Revelation 6: 1-8
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.
We saw yesterday how the results of sin and rebellion against God are a proliferation of evil, wickedness, depravity and darkness.
So what is God going to do about it? And when? And how?
When God’s Kingdom breaks in, it clashes with opposing Kingdoms, but ultimately it flushes out evil. It displaces darkness. It uproots unrighteousness. As God’s Kingdom breaks in, along with it comes His holy, righteous judgement against that stands opposed to Him.
We don’t like to talk about it, but God does judge sin, evil and wickedness. He doesn’t just let it go on forever. When His Kingdom comes, the King comes to judge and to put things right once and for all. He takes sin very seriously.
There’s two ways we see God’s judgment in our world – active judgment and passive judgment.
Here in chapters 6 and 7 – with the 7 seals - I would say we see God’s passive judgment. In later chapters we will see His active judgement. What’s the difference? Let me explain.
Active judgment is where God steps in and acts. He actively and directly punishes the wicked, He brings destruction on those who refuse His mercy and harden their hearts against Him and won’t repent, He unleashes Holy justice against those who oppress the weak and exploit the vulnerable.
Active judgment is like me having an 19 year old son who is rebellious and violent and harmful to others – and no matter what I do, He won’t change. Active judgment is me saying: "No more, get out my house." Active judgment is me forcibly removing him from my house for the protection of the rest of my family. I’m taking action against him because he won’t repent and change.
Passive judgment, is where God simply lets us live with the consequences of our own sin and wrong choices. He simply says: "If that’s what you really want, then go for it." He removes His restraint and protection from our lives and lets us have what we really want.
The Bible talks about this a lot. For example:
“But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not submit to me.
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own devices.” (Psalm 81: 11-12)
“God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator….Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.” (Romans 1: 24-26)
God loves us so much, He is so patient with us, He tells us how He wants us to live, He gives us His Word, He speaks to our hearts – when we are living wrong – deep down we know it, and He longs for us to repent, to turn around, to come back to Him. But He also respects our free will, and there comes a point where God simply goes, "Your heart desire that more than it desires me – so go do what you really want – but know, you will live with the consequences of your choices."
We’ve all seen this, we’ve all experienced it in our own lives. We know a behaviour isn’t right, a relationship isn’t God’s best for us, a habit is destroying us – yet we want it so badly. We feel God’s Spirit convict us, but we ignore it. We hear His Word telling us 'No' – but we cover our ears and harden our hearts. We think it’ll be OK, we’ll get away with it, we’ll be the exception.
But a week, a month, a year, 20 years later – we find ourselves in a place we never, ever wanted to be. And we blame God – we shake our fist and say: 'God, how could you let this happen?' And God whispers back: 'I warned you, but you followed your desires, and so I gave you what you wanted.'
In a sense, that’s what God is doing here in chapter 6 of Revelation, only on a cosmic scale.
Is there any area of your life today that you know you are in deliberate sin or rebellion against God? Have you heard Him speak yet ignored His Word or His Spirit? The worst thing that could happen is that God would 'give you over' to your desires, that the Spirit would stop convicting you, that your heart would become so hard that you wouldn't hear His voice. Take time to repent from your sin and turn back to Christ where there is always forgiveness, grace and a new start.