Wrath of God in Revelation

SYNOPSIS – In the book of Revelation, “wrath” refers to the final judicial sentence of God on His enemies - Revelation 6:12-17

Lightning flash - Photo by Breno Machado on Unsplash
The book of Revelation refers to the “wrath” of God several times. This “wrath” is NOT identified with the several punitive actions executed against rebellious humans as events unfold - The “plagues” unleashed by the three sevenfold series of seals, trumpets, and bowls are not called “wrath.” Despite their devastation, men and women continue to rebel against God until the last moment. Rather, the term “wrath” refers to His final judicial sentence imposed against His enemies at the “end of the age.”

Wrath” or orgé occurs six times in Revelation, always to refer to the final judgment by God on His opponents. The many calamities unleashed by the seals, trumpets, and "bowls of fury" are never labeled “wrath” or orgé, although “wrath” is manifested at the end of each of the three sevenfold series. For example, after the "seventh trumpet" sounded, His “wrath came, the time of the dead to be judged” - (Revelation 6:16, 6:17, 11:18, 14:10, 16:19, 19:15).

The effect of this “wrath” is everlasting, not temporary. Its ultimate expression is when the condemned are cast into the “Lake of Fire - The Second Death,” which occurs at the "Great White Throne of Judgment." On that day, there will be no escape or reprieve - (Revelation 6:12-17).

In contrast, the righteous will receive everlasting life in the "New Jerusalem." What determines whether a person undergoes “wrath” or receives life is how he or she responds to the “Lamb” - (Revelation 7:9-17, 22:15).

The Sixth Seal
  • (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heaven fell to the earth, as a fig-tree sheddeth her winter figs when by a great wind it is shaken, and the heaven was withdrawn as a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island out of their places were shaken.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 wrath of the Lamb, Because the great day of their wrath is come, and who is able to stand?”
The “fifth seal opening” revealed the souls of martyred saints kept under the altar. They cried for vindication upon their persecutors - “The inhabitants of the earth.” The sixth seal is the response from the Throne – Its opening unleashes the final “wrath” on the “inhabitants of the earth.” This seal opening unveils the “Day of the Lord,” a day that will transform the entire Creation - (Revelation 6:9-11).

The opening of the “sixth seal” by the “Lamb” causes “a great earthquake...and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair and the full moon as blood.” The language is derived from several Old Testament passages about the “Day of Yahweh.” Note the verbal parallels:
  • (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...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...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?
These passages do not describe a tribulation period of any duration in which plagues are inflicted repeatedly on a rebellious humanity. Instead, they point to a specific moment when the final wrath of God destroys His enemies. It is accompanied by terrestrial and celestial upheaval – And, there is no escape - “Who shall be able to stand?

This last question is answered in the vision of the innumerable multitude. Redeemed men and women from every nation were “coming out of the Great Tribulationto stand before “the Throne and the Lamb.” Having “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” rather than inflicting “wrath,” he leads them “to life’s fountains of waters” – (Revelation 7:9-17).

Seventh Trumpet
  • (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 nations were angered, and your wrath came and the fit time of the dead to be vindicated, and to give their reward unto your servants the prophets, and unto the saints, and unto them who revere your 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 flashes of lightning and voices and claps of thunder and an earthquake and great hail.”
The sounding of the seventh trumpet causes the overthrow of the “kingdom of the world.” All powers hostile to the "Lamb" are defeated, the kingdom of God is consummated, and the faithful from every rank of society receive their rewards - (“The small and the great”).

This “trumpet” means the arrival of the day of the “wrath” of God - His orgé - The time to “destroy them who were destroying the earth.” It also is the time when He rewards the saints - Both the righteous and the unrighteous receive their just desserts on that day. The “Day of the Lord” means the vindication of the righteous and the everlasting condemnation of the unrighteous.

Everlasting Gospel Announced
  • (Revelation 14:6-11) – “...And another, a third messenger followed them, saying with a loud voice—If anyone doeth homage unto the beast and his image, and receives 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 receives the mark of his name.”
The message of this angel announced the final judgment of God – His “wrath.” Everlasting condemnation is pronounced on every man and woman who gives allegiance to the “Beast” – They will partake of God’s undiluted “wrath,” which is everlasting in its effects. Condemned men will “have no rest day or night.” This then describes the "Lake of Fire," the “second death” from which there is no reprieve - (Revelation 20:11-15).

Seventh Bowl of Fury
  • (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 of fury” are also called the “seven last plagues.” When unleashed, the “fierceness of God is completed.” The bowls are “full of the fierceness (thumos) of God” - “fierceness” translates thumos or “fury,” a different Greek noun than orgé used elsewhere for “wrath.” In the Greek text, these are the seven bowls of “fury” or thumos, not the “bowls of wrath”- (Revelation 15:1-8).

The seventh or last “bowl of fury” produces “flashes of lightning, and voices, and claps of thunder, and a great earthquake...and great hail as talents” - The same phenomena that accompanied the sounding of the “seventh trumpet.”
The verbal parallels demonstrate that the same event is in view, the time of God’s “wrath” unleashed at last on the “Day of the Lord” - (Revelation 11:19).
After John saw the "Lambstanding on Zion, an angel declared that the time had come for "Babylon" to drink of the “cup of the wine of the fierceness of God’s wrath” - Just as the men and women who took the "mark of the Beast" drank of this cup, so "Babylon" must drink of His “wrath” - (Revelation 14:10).

Every island fled and mountains were not found.” This clause parallels the “Day of the Lord” unveiled when the sixth seal was opened - “Every mountain and island was shaken out of its place.” Again, the same even is in view in both passages.

Final Battle with the Beast
  • (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 "Rider on a White Horse" is seen arriving to judge the nations and to “tread the wine-press of the wrath of God.” This is the same “winepress” seen previously when the angel announced he “everlasting gospel” - (“Gather the clusters of the vine of the earth and cast them into the great wine-press of the fierceness of God” - Revelation 14:17-20).

In chapter 14, the “winepress” was “trodden outside the city.” In that passage, “trodden” translates the Greek verb pateō, the same one used here for the “Rider on a White Horse” as he “treads” the “winepress of the wrath of God” - Another verbal link between the visions of chapters 14 and 19. The “Rider” does not unleash another in a series of plagues but ushers in the final “war” between the "Lamb" and the “Beast” - (Revelation 19:15).

In this vision of the final battle, imagery from Ezekiel’s vision of “Gog and Magog” is employed. It is not a “war” between conventional armies but a battle between the "Lamb" and his cosmic enemies - The "Beast," the "False Prophet," and 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” - (Revelation 19:17-21).

The same “war” was portrayed in the "sixth bowl of fury" - The “great day of the battle of the Lord God Almighty” – which also borrowed language from the vision of “Gog and Magog.” In the end, the result is the casting of God’s enemies into the "Lake of Fire," for they will drink from the “cup of His wrath” - (Revelation 16:12-16).

Thus, in the book of Revelation, “wrath” does not refer to any series of punitive and temporary judgments or plagues. “Wrath” is nothing less than the final judgment and punishment on the enemies of God. Consistently, “wrath” refers to His judicial sentence issued on the “Day of the Lord,” not to individual plagues or catastrophes. The "saints" are present before the "Lamb" on that day; however, they do not “drink” from this cup of wrath but are vindicated and rewarded for their faithfulness.

Finally, although the book of Revelation mentions the “great tribulation,” at no point does it refer to it or equate it with “wrath.” “Tribulation” is what the “saints” endure because of their “testimony” – (Compare - Revelation 1:9).


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