Revelation 6: 1-17
I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.
When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A kilogram of wheat for a day’s wages, and three kilograms of barley for a day’s wages and do not damage the oil and the wine!’
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a quarter of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig-tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?’
Apparently it is very common for preachers (and those who study the book) to arrive at chapter 6 of Revelation and want to jump to the last few chapters at the end of the book and focus on Jesus’ return and the new creation. Thus they skip out chapters 6-20 because they are just too difficult, weird, dark and depressing. There’s too many images and symbols to even try to get our heads around.
And yet, the whole book of Revelation, every chapter, was written to give God’s people hope in what seemed like a hopeless world – to give them faith the midst of pain, suffering, heartache, despair. It was written to encourage them to stay strong and faithful to the end, to remain obedient to Jesus, to be confident that God is at work even when all hell seems to be coming against you. The message is, “Don’t compromise, don’t give up, because in the end – God wins. You’re on the winning side.”
If that was a message that God’s people needed to hear 19 centuries ago – how much more do we need to hear it today. Because as Revelation shows us, before things get better, they’re probably going to get a whole lot worse. And that’s the world we’re living in today. It would be great if every day in every way it was all getting better and better – but just watch the news, read the newspaper, look around you.
As we look around the world and see nations and wars and situations seemingly consumed with darkness and evil, and as we deal with our own pain and problems – God’s people need to be able to be a people of hope. Not cynicism, not despair, but real hope because we know that God is on the throne and He is still in charge.
We need to know that our little story is part of His big story – and His big story ends in glory. That this is not all there is – there is more, so much more – in spite of how it may currently appear or seem.
It’s like having one or two pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle and as you look at them individually, they just don’t make sense. But then God holds up the whole picture the front of the box and only then it’s so clear where your few pieces fit into the big picture.
Everything we read from chapter 6 onwards, must be seen from the perspective of the throne in chapters 4 and 5. Life must be seen from heaven’s perspective, from an eternal point of view – if we are to see things as they really are.