Turn on Timer! [Slide 1] Introduce Leadership Development Group.

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1 Turn on Timer! [Slide 1] Introduce Leadership Development Group. [Slide 2] We are in a middle of a series entitled, Revelation: Unveiling Reality. The Greek word that is translated as revelation is the word Apocalypse which means unveiling. Revelation was written to show people who were persecuted and people who are going through hard times that reality is more than what we see with their eyes that things are not as they seem. Seeing this unveiled reality helps us to be faithful during hard times. [Slide 3] Today s sermon is entitled, The Problem of the Lamb and the Four Horsemen. Chapter 6 is the beginning of the difficult part of the book. A lot of people stop reading the book right about here. A lot preachers stop preaching from right about here. There s a lot of misunderstanding about this and the next several chapters. But, they are critical to our understanding of what is going on in the world. We will see pictures of conquest, war, famine, death, and natural disasters. We are all familiar with these things. They happen all around us. This chapter helps us understand these things. It unveils the reality behind these things. Now, it is very important to read this chapter with the lens that was given us in chapter 5. We talked about that last Sunday. Remember, John was led to a vision of the throne room of heaven, with four living creatures who represent the natural order, and 24 elders who represent the church worshipping God Almighty. In chapter 5, John sees a scroll in the right hand of the God with seven seals. This scroll contains the plan of how God will make things right, how God will bring the Kingdom of Heaven down to earth and eradicate all injustice, suffering, war, violence, poverty, illness, suffering, and even death. Throughout the universe, there was no one worthy to open the seals of the scroll. No one. There was no one who could bring the Kingdom of Heaven down and make things right on earth. John wept and wept. 1

2 Then, he heard that there was someone who could open the seals. He is the messiah, the Lion of Judah. John expects to see a roaring lion, but, when he looks, he sees a slain little baby lamb, the utter opposite of what he expected. The little lamb can open the scroll because he gave his life away in sacrificial love for everyone. He made a way for everyone, even his enemies, to be saved through his sacrificial death. When you see the images from Revelation of all hell breaking loose, remember, it is the lamb that is opening the scroll, the only one who is able to save everyone from the consequences of their sin. If anyone else opens the scroll, there is no salvation; there is just selfdestruction. There is no coming of the Kingdom of Heaven; there is just destruction. Keep this thought in mind. Then, we saw the little slain lamb standing at the center of the throne. Jesus, the crucified lamb, is at the center of the throne of God. Jesus is the essence of God, and this God as unveiled in Revelation is God who loves us so much that he came down and sacrificed himself on the cross for our sins, to save the world. And this Jesus, the lamb, is on the throne. And all creation, everything in the universe, in heaven and earth, is worshipping the lamb. Worthy is the lamb who was slain! He is able to open the seals of the scroll, to bring the Kingdom of Heaven down to earth. But, how? Let s read on. [Slide 4]. 1 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, Come! 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. [Slide 5] 3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, Come! 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword. [Slide 6] 5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, Come! I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, Two pounds of wheat for a day s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day s wages, n and do not damage the oil and the 2

3 wine! [Slide 7] 7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, Come! 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. This is pretty intense. In popular culture, this is often referred to as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In fact, the first time I read this passage and chapters 8-10, which takes the intensity of the violence even further, it took me for a spin. At first glance, it looks like the judgment of God causes conquests, wars, famine, and death of ¼ of the people of the earth. They are horrific. How are we to understand this horror? Does the lamb that sacrificed himself for others out of absolute love unleash the horror? How do we solve the problem of the lamb and four horsemen of the Apocalypse? A lot of people say that Jesus was like a lamb when he came to earth for the first time, but when he judges the world, he is like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. People use passages like this to justify the way of the Lion, the way of violence, saying that they are just joining Jesus in putting sinners in their place. Is that the Jesus we see in Revelation? Let s dig into this passage to see what it really says. Remember, we have to interpret this passage in line with the key that we were given in chapter 5. It is not the lion that we worship; it is the lamb. There is power and wisdom in the way of the lamb. We have to make sure we don t interpret this passage in the way that completely negates the reality that the lamb is on the throne. So, this should give us pause before we interpret this passage like that. Note also that the lamb is opening the seals of the scroll. So, what the Four Horsemen does is not the content of the scroll. The content of the scroll is not revealed until all seven seals are open. It is in preparation for the revealing of God s plan to make things right. Now, each time a seal is open, one of the four living creatures who represents nature, who is in the presence of the lamb and worshipping him, shouts out, Come! There are some people who say, they are calling John to come. That may be a possibility. 3

4 Some of the ancient manuscripts actually say, come and see. So, KJV translates this as come and see. But, the most reliable manuscripts, the older manuscripts, just say, come. And John is already there in the throne room of Heaven. So, this is probably not calling John to come and see. Some people assume that the living creatures are calling the four horsemen to come. But, if you look the passage carefully, that is not the case. They are actually calling for the Lamb at the center of the throne to come and establish his Kingdom. They are praying the Lord s Prayer: Thy kingdom come! The whole book of Revelation is starts and end with the word, come. There are so many 1:7 Look! He is coming. 22:7 Look! I am coming quickly. 22:12 Look! I am coming quickly. 22:20 Yes, I am coming. 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, Come! And let the one who hears say, Come! Open of each of the seven seals accompany some sort of prayer in the middle. The four living creatures are calling for Jesus Christ to come and fully establish the kingdom of God. So, the creation is crying out for release from its suffering. That s what Paul said in Romans 8, the creation is groaning, we are groaning, even the Holy Spirit is groaning in pain and crying out for the coming of the Kingdom of God. The four creatures are not calling for the four horsemen. They are calling for Jesus Christ the Lamb to come and make things right! Then, why did the four horsemen come? Here is how Darrell Johnson, a commentator on Revelation, explains it: [Slide 8] The four horsemen represent the kinds of things that happen when Jesus and his kingdom begin to press in on the world. Not that Jesus coming causes all this misery and terror. But when Jesus and his kingdom when the Lamb and his 4

5 way come, there is resistance and opposition resulting in misery and terror. Let me try to explain this. We know from earlier in Revelation that the world has been coopted by Satan and Evil. They have wreaked havoc on earth. That is why there is so much suffering and pain. That is why there is so much injustice and violence. God has a plan to make things right. His approach is not to destroy everything in the name of justice; his approach is to love them and create a way for them be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. God wants all to be saved and become a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. When the Kingdom of Heaven, the holiness of God, the way of the Lamb, pushes down on the Kingdom of this world, there is opposition. All of the sins of the Kingdom of this world are exposed. It s like a spotlight of God is flashed on humanity, and all of the darkness of humanity is exposed. It s like the beauty of God coming down to earth, and all the ugliness of the world is exposed. Let s look at the first horse: the white horseman. He is bent on conquest. Some say this is Jesus himself because Revelation 19:11 identifies a white horse with Jesus. But, most commentators do not think that this is Jesus. In the rest of the book, the language of conquest is used of the evil beast and demons. In chapters 12-13, Satan and his forces are portrayed as being able to conquer by deception, deceiving by imitating Christ s appearance. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. This is in line what Jesus told us about the end times in Matthew 24 when he told us that that first sign of his coming is false messiah, false prophets, who are able to mislead even Christians. Do you see this now? So, the white horse is the power of evil, imitating Jesus, seeking to conquer humanity by deception. The second horse, a red horse, took away peace on earth and people killed one another. It is a picture of war. Red is the symbol of blood, of violence, whether it is between individuals or nations. They are not living by the way of the lamb. They have taken up the way of the beast. Do you see this now? The third horse, a black horse, symbolizes economic inequality and strife that comes from it. The rider of the black horse was holding a scale in his hand. They 5

6 were selling two pounds of wheat for a day s wage and six pounds of barley for a day s wages but the price of oil and wine was not affected. The word for two pounds of wheat is the word choinix which means a ration of wheat for one person. The normal cost of choinix of wheat is 1/8 of a day s wage. This means that food is being rationed and the price of food has skyrocketed. You can only buy bare necessity for one day s wage. How can a person provide for a family? Yet, the rich people are not affected with luxury items. The price of oil and wine are not affected. The red horse represents greed, injustice, leading to hunger and famine. Do you see this now? The fourth horse is a pale horse. The rider is named death, and Hades will follow him. Hades is the place where those who die go. It is a gruesome image. The death riding through earth and ¼ of the people of the earth are killed by people in war, natural disasters, and by wild beasts. The opening of the first four seals shows us that when the Kingdom of Heaven is pressing upon the earth with the lamb at its throne, with the power of self-sacrificial love at its center, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse try to take him down. The creation cries out to the lamb to come, come, come, and come, the forces which do not want him to come start to rise up in opposition, and there is destruction. If you look at history just in the last century, there have been conquest, war, economic injustice, natural disasters, plagues, and death in the millions. We have made great progress in technology, but our world continues to be controlled by the four horsemen. The Twentieth Century started with an attempted genocide when angry young Turks murdered 1.5 Armenians. Canada recently recognized this genocide. US has yet to recognize this genocide. Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Stalin in Russia killed millions of people. The consensus estimate of how many he killed is 20 million. Mao Tse-tung in China killed even more millions of Chinese. The estimate is about 45 million to 75 million people. In the last decade of the Twentieth Century alone, it is estimated that over six million people died as a result of war. Afghanistan alone suffered over one million deaths. Iraq from 100K to 250K. Myanmar around 500K. Rwanda around 500K. Sudan 6

7 1.5 million. You know what? It is estimated that over 1.5 million of those who died from these wars in the 1990s were children, and of those who survived, 4 million were disabled, maimed, blinded or brain damaged. The stories of those who survived are horrific. In Rwanda, some children who escaped being hacked to death by machete wielding-aggressors survived for days in piles of corpses before being found by rescue workers. The lamb is on the throne. Does this mean that all of these things are the doings of Jesus? No! But, it is due to Jesus coming and bringing his kingdom and being resisted. It is due to the way of the lamb being resisted. Darrell Johnson says: As long as he and his way are ignored or resisted, the four horsemen will continue to ride. As long as violence is glorified and marketed, the world will continue to suffer violence. God does not desire violence. The rise of violence is due directly to humanity resisting Jesus and his way of nonviolent suffering. Seal one says if we do not go the way of the Lamb there will be greater and greater conflict and the drive to conquer. Seal two says if we do not go the way of the Lamb, there will be greater and greater violence. Seal three says if we do not go the way of the Lamb, there will be greater and greater injustice and hunger. Seal four says if we do not go the way of the Lamb, there will be greater and greater sickness and death. In fact, Jesus talked about this directly in [Slide 9] Matthew 24:3-13: 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. Tell us, they said, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? 4 Jesus answered: Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, I am the Messiah, and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. It is fascinating that Jesus already told us about the four horsemen. The one who deceives, war, famines, earthquakes is not Jesus here. He said that these things would happen but he didn t say that he was going to cause them. It would not make any sense that he will cause deception or that he would cause the war or that he would cause famine 7

8 and earthquakes. No, these are signs of the time that Jesus is predicting but it is not what he is causing. I think this is a strong support to read the Four Horsemen not as what God is doing but as what the devil is doing as resistance to what God is doing. Now, is the church spared of this suffering? No. I wish I could tell you that God will protect us from harm. In fact, the Bible tells us directly that we will suffer and even be killed. [Slide 10] 9 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. That s exactly what happens in Revelation. Let s go on to [Slide 11] :9-11: 9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood? 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been. The fifth seal is open. John sees underneath the altar those who died in faithfulness to the lamb. Why are they underneath the altar? Because it is the place where the blood of the lamb which was sacrificed on the altar ended up. This is a way of saying, those who have been soaked by the blood of the lamb. They are given a white robe, meaning they have been cleansed by the blood of the lamb. They are not there because they are good enough; they are there because their sins have been paid for by the blood of the lamb. And they cry out, How long, Sovereign Lord? How long will you tolerate this resistance to the way of the lamb? Why not bring your justice now? Why not just make things right now? These martyrs cry out, how long will you refrain from judging and 8

9 avenging our blood? This sounds counter to the way of the lamb, but it is really a cry to God to demonstrate his justice. They are saying that it looks like God is not just that he is just sitting back and tolerating injustice and violence everywhere. They were told to wait a little while longer until more people are martyred. What? Yes, there will be tribulations. We are called to be faithful in the midst of tribulations. Even to the point of death. That s why Paul said, Through many hardships (or tribulation) we must enter the Kingdom. There is no other way. But, Paul also proclaimed, that no tribulation can separate us from the love of Christ. But, why the wait? We will see this later more clearly. It is because the goal is not to destroy people through judgment; it is for people to repent and be cleansed by the blood of the lamb. Let s go on to the sixth seal. [Slide 12] : I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. [Slide 13] 15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it? Now, you must remember that this is poetic language, not literal language. It is a poetic language of the final crisis of humanity. It s not just an earthquake. This is the entire universe shaking. This poetic language comes from the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. [Slide 14] In Matthew 24:24-26, Jesus used this language from Isaiah when he explained what would happen before he came back: 24 But in those days, following that distress, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 9

10 26 At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. We don t know exactly what this cosmic event will be. It is something absolutely stunning and cataclysmic that happens before Jesus comes back and makes things right. One way to see this is to see it as coming of the presence of God. Opening of the scroll is the coming of the presence of the holy God. The pressure on this world is coming to a cataclysmic point. The holiness of God is not compatible with the ways of the world, and the cosmos is starting to crack at its foundation. When the holy presence of God comes near, people get so scare that they run away into caves. They are afraid of the wrath of God. Wrath means anger; it is this word orge which is translated as wrath when applied to God and anger when applied to human beings. At the heart of wrath or anger is justice. Anger is always a justice emotion. We always feel angry when we feel like something unfair happened to us. We don t know how to handle anger. God tells us to leave it to him. But, the wrath of God is real, as the justice of God is real. God is angry at injustice. God is angry at systems and people who have caused millions and millions of people to suffer in violence. God is angry at the perpetrator of the crime against you and your family. This is very real. God bring justice to the world is by bringing his holy presence to the world. When heaven comes, when the holy God comes, evil cannot withstand it. Satan starts to crumble. Satan s kingdom starts to crumble. That is why they ask, who is able to stand against this wrath? We will see that it is only those who have the seal of the living God in chapter 7. We will talk about that next week. The lamb has a plan of salvation in the middle of the judgment. Today, we will skip chapter 7 and follow through to the seventh seal in [Slide 15] chapter 8:1-5: 1 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God s people, on the golden 10

11 altar in front of the throne. 4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God s people, went up before God from the angel s hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. Now, it is the seventh seal. When it is broken, we expect the scroll to be open and the Kingdom of Heaven finally come down to earth. But instead, there is about half an hour of silence. Some people say that this is a dramatic pause before the revealing of the new heaven and new earth. But, the reason for the silence is actually in the passage. God will not act until the prayers of the people of God are lifted up like incense to God. God has willed that the prayers of his people be part of the process by which the kingdom comes. Things are not as they seem. The lamb is on the throne. We are called to join the cries of creation and pray, come Lord Jesus! Come! Thy Kingdom Come! And it does. There are peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lighting and an earthquake. Exodus 19:16 18 mentions five natural phenomena that are associated with Moses experience of God: thunder, lightning, a thick cloud, a loud trumpet blast, and an earthquake. This is symbolic language indicating the coming of the presence of God. We will learn about this more as we continue the book. Let s pray. Invite Prayer team. 11

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