Posttribulationism and the “Word-Concept” Fallacy

John Accomando asserts the following:

More than once, the vials are called “the wrath of God”, whereas the trumpets are not.

It’s usually assumed that the “wrath” begins shortly after the 6th seal, just because the word “wrath” is being used, but “the wrath of the Lamb” seems to be very specific. Also, upon further inspection, one sees that the trumpets aren’t actually referred to as “wrath” anywhere. However, we know that the vials are assuredly called “the wrath of God” on more than one occasion. I don’t think it’s a trivial point.

We must avoid assuming that if a word or phrase is not mentioned in a particular passage then the passage cannot be depicting the concept of the day of the Lord’s wrath. This naïve approach to doing word studies is called the “word-concept” fallacy, which is an assumption that studying a word (or phrase) means having studied the entire biblical concept. This is also called the “concordance” method of interpretation. One should not simply open up a concordance and finger down the page looking for usages of a single word and stop there. It can be a beginning point for study but word (or phrase) studies should not end there. There is an important difference between studying a biblical concept and studying the range of meanings of a single word or phrase.

Besides particular words, descriptive imagery can also indicate that an event is an expression of God’s wrath. For example, the fifth trumpet judgment does not contain words such as orgē or thymos, but we can be certain it is part of the day of the Lord’s wrath by its every description (Rev 9:1–12). The fifth trumpet depicts demonic-locust creatures torturing the ungodly on earth for many months, which is certainly an expression of God’s wrath! In fact, if the passage contained the words orgē or thymos it would be redundant, not to mention that imagery is often more forceful than using denotative terms. There are other contextual, literary, and theological indicators that can clue us into a passage describing the day of the Lord’s wrath. The overall point here is that we should not fallaciously filter what can or cannot be God’s wrath through a single word such as orgē. Language and meaning is much more richly complex.

I also want to mention a handful of reasons why the day of the Lord’s wrath begins at the seventh seal, not the first bowl judgment.

i. The fifth seal martyrs cry out to God asking when he will pour out his wrath. They are answered in a little while and given robes indicating that it will be very soon.

ii. The sixth seal depicts the celestial disturbances that signal the wrath of God is impending. This was predicted by the prophet Joel, “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” (Joel 2:30–31 ESV)

iii. Just after the sixth seal is broken there are two groups who are protected from the imminent day of the Lord: 144,00 on earth, and the great multitude having resurrected bodies in heaven who have come out of the great tribulation. These two groups are protected at this point clearly for the purpose of protecting them from the wrath of God that begins at the seventh seal.

iv. The seventh seal is broken and God’s wrath is unleashed (Rev 8:1-4).

Any person who misses the clear logic of these points is holding a tradition that they do not want to let go.


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