I think it possible that Christians can sing 'the wrath of God was satisfied' as a fair and appropriate expression of our understanding of atonement (how we become one with God through Jesus' death on the cross). I am not quite there yet in reaching a conclusion, hoping to be there with a fourth post tomorrow on Good Friday.
I appreciate very much the twin comments made each day by Howard and Anonymous, each examining weaknesses in my exposition as it unfolds - though neither persuading me to continue my exploration in a different direction!
What is the wrath of God in passages such as Romans 1:18, 2:4-11, 3:5-8, Ephesians 2:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 5:9 (see also 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9), and Revelation 16? I suggest it is the response of God to wrongdoing, to unjust behaviour, and to disobedience to God's commandments.
To use 'wrath' in description of this response is certainly to use a word which conveys a sense of strong anger. Naturally that raises a number of questions because for us humans 'anger' is a variable and often destructive emotion (if not destructive of others, then destructive of ourselves). It's variableness includes the fact that our anger can be controlled or uncontrolled, well-directed (e.g. at the perpetrator of a crime) or misguided (e.g. railing against the world in general about some particular misfortune we have suffered), righteous or unrighteous, disciplined (e.g. we deal with it before sunset) or undisciplined (we begin to take a perverse pleasure in stoking our anger). Thus it becomes difficult to speak of the wrath of God without invoking images of a God barely distinguished from the worst features of angry humans. Further, I suggest that we have difficulty conceptualising how an angry human is simultaneously being a loving human, and thus we retreat from talk of 'the wrath of God' because we (rightly) wish to foster and uphold talk of the love of God. But therein lies a clue that I want to take further tomorrow: if we could conceptualise how an angry human can also be a loving human, could we reconcile the wrath of God with the love of God?
If the wrath of God is the response of God to wrongdoing, to injustice, and to disobedience to God's commandments, what might it mean for the wrath of God to be 'satisfied'? It could mean that a wildly angry God, similar to the worst case scenario of a violently angry human being, has somehow been placated or appeased, with the result that God is calmer, saner, and more reasonably disposed towards humanity. To be fair to those who wish to distance themselves theologically from such an understanding of both what 'the wrath of God' and 'satisfied' means, amidst the passages noted above, along with (say) the endings to the parables of talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and of pounds (Luke 19:11-28), is material which has a sense of such an angry god and of such a potential means of placation or appeasement.
I want to suggest another line of thought which picks up on a cue in one of the key passages concerned with the satisfaction of the wrath of God as expounded in Romans, it is Romans 3:26:
"It [=Christ Jesus being put forward as a hilasterion, i.e. propitiation or expiation or atoning sacrifice, 3:25] was to show his righteousness (dikaiosunes) at the present time, so that he might be just (dikaion) and the justifier (dikaiounta) of the one who has faith in Jesus." [ESV].
That is, to be a little more precise (IMHO) than the ESV (and other translations) by noting the Greek words I have transliterated:
"It was to show God's justice at the present time, so that God might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
This cue suggests to me that the satisfaction of God's wrath is the satisfaction of justice rather than the appeasement or placating of God's emotions (if we may so speak of God in rather human terms). God's wrath is God's response to injustice, so the reversal of that wrath requires the reversal of injustice. God is just so that reversal requires no change in God's action in the world, but it does require a change in respect of ourselves who have acted unjustly: we need to be made just.
Tomorrow I will attempt to take this further. Here I have not attended to the content of wrath as God's 'response' to injustice within humanity (noting that 'injustice' with reference to Romans 3:23-26 incorporates all wrongdoing, unjust relationships, and disobedience to God's commandments). I shall see what further thought overnight enables me to say about that!