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02 March 2019

The Wrath of God in Revelation

7th Plague of Egypt

Several times the book of Revelation refers to the “wrath” of God, which is often interpreted as God’s punitive actions against rebellious humanity. In particular, this approach sees “wrath” manifested in the three sevenfold series of seals, trumpets, and bowls. Despite the devastation unleashed against the world, humanity as a whole continues to rebel against God until the arrival of Christ from heaven brings events to a sudden end.
       The term “wrath” or orgé occurs only six times in Revelation, always in connection with final judgment at the end of the age (Revelation 6:16; 6:17; 11:18; 14:10; 16:19; 19:15).
      The calamities unleashed by the three sevenfold series are never identified as “wrath,” though God’s “wrath” is manifested at the end of each series in acts of the final judgment. For example, after the seventh trumpet sounds God’s “wrath is come, the time of the dead to be judged” (11:15-18).
     The effect of God’s “wrath” in Revelation is eternal, not temporary, its ultimate expression is the “Lake of Fire, the Second Death.” That day will change the entire cosmos and for the ungodly, there will be no escape (Revelation 6:12-17).
     In contrast, the righteous receive everlasting life in the New Creation in the full presence of God and the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-17; 21:3-4; 22:3-5). Everlasting life is given to all faithful saints at the end of the age, whether past, present or future (Revelation 7:9-17, 11:18, 20:12). What determines whether a person undergoes “wrath” or receives life is how he or she responds to the Lamb (Revelation 7:9, 22:15).
(Revelation 6:12-17) – “And I saw when he opened the sixth seal, that a great earthquake took place; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the full moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig-tree sheddeth her winter figs when by a great wind it is shaken, and the heaven was withdrawn as a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island out of their places were shaken. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rulers of thousands, and the rich, and the mighty, and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves within the caves and within the rocks of the mountains; and they say unto the mountains and unto the rocks—Fall upon us and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the anger of the Lamb; Because the great day of their anger is come, and who is able to stand?” [The Emphasized Bible]
     The fifth seal revealed the souls of martyred saints kept safe under the altar (Revelation 6:9-11). The martyrs cried out for vindication and vengeance upon their persecutors, “those who dwell upon the earth.” The sixth seal is the Divine response to their plea; its opening unleashes God’s final “wrath” upon the “inhabitants of the earth,” regardless of rank or status. This seal produces nothing less than the “day of the Lord”; it affects not just humanity or the earth, but the entire universe.
     This seal produces “a great earthquake…the sun became black as sackcloth of hair and the full moon as blood.” The language is derived from Old Testament passages about the day of the Lord.  Note the verbal parallels in each of the following passages:
  • (Joel 2:30-32) – “The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awful Day of Yahweh”.
  • (Isaiah 34:1-5) – “Then shall be dissolved all the host of the heavens, and the heavens shall roll up as a scroll, Yea, all their host shall fade like the fading and falling of a leaf from a vine, and like what fades and falls from a fig-tree”.
  • (Isaiah 2:10-22) – “Enter into the rock or hide thee in the dust because of the terribleness of Yahweh and for his majestic splendor. The lofty looks of mean men shall be humbled and the haughtiness of great men shall be bowed down, and Yahweh alone shall be exalted in that day. For a day of Yahweh of hosts shall be upon everyone who is high and lofty, and upon everyone who is lifted up, and he shall be brought low…And the haughtiness of mean men shall be humbled and the loftiness of great men shall be laid low, and Yahweh alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols shall wholly pass away, and they shall enter into the holes of the rocks and into the caves of clay, because of the terribleness of Yahweh and for his majestic splendor when he arises to shake terribly the earth. In that day shall the son of earth cast his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which had been made for him to worship, into the hole of the mice and to the bats; that he may enter into the clefts of the rocks and into the fissures of the crags, because of the terribleness of Yahweh and for his majestic splendor, when he arises to shake terribly the earth.”
  • (Joel 2:11) – “And Yahweh has uttered his voice before his host for great indeed is his camp, for bold is he who executes his word, for great is the day of Yahweh and awful exceedingly, Who then shall endure it?”
     The sixth seal does not refer to a tribulation period of some length but to a specific moment, the day of the “wrath” of God and of the Lamb. This event is accompanied by terrestrial and celestial upheaval, and for the ungodly, there is no escape; it is the time of final judgment.
      The question asked in verse 17, “who is able to stand,” is answered in Revelation 7:9-17. The innumerable multitude of saints from every nation is seen “coming out of the Great Tribulation” and “standing” before the Divine Throne and the Lamb. The saints are enabled to “stand” because they “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Rather than “wrath,” this group “will hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither in any wise shall the sun fall upon them, nor any burning heat; because the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall shepherd them and shall lead them to life’s fountains of waters.”

(Revelation 11:15-19) – “And the seventh messenger sounded; and there came to be loud voices in heaven, saying—The kingdom of the world hath become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign unto the ages of ages. And the twenty-four elders who before God do sit upon their thrones, fell down upon their faces and rendered homage unto God, saying—We give thanks unto thee, O Lord God, the Almighty, Who is, and Who was; because thou hast taken thy great power and hast become king. And the nations were angered; and thine anger came and the fit time of the dead to be vindicated, and to give their reward unto thy servants the prophets, and unto the saints, and unto them who revere thy name—the small and the great, and to despoil them who were despoiling the earth. And the sanctuary of God which is in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant in his sanctuary appeared, and there came to be lightning and voices and thunderings and an earthquake and great hail.”

     The seventh trumpet produces the final overthrow of the “kingdom of the world.” All powers hostile to God and the Lamb are defeated, and the consummation of God’s Kingdom occurs (“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ”). In the sixth seal, wrath fell on all ranks of society. Similarly but in contrast, the seventh trumpet announces divine rewards to the faithful from all ranks of society (“them who revere thy name—the small and the great”).
     The twenty-four elders praise “the Lord God, the Almighty, He who is and who was.” Previously God was described as “He who is and who was and who is coming” (1:4, 1:8, 4:8). The third clause is now dropped because no longer is He “coming”; He has arrived.
     His arrival means the day of His “wrath” or orgé, the time to “destroy them who were destroying the earth.” But is also means the time “to give their reward to your servants the prophets and to the saints.” Both the righteous and the unrighteous receive their fitting reward at this time.
  • (Revelation 14:6-11) – “And I saw another messenger flying in mid-heaven having an age-abiding glad-message to announce unto them who are dwelling upon the earth, even unto every nation and tribe and tongue and people, saying with a loud voice—Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judging is come; and do homage unto him that made heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters. And another, a second messenger followed, saying—Fallen! fallen! is Babylon the great, who of the wine of the wrath of her lewdness hath caused all the nations to drink. And another, a third messenger, followed them, saying with a loud voice—If anyone doeth homage unto the beast and his image, and receiveth a mark upon his forehead or upon his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone before holy messengers and before the Lamb; And, the smoke of their torment unto ages of ages ascendeth; And they have no rest day or night, who do homage unto the beast and his image, or if anyone receiveth the mark of his name.”
      This paragraph is set in contrast to the faithful from every nation that follows the Lamb “wherever he goes” (14:1-5). They who have the name of the Lamb written on their foreheads are seen “standing on Mount Zion to sing a new song before the throne.” All that took the “mark of the Beast” face judgment, for the “hour of His judgment is come.”
      This is the final judgment. An angel pronounces everlasting condemnation on all who gave allegiance to the Beast, they partake of God’s undiluted wrath. This “wrath” is everlasting in its results, condemned men “have no rest day or night.” This is the lake of fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:10).
  • (Revelation 16:17-21) – “And the seventh poured out his bowl upon the air.—And there came forth a loud voice out of the sanctuary from the throne, saying—Accomplished! And there came to be lightning and voices and thunders; and a great earthquake took place—such as had never taken place since men came to be on the earth—such a mighty earthquake, so great; and the great city became divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and Babylon the Great was brought into remembrance before God to give unto her the cup of the wine of the wrath of his anger; and every island fled, and mountains were not found. And great hail as talents cometh down out of heaven upon mankind, and men blasphemed God by reason of the plague of hail—because the plague thereof was exceeding great.”
     The seven bowls are also called the “seven last plagues”; when they are unleashed “the fierceness of God is completed” (Revelation 15:1). The bowls are “full of the fierceness (thumos) of God” (15:5-8). “Fierceness” translates thumos or “fury,” a different Greek noun than orgé or “wrath.”
     The first four bowls impact every inhabitant of the earth that has the mark of the Beast (16:1-9). The fifth bowl destroys the kingdom of the Beast (16:10-11). The sixth bowl results in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty,” the Battle of Armageddon and the day of the Lord (16:12-16). The seventh bowl announces the completion of God’s wrath; “it is accomplished.”
      This last bowl produces “flashes of lightning, and voices, and claps of thunder; and a great earthquake…and great hail as talents,” the same phenomena seen with the seventh trumpet (11:19). The parallels demonstrate the same event is in view in both passages; the time of God’s “wrath.”
      The time has come for Babylon to drink of the “cup of the wine of the fierceness of God’s wrath. This description parallels Revelation 14:10 where men and women that took the mark of the Beast drank of this cup. Now Babylon must drink the same “wrath.” The final judgment is in view in both passages but from different aspects.
      The seventh bowl causes “every island to flee and mountains are not found.” This is parallel to the day of the Lord in the sixth seal when “every mountain and island was shaken out of its place.” The same time of judgment is in view in both the sixth seal and the seventh bowl.
  • (Revelation 19:15-16) – “And he treadeth the wine-press of the wrath of the anger of God the Almighty. And he hath upon his mantle and upon his thigh a name written—King of kings and Lord of lords.”
     The Lamb portrayed as a heavenly rider on a white horse arrives to judge the nations and to tread the wine-press of the wrath of God. This “wine-press” was seen previously in Revelation 14:17-20 where a figure with a “sickle” was commanded to “gather the clusters of the vine of the earth” and throw them into “the great wine-press of the fierceness of God.” The wine-press was “trodden” outside the “city.” “Trodden” translates the Greek verb pateō, the same one used now in Revelation 19:15.
     This is not another in a sequence of plagues and calamities, but the final “conflict” between the Lamb and the forces of Satan arrayed against him. The final judgment is at hand and all accounts are about to be settled.
      The next paragraph demonstrates that the final battle is about to commence (19:17-21). Imagery from Ezekiel’s figures of Gog and Magog is used to portray this “battle.” It is not a “literal” war between national armies; the conflict is between the Lamb and his enemies, the Beast, the False Prophet, and their allies from among the kings of the earth. No actual battle is described. The Beast and the False Prophet are simply taken and cast “alive into the Lake of Fire that burns with brimstone.”
      This is the same “battle” seen in the sixth bowl, the “great day of the battle of the Lord God Almighty” (16:12-16), a passage that also borrowed language from Ezekiel 38-39, the invasion by Gog and Magog. The end result is the casting of God’s enemies into the Lake of Fire. That is the end result of drinking from the cup of His “wrath.”
      The sixth seal portrays the day of the Lord, the time of final judgment. It is characterized by celestial and terrestrial upheaval. It is the day of the “wrath” of God and of the Lamb. For the wicked, there is no escape. The seventh trumpet results in the consummation of God’s kingdom, the total overthrow of the kingdoms of the world, final judgment and the time for God’s “wrath.” On a final day, all who take the mark of the Beast will drink the undiluted cup of God’s everlasting wrath.
      “Wrath” in Revelation is not one in a series of punitive judgments or a whole series of such judgments. It is nothing less than God’s final punishment of the wicked and His cosmic enemies; the Dragon, the Beast, the False Prophet and Babylon.
      In Revelation “wrath” consistently refers not to an individual or series of plagues, but to God’s final “wrath” unleashed on the day of the Lord. It points to final judgment on all His enemies.
      The saints are present before the Lamb at that event, but they do not “drink” from the cup of God’s wrath. Instead, God vindicates and rewards them.
      Finally, although Revelation mentions the “great tribulation,” at no point does it refer to that period as “wrath.”

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