The following comes from Gil's taped lecture entitled, "The Mystery of History." For more opportunities to hear Gil speak, either in person or on CD/tape, go to his website linked above.
What is “God’s wrath?” Does Jesus reveal a wrathful God? It’s a very central question. Clearly John [of Patmos] is talking about the wrath of God. And clearly the crucifixion and resurrection represent a judgment; a very solemn one with enormous consequences. But how are we to reckon with this notion of the wrath of God?
I will suggest to you the following, not based on my suppositions or my speculation, but based on what I think is in John’s Apocalypse. We don’t realize how profoundly John is reinterpreting the Old Testament images and symbolism that he is using to express his Christian faith. We don’t realize how in concert the Book of Revelation is with all the other New Testament texts. You see, this has to be in concert with I Corinthians 13; this has to be in concert with the Gospels that speak of the mercy of God and that show us God incarnate in the One Who was constantly forgiving and bidding his disciples to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. John’s Apocalypse has to be in concert with that. And it is, I think, read correctly.
What then is the wrath of God? I would say that the wrath of God is forgiveness. The wrath of God is forgiveness. Sin is its own punishment. Dante knew that. Surely God knows it. All we have to do is look around. Sin is its own punishment. It doesn’t need a shove from God. In the natural course of its transformation from heady self-assertion into dreary despair and alienation. Sin is deprived of all its consolations, save one: the sinner can sulk in the spiteful knowledge that his misery is imposed by a harsh and vindictive God. And he can curse God for condemning him to the hellish conditions in which he finds himself.
But when God forgives through Christ on the cross, then the sinner either accepts forgiveness or he rejects it and is forced to inhabit a hell whose doors stand wide open. And to be tormented thereby by the realization that the torment itself can be blamed on no one but himself. That’s hell. That is the wrath of God made possible by the revelation of God’s infinite mercy and forgiveness that Jesus brings to us. The wrath of God is God eliminating the notion of a wrathful God, and thereby condemning those who refuse forgiveness and cling to their sinful rebellion to the hellish torment of realizing that with one heartfelt mea culpa it could all be otherwise.