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The Difference Between Judgment and Wrath

The timing of the return of Jesus Christ is a much-debated theme among Christians today. As I stated in yesterday’s blog, I have always held to a pre-tribulation view of this event. I think the Biblical evidence supports this view better than the other views. However, as I stated yesterday it’s not up to me or you to determine when He will return. The scripture teaches it will be up to the Father when He brings Jesus back to earth. As I have spoken to other Christian leaders, I’ve found that views on this topic are varied. One view is of a pastor/friend whom I highly respect, even though we differ in our views; I am pre-Tribulation, he is post-Tribulation. He bases some of his evidence for his view on the way the words judgment and wrath are defined and used in the text. So I have asked him to explain them in the way he would when he defends his post-Tribulation view. 

Here is Pastor Jay Christianson’s response. Jay is the pastor of Issachar Congregation in Minnesota and the host of the teaching podcast known as “The Truth Barista.”


Biblically, it is the divine judgment upon sin and sinners. It does not merely mean that it is a casual response by God to ungodliness, but carries the meaning of hatred, revulsion, and indignation. God is, by nature, love (1 John 4:16), however, in His justice He must punish sin. The punishment is called the wrath of God. It will occur on the final Day of Judgment when those who are unsaved will incur the wrath of God. It is, though, presently being released upon the ungodly (Rom. 1:18-32) in the hardening of their hearts. 
Wrath is described as God's anger (Num. 32:10-13), as stored up (Rom. 2:5-8), and as great (Zech. 7:12). The believer's deliverance from God's wrath is through the atonement (Rom. 5:8-10). "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:9). 


Judgment is condemnation. It is the carrying out of the legal penalty on someone due to breaking the Law. There are several judgments: the judgment of the believer's sins (John 5:24), the judgment of the believer's self (1 Cor. 11:31-32), the judgment of the believer's works (2 Cor. 5:10), the judgment of the nations (Matt. 25:31-46), and the judgment of the wicked (Rev. 20:11-15). There is no judgment for the Christian in respect to salvation (Rom. 8:1). We were judged in Christ on the cross 2,000 years ago. However, as Christians, we will be judged according to our works (2 Cor. 5:10) with, most probably, varying degrees of rewards.  But remember, the judgment of our works does not affect our salvation.

So here’s my take on it:

“What’s the difference between God’s judgment and God’s wrath? 

Here’s an illustration. Suppose I break the law by murdering someone. I stand before the judge who rightfully judges me guilty of murder and I am sentenced to die for my crime. As I sit on death row, I am under judgment, but I have not yet experienced the court’s wrath. Is being under judgment pleasant? No. My freedom has been revoked, my existence is confined. When I step into the death chamber, the state will execute the judgment against me and I will experience the wrath of the state for my crime. Why is this important? Because justice must be served completely. For every crime, there must be a judgment and penalty (a form of wrath). How does this apply to Christians?

As an unrepentant sinner, I have broken God’s law and have been judged for (sentenced to) death – eternal separation from God. I sit on a spiritual death row awaiting spiritual execution. I’m under God’s judgment awaiting His wrath to be carried out. Since I’m waiting for God’s wrath to be carried out (execution), I am not only under judgment, but also God’s wrath. Because of His love, God has a provision allowing a substitute in my place so His judgment can be paid and His wrath executed preserving both justice and my life. Jesus stepped up and took God’s wrath. Therefore, God’s judgment has been paid and His wrath executed (fulfilling justice).

Now as a believer, I am no longer under God’s judgment and wrath regarding salvation, my spiritual condition. However, that doesn’t mean I’m immune from God’s judgment for sin. That would violate God’s justice. 

What if a Christian violates God’s law? We may not be under His wrath of eternal separation, but we will fall under His judgment (often as discipline) for sin unless we repent and once again claim Jesus’ payment for us. If we persist in sin, then we are in essence desiring to experience not only God’s judgment, but run the risk of falling back under God’s wrath for eternal separation (sorry, Calvinists).” 

Here’s the Tribulation implication:

  1. Christians aren’t under God’s wrath, but they can experience God’s judgment in this life.
  2. The Tribulation is God’s judgment on the world for rejecting Him and following themselves or the one who fights against Jesus (Anti-Christ).
  3. God pours out His judgment on the world, but His wrath – eternal separation from Him – is withheld until the Judge (Son of Man, Jesus) arrives to carry out the execution.
  4. Christians may experience the tribulation judgments rocking the world simply by living in the earthly environment (Example: Israel in Egypt during the start of God’s judgment on Egypt – the plagues #1-#3). And they may be preserved in the midst of judgment (Example Israel in Egypt spared from judgments falling on Egypt – plagues #4-9).
  5. Israel was spared God’s judicial wrath, execution of the firstborn, via a substitute. Christians will be spared from God’s wrath – execution of the wicked on earth – at the end of the Tribulation by being removed while living. For the already dead, that doesn’t matter, but God brings all His faithful people together in the Rapture. BTW – this is WHY we need to understand the OT/Exodus, because it clues us in on what’s coming. 

Thanks Pastor Jay. 

Again, Pastor Jay’s opinion is based upon the fact that we can experience God’s judgment but not His wrath, giving us yet another opinion on how the second coming of Jesus Christ could play out. Believers could go through the tribulation without being hurt and be protected in order to witness to those without Christ in the tribulation. This post-Tribulation view is a way to explain that Jesus comes back only once to earth and not twice as the Pre-Tribulation people believe. When I asked Jay about his post-Tribulation view, he mention that the early church had a view that placed Jesus coming back to earth only once to set up His kingdom for the millennium. It was only in the early 1800’s did the popular Pre-Tribulation view make an appearance that defined a pre-tribution rapture and a second return of Christ with those raptured saints at the end of the tribulaton period. 

Well at the end of the day, I hold to a Pre-Tribulation view, while Jay holds to a Post-Tribulation, either way we are both looking for His return. In the end we will find out whose right, but it probably won’t matter. 

Keeping it honest and truthful…K


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