Lost in Translation: ‘Not Appointed Unto Wrath’ – What Scripture Is Really Saying
1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ …”
Buy a book written by virtually any popular Bible prophecy teacher today and you are guaranteed — at some point within the confines of its pages — to read a sentence or two that sounds a little something like this: “The Bible says that we are not appointed unto wrath, which means that Christians are not destined to suffer the wrath of God. Since the Tribulation is the wrath of God the Church must therefore be removed from the earth before the Tribulation begins. Otherwise, the Bible is lying.” You get the idea. It sounds reasonable, right? Because if the premisses are true then the conclusion must be sound, correct? In theory, yes, but only if all of the premisses are true. So allow me, if I may, to take a closer look at the “not appointed unto wrath” proposition that leads many of us to conclude “removal from the earth”, and join me as together we delve a little bit more into the text in an effort to better understand the wrath that we see in the Book of Revelation, and the wrath that we specifically are not appointed unto. Something very, very important has been lost in translation.
First, let’s begin by looking at all the verses which tell us that we are not appointed to wrath, or are saved from wrath:
- 1 Thess 1:10, “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, [even] Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
- 1 Thess 5:9, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”
- Romans 5:9, “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
- Eph 5:6, “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.”
Next, let’s look at the Greek word specifically used for “wrath” in each of these verses to better understand what we are studying:
- 1 Thess 1:10, — The wrath that we will be delivered from is the Greek “orge” (G3709).
- 1 Thess 5:9, — The wrath that we are not appointed to is the Greek “orge” (G3709).
- Romans 5:9, — The wrath that we are saved from is the Greek “orge” (G3709).
- Eph 5:6, — The wrath upon those who are disobedient is the Greek “orge” (G3709).
The original text of Scripture is simple and straightforward. We are not appointed to suffer, and are saved from, the “orge” wrath of God.
The “Orge” Wrath of God in the Book of Revelation – When Does It Begin?
Next, let’s examine the wrath of God that is described in Revelation. The word “wrath” itself is found 13 times in English translations of Revelation, but what many teachers of Biblical prophecy fail to delineate is the fact that, in the original Greek, the word translated as “wrath” is not just simply from the Greek word “orge”. It is from two separate words — “orge” and “thymos.” Since many Christian teachers fail to identify this significant distinction they also then fail to realize that the “orge” wrath of God that we are promised to be saved from according to the verses above is itself only found six times in Revelation. And here’s the kicker: Each time “orge” is found it is always used in a post-trib context only:
1 and 2. It is mentioned AFTER the cosmic signs and the revealing of Christ Jesus (Revelation 6:16-17). Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that these signs happen immediately AFTER the tribulation (Matthew 24:29).
3. It is found AFTER the SEVENTH trumpet (Revelation 11:18). When the 7th and last trump begins to sound we find the rapture described in Revelation 10, which is explained in detail here.
4. It is used to describe the final torment of unbelievers in hell (Revelation 14:10, the wine of the “thymos” of God is poured out into “the cup of His indignation“- orge).
5. It is found AFTER the SEVENTH vial/bowl (Revelation 16:19). (The trumpets and bowls are two sides of the same coin. They are separate descriptions of the same events whereby the trumpets are the cause and the vials/bowls are the effect).
6. It is used in connection with Christ’s Second Coming (Revelation 19:15).
Moreover, according to John in the Book of Revelation, the “thymos” wrath is directed upon a very specific group only — the Antichrist, his land, his kingdom, those who have received the Mark of the Beast, those who worship the image of the Beast, those who have shed the blood of the saints (cf. Revelation 16). Those upon whom the vials/bowls of “thymos” are being poured are still given the opportunity to repent, but they refuse (Revelation 9:20-21; 16:9-11). When the “orge” wrath comes, however, there is no such provision for repentance. According to the text, it appears that we will be here on earth witnessing these events right up until the beginning of the seventh and last trumpet, at which point we are then immediately gathered together to Christ just before the “orge” wrath comes upon the wicked.
According to the preponderance of the evidence, the text is therefore telling us that the “orge” wrath that we are saved from is not the same type of wrath that we find during Great Tribulation. The “orge” wrath that we are saved from is only found immediately after the tribulation at the Second Coming of Christ. As such, even if the rapture does not happen until immediately after the tribulation we are still saved from the “orge” of God as promised, yet still present to witness the “thymos” wrath of the first six trumpets and vials/bowls upon Antichrist, Antichrist’s kingdom, and Antichrist’s people (for more on Antichrist and Antichrist’s kingdom, see here).
What is the Difference Between “Orge” and “Thymos” Wrath?
When presented with this reality, some will then incorrectly assume that both the “orge” and “thymos” wrath of God must somehow have essentially the same meaning. If that were the case, however, then why did the Holy Spirit inspire the writers of the New Testament to use them both? Why were they both used at times in the same verse? Why does God-breathed Scripture only tell us that we are saved from the “orge” wrath? Obviously, although both “orge” and “thymos” could have similar meanings they must still be qualitatively distinct. Here are some examples where they are both used in the same verse:
Colossians 3:8, “But now ye also put off all these; anger (orge), wrath (thymos), malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth”
Revelation 14:10, “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath (thymos) of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation (orge); and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb”
Revelation 16:19, “And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness (thymos) of his wrath (orge).”
Truth be told, the trumpets are themselves not even identified as “wrath” anywhere at all in the text. As was mentioned above, however, the trumpets and vials/bowls are opposite sides of the same coin where the trumpet is the cause and the vial/bowl is the effect. Knowing that the vials/bowls are called the “thymos” wrath of God would therefore associate the trumpets with “thymos” wrath as well, which is defined as sudden and passionate anger but an anger that will boil up only to subside again later. With the “orge” wrath that is found only after the Second Coming of Christ, however, we see deliberate anger. We see righteous indignation. We see the hostile and violent vengeance of a just and true God, and every time in Scripture we read that we as believers are not appointed to wrath or will be delivered from His wrath it is always the post-trib “orge” wrath of God only. In the “orge” wrath the anger will not subside. It will not abate. It is not a punishment to chasten and invoke repentance like the “thymos” of God — because when the “orge” of God comes it is then too late.
Proverbs 10:30, “The righteous will never be removed, But the wicked will not inhabit the earth.”