Vindictiveness to many connotes ‘pay back’ or satisfying a grievance. Actually, that interpretation is very realistic. The actual word ‘vindictive’ is not found in the Bible, but its meaning and application is found over and over again. Webster defines ‘vindicate’ with several synonyms including avenge and justify; both of which definitely describe the innateness of our sovereign God.
The Greek base for the Biblical term ‘avenge’ in fact translates to ‘vindictive justice’. Synonyms include revenge, vengeance, wrath, repay, recompense, and requite. Research indicates there are more references in the Bible to vindictive justice, its cause and result, than there are references to God’s love and mercy. Vindictive justice is not an option with God; it is required due to His holiness and justness.
And while the Apostle John stressed that ‘God is love’ in his writings, God’s love for the world was exemplified when He poured out His wrath, i.e., His required vindictive justice on His Son at Calvary on our behalf.
Therefore, God’s vindictive justice will be experienced by those who reject the vicarious payment on the Cross. The Bible teaches repeatedly that Christians are not to seek vengeance on their own behalf; rather such justice is to be administered by God Himself.
“Bless those who persecute you…repay no one evil for evil…do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the LORD.” Romans 12:14-19
The above New Testament Scripture affirms God’s word from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy.
The cry for vengeance on one’s persecutors is found in other Old Testament writings.
“O LORD…remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. Know that for Your sake I have suffered rebuke.” Jeremiah 15:15
Scripture refers to the present time period between Christ’s ascension and His return in power as the last days. During this age persecution of Christians will increase and revenge will be sought. Such cries for justice will not fall on deaf ears.
Perhaps the most succinct warning for those who reject the truth and persecute those who cling to the truth is found in Paul’s second letter to the Christians at Thessalonica.
“…to the church of the Thessalonians…we boast of you…for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure…that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble (persecute) you…when the LORD Jesus is revealed…taking vengeance on those who do not know God…These shall be punished with everlasting destruction…” 2 Thessalonians 1:1-9
God’s chosen ones suffered persecution in Old Testament times, are suffering during this present age, and some will suffer during the future tribulation period for clinging to the truth. The remedy is the same for all who suffer persecution for holding fast to the truth in any age, i.e., vindictive justice levied by a holy and just God in His timing.
The Revelation sheds light on those who will be martyred during the coming tribulation period.
“…I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ …and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” Revelation 6:9-11
The Greek for ‘slain’ in the above translates ‘killed’ by various means. Further in the Revelation is found more detail.
“…Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image…” Revelation 20:4
The Greek for ‘beheaded’ means exactly that and is the same term used to describe the fate of John the Baptist as recorded in the gospel records.
Thus, God is both love and vindictive. One term explains the other.