Righteousness and Wrath - Present and Future

Just as sinners await the future judgment of God, so believers wait to receive their full salvation at the resurrectionRomans 1:16-23

Sunrise Mountains - Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash
In
Romans, Paul introduced the “gospel” that he was proclaiming to the Christians residing in the city of Rome. This “glad message” was promised centuries earlier in the Hebrew scriptures, a message concerning the Messiah, the Son of God, which has now been revealed to all the nations in Jesus Christ - both to “Jew and Greek” - [Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash]

His resurrection is the irrefutable proof of his messiahship and the validity of his message. The letter’s central theme is that the “gospel” is the power of God “for salvation to everyone who believes” regardless of ethnicity. It empowers men and women to receive salvation “from faith,” and not from the performance of the deeds required by the Torah - The law of Moses:
  • (Romans 1:1-7) - “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, a called apostle, separated to the glad-message of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets, in holy scriptures concerning his Son, who came to be of the seed of David, according to the flesh, Who was distinguished as the Son of God by power, according to a Holy Spirit, through means of a resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord; through whom we have received grace and apostleship for the obedience of faith among all the nations in behalf of his name, among whom are you also called of Jesus Christ; to all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called saints, grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
PRESENT REALITIES. In the gospel, the “righteousness of God is being revealed from faith for faith,” which translates a present tense verb, apokaluptetai, meaning “reveal, disclose, unveil, uncover,” and the present tense signifying action in progress, an ongoing process of revelation.
  • (Romans 1:16-17) – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and to the Greek. For in it is being revealed a righteousness of God from faith for faith: as it is written, But the righteous men will live from faith.
The “righteousness” of God, His faithfulness to His promises, is being revealed here-and-now, demonstrated whenever Jews and Gentiles respond in faith to the gospel. Thus, there is a definite present tense to the “righteousness” of God. He validates his “righteousness” by saving men who respond in faith to what He has done in His Son.

Likewise, His “wrath” is also “being revealed from heaven” against all “who possess the truth in unrighteousness.” Thus, Paul contrasts two present processes – The unveiling of “righteousness” and that of “wrath.” Both occur in the present age whenever the gospel is proclaimed.
  • (Romans 1:18-19) – “For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it to them.”
Anyone who embraces the “gospel,” whether Jew or Gentile, is empowered to receive salvation. At the same time, “wrath” is being revealed against everyone who does not submit to the message, against every man who “opposes the truth in unrighteousness.”

Elsewhere, Paul links “wrath” with the final judgment, but here, he describes an aspect that occurs within the present age as evidenced by the very sins practiced by the same sinners who reject the gospel, especially the sin of idolatry.
  • (Romans 1:20-23) – “For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse, because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.
Idolatry is the transgression that leads to all the others – the refusal to acknowledge God as God. Because sinners “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for the likenesses of corruptible man, birds, four-footed beasts and reptiles,” He has turned them over to the lusts of their hearts “for impurity.” Thus, they “exchanged the truth of God for falsehood and rendered worship to the creature rather than to the Creator.”

Giving the world over to the sins it desires demonstrates that his “wrath” is being exercised even now. Humanity wallowing in idolatrous sin is the present state of affairs, one that proves the world order is under the “wrath of God,” and it validates the justice of His final judgment at the end of the age.

FUTURE TENSE - Since believers have been “declared righteous through his blood,” they also “will be saved through him from the wrath.” Although believers have been “set right” before God, words like “inheritance,” “promise,” and “salvation” have a recognizable future aspect.
  • If we have been “reconciled to God through the death of his Son,” how much more “will we be saved by his life.” For though “through one man” – Adam - “sin entered into the world, and through sin death,” how much more will they who “receive the superabundance of the grace and the free-gift of righteousness reign through the one man” - Jesus Christ - (Romans 5:9-21).
For believers, condemnation due to sin is in the past. Their right-standing before God is a present reality. However, final salvation will be received only in the future.
  • (Romans 8:16-23) – “The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God; And if children, heirs also, heirs, indeed, of God, but co-heirs with Christ, if, at least, we are suffering together, in order that we may also be glorified together. For I reckon that unworthy are the sufferings of the present season to be compared with the glory about to be revealed towards us. For the eager outlook of creation ardently awaits the revealing of the sons of God, for to vanity has creation been made subject, not by choice, but by reason of him that made it subject, in hope that creation itself also shall be freed from the bondage of the decay into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God. For we know that all creation is sighing together and travailing-in-birth-throes until the present, and not only so, but we ourselves also who have the first-fruit of the Spirit, even we ourselves within our own selves do sigh, sonship ardently awaiting, the redemption of our body.
Just as sinners wait for the final judgment of God, so believers wait for their final salvation at the resurrection from the dead, along with the entire creation. The redemption of our bodies and of the creation will occur when Jesus “arrives” in glory at the end of the age.




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