|THE WRATH OF THE LAMB
Series: The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part Six
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
October 20, 2019
Would you stand with me as we come together before God and His word - and allow me to read for us our text for this morning?
Revelation 6 - starting at verse 1: 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.
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.
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, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
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, 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, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
In verse 1 John begins “Now I watched...” Which leads us into what comes next - chapter 6 - which is a continuation of John’s vision in chapter 5 which is a continuation of John’s vision in chapter 4 - all of which goes on through chapter 19 and finally leads to what is the marriage of heaven and earth - in chapters 21 and 22 - which is where God has been going since Genesis.
It is important that we understand that. The big picture flow of how all this fits together. Chapters and verses are not inspired Scripture. Chapters and verses were added in stages it the 1500’s and are helpful. But, sometimes can be a distraction - dividing Scripture into sections that keep us from seeing the overall flow of Scripture.
Chapters 4 to about 19 are really one movement of God’s future that needs to be seen as a whole if we’re going to understand the why this is here importance of John’s revelation. Not sliced up and dissected and each individual part put under a microscope. There is a value to all that dissection and study. But not if it keeps us back from seeing God’s point and purposes.
So this morning we’re going to look at 14 plus chapters with a broad brush approach touching on only some specifics that will help us to grab the big picture. Which may make some people very happy and may mean I’ll get emails from others - especially those who want to know if the antichrist is President Trump or Congresswoman Pelosi.
In either case - make sure your safety bar is in its down and locked position until the sermon comes to a complete stop.
Brief backfill. Chapter 4 brought us into the throne room of God. Where the focus is on God who sits on His throne. God who is worshiped. God in His awesomeness. His majesty. His power. His sovereign authority. Emphasis nothing happens. Nothing exists - past, present, future - apart from God’s complete knowledge - God’s sovereign intention.
So behind everything is God. God who has since Genesis been working through real people in real places in real time and covenants and Law and sacrifices to restore and redeem us from our brokenness and the separation from God caused by our sin [thank you Adam]. Hopefully that sounds familiar.
All of that points to Jesus. Jesus - who we saw in chapter 1 is the focus of this revelation because Jesus is central to everything God has done - is doing - and will do in history.
Jesus - who at the inauguration of His incarnate ministry - what we looked at when we looked at Mark - Jesus begins by declaring that God’s kingdom is hand - right here being revealed in Jesus - and right now is the time to repent and believe in the gospel - the message, ministry, and person of Jesus Christ. Hopefully that sounds familiar.
Jesus - who we saw in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 stands in the midst of His church - the repentant believers - specifically the 7 churches listed which were real churches located in what is today western Turkey. Seven churches that are also symbolic of the Church - including Creekside.
Jesus who is aware of the spiritual condition of each church and the obstacles and struggles they are facing. Jesus who calls upon each church to choose to trust Him - even in the midst of the drama and persecution they are facing. Hopefully that sounds familiar.
Revelation chapter 5 - continues John’s vision of the sovereign God on His throne - who’s been working His plan and purposes in history - and chapter 5 then shows us Jesus who is at the right hand of God’s throne - the position of power and authority - worshiped because He Jesus - He Himself is God.
Jesus who is worthy to open the scroll because He is the Lamb who was slain and is standing - crucified and resurrected. Jesus who is able to open the scroll that contains God’s complete instructions for how and when the sovereign God wills history is to reach its end. Jesus who has the authority to execute the instructions contained in the scroll. Hopefully that sounds familiar.
Pulling all that together as we head into chapter 6. God has a plan to redeem us from our sin and to give us eternity with Him. Jesus is central to God’s plan - then - now - and tomorrow. Jesus who - incarnate, crucified, resurrected - Jesus has suffered for us and is with us and calls us - His Church - to follow Him. Especially in what is to take place as He unrolls the scroll. Because the only way forward through all of that to what God has promised us - because the only way forward is to follow Jesus.
God’s plan. Jesus is central. Follow Jesus.
Can we say that together: “God’s plan. Jesus is central. Follow Jesus.”
If we’ve got that we’ve got the big picture of what this section of revelation is all about.
Okay. Now we’re ready to unpack chapter 6 and beyond.
Look with me at the screen. We’re only going to touch the highlights - just an outline of what’s coming. But it is important to see the big picture of where God is going with the end of history.
Starting on the left. Most probably - meaning when we get to heaven we all can have a discussion about whether or not this was the right interpretation or not.
Most probably what’s in the scroll comes after the rapture. Rapture comes from a Latin word that means to be “joyfully caught up.” The rapture is Jesus coming back to call His church up off the earth. What most probably takes place between chapters 3 and 4.
Then, most probably - combining Old Testament prophecy - think Daniel - and what Jesus taught - most probably after the rapture future history heads into a period of 7 years known as The Great Tribulation.
Why the “great” tribulation? Because there’s “great” tribulation. Worse tribulation than ever before in history.
Most probably - during The Great Tribulation each of the seals on the scroll get opened - the scroll is unrolled - revealing instructions. Instructions and details that are described in chapters 6 and 7.
Seal number one gives instructions for a time of cold war in which John writes about a rider on a white horse with a bow and no arrows going out and conquering. Having a bow and no arrows may mean that all that conquering is done through diplomacy not military might.
Seal number two gives instructions for open warfare - a rider on a bright red horse is sent out to take peace from the earth. Red meaning a whole lot of bleeding and dying is going on. Which is followed by famine and more death. Which - looking at human history - is not hard to imagine. Only this is worse - “great.”
Summarizing the seals Each seal is opened and the scroll is unrolled - history - time - moves forward through The Great Tribulation - instructions are given in heaven that are carried out on earth. Instructions that involve God’s judgment and wrath poured out on the earth and the people on the earth.
Hold onto your safety bar.
Moving into chapter 8 - the seventh seal - when its broken reveals instructions for seven trumpets. Trumpets were used to announce significant events. Meaning these are significant judgments - administered by special angels - coming directly from God.
Trumpet number one is a mixture of hail and fire with blood thrown down on the earth - with the result that one-third of the earth, trees, and grass are burned up.
Trumpet number two involves something like a great burning mountain being thrown into the sea - maybe a meteor - so that one-third of the sea becomes blood, a third of the sea life dies, and one-third of the ships are destroyed.
Future history - time - moves forward - seven trumpets each announcing 7 judgments of God. Still together?
Trumpet number seven introduces seven bowls of judgment which take place - probably - during the second half of The Great Tribulation. Comparing the bowls to the seals and trumpets things only get worse - “greater.”
The angels who administer these judgments appear to be turning the bowls upside down so that every last drop of God’s wrath gets poured out. These are intense judgments.
By time God is done pouring out His wrath - the earth is pretty much toast. Billions have died. The man centered economic and political and social and religious systems of mankind that are operating against God are toast - forever.
To say that all this is devastating is hugely an understatement. “Great” doesn’t even really cover it.
Every thing that mankind - apart from God - everything that mankind has put their trust in - everything that mankind has been looking to for security - is gone in judgment.
At the end of The Great Tribulation there’s the battle at Armageddon.
And then… Jesus comes back. Jesus - the Lamb returns - victorious - conquering. Jesus leading the army of heaven - people from every nation, tribe, and language - who have remained faithful.
Jesus - teaching His disciples about The Great Tribulation - Matthew 24:22 - Jesus said, “If those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved.” By God’s grace there’s an end point to God’s wrath being poured out.
Then there’s what is described as the Millennium - 1,000 years of Christ’s rule on earth. However you interpret it - symbolic or literal - the point is that Jesus will return as King to deal with evil and vindicate His followers.
Followed by the Great White Throne of Judgment and eternity.
History will end how and when the sovereign God says it will end. Eternity isn’t about man’s philosophical and religious imaginings. Eternity is determined according to the will of the sovereign God who created it.
That’s the big picture of what’s in the scroll. God’s will for the consummation of all history. How all things will end. Judgment for the world and the final reward of God’s people.
The victory of the Lamb. Jesus the Lamb who was slain and is standing. Jesus who is worthy to open the scroll and Jesus who has authority to execute the contents of the scroll.
God’s plan. Jesus is central. Follow Jesus.
Not too many years ago I took a class in college - down at Biola - Church and Last Things. The prof was known for being really hung up on details and a very hard grader. Meaning pretty much everyone got a “C.” Anything higher was fantasy. And, he was stickler for details. Anything in the reading or lecture was fair game for a test no matter how obscure.
One day he started outlining future history like we just did. And for the better part of an hour - writing on the chalk board - which is what we ancients used to use before smart boards - he started at the left side of the board and wrote across two 8 foot long chalk boards - wrote out in great detail and minutia all the seals, trumpets and bowls and symbols sequences of the tribulation. Completely filled 16 feet of chalk board.
And we all were copying it all down in great detail because it was all fair game for tests and we all were clinging to our “C’s”.
About 5 minutes before class was over. He stopped. Stepped back. Looked at the board. And uttered the immortal words, “That can’t be right.” And erased the whole thing.
Other equally really good Bible scholars think that these 3 sets of 7 divine judgments are actually 3 different perspectives of the same period of future history - that God reveals in light of history’s final end - which is the marriage of Heaven and earth - chapters 21 and 22 - where the sovereign God is going with all this.
Kind of like those Russian dolls where one is inside the other and yet they’re all in the same place. All of the 7’s are woven together to that the 7 bowls are contained within the 7th trumpet and the trumpets are contained within the 7th seal and it all probably happens in those 7 years.
Same period of time - the tribulation. Same content of judgement. Same theme: God’s plan. Jesus is central. Follow Jesus. But the perspective changes.
Who’s right? Ask me when we get to heaven and I’ll give you the answer.
But for now - if we can keep the information on the chalk board and at same time look at these 3 sets as 3 perspectives of the same process and result - it will help us answer one crucial question:
Because that is one of - if not the main question of revelation - which is: What happens to God’s people? Will they survive? Will they conquer? Will they inherit the new heaven and new earth that God has in store for us? Will they endure and live in that future coming kingdom? What does it mean to follow Jesus through all that?
There are huge life lessons for us to learn in the answer to those questions.
We need to be reminded that the 7 churches that we were introduced to at the beginning of the revelation are 7 real churches in real time in real places. God giving this revelation directly - initially - to them.
John is writing down this revelation in about 95 AD. The persecution of Christians under Nero is past history. But the effects on those who went through that persecution is still pretty current.
And while some in these 7 churches may not have experienced it yet - many are - the persecution of Christians under the Emperor Domitian is happening and it’s getting worse.
These 7 churches are in the cross hairs of current and coming persecution. Horrible persecution. And they know it.
So it is crucial that they know that Jesus knows where they’re at and that He’s with them - chapters 2 and 3. And, crucial that they know what’s coming and how to follow Jesus through all that - the big picture of chapter 4 and beyond.
Crucial for them to hear what Jesus says to the churches. Each congregation regardless of where they are physically and spiritually and what lies ahead of them - Jesus appeals to each of them to respond by trusting Him - follow Me - and repeatedly Jesus promises great reward to those who will conquer by remaining faithful to Him.
In a lot of ways - Revelation 4 to 19 plus - is the illustration of what it means to follow Jesus and so conquer - even in the midst of persecution.
Notice what is common to all the 3 sets of divine judgments.
Great destruction and death. In the seals, John uses imagery from Zechariah - the horses symbolize what is totally messed up in human history and horrendous realities of that - war - conquest - famine - death. In the trumpets and bowls that imagery is more specific - intentionally bringing to mind the plagues of Egypt.
Judgment with purpose. To call the nations to repentance. Which - like Pharaoh - they do not. The nations continue in rebellion against God bringing more judgment on themselves.
Some place in all that God’s people are persecuted - often martyred - always suffering. Crying out to God for deliverance - for vengeance - for an end - while they’re being oppressed by the governments and economics and cultures of this world.
Always with that suffering is the temptation that Jesus addressed while addressing the 7 churches - the temptation to compromise - to bend - to adopt - to assent - to comply with the world. And Jesus’ call to trust Him - to conquer by remaining faithful to Him.
It is a symbolic vision of a very real choice - that is before every generation of the church. Even us today. Man - under the delusion of Satan - in rebellion against God - what must be turned from and resisted - verses - God’s promise given to us in Jesus - who will return and remove evil from His world as we enter into forever life with God - God’s promise that we are to cling to as we are trusting in Jesus as our Savior.
Finally the Lamb - Jesus - returns in judgement at the head of heavens army composed of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language - those who have repented - those who have remained faithful. Each cycle depicts Jesus conquering over His enemies and God’s kingdom and justice coming here on earth as it is in heaven. The future realization of the kingdom - the marriage of heaven and earth - which is coming.
Which each of these 3 cycles of 7 ends with. The end point of where God has been going since Genesis.
What does it mean for us to follow Jesus through all that?
Jesus told His disciples: “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Let’s be clear:
As the Lamb Jesus is meek - the incarnation of God’s grace - led to the slaughter without opening His mouth. As the Lamb Jesus is judged and gives Himself up as our sacrifice. And yet - Jesus wins - Jesus overcomes - Jesus conquers because He is the Lamb who was slain.
The basis of Jesus’s worthiness - to take the scroll - His authority to break the seven seals - to redeem the world - to execute judgment - even the victory that we ourselves look forward to - the basis of all that is not because of military or political might or any other power or ability found in creation.
The basis of Jesus overcoming - overwhelming - all-encompassing - all-conquering victory is His perfect submission to the will of God the Father - following the will of God even in death - even His own sacrifice of crucifixion in our place.
Resurrected - Jesus is the first born from the dead in whom is the hope of all of God’s people who will dwell in God’s kingdom forever. Jesus who is our hope. He overcomes. We overcome.
The revelation of that truth was given to John’s readers to give them hope - courage - inspire faith - to move them deeper in their relationship with God as Jesus calls His Church to remain faithful and so conquer.
Grab that and hang on.
For those united with Jesus in death - death is not the end. We live in Jesus’ victory over sin and death. The end of life isn’t a plot in the marble orchard. We live in this world of sin - of death and destruction and drama - of pain and persecution - sickness and suffering. But, our home is not here.
When Jesus comes back we’re going home. These bodies that are falling apart are gonna be transformed into bodies that never wear out. We’re going to live with God forever. In a place more beautiful - more awesome - than anything we can imagine. A place of great joy and peace. No tears. No mourning. No death. No decay. No sin pulling us down each day of our lives - entangling us. We’re going to life in the dwelling place of God Himself where the sinful crud of this world no longer matters.
Paul goes on: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.” (Romans 6:8)
Who’s gonna’ live with Jesus? Us. Those who’ve died with Him.
What does dying to ourselves look like? Following Jesus? Heart level faith in real time?
Jesus put it this way: “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:38,39).
And He’s serious. To live by faith means dying to living by faith in ourselves - or by faith in what’s in the world - or faith in anything or anyone but Jesus. Which is a hard teaching to process.
Dying to ourselves means that - coming to Jesus as our Savior - we’ve allowed God to take everything that we once were apart from God - to have it crucified on the cross with Jesus. It is dead to us. And the only hope we have in life - that we cling to - is Him.
We overcome as Jesus overcame. Following Jesus by obeying the will of the Father - living and demonstrating and sharing His love - the gospel of His kingdom - even when it means death.
Processing all that… one takeaway of many we could focus on.
Chapter 6 ends with a question.
In the midst of the devastation and the poured out wrath of God the nations of the world refuse to repent. They cry out for the rocks and mountains to kill them - to keep them from facing God on the throne and the wrath of the Lamb because the great day of their wrath has come.
The nations ask: “Who can stand?”
When the end arrives and the “great” tribulation and the wrath of God and the Lamb is unleashed - who can withstand their wrath?
Answer: Those who by faith stand in Jesus will remain standing. They will not only endure - but even in death they will conquer.
That life lesson is worth living by - in what will come - and in what is even today.
Question: This morning where do you stand?
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.