Session 8

Revelation Study – Session 8

 

In this session we are going to focus on Revelation 6.  It is important to read this chapter in the larger context of Revelation.  The first act in this great drama of redemption began in chapter 4 with a wonderful vision of God on His throne, holding out a book securely sealed with seven seals.  It is my belief that this book tells of the ultimate fate of God’s people and the enemies of God’s people or the outcome of the great on-going battle between good and evil.  As act 1 unfolds John becomes very distressed because no-one is found worthy to take the book from God’s hand and open it to reveal its content.  Then, in chapter 5, which is a continuation of the vision in chapter 4, we are introduced to the Redeeming Lamb, the only One worthy to reveal the contents of the book of God’s judgments.  Act one of drama of redemption closed with the Redeeming Lamb (Jesus Christ) taking the sealed book (representing God’s workings in history) from the outstretched hand of the reigning God.  This scene stands behind the remainder of the Apocalypse.      

 

In chapter 6, the Lamb begins breaking the seals on the book.  As the seals are broken, scene after amazing scene flashes before John’s eyes.  Unifying message – assurance and victory of those in Jesus Christ.  As we explore these scenes, we need to keep in mind that this is apocalyptic language.  We must look behind the symbolism to discover the meaning of each scene.  As these scenes unfold, we are reminded of the instruments of judgment available to God in all periods of history.  To John’s readers, the visions pointed to some current event or incidents in Roman history.  To all readers, they show how God can work in human history. Ray Summers points out that throughout the visions in Revelation, the forces God used to judge Rome --external invasion, internal rottenness, and natural calamity -- are emphasized.

 

Revelation 6, which reveals the breaking of six of the seven seals, can be outlined as follows:

·         6:1-8 (Seals 1-4) - Reveals the means (instruments) of God’s judgment on Rome an others

·         6:9-11 (Seal 5) - Reveals the reason for God’s judgment

·         6:12-17 (Seal 6) – Reveals a description of God’s judgment

 

6:1-8  - The instruments of God’s judgment

      The first four seals are broken and one at a time four horsemen, each on a different colored horse, ride across the stage.  We shall see that these horsemen represent instruments, which God uses to judge a godless people.

(1)   Each of the four horsemen appeared at the command of one of the four living creatures, which were around God’s throne.  (“Come” – addressed to horsemen)

(2)   No lines and no action other than riding of horse across path of vision.  Like a pantomime.  From color of horse and description of writer we must identify him.

 

      The horseman on the white horse (6:1-2) – Two main views

 

(1)   Represents Christ or perhaps cause of Christ – White could suggest heavenly purity…crown could suggest royalty…bow could suggest power over enemies…if that is intended interpretation could represent the successful conquest of gospel…there is similar picture of Christ in Rev. 19:11-16…several objections have been raised to this view:

·         In chapter 19 has sword in mouth, not bow in hand

·         Going same way (direction) as others; would expect Christ to be in conflict with what follows

·         Unnatural for Christ to open the seal and then suddenly rush behind the scene to ride forth

·         Doesn’t really fit into the pattern of judgment which follows

 

(2)   Represents military conquest, lusting to conquer another foe

·         White horse always ridden by conqueror in a triumphal march…crown symbolized victory

·         Been suggested that there are clear similarities between this horseman and one of the forces God would use to destroy Rome.  The soldier was not Roman but Parthian (bow and crown never used by Roman). Rome never conquered the Parthians and always feared an invasion by them.

·         To the readers here was a picture that victory was coming…Rome would not always stand…outside conquest would be part of her destruction…

 

The horsemen on the red horse (6:3-4)

·         An inevitable result of military conquest is war and bloodshed.  Therefore, it’s natural that the white horse is followed by a red horse.

·         This horse and horseman symbolize war and the killing that goes with it.  He had the power “to take away peace from the earth” and to kill with a great sword.

·         Rome who lived by the sword would die by the sword.  We’ve witnessed God pronounce that judgment time and again in human history.

 

The horseman on the black horse (6:5-6)

In the wake of war invariably comes famine.  That’s what the black horse and horseman represents

·         “quart of wheat … three quarts of barley for a denarius” - Famine prices; very short supply; day’s wage for food enough for one person for one day

·         “do not harm the oil and the wine” – Luxury items available only to the rich; while the wealthy had more than enough, the masses were starving.

This was another instrument God used to bring about judgment.

 

The horseman on the ashen (sickly pale) horse (6:7-8) 

This was a gruesome sight - the horse the color of a corpse.  In the wake of war and famine came pestilence and epidemic. This was not at all uncommon to Asia Minor.  As a matter of fact, more people would die as a result of pestilence and epidemic than as a result of war and starvation.  That’s why this rider is called “death” and “Hades” (the abode of the dead) follows him.

 

The last statement in v. 8 (“And authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword and with famine and pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.”) is a summary statement about the four horsemen.  Need to point out couple of things about that statement:

·         Authority was given…God gave the authority…a reminder to the struggling church that God was in control…

·         Only over a fourth of the earth…there would not be complete, total destruction…possibility of repentance for the evil doers was always kept open…

 

      So, the first four seals produce a rather gruesome picture…four horsemen representing military conquest, war, famine, and pestilence. But in that gruesome picture is a word of hope for the church. God will use these things to destroy Rome, the great enemy of Christianity.  It is a reminder that God was then and still is today at work in human history!

 

6:9-11 – The reason for God’s judgment - When the fifth seal was opened John saw the souls of those who had been put to death because of their allegiance to Christ. Several questions need to be asked about those whom John saw.

1.      Who were they? All that John says to identify them is that they were “…the souls of those who been slain…” Several possibilities

·         Represent Christians of all ages who die before the Lord returns. While it’s true that Christians who die are with the Lord, this view overlooks the fact that these were martyrs and all Christians are not martyred.

·         Represent those Christians killed in a great tribulation period at the end of the age.  Would have little or no meaning to recipients of book.

·         Represents those Christians killed under the Roman emperor Domitian at this particular time in history. The main point of this section is that Rome will be harshly judged for mistreating God’s people.  This would be very meaningful to recipients of Revelation.

2.      Why were they killed?  John says, “… because of the word of God…”  When given the choice of denying Christ and saving life or confessing Christ and losing life they chose the latter.

3.      Where were they? – John says “…underneath the altar…” This would be a very meaningful phrase to the Jewish Christians.  A Jewish Rabbi said, “Whoever was buried in the land of Israel was just as if he were buried under the altar, and whoever was buried under the altar was as if he were buried under the throne of glory.”  They were not in a place of humiliation, but honor.  While they were treated shamefully on earth, they were glorified in heaven.  They now had a place of privilege.

4.      What were they doing? – They were crying out for God to avenge their deaths. “How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  The phrase “those who dwell on the earth” occurs exactly in that form seven (7) times in Revelation and it always means those who have not been saved and refuse to be saved.  They could not understand why a holy and true God did not immediately strike down the Romans.

5.      What is their reward?  There is a two fold reward:

·         White robe – Could be a reference to their salvation (i.e. they were made pure)…could be a reference to victory over enemies.  It is significant that the robe was given to them.  Whether it symbolizes salvation or victory they did not earn or achieve it.  It was a gift from God.

·         Rest  – Probably a reference to the rest God gives His people at death.  Cf. Revelation 14:13…

 

This seal says that judgment is coming to avenge the injustices done to God’s people. Some critics claimed that this passage reflects a non-Christian attitude.  They say a loving God cannot be a judging God.  Overlook fact that wrath against sin is essential part of God’s righteousness.  Ray Summers points out that “This paragraph reflects the moral necessity of judgment.  God could not be a righteous God and allow…evil to go un-avenged.”  Some people have such a romantic, sentimental view of God that they render Him incapable of judgment.  They point out that the Bible describes God as loving, kind, benevolent, and forgiving.  But it is important to remember that the same Bible that speaks of God’s love also speaks of God’s wrath. The biblical message is God wants to forgive and restore us to Him.  But if we refuse to repent, His righteousness makes Him our judge!

 

6:12-17 – A Description of Judgment – This passage tells us several things about the coming judgment of God upon those who reject Him and harm His people:

 1.  Will be catastrophic – We might be tempted conclude John overstates case – earthquakes/sun black/moon like blood/stars falling/sky rolling up / mountains and islands moving…intent of strong language is to emphasize catastrophic nature of judgment…didn’t just arbitrarily pick these symbols…come from OT passages depicting end of world and great judgment…

Isaiah 2:19 – AND MEN WILL GO INTO CAVES OF THE ROCKS, AND INTO HOLES OF THE GROUD BEFORE THE TERROR OF THE LORD, AND BEFORE THE SPLENDOR OF HIS MAJESTY WHEN HE ARISES TO MAKE THE EARTH TREMBLE.

 

Hosea 10:8b - …THEN THEY WILL SAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, “COVER US!” AND TO THE HILLS “FALL ON US!”

 

Isaiah 34:4 –AND ALL THE HOST OF HEAVEN WILL WEAR AWAY, AND THE SKY WILL BE ROLLED UP LIKE A SCROLL…

 

Isaiah 50:3 – I CLOTHE THE HEAVENS WITH BLACKNESS, AND I MAKE SACKCLOTH THEIR COVERING.

 

Joel 2:31 – THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD BEFORE THE GREAT AND AWESOME DAY OF THE LORD COMES.

In vivid and forceful language from OT John describes the catastrophic nature of judgment.  The final judgment will shake-up the entire cosmic system. 

 

2.   Will be universal – This vision makes it abundantly clear that judgment will affect everything and every person.  All nature is touched by it – the earth (mountains/rocks/islands), the solar system (sun/moon), the universe (sky/stars)…all people are affected by it.  However, to say that judgment is universal does not mean that everyone experiences judgment in exactly same way.  To some, such as ones in this passage who cry for the rocks to cover them, it will be terrible experiences.  But to others, as shall see in chapter 7, it will be a pleasant experience because of redeeming work of Christ.

 

3.   Will be based on the wrath of God

·         Revelation has much to say about wrath of God...two basic words for wrath are used by John…

o   “orge” – Means God’s abiding, universal opposition to evil...used here  (16) and in five other passages...it’s type of wrath from which no-one can escape…

o   “thumos” – Means sudden outburst of anger which soon subsides, like the eruption of a volcano...used ten times in Revelation…

      This passage isn’t referring to violent outburst of temper...referring to that part of God’s nature which consistently stands against and judges evil..

·         The phrase “the wrath of the Lanb” in v. 16 very expressive...used only here in Scripture...one writer says: WHOEVER HEARD OF A LAMB BEING ANGRY? WHAT A TERRIBLE THOUGHT – THE GENTLEST OF ALL GOD’S CREATURES ANGRY!  IT IS THE WRATH OF LOVE, THE WRATH OF SACRIFICIAL LOVE WHICH, HAVING DONE THE ABSOLUTE UTMOST FOR US AND OUR SALVATION, TELLS US AS NOTHING ELSE COULD THE CERTAINTY WITH WHICH EVIL AWAITS ITS DOOM AT THE HAND OF GOD.

·         The wrath of God is so far reaching that the last day can be described in terms of it...in v.17 judgment day is called “the great day of wrath”…it’s because of the wrath of God against the forces of evil that judgment is coming…

 

Vision ends with question…v.17 - “Who is able to stand?”…chapter 7 gives answer…we’ll look at it in detail in weeks ahead...peek ahead just for a moment at 7:9-10…Herschel Hobbs compares God’s orge (wrath) to prairie fire...where can go to escape prairie fire?—where it has already burned …no danger there...where can we go to escape God’s wrath?...to the cross, where Jesus bore God’s wrath against evil as our substitute…

 

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