God's Wrath Here and Now
God's answer to a recent news article entitled
It has become increasingly fashionable for people, in and out of the church, to claim that certain acts and lifestyles are now acceptable, yet formerly actions that the church have biblically held to be sin. A common assertion these days, one that is hard for most to challenge, is that the Bible has merely been misinterpreted all along - that the passages which appear to speak against these things don't really condemn them after all. These professed linguistic and exegetical experts then, in effect, say "Who are you to challenge our pronouncements. Do you know how to translate Scriptures into English from their original languages?!"
For this reason, I have made an increasing effort to study and understand linguistic principles of the original languages and to understand the methodology by which they may be translated into English. Words have meaning and faithfully rendering that meaning is the goal of every legitimate translator. The church of today has the benefit of resources to aid in this that would make every earlier translator envious. We have the ability to examine other extant documents from the world and culture of those original languages, showing how words were commonly used in everyday meaning. We further can see how these words were understood and translated by the early church and then throughout church history unto this day. With assuredness we have a plethora of ancient manuscripts that show how accurately God's word, both Old Testament and New, has been faithfully transmitted to us. Can we know what God's word says and means? Without a doubt!
The following article is framed around my translation of a key passage of Scriptures. I took the time to do my own translation, utilizing the best scholarship and resources available, so as to verify the meaning of every word rendered here in English. I can now answer the critic, "yes, I have translated the original into English" and am assured that this is God's absolute judgment on these things. Not surprisingly, you can read this passage of Scriptures in a host of other currently available English translations and come to the exact same understanding. While the English renderings may vary some, the overall sense is synonymous - the meaning and intent has been faithfully conveyed. So read your Bible with full assurance and humbly accept what it says - to do otherwise is to do so to your own peril.
An exposition of Romans 1:18-2:8
Romans 1:18a The wrath of God is revealed from heaven... (BJM)
In a passage that many people try to overlook in Scriptures, and the world truly hates, Paul opens a section with an incredible statement: "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven..." He is not speaking of a future outpouring of God's wrath in judgment; rather he is stating that there is a present outpouring of God's wrath already underway. Paul's credentials are important here; he is a servant of God 1 and apostle of Jesus Christ 2, one who is sent by them 3. It was not by his will that he served in this capacity, it was by the will of God 4. It was God's will that Paul serve and suffer for the cause of Christ 5. If left to him, this apostle would have never chosen the life God give him. Paul's words cannot and must not be distanced from anything that would have been spoken by Jesus himself or if God spoke today from heaven. For all who arrogantly and boldly proclaim "Jesus never said this" or claim that God's love would accept otherwise, make note that Paul was speaking as an officially appointed spokesman for Jesus Christ and every word he proclaimed deserves to be accepted as if he was a royal ambassador on behalf of a great King 6. These are the words of God...
Romans 1:18-19 The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is plain to them; since God made it apparent to them. (BJM)
This wrath of God is presently revealed against "all" ungodliness and "all" unrighteousness of a specific group of people. These are those "who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness." This is not the believer who still stumbles and falls into sin, to be corrected and restored 7; rather it is the unrepentant sinner who finds their identity in their unrighteousness 8. These individuals incorrigibly embrace, justify, excuse, or attempt to explain away their unrighteous actions (small or great). They may even attempt to redefine them as something good, when God has called them wrong 9. Regardless, the result is that they suppress the truth, God's truth, by their words and by their actions, affecting their own lives and those around them. It is on this group of mankind that God's wrath is presently revealed.
Not everything can be known about God 10. This fact holds true whether a person is a believer or a non-believer. The believer, who has been given the Spirit of God, who has the word of God, knows far more about God than the unbeliever, but still this does not come close to knowing everything about God 11. God revealed enough of Himself for each group. For the believer, we have subsequently had enough revealed to know that we must turn to Him alone as Savior 12 plus everything we need to know for doing things that please our Lord 13. For the unbeliever, and even the believer prior to coming to faith, God has made something plain or apparent to everyone:
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible attributes - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made, so all of them are without excuse. (BJM)
God exists 14. Not a god or some impersonal force, but the one true God who actively created everything 15, and who continues to sustain everything 16 until the day when His called out ones (the church) is complete 17. God, who is invisible 18, because He is spirit 19, reveals Himself to us through His creation - something that He points out repeatedly throughout His word. The complex order and intricate design of creation 20, along with innate knowledge of good that He has incorporated into our very being 21, together with an insatiable curiosity about eternity 22, all point us to a Creator, an infinitely intelligent designer, the source of all good 23, who resides in eternity 24. Even the most debased human on this planet looks at a masterpiece work of art and inherently knows that it had to have a creator, an artist, behind it 25. The same is so plain in regards to creation that God calls all who dismiss His existence, in words or deeds, to be a "fool 26." Every human being that has ever lived, or will live, on this planet is without excuse for failing to recognize they have a Creator, a God. God planned it that He, the one true God, would be knowable.
Romans 1:21 For while each knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or express gratitude to Him, but they became perversely worthless in their thoughts and their foolish heart was unable to see the truth. (BJM)
The god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the truth 27. Even wherein they recognize God, whether or not they acknowledge His existence, they do not give Him glory as the only one true God 28, nor do they give thanks to Him for the good in their lives 29 or the blessings He pours out on all mankind 30, including life itself 31. Their thoughts are those of enemies of God 32, hostile to all God is and all He requires 33. They blame God for their sin and fail to recognize that God originally made everything good 34 and that it's through the actions of mankind that everything has been corrupted 35 and death has come 36. With corrupted minds and consciences, mankind can fall far 37.
Romans 1:22-23 Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image made to resemble corruptible mankind, and birds, and four-footed animals, and snakes. (BJM)
The ruse of substituting the creation for the Creator, claiming that it self-evolved from nothing, by nothing, for nothing (or that it has always existed, by nothing, for nothing) has become the lie du jour. It is perhaps the most detailed and elaborate idol that has ever been crafted by man 38, not only fashioned from the elements of this world, but actually encompassing all of them. Not surprisingly it leaves humankind at the pinnacle, the best self-created result of this professedly self-initiated and self-sustaining process. Idols, manmade gods, have always been an imitation of things in creation, applying created attributes to another object 39, functionally fashioning God in the image of man, or birds, or animals, and even snakes 40. And yet, God will not give up His glory to any idol 41 much less a fool 42.
For all their claims of wisdom and knowledge, the best mankind can offer, their so-called wisdom doesn't allow for God 43 and it will never succeed 44. This makes these educated people to be functioning fools because they live as those who deny the existence of God 45.
Romans 1:24-25 Therefore God delivered them over in the passionate desires of their own hearts to sexual impurity, to shamefully abuse their own bodies with each other - those who exchanged the truth about God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is eternally worthy of praise! Amen. (BJM)
The active judgement of God, here and now, is to abandon sinful people to their sinfulness and the consequences that accompany their actions. And yes, all sin has consequences 46. Like all spiritual dead people, they increasingly act on that identity. These are spiritually dead people thinking spiritually dead thoughts and performing actions in keeping with their spiritual and mental state 47. While any and all sin would suffice, God makes clear that sexual impurity is the pinnacle of this. It is this sin that He uses to characterize how sinful mankind has become. These individuals who embrace "the lie" that they are equal to God (or a substitute for God) end up debasing themselves in their own sins. And sexual sin is an abuse of one's own body 48, a vessel that was meant to either be pure in singleness or two joined together (male and female) who become one in marriage 49. In casting aside God they abandoned this first human relationship, which God established in the garden 50, a bond meant to illustrate throughout history the ultimate spiritual union - namely that of Christ and His bride, the church 51.
Worshipping and serving the creation, instead of God, is found in many forms. Whatever is put into first place, bowed down to in thought or deed, is the substitute god. This can be an object or a possession, it can be an idea or a fantasy (a self-created invisible god), and it can be one's self. Consider what consumes the majority of the finite resources of a person's thoughts, time, and finances and you'll likely find out whom or what they are worshipping and serving 52. When the quest for personal pleasure and happiness is the pinnacle of this, wherein people spend their time justifying their choices to sin, versus submission to our Creator, they reveal their exchange of the truth for "the lie" - they have replaced God with self 53.
The apostle makes clear that God's giving unrepentant sinners over to increasing sexual impurity is part of His present judgement on sin. This is more than sexual impurity of the mind 54, it is "with each other." This is sin that wants, and works, to involve others, and it finds willing participants among others who have likewise abandon God for self-gratification.
Roman 1:26-27 For this reason God delivered them over to disgraceful passions; for even their females exchanged the natural sexual function for that which is contrary to nature and men also quit having natural sexual functions with females and were consumed with intense passion for one another - men with men committing shameful acts and bringing about in themselves the deserved penalty of their perversion. (BJM)
This present day judgement comes with increasing penalty because of increasing depravity. It's not merely enough to sin, or enter into self-debasing sin of sexual immorality with others 55. Self-centered passions can take the participant even further in their fall from what God has said to be good. And while it is sin like any other, and sin against self as is all sexual sin, an example is now given that is said to be "contrary to nature" or against nature 56. That mankind would end up against nature is a natural outcome to abandoning the Creator. God, who created everything, engineered His creation to act and function in a particular manner. And though corrupted by sin, and now wearing out and in need of replacement 57, there are still things that God has defined as being natural - what He intended from the beginning 58.
This sin is singled out as an example of something that is not natural: men having sex with men or boys, and women having sexual relations with other females. Self-justifying practitioners of these sins, especially those who profess to be Christians, can try and discard or ignore warnings against such actions throughout the Old Testament and New, but this absolute statement cannot be dismissed. By the revelation of God, same sex relations are without exception "against nature," the very natural order established and defined by its Creator. To go against nature is to be against the Creator of that nature.
The apostle Paul knew well that what he was recording on behalf of God would be offensive to the culture the letter was initially bound for. The Roman Emperor himself was often the leading proponent or practitioner of sanctioned lies (to defeat and diminish opponents), of murder (to remove opposition), of marital unfaithfulness (with mistresses or concubines), of pederasty (what would include what would now be classed homosexual pedophilia), and of homosexual relationships in general. In calling people to repentance over these things, the apostles were distinctly counterculture, bringing on themselves scorn, public rejection, and even governmental abuse. And yet, even with threat of imprisonment, loss of possessions, or even their lives, they and those who came after them were willing (indeed compelled) to keep on speaking and living out the truth - often realizing the threatened consequences. While the increase and legal justification of such practices have reached unprecedented lows in our modern western world, there is still a need to faithfully echo God's distinct word about these things: they are against nature and the God of all nature.
With this increased perversion, external shamelessness, and passionate attachment to sin, comes "the deserved penalty of their perversion." They fall further and further under God's judgement here and now, reaping increasing penalties for their rebellion against God. While it can be far more, in the least, sin brings needless pain, shame, stress and often fear, plus godlessness itself comes with a loss of purpose and hope, making life meaningless 59 - it's no wonder that suicide has also become rampant in this day.
Romans 1:28-32 And even as they did not see fit to hold God in true knowledge, He gave them over to a worthlessly corrupted mind, to do things that are not proper. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, maliciousness of actions, covetousness, and depravity of thoughts. They are full of envy, murder, quarrelsome disputes, deceit, and malice. They are gossiping slanderers, defaming speakers, haters of the true God, insolent, arrogant and boastful. They are inventors of wickedness, disobedient to their parents, without true understanding, untrustworthy agreement-breakers, without natural love of family, and unmerciful. Though they know the decree of God, that those who do these things deserve death, they not only do the same but also wholeheartedly approve of those who practice them. (BJM)
When anyone is willing to abandon the true knowledge of God, it's an easy decline to fill your mind with delusions of who God is and what you think He would desire and then to live and act as if that God was real 60. The impropriety of the actions and words which flow from such a mind are myriad 61. Those ancient Roman emperors went far beyond merely abusing their power, as so many individuals in positions of authority seem want to do. They publicly proclaimed themselves to be God and they took upon themselves titles such as Kurios (Lord) and Soter (Savior). These self-made gods lived "the lie," even as today's corrupted minds live out the same sentiments in their embrace of debauchery and sin. And sin often gets redefined and renamed in an effort to make it palatable 62. When people or governments redefine words for their own purposes, ignoring the proper definition as established by God, to accept the new meaning is to reject the truth-giver Himself 63. And, for the record, hatred of the true God often comes through the lips and actions of people who profess to love and serve God. And yes they do love and worship that God, the God they have invented.
Sin is still sin, and the increase of all sin is part of the true God's present and ongoing judgement. This passage in Romans should never be misconstrued as a selective prosecution against homosexuality; it is an indictment of the entirety of unrepentant mankind for all sin. In contrast, the world labels things such as coveting, envy, slanderous gossip, and disobedience to parents, as being minor failings 64 and something to be expected. Though this nation may occasionally lament the outcome, it is now commonplace to elect untrustworthy agreement breakers as our leaders. At so many levels, sin is condoned and funded. Some acknowledge murder, lying, and child abuse, at least in some forms, as being more serious and worthy of judgement. But ultimately each and every one of these evils is now justified in some way 65. Consider examples common to our era and land; murder in the form of abortion and even euthanasia of the ill and elderly. Is not abortion the ultimate example of a mother being "without natural love of family," let alone that it is murder?
This is not about former liars, former murderers, former thieves or former homosexuals. No, in fact, believers who once may have been identified by those titles, no longer embrace them 66. They have been set free by Jesus Christ to no longer sin 67, and while they may still struggle to not sin 68, they have embraced Christ and turned from their former sins and identity 69. They are now saints saved by grace 70 longing for the day when they will sin no longer and have no desire to sin 71. Those God has saved from sin, each of which has come to recognize the sinfulness of sin 72 and how it's an affront to a Holy God 73, can never "approve of those who practice them."
Modern approval of wanton sinners is another significant sign of these corrupted minds under God's just judgment 74. A multitude who hold themselves, to one degree or another as being better than other lost sinners, by refusing to participate themselves, testify to their own true state of corruption by their tacit or vocal approval of those who practice their chosen wickedness 75. The heartedly spoken words "they have a right to live that way" are as much a sin against God as is anything else in Paul's representative list of sins in this passage (or other such lists 76).
Romans 2:1-4 For this reason you have no excuse, you of mankind who pass godless judgement on others, for in the same things that you judge, you condemn yourself; because you doing the judging habitually practice the same things. But we understand clearly that the judgement of God is according to truth against those who continue to practice such things. Do you think, O man, that when you judge those which do these things, and yet do the same things yourself, that you will be able to escape from God's judgement? Or do you hold in contempt the riches of His kindness and His restraint and patience, not knowing that the gracious kindness of God leads to repentance? (BJM)
For all the excuses and self-justifications uttered by those who have embraced "the lie," God says they have "no excuse." In their condemning some actions that have been revealed to be sin, while excusing others, they bring judgement on themselves. The deserved justice and condemnation for any sin awaits all those who habitually practice sin, regardless of which they embraced 77. All their protestations and invented justifications mean nothing, here and now, as they fall further under God's wrath and they will likewise mean nothing on the final day of God's wrath 78.
We understand that God's kindness and restraint and patience 79, in not executing final judgment right away, is with purpose. While He had, and has, the right to judge at any time, including the present, His delay is to redeem for Himself a people of His own, eager to do what is good 80. All those who continue to embrace and revel in wickedness, any or all wickedness, display their contempt for God's kindness. And when the day of final judgement comes, it will be according to truth, God's truth, not the lies and deceptions that fuel this ongoing rebellion 81.
Romans 2:5-8 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart, you are amassing for yourself wrath in the day of God's wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God - who "will reward everyone according to their works." To those who steadfastly persevere in good works, seeking glory and honor and incorruptibility, He will give eternal life; but for those who selfishly put themselves first and do not obey the truth, but are convinced to follow unrighteousness, He will give wrathful punishment and fierce anger. (BJM)
Self-justification of sin, redefining wickedness, ascribing human folly to God or claiming the He approves of the depravity of their deeds, are all symptoms of a stubborn and unrepentant heart 82. The issue has never been that someone holds to anything evil, by choice or by nature, it's whether or not they with turn in faith to Jesus Christ 83 and find repentance and a new start 84. Not only does God then no longer count their sins against them, but God can and will transform any sinner He saves, to the point of renewing their minds and way of thinking 85. Staying in and embracing sin is proof of their unrepentant depravity, actions that will continue to store up wrath for them in God's final judgement 86. For the believer (each given eternal life by God), persevering in good works doesn't mean being perfectly good, it means we now struggle to do right solely because of Who we love and want to please. We desire to put God first and submit ourselves to Him 87. Those who put themselves first and refuse to submit to God 88, ignoring and disobeying His truth, have earned God's just punishment and will be at the receiving end of His wrath and fierce anger at the end 89.
Revelation 21:6-8 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life as an undeserved gift. Each who is victorious over the world will inherit these new things, and I will be their God and they each will be My son. But each that is cowardly under persecution and without faith and abhorrently stink of sin and commit murder and are sexually immoral and perform magic spells and are worshippers of idols and every liar - their part in this will remain in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." (BJM)
The Book of Revelation clearly identifies and describes the final outpouring of God's wrath. While God can and does pour out His wrath here and now, the present is only temporary. In the end of this fallen world, when God remakes it for eternity, He makes clear that there are only two groups and only two eternal destinations. Literally, you're either in or you're out...
Revelation 22:14-15 "Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and they may enter through the gates into the holy city. Outside of the city are homosexuals* and those who perform magic spells and the sexually immoral and everyone who loves and practices lying." (BJM)
For the believer who hungers and thirsts for the righteousness of God, there is eternal life in the Holy City as part of the New Heavens and Earth, the home of righteousness 90 - a place where sin will be no more. In great contrast, every unredeemed and unrepentant being, and even death itself, will be thrown into the lake of fire for eternity 91. Everyone outside of the Holy City will end up in that place of torment - this is the never ending second death for the lost.
Because God has made it clear that all those who cling to their sin will suffer eternal judgement, whether to those embracing magic spells, lying, sexual immorality or homosexuality, we must speak the truth in love 92. It doesn't matter if the world calls our warnings "hate speech," "fear," or "intolerance;" we know the truth 93 and must proclaim that truth because only Divine truth will set anyone free 94. These scriptures are God's truth directly from His word. If you don't like the message take it up with the One who had it written 95.
End Notes and Scripture References
Please feel free to use my translation of these passages, as long as you provide suitable acknowledgement, such as "Translation by Brent J. MacDonald, Discipleship Training Institute/Lion Tracks Ministries, © 2015" and add the simple designator "(BJM)" immediately following any verse or passage citations (as I did in this article). I have placed textually implied words in italics. For ease of use, the entire passage from Romans has been supplied at the conclusion of this document.
* Literally "dogs" in the Greek - a figure of speech or dysphemism for "homosexuals," an allusion to Deuteronomy 23:18. Some hold this to merely be a metaphorical reference to "immoral persons" as used in Philippians 3:2, yet John's practice is to commonly and repeatedly utilize allusions to Old Testament passages.
Scriptures citied, in whole or in part, or alluded to, in this article:
1. e.g. Romans 1:1; Titus 1:1
76. e.g. 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-11 - Some translators, such as the early NIV (corrected in the NIV2011), weaken verse 10 in this Timothy passage by using a more generic "adulterers and perverts." In reality, Paul went out of his way to emphasize "sexual immoral and homosexuals," coining a compound word to clearly define the latter, used here and in 1 Corinthians 6:9. In Greek: "arsenokoites," comprised of the two words: "arsen" and "koite," meaning "male" and "bed" - in other words a man who lies in bed with another male for sexual purposes. Paul did not create this word in vacuum. As an educated Jew writing to Gentiles in Greek, commonly employed the Greek translation of the Old Testament available in that day, the Septuagint (LXX), for his Scripture quotations, he utilized two words juxtaposed within very specific Old Testament passages. Both Leviticus18:22 and 20:13 forbid a man lying with another man as one would with a woman; the Greek translation condemns a man "arseno" lying with "koite" another man "arseno." For these he created his neologism, or new compound word, that would reference the same. He then uses it here and in 1 Corinthians to condemn what was originally condemned in Leviticus. After the apostles, the earliest uses of this compound word outside of Scriptures continue to show that it was clearly understood in this sexual context.
In the Corinthian passage, Paul actual uses four words to emphasize sexual sin: "pornos," "moichos," "malakos," and the aforementioned "aresenokoites." The first represents anyone who would enter into a sexual relationship, outside of marriage, for gain [literally selling themselves, whether for money or other perceived benefit]. It was commonly used to represent all sexual immorality as there was perceived benefit or gain in all sexual acts outside of marriage, not just monetarily. The second term is of those who commit adultery, violating a marital bond. The third and fourth terms were related: In the third it references the weaker or more effeminate person who passively engages in homosexual behavior. The fourth term, as mentioned in regards to 1 Timothy, can be used in respect to any homosexual, yet here, in the context of these two associated terms, it represents the more active role in the homosexual act. Simply put, Paul encompassed all sexual actions outside of marriage as defined by God in the garden, heterosexual and homosexual. For those that try and dismiss the meaning of many of these words, they are left with the clear description and condemnation of these acts in Romans chapter 1.
77. James 2:10-11
The Bible Text from Romans
Romans 1:18-2:8 The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is plain to them; since God made it apparent to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible attributes - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made, so all of them are without excuse.
For while each knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or express gratitude to Him, but they became perversely worthless in their thoughts and their foolish heart was unable to see the truth. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image made to resemble corruptible mankind, and birds, and four-footed animals, and snakes.
Therefore God delivered them over in the passionate desires of their own hearts to sexual impurity, to shamefully abuse their own bodies with each other - those who exchanged the truth about God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is eternally worthy of praise! Amen.
For this reason God delivered them over to disgraceful passions; for even their females exchanged the natural sexual function for that which is contrary to nature and men also quit having natural sexual functions with females and were consumed with intense passion for one another - men with men committing shameful acts and bringing about in themselves the deserved penalty of their perversion.
And even as they did not see fit to hold God in true knowledge, He gave them over to a worthlessly corrupted mind, to do things that are not proper. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, maliciousness of actions, covetousness, and depravity of thoughts. They are full of envy, murder, quarrelsome disputes, deceit, and malice. They are gossiping slanderers, defaming speakers, haters of the true God, insolent, arrogant and boastful. They are inventors of wickedness, disobedient to their parents, without true understanding, untrustworthy agreement-breakers, without natural love of family, and unmerciful. Though they know the decree of God, that those who do these things deserve death, they not only do the same but also wholeheartedly approve of those who practice them.
For this reason you have no excuse, you of mankind who pass godless judgement on others, for in the same things that you judge, you condemn yourself; because you doing the judging habitually practice the same things. But we understand clearly that the judgement of God is according to truth against those who continue to practice such things. Do you think, O man, that when you judge those which do these things, and yet do the same things yourself, that you will be able to escape from God's judgement? Or do you hold in contempt the riches of His kindness and His restraint and patience, not knowing that the gracious kindness of God leads to repentance?
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart, you are
amassing for yourself wrath in the day of God's wrath and
revelation of the righteous judgement of God - who "will reward
everyone according to their works." To those who
steadfastly persevere in good works, seeking glory and honor and
incorruptibility, He will give eternal life; but for those who
selfishly put themselves first and do not obey the truth, but are
convinced to follow unrighteousness, He will give wrathful
punishment and fierce anger. (BJM)
Article by Brent
J. MacDonald, (c)