Scripture Focus: Revelation 6:1-8:1
The word “revelation” means to reveal what was before hidden. The Apostle John pulls the curtain back on future events to reveal what we should anticipate. John was imprisoned on the Island of Patmos, when he was given the vision.
Ch 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.
Ch 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who keep what is written in it, because the time is near.
In teaching this book, I am approaching it from the futurist viewpoint. Meaning that the prophecies in Revelation still await a future, literal fulfillment.
Chapter 1 Introduction of the Vision
Chapter 2-3 The Letters to the Seven Churches of Revelation
Chapter 4-5 The Throne of Heaven and the Lamb of God
Chapters 6-19 The Tribulation
Chapter 19 The Return of Christ, His Second Coming
Chapter 20 The Millenial Reign of Christ
Chapter 21-22 The New Creation, New Jerusalem, Eternity
Where we are able to, we are taking the Scripture literally, and with as much discernment as possible with the help of the Holy Spirit, interpreting the book where it is symbolic.
The Throne of Heaven in Chapter 4 reveals the holiness of God, and the worthiness of God. In Chapter 5, John sees in the right hand of God a scroll with writing on both sides, sealed with seven seals. The scroll may be symbolic of the title deed of the earth, but most certainly it represents the events to come in the judgment during the time of the Great Tribulation.
In the scene a strong angel asks who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals? No one is found worthy. John weeps. One of the elders tells him not to weep and then Jesus the Lamb steps forward and takes the scroll, and the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down before the Lamb. The Lamb is worthy because of who he is, what he has done, and what he will do in the future.
After considering Revelation 5, we left it with the host of heaven on the brink of going out of Heaven. Judgment is to come upon the earth, the elect will be gathered, and Christ will return to set up his kingdom.
The section of Revelation in Chapter 6 and following, begins to describe the events to come in the time of the Tribulation. The tribulation will take place in the end times, at the conclusion of the Church Age in which we now live. Depravity will reach its fullness, and God will judge.
Daniel 9:24-27 gives context to the Tribulation: Daniel wrote just over 5 centuries before the coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. 70 weeks are spoken of that have been declared against the nation of Israel. There will be a period of time God has given, to put an end to sin and bring in everlasting righteousness. The 70 weeks represent 70 sevens of years, or 490 years. The Messiah will be cut off after 483 years have passed, from the time of the decree, to rebuild Jerusalem. 483 years passed from the time of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the time when Jesus was crucified.
This leaves one seven-year period to be fulfilled as referenced in Daniel 9:24 to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.
The final seven-year period is known as the tribulation period.
Daniel in Ch 9:27 provides highlights of the period- The Antichrist will make a covenant of peace with Israel at the beginning of the Tribulation period. It will seem like peace. But at the halfway point, the Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel, and trouble will come upon the earth like never before in the second half of the seven years. The Antichrist will stop sacrifices in the rebuilt temple and will desecrate the Temple in the Abomination of Desolation, and he will declare himself to be God.
How should we approach the events to come?
God is Sovereign and nothing will happen outside of his authority. He will let events take their course. He reveals to us where the world is headed. We have nothing to fear if our faith is in him! We have everything to hope in and look forward to!
We now come to Revelation Ch 6- Ch 8:1. Chapter 6 brings us to the beginnings of the judgment of God on the earth, part of Chapters 6-19. There are 7 seals which take us to the beginning of Chapter 8.
Ch 6:1 Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals. . .
Each of the scroll’s seven seals represent a specific judgment to be poured out on the earth, one by one. The seals cover the entire period of the Tribulation ending with the Return of Christ.
Seals 1-4 cover the first half of the Tribulation, the birth pangs.
Seal 5 bridges to the second half of the Tribulation.
Seals 6-7 describe the intensity of the Great Tribulation. With the 7th seal containing the 7 Trumpet Judgments and 7 Bowl Judgments.
The pattern in each is the Lamb opens a seal, a living creature says come, then destruction follows on the earth.
The Lamb will allow judgment to begin in the world. Vv1b-8
The scene shifts from Heaven to earth- with the focus on events which will take place through the return of Christ in Revelation 19. The seals are not read, they are acted upon. The first four seals represent what are known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Seal #1 is opened, and there is a white horse that symbolizes a false peace and the conquest to come.
The rider has a bow, he is given a crown, and he goes out as a conqueror. Some have identified the rider on the white horse as Christ because of similarities with Revelation 19:11. Yet the rider on the horse carries a bow, and Christ carries a sword. Christ will return at the end of the tribulation, not at the beginning. This rider could represent the Antichrist, and certainly is a representation of false prophets.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:5 For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Messiah, and they will deceive many.
The crown of the rider on the white horse is likely received for achievements leading to a false world peace, cunning, and deceit.
Seal #2 is opened, and there is a red horse symbolizing war.
When the second horse comes upon the scene devastation will spread. Red is the color of fire and blood. Men will kill one another in unprecedented numbers. The rider of the red horse has a large sword.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:6 You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet.
Seal #3 is opened, and there is a black horse symbolizing famine.
Worldwide wars will cause food supplies and distribution to be scarce. The scales reflect food rations where basic food supplies are priceless. A quart of wheat or barley was enough food for a person for a day. Costs will be highly inflated and out of reach for many people.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:7 There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
Seal #4 is opened, and there is a pale green horse whose name is Death, and Hades is following after him.
He is given the power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, and plague, and by the wild animals of the earth. A fourth of the earth killed today would be nearly 2 billion people.
Judgment from God will be poured out on the earth. The sovereignty of God is seen throughout. God does not need to command evil to do his will, but he allows it to operate. He lets human depravity come full circle.
The Lamb will avenge his people, in his time. vv9-11
Seal #5 is opened, and under the altar are the souls of those who had been slaughtered, the martyrs.
These are martyrs killed in the events leading up to this point. There has been war, famine, and disease, along with widespread persecution because of Satan, evil, and the Antichrist.
Remember, Jesus used this sequence in Matthew 24. The first seven verses represent the events of the first four seals. The fifth seal describes the martyrs, as does Jesus in Matthew 24:9 Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. The persecution will be worldwide.
Persecution will begin the first half of the Tribulation, and then accelerate in the second half following the abomination of desolation. Daniel referred to it three times.
There was a literal fulfillment of the abomination of desolation in the temple in the 2nd Century BC by the Syrian King Antiochus Epiphanes. The one to come in Matthew 24:15 will be similar- So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place.
The Antichrist will set himself up in the temple to be worshiped as God. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God. He will be possessed by Satan, and set himself up to be worshiped and deceive people.
Persecution will intensify dramatically at this point and will reveal who is genuine in the faith and who is not. With the whole world worshiping the Antichrist as god, believers will be considered as blaspheming if they oppose him. The false one-world religion will bring persecution like Christianity has never seen in a worldwide sense.
Matthew 24:16 Those in Judea must flee to the mountains. . . .21 that time there will be great distress.
The martyrs will have been killed because of the Word of God, and the testimony they maintained. They will remain loyal to Jesus.
They will cry out to God with urgency and a loud voice. They address him as Lord, the one who is holy and true and appeal for vengeance.
The martyrs ask the Lord a question- How long until you judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood? They are given a white robe and told to rest a little while longer, because fellow servants will be killed just as they had been.
The Lamb will alter creation. Vv12-17
Seal #6 is opened, and calamity comes upon the earth.
The midpoint of the Tribulation will have passed at this point, and the Great Tribulation will have come upon creation. The Antichrist will have desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, the world will be under deception, and under false worship, and persecution will intensify.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:29 Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light, the stars will fall form the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
There will be a violent earthquake, the sun will turn black like sackcloth (perhaps by the ash of volcanoes), the moon will become like blood, and the stars will fall from the sky.
There will be terror and anguish through all of creation.
The rhetorical question is asked- Who is able to stand? The answer is, No one.
People will not pray for protection- the kings, nobles, generals, the rich, the powerful and every slave and free person hides in the caves and cry out- Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.
The Lamb will seal his servants. Ch 7
The scene shifts again. John sees four angels who are given power over the elements of nature. They are standing at the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds of the earth.
This is not a literal reference to the earth having four corners, but symbolic of the furthest reaches of the earth. The winds of God’s judgment are beginning to stir.
Another angel ascends from the rising sun. The angel has with him the seal of the living God. The angel cries out- Don’t harm the earth or the sea or the trees until the servants have been sealed on their foreheads.
There are 144,000 who are sealed from every tribe of Israel. They are Jewish believers and evangelists who will be redeemed before the return of Christ.
The term “Israel” here should be interpreted according to its normal meaning, as Israel, not the church as spiritual Israel in this context. 12,000 will be sealed from every tribe. The tribe of Dan is omitted, maybe for their idolatry, although they are included in the millennial blessings. Ephraim is also omitted in favor of his father Joseph because Ephraim was consumed with idolatry.
God is not through with Israel as a nation! They failed in their mission to be a witness to the nations. But from the Jewish people will rise the greatest missionary force the world has ever known.
The Jewish evangelists will lead the ingathering of the Jews, and innumerable redeemed Gentiles. There will in the future be a worldwide response to the Gospel, which will surpass any other in history.
The time will include the ingathering of Israel which Zechariah foretold in the OT and Paul wrote of in the NT.
Romans 11:25-27 I don’t want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you will not be conceited: A partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, The Deliverer will come from Zion: he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
A vast multitude will come from among the nations. God is merciful, gracious, and desires people to be saved.
Isaiah 52:10 The Lord has displayed his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.
Before the return of Jesus at the end of the Tribulation- Jesus said Matthew 24:14 This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come.
People from every nation, tribe, people, and language, who are innumerable, will stand before the throne and before the Lamb. They are depicted as having white robes, with palm branches in their hands. They cry out in a loud voice in worship! Salvation is the theme of their worship.
One of the elders asked John who the people in white robes are and where they came from. They are the ones coming out of the great tribulation, whose robes have been washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.
They serve the Lord day and night in His temple. There is a Temple now in heaven, and there will be a Temple on earth during the millennial reign of Christ. In the eternal state there will no longer be a need for a temple.
Revelation 21:22 I did not see a temple in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
God will shepherd his people eternally and there will be no pain, or sorrow or suffering.
Seal #7 is opened, and there is silence in heaven for about a half hour. The full fury of the judgment of God is about to come upon the earth, and there is calm before the storm.
V10 Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!
How close are we to the end? I have the answer. . .We are closer to the end than we have ever been before.
Are you ready?
The Commonwealth Games were held on the Gold Coast of Australia this week. Scotland’s Callum Hawkins was about a mile from the taking gold and winning the marathon, two minutes ahead of the closest competitor, Australia’s Michael Shelley. Instead, Callum Hawkins collapsed, and fell and hit his head on the curb. He was taken away by ambulance. For those of you who are not followers of Christ, you need to get in the race. For those of you who are, there is a finish line in front of us. Let’s trust the Lord to get us there!