In Romans chapter one, the Apostle Paul describes what happens to a people who exchange God’s immutable, incorruptible character of unconditional love for the mixed, corrupted character of the gods. We will see what happens to those who forsake God’s moral law of agape love. Those who exchange God’s principles for those of Satan live by the laws and ordinances of the gods, and by doing so, they themselves become filled with the violence that is inherent in Satan’s moral law of reward and punishment. This is the realization to which Paul eventually leads us in the first chapter of Romans, the chapter which explains “the wrath of God.”
At this point we need to insert the thought here that these choices are being made by all human beings every moment of every day. It does not matter what religion we profess. It doesn’t matter what language we speak, or what part of the world we live in. We are all going through this process together whether we realize it or not. We may or may not even believe in God; it doesn’t matter. This war of principles is built into our very being and none of us can escape it.
What happens to anyone who forsakes God’s ways, His ordinances and His law of agape love? They themselves become just like their master, the Destroyer. He molds their characters into his image. Notice how Paul describes this phenomenon:
being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:29-32, emphasis added).
Those that follow the teachings of the gods become “filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful.”
We have previously seen how “unrighteousness” refers to how we relate to each other on a human level, in ways that are contrary, opposite to God’s agape love. This state of being, this “being filled with all unrighteousness”—not just filled with some but also with all unrighteousness—is a deplorable state.
Those who exchange God’s goodness for Satan’s mixed principles of Good and Evil leave God’s statutes of righteousness and equity for the laws of the gods—laws that are conditional and partial, founded upon the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They leave behind peace, joy, love, hope, happiness. When we let go of God and His principles completely, the end result is strife—propelled at Satan’s instigation—bloodshed, destruction and desolation. Women, physically weaker than men, become violated and widowed; and children, another easy target, are also abused in unspeakable ways and orphaned.
God has given us all the proof we need regarding His character of agape love. The evidence is found in both His works of creation and in giving His Son to die for the world. If we reject Him and His principles, what else can He do? There is only one more thing He can do: He can honor our freedom. He is basically forced into giving us up to the ruler we have chosen.
Rejecting God’s ways of love is a slow process. Little by little we make choices that eventually place us fully either on God’s side or Satan’s side. God’s “Spirit shall not strive with man forever” (Genesis 6:3). This is so not because God is impatient. After all, Romans 15:5 says that He is the God of patience. But a time comes when God sees that we have gone beyond the point of no return and He, in love, allows us the freedom to go. Nehemiah explains it like this:
Yet for many years You had patience with them, and testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets. Yet they would not listen; You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands (Nehemiah 9:30, emphasis added).
Nehemiah says that God “testified against them” by His Spirit and by His prophets. This word “testified” is an interesting word. Some Bible versions use the word “warned” or “witnessed” instead of “testified.” The Hebrew word, ‘, means:
to duplicate or repeat; by implication to protest, testify (as by reiteration); intensively to encompass, restore (as a sort of reduplication): – admonish, charge, earnestly, lift up, protest, call (take) to record, relieve, rob, solemnly, stand upright, testify, give warning, (bear, call to, give, take to) witness.
The first meaning is to “duplicate” or “repeat.” God duplicated the warning, He repeated it, and admonished them through two witnesses: His Spirit and through the prophets. This is very significant to the Jewish mind, for they knew that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15). And yet “they would not listen.” God went the full length; He put all His efforts into saving them. But since they still did not listen, therefore, He “gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.”
“The peoples of the lands” were themselves entrenched in idolatry, and were experiencing the resulting godlessness, violence, and desolation that comes along with it. Paul understood “the wrath of God” in the same way, confirming that God gives us up to the consequences of departing from Him:
God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever (Romans 1:24-25, emphasis).
“Uncleanness” in the Biblical sense is the opposite of purity or holiness. “Uncleanness” of mind and heart, therefore, amounts to duality, to characters that are formed by the duality of Good and Evil. This leads men and women to let go of God’s original purpose for them. They “exchanged the truth of God for the lie” of Satan, and as a consequence they “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” When they thought they were worshipping God, they were in reality worshipping the creature, Satan, because they were living by his moral law of reward and punishment. Then Satan leads them into all sorts of distortions of the Creator’s original design for His creatures, into perversions of His original intent as He had shown in the Garden of Eden through Adam and Eve. “For this God gave them up to vile passions:”
For this God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting (Romans 1:26-28, emphasis added).
Many take these words and use them in a homophobic way. They interpret these words as a license to condemn and act in unloving ways against any kind of deviation from God’s original purpose. But that is not the intent of these words. Rather, they are meant as a sign post for those who are discerning.
What do we mean by this? When society reaches the stage described above as Sodom and Gomorrah did, then we know that things are going to go downhill pretty fast. Why do we say this? Because when a society reaches this stage, we know that the family—that nucleus of influence, of security, of protection, of all sorts of blessings intended by God—is at great risk. “Natural affection”—that strong bond that unites us through family ties—no longer exists, and the result is described below:
being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving (WITHOUT NATURAL AFFECTION, KJV), unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:29-32, emphasis added).
Having let go of God and His unchanging principles of love which is the glue that keeps a society togetherAnd even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge”—they become Satan’s subjectsGod gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.” Now, like Satan, they are also “filled with all unrighteousness.” This is the same condition described by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:3:
This know also, that in the last days perilous (DANGEROUS) times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4, emphasis added)
Have you tried to interact with those who have such character traits as described above? Could such people live in peace with their co-workers, family members and friends? When God’s restraining power, the power of His love, is fully rejected by human beings, they will basically self-destruct and annihilate each other. This is why each person is against his brother, even family members against family members. There is no more “natural affection,” that love-bond that keeps blood relations together.
The clear message of “the wrath of God” is that everyone will reap what they have sown. But this is cause and effect and not an arbitrary act of punishment from God. It is Satan’s principle of iniquity itself, embedded in those who follow his ways that will bring their ruin. Notice how the prophet Ezekiel explains this below:
I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “ turn and live” (Ezekiel 18:30-32, emphasis added)!
I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God (Ezekiel 22:31, emphasis added).
Notice also how everyone who is completely imbued with Satan’s reward and punishment principle will turn against each other:
Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts the land is burned up, and the people shall be as fuel for the fire; no man shall spare his brother (Isaiah 9:19, emphasis added).
I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow against you with the fire of My wrath, and deliver you into the hands of brutal men who are skillful to destroy (Ezekiel 21:31, emphasis added).
It shall come to pass in that day that a great panic from the Lord will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbor, and raise his hand against his neighbor’s hand (Zechariah 14:13, emphasis added).
The strife and turmoil that exists outside of God’s law of love will be revealed to its fullest when God’s Spirit is finally, completely rejected at the end of this age. In light of this, how do we interpret the next verses?
Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it (Isaiah 13:9).
That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness (Zephaniah 1:15).
Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy, for He will make speedy riddance of all those who dwell in the land (Zephaniah 1:18).
Is God cruel? Is He the One who destroys sinners from the land? Is He the One who brings about trouble, distress, devastation and desolation? Or are the people destroying themselves, each one not sparing “his brother?” The “righteous judgment of God” against “those who practice such things” is to honor their inherent freedom. God gives us over to the god we have chosen, the god of this world who is represented by “birds, four-footed animals, and creeping things.”
Lucifer’s kingdom is the kingdom of Babylon. In Isaiah fourteen he is described as the one who beats us down in wrath:
It shall come to pass in the day the Lord gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve, that you will take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say:
“How the oppressor has ceased,
The golden city ceased!
The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked,
The scepter of the rulers;
He who struck the people in wrath with a continual stroke,
He who ruled the nations in anger,
Is persecuted and no one hinders (Isaiah 14:3-6).
It is the Lord who will save us from Satan. It is He who will give us “rest” from our “sorrow,” from our “fear and the hard bondage” in which we “were made to serve” under Satan. It is then that we will realize that Satan is the one who has been our “oppressor.”
What is “the staff of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers?” It is a rule of law, a moral law, the law of sin and death which is Satan’s moral law of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is the law with which he “struck” us “in wrath with a continual stroke.” It is the law with which he “ruled the nations in anger.” And it is through this same law, now in those who have followed him, that he himself will be persecuted, and “no one hinders.”
Satan’s kingdom, Babylon, is destined for desolation and destruction due to its own inherently violent principles. Jeremiah predicted its demise long ago:
Because of the wrath of the Lord she shall not be inhabited, but she shall be wholly desolate. Everyone who goes by Babylon shall be horrified and hiss at all her plagues (Jeremiah 50:13).
Because God will let go of her, because He will let her reap the consequences of her choices, Babylon will become desolate. Satan’s kingdom symbolized by this ancient city is going to fall for sure. There is no question about it. But we don’t need to fall along with her. This is what John the Revelator says when he calls us to “come out of her”—come out of Babylon. We are to come out of this violent system so that we are not carried along with its destruction:
Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her (Revelation 18:4-8, emphasis added)
The people who reject God’s principles of grace, mercy, and love, are given over to Satan’s authority, to him who strikes them “in wrath with a continual stroke.” This is what he does to those who have chosen him as their god. Why? Because under his law “they are deserving of death.” Why? Because his system punishes sinners in order to keep order. In his mind, once evildoers are punished, the universe will return to its rightful order. They have eaten of the Tree of Death. It is Satan and his angels who destroy sinners. This is exactly what David says:
He cast on them the fierceness of His anger, wrath, indignation, and trouble, by sending angels of destruction among them (Psalm 78:49).
These “angels of destruction” are not God’s angels; they are fallen angels. How does God send demons to destroy us? When we choose these demons as our gods, then God stops holding them back from us and allows them to have access to us. “The wrath of God” is revealed from heaven through the principle of freedom—God gives us up to our own choices.
What happens then, when God honors our wrong choices, and go of us completely into Satan’s hand? The Bible has a few examples: the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. These are the most extreme examples of “the wrath of God.” Next, we will take a look at what the Bible says in particular about Sodom and Gomorrah.