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The call to Repentance

Revelation Wide Open  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Date
3/29/2020
Speakers
Thomas C. Black
Venues
Fame Evangelical Church
This sermon, as the former, is preached to an empty auditorium and placed online.

Introduction

This morning we are introduced to the infamous four horsemen of the apocalypse. There is no shortage of speculation, much of it stated rather matter-of-factly, about them. Many of us have heard certain things over the years and that familiarity may cause us to think we certainly understand the imagery here. But stop. We need to go back, look at the text, read it, and contemplate it within the context of the Bile, the times they were written in, and the intent of the book of Revelation.
reminds us that Revelation is written to the church in order to be and to bring a blessing. The purpose of Revelation is NOT to fill you with fear. The purpose of Revelation is not to confuse you. The book of Revelation is about revealing Christ Jesus. And that certainly includes God’s deep desire to see sinners come to him in repentance and faith.
Please read with me: .
Revelation 6:1–8 NASB95PARA
Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.” When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.
As the sixth chapter opens, we step into what is presumably the beginning of the seven year tribulation period. I say presumably, because there is nothing that says, “The tribulation starts here”. But I think that too is the point. As we’re about to see excepting perhaps the scale and scope of the judgments resulting in ¼ of the world’s population perishing - there really isn’t much present there, which isn’t already present today. In fact there have been moments in history such as the two world wars or the black plague where every sign of the apocalypse seemed to be coming to pass.
Matthew 24:22 NASB95PARA
Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
But when the tribulation does begin it seems that it will indeed be much, much worse. In fact, Jesus says in , “unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. should serve for us as a warning like those at the beginning of a movie - if you will - that what we are about to see is not pretty.
Now as we begin with these horsemen – take note please and write it down for later study, that the closest we have in comparison to what we see in the four horseman of the Apocalypse are the four horsemen of would invite you to read today from as well as .
In Zechariah, these horsemen on different colored horses are apparently angelic beings whom God has tasked to patrol the earth and report back. Similarly in chapter 6 we see four chariots with a similar task of patrolling but also of appeasing the Lord’s wrath. Both chapters of Zechariah are directly connected with comforting the people of God as they struggle to see God’s hand amid their very difficult circumstances. In a very similar way, this segment of the book of Revelation is meant to encourage the church as it faces incredibly difficult days.

The First Horsemen of the Apocalypse

As our chapter opens, John looks and he sees Jesus – the lamb who is worthy, as He breaks open the first of the seven seals just as one of the four living creatures thunders out a command for the first horseman to come. That is really vital for us to consider as chaos looms over the church in Revelation, and as chaos seems to reign around us today amid the Covid-19 crisis. Indeed when nations rise and fall, when wars rage, when plagues come, when the hearts of mankind around us are only evil all the time, God is still the one in control. Even the horsemen of the Apocalypse only come when summoned.
The first seal is associated with a white horse and the rider is unnamed beyond, “He who sat on it”. Unsurprisingly there is no lack of speculation on the identity, especially of this first rider. It’s either Jesus, or the antichrist, or the Roman empire, or the gospel itself. The list goes on. But Speculation isn’t Bible study, and neither is dogmatic adherence to a conclusion without evidence. Be careful about the conclusions you bring to the scripture before you do Bible study or you’ll only reinforce your opinions and may indeed miss the point.
So let’s take a look at what we do know.
First, and most significantly I think, the first three horses have their riders described simply as “he who sat on it”. But the fourth horse actually has a rider who is named. That rider is named “Death”. In this instance the lack of identification is important. God hasn’t shared with us an identity of the first three riders because the identity of a person or a personality riding the horse is not the point. The point in particular is not the rider, but the consequence of the first seal being broken.
What we do see as the first seal is broken is a white horse with an unnamed rider bent on conquest. He has a bow for war and he was given a crown.
Pay close attention to the simple verb: given because it matters that we understand what is one of the primary lessons of the book of Daniel: men may think that they create kingdoms, but the rise and fall of both ruler and nation is in the hands of God alone.[1]
Since this happens to be an election year we would do well to pay close attention to that fact. We might get all excited and even distressed, but remember the rise and fall of kings (presidents) and nations is God’s domain. Do your work, cast your vote, and trust in God.
In our text, the inauguration of the tribulation is just as Jesus stated in the Olivet Discourse, There shall be wars and rumors of wars. (, ). All of history has been filled with it. At times, especially in our own times in the great world wars - many were convinced that the global wars were signs of the end, but Jesus so much as tells us that warfare will always be with us until he comes. In fact, it is a hallmark of the return of Christ that his kingdom will be a kingdom of peace united under the prince of peace. Until that day - war will be the norm.
This is further brought home by the next three horses.
But let us not miss the point before we move on. God’s church should be encouraged by the knowledge that everything is in the Hands of God, and nothing happens without him. Even as what appears to be the onset of the tribulation period takes place, the unfolding events are his doing.
This first seal unleashes conquest. The second makes it worse.

The Second Horsemen of the Apocalypse

As the second seal is broken by Jesus the second “living creature” says, “Come” and a second horse - this one a red horse went out. The unidentified rider is this time not given a crown but a capability; he was given the power to take peace away from the earth.
Let’s look at what the scripture says here:
The second horse is red. Whomever this rider is he is given a large sword indicating large scale death. Perhaps I should say here that I would be inclined to piggyback on with Zechariah’s vision and see these riders either as Spiritual beings - fallen angels if you will, who are given permission by God to do the things that they will do, or else they are merely symbolic of the realities of death and war that they represent. Either way we might be inclined to ask “Why on earth would God do this?” We might even object that “innocent people will suffer!” But dealing with the second assertion first: There are no innocent people. Every one has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory () and therefore are under the condemnation of death ().
But God is in fact doing something specific in these judgments as we shall see in a moment. But I think too we need to see the next two horsemen in order to make sense of it as a whole.

The Third Horsemen of the Apocalypse

As Jesus breaks the third seal, the now familiar events occur again. The next rider is commanded to come and now a black horse steps forward. This rider has a pair of scales in his hand. The scales indicate, as , warns that disobedience to God will result in famine, forcing them to measure out the bread they eat.
Now as the rider on the black horse advances another voice is heard from amid the four living creatures declaring the extent and the limit of the famine. In John's day 8 quarts of wheat could have been bought for a day’s wage (1 denarius). Seeing the price of a single quart costing day’s wages is quite the shock a similar event is shown for the Barley, but oddly enough not for the oil and the wine. The fact that the oil and the wine are undamaged might indicate that this is a short lived famine.
What is also clear is that even in the famine, God is putting restrictive measures on how far the famine can go. Once again we see God is sovereign, and even in the midst of judgement he is gracious.
But I have to ask again, why is God restricting the damage? If God’s goal is total annihilation, then He could simply have it done at once, or let the famine be unrelenting. Why the restriction? Let’s take a look at the final horse and perhaps we shall see clearly what God is doing.

The Fourth Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The scene repeats itself one last time. Jesus breaks the fourth seal and the fourth creature commands the fourth horseman to come.
This one, an ashen - or perhaps a pale or sickly green horse is ridden by the only rider to be given a name. He had the name “Death”. Hades, or the grave was following with him. Hades is not a person but rather is “The grave” which tends to give weight that these four riders are not real persons, but rather that they represent something, namely the judgments applied to them.
Take note once again that authority was given to them (there is the sovereignty of God again). Authority was given to them over 25% of the earth to kill with the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts. Given today’s global population that is a staggering death count!
But the plagues associated with the fourth horseman is a repetition of the first three indicating perhaps that rather than sequential, God will unleash all four of these judgments simultaneously upon the earth. This helps us finally we get to the point we get to understand what God is doing, and it’s given away at the end of verse 8.
Notice please the four judgments mentioned: Sword, famine, pestilence (plague), and wild beasts.
In -ff God speaks a word of warning to the people of Israel concerning their covenantal relationship with God. They had sworn at the base of Mt. Sinai that they would obey the Lord, and God entered into a covenantal relationship with them there. In he tells them that if they refuse their part of the covenant - that is to say if they break faithfulness with God he sequentially bring upon them sequentially worse and worse judgments in hopes that they would turn back to him. Indcluded in this list is plague, wild animals, the sword, and famine. (Also see ). Throughout scripture God uses these four great judgments mirrored in the four horsemen to both judge the unrepentant, as well as to purify his people calling them to repentance.[2]

What’s the Purpose?

So what is God doing in all of this with these four horsemen (and the rest to follow)? Let us make the question a little less theory and a lot more real… What in the world is God doing with COVID-19 and Tornadoes? What is God doing with 70,000 global deaths TODAY for any and every reason from COVID-19 to falling off a ladder?(https://www.worldometers.info/) What in the world is God doing with the rise and fall of kingdoms, the ever-present warfare, the ebb and flow of famines? What is God doing with locust swarms in Africa? If God is the one who raises up kingdoms and deposes them, if God is the one who calls for the storm and the one who calms it; what is God doing?
Every tragedy, every death is a call for people everywhere to repent.
One day () as Jesus was finishing his prayers, his disciples asked him to teach them to pray. As he was teaching a crowd begins to gather and gather and gather (, ). That’s when someone came and asked him the “what in the world is God doing” kind of question ().
It appears some Galileans had been presenting their offerings at temple when Pilate had them put to death, mixing their blood with the blood of their sacrifice. Elsewhere a tower in Siloam had fallen and killed 18 people. They wanted to know, what on earth is God doing?
Jesus tells them they’ve missed the point. The dead were not more wicked than the living, the living have been given the chance to repent; or else they’re all going to die.
Every death, every tragedy, every accident and incident of war, famine, sickness, and whatever else is an invitation by God to repent. As the great tribulation begins - God is intensifying the call to repentance.
But look around you. Whether in the time of the great tribulation, or today; the work of God is seeking repentance.
Church, we have been crying out for God to revive us, to revive this land, to bring a sweeping revival across this world. No one knows if this is God’s answer to that, but it does make clear what our mission is supposed to be: we need to tell people about Jesus.
In every crisis - there is a call. I believe that many of you listening in this morning already have a saving relationship with Jesus. You get to partner with God by sharing the good news of God’s salvation with others who are facing fear, and maybe for the first time in a long time are thinking about death.

Invitation

But to everyone watching, I would like to explain to you, in conclusion, what God is seeking.
In the beginning of all things, God - who is perfect - created a perfect world. But it didn’t stay that way. Sin entered the world and with it: death.
The Bible tells us two things clearly.
<1> Everybody has sinned. ()
<2> The wages, or the results of sin are death (). Not just what I would call human death, but the eternal separation away from the only perfect good: God himself.
The Bible also explains that there is no way we can either erase any sin on our own, nor is there any way that we can possibly do any amount of good that might offset the sin - as if good and evil might be weighed on a scale.
The bad news of the Bible is that you and I are both sinners, and both are condemned to facing God’s judgement and separation from God.
But there is good news.
God sent his eternal son to become a human, just like us with one exception: Jesus had no sin at all. He lived a perfect life, and in the end he was put to death by jealous and fearful men by nailing him to a cross. The Bible says () that God made Jesus take on the fullness of sin for us, so that we could gain his righteous perfection.
That means that when Jesus died, he paid the death penalty, not for HIS sin, but for ours. Jesus was crucified and dead, he was buried in a tomb, and on the third day he walked out of that tomb forever-after alive.
What God calls us to is repentance and trust.
First: God wants you to stop sinning, or maybe another way to say it, he wants you to turn away from sin and turn towards Him. That is what repentance means.
Second: God wants you to believe in Jesus, not merely as an agreement to a fact, but as an act of trust that he really does save those who turn to Him. God doesn’t just want your Sunday, he wants your whole self every day.
Today, even right now, God is calling for you. Confess your sin to Him, submit yourself to Jesus - asking him to save you.
In this new relationship you are going to want to learn to obey the commands of Jesus, including the command to be baptized. Get into a church that teaches God’s word. You need the encouragement, strength, and fellowship of other Christians around you to help you live obediently with Jesus.
If you want to know more, send me an email: Pastor@famechurch.net
[1] (see , , (esp v 6-7).)
[2] This is another example of how a thorough knowledge of the OT is required to properly interpret Revelation. Almost every symbol throughout the book of the unveiling hearkens back to the Old Testament in some way because that was the primary Christian text for the first century church.
[2] This is another example of how a thorough knowledge of the OT is required to properly interpret Revelation. Almost every symbol throughout the book of the unveiling hearkens back to the Old Testament in some way because that was the primary Christian text for the first century church.
Song:
Logos Digital Hymnal Immortal, Invisible

Immortal, invisible God only wise,

In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,

Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,

Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

2 Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,

Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;

Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above

Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

3 To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;

In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;

We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,

And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

4 Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,

Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;

All praise we would render; O help us to see

’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!.

Immortal, invisible God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!.
Thy wisdom so boundless, Thy mercy so free, Eternal thy goodness for naught changest thee!
Logos Hymnal, 1st edition. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).
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