Best of Daily Reflections: The Wrath of God and Ghostbusters
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
When we began our devotional study of Ephesians 2, I warned you that we'd run into a lot of bad news. So far, we've learned that we were dead in our trespasses and sins, that we were in bondage to the sinful world and its diabolical ruler, and that we were addicted to gratifying our sinful nature. That's plenty of bad news, don't you think?
But it's not all. Today, something even worse gets added to the list: "Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath" (2:3). Like all other human beings, we once deserved God's wrath. That was our natural state as human beings. And that's an awfully bad state to be in.
God's wrath is not just his anger. Ephesians 2:3 is saying more than "God was really mad at you." God's wrath is his righteous judgment of sin and sinners. It comes, most of all, at the end of history. Ironically, the classic film comedy Ghostbusters rightly captures the sense of the wrath of God. As the Ghostbusters are trying to warn the mayor of New York about the terrible things approaching, Dr. Venkman (Bill Murray) says, "This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions." The mayor responds, "What do you mean, "biblical"? Another Ghostbuster, Dr. Stantz (Dan Ackroyd) explains, "What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff...Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!" Another Ghostbuster adds, "Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes..."
Of course this is all played for laughs in Ghostbuster. But the judgment of God is actually no laughing matter. It's truly terrible and something to be avoided if at all possible. As we'll soon see, this is possible, not because of anything we do, but because of what God does through Jesus Christ. God saves us by his grace from the righteous judgment we deserve. The bad news of Ephesians 2:1-3 prepares us to hear the good news that follows with eagerness, gratitude, and relief.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you hear the phrase "the wrath of God," what comes to mind for you? Do you ever think about God's final judgment? How can a loving God also be a righteous judge?
PRAYER: Gracious God, all of this bad news in Ephesians 2:1-3 would be more than I can bear, except for the good news that is coming. Nevertheless, I thank you for revealing the bad that I might understand and celebrate the good. Amen.