Monday, July 12, 2010
It Has To Get Worse Before It Gets Better
The Four Living Creatures:
These pictures of Christ are also found in Ezekiel 1
Lion – His majesty
Ox – a servant
Face of a man – His humanity
Eagle – His Deity as the Son of God
As William Barclay points out each one described are the noblest, strongest and swiftest in their respective realms.
These seven seals are all about world events, its chaos. We see the hurricanes, terrorism, earthquakes. This book is written for us to calm our fears. The early church who received this letter initially had to be feeling that God was abandoning them because of the great persecution. Everything moving forward is contained within each other in terms of God’s justice and His plan for the world. In the Seals you have the Trumpets and in the Trumpets, you have the Bowls. It is like those eastern European dolls that you find one inside the other. There are successive periods of judgment. In the Seals, we will see how the first four are against creation followed by the last three against mankind. We will begin by focusing on the One who is worthy to open the beginning of the end and in the seals we will discover the hope that is ours like God’s faithful who were found ‘under the altar’.
5 Ways of looking at Revelation
1. Preterist view – This is all about the Roman govt and all these events have already taken place
2. Continuous Historical View – All the events are unfolding from the ascension forward to the final consummation.
3. Spiritualized View – It is a symbolized view of all the events that will take place
4. Futurist (Dispensational) View –Everything is about the time that is still coming.
5. Combination View – There are truths here for every generation.
Are these the same events being described, do they happen successively or do they all unfold together?
Will I be around when these events take place?
Will Christ return before all this happens in its full effect?
It ultimately depends on our view, but the reality is that many of these events are already happening to varying degrees in our world right now and while we may not feel their full effect now we need to feel for our brothers and sisters who experience many of these painful judgments right now.
It is clear that as believers we will not face the wrath of God; however with the evil in our world, it is easy to feel abandoned through the chaos going on right now. To the very core of our being we need to know that God is with us through it all.
This earth must pass away and it will come with great difficulty. There will be increasing turmoil to remind us of the seriousness of sin and the fight that our enemy will bring. He will not go down easy and he will fight to the bitter end and want to take as many people with him.
God’s wrath is being poured out on the created order and then on humanity. It was John Calvin who in speaking of these events shared how they are happening ever since Christ’s ascension.
The 1st Seal v1,2
This rider on this white horse could describe all world leaders or one who is bent on exacting conquest, the antichrist. It would appear that his approach to domination is by peaceful means. There is a growing desire for an advocate of peace and someone who can present plausible solutions to international problems. Some have seen this person as one who will gain favour with both the Jews and Gentiles
Some identify this as the same person that Daniel describes as the small horn in Daniel 7:8;20,24
The 2nd Seal v3,4
The rider on a red horse describes war on the earth and he has been given power to remove peace from the earth. Ultimately it is God who allows this to happen under His powerful Hand.
This horse represents the civil strife and anarchy that will take place and the wickedness of the heart of mankind in the genocides and gruesome violence that will be undertaken. We do not have to look too far to remember pictures like that of what happened in Rwanda.
Joel 2:1-11; 3:6-21
Why horses? It is a picture that the reader can picture in the war of their day.
God allowed free choice to enter this world from the very beginning with Adam and Eve and ultimately they play out to the end of the world. The world will continually reap the result of its lack of trust and belief in God. God uses this to empower our witness to bring the realization that His judgment is inevitable. It is our job to share the compassion of Christ. We are also enabled in our our wisdom in the midst of all that is unfolding in our world as we share with others.
The 3rd and 4th Seal v5-8
I want you just to focus on the descriptions of what is going to take place here.
The black horse describes the famine that will take place. It takes a day’s wages to just feed one person. This is an increasing picture of what is already taking place in many parts of the world today. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The oil and the wine represent what can’t be taken away in all of this. They were luxury items in that day and very precious commodities.
As one writer describes the oil as symbolic of the HS and the wine as the symbol of the joy that only God can impart and that which is beyond the ability of Satan to touch.
As we have seen throughout history that famines have always followed war and devastation. The world seems to be dried up of resources and no aid appears in sight for those in great need. It is the great suffering that also happens in places of great human corruption in government such as Zimbabwe where the Christians there are crying out for us not to forget them in their suffering.
The pale horse describes death. It is tying together the worship service to what is happening right now and what is taking place. There is more than death being described here, but eternal death, and separation from God for eternity. If these things happen successively to the earth, it is going to be a picture of what it will be like without God on the earth. It is a picture of the total selfishness of man. Every world crisis is letting the world see that this earth is not going to be around forever.
It is the exercising of the influence of Satan over one fourth of the whole world and a sealed fate destined for hell.
God’s plan is not dying and they need to remember that hope when the crisis and difficult circumstances come. The truth is that this world does stink, that our bodies will wear out. In the midst of all of this remember God’s plan is unfolding!
Just as Jesus died a brutal death and all hope seemed lost for His followers, they needed to realize that was not the final chapter, this is not the end. The whole story has still yet to be told.
As believers we need to grieve, yes, but as those who have HOPE! I grieve that the world is and will experience greater famine and disease, but in the reality of that loss, I will find the ultimate joy that is in Christ and that is the relationship that will last.
The sun will not always come out tomorrow, but I look forward to a better eternity.
It is the truth that keeps us from believing the lies.
The 5th Seal v9-11
It has some truths that we would rather not hear or maybe avoid, but He gives us the truth.
Who are these people?
These are all believers of all ages who have given their lives for Jesus Christ. They have made the ultimate sacrifice and literally have given their lives.
Why are they are under the altar?
There were two altars in the Temple – the altar of sacrifice and incense. They are suffering under the suffering of Jesus Christ. They were slain – the same word used of animals who were sacrificed in sin offerings.
Incense – It is the prayers of the saints who prayed for God’s protection of those who have suffered under great persecution in the world.
How long Lord?
There is a sense of time in heaven for sure, but it is very different from our time on earth. Why do they care? They want their blood avenged. Why would ask this? They call upon God to be the judge? They are not calling for some kind of human vindictive judgment, but they are asking, ‘when will God’s justice be set right.’ When will God act and set the record straight and things be seen for what they really are.
They didn’t get the headlines, they didn’t want the headlines, but they wanted their story to be told.
When we look at the events of world history for the atrocities that have been committed by dictators like Hitler, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, we know that they have died, but justice has yet to be ultimately served. The same is true of Kim Jung II now.
The martyrs under the altar had questions and God had an answer. He gave them a white robe.
God told them that they will have to wait until the ultimate witness has been given from the first apostle, Stephen to the final witness so that all could hear the message of God’s love and His Son.
Witness – the Greek word – means (marturia) martyr.
To witness means ultimately to give your lives. When people give their witness, they will be put to the test. When you step out in faith and ‘witness,’ you are sharing your life and ultimately His life and you will face every kind of response from disbelief to being judged, from ridicule to being brushed aside and possibly dropped as a friend.
He desires to see more brought into the family of God. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth.
Isaiah 61:1,2; Luke 4:16,17
It is always easier for us to focus on the justice, but what about praying for those who need to be brought into the fold. What about writing the names down of three people you will commit to sharing your faith with this year? Be a witness!
The 6th Seal v12-17
The world is falling apart and John is having a vision and confirming what Jesus already spoke about with the disciples.
Jesus talked about these very events before His ascension. Matthew 24:26-51
Is it really real? You bet it is!
V16,17 The world is facing a crisis and we are all going to face it together and everyone of us is on a level playing field. The people in this passage are living in fear and that is the great tragedy here. There only response is that they want to escape because of the predicament that they find themselves in.
There is always an opportunity to respond, to repent, when we get a fresh revelation of the power of God.
On this earth I can say my will be done...and God will give us exactly what we want.
The wrath of God is a response of a holy and sinless God, it is not a vindictive God.
I am called to put my complete trust in Jesus Christ and in His unfailing love for me.
I have been given the oil, the HS and the wine, the joy of the Lord to bear witness for HIS NAME!
Help us not to put our trust in what we have here and now, but in what is yet to come.
The 7th Seal is coming later and it is the unlocking of the 7 Trumpets, but next we will unpack the interlude of those who are sealed.
Questions For Discussion
1. What does Revelation 6:1,2 tell us about Jesus Christ?
2. How can the wrath of God be explained in view of His mercy and grace?
3. Why will a true Christian never experience the wrath of God?
4. In relation to the Fourth Seal, why is it important for us to read with it John 10 and Isaiah 53
5. Have you considered your calling to be a witness? If yes, what does that look like for you?