Everyone loves a good rags to riches story, but there is a story that tops them all. It is the story of Christ redeeming sinners who were justly under God’s wrath and saving them from the wrath to come and earning them the riches of heaven instead.
God the Son, who is and always continues to be true God, left the riches of heaven and humbled himself taking on our humanity in order to save us from God’s just wrath. He did this by bearing the wrath of God on our behalf on the cross. As the Apostle Paul tells us, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). It was a great exchange! Though he was spotless, God treated Christ as though he had lived the life of a sinner and punished him with the wrath that we deserve. And in exchange, though we are filthy sinners, God treats us as though we had lived his perfect life and always obeyed his righteous law.
In the words of the Heidelberg Catechism Q. & A. 60– How are you righteous before God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.
But the story doesn’t end there. Not only are we saved from the wrath to come by Christ’s precious blood we are also adopted as children of God and made co-heirs with Christ of the glorious riches of heaven.
Rom. 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Eph. 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Rom. 10:9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This is the great exchange! Christ died in our place and was raised victorious on the third day. He then ascended into heaven where he now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, ruling all things on behalf of his church until he comes again. From his throne he sent forth his Holy Spirit to be the down payment guaranteeing the riches of our inheritance. No matter what sufferings we face in this world, they are truly not worth comparing with the glory that awaits us (Rom. 8:18). In the words of Dorothy Sayers, this is “the greatest drama ever staged.” We have truly gone from wrath to riches!