Whether for expediency’s sake, or due to the underlying fear that discovering the truth might contradict our own presupposed interpretation, a great majority in the church today have chosen to clump together the three distinct and independent ideas of judgment, wrath, and persecution, into one interchangeable and confusing mass of doctrinal amalgam.
Due to the blending together of these three individual concepts, many within the house of God today are either confused as to what the end times will be like in respect to the children of God, while others are wholly indifferent and apathetic concerning this topic, because to them it is nothing more than a futile intellectual exercise.
“We’re not going to be here anyway, so why bother discussing it? God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, so there, it’s settled.”
This is the danger of clumping together three very different concepts, and drawing our own conclusions. Judgment, wrath, and persecution are very different in and of themselves, and when we place all three under the same umbrella, we get a distorted view of what the future holds for us as children of God.
Of the three, one is reserved exclusively for the godless, one is reserved exclusively for the children of God, and one is interchangeable, poured out over unbelievers, as well as believers who have strayed, or otherwise dismissed the commands of God. In order to understand the difference between judgment, persecution, and wrath we must take each individual concept, and see what the Word of God would say about each of them. As always, the Word must have the final authority, and as such we must bend our will to conform to the truth of God’s Word, rather than bending the truth of God’s word to conform to our will.
We begin with the concept of judgment, since of the three it is mentioned earliest in God’s word. Judgment is also the only one of the three that is interchangeable. What I mean by this is that the righteous judgment of God can be applied to the godly and the ungodly alike, as evidenced in the Word of God.
The first mention of the judgment or judgments of God is recorded in the book of Exodus, as God reassures Moses that he will make a way for the people of Israel to be released from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
Exodus 6:6, “Therefore say to the Children of Israel: I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”
Before delving into the judgments of God against the Egyptians, and His faithful protection of the people of Israel in the land of Goshen, there are certain truths concerning the judgments of God that we must establish.
First, the judgments of God are always just, and based on truth rather than supposition. God does not guess when He judges. God does not suppose, nor does He harbor any doubt when He speaks judgment upon a person, a land, a people or the entire world. The Word tells us that justice, and judgment is the habitation of His throne, and as such go hand in hand in executing His righteousness. I realize it has become a popular pastime of many a Christians to second guess, or outright question God’s judgments, or the justice thereof, but the foolishness of such practices cannot adequately be described by a mind as limited as my own.
Romans 2:2, “But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.”
I hear comments such as ‘it was unfair for God to do that’, or ‘I think God should have shown a bit more grace’, and each time I find them both tedious and foolhardy. I shake my head, and wonder how it is that man has so elevated himself and his view of himself, that he stands ready to question God, or presume that God was not just, merciful or gracious. God’s judgments are just! God’s judgments are based on truth, and according to truth!
The second thing we must acknowledge when considering the judgment of God, is that it is impartial. God does not show favoritism, God does not show nepotism, He judges without partiality, and those who sinned without law will perish without law, while those who sinned in the law will be judged by the law.
God weighs the hearts of men, He judges based on what the eyes cannot see, He goes beyond the exterior shell, or the image we attempt to project, and everything from our intent, to our motivation, to our thoughts are an open book to Him.
Romans 2:11-12, “For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law.”
God’s judgment also begins in His house, and acts as a sifting mechanism, separating the wheat from the chaff, those who truly serve Him with a heart of worship and righteousness, and those who serve Him only in the hope of receiving earthly rewards.
1 Peter 4:17-18, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘if the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”
The judgment of God is very different from the wrath of God, because the wrath of God is reserved in exclusivity for the sons of disobedience. It is when God pours out His wrath that His children are sheltered by His omnipotence, and are safe under the shadow of His wing.
Although the wrath of God was provoked, stirred, and even waxed hot against Israel in the Old Testament, it was never poured out, at least not in the measure other passages in Scripture describe it. Even when His wrath was stirred and provoked, it was against those who sinned, committed idolatry, forsook God, mocked His messengers and despised His words.
Zephaniah 1:14-18, “The great day of the Lord is near; it is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the Lord is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out. 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, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers. I will bring distress upon men, because they have sinned against the Lord; Their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like refuse. 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.”
I wanted to include this entire passage of scripture, because it paints a vivid portrait of what the day of the Lord’s wrath is. Yes, the day God’s wrath is poured out upon the world will be a frightful day indeed, a day of trouble, distress, devastation and desolation, for all those who have sinned against the Lord. It is not from judgment, or persecution that God will shelter us, but from His wrath. Of the three God’s wrath is the only one reserved for the ungodly, and the sons of disobedience, and His children will suffer no part of it.
Throughout the New Testament whenever the wrath of God is mentioned it is within the context of the disobedient, or those who have rejected God.
Romans 1:18-19, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has show it to them.”
Now we come to the difficult part, the part that pertains exclusively to the children of God, that of sifting or the persecution of the saints. It is not a topic many are excited to talk about or expound upon, because the culture in which they were raised has excluded the possibility of persecution for them.
Every time I preach on persecution in America, I get more blank stares from the audience than any other topic, because they just can’t relate to the idea of persecution. I would most likely get the same blank stares if I were to go into a fully stocked supermarket and start talking about how we would stand in line for hours on end for such basics as oil, sugar and bread when I lived in Romania, with the very real possibility that they would run out before we got to the head of the line. Some things just don’t register yet, but they will with time.
Throughout the centuries we have seen the folly of living with the mentality of ‘it could never happen here, and if it did it would never happen to me.’ Things we thought would never happen in America are happening, and it would behoove us to remember that for two thousand years the followers of Christ have been persecuted throughout the world, and even now in many nations the selfsame persecution is raging. Why would we be spared when all others weren’t? If God judges without partiality what makes us special an exempt from that which countless brothers and sisters are even now enduring?
What we must acknowledge and accept, although it is difficult for some who have fashioned their own pseudo-gospel, is that the Word of God does not lie, and in it we are encouraged to live with the expectation of persecution. It does not speak of mere probability, or potential, but certainty.
2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
If one’s desire is not to live godly in Christ Jesus, but merely pretend when it is convenient for them, then they have nothing to worry about. Just as the pebble is moved along by the rushing river, so will Christians whose desire is not godliness be moved about, perpetually finding the path of least resistance, conflict, and sacrifice. The sad truth is that most would readily sacrifice more for their flesh than they would for their soul, and compromise their deepest held beliefs for the promise of an easy and hardship free life.
If however our desire is to live godly, then we must now and for the rest of our existence purpose in our hearts that we will not be moved, we will not be shaken, and we will not let go of Christ no matter the cost.
I believe the season of threshing has already begun within the house of God, and after the threshing comes the sifting. In order for God to do great and mighty works in and through the church during these end times, that the words of Christ might be fulfilled, He needs to first purge and purify the Bride that it might be that pure and spotless entity standing in stark contrast to the darkness of this present world.
In those days, the world will see your hope and hate you for it, they will see your steadfastness and despise you for it, they will see your protection and persecute you for it, but some will see the hand of God upon you, His light shining through you, and humble themselves falling at the foot of the cross in repentance.
God’s desire is not to spare us from being sifted! God’s desire is to mold our character, and strengthen our constitution, to grow our faith and mature us by way of sifting. Our perception of how God views us has much to do with whether or not we accept the idea of sifting as one that God not only endorses but employs frequently. While we tend to believe that God sees us as helpless, fledgling baby birds, who venture no further than the safety of the nest, God sees us as His ambassadors, as those who would be shining lights in a world of darkness, those who would stand for truth and confront the forces of darkness.
There is an exchange between Jesus and Peter in the gospel according to Luke that is very telling and sobering. Jesus forewarns Peter that Satan had asked for him that he might be sifted as wheat, but rather than say ‘I intervened, and it won’t happen’, Jesus says, ‘I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail!’
If Peter had any hope that he might be spared sifting, that somehow his faith would not be tested, it is at this moment that the illusion is shattered.
Luke 22:31-32, “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon, indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
This passage is a sobering reminder, that even the most mature of believers, even those who have been in ministry for decades, are not spared the sifting.
In conclusion, may we continually acknowledge that God’s judgments are just, His sifting no matter how violent is both purposeful and necessary, and His wrath against the sons of disobedience is long overdue.
Yes, God is love, God is mercy, God is grace, but He is also holy and righteous and just. We cannot divide His attributes and appropriate only the ones that suit us, or that appeal to our view of how we think God ought to be.
In His love, mercy and grace God sent His Son to die upon a cross for the sins of men, but in His holiness, righteousness and justice He will pour out His wrath upon those who rejected and despised the priceless sacrifice that was made on their behalf.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.