The Wrath, Justice and Love of God

Dec 4, 2021 4 min read
The Wrath, Justice and Love of God

Perhaps no one in history more vividly illustrated the imminent danger faced by those outside of Christ than Jonathan Edwards did in his famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Let us consider the Wrath, Justice and Love of God through the lens of that most efficacious sermon.

A Vivid Depiction

One of the immediately recognizable features of Edwards' sermon is its abundant use of metaphor and vivid imagery. Stout, Hatch and Farley noted the following in their publication, "Jonathan Edwards: Sermons and Discourses 1739-1742":

Whereas in Sinners in Zion Edwards used a single metaphor to inspire fear of God and damnation, in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God he employs no less than twenty metaphors or descriptive adjectives to express God’s wrath and hell’s torments. The metaphors include a pit, an oven, a mouth, a furnace, a sword, flames, a serpent, a troubled sea, black clouds approaching, waters dammed by a floodgate, a bow bent with an arrow ready to be “made drunk with your blood,” an ax, and a heavy load that cannot be held. As Edwin H. Cady first pointed out, these metaphors of suspension and depression reinforce one another until there is such a sense of impending doom that one can almost feel the weight of personal sin and wrath descending on “my” soul. 1

Fire and Brimstone

Many modern preachers are hesitant to spend much time, if any, focused on the state of the unconverted or the danger faced by those outside of Christ. This is out of a fear of being thought of as a "Fire and Brimstone" preacher, which is considered by many in modern secular culture to be the epitome of ignorance and simple-mindedness. Certainly, even many professed Christians today fail to see how such an approach could ever be considered loving. However, Reverend Jonathan Edwards spent the overwhelming majority of his time while delivering "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" emphasizing and re-emphasizing the incredible peril the unbeliever unknowingly is in at every single moment.

Jonathan Edwards - State of the Unconverted

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Reality of Hell

As Edwards was a staunch defender of orthodoxy, he had no doubt in the reality of Hell. As has been often noted, Christ spoke more about Hell than He did Heaven, so it did not seem strange for Edwards to preach about the dangers of Hell to those gathered before him at Enfield. The people of that town had somehow been unaffected by the fervor of the Great Awakening which had such a great impact on the surrounding communities. God had placed it on Reverend Edwards' heart to hold nothing back as he brought them the truth that there is no salvation outside of Christ. It was out of love in the truest sense that Edwards warned the people of Enfield that without Christ they are in constant and incomprehensible danger.

Wrath of God

Edwards correctly taught his hearers that God is angry with the wicked (see Psalm 7:11 KJV) and His great and terrible Wrath is upon them. Outside of the saving Grace of God provided through the Gospel, the wicked have no hope, but only a constant expectation of damnation (see John 3:18 KJV).

Jonathan Edwards - The Wrath of God

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God's Justice

Importantly, we are reminded by Jonathan Edwards that God's Wrath, Anger and even Hatred of the wicked (see Psalm 5:5 KJV) are entirely just and therefore in keeping with God's character as well as His Holiness, Righteousness and Justice.

Jonathan Edwards - Justice

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Is Justice harmed in any way for the planter of an unfruitful fig tree to have it cut down? Certainly not.

The Love of God

Even though Edwards is clear and unwavering in depicting the just condemnation and eternal punishment facing unbelievers, he is also careful to give them an equally clear explanation of the salvation available to them through faith in Christ Jesus. As great as the Wrath and Justice of God are, we know that His Love and Grace are immeasurable (see Romans 5:8 KJV).

Jonathan Edwards implored his hearers at the church in Enfield to seek refuge in Christ while the opportunity was still available because none of them knew when death would take them and their fate as unbelievers would be too horrible to imagine.

Jonathan Edwards - Salvation

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Though none of us deserve anything but an eternity in Hell, God loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son who died on the cross in order to save those who would believe in Him (see John 3:16 KJV). This is a great and incomprehensible Love. Christ took the Wrath we deserved to give us a heavenly reward that we could never deserve or hope to earn by our own merits.

Our prayer is that if any are reading these words but have not yet placed their complete faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, that God would quicken their hearts, open their eyes, and give them the gift of faith.


1. Edwards, J. (2003). Sermons and Discourses, 1739–1742. (H. S. Stout, N. O. Hatch, & K. P. Farley, Eds.) (Vol. 22, p. 401). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

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