Sermon: The Seven Seals, Broadly Considered: Revelation 6; 8:1-5


New Testament Reading: Revelation 6 8:1-5

“Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer. When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword. When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!’ When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Revelation 6, ESV).

“When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” (Revelation 8:1–5, ESV).

Introduction

Brothers and sisters, we have now come to another section in the book of Revelation. You are beginning to see just how structured the book is. In fact, I can’t think of another book of the Bible with more of an explicit and obvious structure than the book of Revelation. In particular you’re beginning to see just how important the number seven is to the organization of this book. Remember that in the opening chapter John saw a heavenly vision where Christ was seen walking in the midst of seven lampstands. These, we were told, represented seven churches. And then that heavenly vision of Christ walking in the midst of the seven lampstands gave way to chapters two and three which contain the letters written to those seven churches. Do you see that the seven churches were first symbolized by the seven lampstands, the general message being that Christ walks in the midst of his churches, and then much more was revealed to and about those seven churches in the seven letters that followed? Likewise, in chapters four and five, John records for us another heavenly vision. In the first part of this vision everything focuses upon God enthroned. After that Jesus the Christ takes center stage. This time he appeared, not as one like a son of man, but as a lamb that had been slain, with seven horns and seven eyes. And remember that in this vision Christ was seen interacting with another object with seven parts to it. This time it is not a seven pronged lampstand, but a scroll with seven seals on. God had it in his right hand and gave it to Christ, for he alone was found worthy to open it. What does that scroll with seven seals symbolize? It symbolizes this general truth: that God has written a decree. He has a plan for human history. John was invited to come up in to heaven so that he might see “what must take place after this.” What are we to expect is written on the scroll front and back? Should we not expect that it is God’s decree concerning what “what must take place”, from John’s day forward? And if that is what is symbolized by the presence of the scroll sealed with seven seals in God’s right hand, what do you expect to happen next in the book of Revelation? Well, just as the sight of Jesus standing in the midst of the seven pronged lamp stand gave way to the revelation of the content of the letters to the seven churches, so too we should expect the sight of a scroll sealed with seven seals given to Christ to give way to the opening of those seals.

Indeed, that is what we have before us. Revelation 6 and 8:1-5 describe to us the opening of the seven seals, one after the next. With the breaking of each seal something new was revealed to John, and through John to us, concerning how things would go from that day forward. John was progressively shown the things that “must take place after this”, “this” being a reference to his day, and not ours.

We will devote at least three sermons to the seal cycle. Today I wish to overview the seal cycle, making general observations abut it. Next Sunday we will take a break from Revelation to consider a  topic that we need to address. In two weeks we will return to consider the first four seals in detail, for they go together. In three weeks Dr. Renihan will be preaching. And in four weeks we will come back to consider seals five through seven.

So the task today is to consider the entire seal cycle broadly, and to make some general observations about it, before closing with application. My hope is that we will leave here today with a clear understanding of what these seals signify in general. I have seven observations.

The Seal Cycle Is Intimately Connected To All That Has Come Before And All That Will Follow In The Book Of Revelation

First of all, it is important to recognize that the seal cycle is intimately connected to all that has come before it and all that will follow it in the book of Revelation.

In the introduction to this sermon I emphasized just how obvious the structure of the book of Revelation is. The book certainly consists of parts. Those parts are easy to identify, and it is important that we recognize them! But is also important that we recognize how the parts of the book of Revelation fit together to make up one whole and unified book. The book is highly structured, yes. But it is a unified book. It has one story to tell. It has one message to communicate. From beginning to end it proclaims this message to to the people of God: “Here is how things really are now in heaven! Here is how things will be on earth in the time between Christ’s first and second coming! And here is how it will be in the end! Now live accordingly. Walk faithfully in this world. Worship Christ. Serve Christ. Witness to Christ. Never turn back.” That is the message of the book of Revelation. It was as much for the people of God living in John’s day as it is for us today. Though the book consists of parts, the parts fit together to make up this unified whole.

The Christ who opens the seals is the Christ who received the scroll from the Father enthroned in heaven. This is the same Christ who addressed the seven church and who was seen walking in the midst of them in the opening vision. The whole book, therefore, is

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:1–3, ESV).

So, although it easy to recognize that we have now entered into a new section of the book of Revelation it is important to see that each section coheres with what has come before and what comes after. The vision of chapters four and five flow naturally into the breaking of the seals in chapters six and eight. And the breaking of the seventh seal will, as we will see, flow naturally into the sounding of seven trumpets, and so on and so forth. The book tells a story.

There Is No Indication In The Text That A Gap Of Time Stands Between Chapters Five And Six Of The Book Revelation

Secondly, we must recognize that there is no indication in the text that a gap of time stands between chapters five and six of the book Revelation

This observation should sound familiar to you. I made the same observation about the chronological relationship between chapters three and four of the book of Revelation when we began to study chapter four. Remember, there is no mention of a gap of time there either. In 4:1 John was invited to come up into the heavenly realm where he would be shown “what must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1, ESV). The plain and simple reading of the text should lead the reader to believe that John would be shown something of how things would go from his day forward. No gap of time was indicated.  In other words, the text does not say,  Come up here, and I will show you what must take place a long, long, time after this, but only “after this”, “this” being a reference to how things were in John’s day as described in the letters to the seven churches. There is no mention of a chronological gap separating the events described in chapters two and three from what is described 4:1 onward. I am simply noting that there is no mention of a chronological gap at beginning of the seal cycle either.

Why does this need to be said? Well, as you know, the popular interpretation of the book of Revelation today says that what is described in the seal cycle will come to pass only in our future. In other words, they the popular interpretation – the futurist interpretation – teaches that what the seals symbolize has not happened yet, but will someday. Notice that with this view a huge chronological gap is imagined and is inserted somewhere after Revelation chapter three? The thought is that chapters two and three were about how things were in John’s day, and then chapters four and onward, or perhaps six and onward, describe how things will go, not in the future from John’s vantage point, but in the future from ours. This means that a chronological gap of nearly 1,927 years has to be read into the text of Revelation.

Our interpretation is quite different from the futurist’s. It is that the seal cycle describes, not only what will happen at the very end time in the events connected with the return of Christ and the final judgment, but also how things will be in these last days – that is, in the days between Christ’s first and second comings. The New Testament is clear that the last days began with the first coming of the Christ. The writer to the Hebrews began his work with these words: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1:1–2, ESV). The book of Revelation is indeed about the last days, which are the days in-between Christ’s first and second coming’s. These are the days in which John and his original audience lived, and these are the days in which we live. In other words, the message communicated through the opening of the seven seals was just as pertinent to John and his original 90 A.D. audience as it is for you and me today. Indeed, the message communicated through the opening of the seven seals was just as pertinent to John and his original audience as it will be for the Christians who happen to be alive in the days immediately preceding the second coming of Christ. For, we have set before us here a depiction of how the world will be in these last days. In these last days we will hear of wars and rumors of wars, and then the end will come. Christ told us all about this directly. The seven seals of Revelation depict it.

There is no reason whatsoever to think that what is depicted to us through the breaking of the seven seals pertains only to events immediately preceding the end of time. The book of Revelation gives us no reason to think in this way, nor does any other place in scripture (no, not even the book of Daniel).

I could combat the futurist interpretation – and I do feel obligated to combat it, for I think it is a distortion of the text of scripture – by emphasizing again how the book of Revelation insists that the things portrayed in it would happen soon after its writing. Remember that John was repeatedly told that “the time is near”. I could also emphasize again how it was assumed that the audience who originally received the book of Revelation in 90 A.D. would be able to fully understand and apply this book to their own lives – not parts of the book, but the whole book from beginning to end. Remember the blessings pronounced upon the reader! “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3, ESV).  I could again stress that all indicators point, not to a chronological gap – as if a few things in the book of Revelation were pertinent to the churches to whom the book was addressed and other things will only pertain to people alive in our future – but to the assumption that the original audience would see and experience most of the things portrayed in this book, the obvious exception being the return of Christ and the consummation. But all of that has been said in previous sermons. For now I would simply challenge the futurist to show us where there is evidence of a chronological gap separating the events described in chapters one through three, or one through five, from the events described in the rest of the book.

I might pose the question a little differently to our futurist friends who are pre-tribulational pre-millennialists. To them I would say, where is the secret rapture that supposedly kicks off all of these future end times events? The truth of the matter is that this so called secret rapture nowhere to be found in the book of Revelation. Actually, it is nowhere to be found in the New Testament.  Don’t misunderstand – there will be a rapture, that is, the reassertion of the just and the unjust on the last day. But it will not be a secret rapture  – one only for Christians and then another for everyone else following seven years of tribulation. This theory is based upon a faulty reading of Daniel. The book of Daniel is then given priority over the book of Revelation. And then the book of Revelation is made to conform to what the pre-tribulational pre-millennialists think Daniel is saying. Things couldn’t be more backwards. As we saw last week Revelation advances and explains Daniel, and not the other way around. Revelation makes Daniel more clear, not the other way around. The difference of opinion that we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are futurists is obviously a hermeneutical one. We have the same Bible, but they are interpreting the New Testament in light of the Old. We firmly believe that the Old Testament should be interpreted in the light of the New. The fact the the book of Daniel concludes with things being sealed up, whereas Revelation begins with seals being opened supports this notion.

I understand that for those who are unfamiliar with all of the different views on the book and Revelation and the end times this what I have just said is about as clear as mud. Thank you for bearing with me. For those familiar with the debates, I hope this is helpful.

Here is the point: there is no indication in the text of Revelation that a gap of time stands between chapters three and four or five and six. The burden of proof, therefore, is upon the futurist. They must demonstrate their position from the text. It will not do to claim that their position is found in the blank spaces that separate chapters and verses.

Brother and sisters, the seal cycle describes, not only what will happen at the very end time in the events connected with the return of Christ and the final judgment, but also how things will be in these last days, both in heaven and on earth.

The Opening Of The First Four Seals Reveals That God Is Active In Executing His Judgments Upon The Earth Now In These Last Days

Thirdly, see that the opening of the first four seals reveals that God is active in executing his judgments upon the earth now in these last days.

We will return to the first four seals to consider them carefully in a couple of weeks, so I’ll keep my comments very brief. Notice three things about them for now.

One, notice that the horsemen are sent by God into all the earth. They go to do what they do at the decree of God. The are said to go when the seals are broken. Those seals were opened by Christ. And Christ received the scroll from God. Whatever the horsemen do they do because God sent them to do it.

Two, notice that when they go out they bring judgment upon the enemies of God in the form of military conquest, civil war, famine, plague and death. Here is the place where Christians – especially American Christians – need to pay attention. It is common, I think, for Christians to imagine that God is in control of some things, but has nothing all to do with the bad things that happen on earth. The book of Revelation, and indeed, the whole of scripture, says otherwise. God is sovereign over all things. Nothing comes to pass apart from his decree. He does not do or cause evil, but he does permit it and use it to bring about his ultimate purposes.

I do not have the time to demonstrate this principle from scripture today, not to address all of the questions that naturally arise out of this doctrine, but it is important that I state the principle generally here. Do you see that these horsemen go being sent by God? They go when the seals on God’s scroll are broken by Christ. The rider on the white horse was given a bow and a crown and came out conquering, and to conquer. The rider on the red horse was permitted to take peace from the earth and was given a great sword. The riders on the pale horse, “were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.”

The opening of the first four seals reveals that God is active in executing his judgments upon the earth now in these last days. He judges now in many ways. In particular the seal cycle is concerned to remind the Christian that when we hear of wars and rumors of wars, God is sovereign even over that.

Three, notice that what the horsemen do describes the current, and not merely future, state of affairs. Simply look at the world around you. Do you not see their activity in the world now? Look back upon history do you not see their activity in the world then? Actually, read your Old Testament and you will see evidence of their activity, but you’ll actually see the four horsemen. This concept is not new, but old. One of the ways that God brings his judgment upon a sinful people is by permitting one nation to raise up against another, or by allowing one people to turn in upon itself in war. God will sometimes use famine or plague to judge. This is not a pattern or principle unique to the time of the end, but one that has been common throughout human history.

In fact, the four horsemen that John saw in his vision were seen by the prophet Zechariah hundreds of years earlier in a vision shown to him. I will not read the passages today – we will reserve it for a future sermon – but Zechariah 6 is very significant. Ezekiel 14:12-23, and Deuteronomy 32:23-25 are also significant passages. Together they make it clear that God, even in the  Old Testament time, is active in executing his judgments upon the earth.

The opening of the first four seals reveals the fact that God is active in judging his enemies even now through the process of giving them over to war and the results of war, which are often famine and pestilence. To quote G.K. Beale, “Believers need to understand the dual role of these calamities so that they can accept them in a positive manner as tools of sanctification, yet also realizing that these same trials are punishments upon unbelievers.”

Do you see it, friends. It is a myth to think that Christians will be spared from tribulation. It is a myth. Read your Bibles better. Study history. Look at the world around you. How could you possibly believe that God’s people will be spared from tribulation? No, we will have trouble in this world. The trouble will work as a punishment upon the enemies of God, but will sanctify the one who belongs to Christ.

Do you remember the words of Christ in John 16:33? To his disciples he spoke these words: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV). Christians will sometimes be caught up in tribulation – wars, famines, and plagues – but the Christian is to “have peace” in the midst of it and is to “take heart” knowing that Christ has overcome. He has “conquered” the world.

God’s Judgments Are Restrained For Now

The fourth general observation that I would like to make about the seven seals is that they communicate that God’s judgments are restrained for now.

Remember that in 6:8 when the fourth seal was broken and the riders on the pale horse were sent out “they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8, ESV).

We’ve been in the book of Revelation long enough that you should know the answer to this question: should we take the fraction 1/4 literally? I think not. The idea is that though God is active in judgment in the world today his judgments are restrained for now. Someday his judgments will be unrestrained – he will judge fully and finally. Now, they are restrained. They are retained mercifully. They are restrained for the sake of God’s people and also so that the remaining elect might be brought it.

After the seven seals are opened, seven trumpets will be blown. And notice something about the seven trumpets. The first four of them also reveal God’s judgment upon the earth. We have recapitulation. What is portrayed by the seal cycle will be portrayed again in the trumpet cycle, but from a different vantage point. But notice that it is not “flat” recapitulation. Progression is communicated. For in the trumpet cycle a third of the earth is said to be affected. What is the meaning? Again, the meaning is that God’s judgement are restated, but there will be progression as history unfolds. Things will go, not from bad to good, but from bad to worse.

But it is important to recognize the clear message in both the seal and trumpet cycle:  God’s judgements are restrained for now.

Although The Saints Are Not Immune From Earthly Suffering, They Are Indeed Preserved

Fifthly, notice that although the saints are not immune from earthly suffering, they are indeed preserved.

It is the opening of the fifth seal that reveals this. There the focus shifts from earth to heaven. “When he opened the fifth seal, [John] saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne” (Revelation 6:9, ESV).

John saw the souls of Christians under the heavenly alter. Specifically, he saw the souls of those who had been slain for, or on account of, the word of God and for, or an account of, the witness they had born.

What is the basic and general message communicated in the opening of the fifth seal? It is twofold: One, this age is clearly an age in which Christians will experience suffering and tribulation. Christians will suffer trials and tribulation. Some will even be killed because they proclaim the word of God and witness to Christ.  Two, it is clear that to die on account of Christ is not really to die, but to live. Therefore, “we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6–8, ESV).

Chronological or Redemptive Historical Progression is Revealed WithIn The Seal Cycle

Sixthly, notice that chronological or redemptive historical progression is revealed within the seal cycle.

To put it another way, though there is no evidence of a gap of time coming in between the beginning of the seal cycle and what came before it (which would necessitate that the whole of the seal cycle be fulfilled only in the future) there is certainly evidence of chronological or redemptive historical progression within the seal cycle itself.

In other words, though the seal cycle is not relegated completely to the time of the end, it does take us to the time of the end. We should not push the seals to the end, but they will carry us there.

Seals six and seven clearly teach that the final and full judgment of judgment of God will come, and when it comes will come suddenly.

“When he opened the sixth seal, [John] looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand’” (Revelation 6:12–17, ESV)?

Sounds like the end to me.

The seventh seal picks up where the sixth leaves off and continues to portray judgement. There is said to be silence in heaven, which symbolizes the solemnity of judgment. And John also described, “peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” (Revelation 8:5, ESV).These things appear in Revelation wherever the judgment of God is portrayed.

So, though there is no good reason to push the whole seal cycle off into the time of the end, seals six and seven do take us there. The seven seals portray in sweeping fashion how things will be in this world and in heaven in these last days on to the consummation. There is chronological or redemptive historical progression revealed within the seal cycle.

Delay Is Communicated

Seventhly, notice that delay is communicated within the seal cycle. The message is that God will indeed judge fully and finally, but the end is not yet. There will be a delay.

The principle of delay is communicated in two way. One, through explicit statements found within the text. And two, through the literary structure of the text.

First, let us consider the explicit statements.

Remember that when the fifth seal was opened John “saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.” The had a question for God. Actually, it’s the same question that a lot the saints on earth have. “They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” How long until the final judgment? That was their question. And here is what they were told: “Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Revelation 6:9–11, ESV). Delay. The end is not yet.

The scriptures give different reasons for the delay between Christ’s first and second comings. In Matthew 24:14 we hear Christ say, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14, ESV). What must happen before the end comes? The gospel must be preached throughout the whole world and to all nations. Paul, in Romans 11 is considering the history of redemption into two phases – a time focused upon the Jews (the Old Covenant) and a time focused upon the Gentile (under the New Covenant). He says “lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26, ESV). According to Paul the true Israel of God is all who believe upon Christ from amongst the Jews and the Gentiles. According to him the end will come only after “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved.” So what must happen before the end comes? All of God’s elect, from both Jews and Gentiles, must come in, that is to say, come to faith and be saved. But in Revelation a different reason is given. Evidently there are a certain number of martyrs destined by God. When the last martyr dies, then the end will come. It is not as if the scriptures contradict one another. It is that each of these passages answer the question, “how long”, in a different way. The gospel must be preached in all the earth! All of God’s elect must be brought in! The number martyrs must be filled up! Then then end will come.

Delay is communicated with the words “rest a little longer” spoken to the souls of the saints in heaven. But it is also communicated by the structure of the book of Revelation. Did you notice something strange about the scripture reading today? To read about the breaking of all seven seals we had to skip chapter seven.

A literary gap exist between the sixth and seventh seal. Chapter seven is, what commentators have called, an interlude. Chapter seven describes in detail the sealing of the 144,000 on earth and then a great multitude in heaven from every tongue tribe and nation. I will explain that chapter in the months to come. For now, notice that there is an interlude – a delay in the literary structure – between seals six and seven.

The same feature is found in the trumpet cycle. The sixth and seven trumpets are separated by chapters ten and eleven which describe the recommissioning of John, and the ministry, martyrdom and resurrection of the two witnesses. I’ll explain that text later. For now, notice that there is an interlude – a delay in the literary structure – between trumpets six and seven.

In both cycles the reader, or the hearer, of the book of Revelation is rolling right along. It seems as if everything is going to be brought to a conclusion, but then there is an interlude. It gives the sense of delay.

Notice, though, that in the bowl cycle, there is no delay.  For the bowl cycle describes, not God’s limited and restrained judgment upon the earth, but the full and final judgment of God upon all the earth.  There is no interlude there. Things roll right along – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Why? Because these are the seven bowls filled with the wrath of God to be poured out fully and finally upon on the earth.

The seals and the trumpets communicate delay because they describe, not only the end, but also the sweep of redemptive history leading up to the end. They eventually describe the end, but before that they describe how things will be in heaven and on earth in these last days. The end will come, but it is not yet.

Conclusion 

By way of concussion I would like to show you just how similar the seal cycle is to the words of Jesus found in Matthew 24.

Jesus’ disciples asked him the same question that the souls of the martyrs asked God. How long will it be? When will the judgment come? Here is how he answered them:

“See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:4–14, ESV).

What Jesus spoke in Matthew 24, he depicts in the seven seals of Revelation 6 and 8.

Brothers and sisters, let us live according to these things.

Let us be at peace on this world, knowing that God is sovereign over all.

Let us see tribulation for what it is – judgment upon God’s enemies, but means of sanctification for his people.

Let us not fear death. For to die in Christ is to live.

And let is not avenge ourselves, knowing that God will indeed judge fully and finally in the end.

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19, ESV).

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