Wrath is an “old” word in the English language which isn’t used much any more. Webster (College Dictionary, Fourth Edition) defines wrath as 1) intense anger, rage, fury; 2) any action carried out in great anger, esp. for punishment or vengeance. It isn’t a popular exercise in today’s religious climate to speak of the wrath of God, but we ignore the subject at our own peril. It is certainly attested to in the Holy Scriptures.
In our text the Holy Spirit speaks of a “wrath to come.” That wrath will be God’s bringing destruction on His enemies at the end of time. Few people realize that the Almighty actually classifies some people as His enemies. (See Psalm 21:7-13 for this thought and for how God moves against His enemies.) Lest we misunderstand, the Lord disciplines His “sons” (Hebrews 12:4-11), but He brings His wrath against His enemies.
Who then are the enemies of God? Basically speaking they would be anyone who opposes the will of God. This would include people continually involved in any sort of evil as defined in God’s word: murder, robbery, sexual immorality, covetousness, lying, hatred, lawlessness, selfishness, etc. Those guilty of teaching false doctrine and leading people away from the truth of the gospel or even away from God Himself would also be enemies of God.
In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians (1:6-10), he speaks more specifically about the Lord’s return “in flaming fire” when He will bring retribution “to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” Obeying the gospel is a reference to a person’s initial faith in Christ and baptism into His death. Knowing God comes about in one’s Christian walk as he or she is conformed more and more into the image of the Christ. It seems rather plain that those who have not obeyed the gospel nor know God fall into the category of God’s enemies.
How can I avoid the wrath of God? Obey the gospel and come to know Jesus. Only He can deliver from “the wrath to come.”