The Seals of the Scroll (Rev. 6)
Most of us have experienced disillusionment as the result of false promises of help. Perhaps this is one reason why the whole Charlie Brown and Lucy scenario strikes such a cord with audiences: you know, the one where she promises to hold the football this time but then snatches it away at the last moment? Perhaps you are the Lucy in the scenario, but I think a lot of us have found ourselves laying on the ground mad that we fell for that ploy yet again.
Perhaps one of our greatest temptations is to grab hold of premature promises of deliverance from suffering, whether that suffering is physical suffering, or suffering from injustice, or whatever the tragedy might be. This is the perennial allure of political parties. Now I’m not against political parties or political affiliations – they are necessary in our system of government. But if history has shown us anything, it is that our political leaders will always end up disappointing us. And yet so many people stake their hopes on the next election, as if that will change everything for the better. Well, sometimes political change is necessary, and sometimes things do change for the better. But politics will never usher in utopia and those who promise that will always end up with something that does not and cannot last. Even worse, the 20th century has shown us (via Nazism and Communism) that such efforts often end up with a lot of the population in prison camps in order to achieve the utopia promised.
Or there is the hope that people are given with the latest medical innovation. Again, medical innovation is real and can lead to real breakthroughs that cure serious diseases. We’re thankful for whatever help can be gotten for cancer and other types of diseases. But if your hope is in the next pill to be approved by the FDA, then your hopes are falsely placed. Because even if your heart disease is cured, you are going to end up dying eventually, one way or another. No one gets to escape death. Everyone’s body will break down sooner or later.
Or there is the hope that the next self-help guru will help us to finally get a grip on the worries and the failures that seem to beset us. Once again, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to improve our lot in this world. But at the end of the day, we all know that some of the saddest people in the world are some of the most successful. The idea that success can buy happiness is another false hope. I remember watching the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, about the millionaire Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith). In it we watch a man go from being homeless to becoming very rich. At the very end of the movie, when he describes the moment he broke out of poverty, he says something along the lines of, “In that moment, I was happy.” Well, I don’t doubt that money and wealth and success can bring you happiness. But it won’t last if that’s all you’ve got. You might have it for a moment, but you won’t have it forever. It’s a false hope.
And yet we keep believing them. Richard Dawkins the atheist likes to define religious faith as believing something to be true even though there isn’t any evidence for it. Now that’s a bogus definition. But the irony is that lots of irreligious and religious people alike have this kind of faith, because we believe – apart from any real evidence – that the next political leader or the next pill or the next self-help book will bring us true and lasting happiness. But it won’t. It’s a form of gullibility and we are all susceptible to it.
If you are a Christian, this is especially dangerous. Because it is easy to wed our faith in Christ to these other hopes and to baptize them in the name of Jesus. This is what the entire edifice of the health-wealth- prosperity gospel is built upon. They say that if you just have enough faith in Jesus, your life can get better in terms of health and in terms of wealth. But the Lord has not promised us anything like this and those who believe these lies are vulnerable to disillusionment with the gospel.
The Meaning of the Seals
Why am I saying all this? I’m saying it because I think in a real sense Revelation chapter 6 is here to warn us against this kind of disillusionment. It is meant, I think at least partly, to function as a warning against expecting too much of this world. It is meant to keep us from placing our hopes in people or programs that promise heaven on earth. It is meant, to put it a bit more bluntly, to keep us from following the multitude of false prophets and false apostles who promise you something right now when the Bible tells us to wait for it.
This is what our Lord was doing in the Olivet Discourse. Many Biblical scholars have noted the strong similarities between Revelation 6 and the Olivet Discourse, which is related in the Synoptic Gospels (Mt. 24-25; Mk. 13; Luke 21). For example, here is what our Lord says, as it is recorded for us in Matthew 24:
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. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. (Mt. 24:6-9)
Notice the things our Lord warns his disciples about: conquest, war, famine, pestilence, and persecution, “the beginning of sorrows.” Guess what we see in the seals as they are unloosed in Revelation 6? You see conquest (seal 1), war (seal 2), famine (seal 3), pestilence (seal 4), and persecution (seal 5).
Now why was our Lord telling his disciples about that? He was telling them that because they expected the end to come very soon. They were in expectation that Jesus was going to bring the kingdom in during his earthly ministry. They still didn’t think he was going to die; they didn’t understand the necessity of his sacrifice on the cross. They were still thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom that would demolish all Israel’s enemies. That is why his prediction about the destruction of Jerusalem was so shocking to them. Here is what had just happened:
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (Mt. 24:1-3).
Do you see how the minds of the disciples were working? The questions they are asking come out of this expectation of the immediate coming of Christ’s earthly kingdom, and they couldn’t square that with the destruction of the temple. For them, the temple was the earthly expression of God’s rule on the earth, and for it to be destroyed by God’s enemies didn’t make sense when the Messiah who was supposed to conquer all God’s enemies was there present on earth! And so our Lord responds to this mistaken notion that the kingdom was going to come immediately. Instead, he is telling them to expect all these things to happen (like wars and rumours of wars, etc.), and that these will be just the beginning of sorrows. His coming to set up his kingdom on earth wasn’t going to happen right away.
It is important to understand that our Lord’s teaching here is not meant merely to correct a misunderstanding of eschatology; he is doing so to prevent this misunderstanding from causing them to abandon the faith for false Christs. Hear how he frames his teaching: “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Mt. 24:4-5). This concern is what is driving everything that follows. Our Lord is concerned that, hoping in an immediate manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth, but experiencing a delay in its realization, his disciples will abandon him for false Christs. And so one of the things he does is to teach them that the kingdom will not come before these other things happen, and that the occurrence of wars and pestilence and famine is not a proof that the promise of the kingdom is an empty promise. He has in fact promised both and that far from being an argument against the coming kingdom, the sorrows of war and famine and so on are like birth pangs that in God’s plan will give birth to God’s kingdom in God’s good time.
And so I think the banner that is waved over Revelation 6 is the same banner that is waved over Matthew 24: “Take heed that no man deceive you.” He is saying to us: Be careful so that you don’t become disillusioned by the presence of sorrows and end up as a result of that disillusionment abandoning Biblical hope for cheap substitutes that give you fleeting pleasures and temporary success in the place of “solid joys and lasting treasure.”
Revelation 6, like Matthew 24 and Mark 13 and Luke 21, helps us to keep the presence of sorrow and the absence of the kingdom from causing us to abandon the faith. It does it by teaching us things: that present sufferings have an origin, a purpose, and an end. First, an origin: it shows us that the sorrows we experience in the absence of the kingdom come from God. They are not random, purposeless events. They come as Jesus breaks the seals.
Second, the purpose they serve is to remind the world that it stands under the judgment of God. The seals are all judgments, just like the trumpets and the bowls later on. Famine, pestilence, and war do have their “innocent victims.” But the reality is that we live in a broken world that is broken precisely because of sin. That doesn’t mean that if we are suffering it is because of a particular sin. But it does mean that all human suffering comes from sin in some ultimate sense. You cannot live in a fallen world without experiencing suffering. And I think one of the reasons it is this way is because if God were to take away all suffering before taking away sin (which will happen in the kingdom to come), people wouldn’t have any reason to think that sin was such a bad thing. But it is a bad thing, and sorrow and suffering reminds us that it is.
Third, the seals remind us that there will be an end to suffering. Suffering will not be ended by the universe itself when it dies from heat death in some distant future. Rather, it will come to an end by God and Christ, who will end the sorrows by bringing in his kingdom. We need to remember this. However bad things are now, they will not last forever. And it is not just that we die and that’s it. It is that those who belong to Christ will be raised to reign with him as a kingdom of priests forever.
The Place of the Seals in the Narrative of Revelation
Before we go further, I want to help us to understand how the narrative of “the things which must be hereafter” (4:1) is unfolding in the pages of the Revelation and where chapter 6 fits into this. We argued that the scroll represents God’s plan for the judgment of his enemies and the salvation of his people. Now I think that the burden of this plan rests in the coming of Jesus to make all things new. And so the writing of the scroll, I think, is primarily concerned with the events that lead to a new heavens and a new earth and the destruction of death and of all evil. And remember that in order for the contents of a scroll to be enacted, the seals had to be broken. So how does the breaking of the seals fit into the narrative of events being related for us in Revelation?
There is a lot of disagreement here, and I’m not going to pretend that I think I know all the answers. Some of us probably know folks who really think they have all this figured out. Listen, you should be really suspicious of those who have this kind of attitude. So if you disagree with me on this, that’s okay. And in any case even if you do disagree with me, I hope that there are principles here upon which we can all agree. So I will give you my reasons for the positions I am taking and let you take it from there.
As far as the seals go, I think that the breaking of them represents all of history between the first and second comings of Jesus, just as in the Olivet Discourse our Lord is telling his disciples what will happen before he returns. There are certain things that must happen before the Lord returns, just as the seals of a scroll must be broken before the terms of the scroll can be enacted. The things mentioned in the first five seals are all things that are common to human history, not just to the end of history as we know it. But when you get to the sixth seal, you are at the end of history, and the seventh seal, which comes at the beginning of chapter 8, is silence, which I think represents the rest which follows the end of history and the judgment of all God’s enemies.
Thus, I think when all the seals are broken, the book of Revelation begins to give us what really are the events of the last days. Once the seals are broken, God’s plan for the end of history can be enacted. Now that doesn’t mean that these events come at us in a linear fashion. In fact, it appears that the next two cycles of judgment (trumpets and bowls) really do recapitulate the same basic events but from different perspectives.
So, to sum up, I think the breaking of the seals (Rev. 6-8:5) give us human history between the first and second comings of Jesus, and after 8:5 the apostle is going to go into more detail about the end of history and the culmination of all things in the judgment of God’s enemies and the renewal of all things as the kingdoms of the earth become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.
The Breaking of the First Six Seals
Now let’s look at the seals more closely. Chapter 6 gives us the breaking of the first six seals on the scroll which is God’s plan for the end of history. The breaking of the seventh seal doesn’t happen until chapter 8, and in between (chapter 7) we have an intermission of sorts in which John tells us more about how God is going to take care of his people in the time between the first and second comings of Jesus.
Again, let’s remember the reason for these seals. They are here to remind us that though Jesus is enthroned and exalted and worthy, this does not mean that history would immediately come to an end once he rose from the dead. Rather, God has a plan for history in which he will gather in his elect over a long period of time. But during that time, the world is still fallen and under judgment and this judgment is being described here in terms of these seals.
The First Seal
“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. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (Rev. 6:1-2). Notice who is opening the seal: the Lamb is. That was the point of chapter 5. So these judgments come from the throne of God because the Lamb has conquered and is setting in motion God’s plan for the future.
The first four seals are identified by a horse and a rider, which is very similar to a vision that the prophet Zechariah relates in Zech. 1:8-11 and 6:1-8. In Zechariah’s prophesy, the four horsemen represented “they whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.” (1:10, ESV). Now the thought in Revelation is a bit different, but the four horsemen part of the vision does seem to point the universality of the judgments. The color of the horses corresponds to the nature of the various judgments. In the first seal, the horse is white, and the rider is equipped with a bow who goes out conquering. The first seal thus represents conquest. In the first century, victorious generals were often given white horses to ride in victory parades. The reference to the bow would probably have reminded the original readers of Revelation of the Parthian armies. The Parthian empire was an empire on the eastern border of the Roman empire and which was a constant menace to the security of Romans there. They were well known for their use of the bow and arrow, and they had defeated the Roman army in AD 62. And so the possibility of conquest by this eastern foe was always in the minds of the inhabitants of the eastern part of the Roman empire (which the churches in Roman Asia would have been).
Nevertheless, we need not make a precise identification of the conqueror here: Beasley-Murray rightly warns that the “commentators’ lust for identification must be resisted.”1 The point is that throughout history the conquest of one nation by another is a feature of a world under the judgment of God. Empire- building is not seen here as a blessing but as a curse. One of the reasons for this surely is that many of the things that follow in the breaking of the next few seals is often a result of conquest.
The Second Seal
“And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword” (3-4). Red is the color of blood, and this therefore has to do with the shedding of blood. This follows the first seal as conquest and killing go together. It is rare that one nation capitulates to another without war. However, this is more general than war. Violence plagues even the most peaceful of countries. Hatred stirs up strife and anger often leads to murder. It is another feature of a fallen world under the judgment of God.
The Third Seal
“And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine” (5-6). If the first seal represents conquest and the second violence, the third represents famine, and the horse is appropriately colored black. The penny in verse 6 is the denarius which was the wages for one day’s work. A measure of wheat is a quart (ESV), which was considered the amount of food necessary for one man for one day. Barley was cheaper, but this would still have been exorbitantly expensive. One commentary says that the price here “reflects 800 percent inflation in grain prices.”2 How would a man feed his family if the entire income was enough only to feed one person? You can see how this would lead to hunger and famine.
On the other hand, we are told “see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” This probably means either that the famine is limited, or that it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. (Wine and oil were the commodities of the wealthy who were less likely to be affected by famine than the poor.) In any case, it does underline that God sets limits to the judgments which he sends.
The Fourth Seal
“And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth” (7-8). The word death here in this context almost certainly means pestilence which kills. The Greek word for death translates the Hebrew word for death in the Septuagint, for example, in Ezek. 14:21 (“For thus saith the Lord God; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?”). This is especially illustrative because Ezekiel mentioned the same things John does, except that instead of the word pestilence John substitutes the word for death, showing they are surely synonymous words in this context. John himself uses the word death this way in Rev. 2:23 and 18:8.
“Pale” is the color of the horse, which is appropriate because this is “the color of a person in sickness as contrasted with his appearance in health,” a “pale greenish gray.”3
Hell, or Hades, follows pestilence. I think Beasley-Murray is right to imagine Death on the pale horse and Hades following after on foot to collect its victims. Hades was thought of as the world of the dead; in the Bible it is often synonymous with the grave. So the idea here is that pestilence kills and Hades collects the dead.
The fact that pestilence kills a fourth part of the earth is frightening but at the same time it again shows that there are limits that God has set to these judgments. This kind of mortality rate was in fact experienced by people in the Roman Empire in the mid-second century during the reign of Marcus Aurelius in what some medical experts think was the first outbreak of smallpox in the West.4 By the way, all these are often the very kinds of things that follow in the wake of war. War brings with it violence and famine and pestilence in its aftermath, as well as an increase in wild animals whose numbers are unchecked because of the chaos of war.
None of these things are peculiar to any part of human history; we have seen them take place in our world in our day. We can read about wars and rumours of wars in every age; about diseases and plagues two years ago or two hundred years ago. The believers in the first century and believers in the twenty-first century need to be reminded that the presence of conquest, war, famine, and pestilence are not signs that God has abandoned our planet but that this world will continue under the judgment of God as long as men continue in their rebellion again him. These are also the kinds of things that bring down human kingdoms and which would eventually spell the end of the Roman Empire. But though the nations of men may crumble, the Lamb who breaks the seals and sends these judgments is creating a kingdom which will never end.
The Fifth Seal
At this point, there are no more mention of horses and riders. Commentators have noted a 4-2-1 pattern in all three cycles of judgments, and we see that here. Here the focus is no longer on the earth, but we are taken into heaven: “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: 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? 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 fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled” (Rev. 6:9-11).
This seal is a reminder that it is not just the unbelievers who experience suffering; believers suffer, and one of the ways they suffer is martyrdom. Here are people who “were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” Jim Hamilton points out that the parallel between the Olivet Discourse and Revelation 6 indicates that the spread of the gospel happens at least in part through the death of martyrs. In the Olivet Discourse it is the spread of the gospel in all the world that presages the end (Mt. 24:14). In Rev. 6, it is the cry of the martyrs (fifth seal) that comes right before the return of Christ in judgment (sixth seal). So Hamilton writes, “I take this to mean that the gospel will go to the ends of the earth through the sacrifices of the martyrs, and the fact that there is an appointed number of martyrs in Revelation 6:11 means that their deaths are not accidental.”5
There is indeed a number to the martyrs. This means that, as Hamilton points out, their deaths are not accidental or purposeless. Their sacrifice for the cause of God and truth is one of the means that God uses to advance his kingdom. As Jesus told his disciples, “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. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12-13, ESV). We must not miss this: one of the themes of Revelation is that just as Jesus gained his victory through death, even so his followers will gain their victory through death.
Of course this doesn’t mean that the only way the believer gains the victory is through martyrdom. There are other ways to die. God doesn’t call all of us to be martyrs. But he does call all of us to die to ourselves and to seek first the kingdom of God. It means that in every sphere of life, we live as a witness to the gospel. Our lives are to be flavored by the gospel, and our deaths are to be a sort of final amen to the truth about Christ. It means that the sacrifices God calls us to endure are an opportunity to bear witness to the robustness of the Christian faith. And surely we are all called to live that way and to die that way.
The martyrs are pictured here as “under the altar.” I think the reality this is meant to picture is that they are in the very presence of God. The altar of incense in the tabernacle and temple stood right in front of the Most Holy Place. They have sealed their testimony by their blood. The world has rejected them, but God has received them. He has given them white robes and rest from their labors.
In God’s presence they cry with a loud voice, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” Of course, the previous seals are symbols of God’s judgment. It’s not as if the world is not under the judgment of God. But what they are asking for is justice for the particular crimes committed against them in their deaths at the hand of wicked men. God does answer them, but it is interesting to note how he answers them: “and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” This means, first, that retribution for the crimes committed against them would not happen right away. In fact, it would not happen “until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” I take this to mean that not until the full number of the martyrs is fulfilled will God render justice. This takes us to the end of the world as we know it, and is another reminder that though we are to work for justice in this world, our ultimate hope is not in getting justice for ourselves or for others in this world, but to wait for it at the Final Judgment.
Second, it means that justice, though delayed, will happen. God doesn’t tell them that he won’t do it, just that they have to wait a little longer for it. God will repay (cf. Rom. 12:19). We don’t have to settle for imperfect justice or the failure of justice in this world, because we know that God will render in his good time perfect and complete and universal justice.
The Sixth Seal
“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. 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, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:12-17).
We’ve noted several times the similarity between Rev. 6 and the Olivet Discourse. One of the things the disciples asked Jesus was what would indicate the time of the end. Here is how our Lord describes it in Mt. 24:29-31:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
These are clearly parallel passages and describe in slightly different ways the same event. I take this to be a description of the Second Coming of our Lord. I know that some take this to mean the destruction of Jerusalem, because of the word “immediately” in verse 29 and what our Lord says about all these things happening to that generation then present in verse 34. But these are not insuperable difficulties, and they can be explained in a way that is consistent with taking this to refer to the visible, personal, glorious coming of our Lord to judge the wicked and resurrect the righteous.
Another reason people give for taking our Lord’s words in Mt. 24 to be a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem is that the cosmic language he uses is OT stock language for God’s judgments on the nations, whether Babylon (Isa. 13:9, ff.), or Egypt (Ezek. 32:7, ff), or Israel (Joel 2:10, 30, ff.). However, I wonder why it hasn’t occurred to some of these folks why God would use this type of language? They argue that we should look in retrospect to the OT passages to interpret Rev. 6 and Mt. 24, but that surely is taking it backwards. The OT passages should be interpreted in light of the NT ones. The reason for this type of language that portrays the destruction of nations and empires through the symbolism of cosmic disordering is because at the end of history this is precisely what will happen. All those events in the OT were simply prefiguring the final coming of the Lord, just like those were “days of the Lord” which pointed forward to the Day of the Lord in the Second Coming and Final Judgment.6
Both the sixth seal and Mt. 24:29-31 describe what happens when Jesus comes back, although our Lord in Mt. 24 focuses more on its redemptive aspects and Rev. 6 more in terms of judgment. The prayers of the martyrs are being answered. There will be a day when the wicked will be judged. There will be a day when all the prayers of the righteous for justice will be answered. There will be an end to all the suffering of the saints. Again, these seals tell us that present suffering has an origin for they come from God’s throne, a purpose for God has designed them to bring about his judgments upon a world in rebellion, and an end, for there will be an end. The world will not go on like this forever. It had its beginning in God’s will and it will come to an end according to God’s will.
Let me conclude by reminding you why we have this in our Bibles: it is to remind us that it is folly to abandon faith in Christ and to settle for premature promises of deliverance from present suffering by false Christs, whether they come to you in the form of religious authorities or political leaders or scientists or self-help gurus. Our Lord has told us to expect suffering in this world. He is telling us here to expect war and famine and pestilence in this world. But he is also telling us that it will come to an end, and that it will end in the Second Coming of Christ who will come to judge his enemies and rescue his people.
And that means that we are to order our lives now in light of the end. It will not matter how much power and influence and wealth you have in this world if you are not right with God. When Jesus returns, everyone who have refused to repent of their rebellion against him will be trying to hide from the wrath of the Lamb. They will recognize too late that they cannot hide and they cannot stand before him.
Where are you at? Are you one of those who are awaiting eagerly for the coming of Jesus? Or are you one of those who will be ashamed at his coming? Will you welcome him or hide from him?
It is a part of our humanness to long for justice and to hope for peace. But apart from the gospel, the world can at the end of the day guarantee neither justice nor peace. They can’t guarantee justice because evil men can and do escape justice. They can’t guarantee peace either: has not history demonstrated this over and over again? The grave ends all our hopes for peace and justice. Only someone who can reach beyond the grave could possibly give us either. And that is who Jesus is. He conquered death in his death and resurrection. And in conquering death for those who believe in him he guarantees that they will receive justice and eternal peace – peace with God and peace with a redeemed humanity in a new heaven and new earth. Don’t fall for false Christs: put your trust in Jesus Christ the only one who is worthy to break the seals and to open the scroll of God’s saving plan for this world.
1 G. R. Beasley-Murray, The Book of Revelation (Wipf & Stock: Eugene, 1981), p. 132, fn. 1.
5 James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches (Crossway: Wheaton, 2012), p. 166.
6 Luke’s account of the Olivet Discourse in chapter 21 of his gospel helps us to see that the time period begun by the destruction of Jerusalem doesn’t end with the city’s overthrow by the Roman armies in AD 70 but continues “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (ver. 24), which I believe extends to the present day. So the time period described by the phrase, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days” in Mt. 24:29, doesn’t refer just to AD 70, but to the entire period of time beginning with the destruction of Jerusalem and continuing "until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." Also, the problem that verse 34 poses really is not a difficulty either for “all these things” does not refer to the coming of Jesus itself but to the types of sufferings which precede his coming, all of which were to happen in that generation.