And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. (Revelation 6:1)
Our congregational reading today is from the sixth chapter of Revelation. I hesitated somewhat before deciding we would continue reading in Revelation because the subject matter of the next chapters seems a little strange to read in the setting of a worship service. We take a literal futuristic view of Revelation so we do not accept the sixth chapter and those following as being largely symbols of events that are in the past and some that still remain to take place in the future. Nearly all commentators agree John wrote about events that were future to him, however they do not agree whether many of these events occurred between the time of John and the present time.
The confusion is due to the different schemes of interpretation relating to the timing of the Second Coming of Christ and of the characteristics of the millennium. Those that do not believe Christ will return to begin a literal, physical kingdom on the earth as the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant tend to interpret these verses as events Christians will live through before Christ returns. We believe Christ will first rapture His people from the earth and then a seven year period of tribulation will begin. The events of chapters 6 through 18 belong to the time of tribulation which is yet future. This tribulation is a terrible time of judgment in which God begins to purge the world of sin in preparation for the coming Kingdom.
Returning to the message of the sixth chapter, the chapter begins with the opening of God’s book. This book is a scroll and each section is marked off with a seal so each section cannot be read until its corresponding seal is broken. This is God’s title deed to the earth and no one is worthy to break the seals and open the book but the Lamb of God that was slain from the foundation of the world. He alone has power and authority to implement the plan for the earth’s reclamation (5:4-5).
The scroll contains God’s plan for the final redemption of the earth. When Adam disobeyed God, the entire creation was cursed. God’s plan is to lift the curse imposed in Genesis chapter 3. Since the fall of Adam in the Garden, Satan has usurped God’s authority upon the earth. As a result of the curse, man lost his dominion over the earth. The story of redemption is how God places all authority into the hands of Jesus Christ to take back our forfeited inheritance and claim it once again for Himself and His children. Redemption began at the cross and will continue until we reach a glorious future where we will rule and reign with Christ (5:9-10).
Each of the seals represents a time of judgment, and when the final seal is opened and fulfilled, the end result is the defeat of Satan and all the kingdoms of the world. Christ is then enthroned on the earth in an everlasting kingdom. Though the world as we know it will end after the millennium, Christ’s kingdom will never end. The form of the kingdom changes and shifts to the new heavens and the new earth, but as promised, Christ will never relinquish any part of His kingdom to evil again.
These chapters are difficult to read if we focus only on the immediate impact. They are not to be separated from the whole as the plan of final redemption unfolds. The struggle against evil is not a pretty sight. There are no pleasantries, no compromises, and no negotiations with the powers of darkness. Here we see how terrible sin is and what it costs to eradicate it from the earth. No one should imagine sin to be inconsequential. It has devastating effects and results in both physical and spiritual death. As we read through these chapters, remember where we are headed. It takes a terrible war to establish final peace and God will not rest until His people have the reward He has promised. Strewn in the way are all those that rebel against God. As the sixth chapter ends, we read these words, “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” The question is rhetorical and the answer is obvious. Christ comes to conquer and conquer He will. This is the objective. Keep it in mind as you read.
Pastor V. Mark Smith