Monday, November 25, 2013

Revelation 6 : The Lamb opens the Six Seals!"

Text : Revelation  6 :1-17
Title :  “The Lamb opens the Six Seals”
Date:  24/11/2013 

Summary :   Revelation Ch.  4 &5 :
·       A vision of the One worshipped ( 4:1-6a)
·       A vision of the worshippers gathered around the throne in heaven  ( 4:6b-11)
·       A vision of the  7 seals.  A Question:  Who is worthy to open  the  seven seals?  (5:1-5)
·       Christ the Lamb is worthy  to open the seven seals. (5: 6-14) 
In the midst of heaven’s worship (Rev. 4 & 5)  John saw a scroll  in the right hand of the LORD Almighty. A strong angel  asked in a loud voice : “Who is worthy  to open the scroll and break its seals?”  No one came forward, and John  became   so desperate to have the contents of these seals unveiled  that he had wept at the prospect  of there being no one  worthy to unseal  the contents – that was until  the Lion of Judah, the root of David, the Lamb  who has conquered  was declared  as being worthy   to open the seals . He   is now seen  in the process of  breaking them open in Ch. 6. The  question now follows: What does  all this mean?  
Observations at face value  show us  that  the  first 4 seals (6:1-18) deal with  judgments on the  earth .
The next two  seals  (6:9-17) deal  with  things in  the heavens.
The 7th seal stands apart from the rest. It is held back until 8:1 and  we shall see that it ushers in the next series of visions – the 7 trumpets, which shall be followed by the vision of the 7 bowls.[1]

The scroll contains  God’s purposes in   the  world – from beginning to end.  History is  not  just a haphazard connection of  random events ! History is known to God  and directed  by God.  We know this because  the purpose  of the Revelation to John is  “to show  the things that must soon  take place.” (1:1; 4:1).  Please  note that God holds  the history  of the  world in His right  hand. That is very assuring thing to know, particularly against the background of  the content   that is now  revealed to  John and  to us.  

The  opening of the six seals ( 6:1-8)
[6:1] 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!” [2] 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. The stage is set.
The Lamb  opens the first of the seven seals, and the voice  of one of the four  living creatures  says  with a voice like thunder,  “COME!”.   John sees  a rider on a white horse-  a conqueror figure.   In 19:11-16    we find  the rider  on the white horse who is  actually named   “the Word of God”  and the  “King of kings  and Lord of lords”. So we see here  the Lord Jesus  Christ Himself  riding out  as a conquering King (see also  5:5).  He  precedes  the following  3 riders   who  bear  bad news of  war  and  of lack of food and  of  diseases. These things must happen, and we are assured that  He is ahead and in control of them. 
Now this   is a picture of the  Lord Jesus Christ conquering in the midst of what we have known during these last 2000 – wars and famine and death.  We see it in the daily  newspapers. We read  reports of fighting, terrorism, genocides, inflation and financial collapse, of  famine and  of  epidemics. This is the world we live in. However, it is also in the midst of these years that  the gospel is  forcefully advancing, conquering and to conquer.   In all these things    our Lord  is more than  a conqueror (Rom.8:37).  He rides ahead! He is in charge of this sad  world’s destiny.  

[3] When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” [4] 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.  The  Lamb opens the second seal and the second creature before the throne says: “COME!” … and the  second rider on a bright red horse  is  permitted to take  away peace in the world, so that  people should slay one another…”!  If God  takes away peace from the world, all He does is to hand over people  to  themselves . He does not restrain them. He  allows their evil natures to take their logical course.  This explains as to why in the history of mankind we have seen such terrible outbursts  of  wars,  civil unrest, ethnic cleansings  etc.
Men at the  mercy of themselves  are capable of unspeakable  evil. That is why  the prayer of 1 Timothy 2:1-2  is so important : “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Pray that God may restrain evil in our day!

[5] 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. [6] 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!”  The Lamb opens the third seal  and the third living creature says, “COME!”.  John now sees  a  rider on  a black horse   with a pair of scales in  his hand.  They  are clearly out of balance  as the prices quoted are exorbitant.  This is a time  of distress caused by  famine and scarcity- of  economic troubles and biting inflation such  as was known in the great depression of the 1930’s- such as was known in  recent years in Zimbabwe, when  inflation was rampant and food shelves were  empty. 
A denarius  was the daily income of a working man in those days. With it he could buy 1 litre of wheat -enough to  feed himself, but not his family. Alternatively one could buy three litres of barley- merely  enough to exist!  Luxuries  such as oil and wine on which the rich feed,  appear to be available (at a price)  even in the hardest of times!  We see here  that even inflation and shortage is a means  by which  the LORD speaks to  the citizens of this world!

[7] When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” [8] 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.  The Lamb opens the  fourth seal  and the  fourth living creature says, “COME!”. Now John sees  a rider on a pale  horse . This rider  is given free reign  to “cull” 25 percent  of the world’s people – whether by  a  gun in the street, a land mine or a roadside bomb in  a battlefield,   or by means  of  a plane, train or road crash or a ferry disaster at sea, or through a  1918 flu epidemic,  or   through a  modern AIDS pandemic. This rider  is  licensed to kill, keeping the daily newspaper  headlines supplied!

SUMMARY: I trust that you get the picture. The  four  seals and the  four horses  and the four   riders  reveal what we see in our world. With awe we note that  the  things that we normally attribute to Satan  are in fact  things  permitted by God ( see Job 1).
All these judgments are  of a temporary nature  and precede and prefigure that great judgment which is still to come!
Thank God that the gospel rides ahead, inviting all those who are afflicted and weary and battered by  the sin of man  to  flee  to Christ. These  hardships and sufferings should  cause us to ask  questions about the true meaning and purpose of life. These temporary judgments  of Christ often drive people into the arms of salvation. They are a part of God’s plan “ to bring  all things to an end and to reconcile  all things together under Christ, whether things in heaven or things on earth” (Col 1:20). If  they do not happen the end will not come…

[9] When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain (lit.  martyrs- witnesses) for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. [10] 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?” [11] 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.  With the breaking of the fifth   seal  an entirely  different scene unfolds. John sees  under an altar in heaven  the souls  (disembodied spirits)  of those who had died  for the sake of the gospel.  They were crying  out to God in a loud voice : “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long…?”. Like John, they were impatient for  Christ to bring  history to a conclusion. Note the following  facts about these martyrs:
1. They were alive  -  they are proof that there is life  after death.
2. They were under the altar  -  According to  the book of Leviticus  the blood of slaughtered animals  was to be poured out at the base of the altar. These martyrs  were sacrificed  because of the  testimony they bore to Jesus. They were murdered by God-less, God- hating  evil  men, and their blood cries out from the earth, waiting to be avenged (Gen. 4:10; Deut. 21:1-9).  Even though their death on earth was  terrible, they are received in heaven with honour, and  they have not died in vain. Their blood is not wasted. They are eagerly waiting for God  to  bring final justice to the earth. This is what we are all  ultimately longing for, and today we are being reminded that this is what will happen.   
3. There  is  as yet an incompleteness about them. They are also  crying out because  they  are longing to be clothed with their resurrection bodies   which will transform them to be  like His glorious body  ( Phil 3:21), serving Him  in the new creation  which  will  be  free from all evil and injustice. In the meantime, while waiting,   they are given  a  white robe to wear. This  is an assurance   by which they are reminded that they are clothed and  resting in Christ’s perfect  righteousness. They were told to rest a little longer, until earthly history is complete  and  until the complete number of martyrs has come in.  This is what  we learn from the  5th seal.  In heaven , in a special place  we find  our  Christian martyrs, but they are alive, and they are heard by God  and they are comforted  - and soon they will be clothed  with their resurrection bodies!  No Christian  in the service of God  shall die in vain and unnoticed!

[12] 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, [13] and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. [14] The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. [15] 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, [16] 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, [17] for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” The opening of the  6th seal sets in motion the awesome events that accompany the end of the age. It introduces  the day of judgment – the day of the wrath of the Lamb (v.16).
This day is often spoken about in the Bible.[2]  
Two things  will happen:
1. There will be a  shaking of the  entire universe  as we know it. (vv. 12-14). We have seen these things in ‘mini formats‘  in terms of strange signs in the sky, earthquakes, volcanoes  etc. but this  will  surpass anything the world has seen  thus far. This will be universally  awesome and cataclysmic.  Do you think of that day?  
2. The  ungodly among the human race  will be thoroughly shaken up: (vv.  15-17)  Everyone is implied here:  kings, great ones, generals, the rich, the powerful, slave and free - everyone!  Since the  second coming holds  no terror  for the  Christian, only the God haters and atheists and agnostics  and those apathetic to God will cry for the mountains  to fall on them to hide  them from the face of Him  who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.
The 7th Chapter of  Revelation will deal  with the  position of the Christian in the great tribulation.  

This then is the revelation  of the 6 seals. It is  the revelation of the history of the world. It is not a pretty picture, and we wonder why John would have wept. But we are looking ahead, aren’t we?  We  are longing for this sin infested world to be wrapped up  and for the new heavens and the new earth to appear, a  new world   in which Jesus  shall reign  in His  righteousness and where we who love Him  shall be truly free and eternally happy.  Amen

[1] We shall find this pattern of 4:2:1 repeated  in the visions of the  trumpets and the bowls.
[2] Joel 2: 10 -11; 30-31; Zeph.  1:14-18;  Haggai 2:6-7 ;  Matt 24:29-31; ’ Mk. 13:24ff; Lk. 21:25ff; 2 Pet.3:7,10-13

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