Jesus is both our judge and king. He rules and brings everything into its consummating end. This includes the temporal judgments the whole of creation will suffer leading up to its end. The book of Revelation in chapters 6 and 7 shows us catastrophic events leading up the final destruction of everything we see here on earth. It clearly attributes these events coming from the hand of the One who worthy to open the seven seals of God’s scroll (Revelation 6:1).
Yet despite of the terror and fear it may induce to all who hears it, John’s vision includes encouragement to the people of God. Between the fourth and sixth seal, we read from Revelation 6:9-11 those who died for the faith. These martyrs are now safe in heaven even though they faced death here on earth. They were comforted in heaven and were assured of their salvation. At the same time, John saw in chapter 7 the whole number of elect sealed by God himself. After the sixth seal was opened, He also saw a great multitude of the redeemed from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages (Revelation 7:9). So in the end, the temporal punishment God brings through his Son only brought wrath to those opposing him here on earth and sealed the final destiny of his elect.
Our sermon comes into two parts. We will focus on the completing the first point and next week, we continue with the second point and end with the third point. Our sermon points are: 1) The Seven Seals; 2) The 144,000; and 3) The Great Multitude.
Before we begin, let us pray…
The Seven Seals
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.Revelation 6:1-11
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.
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!”
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.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar 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[c] should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
At the end of this chapter which poses a rhetorical question from the rebels of this earth, “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?” The answer to this question: No one, not one soul. When the judge of the living and dead brings his judgment to the whole of creation, no one can escape his wrath.
Since the fall of man, all of creation rebels and opposes God and his will. And when finally the redemption of God’s people is accomplished, fallen and rebellious men will suffer the punishments from the One who brings everything to its consummating end. This is why we know the despite of the progress we sometimes see from every generation of men, God will continually bring forth his judgment over them and bring them down until finally all of man’s rebellion is put to a terrifying and chilling end.
But the picture which supposedly delivers terror to those who oppose God, brings comfort to God’s people who are living in the midst of it. This is the reason for John’s book. God wants to encourage us while we are here living on earth. Jesus said: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” John wants his congregation and readers to take a whole picture view of the whole events in history leading up to the end. He intends for us to keep a watchful eye over these events and remain focus on persevering in the end.
John listed five out of six events we need to watch out for here on earth. They will occur either in our own lifetime or we will know them from our history. He wants us to understand that while these terrible events will happen, they were but temporary. They are the four horsemen of the Apocalypse and we encountered them already or may experience in our own generation. Next week, we will continue with the six event which is the end of the world. But for now, let us look at the first four seals. They were riders of these symbolic horses and they are similar to the ones mentioned in Zechariah 6:1-8.
- White Horse (Revelation 6:1-2) – This means conquest. They were events in history were military power fails to bring peace. Instead, they only bring more pain and suffering to the people seeking it.
- Red Horse (Revelation 6:3-4) – This means war. These brings more death to any generation when men try to slaughter one another.
- Black Horse (Revelation 6:5-6) – This means famine. They were cause either by lack of good or increasing prices of essential food supply.
- Ashen Horse (Revelation 6:7-8) – This means death. These are deaths brought by “sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.”
These events will occur between the first and coming of Christ. We should not be surprised when these things happen because Jesus himself said to his own discipline they will happen but it is not yet the end. In Luke 21:9-11, Jesus warns, “And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” Instead of plunging ourselves into despair and hopeless, he wants to us take courage for “But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives (verse 18).”
Also, we need to take note the restraining power of God over these events. While the effects of these events will bring death towards God’s enemies, God continues to bring relief for the sake of his people. In the midst of famine, God allows the producing of oil and wine (verse 6). Even when death reigns over the whole earth, only a fourth will fall under it (verse 8). These restrictions remind us of God’s providential care over his elect.
The fifth seal brings our view back in heaven. While all of us experience these tribulations here on earth, those who died by the hands of God’s enemies receive eternal life and receive comfort from God. Their clothes were turned into white which means they were vindicated by God himself (verse 11). Yes they suffered here on earth, they face tribulation and eventually death but they are simply passageway to heaven. They all received eternal life, the reward of salvation.
Let us hear these encouraging words from Rev. Dr. Dennis Johnson: “As Christians see societies crumble and collapse, our response should not be terrified alarm, as though our security were bound up with a fragile human network of law and order, but anticipation and confidence: the Lamb is now on the throne, with God’s plan for history firmly in hand.”
Finally, let us hear God’s Word written by Paul in Romans 8: 31-39:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
ZCRC(Imus), yes we will experience conquest, war, famine, and death here on earth but take heart for our God is in control and our Lord never intends them to bring us spiritual harm. Instead, they are testaments of his sovereignty and power. Yes we may perish in the hands of God’s enemies but we will end up vindicated, and we will receive eternal life. Let us take comfort from these words. Amen.