“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” Romans 1:18-19
We move now from Paul’s great thematic statement about not being ashamed of the Gospel of God – “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith” – to humanity’s great need for the Gospel – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
That is the most frightening statement ever uttered by man to men. The “wrath” of Almighty God is “revealed” from “heaven” against “all ungodliness and unrighteousness” of men. What can mere creatures do in the face of the wrath of the Creator revealed from Heaven against them? Is there no hope?
The Importance of Revelation
How could humans know anything about their Creator without “revelation”? How could humans know anything about what their Creator expected from them without “revelation”?
The Greek word for “revelation” is ἀποκάλυψις. It comes from ἀποκαλύπτω – which combines ἀπό (away from) and καλύπτω (veil, cover). The noun ἀποκάλυψις means an “uncovering, unveiling.”
As we saw earlier in our study about Romans, the Eternal God designed an Eternal Plan to save people “before time began.” How would people, who were not created until after time began, learn about God’s plan? They couldn’t and wouldn’t unless God “revealed” it to them.
God began revealing His eternal plan to man in the Garden of Eden –
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17
God has continued to reveal His plan throughout the ages, but there were many times when He did not give His people new revelation. The first time we see the Hebrew word for “revelation” used in the Bible was about such a time –
“Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down, that the Lord called Samuel … Then the Lord said to Samuel: Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them. And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.” 1 Samuel 3:1-4, 11-14
The Hebrew word translated “revelation” in 1 Samuel 3 is חָזוֹן (chazon) and means “vision.” Another Hebrew word for “visions” is מַחֲזֶה (machazeh) After sin came between God and man in the Garden of Eden, God revealed Himself to man primarily through visions –
“Then the Lord said to Samuel: ‘Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle … And Samuel was afraid to tell Eli the vision.” 1 Samuel 3:11, 15
“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Genesis 15:1
“Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.” Genesis 46:2
“Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.” Numbers 12:6
“He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.” 2 Chronicles 26:5
“And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.” Joel 2:28
“Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, ‘Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.” Matthew 17:9
“About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, ‘Cornelius!” Acts 10:3
“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Acts 26:18-20
“It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 12:1
“And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone.” Revelation 9:17
The Wrath of God Revealed
αποκαλυπτεται γαρ οργη θεου
Literal – “For it is revealed the wrath of God”
Many things are revealed in the Bible –
- Joseph “revealed” himself to his brothers
- God chose to “reveal” specific to His children
- God “revealed” Himself to His prophets
- God “revealed” His secrets to His prophets
- God “revealed” His power and glory to His people
- God “revealed” His righteousness to Jew and Gentile
- God “revealed” His Son to the world
- God “revealed” His Son in His children
- God “revealed” His truth to His followers
- God “revealed” the things which He had prepared for those who love Him
- God “revealed” the mystery of His will
- God “revealed” His righteousness from “faith to faith”
- God “revealed” His wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men
“For it is revealed” – αποκαλυπτεται γαρ
This usage of the verb αποκαλυπτεται in verses 17 and 18 is the same – present tense, indicative mood, passive voice. Paul stated that God was revealing both His righteousness and His wrath at the time the apostle was writing. Neither event was something God would reveal in the future. It was a fact at the present time.
That brings us to the word “wrath.” It is οργη and translates as “anger, wrath, passion, indignation.” Orge comes from orgáō, which means “to teem, swell up to oppose.” It carries the idea of being a “settled anger” that is in opposition to something. The word describes the passionate attitude God has against something. That something is “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
“against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” – επι πασαν ασεβειαν και αδικιαν ανθρωπων
The word ασεβειαν means ” impiety, irreverence, disrespect, without due respect.” In Paul’s context it was people’s irreverence and lack of respect for God.
The words και αδικιαν ανθρωπων speak to the unrighteous and unjust ways of men. One way to understand the statement is to look at what God told Israel thousands of years ago about how they were to respect Him and each other (Exodus 20 – Ten Commandments). Jesus directed the attention of people toward the same idea when He said –
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
God is a passionate and jealous God (e.g. Exodus 34:14). He wants and commands respect. God also wants and commands that people treat each other justly. What Paul wrote in Romans 1:18 is that God revealed His wrath – His passionate anger and indignation – toward humanity because of their lack of respect for Him and their unjust attitude and actions toward each other.
Paul wrote that God revealed His wrath απ ουρανου – from Heaven. That’s important to notice for the context of what Paul is claiming. God has the “right” to reveal His wrath against the human race because it comes from His position as Creator of the universe.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
God is far above His creation and is displeased with how human beings around the world treat Him and each other. Even as it was true during Paul’s time and is true during our time, it has been true throughout the history of the human race. We will look into that in more depth in our next study. Here are a few thoughts to consider until then.
“Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure.” Psalm 2:1-5
“The Lord is in His holy temple, The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.” Psalm 11:4-5
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.” Psalm 14:1-3
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”