Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.
2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
4 Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
5 After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, 6 and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. 7 And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, 8 and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. –Revelation 15:1-8 [ESV]
The common idea of the wrath of God has to do with people being blasted by an angry God who desires to destroy, hurt, and otherwise wreak havoc on people who do not behave properly. The wrath of God, by that definition, would be appropriate for us all – except perhaps people like Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, and maybe the Apostle John (the disciple Jesus loved). But even John, the beloved disciple had his issues. He and his brother James were called sons of thunder because of their haste to call down fire from heaven on some Samaritans who refused hospitality to Jesus and his disciples.
Jesus had a very different approach to this which actually gets at the realities of God’s wrath. He merely went on to another city. He had a message to deliver and a mission to accomplish. He would take the fullness of God’s wrath upon himself so that we do not have to bear it.
One online resource speaks of God’s wrath this way:
God’s wrath is not a reckless rage, an uncontrollable anger, a senseless fury, or an unjust vengeance. The wrath of God is a precise and controlled response to the belittling of his holiness. Everyone who perishes under the wrath of God in eternity will not be because God lost his temper with them and mistreated them. (G3 Ministries)
The author of a Concordia Theological Monthly journal article refuses to disconnect a discussion of God’s wrath from his grace. It says that the founding fathers of the Lutheran church recognized that
the wrath of God was a great reality about which they had not merely read in books, but the withering blasts of which they had felt in their own hearts. Likewise the grace of God was to them not a mere titulus, but a boon which had come to them like the dawn of a bright morning after a night of harrowing gloom and destructive storms.
Yet there is a judgment day. There will be an accounting. Those who wish to find comfort in Jesus’ mercy and grace will experience that boon of deliverance. Those who refuse his grace will be left totally to their own devices. It will not be pretty for them. There will be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.
While we wait, God shows his wrath by taking his hands off those who do not believe. And in their unbelief they go farther and farther down the road to perdition (cf. Romans 1:18-32). But God’s hands-off approach is not entirely wrathful. For he is also waiting patiently so that some will repent and not perish (2 Peter 3:9). This is his greatest desire. This is his will: our eternal salvation and perfect joy. And until the end of all time there is hope. But that time will one day come to an end. His wrath will end. And his own will enjoy heavenly bliss forever.