Revive Our Hearts Podcast

You Don’t Have to Fear God’s Wrath

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says, when you read Old Testament passages on God's wrath, you don't have to fear.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: To be a saved child of God is not something to take for granted. It's amazing! Were it not for His mercy drawing our hearts, we would be among His enemies who are going to be destroyed by the wrath of God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Brokenness, for Monday, August 6, 2018.

Nancy's beginning a series called "A Cry for Revival." Let's listen.

Nancy: One of our staff prepares for me each week a briefing which is a document that is a compilation of news and articles about current events—about issues, about culture. I find myself these days glancing through those documents and reading things that most of us would not have dreamed possible just a few years ago. 

I read about the way that pagan ideas and anti-God ways of thinking are no longer "fringe," but they're gaining traction; they're taking hold; they're being widely embraced—sometimes even within the church—the influx of immorality, the erosion of basic standards of decency. I just keep saying, "This is craziness. Craziness!"

And it can be disheartening. You just sometimes get to where you think, I can't take any more news. I can't take any more current events. Just turn it off. As if we turn it off, maybe it won't be happening. Well, it still is happening!

I find it's really important at times to step back, turn off the news and keep our minds and our hearts tethered to God's Word, because in the Scripture is where we're given a realistic sense of where we are.

Scripture doesn't just say that stuff doesn't exist. It's not an escape from reality. Scripture takes us into the teeth of reality. It gives us a realistic sense of where we are, how we got here, and where we're headed . . . where this is all going to end up.

If I didn't have that frame of reference day after day—whether it's issues in my own personal life or issues in the world—I would get sad and discouraged and frustrated all the time.

The book of Isaiah does this for me in a special way, in terms of lifting up my eyes, encouraging my heart, strengthening my vision. The prophet deals head-on with current spiritual and moral issues among the people of God and the surrounding nations. So it's very real, it's very raw, it's very graphic at points.

He sees beyond the immediate trouble, the immediate craziness, to the coming of Messiah to earth. Then he looks beyond that—the sacrificial work of Messiah on our behalf—to the ultimate triumph of Christ over evil and the consummation of God's great eternal plan for this world—the establishing of a new earth, where God reigns and rules forever, and He dwells with His people, and His people live with Him, and they all live happily ever after.

Now, you have these different points of view in juxtaposition, weaving in and out through the book of Isaiah. Sometimes it's talking about what's going on right now; sometimes it's talking about the suffering servant of the Lord, and sometimes it's the conquering king. Sometimes the verses go back and in and out, and you're not sure which they're talking about. So I love pondering the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah is a long book, especially in this latter part of the book. You see this very encouraging, long view of where things are going to end up, and you keep reminding yourself, "The best is yet to come! Heaven rules! The King is coming to take over!"

Over the next several days, I want to take a look at two chapters toward the end of Isaiah's prophecy, Isaiah chapters 63 and 64. We're jumping into the middle of a long section in this book, and I'm not going to take a lot of time to give context for where these chapters fit in. 

I've just given you the broad view. Sometimes it's addressing things that are happening right now, sometimes it's looking ahead at the coming of Messiah to earth, and sometimes it's looking at the grand, big picture of the new heaven and the new earth.

That whole continuum, that whole spectrum, is what Isaiah has in mind. At times, Isaiah probably didn't know which he was talking about. And certainly his listeners (in that day) sometimes didn't know.

In the New Testament era, when they would remember the words of the prophet Isaiah, they could sometimes get confused: "Is the Messiah going to be like this? Is He going to be like this?" Because there were different levels and layers of prophecy to be fulfilled.

But the further we get away from that and the closer we get to the end of all time, the more clear things become as to what God is about. I want us to just be taking a look at that over the next few days, in these two chapters.

And, I want to encourage you over this week to be reading Isaiah 63 and 64. Read it over and over and over again. Don't just listen to me talk about it. Open your own Bible (or, turn on your own Bible; click on your own Bible; however you do it). Be reading it yourself.

These are not real familiar passages, and I want you to get familiar with them. I believe it will encourage your heart, and I believe it will give you direction for how to live, how to function, how to respond in "such a time as this."

We're going to consider what these chapters said to the people in Isaiah's day, and what they say to us in our day, and what our response should be in light of God's Word.

Today we're looking at Isaiah 63, verses 1–6. This is a prophetic vision that God gives Isaiah of the Lord's vengeance against His enemies. So I'm dropping down in a hard place in the book. I realize there are passages that we love in Isaiah (like, "Unto us a child is born"), and those are more familiar passages.

This one you probably haven't read recently. It's a passage, not of hope (on first reading), but of terror, of vengeance of the Lord against His enemies. In this passage, in these six verses, there are two questions asked and there are two answers given.

The first question is as if it's from a watchman on the city wall, who sees someone approaching the city. So, he asks in verse 1,

Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength?

So, this is the question. There's someone coming, there's someone marching, there's someone who's splendid, there's someone who's great and strong, and his garments are red. And he's coming from the direction of Edom. Who is this?

Edom was a nation to the southeast of Judah. Bozrah, at one time, was the capital city of Edom. Just knowing that (and you can find that in a commentary or a Bible dictionary) helps you understand this passage a little better.

The term "bozrah" actually means "grape gathering." That's going to be significant, because we're going to be talking about wine presses and grape gathering in this passage.

Do you remember that the Edomites were the descendants of Jacob's twin brother, Esau? And—long story, short—Edom and the Israelites had always been at odds with each other . . . kind of like brothers. There was a long-time animosity and hostility between the two.

Edom in the Scripture is a type of the world that hates God. Edom represents everything that opposes the kingdom and the work of God. So the prophet sees a mighty warrior who is at work. He's on the move, he's marching, he's majestic, he's splendid, he's powerful, and he's seen coming from a battle.

This is a triumphant, conquering king. He's not coming with his head hanging down; this is not a defeated king. This is a king who has overcome his enemies. And though he's been through this great battle, he's not the least worn out. He's not depleted; he is still strong; he is still powerful

We realize as we get into this passage that we are seeing a Messianic vision—a picture of Christ, the Messiah, the Servant of the Lord, the Son of the almighty, living God—who is victorious over all His enemies.

So, the question is asked, "Who is this who's coming from Edom, this mighty warrior with crimson garments?" The answer, continuing in verse 1: "It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save." The Messiah answers. He identifies Himself and tells who He is.

Now, everything He says and does is righteous. "It is I! I am . . ." It reminds you of those "I AM" verses in the New Testament. "It is I, speaking in righteousness, and able and mighty to save." Here is one who is able to save. He has the power to save. But, as we'll see in this passage, if His law is spurned and His love and His mercy are rejected, then He will judge.

The same one who saves, judges. He is mighty to save, but he is also mighty to judge and to take vengeance on the enemies of God.

So there's another question in verse 2: "Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?" Now, what in the world is that all about? Well, if you were to go through Palestine in those days, you would see winepresses dotting the landscape everywhere.

When the grape harvest was ripe, they would gather the grapes, throw them into these great big winepresses and then the young men would step inside and tread the grapes, getting the juice out of the grapes with their bare feet.

And that red juice of all those mounds of grapes would splatter all over their bodies and their clothes. So, the question is asked, "Why is your garment crimson (red), and your garments like somebody who has been treading the winepress? Why do you look like you've got red stains all over your garment?"

The answer is in verse 3. The mighty, conquering King—the Messiah—says, "I have trodden the winepress." So, he sticks with that image. Now, the treading of the winepress of the wrath of God in Scripture is always a picture of divine judgment. It refers, in particular, to the final judgment of God at the end of the age.

Eleven Old Testament prophets speak of this final judgment of God in various ways. It's that time when the enemies of God, the wicked, rebels against God's love and mercy, are swallowed up and buried forever.

And then, when you get to the book of Revelation, you see this same image being prominent. Let me read you Revelation 14:19, "So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God." The final judgment is likened to the treading of the grapes in the winepress.

And then, in Revelation 19:13, you see this same idea regarding the battle of Armageddon: "He [this is Christ, the Messiah] is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God."

Verse 15: "From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty." Now, there is a distinction between this Revelation 19 passage and the passage we're looking at in Isaiah 63.

In both cases, His garment is red. In both cases, it's covered with blood; but in Revelation 19, His robe is covered in His own blood, that was shed on the cross to purchase forgiveness of sin. In Isaiah 63, His garment is covered with the blood of His enemies. In both cases, He is victorious; He is the Savior; He is the conquering One.

And so He says (in Isaiah 63:3), "I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me." The Lord Jesus, we're told in Scripture, judges the nations by His own power, without any assistance or human help.

He does not need a coalition of armies to get Him out of trouble, or to help Him overcome the enemies of God. John 5 tells us that the Father has committed all judgment to the Son. He does this singlehandedly!

Now, Revelation talks about troops that come around behind Him—the armies of heaven—but Jesus doesn't need those armies. He can win this victory, and He does, with His own strength. "From the peoples no one was with me; I did this alone."

Listen, the judgment and vengeance on the world and on evildoers is not our job! It's His job, and He can do it, and He will, in His time. If it were up to us, I think we'd do it a lot sooner. But He's so patient. He's waiting to tread this winepress of the wrath of God the Almighty, until all people have been given a chance to hear and to believe and to repent of their sins.

When that is said and done, then He will tread the winepress. We would say, "Let's just do it now and get on with getting to heaven." Right?

He says, "No. Wait." It's not our job. Just as He has accomplished the work of redemption on His own, without any human help, it is not our job to save souls (our souls or anybody else's).

And it's not our ability or our longing after God that saves us, but His solo work of redemption. And so, you see this "alone" concept that comes through this passage. It will come back up again in verse 5.

He says, "I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. For the day of vengeance was in my heart." Now, a lot of people don't like the idea of a Jesus who has vengeance in His heart . . . a Jesus who conquers . . . a Jesus who is angry . . . who is filled with wrath at points . . . who overcomes the enemies of God.

But the next phrase helps us stand back and fill out the picture: "For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come" (v. 4).

There's a day of vengeance against God's enemies, yet to come. But it coincides with a year of redemption for His people. And throughout the Scripture, you'll see that judgment is always juxtaposed against salvation. Salvation isn't precious if there's no judgment that you've been rescued from.

The judgment of God would not be fair if He had not offered His salvation. So you see judgment and salvation as twin parallel themes that run all through the Scripture. If you were to look at the little, tiny handwritten notes in my Bible, many times you would see, "judgment/salvation." They invariably go together.

So you have the Egyptians who were drowned in the sea, the enemies of God, while the Israelites escaped safely on dry ground—judgment/salvation. Now, God does not delight in executing judgment or vengeance.

Scripture tells us that God delights in showing mercy, but He will not force anyone to receive His mercy. Those who refuse His mercy are objects of His wrath. And God executes judgment so that He can do what He delights in doing, which is vindicating and redeeming His own people—those He loves, and those who love Him.

Now notice (and I think this is so precious), that there's a day of vengeance, but there's a year of redemption. Those are not intended to be literal time periods; they just indicate that there's a time for judgment, and there's a time for redemption. It gives us a sense of the fact that if vengeance is in Christ's heart, then redemption and grace are even more on His heart.

Verse 5 says,

I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me. I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath; and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.

When Jesus came to this earth the first time, He came as a small baby—a powerless, humble, weak infant. He grew up to be a man, and He offered Himself up and shed His own blood as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

But then, at the appointed day of judgment, when Christ returns to this earth . . . In the battle of Armageddon He will come in great majesty and power and strength to take vengeance on all who have rebelled against His holy Father—those who have set themselves against Him and who have refused His salvation; those who refused the shedding of His blood on their behalf. Now their blood will be shed. They will not survive the wrath of the Lamb.

The wrath, the anger, of the Lamb is just. It is righteous. He has offered salvation, and He has been spurned and rebelled against time after time after time. And so there's comes the day (we don't talk about this a lot in our Christian circles; I think we need to talk about it more. We don't need to talk about the grace and the mercy of Christ less, but we need to talk more about the wrath and the judgment of God, that makes His mercy and His grace so precious) when there is the ultimate, utter destruction of all the enemies of God—those who oppose God, those who oppose His people.

He judges even nations for their rebellion against Him, and for their treatment of His people. And in so doing, in that day of vengeance, He ushers in the year of redemption, where he brings relief and salvation to His own people.

So there's a two-fold message in this paragraph (that you probably haven't heard a sermon on anytime recently). There's a message to sinners, and there's a message to saints. To sinners who have not come to that cleansing flood of the blood of Jesus, the message is, "Repent and believe the gospel. Surrender to King Jesus, this mighty conquering warrior while there is still time, while there is still opportunity, because the day of grace will pass, and you will experience the day of vengeance, the day of the wrath of the Lamb, where you will be thrown into that great winepress, and He will trample the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. That's a serious thing to face, and you don't have to face it. Repent and believe the gospel!"

And then, what's the message for saints? Let me suggest two things: first of all, rejoice in His mercy and His grace that has saved you and has spared you from the wrath to come! This is no small thing. To be a saved child of God is not something to take for granted. It's amazing!

Were it not for His mercy drawing our hearts, we would be among His enemies who are going to be thrown into those winepresses and destroyed by the wrath of God. And we escaped the wrath of God—not because we were any better, any more holy, any more spiritual, any more good, any more wise than anyone else. We deserved the wrath of God, just like any other sinner in this world who has ever lived.

But God, who is rich in mercy said, "I will save you!" and He gave us repentance, and He gave us faith. He put those things in our hearts. We ought to rejoice in that and not take it for granted.

And then, secondly, while there's time, we need to proclaim the gospel to His enemies—call them to repent, to believe, to flee from the wrath of God. As you read the descriptions in Scripture, of eternal torment, they are chilling! They are real; they are true.

It's not too late to escape the wrath of God, but one day it will be. So while there's time, we call the people and we say, "Repent! Believe the gospel of Christ and be saved!"

"The Battle Hymn of the Republic" is a popular American patriotic anthem. It was written in 1861 during our Civil War by a woman named Julia Howe after she visited a Union Army camp. This anthem has been sung at funerals of statesmen and presidents over the years.

As you look at the words, it really speaks of the ultimate judgment of the wicked at the end of time. Let me read just two of the stanzas:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord ["who is this who comes from Edom? His garments red . . ."];
He is trampling out the vintage [original lyrics: "He is trampling out the winepress"] where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword; 
His truth is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His Judgment Seat.
Oh! Be swift, my soul, to answer Him, be jubilant, my feet!
Our God
[our Savior, our Christ!] is marching on.

So the Scripture says, in Jeremiah 25:30–31:

The Lord will roar from on high, and from his holy habitation utter his voice; he will roar mightily against his fold, and shout, like those who tread grapes against all the inhabitants of the earth. The clamor will resound to the ends of the earth, for the Lord has an indictment against the nations; he is entering into judgment with all flesh, and the wicked he will put to the sword, declares the Lord.

Then we come to the New Covenant and we see that terrible day of vengeance set alongside this amazing year of redemption, in 2 Thessalonians 1:6–10:

God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief [salvation] to you who are afflicted . . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.

Yes, there is a day of vengeance, but now is the day to flee from the wrath of God, to repent, to believe, and to be ready for that day—that year—of great redemption.

Leslie: That's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth telling you amazing good news. You don't have to come under the judgment of God because Jesus took the wrath we deserved. If you've never come to faith in Jesus before, asking Him to forgive your sin and to make you new, would you contact us?

We'd like to send you some free material about what it means to truly be right with God and know His mercy. Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy's been showing us how Isaiah’s time is much like our own. We too are surrounded by people who are confused, in pain, and aimlessly searching for answers. The answer then is the same for us now: Jesus. His truth is timeless and sets free those in bondage.

Women everywhere long to experience this freedom of walking in truth. That’s why we’ve decided to spend an entire weekend addressing the truth that sets us free at True Woman ’18 on September 27–29. Now, the conference is already sold out, but if you missed out, there’s still good news! You can participate in True Woman ’18 LIVE on September 27–29. The hosted livestream will be available in both English and Spanish and there’s no cost to register.

Speakers such as Jackie Hill Perry, Dannah Gresh, and Mary Kassian will be joining Nancy on stage. You’ll also get a chance to enjoy several engaging dramas presented by Acts of Renewal as well as the music of Keith and Kristyn Getty. So gather your friends together in your home, or book a larger venue and invite women from your church or community to join you.

You can sign up and get all the details for this hosted livestream at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow, we'll return to the book of Isaiah. In the middle of all the difficult judgment we read about there, we’ll discover the amazing grace and mercy of the Lord. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts. Here's Nancy again, back with us to pray.

Nancy: Thank You, Lord, that You give us passages like this one that are a little hard to grasp. We look at them, and we ponder them, and we see some glorious things about Yourself and Your ways, and our hearts are made glad.

So, for saints and for sinners alike, under the hearing of these words, I pray for those who have not believed, today would be a day of salvation. Maybe some have been listening to this program for years, but they've never waved the white flag of surrender and said, "Yes, Lord!" Give faith, give repentance!

And for those who are called by Your name, I pray that You will help us to lift our eyes up, for our redemption draws nigh. And to be in this age of grace doing what You're doing—and that's calling sinners to repent and believe the gospel, anticipating with great joy our year, our eternal year, of redemption.

We pray it in the name of our Lord Jesus, the One who shed His blood for us, that ours might never have to be shed! I pray in His name, amen!

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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