Signed, Sealed, Delivered
We come to this vision right after the magnificent vision of the throne room of God where he is worshipped because he is creator and Jesus is worshipped because of what he has done, this beautiful scene in the throne room of God where sovereignty was exalted and the Lamb is one worthy of breaking the seals, we come immediately here to chapter 6.
And I’ve said that the judgements in Revelation tend to parallel the Exodus plagues, but the Seals here do not parallel Exodus plagues at all, but trumpets and bowls will and will be very similar. And the point of the Exodus plagues was to show us what happens to those who do not honor Yahweh. They’re focused on what happens to the non-believers in the judgments.
The Seals here are focused on the plight of the people of God. What will the life of the believers be like while judgments are being dealt out? Will the people of God be exempt, or will the be caught up in it? What happens to the Christians when, literally, all hell is breaking loose? And the question is “is God sovereign?”
And it makes sense that this would be first because God is more concerned with getting his message to his people, then he can communicate to everyone else.
Now, these judgments are vicious, and the Bible makes no apologies for it. This is not our Mr. Rogers Jesus. And frankly, sometimes, the Jesus we see in Revelation makes me uncomfortable, because he’s not the Jesus we typically talk about. He’s the Lord, judge, and warrior God, who enacts judgement on those who rebel against him- who refuse his generous gift of life. He’s not the nice, comfortable Jesus that I can put in a box.
Commentary and questions as you go. “placed by whom?”, “given by whom?”, Hades is the stomach of death, etc.
1 As I watched, the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals on the scroll. Then I heard one of the four living beings say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked up and saw a white horse standing there. Its rider carried a bow, and a crown was placed on his head. He rode out to win many battles and gain the victory. 3 When the Lamb broke the second seal, I heard the second living being say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse appeared, a red one. Its rider was given a mighty sword and the authority to take peace from the earth. And there was war and slaughter everywhere. 5 When the Lamb broke the third seal, I heard the third living being say, “Come!” I looked up and saw a black horse, and its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice from among the four living beings say, “A loaf of wheat bread or three loaves of barley will cost a day’s pay. And don’t waste the olive oil and wine.” 7 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living being say, “Come!” 8 I looked up and saw a horse whose color was pale green. Its rider was named Death, and his companion was the Grave. These two were given authority over one-fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword and famine and disease and wild animals.
Different zoom level pictures slides? To illustrate that we should not focus on details or we’ll miss the picture. Transition into the “who are the riders”.
The wrong question is "who are the riders?" The point is not their identity, it's their function. The point isn’t even, “when will this happen?” It’s what is happening, but I’ll tell you, I think this has been going on since Jesus ascended to heaven until today. And these horsemen will ride until the end.
And we see them riding different colored horses and they all represent different things:
Green (pale)- death
Verse 1- thunder- creation sounds like God does when it calls for judgement on humanity that has rejected God.
So the question was, “given by whom?”. The answer is “given by God.”
Verse 5-6- Quart of wheat for (this is "poverty" in the KS) $91.67. Is that a good price?
What's going on? War. These riders are not chronological. They ride together.
But the point is that the Lamb is sovereign. Is God in control. But we see this war and bloodshed, leading to famine and sickness and death, but God is in control. I know that it looks crazy, but God is in control. Do not worry. God is in control.
So, with all this war, and famine and sickness and death, what is the result?
9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. 10 They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters—their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred—had joined them.
Death for many of the saints. Where are they? Where is the altar? They are with God in heaven.
First four seals are on earth, but the fifth seal is in heaven.
They were faithful to their testimony through what? Four horsemen.
And they're seeing the effects of war and it's results on the saints of God and they cry out for vengeance. The Saints cry out, "how long?" How long are the horsemen going to ride before you judge the world and end it all?
And this is something I’ve been thinking a lot about this week- about the way we sing and pray. And honestly, I’m not sure what to do with this, but Psalms are supposed to be a guide to pray, right? They express the full range of honest human emotion from exuberant joy, to shaking anger, to wallowing sorrow, to euphoric praise. And we see things like, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” to “Happy is the one who takes your babies and smashes them against the rocks!”
How do we sing? How do we pray?
We cut off half of our emotions because of the perception that they are ungodly.
Sometimes, it is appropriate to pray that God would judge. We are his children, we should hunger for righteousness.
Yes, we should pray for enemies to be converted, but I also don’t think it’s inappropriate to pray for ISIS to be destroyed.
Things like what we see in Iraq and Syria with ISIS and Bashar Al-Assad, and in Nigeria with Boko Haram and in Somalia with al-Shabaab and India with state sanctioned radical islamic extremism and in Turkey and Recep Erdogan should make us cry out for justice!
When is the last time you prayed that prayer? Do you pray for justice? Do you pray for God to avenge the blood of our brothers and sisters that is shed all over the world today?
Not just physical warfare. Spiritual. God vs. other gods. At some point, he has to reclaim his honor. So it isn’t even for our sake. It’s for his! He is mocked because of his patience. “Can’t your God even protect his people?”
Beale says as much in his Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament:
John’s emphasis on God defending his own reputation by judging sinners who have persecuted the righteous is also evoked by the clause “will you not vindicate our blood?”
When will God avenge? When enough of us have died. Because victory in the kingdom of God is attained through suffering- the suffering on the Cross that we will celebrate on Friday, and/or our suffering.
Count the elements
12 I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. 13 Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from a tree shaken by a strong wind. 14 The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places.
Earthquake, sun, moon, stars, sky, mountains, islands. Complete judgement of creation.
What happened here?
Judgement. The end of the world.
The prayer of the saints under the altar has been answered.
Count these people.
15 Then everyone—the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person—all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one 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 survive?”
How many categories of people are hiding?
7! What's he saying? Judgement on ALL of humanity! And they’re afraid of the wrath of who? The LAMB! Do you see the paradox here?
Literally, they call out to their idols ask the question: “Who is able to be standing?”
This is the question that is the theme of Revelation and is answered in the next chapter.
And the point here is God is in control. It may look chaotic right now, but God is in control. Do not put your faith in anything but him. These people put their trust in idols. They put their trust in mountains and rocks to save them. And it failed.
OBJECT of faith matters just as much as having faith.
This week, do not put your trust in what cannot save you. Trust only, solely in the Cross, the blood, the death, the resurrection of Jesus.
Think about your time this week. Take note of how much time you spend thinking about or giving devotion to Jesus. Make a log. Seriously.
And then honestly ask yourself, “what are my idols?” What better week is there to nail your idols to the cross to be put to death than the week in which we celebrate Jesus dying to free us from them?