Opening the Seven Seals
1At the same time I saw the Lamb open the first of the seven seals, I heard one of the four living creatures shout with a voice like thunder. It said, “Come out!” 2 Then I saw a white horse. Its rider carried a bow and was given a crown. He had already won some victories, and he went out to win more.
3When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come out!” 4 Then another horse came out. It was fiery red. And its rider was given the power to take away all peace from the earth, so people would slaughter one another. He was also given a big sword.
5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come out!” Then I saw a black horse, and its rider had a balance scale in one hand. 6I heard what sounded like a voice from somewhere among the four living creatures. It said, “A liter of wheat will cost you a whole day's wages! Three liters of barley will cost you a day's wages too. But don't ruin the olive oil or the wine.”
7When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come out!” 8 Then I saw a pale green horse. Its rider was named Death, and Death's Kingdom followed close behind. They were given power over one fourth of the earth, and they could kill its people with swords, famines, diseases, and wild animals.
9When the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of everyone who had been killed for speaking God's message and telling about their faith. 10They shouted, “Master, you are holy and faithful! How long will it be before you judge and punish the people of this earth who killed us?”
11 Then each of those who had been killed was given a white robe and told to rest for a little while. They had to wait until the complete number of the Lord's other servants and followers would be killed.
12 When I saw the Lamb open the sixth seal, I looked and saw a great earthquake. The sun turned as dark as sackcloth, and the moon became red as blood. 13 The stars in the sky fell to earth, just like figs shaken loose by a windstorm. 14 Then the sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all mountains and islands were moved from their places.
15 The kings of the earth, its famous people, and its military leaders hid in caves or behind rocks on the mountains. They hid there together with the rich and the powerful and with all the slaves and free people. 16 Then they shouted to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us! Hide us from the one who sits on the throne and from the anger of the Lamb. 17 That terrible day has come! God and the Lamb will show their anger, and who can face it?”
Now it starts to get nasty, as we are plunged back to earth and see four coloured horses, a blackened sun, a blood red moon, falling stars and much more. Are you up for this?
First we have to face the fact that it is the Lamb in heaven who breaks the seals and releases evil on earth. So there is a link between heaven and earth for which we are glad, and a link between God’s good purposes and Satan’s evil schemes, which is perplexing.
The four horses represent conquest, bloodshed, famine and death. God’s judgment flows into his rebellious world, because before the new creation can be established, evil has to be fully unveiled so that it can be finally abolished. The process is ongoing, the horses are still riding out across our world today.
The fifth seal takes us back to heaven, where we catch a glimpse of the redeemed before the throne (compare 7:9-17). How we would like to know more about their situation, but there’s no time. This is the roller-coaster ride of Revelation and the sixth seal is about to be opened.
When the sixth seal is broken, cosmic mayhem breaks out. It feels like the end of the world, and everyone runs for cover to escape the ‘anger of the Lamb’ (v 17). In the face of all this chaos and distress the question about why God allows evil to flourish is overtaken by a deeper one, ‘Who can face it?’ Who can stand (v 17 NIV)? The answer is that Christ has won the victory over Satan and, united with him, we can face the worst. We stand in him (Rom. 5:2).
So the disturbing truths of Revelation are matched with wonderful promises. There is no need to run for cover. Be encouraged!
Lord, I don’t understand why you allow evil to flourish, but, through good and ill, I will trust in your unfailing love. And I thank you that as I stand in Christ, I can face life with clarity and courage. Amen.