Jesus Who Delivers Us From the Wrath to Come
Christians talk about being “saved” a lot. But let me ask you today: what are we saved from?
“Saved from sin.” “Saved from death.” “Saved from hell.”
But let’s ask this: why are death and hell the wages for our sin? Why did we need to be saved from them?
The answer is God. God decided that the wages of sin would be death. And when we zoom out to the big picture, we see that what we ultimately need to be saved from is God’s wrath.
It’s surprising we don’t talk about this more, given how often the Bible does. Just consider these passages, all from the New Testament.
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7).
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).
“He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:6–8).
“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9).
“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5–6).
“…Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
This is all over the Bible, and it explains why Jesus had to die to save us. This picture that comes into clarity beginning with the first Passover.
“For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12–13).
If you were among Israel, you’d hear that with a gulp, because you were guilty of worshipping the idols of Egypt, too, just like Ezekiel 20:18 says.
And the only way your firstborn son was allowed to live another day because that lamb died in his place. The blood on the door was a sign that justice had already been dealt out on this house. A death had occurred. Divine wrath had been satisfied.
And that was the message all throughout the Old Covenant period: we deserve God’s wrath because of our sin, and if we were going to be saved, something else must bear that wrath in their place. That’s why the temple was a never-ending bloodbath, with every drop of blood shouting: “This is what you deserve, but this animal is taking it for you.”
And so when John the Baptist showed up and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), he was saying one thing. Lambs take away sin by dying in your place. By bearing divine wrath instead of us.
Isn’t that what Isaiah 53, which we read earlier, is all about?
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4–6).
Who killed Jesus? Whose plan was it, ultimately? Verse 10: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief…” (Isaiah 53:10).
This very same picture emerges in Matthew 27, which we also read earlier. “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45). “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:50–51).
Darkness, the earth shaking: these are images associated with judgement and God’s wrath in the Old Testament. They confirm for us that in those moments on the cross, as Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, He was bearing the wrath of the Father in our place.
“There on the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.”
So why does is it really important that we understand this? I suggest three reasons.
First, this matters because it brings Good Friday into focus. Jesus was not just dying any old hero’s death. He was dying a sacrificial death, laying down His life to absorb the wrath of God in our place. We should be awestruck as we consider the wrath of God laid on the shoulders of Christ the son.
Second, it matters because it brings your life into focus. Why do we so often get discouraged and anxious? Isn’t it because we all think we’re pretty good and deserve so much better than God gives us?
Remember what you deserve. Look to the cross of Jesus and see God’s wrath on display and remember that you deserved His place.
Consider these words by Thomas Kelly:
Tell me ye who hear him groaning
Was there ever grief like his?
Friends through fear, his caused disowning
Foes insulting his distress
Many hands were raised to wound Him
None would enter posed to save
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that justice gave
Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly
Here its guilt may estimate
Mark the sacrifice appointed
See who bears the awful load
Tis the Word, the Lord's Anointed
Son of Man and of Son of God
Remember what Christ bore in your place. Be amazed at what that can do to your attitude. The next time someone asks you how you’re doing, try saying “better than I deserve,” because that is way more true than you’ll ever know.
Finally, this matters because it brings Jesus into focus. Jesus is worthy of so much worship because of how great His burden was that day.
“And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.' Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!'” (Revelation 5:9–12).
And so now we’re going to celebrate the Lord’s supper together. We’re going to remember how Christ died in our place to bear God’s wrath instead of us.
That’s what we mean when we say that Jesus died for us. He died instead of us. Nothing is more important than knowing and remembering this, today and always.