Let’s start this message with a couple of Scriptures to set the stage. The first is Philippians 2:10-11, which says:
“that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
And then we’ll also quote Romans 2:4-9:
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile;”
I was at a men’s Bible study recently where these verses were discussed, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts about them. Look again at verse 5:
“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed.”
Stubbornness. An unrepentant heart. Storing up wrath. The day of God’s wrath. Do you know who the Apostle Paul is writing to? It’s to believers! He’s not concerned with unbelievers—that’s a different message. These are people in the church of Rome who are professing Christians.
What is that wrath? Believers have a date with Jesus very soon when He comes back for His true Church. We will be caught up in the clouds with Jesus in the event known as the Rapture. Following that, our judgment will be at the Bema Seat before Christ where we will either receive crowns as rewards, or not. Our sin has been dealt with by Jesus on the cross; there is no more judgment against us for what we’ve done in our flesh.
Then what could Paul possibly be saying? What wrath could they be storing up that will be enacted against them? Consistently throughout the Bible the Day of Wrath is considered the 7-year Tribulation. I can read this as no other way than Paul saying that these believers will face God’s wrath in the Tribulation.
There are three scenarios for us to consider as a result of these verses in Romans.
- The first is what I call true believers, that is, those who walk with the Lord with a humble and contrite heart and seek to do His will. Do those of us in this group stumble and sometimes sin? Absolutely! But it’s not a lifestyle. When the choice arises to sin or not, the absolute majority choice is to walk away and not sin. It’s a condition of the heart that causes people in this group to believe that God is who He says, that He is kind and merciful, but also a fearsome judge. The thought of diving into sin through rebellion and disobedience is far, far from the hearts of the people in this group.
- This second group is whom I believe Paul was addressing in his letter to the Romans. These are believers presumably, certainly professing believers. But the people in this group have a heart problem. What is that? They are stubborn and have a hardness in their heart. They are living in sin, choosing sin, and stubbornly ignoring God’s commands for the way they should live for Him.
Paul lays out a serious indictment to these folks. They are storing up God’s wrath for His day of wrath and judgment. To me, this can only mean that Paul’s warning is that these people will go through the Tribulation unless there is a radical change in their heart and their behavior.
God’s intent in having us go through this life as believers is to refine us as gold or silver are refined in a fire. We have troubles. We have tribulation. We are to press through these things and mature in our walk with Christ. If we don’t; rather, we consistently give into sin, in fact, choosing it rather than saying, “No,” what else can be the result than God desiring us STILL to be refined through the fire? He wants us as His Virgin Bride, one who has been purified. The person who continually chooses sin has not been purified.
We should take heed to what Paul says in this letter. Watch out! This is a warning. Remember in Philippians quoted above that every knee will bow and every tongue confess. Are those diving into sin bowing their knee? Remember also, that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. If we spurn His kindness, there are consequences. The consequence in the case of believers with stubbornness and unrepentant hearts may indeed be the opportunity for them to learn those virtues through the horrors of the Tribulation.
This warning certainly gives me pause. It should likewise make those in this category think long and hard about their relationship to their presumed Lord and Savior.
- Those in this third category are those who are unbelievers. There is no question that they are destined for the Tribulation. In God’s mercy, many will come to faith in Christ during this terrible time. If these people don’t, then they will earn their final judgment at the Great White Throne where they will be separated as goats, while those who are sheep will go on to eternal life with Christ. As goats, as rebellious unbelievers, these hard-hearted individuals will go into eternal darkness, separated from Jesus forever in the Lake of Fire.
All will bow their knee and confess Jesus as Lord. It’s all about timing. For those who haven’t yet done so and chosen Christ, the question is: When?