Does God's Wrath Begin with the Trumpets?
In the timeline of end-times events, when does God's wrath begin? One fact is not under debate: God's wrath begins during the Day of the Lord (Zeph 1:14–18, Isaiah 13:6–13). However, the Day of the Lord contains two sets of judgments: the seven trumpets and the seven bowls. So when, during the Day of the Lord, does God's wrath begin? During the trumpets? Or the bowls?
God's wrath, as defined in an end-times context (keep this in mind — this is a very important point) likely begins with the bowls. Although there are many more reasons than I shall list here, let's start with the fact that the word “wrath” in Revelation.
The word "wrath" is not used during the first set of judgments, the seals, until the sixth seal, when the sun turns dark, the moon turns to blood, and the stars fall from the sky, the triple sign that indicates the arrival of the Day of the Lord. At this time, the unsaved of the world cry, “The great day of God's wrath has come! Who can stand?” (Rev. 6:13).
The great day of God's wrath is a synonym for the Day of the Lord, which according to Joel 2:31, begins after the sixth seal. During the sixth seal, we see the unsaved crying, “The great day of God's wrath has come!” Clearly, the unsaved are referring to a future, but imminent event. Indeed, the Day of the Lord is poured out during the seventh seal, which is made up of the trumpet and the bowl judgments.
The use of the word “wrath,” however, is not used again until the end of the trumpet judgments. At this time, just as it is during the seal judgments, it is not used until the sixth judgment — the sixth trumpet: “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come. And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints” (Rev. 11:18).
Has come. In Rev. 6:17, this verb tense looks forward to an imminent but future event, the Day of the Lord. In Rev. 11:18, we see the exact same verb construction in the same order of the judgments. If the term “the great day of God's wrath has come” during the sixth seal indicates an imminent but future event, then consistency demands that the observation here, in Rev. 11:18, should also refer to an imminent, but future event.
God's Wrath Poured Out
In fact, it does. The seventh trumpet contains the seven bowl judgments, and as the bowl judgments are poured out, John writes: “Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever” (Rev. 15:7). This is the first time a specific judgment is linked with the wrath of God. The linking of God's wrath to the bowl judgments from here on out is unmistakable.
John continues: “The temple was filled with the smoke of the glory of God and from His power. Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, `Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth'” (Rev. 16:1).
And the first angel poured out his bowl upon the earth.
And the second angel poured out his bowl upon the earth.
And the third angel poured out his bowl upon the earth.
And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the earth.
And the fifth angel poured out his bowl upon the earth.
And the sixth angel poured out his bowl upon the earth.
And the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the earth.
From the beginning of the bowl judgments on, the word "wrath" to describe these judgments occurs nine times. The fact that the bowls are God's wrath seems so clear that it is difficult for me to understand how anyone could see it otherwise.
A reader recently asked me about Rev. 15:1, which introduces the bowl judgments. In this verse, it states: “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.” In them the wrath of God is complete. Doesn't this imply that God's wrath began earlier than the bowls? By implication, during the trumpets? Isn't the entire time period that is the Day of the Lord God's wrath?
Not necessarily. First, it is a basic rule of biblical interpretation that, if you have nine verses that are clear and one verse that is not clear, you interpret the unclear by the clear, not the other way around. If one verse, in this case Rev. 15:1, is indecisive, and even appears to contradict those that are clear, the preponderance of weight should be placed on the clear verses, not the one that is an anomaly. Not that the anomaly should be ignored. It should not. But anomalies should never be used to casually dismiss the preponderance of clear, direct evidence to the contrary.
So why is Revelation 15:1 indecisive? The Greek word used here for “is complete,” teleo, means “to end, i.e., complete, execute, conclude, discharge — accomplish, make an end, expire, fill up, finish....” If you look up teleo in a word study Bible, you will find that all of its uses have the sense of bringing to a conclusion an event that started in the past and is brought to completion in the present. Examples include Matt. 7:28, Luke 18:31, 2 Cor. 12:9, and Rev. 10:7, among many others.
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