Every Thought Captive

The Rightness of God’s Wrath

Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

When He opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of Their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Revelation 6:1-17

Recently a Christian friend mentioned that a series on Revelation would soon begin in a Bible study she attends. “I’m not going to it,” she said. “I’ve studied Revelation before, and I just don’t want to do it again.” She added, “I just don’t want to dive into all that again.” She meant, not the difficulty of interpretation, but the fearful, repeated depictions of God’s judgment and wrath in Revelation. Alongside promises of beautiful future restoration, Revelation does predict God’s judgment and His fearful wrath against all who rebel against Him. Even many Christians find that difficult.

After the great scene of worship in chapter 5, in Revelation 6 the Lamb begins to open the 7-sealed scroll, unfolding God’s righteous design for the outcome of history. 

Horsemen appear, showing conquest, war, famine, and death. Voices of martyrs plead for justice. As the sixth seal is unlocked, there is an earthquake, the sun is darkened, stars are falling, heavens are “rolled up,” islands are removed, and human beings are calling for mountains to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb.

There it is—the wrath of the Lamb. How can the Lamb, the Savior-King, act in wrath?

We find almost the same question in the first book of the Bible. Abraham the patriarch heard from God about the great evil of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Canaanite cities chosen by Abraham’s nephew Lot for his home. The LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to Me. And if not, I will know.” (Genesis 18:20-21) God’s judgment is founded on His clear, thorough perception and His perfectly just character. 

Abraham began to negotiate with God; he was horrified at the thought of God’s “sweeping away” the cities where his nephew lived. The LORD agreed to spare the cities if even 10 righteous people could be found there. Abraham asked the question many ask today when reading Revelation, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25) Isn’t the wrath of God too cruel? Isn’t God loving? Is this fair?

God saw Sodom and Gomorrah as He sees everyone everywhere. Genesis 19 describes a society of perverse, violent sin. In mercy, He saved Lot, as the LORD “rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah…out of the heavens.” (Genesis 19:24)

God’s judgment is His perfectly insightful and just disposition of all things, including both reward for obedience and punishment of sin. God’s wrath is His active response to those who rebel against Him, and who reject His grace in His Son. What then do God’s judgment and His wrath mean for us today?

God’s fierce action against evil reminds us He created the universe good in every sense: magnificent, ordered, and moral, and this in turn reminds us He will make everything new.

God’s great punishment of sin will be His visible defense and vindication of His people, especially His suffering people.

God’s abhorrence of sin calls us to self-examination and repentance by His Spirit.

God’s action in judgment reminds us that life on earth, our lives, are meaningful.

How is it that the slain Lamb who saves also comes in wrath? God “has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)

Praise Him.

About the Author

Photograph of Neatice Warner

Neatice Warner

Neatice grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and graduated from the University of New Mexico. She is married to Terry and has 2 sons, 2 daughters-in-law, and 3 grandsons. Neatice is privileged to teach the PCPC Women's Early Morning Bible Study; her passion, along with her family, is God's Word and the joy of seeing God's people transformed by His Spirit through that Word.