The Little Book of the Revelation - Fourth in a series
Continuing in the “run up” to Revelation 10, in Chapter 6 the opening of the seals on the book commences. John does not say that the first seal was broken but that ‘one of the seals’ was; he hears thunder, and one of the four beasts invites him to see what is revealed. (Rev 6:1)
A rider with a bow on a white horse comes into view. And we know and have experienced what the flaming arrows of this bow are— provocations to carnal indulgences and sin, embracing the world, whatever leads to sickness, ruin and death. It is because of these arrows and the weakness of the flesh that the other steeds have a full reign.
Some commentators say the white horse rider is Christ, but Christ’s weapon is the sword (Rev 19:15) which figuratively is the word of God (Eph 6:17) enabling us to take the shield of faith to stop the fiery darts of the Antichrist.
In succession, the second, third and fourth seals are opened and one by one the other three beasts point John to see a red, then black, then pale horse which usher in war, famine and death.
Christ opens the fifth seal revealing God’s martyrs –or their souls– under the altar, signifying their security in Him. Yet, they are crying loudly, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev 6:10) Christ’s answer is that they should rest yet for a little season until their fellow-servants and their brethren are killed as they were. Not a comforting answer!
Plain old prophecy?
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of penetrating the mysteries of Revelation is sorting out which events are to be understood in a linear chronologic framework and which ones flesh out the skeleton or reveal behind-the-scenes events or details of the major markers.
We saw an example of this in Revelation 5 in the previous post. John saw the Father’s companions worshipping Christ, and heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and in the sea saying, “Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever..” (Rev 5:11-13) But we noted that not every knee has yet bowed nor every tongue yet confessed that Jesus is Lord. Therefore, that scene is a foretaste of glory, the fulfillment of prophecy in a future time, though we could view the scene of heavenly worship of God as current and continuous.
Some might say that is an example of the difference between Chronos and Kairos (ref) or a linear versus an ’ecstatic‘ experience of time. But it could be seen as ‘plain old prophecy.’ “It is characteristic of predictive prophecy that it often mingles different times together in one composite picture” (Walter Martin)
Rather than occurring one after the other, it could be that the wars, famines and deaths are concurrent with the killing of the servants of the Lord. Yet, their successive appearances show the passing of time; ‘God is working his purpose out.’
And again, we ask, is the opening of the seals simply a view to how the world has always been, or does it show that a specific, new point in time has begun—a time encroaching upon our day?
Up to the breaking of the sixth seal we could view the Revelation as unfolding time and again throughout the centuries. But when the sixth seal is opened, a more drastic scene and a different group of people come into view. We see the rebellious unsaved masses realizing they are doomed.
A great earthquake occurs, the sun becomes black, the moon as blood, the stars fall to earth and ‘the’ heaven departs as when a scroll is rolled together.
- And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Rev 6:15-17 ASV)
Running the race set before us
The sixth seal presents a contrast to the fifth. The Christians in the end time must be killed but will then receive eternal life and heavenly rest; the rebellious must also die, but what is their final end? Not good!
By keeping our eyes on the Lord we will finish the race.
- And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Gal 6:9)
- Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us... (Heb 12:1)
- For yet a very little while,
He that cometh shall come, and shall not tarry.
But my righteous one shall live by faith:
And if he shrink back, my soul hath no pleasure in him.
(Heb 10:37-38; Hab 2:2-4 ASV)
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