Revelation 6:1-8: It’s only to be expected!

“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!’ 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.When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ 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.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. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A kilogram of wheat for a day’s wages, and three kilograms of barley for a day’s wages,[b] and do not damage the oil and the wine!’When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ 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 quarter of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” NIV

A recent edition of ‘Time’ magazine had a special feature on optimism, and the place of art and artists in feeding optimism. The irony is, of course, that it is written at a time when many people feel deeply pessimistic about the state of the world. We need hope. The Bible offers it in spadefuls for believing people. But it’s a realistic hope it holds out. It’s a hope which says that, on the way to all being well, a lot of bad stuff must first happen in this world. If we understand the words of Jesus, we know it’s only to be expected.

Jesus now does what we have come to see He is ‘’worthy’’ to do (5:5,9). He opens the seals of the scroll; and creation can only receive what is to come to it after the Lord unfastens each seal. Jesus is in charge of history. Forget that and, at times, you may plummet towards despair.

There is a link between this passage in Revelation and Jesus’ words in Matthew 24: 4-14 (a section of the Bible sometimes referred to as ‘the little apocalypse’). It will pay you to take your Bible and compare verse 4 with Matt.24:6,7, verse 6 with Matt.24:7, and verse 9 with Matt.24:9. Both passages teach that the present course of history is in Jesus’ Hands. He knows it in advance, and He is in control of its unfolding.

A note in ‘Search the Scriptures’ will help us:

‘Verse 2. Two principal interpretations have been given of the white horse and his rider. Many take it to be a picture of Christ going forth in the conquests of the gospel. Cf Matt.24:14, Ps.45:3-5. Others regard it as a picture of invasion and lust of conquest, leading to the miseries of war, famine, pestilence and death. The latter seems more likely. The four horses, as in Zechariah 6, form a series whose mission is to execute judgment.’

Note the word ‘’given’’ in verse 4. When we face the horrible realities of war, let’s remember God is Sovereign. He is in control even when it looks like the world is out of control.

Verse 6 describes a common feature of famine. The poor people have to work hard to buy a tiny amount of food, but the luxury items are still there for the rich to enjoy.

Remember Jesus said, ‘’All these are the beginning of birth pains’’ (Matthew 24:8). We can expect an intensification of these labour pains as we move towards the end. We should not be surprised to see them happening. It’s only to be expected.

I am reminded of David Pawson’s words. He said we can sum up the book of Revelation like this: ‘Things are going to get a lot worse before they get a lot better; things are going to get a lot better after they get a lot worse.

PRAYER: Lord, I hate to see the pain and suffering in the world, but I thank you that these are but the birth pains of a new, perfect creation from which all evil and misery will be banished. Thank you for the God-given understanding that nothing takes you by surprise; that you are working your purpose out ‘as year succeeds to year.’