Monday, April 11, 2011

The Revelation of the Seal Judgments

Part 13 through the book of Revelation

Text: Revelation 6:1-17

WORTH IT IN THE END

In Revelation 6, we see:
  • Divine sovereignty. Review: God is on His throne (ch. 4); Jesus is on our side (ch. 5).
  • Human depravity. We see man’s inhumanity to man. God permits man’s self-destruction.
“O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (v. 10).

“How long?” is a common question in Scripture. “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” (Psalm 82:2). Habakkuk complained, “O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? (Habakkuk 1:2). Later, God said, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (v. 3).

In the end, Jesus will judge sinners and vindicate His saints, so take up your cross and follow Him.

THE OPENING OF THE SEALS

Many people believe that the “great tribulation” begins with the opening of the first seal. “In those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, not human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days” (Mark 13:19-20; cf. Matthew 24:21). “The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness (Zephaniah 1:14-15). “The day of the LORD is great and very awesome; who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11; v. 31).

Jesus opens six of the seven seals:

1. First Seal: Conquest (the rider on the white horse)

Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer (vv. 1-2).

Jesus is in control. He opens the seals. The divine passive “was given” is found in vv. 2, 4, 8).

Jesus declared, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. There are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Mark 13:7-8).

2. Second Seal: Bloodshed (the rider on the red horse)

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword (vv. 3-4).

3. Third Seal: Famine (the rider on the black horse)

When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!” (vv. 5-6).

A “denarius” was an average day’s wage for a labourer. A “quart of wheat” was enough food for one person for a day.

4. Fourth Seal: Death (the rider on the pale horse)

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth (vv. 7-8).

5. Fifth Seal: Martyred saints

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the alter the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been (vv. 9-11).

Will the church go through the “tribulation”? Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 6:33). Most of the apostles were martyred. According to one recent estimate, 100 million Christians presently face persecution. Personally, I believe that Christians will go through the “tribulation” and face the wrath of Satan, but not the wrath of God.

“Since, therefore, we have not been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9). “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9; cf. 1:10). “I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10). The Greek word for “keep” can be translated either “remove” or “preserve.”

We should follow Jesus whether our lives are free of trouble or full of trouble. Jesus was willing to die for us on the cross, and we should take up our cross and be willing to die for Him—if necessary.

6. Sixth Seal: Shaking of the heavens

When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place (vv. 12-14).

Jesus said, “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heaves will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” (Mark 13:24-27).

IS GOD REALLY FILLED WITH WRATH?

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (vv. 15-17).

“Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” (Malachi 3:2). “Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him” (Nahum 1:5-6; cf. Hosea 10:8). “In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth” (Isaiah 2:20-21).

What does the Bible say about God’s wrath? First, God’s wrath is His intense hatred of sin. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18; cf. 2:5-8). Second, God is patient and longs for people to repent. God is “slow to anger” (Psalm 103:8). God desires to pour out His love, not His wrath. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Third, those who reject God’s mercy will face His wrath. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).