Sermon: Christ’s Authority Over History Revelation 6:1-8

Christ’s Authority Over History

Revelation 6:1-8

Introduction

God has allowed us to look into His Word and see the throne room of heaven. We have read about angels, living creatures, and elders worshipping the One who sits on the throne. Then last we because the Lion of Judah has triumphed over sin and death, as a slain lamb all of creation sings a new song praising our Lord for His act of love and sacrifice. His shed blood is renewing us into His people for all eternity. We also saw last week that the Lamb is worthy to take the scroll of God and move redemptive history on even further to the consummation of God’s plan.

Chapter four was the throne chapter. Chapter five was the scroll chapter. Chapter six is the seal chapter. Six of the seven seals are loosened in this chapter.

Chapter Six begins the central message of the Book of Revelation, which continues through Chapter 16. In these chapters John’s visions are set in three sets of seven. We’ll see the 7 Seals then a brief interlude, the seven trumpets with another interlude, then the 7 bowls. Each series of visions shows progression as the Gospel spreads, judgment on those who reject the Gospel becomes more and more intense, and we’ll also see the suffering that the church must endure as she waits for her Lord to return.

But before we turn to our text, a couple things need to be said about how we are to understand what follows. From here on out, we will find a series of judgments, which occur, in a cyclical fashion. There are the seven seal judgments in Revelation 6:1-8:5, the seven trumpet judgments in Revelation 8:6-11:19 and then the seven bowl judgments of Revelation 16. We should not read these sections of Revelation as though they were historical narrative in which the seal judgments occur in time chronologically prior to the trumpet judgments, with the bowl judgments finally coming at the end. Rather, in apocalyptic literature each of these cycles of judgment overlap. Therefore, what is depicted in the seal judgments covers the entire period of time between Christ’s first and second advents. The same is true for the trumpet and bowl judgments–although the bowl judgments intensify at the time of the end.

And yet, as we move from the seals to the trumpets to the bowls, we will indeed see an intensification of God’s judgment upon the Dragon (Satan), the beast, the false prophet, and all those who serve them, as well as an increasingly violent response from the Dragon and his henchmen as they wage war upon the Saints before their appointed end finally comes. Therefore, each of these series of judgments covers the entire church age. But as the three cycles of judgment are revealed, they intensify as we move from the seals to the trumpets to the bowls. Furthermore, each of the individual cycles of judgment intensifies before the end of the age in the days immediately before our Lord’s return. Therefore, we have every reason to believe that while these cycles of judgment characterize the present age, they will intensify greatly immediately before the end. This retelling of the course of history from different perspectives is a key feature of apocalyptic literature. Technically known as recapitulation, it is helpful to recall the analogy used by Dennis Johnson of Westminster Seminary California, who likens each of these reoccurring visions and cycles to differing camera angles upon the same event. In the first vision, John looks at the present age from the perspective of Christ’s continuing presence with his people. Then, in Revelation 4-5, John then describes the scene before the heavenly throne. And then beginning in Revelation 6, John will describe the course of the present age through the lens of a series of on-going judgments, which culminate in the return of Jesus Christ.[1]

In the central section, which is 4-16, we will see the main themes of the Book of Revelation as it takes in to account the “last days” we realize the last days are in fact the time between Jesus’ first coming and His second. Therefore, the Book of Revelation is the time between the two advents of Jesus or we could call it the church age.

With each cycle of judgments, things get worse and worse on earth. The seals are but a preliminary; the trumpets are second in severity and finally the bowl judgments being the most severe.

The themes that we will see through out chapters 4-16 are: The Spread of the Gospel throughout the entire earth, Judgment of the world, and The suffering that the church must endure. I want to say that the church has always endured a level of suffering but the suffering of the church of course is not punishment but for purification.

TT- Jesus Christ has authority to loosen the seals and release God’s plan for the ages.
Human need met by text

We need to know today that God controls everything. Humans cannot thwart His plan neither can Satan nor his army thwart God’s plan. Everything that happens is under His sovereign control.

Revelation 6:1–17 (ESV)

Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Looking at our text today as we realize this is the continuing vision of John, which started in Revelation 4. The first thing we are to see here are the four horses. In order to understand what the four horses are, we must look to the Book of Zechariah chapter 6…

In order to understand the significance of this vision and the four horsemen mentioned in the first four of the seal judgments, we need to recall the words of Zechariah 6, when the prophet saw four colored horses and their chariots symbolizing the four winds of heaven. In Zechariah’s prophecy, the horses represent God’s judgment upon the enemies of Judah going out to the four corners of the earth. As we have seen in previous weeks, in the Book of Revelation, the number four symbolizes the earth. Therefore, in John’s vision, the four horsemen go forth to the very ends of the earth for the purpose of bringing God’s judgment upon all those nations who oppose God’s rule and who oppress Christ’s church. All the earth is effected by the devastation brought about by the horsemen. The four horsemen not only bring about the vindication of God’s people through that series of judgments found here in the first four seal judgments, these judgments virtually mirror the signs of the end mentioned by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse.[2]

 

  1. The First Seal- A White Horse

Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

The white horse is the image of conquering. White is the symbol of purity and in some writings, victory. There are varying views of who this is but I believe that at the end of the day with all the Bible in context that this Conqueror is our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, in keeping with the way in which the other riders appear we could rightly say that the appearance of Jesus at His first coming ushered in a time in which the Gospel began to conquer. I’m not Post-millenalist who believes that the Gospel will conquer the entire world and all the earth will be saved and then Christ will return. I do, however, see the Gospel conquering. You are proof that the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered sin in your life. We also will see in the weeks to come, Lord willing that Our Lord will appear in Chapter 19, riding a white horse that the Conqueror…

Revelation 19:11–12 (ESV)

11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.

 

And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

The Gospel is going out into all the earth and is conquering. The reality is that the Gospel will not save everyone but there is an exact number that God knows and when that number is reached, the end will come…

Exact number of Martyrs…

Revelation 6:10–11 (ESV)

10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

Exact Number of Gentiles…

Romans 11:25 (ESV)

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

 

  1. The Second Seal- A Red Horse

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

From the Lamb and the second living creature comes bloodshed and war. Most likely, this is the result of what the first horse and his rider had accomplished. Jesus has very clearly taught that throughout history there would be wars and rumors of war. So we see, that our Lord is, in fact, ruling over history as He opens the second seal and wars and death occur as part of the judgment for rejecting the Savior. Here we see that the purpose of this rider and horse is to shed blood…bright red. There have always been wars and rumors of war. Here again we see this happening in a more and more severe way. Wars in the first century even though there was much bloodshed were nothing like war today. Here we see that this horse and his rider have removed peace from the earth. There is no peace until the Prince of Peace returns.

  1. The Third Seal- A Black Horse

When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

At the opening of the third seal, Jesus introduces the black horse. No doubt as a result of wars and devastation there has been and will be times of great and intense famine. Here is the famine that serves as a preliminary judgment upon the earth. Here when one looks back in history, we find that these prices given are the normal prices for grain X10. The other riders bring about this famine. The wars and conquests bring about a scarcity of grain therefore the prices rise. It seems there is a limit to the famine and devastation in that it only affects the grain and not the oil or wine.

Again, the world has already seen some of this. During the World Wars there was famine and desolation but this will be seen in a greater more powerful way as we get closer and closer to Christ’s return.

  1. The Fourth Seal- A Pale Horse

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

The forth seal reveal the worst horse and rider of all. Here is the result of each of the other three horses…death. This horse is the color of pale green, the color of death. Here, Christ unleashes death through disease and illness. War brought famine and illness and disease bring forth death. We can begin to see how these horses and their riders bring an ever-increasing judgment upon the earth.

I want to make sure we are following these events…throughout the church age or literally the last days each and every one of these judgments is continually getting worse and worse. At times there may be a relief here and there but they continue and continue to worsen and worsen.

These judgments are for the lost and they will also purify the church.

Jesus tells His followers…

Luke 21:9–14 (ESV)

And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer,

Jesus does not hesitate to expose the fact that all these things we’ve been reading about will begin to take place in the experience of the first century Christians. They were told that they would see wars and famine and disease and earthquakes etc and they did. These signs of the last days happened then and they will continue. One thing is sure they will get worse and worse.

Jesus also compared these to a woman in the pain of delivery…

Matthew 24:4–8 (ESV)

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

Think of the last days…the time from Christ’s first advent to His second as a woman giving birth. The labor pains are not too bad at first and there is time in between to relax or rest. As the labor continues, her birth pains get more and more frequent and more and more severe until in the end there is no relief from the intense pain.

What is hard to determine in the Book of Revelation is where we are today. Are we between the first and second seal? Only God knows and this is why we must be ready for our Lord’s return at all times.

The next seal moves from the judgment on earth to what is happening in heaven.

We see with these four seals the extent to which our Lord reigns over human history. We see that there has always been political leaders starting wars, there have always been wars, hunger, famine, sickness, and death. The wages of sin is death. These riders are still working through human history still reeking havoc on mankind and they will continue until our Lord returns. Just as the woman giving birth has pain that is more and more intense, so too with the devastation be as we get closer and closer to our Lord’s return.

Additional Application

What does this mean to us as Christ’s Church?

“The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, ‘Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand’” (Isaiah 14:24). Nothing is random or comes by chance, especially not in the lives of believers. He “purposed” it. That means to deliberately resolve to do something. God has resolved to do what He will do, and nothing and no one stands in His way. “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:10). This is our powerful, purposeful God who is in control of everything. That should bring us great comfort and help to alleviate our fears.

But exactly how much control does God have? God’s total sovereignty over all creation directly contradicts the philosophy of open theism, which states that God doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the future any more than we do, so He has to constantly be changing His plans and reacting to what the sinful creatures do as they exercise their free will. God isn’t finding out what’s going to happen as events unfold. He is continuously, actively running things—ALL things—here and now. But to think He needs our cooperation, our help, or the exercise of our free will to bring His plans to pass puts us in control over Him, which makes us God. Where have we heard that lie before? It’s a rehash of Satan’s same old lie from the Garden—you shall be like God (Genesis 3:5). Our wills are only free to the extent that God allows us that freedom and no farther. “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35). No one’s free will trumps the sovereignty of God.

Some people find it appealing to think that Satan has control over a certain amount of life, that God is constantly revising His plans to accommodate Satan’s tricks. The book of Job is a clear illustration of just who has the sovereign power and who doesn’t. Satan came to God and, in effect, said, “Job only serves you because you protect him.” So God gave Satan permission to do certain things to Job but no more (Job 1:6–22). Could Satan do more than that? No. God is in control over Satan and his demons who try to thwart God’s plans at every step.[3]
When the church saw great catastrophic events she could rest assured civilization was not running out of hand but everything was working according to the plan of God.

The four horses in the Book of Revelation should remind us that they came about as a result of the Lamb of God loosening the great seals. They are under His control and are accomplishing all He intends.

 

[1] Seven Seals by Kim Riddlebarger

[2] Seven Seals by Kim Riddlebarger

[3] http://www.gotquestions.org/God-is-in-control.html#ixzz3RYNXYjKE

 

%d bloggers like this: