The Wrath of God



John Hoole – April 1, 2012




Over the past several weeks we have been investigating what the Bible says about the Rapture.  1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 defines the Rapture as the event where believers rise to meet Christ in the air.


We have also looked at why a Pre-Tribulation Rapture best aligns with Scripture when it is taken most literally.  Some of the reasons we have studied for accepting a pre-trib. Rapture are:


1.  24 Elders in heaven in Revelation 4

2.  The Biblical customs related to the Jewish wedding and betrothal

3.  The Imminent return of Christ at the Rapture


We will address some additional  biblical reasons supporting a Pre-Tribulation view today.


1.  God’s promise to keep us from the “hour of testing.”

2.  When does the wrath of God begin during the Tribulation.


1.    God promises to keep the Church out of the Tribulation.


While it is true that the Rapture finds no mention of it in the pages of the Old Testament, we see from the beginning that it is against God’s nature and purpose to judge the righteous with the wicked.  Genesis 19 records the rescue of Lot and his family from Sodom, when God poured out His wrath on the cities of the plain.  The rapture of Enoch to heaven before to the flood is another illustration of this biblical principle.


The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul speaks to a young church planted during the apostles second missionary journey.  We are told that Paul had only three weeks to ground this infant church in the Word of God before he was driven out of Thessalonica by the Jews in the city.  Much of his teachings during that brief period evidently pertained to Bible prophecy and end-time events, since this letter – one of the first books of the New Testament to be written, emphasizes:


•.  The Second Coming

•   The imminent return of Christ

•  The Tribulation

•   Other end-time subjects


         These topics may indicate what subjects Paul considered essential for new converts.


The reason for the apostle Paul writing his first epistle to the congregation at Thessalonica was to answer some of their question surrounding the death of loved ones.  Paul had predicted that believers would be raptured, they wondered about loved ones buried in the ground.  Evidently they wrote Paul a letter of inquiry, so in answer he extended his commentary to prophetic questions for the saints of all ages.


In the introduction to this first letter to the congregation at Thessalonica, the apostle praises the members because their testimony and their example to all they came in contact with, caused many to believe throughout all of Achaia and Macedonia.  With that introduction, the apostle continues in verse 9.


In 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10  NIV, Paul


9       They themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

10     and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead - Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.


These people in Thessalonica were waiting for Christ from heaven to be delivered from the wrath that was to come upon the earth.  Paul does not instruct them that other events must occur first.  He was writing to quiet their anxious hearts about those who already had died.


Aside from the point about turning from idols to the true and living God, Paul stresses waiting “for God’s Son….. Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”


The answer that Post-Tribulationists give to this is that the wrath spoken of here is the wrath of hell, not the wrath of God.  They say that this is simply a statement that says when you become a Christian, you have been delivered from the wrath of hell.  The reason I cannot buy that is that the wrath in verse 10 is still future (“…to come.”).  Well, they say that hell is yet future.


But, according to the Bible, I am delivered from the wrath of hell the moment I turn to Jesus Christ in faith and trust.  I am already justified by the blood of Christ and delivered from the wrath placed upon those who reject the Savior.


But the reverse implication is found in John 3:36.  He that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the WRATH of God abides on him.  Therefore, if a person does believe, then God’s wrath already does NOT abide on him.


Here are a few more Biblical promises God gives to the Church.


1 Thess 5:9 NIV


9       For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.


This verse closely follows the strongest passages in the Bible on the Rapture.  1 Thess. 4:16-18 should be very familiar to us by now.  We have looked at it a number of times during our series.  That’s the Passage that says the “dead in Christ will rise first…”  The following chapter must be seen within the same context.


Romans 5:9 NIV


9       Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!


Luke 21:36 NIV


36     Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."


Revelation 3:10 NIV


10     Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.


This Passage says that the purpose of the coming “hour of trial (testing)” is to test all those who dwell on the earth.”  Whenever that phrase is used in Revelation, it always refers to unbelievers.  Not once to believers.  (See Rev. 6:10;  11:10;  13:8, 12, 14; 17:2, 8)


This promise was given to the church at Philadelphia.  Some say this means believers are protected during testing instead of from testing.  Can God keep us through severe testing?  Absolutely He can.  But, emphatically, that is not what He says here.


The word rendered “from” in this verse…….is from the Greek preposition “ek.”  It has various connotations that denote exit out of or separation from something with which there once was a connection.  Examples:  From a place, or from the midst of a group, etc.  This prepositions is used over 800 times in the Bible and is never used in the sense where it might include going through a tribulation.


As for those who try to make this verse indicate that God will keep us “through” the tribulation time, or “in” the time of testing the usual Greek word for “through” is the preposition “dia.”  And the usual Greek words for “in” is en, eis, eip and kata.  Ek is not the word to be used in order to indicate that God will keep a hedge of protection around us “in” and “through“ the Tribulation.


It is also important to note that it is not simply the temptation, or testing, that our Lord promises to keep His own out of, but it is the very hour of testing we are kept from.  It is not just the testing God keeps us out of but He keeps us from the total hour that is, from the very time period of the testing.


By the way, the definite article “the” in the Greek text is found in front of “hour” and in front of the word “testing.”  It is referring to THE hour of THE  testing.”  The reason this is important is that this isn’t just any old testing.  It is a particular one.  And this testing will come upon the whole world.  There should be no doubt about which testing this is.  And we are promised that we will be kept completely out of it.


Some scholars suggest that Christians must experience the Tribulation to somehow spiritually purify them, in preparation for heaven before they will be raptured.  However, this argument fails to two reasons:


1.      First, the majority of all the followers of Christ who compose the Church that will be present at the Rapture include hundreds of millions of departed Christians who have died during the past two thousand years.  Since these Christian souls are already in heaven without suffering the persecution of the Tribulation, it does not make sense that the believer living in the final days would be required to experience the persecution of the Tribulation to spiritually prepare them for the coming resurrection.


2.      Second, there is no need for believers in the last days to experience the Tribulation to purify them spiritual before they reach heaven.  All believers in every generation are purified solely by the atoning power of Christ’s blood.  His perfect sacrifice on the Cross, is the only thing that can justify us and fully pay the price for our sins.


2.    The Wrath of God


The big question now is, “When is the wrath of God displayed during the 7 years?”  Is it displayed throughout the 7 years, or is it limited to a specified shorter period?


The Greek word, THUMOS, translated “wrath,” is found ten times in the book of Revelation, and only eight times in the rest of the New Testament.  And the apostle Paul says, in Ephesians 5:6, that the wrath of God “comes upon the sons of disobedience.”


When we have a lesson on the 7-year Tribulation, we will find that much of Revelation’s description of it are described in 3 sets of 7 judgments.  They are known as the 7 Seals, 7 Trumpets and 7 Bowls.  As it relates to the wrath of God, let me read two passages, one from the Seal judgments and one from the Bowl judgments.  The first we will read is found in the description of the sixth seal.  In the middle of the judgment being meted out, we find the following words.


Revelation 6:15-17 NKJV


15     And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,

16     and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

17     For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"


You have heard me say in past lessons that in the Book of Revelation, the record of the events of the 7-year Tribulation begins with this chapter – chapter 6.  So we are told here that the wrath of God is active in the very first group of judgments.  I will say more about this later in this lesson.  Just now, make that mental note that the wrath of God is already active at, or near, the beginning.  Also, there should be no mistake that this is NOT the wrath of man or Satan.  The passage very clearly says the judgments being displayed are coming from Him who sits on the heavenly throne and is the wrath of the Lamb.


The next passage I want to read will be that which introduces the last group of 7 judgments – the bowls.  Chapter 15 sets the stage for these judgments.  These bowls of judgment will begin to be poured upon the earth at the beginning of chapter 16.


Revelation 15:1 NKJV


15     Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.


This verse not only introduces us to the last group of seven judgments, but also tells us that when they are finished, “the wrath of God is completed.”  The New American Standard Version reads: “the wrath of God is finished.”


The question I asked earlier, let me ask again.  When does the wrath of God begin among the events of the future 7-year Tribulation.  As we continue, I think you will see that it begins early and continues to the end of the Tribulation.  If it starts at the beginning of the Tribulation, and if we believe the Scriptures we read earlier about believers not being subjected to the wrath of God, but escaping it, that would strongly support a Pre-Tribulation Rapture.


As we noted earlier, there are many passages in the Word of God which promise the Church that they will be spared the wrath of God, yet to come.  These promises are a problem for the Post-Tribulationist.  For if the Church is present during the Tribulation they either are here to suffer this wrath and great indignation of God which is contrary to the promises we have been reading or God puts a hedge about them so they are sort of “immune” from it all.


But then, that would be contrary to a number of other Passages, like the verse we just read – Rev. 3:10 where it speaks about a testing that is to:


                   1.      Come upon ALL the earth,

                   2.      Test, or try, ALL that dwell on the earth.


Let’s read Revelation 3:10 (NKJV) again:


10     Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.


The Post Tribulationist would put the Church in the middle of this testing.  According to this verse, we know that none on earth are immune from the testing.  At first glance, this argument in support of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture does not appear to harm the position of the Mid-Tribulationist or the Pre-Wrath Rapturist.  Each of these also believe that the Church escapes the wrath of God.  And each believes only a part of the 7 years involves the wrath of God.  The rest is purely the wrath of man or the wrath of Satan.


So the natural question is:  “When does the wrath of God begin?”  I believe that each of the positions, except for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position, raise a serious question about the sovereignty of God.  In saying the first ½ or ¾ of the 7 year tribulation is not the wrath of God, but, rather, the wrath of man, Satan or the Antichrist, assumes that Man and Satan can always act apart from God’s permission.  The phrase, “wrath of Satan,” comes from the King James Version of Revelation 12:12.


Revelation 12:12 NKJV


12     Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time."


In his wrath, Satan, knowing he has but a short time, seeks to accomplish his goal of conquering the earth.  His expulsion from Heaven will occur at about the mid-point of the 7 years.  All of this is under the control of Almighty God.


The Bible often portrays God carrying out His will through evil persons or nations.  One of the classic examples is when He allowed the evil nation of Babylon to discipline Israel by destroying Jerusalem and the Temple and by carrying away the surviving Jews into captivity.  This action by God prompted the Prophet Habakkuk to ask why God would punish those who are evil by using those which are more evil (Hab. 1:13).


Any carnage wrought by Man or Satan during the Tribulation will still constitute the wrath of God.  They will simply be His instruments.  The Bible says God sits in the heavens and laughs over the plots and deeds of evil men --- not because He does not care, but because He has everything under control  (Psalm 2:1-6)


The psalmist wrote, in Psalm 76:10:  “The wrath of man shall praise you (God).”


Let’s actually look at the book of Revelation to see if we can determine what is God’s wrath.  I do believe, as most do, that the first half of the 7-year Tribulation is less severe than the last half.  By that, I do not mean the first half is without severity.  Christ may have called the 2nd half  “Great Tribulation”  (Matthew 24:21) but He called the 1st half “The beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:8).  This is a reference to “birth pangs.”




I start here, because almost all positions believe these occur early in the Tribulation.  Where do these seals originate?  Let’s look at Revelation 5.


Revelation 5:1-5 NIV


1       Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.

2       And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?"

3       But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.

4       I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.

5       Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals."


Revelation 5:6-13 NKJV


6       And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

7       Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

8       Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

9       And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; because You were slain, and with your blood you have purchased for God men from every tribe and language and people and nation,

10     And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth."

11     Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,

12     saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!"

13     And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!"


Revelation 6:1 NIV


1       I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, "Come!"


In considering whether or not the wrath of God is being meted out early in the Tribulation period, we need to remember just Who is opening the seals.  It is mentioned in Chapter 5 that Christ (the Lamb) took the scroll out of the right hand of Him that sat on the throne.  He is thereby indicating His right to administer judgment.


In John 5:22, 27, the Bible states that all judgment has been given to the Son.  In Revelation 4 & 5, the Father sits on the throne and it is the Lamb – Jesus Christ, who is given the authority and who is found worthy to open the 7-sealed scroll of judgment, unleashing God’s wrath upon the whole earth.  God’s wrath is seen through a series of judgments in the book of Revelation, referred to as the seals, trumpets and bowls.


At the opening of each seal, the punitive forces that are released produce successive waves of judgment that build to its ultimate climax.  I believe that ALL the judgments of the Book of Revelation are presented as judgments of God against a Christ rejecting world, no matter who or what the agency of that judgment may be.


Some may object, saying, “doesn’t Rev. 6:15-17 indicate when the wrath of God begins?”  Let’s look again at what those verses say.


Rev 6:15-17  NIV


15     Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.

16     They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

17     For the great day of His wrath has come, and who can stand?"


                            This is part of the 6th Seal judgment.


Let me make a couple of comments.  Firstly, to believe that the 6th seal is the beginning of the wrath of God, based on it being the first mention of God’s wrath is to separate the 6th seal from the previous 5.  But all the seals are a series of judgments and should not be so disjointed.


Secondly, we need to keep in mind who is making the statement in the verse we just read in Rev. 6:15-17.




They are not men of God, but are part of the ungodly upon whom the Lord is sending His judgment.  And, even when these things are occurring, you witness no repentance at all.  No, those speaking here are not godly prophets, and I think those who look at this verse to indicate the beginning of the wrath of God, need to be careful about what prophets they are willing to believe.


Thirdly, the fourth seal seems to tell of judgments that could not be unleashed by either men or Satan.


Revelation 6:7-8 NIV


7       When the Lamb [Christ] opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!"

8       I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.


1¾ Billion people are going to be killed during this holocaust.  ¼ of the world’s population will be destroyed.  This would not happen unless God permitted it to be so.  Mention is made of the “wild beasts of the earth.”   How can man control this?  Only God can – He is the orchestrator of what is happening throughout the Tribulation.


The same kind of information is found when we come to the early trumpets, which all groups except those with a Pre-Tribulation View hold is very early in the Tribulation.  Where do the trumpets originate?  From the same source – the throne of God.


Look at how the 7 trumpets are introduced.


Revelation 8:1-7 NIV


1       When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

2       And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.

3       Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.

4       The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand.

5       Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

6       Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.

7       The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.


These certainly look like judgments from the hand of God to me.  Before the first trumpet sound, the angel is directed by God to fill the censer with fire from the altar and hurl it at the earth.


When we arrive at the Bowl judgments, we are told, in Rev. 15:1, they will finish – bring to a close – the judgments of God.  There should be no doubt, by that statement, all of the bowl judgments are included in the “wrath of God”.  But the Post-Tribulationist, all of whom claim that the seals, trumpets and bowls are concurrent thus placing the first several bowls early in the 7-year Tribulation.


No, I think the Bible, very solidly, places all of the seals, trumpets and bowls as part of the wrath of God.




The wrath of God is reserved for those who reject the Lord’s offer of salvation.  When Abraham asked God for mercy for the other citizens of Sodom, he led, “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee.  Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).


In Paul’s book to the Romans, we read:


         “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).


While believers often experience God’s chastening for our correction and we often endure the consequences of our sins and the sinful decisions of others, the Scriptures clearly reveal that the wrath of God is reserved for unrepentant sinners.