March 20, 2011
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
There are several schools of thought, several views if you will, concerning the interpretation of the book of Revelation. We covered those some time back so I will not take the time to reiterate them at this point. As I stated when we looked at these various points of view, I am of the futurist position. This means that I view the vast majority of the book of Revelation as yet future. The great weight of scholarship points to this book having been authored toward the end of the reign of Domitian, whose reign came to an end in about 96 A.D. Chapters 4 – 22 are yet future, with the resurrection/rapture being the next event on the prophetic calendar. I for one am of the belief that the rapture is an imminent event, and as such could occur at any moment. Our challenge, our responsibility, is to make certain that we are ready to go.
We have come to the 6th chapter of Revelation. We looked at the “Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse.” We have considered the implications of what these four horses represent for the people of this earth for the not too distant future, for those who miss the catching away and are consequently left behind to face the horrors of the Great tribulation. This is not a fairy tale or the ranting of a sensationalist prophecy preacher. These are events revealed by the Holy Spirit breathed Word of God.
Look at verse 9, And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: [Rev. 6:9 KJV] These martyrs would be those who have accepted Christ during the early days of the tribulation and were, we learn later, beheaded for their faith. [See Rev. 20:4 ] The first four seals occurred on the earth, these last two occur in Heaven. Herein lies the difficulty in understanding certain parts of the book of Revelation. Many of the things we see, and that John described as he saw them, occur in the spirit, or unseen realm. We have to keep this in mind as we read through the book. What we read here in this ninth verse is a good example of this. First, John sees an altar. This proves that there are altars in Heaven. The altars we read about that were on earth, those in the Tabernacle and the Temple; were patterned after those in Heaven.
This particular altar is most likely the altar of incense. In the Tabernacle on Earth, the Altar of Incense sat immediately in front of the Veil, which hid the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. Twice a day, the Priests were to take coals of fire from the Brazen Altar, which sat in front of the Tabernacle, which was a type of the Crucifixion of Christ, and place those coals on the Golden Altar of Incense. He would then pour incense over the coals of fire, with a fragrant smoke filling the Holy Place. This was all a type of Christ. The Altar of Incense pictured the place where the prayers of the saints ascended to God. We read for example, And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. [Rev. 5:8 KJV See also Ex. 40:5] We read in verse 10 what these saints prayed,
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? This seal really describes the force of the saint’s prayers for God’s vengeance. Its events will begin in the first half and mark the mid-point of the Tribulation and events following. In the seven-year period, which is called the Great Tribulation, the second 3 ½ year period features the Day of The Lord, in which God unleashes His judgment and wrath on the earth in intensifying waves. We are seeing in our time the setting of the stage for the advent of the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation period. Jesus said, And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. [Matt. 24:7 – 9 KJV]
This describes events that have occurred for the past almost two thousand years. For example, when Jesus said that we would hear of, “Wars and rumors of wars,” we have had great times of outbreaks of war down through the centuries, certainly wreaking havoc with multitudes of people, resulting in untold thousands losing their lives and much blood shed. When the Lord declared “Nation shall rise nation, and kingdom against kingdom” we find two very interesting words. “Nation” is from the Greek word, “ethnos”, which is the root word for, “ethnic.” In the second place, “Kingdom” is the Greek word, “basilea.” This Greek word, “basilea,” speaks of a place of sovereign rule or authority, it speaks of a kingdom literally. It is often used in reference to the Kingdom of God and Christ. The Kingdom of God is the sphere in which, at any given time, His rule is acknowledged. [Vine’s] It stands in stark contrast to the kingdoms of this world. In essence, this phrase Jesus uses speaks of ethnic group coming against ethnic group, and the kingdom of God waging war with the kingdom of Satan, or of darkness. This would, according to Jesus, characterize the period known as the Last Days; a period of time that really began with the first Advent of Christ.
Notice, the Lord also said, and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. This speaks of a series of cataclysmic natural phenomena growing in frequency and intensity as the ages of time roll on. Today we see this prophecy dramatically being fulfilled right before our very eyes. Millions are at risk of famine in Central Africa, India, North Korea and China. Many other nations are unable to properly feed their people due to decreasing amounts of agricultural lands, increasing amounts of deserts, and the soaring growth of their populations. This problem will only be increased many times over during the Great Tribulation when worldwide famine destroys millions of lives.
What about pestilence? In the past twenty years or so, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), health professionals have diagnosed more than 25 infectious diseases with no known treatment or cure.
Need we even speak of earthquakes? Killer earthquakes (6.5 or higher), occurred only once every decade during the 1800s. Now we are seeing them almost monthly, if not weekly. As I write these words, this past week-end a 9.0 killer earthquake struck Japan, the largest in that country’s recorded history. To make matters worse the Japan quake triggered a huge tsunami that was so powerful that not only did it devastate the coastal region of Japan, but caused tsunami warnings to be issued along the western coast of the United States as well. What is all of this? What is going on? Jesus said, All these are the beginning of sorrows. This speaks of birth or labor pains experienced by a pregnant woman. They grow in frequency and intensity as the birth of the child grows closer. So it is with the signs pointing to the Second Coming of Christ.
Back to Revelation 6. These first tribulation martyrs are seen under the heavenly Altar of Incense, the place symbolizing the prayers of God’s people ascending before the Throne of God. They are crying out for judgment against those whom have killed them. And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. The white robes symbolize righteousness. This verse confirms that most believers who come to faith during the Great Tribulation will be martyred for their faith, as these first martyrs are told to wait until the rest of the brethren who would be killed as they were was fulfilled.
Notice that the opening of the sixth seal brings a great upheaval of nature. And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. There is much here. I will try to be as succinct as possible, while at the same time not merely skimming over the passage. It seems as though this prayer of God’s people, these tribulation martyrs, really moves the heart of God as we observe the beginning of the outpouring of the wrath of God on the earth. This is probably two to three years into the Great Tribulation.
Notice what happens. First, John says at the opening of this sixth seal there is a great earthquake. This will be the first of many quakes during the Tribulation. Notice the word, great. It is from the Greek, megas. We would say say, mega in our modern vernacular. The great force behind this seal is fear. The first five seals were largely of human activity and the causes of natural things. With this sixth seal we begin to see direct intervention by God Himself. It brings us to the Day of The Lord, of which all that has come before was but a precursor. There have been many earthquakes down through the centuries, but this one it seems will trump them all. This one it appears causes a fracture of all the fault lines of the world simultaneously! We have never seen that before, but it will occur during the Great Tribulation. It will be a mega earthquake. Seismologists tell us that a mega earthquake is one of a magnitude 10.0 or higher. We have never seen one of that magnitude in recorded history, and scientists tell us that one of that size is highly unlikely; however it will occur in the probably not too distant future. It is a certainty on the authority of the Word of God.
All of this seismic activity will cause much volcanic activity, spewing lava and dust particles into the upper atmosphere to such a degree that it will block the light of the sun, and cast a blood red hue upon the moon. Notice the word, stars. This is translated from the Greek, aster. This word would be the root from which we get, asteroid. It refers to asteroids, meteorites, and shooting stars. Down through the centuries many asteroids and meteorites that failed to burn up on their trajectory from space have crashed into the earth, in some cases causing massive damage and destruction. It would appear however that this cosmic event will be the greatest ever. Large slabs of space rock, some perhaps the size of cities, will strike the earth at great force. Some no doubt will fall into the sea causing great tilde waves that perhaps will destroy entire cities resulting in untold injury and loss of life.
Notice, And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. This is not the first place in the Word of God we find language like this. This happens to be another of the many allusions to the Old Testament found in Revelation. Isaiah 42:5 tells us, Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out..[Isa. 42:5a KJV] We read also, And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. [Isa. 34:4 KJV] Skeptics laughed at such a notion for years, saying it was at best merely an allegory. They thought that, until now. Recent findings not only verify that the universe is indeed expanding, but quantum physics and the findings of the Hubbell telescope verify that the universe is indeed curved, or scroll-like in shape.
Notice lastly, 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. I find it ironic that these individuals who failed to call on the, “Rock of Ages”, are now reduced to crying out to the rocks of the earth. This takes in everyone from the Prince to the pauper. No one will be exempt. It seems that these individuals at this time will actually look on the face of God the Father and will want to hide from His gaze knowing their fate is sealed and that they are eternally doomed!
and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? Jesus’ identity as the Lamb is emphasized throughout, demonstrating the importance of the Cross and the price He paid thereon for our redemption. The Lamb is the Savior today, but will be the judge then. The “Great Day of His Wrath” arrives with the opening of this sixth seal. This will be the Great Tribulation, and will last seven years once it begins. [See Dan. 9:27]
The seventh seal contains the seven trumpets. A new series of judgments, most severe than those that have come before, are introduced. Before we get to them however we will see the first parenthetical section of the book of Revelation in chapter 7. Much background information is given that we dare not miss. We will examine that next time.
The Weekly Word is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, 10. Here the Bible says,
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. [1 Thess. 5:9, 10 KJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson