’s wrath is rendered from heaven. Despite Satan’s present power as prince of the air and of this world, the earth is ultimately dominated by heaven, the throne of God, from which His wrath is constantly and dynamically manifested in the world of men.
Paul frequently speaks about the wrath, indicating a specific time or type of wrath. Although the NASB rendering does not indicate it, there is a definite article before wrath in Romans 3:5, which should read, “who inflicts the wrath.” In chapter 5 he speaks of our being “saved from the wrath of God through” Christ (v. 9), in chapter 12 of our leaving “room for the wrath of God” (v. 19), and in chapter 13 of believers being in subjection to God “not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake” (v. 5). In his letter to Thessalonica he assures believers that Jesus delivers them “from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10).
Heaven reveals God’s wrath in two ways, through His moral order and through His personal intervention. When God made the world, He built in certain moral as well as physical laws that have since governed its operation. Just as a person falls to the ground when he jumps from a high building, so does he fall into God’s judgment when he deviates from God’s moral law That is built-in wrath. When a person sins, there is a built-in consequence that inexorably works. In this sense God is not specifically intervening, but is letting the law of moral cause and effect work.
The second way in which God reveals His wrath is through His direct and personal intervention. He is not an impersonal cosmic force that set the universe in motion to run its own course. God’s wrath is executed exactly according to His divine will.
Several Hebrew words which convey a highly personal character are used in the Old Testament
to describe God’s anger. Ḥārâ is used ninety-one times. It refers to becoming heated, to burning with fury, and is frequently used of God (see, e.g., Gen. 18:30). Ḥārôn is used forty-one times. It refers exclusively to divine anger and means “a burning, fierce wrath” (see, e.g., Ex. 15:7). Qâtsaph, which means bitter, is used thirty-four times, most of which refer to God (see, e.g., Deut. 1:34). The fourth term for wrath is Ḥemâh, which also refers to a venom or poison, is frequently associated with jealousy and is used most often of God (see, e.g., 2 Kings 22:13). David declared that “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day” (Ps. 7:11). “Indignation” translates zā˒am, which means to foam at the mouth, and is used over twenty times in the Old Testament, often of God’s wrath.
Whether the cause and effect wrath or the personal fury of God is meted out, the wrath originates in heaven.
God’s wrath is universal, being discharged against all who deserve it. No amount of goodwill, giving to the poor, helpfulness to others, or even service to God can exclude a person from the all Paul mentions here. As he later explains more explicitly, “both Jews and Greeks are all under sin, … all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:9, 23). Obviously, some people are morally better than others, but even the most moral and upright person falls far short of God’s standard of perfect righteousness. No one escapes.
Men are judged and sent to hell not because they do not live up to the light evidenced in the universe but because ultimately that rejection leads them to reject Jesus Christ
. The Holy Spirit
“will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment,” Jesus said; “concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me” (John 16:8–9). But if a person lives up to the light of the revelation he has, God will provide for his hearing the gospel by some means or another. In His sovereign, predetermined grace He reaches out to sinful mankind. “As I live!” declared the Lord through Ezekiel, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezek. 33:11). God does not desire “for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). He will give His elect the privilege of hearing the gospel and will bring them to Himself. “You will seek Me and find me,” the Lord promised through Jeremiah, “when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).
MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (p. 81). Chicago: Moody Press.