Comfort in the midst of conflict: Revelation 6 and 7
Timothy J. Westendorf
Jesus, who was slain to purchase us for God, stood at the center of the throne. He was worthy to open the sealed scroll (cf. Revelation chapter 5). Chapter six dramatically leads us into the heart of John’s second vision as the Lamb begins to open the scroll, one seal at a time.
The seals are opened
From the serene and sublime throne room, John, and we through him, is allowed to see what God sees. While God reigns and rules, what should we expect in this world? As the scene unfolds before the apostle, perhaps John is reminded of a question that the disciples asked Jesus while he yet visibly walked with them in the world: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24: 3).
The answer Jesus gave them parallels what John sees in dramatic picture here. Four seals are opened, and four colored horses with riders are sent out. The meaning of the first horse, the white one, is debated. Is it representative of Christ and his gospel going out victoriously to conquer, an echo of Jesus’ promise that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached until the end (Matthew 24:14)? Or does it represent the false and deceptive “messiahs” (24:5) who come claiming to be him, wolves in sheep’s clothing? We can’t say for sure, but since false teaching is the subject matter of the entire next vision we might safely lean toward that first option: Jesus and the gospel going forth.
The other horses remind us that wars, famines, pestilence, plague, natural disasters, and death will be part of this world’s plight until its end. Those who hold faithfully to the Word will not be strangers to persecution. And then the end will come, a frightening day for those who refuse and resist Jesus and his redeeming work.
The sealed and saved
But that end won’t come until God’s gospel work in this world is done. With symbolic numbers and a reference to the Old Testament nation of Israel (Revelation chapter seven), we are reminded of this truth. Twelve is the number of the church and ten cubed (10x10x10) represents completeness. John hears a numbering, representative of the countless sea of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language brought by the gospel from the darkness of sin and unbelief to the light of forgiveness and faith in Christ.
Immediately after that numbering, he looks and sees a great multitude. But they are no longer residing in this world. These are those who have already come out of the great and ongoing tribulation of this world and now experience the victory of heaven. This is the church triumphant! This is the land of rest that we look for and long for during our pilgrimage in this world. This is the blessed reality we await as those who are sealed in Christ through Baptism, robed in his righteousness through faith, possessors of eternal life even now, and citizens of his heavenly kingdom.
Reflect on Revelation chapters 6 and 7
- What comfort can you draw from the seals as you compare them to real life in this world?
The writer to the Hebrews has some good advice. Hebrews 11 gives us a list of those who remained faithful during the ages. Abraham “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (v. 10). The other faithful understood, “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (v. 40). The writer concludes, “Here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (13:14).
- How might the vision of the redeemed in heaven give you comfort when you are in a rough spot?
Three things come to mind: First, God is seated on his throne and rules all things. Even the bad times are under his control. Second, God’s rule is governed by his deep love for his faithful people. He has promised that nothing will be able to take us away from his love (Romans 8:37-39) because he is in control and everything will work out for our good (Romans 8:28). Third, we have heaven above waiting for us by grace because Jesus has died and risen again to secure our place among the multitudes before his throne. A fourth assurance underscores it all. Jesus loved us so much he shed his blood for us. As Paul says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
This is the fourth article in as 12-part series on the book of Revelation.
Author: Timothy Westendorf
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019
- The Book of Revelation: Part 12
- The Book of Revelation: Part 11
- The Book of Revelation: Part 10
- The Book of Revelation: Part 9
- The Book of Revelation: Part 8
- The Book of Revelation: Part 7
- The Book of Revelation: Part 6
- The Book of Revelation: Part 5
- The Book of Revelation: Part 4
- The Book of Revelation: Part 3
- The Book of Revelation: Part 2