condemnation and accusation.
      You are doing the sin you are doing because a) there are memories (motions) of sin still embedded in your physical body.
      Romans 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the MOTIONS OF SINS, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

      b) you have not yet fully renew your mind/see yourselves in your mind/ to believe that you are totally dead to sin.
      Romans 6:11-12 Even so SEE YOURSELVES AS DEAD TO SIN, BUT LIVING TO GOD in Christ Jesus.
      For this cause do not let sin be ruling in your body which is under the power of death, so that you give way to its desires;

      You can build the momentum of the faith of God in you, slowly renewing your mind to understand the love of God and of Jesus. It will do you a lot of good to read and meditate on 1 Corinthians 13, the 1st letter of John and Proverbs 1,2,3,4.. Read and meditate on these words- it will strengthen your heart and will ultimately slow down the old sin habit in your body..
      And remember, you are not condemned! Jesus Himself prays and intercede for you..
      Romans 8:34 -WHO IS HE THAT CONDEMNETH? It is CHRIST that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also MAKETH INTERCESSION FOR US.

    • Hi Ogunwa, I think it’s great that you are hearing and recognizing the voice of grace. Jesus will faithfully remind you of your righteous identity in Him and lead you into abundant life. Speaking His words of life will also help to create the momentum that denn_al is talking about. Declare, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus”. (2Cor 5:21) Blessings

  18. please, i need a little understanding here,what do you say or what does the bible say about peoples experiences with dreams and visions of hell and most christians and sometimes men of GOD even as victims…it makes it a little bit confusing about the concept of sin, salvation,heaven,wrath, hell etc….anyway i really enjoy this page a lot

    • Hi Snat,
      Most of these dreams and visions of hell are all deceptions of the enemy. Consider these:
      1. Paul never wrote any revelation/ visions of hell. He only wrote the revelation from Jesus concerning the Gospel (Galatians 1:11-12). Not one of Paul’s letters ever describe hell, even Jesus’s letters to the 7 churches has zero mention of hell.
      2. His only out of body experience is being caught up to Paradise (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)
      3. The devil can manifest himself as an angel of light (2 corinthians 11:14) which means he can also manifest himself being in charge of hell (as is the usual case in most of hell-visions). This is a lie and not the truth, because actually Jesus is in charge of hell right now. He has the KEYS OF HELL AND DEATH.. Revelations 1:18. This is why the believer can raise the dead in the name of Jesus.

      There are more but hopefully this is sufficient.

      4. There were no accounts of demons torturing the rich man in the story of Lazarus. There were only the fire and the heat. If it were important, Jesus would have mention it and He never did.

  19. Thank you for this ! I really enjoyed reading it. As you said, so it should be done hopefully. Even in wrath, God’s wisdom remains still and through Christ we shall be reborn.
    Though, it is not good news for the world in front of his coming… Did we fulfill his will ?
    Did we pray for the salvation of our kind ? With faith enough ? Only he knows.

    It’s obvious, even though we can argue there is controversy and misinterpretation. He said that he will return in glory and put an end to all that evil portrays. A New Jerusalem was meant to come down, or could we compare it to the Roman Catholic Church ?
    Will there be no final revelation ? I do not know but what I do know with no doubt is that the kingdom of God is still not of this world, Christ has been forsaken beyond the bearable, the world does still bask in unholiness and war.

    Should we rejoice if the scriptures may be focusing on the past events ? Which means nullifying any kind of prophecy. I’m not looking forward to see an awful apocalypse, but for the return of Christ I am and whoever believes in him. Keep faith and hope, so be it ! ^^

  20. wow this is beautiful its filling my heart with peace

  21. This is an interesting post. If one believes that the Body of Christ is the same as the Bride then I agree with this post. If the gentile Christians in Thes are grafted into the Bride and the same as those grafted in in Rom 9-11 to provoke some entity called “Israel” to jelousy then maybe things are different. I don’t have this all figured out, but it sure seems that this post is interesting and how one parses the book of Acts as a transition, or something else, sure makes things stick. Was Acts the account of the end of the old and transistion to understanding in the new, or was Acts the document declaring the complete end of the old? What is the zoomed out view of Acts & Rev that works? How do the 70 weeks fit in? are they over with (I think so)? or is there a gap? If there’s a gap then how does it work when the middle wall of partition is destroyed?

  22. I’m not sure about the understanding of 1 Thess 1:10 as a future wrath since in the Greek the term translated “to come” is in the present tense, not future. It has the meanings of to appear, to come into being, become known and to make one’s appearance. It was referring to something taking place at that time (present tense verb in the Greek).

  23. The three and half years thing? There was a movie awhile based on a book about a dangerous virus. But that movie was made and is done. There were several movies like.

    But the 3 and half years thing…. is that over? Isn’t that in the book of Revelation. Of course, the way I read it is as a healer. Somehow the revelation of Jesus Christ brings relief to our tortured existence when we love life (or have friends or kids that don’t) but need a pick up. It’s healthy as you said to see that war is not what Jesus has in mind for us. But sin seems so fun. And unbelief is a source of enjoying sin. well. you’ve definitely shown us a new heart. I don’t enjoy sin anymore. Thank God that the kind of great patience God calls for is something that doesn’t mean we will be dissappointed. But if I happen to be dissappointed. it’s okay. But I worry about others who can’t deal with that. I don’t look forward to that.

  24. Many times over the last year I have felt like the man under God’s wrath. I didn’t know why. I didn’t always feel unpunishable. But I believed what I understood at that time. And now just reading this again with unexpected understanding I feel more secure. What you say is if we resist life what are we left with? only death.

    Thanks. God bless.

  25. Who warned ‘YOU’ (those Pharisees and Sadducees; not some far-off future, nondescript people) of coming wrath!!!
    Rescues ‘US’ (not ‘you Thessalonians’).
    AD70 fits perfectly.

    Love you, you brood of vipers??? Really?

  26. I am glad that I read this again. It is one of the most hope filled messages I have ever heard. God’s “wrath” killed Saul and in his place is Paul. Not really wrath at all. Sounds a lot like love. Jesus destroyed all the lies he believed by just revealing Himself. Saul was blind to the Truth but ended up seeing clearer than most. Fascinating.

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