By Rev. Bill Lee-Warner
For the pretribulationist, the entire 70th week of Daniel is the wrath of God. That therefore means the Seals, the Trumpets and the Bowls are all the wrath of God. But, is that an accurate understanding?
For several reasons, the Seals cannot be a part of the wrath of God spoken of so frequently in Scripture:
I. The Historical Argument
In the times before the advent of the modern usage of books and after the use of cuneiform writing and papyri, scrolls were used as the medium for recording most information. Scrolls were most often vellum (leather) or some form of rolled paper. To keep the contents of the scroll from the eyes of those for whom it was not intended, the scrolls were sealed with one or more seals, usually of wax.
The seals were always on the outside of the scroll, never on the inside where they would be encountered as one unrolled the scroll. That means that all the seals must be broken BEFORE the contents can be exposed. This is the picture we have in Revelation 5 where we are introduced to the scroll. In Revelation 6, we have the breaking of the seals of the scroll. Its only when the seventh seal is broken, (all seven) that the contents of the scroll can be exposed. Therefore, since the wrath of God begins with the breaking of the seventh seal, (note: Revelation 8:1ff) the seals cannot be the wrath of God.
II. The Biblical/Logical Argument
The question needs to be asked, “If the entire 70th week of Daniel is the wrath of God (as pretribulationalists insist), why are believers who are promised exemption from the Day of the Lord’s wrath (1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9 – note: “all” believers of any age) present during this time?” (cf. Rev. 12:17; 13:7) There must be a division during the 70th week where believers are present and then absent as promised.
1. In Revelation 12 the reader is in an interlude that begins with chapter 12:1 and concludes with chapter 15:4. The focus for this interlude is the midpoint of the 70th week. In Rev. 12:12, we are instructed regarding the casting out of heaven of the devil who “has come down…having great wrath”. In 12:17 and 13:7, we are clearly told that the wrath of Satan is subsequently poured out on the “saints”, those “who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” In other words, during the time of Satan’s wrath when Antichrist exalts himself, he persecutes the saints. Clearly, there are two wraths spoken of (during the 70th week of Daniel) and it’s during the wrath of Satan (through Antichrist) when believers are persecuted. Satan’s wrath is depicted in the fourth and fifth seals and prior to the Day of the Lord’s wrath which begins with the breaking of the seventh seal.
2. In Isaiah 2:11 and Ezekiel 38:23, God tells us that He alone will be exalted in the day of His judgment (that begins with the 1st Trumpet). In 2 Thes. 2, Paul explains that the “man of lawlessness” (Antichrist) will exalt himself just prior to the “day of the Lord” (2:2). That poses a problem:
A. If God is going to exalt Himself during the day of the Lord, Antichrist cannot exalt himself at the same time, and
B. If the entire 70th week is the wrath of God, then how is it possible that Antichrist exalts himself during the time that is supposed to be when God exalts Himself? The answer is, he can’t and doesn’t. Therefore, we must conclude that there must be two time periods in view within the 70th week of Daniel: (1) when Antichrist exalts himself, and (2) when God exalts Himself. Since God exalts Himself during His Day of the Lord wrath (which begins with the breaking of the seventh seal), the seals, which precede the time of God’s wrath, cannot be included in the time period when God alone exalts Himself.
3. In Revelation 6, we are introduced to the seals of the scroll (ch. 5). The 6th seal is clearly marked by the oft-repeated indication of the imminent Day of the Lord, the wrath of God. (cf. Joel 2:10,31; 3:15: Matthew 24:29) In Revelation 6:12, we see the appearance of this “announcement” of the onset of the God’s Day of the Lord wrath at the 6th seal. Following the 6th seal is the 7th which is opened beginning in chapter 8. Between Revelation 6:17 and Revelation 8:1 is Revelation chapter 7. In Revelation 7 we see clearly that the rapture takes place. (Note: 7:9-17) – sometime during the second half of the 70th week of Daniel. It is important to note that the wrath of God doesnÕt begin until the 7th seal is opened.(Rev. 8:1) This ushers in the 7 Trumpet judgments, the wrath of God spoken of in Revelation 6:17. His wrath begins with the 1st Trumpet judgment, not the seals.
4. A final note is that in the first three seals, the disasters are more of a natural phenomenon. Beginning with the Trumpet judgments, they are clearly of a supernatural nature, effected by angels and usually associated with fire.
Although Christ is clearly in control of all the end-time events, it is equally clear that the wrath of God does not begin with the seals. The world will run its course (albeit, in an intensified way once the 70th week begins) right up to the sign of the sun, moon and stars when the natural lights of the universe will go out. Following this event will be the world-wide visible return of the Lord for His own (cf. Matthew 24:29-31), and then the Day of the Lord, the wrath of God, will begin.