Revelation 6:16—Is Christ merciful or wrathful?

Problem: Throughout the Gospels Christ is presented as merciful, healing the sick, blessing the poor, comforting the sorrowing, and forgiving sinners (cf. Luke 9:56; 19:10). But the Book of Revelation speaks of “the wrath of the Lamb” (6:16) and the judgment of Christ on the whole world (Rev. 19:11–15).

Solution: Often the differences in these passages is due to their reference to different times in Jesus’ work on earth, namely, His first coming versus His second coming. His first coming was primarily a mission of mercy. His second coming, however, will be initially one of wrath. He who died as a Lamb (John 1:29) will also return as a Lion (Rev. 5:5). During His first coming, Jesus was a bruised reed (Isa. 42:3), but at His second coming He will rule with an iron rod (Ps. 2:9).

At other times, Jesus’ different attitudes and actions were simply due to the fact that they were directed at different people or conditions. For example, even during His first coming Jesus was angry with hypocrites (Matt. 23) and indignant with those who had commercialized the house of God (John 2). He cursed the fig tree, which symbolized the fruitless nation of Israel that rejected their Messiah (Matt. 21:19). At all times, Jesus is merciful to the penitent and wrathful to the impenitent.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.