The following eleven passages, underscored by six words in bold—wrath, indignation, vengeance, retribution, judgment, and punishment—reveals to us the Tribulation’s primary basis, which is the righteous anger and judgment of God on an unrepentant sinful people. Hence, here is the Tribulation’s truest and most basic nature.
‘Is it not laid up in store with Me,
Sealed up in My treasuries?
35 ‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution,
In due time their foot will slip;
For the day of their calamity is near,
And the impending things are hastening upon them.’
So it will happen in that day,
That the Lord will punish the host of heaven, on high,
And the kings of the earth, on earth.
22 And they will be gathered together
Like prisoners in the dungeon,
And will be confined in prison;
And after many days they will be punished.
In the climatic moments of the Tribulation, when the foundations of the earth are violently shaken (v. 19), God will punish evil angels as well as evil men.
Come, my people, enter into your rooms,
And close your doors behind you; Hide for a little while,
Until indignation runs its course.
21 For behold, the Lord is about to come out from His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;
And the earth will reveal her bloodshed,
And will no longer cover her slain.
During the Tribulation many will be saved, and many of those will be Jews. Here “my people” I think are referring to believing Jews. They are told to hide in their rooms until the indignation is finished (until God’s wrath is over). This implies that they will be spared of His wrath during the Tribulation. But all unbelievers will face His punishment.
For the Lord has a day of vengeance,
A year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance;
The recompense of God will come,
But He will save you.”
God will save and protect all who call upon Him, even when it is in the Tribulation. And He will come with vengeance against the unsaved evil ones.
“And some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge, and make them pure, until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time.
36 “Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god, and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done.
“The king” here is the Antichrist. He will remain alive to do his evil works all through the Tribulation—until God’s indignation is finished.
15 A day of wrath is that day,
A day of trouble and distress,
A day of destruction and desolation,
A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,
18 Neither their silver nor their gold
Will be able to deliver them
On the day of the Lord’s wrath;
And all the earth will be devoured
In the fire of His jealousy,
For He will make a complete end,
Indeed a terrifying one,
Of all the inhabitants of the earth.
And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?”
and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”
This is the message of a holy angel as he flies across the sky. It is a warning to repent before the bowl judgments come (Rev. 16).
And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb…”
This aspect of the Tribulation, God’s vengeance and wrath, will be the most troublesome for people, and what they will fear the most (see Rev. 6:16). The entire seven years of tribulation will be based on God’s wrath; and the last three and one-half years (called the Great Tribulation) will be especially difficult. In fact, the seven-bowl judgments during that time span (Rev. 16:1-21), are symbolic of the “bowls of the wrath of God.” Hence, we may picture it as the constant and unrelenting wrath of God being poured out on the earth.