Are the Seven Seals God’s wrath? Revelation #4

Are the Seven Seals God’s wrath? Revelation #4 June 12, 2023

I have been trying to draw attention to the fact that for many Christians their understanding of God and wrath in the book of Revelation runs radically counter to how God has revealed Himself in Scripture. Yet, many apparently have no problem with this.

Tim Lahaye, whose famous Left Behind series, which has sold 70 million copies, not only proclaims in his books that God will strike the earth and its inhabitants with plagues and horrible catastrophes but seemingly rejoices at such:

“LaHaye stopped just short of telling MSNBC that the tsunami that killed some 200,000 people on December 26, 2004, was God’s will. He makes little secret of the fact that he views earthquakes, floods, and global environmental deterioration as signs of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Floods and environmental calamities should be a cause for Christian concern, but not prophetic excitement.”[1]

As I said in my last post: “If we conclude that the Seven Seals, Seven Trumpets, and the Seven Bowls depict God inflicting wrath upon the unbelieving world, so that those who survive may repent, then, as I have said in the previous posts, God is a moral monster, who, at the end of the day, is no better than any other despot.”

Sex and war sell

I was asked recently, if this is not what the Bible and the book of Revelation are about, then why do so many believe this? Why is this teaching so popular? Why are we so attracted to the popular end times scenarios?

For one, we love believing that we are the good people and “they” (fill in the blank here _______ with whomever you want to include as among the “they”) are the bad people.

Also, what Jesus really said is hard. Let’s face it. It sounds a lot better to blame all of the world’s ills on everyone else. It sounds a lot better to acknowledge that I’m pretty good. It sounds a lot better to believe that if things start getting tough, God’s going to rescue me from this place.

What then does the Book of Revelation say?

This naturally raises the question: Does not the book of Revelation tell us that God strikes people and the creation with terrible plagues in the last days? And the answer is, “No.”

Let me begin with the Seven Seals (Rev 6:1-17; 8:1, 5).

They are not divine judgments.

The first four Seals (Rev 6:1-8) describe the inevitable consequences of what happens when humanity rules apart from God. The tragic result of human rule is violence, famine, death, and destruction.

This should not be surprising. It is what Genesis tells us. Adam and Eve decide to rule by their own wisdom and not God’s (As I noted in an earlier post, Adam and Eve did not “Fall” they “Failed”) they failed to rule by submitting to God’s wisdom. And in the very next story in Genesis Cain murders Abel (Gen 4:1-15).

The Seals, in other words, depict the consequences of what happens when, as Paul would say, God hands us over to our own desires (Rom 1:18-32). David Barr notes that the first four Seals, “form a logical and consistent series that has often been acted out in history: first a conqueror appears, followed by war, famine, and death.”[2]

Revelation is about God’s love for humanity and His creation

As I have been arguing through our study of the book of Revelation (you can view the study on my YouTube channel, or by tuning in to the Determinetruth podcast), the book of Revelation is setting forth a narrative. In that narrative, God’s people are suffering and they cry out to God, “How long?” (Rev 6:10-11). The reply is essentially, “Not yet.”

The Seven Seals and the Seven Trumpets represent the “not yet” part of the story.

The reason for the not yet is because God desires to see the nations redeemed! And the means by which the nations come to know Christ is us! As I say in my upcoming commentary, it is through the faithful, loving, and sacrificial witness of God’s people that the nations come to know Christ. Of course, we must note that our faithful, loving, and sacrificial witness is manifested in the midst of suffering.

This is what it means to Follow the Lamb! Jesus loved us and suffered for us so that we might have life. Now, He calls us to do the same. This is what it means to “carry your cross and follow Me” (see Mark 8:34).

This is why the popular end times stuff is so wrong! This is why it is so dangerous!

NB: In case you were wondering, “Yes” I do believe that there will be a judgment day. And “No,” unfortunately, I do not believe that everyone will be saved. My point has been in this series of posts, that God does not use wrath to bring people to repentance. He loves them. And He manifests His love to them so that they may believe. However, there will come a day when those who refuse to believe will face the final judgment.


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[1] Rossing, The Rapture, loc 132. I must confess that I struggled greatly looking through the popular dispensationalist literature. As I reviewed this literature in order to discern their view of hope in the book of Revelation, I continued to find the distorted sort of enthusiasm that relished in war and environmental devastation. This view is grossly self–focused. The rapture is good news for individual Christians, but bad news for the world and its inhabitants.

[2] Barr, Tales, 2622-23.

About Rob Dalrymple
Rob Dalrymple is married to his wife Toni and is the father of four fabulous children, and two grandchildren. He has been teaching and pastoring for over 33 years at colleges, seminaries, and the local church. He has a PhD in biblical interpretation. He is the author of four books (including Follow the Lamb: A Guide to Reading, Understanding, and Applying the Book of Revelation & Understanding the New Testament and the End Times: Why it Matters) as well as numerous articles and other publications. He is currently completing a commentary on the book of Revelation titled, “Revelation: a Love Story” (Cascade Books, pending 2024). You can read more about the author here.

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