History's Pagent of Suffering
Title: HISTORY’S PAGENT OF SUFFERING
Text: Revelation 6:1-17
Brace yourselves, for our study of Revelation is about to take a big change: we come to the unfolding of three series of judgments that come upon the earth. We are at the beginning of the seven years of the Great Tribulation. It is set in motion in chapter 5 where Christ takes the seven-sealed scroll from the Father. God pours out judgment upon all those who have rejected Him and have persecuted those that belong to Him. As we study, we can’t help but shudder what is to come to this sin-sick world.
The Father is long-suffering, but eventually He must judge sin and vindicate His servants. But keep in mind that John wrote to encourage God’s people, though he is told to reveal the outpouring of His wrath. The end of the conflict between God and Satan comes when the King of Kings gives victory to His overcomers in the closing chapters of this book. Since we do not know when Christ will return, each generation is to live in expectancy of His coming. Each generation has to declare God’s truth because all of us contend with a corrupt society (Babylon) and those who work against Christ (Antichrist). Read Text.
It is appropriate that Christ takes the sealed scroll to open it. Sin is rebellion against God, and Jesus died because of that rebellion. Therefore it’s God’s justice for Jesus to initiate the outpouring of wrath against the rebellion. As the first four seals are broken, each reveals one of the creatures that surround the throne summoning a rider on a horse. (Please refrain from reading the insight until we have discussed the questions first.)
1. What do you think the rider on the white horse represents? (The first on the scene is the counterfeit white horse rider – the Antichrist.) Any ideas on what the bow in his hand would represent? (The subtle and swift work of the deceiver; notice it was given to him = delegated authority.) 1 Thess. 5:3 And the crown? (Temporary victory over the earth. This is contrasted with Christ in Rev. 19:12.)
Insight: We must keep in mind that God allows this false Christ to take this role. When Jesus came in the Father’s name, He was not received on earth. Yet when this false one comes, the world receives him. John 5:43 This is a picture of a brilliant and irresistible conqueror whose victories will dazzle the world and he will gather together 10 kings for Satan’s anarchy. Rev. 12:3; 13:1,7-8; 17:12-13
2. The second rider is on a red horse? What do you think this color represents in view of what is given to him? (Bloodshed via the sword – indicating vengeance and slaughter.)
Insight: Imagine a world with no peace in it; nothing but lawlessness and selfish passion. There is no regard for life when it stands in the way of your pursuit of covetousness or ambition. There is no love for your neighbor when Satan puts a sword in your hand. The sword Jesus puts in our hand is for rightly dividing the Word of Truth – not to execute revenge and butchery.
3. What accompanies war that fits the next rider on the black horse and what he carries? (Death and famine.)
Insight: When food is abundant, you don’t worry about weighing out a quart of wheat. But when it’s scarce and costs a whole day’s wage, indeed you will want to weigh it out! Notice the extent of the famine – barley in their day was food for horses and cows. When food is scarce, you aren’t going to pay a day’s wage for 3 quarts of horse feed…it’s for your own survival! When you take away peace, death and famine will follow.
4. What would you suspect is going on when the rider on the black horse is instructed not to harm the oil and wine?
Insight: Scriptures often speak of God’s blessings upon the righteous in terms of oil and wine; they are used in the rites of the Church (communion & anointing). This would then symbolize that the godly are protected from destruction. Rev. 7:3
5. The next rider is on an ashen horse (greenish in the Greek). What do you think this symbolizes? (Putrefying or decaying bodies, because his name is “Death.”)
Insight: Note this rider is given names. Death claims the body, while Hades claims the soul. Also note that the famine is so far-spread that disease multiplies and animals become more ferocious in competition for what food there is.
Why do you think this rider was instructed to kill only a fourth of the earth? (The time of final judgment has not yet arrived; more judgment is yet to come.)
6. What do you think the fifth seal represents? (Persecution and martyrdom.) There is a beautiful significance behind where these souls are kept who are slain for the Word of God and their testimony. What is it?
Insight: Those who delay accepting Christ until the Great Tribulation will pay a great price. But their sacrificial death is an appointment by God, not an accident. In the Old Testament, the blood of the sacrifices was poured out at the base of the brazen altar (Lev. 4:7,18,25,30); and centuries later it will be mingled with that of the martyrs of the faith whose blood is for the glory of God. God has no part in martyring the saints; John only records the results and how God arranged their resting-place. Rev. 7:9-14; 20:4
7. What is really behind the question of these martyrs that is directed to the throne? (Not whether their enemies would be judged, but when.)
Insight: God’s patience outruns ours any day. Though these souls know God will eventually judge sin, they also know personal revenge is not in their hands, but in the hands of Him who is Holy and Just. He has yet more to accomplish that these souls cannot see.
What was God’s response to their question? (There are more to come.)
Insight: Their death is not an accident; though it appears the enemy is winning, God will have the last word. They are to rest for now, for a brighter day comes after the delay.
What do their white robes represent? (Purity and victory – symbolic of their blessed relationship with God.)
Insight: Notice the believers cry, “Avenge us!” but the unbelievers will cry, “Fall on us and hide us!”
8. The sixth seal opens with worldwide convulsions and catastrophes. How long has God been planning this tremendous event? Hag. 2:6-7; Joel 2:31; Isa. 34:1-5 Does rank or wealth deliver anyone in that terrible day?
Insight: If men and women will not yield to the love of God, and be changed by the grace of God, then there is no way for them to escape the wrath of God.
What’s ironic about who these people hide from? (A LAMB!) The “wrath of the Lamb” seems out of place. Why didn’t John write “the wrath of the Lion”?
Insight: There is another side to the Lamb besides meekness and gentleness. He has a holy love for what is right and a holy hatred for what is evil.
9. What impresses you about verses 12-15 about the command of God’s power over all creation?
10. Who do the unbelievers now recognize is behind all these tumultuous events? (The Lamb and He who sits on the throne.) Does all this judgment change their heart?
Insight: It’s amazing how wicked the human heart can get. Those who experience the wrath of the Lamb are not penitent. They refuse to submit to God. They would rather hide from God in fear (like Adam and Eve) rather than run to Him in faith! If you neglect to pray for God’s grace today…in that day you will cry for His mercy to snuff out your miserable life. Only those hidden in His sheltering grace will not be overwhelmed. Isa. 2:12; Ps. 76:7; Joel 2:11; Mal. 3:2; Rom. 2:5
If that great and awesome day were to come upon us suddenly, what could you say to fainting brothers and sisters that would help them to hold strong? Rev. 12:7-*11; Jer. 30:7