Revelation 4

The letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 deal with the story and condition of the church on earth. They span the age of grace. Now, in chapter 4, the church age has closed, and John is transported into heaven to receive an overwhelming vision of God and His Throne.

Chapters 4 and 5 are followed by the main section of the book dealing with events on earth after the church has gone, and before the Lord Jesus returns to set up His kingdom. During this time, known as the Tribulation, God judges the world that crucified His Son. Three awesome series of judgements are poured out on earth (seals, trumpets, and vials), as the world becomes increasingly wicked and godless. Then God steps in to make a full and final end to the problem of sin.

1. THE OPEN DOOR (4:1)
John saw before him a open door to heaven, and was presented with:

a) An Invitation
“Come up here, and I will show you” (4:1). It is only when we get above the mists of tensions and strife on earth that the purposes of God can be appreciated.

b) An Understanding
“At once I was in the Spirit….” (4:2). Spiritual things are discerned by spiritual people. John, “in the spirit,” could understand what God was saying to him.

The first thing John saw was a throne, the central object of the heavenly scene. Everything connected with this throne is awesome and mysterious. It is all outside the realm of human experience. Who would have thought to liken God to a stone? What about an emerald rainbow? And a full-circle rainbow. And what about the living creatures with 4 faces? And what about the symbol of 7 lamps of fire, symbol of the Holy Spirit? It is all unfamiliar.

The chapter’s prime lesson is that of God’s sovereignty. Had he not understood this foundation truth, John could not have accepted the events of the following chapters. He needed the assurance of these chapters 4 and 5. He had to know that God does what He wills, when He wills, where He wills, how He wills.

John noted two things about the Throne:

a) It Is Stable
“Behold, a throne was set in heaven” (4:2). This throne was central to all that John saw. It is the symbol of God’s universal government. Revelation is the “book of the throne,” the word is used 45 times in it, and only 15 times in the rest of the NT. Note that it is “set” in heaven – indicating its stability. What a contrast to the tottering thrones of earth.

b) It Is Sovereign
This throne was “in the heavens” (4:2). It is important to realize He reigns over the whole universe, not just on earth.

John uses a number of striking prepositions in describing what he saw. Everything John saw was related to God’s throne. He refers to what he saw on the throne, encircling and surrounding the throne, before the throne, and in the centre of the throne.

a) On the Throne
“Behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne” (4:2). The One sitting on the throne is none other than God Himself. He is described as having “the appearance of jasper and sardine/carnelian” (4:3). These were the first and last stones on the breastplate of the High Priest (Ex 28). The first stone was a jasper and represented Reuben, the eldest son. The last was a sardine (carnelian) and represented Benjamin, the youngest.

Also the jasper is a very hard diamond-like stone, emphasizing the unchangableness of God’s law and government. His laws are like that. The sardine stone is a deep, flashing red, reminding us that our God is a consuming fire.

b) Encircling the Throne
John saw a number of things encircling and surrounding the Throne.

(i) A Rainbow. Note:
Its Completeness. John saw a completed rainbow. We rarely, if ever, see a completed rainbow, and have to ascend high enough so that earth does not obstruct our vision. We often question God’s dealings with us and ask, “Why?” One day, when we are no longer earthbound, we will see the completed rainbow, and fully understand God’s dealings with us.

Its Colour. The rainbow was “like unto an emerald” (4:3). Emerald is the only colour which never tires the eye, and is thus used in operating theatres. Glorified saints will never tire looking at the covenant faithfulness of God.

Its Covenant. The rainbow was to be a symbol that the covenant-keeping God would never forget His promises (Gen 9).

(ii) 24 Thrones and 24 Elders. “Around the throne wee twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads” (4:4). These 24 elders represent the Church. They are already seated, robed, and crowned, i.e. they have already been judged and rewarded. Both their clothes and their crowns are typical of saints, rather than angels.

(iii) The Four Living Creatures. “And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures” (4:6). These living creatures are the highest of all created intelligence. They are presented as being like a Lion (telling of majesty), an Ox (reminding of patient service), a Man (telling of intelligence), and an Eagle, which soars to heaven, the first among birds.
Their Knowledge. They were “full of eyes in front and in back” (4:6). This speaks of God’s total knowledge. He knows all the past and all the future.
Their Song. “Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God, Almighty” (4:8). They sing a song of praise, and have a deep appreciation of God’s essential character. He is “Lord,” Jehovah, the self-existing One; He is “God” in relation to creation; and He is “Almighty,” the El Shaddai, the all-sufficient God.
Their Activity. “They rest not day and night” (4:8). The six wings indicate activity. They acts rather like a Presidential bodyguard, constantly protecting God’s throne in its holiness.

(iv) The Angels. Also “round about the throne” are “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (5:11). Angels rejoice over one sinner repenting. What rejoicing there will be when they see a countless number of repentant sinners!

c) Before the Throne

(i) The Crystal Sea. “And before the throne there was a sea of glass clear as crystal” (4:6). This crystal sea is marked by two things – calmness and clarity. It stands in vivid contrast to the description given by Isaiah to the nations of the world, “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (Isaiah 57:20).

(ii) The Seven Lamps of Fire. “Seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” (4:6). They are a seven-fold representation of the Holy Spirit, and signify the fullness of His work. The omniscient Holy Spirit will be there with a full knowledge of every thought, word, deed of every man, woman, and child. No false evidence will be introduced. All facts will be laid bare.

d) From the Throne
“From the throne proceeded lightenings and thunderings and voices” (4:5). This is both:

(i) A Warning of the approaching storm. God’s long-suffering dams up judgement, holding it back, as God is not willing that any should perish.

(ii) A Reminder that the God of Sinai is still the holy God. He who is familiar enough to be our Father is also the Holy Lord God Almighty.

e) In the Centre of the Throne
In chapter 5 a freshly slain Lamb is seen “in the centre of the throne” (5:6). The whole glory of the universe focuses on the Lamb, and this is the theme of that chapter. Whenever the living creatures give such honour to God (16:9) the 24 elders (representing the church at this point) fall down before God and worship Him. Worship here is grounded on the knowledge of God. The first subject revealed in Scripture is that of creation, and the first is which faith is demanded.


Revelation 5

Chapters 4 and 5 introduce a heavenly scene of blinding glory. Revelation is supremely a book which puts heaven and earth in perspective, contrasting sharply the eternal and the temporal. Throughout the book scenes of earth are always presented as dark, while the heavenly scenes are bright with glory.

An understanding of these two chapters is essential to understanding the rest of the book. Taken together, they introduce:-
• The Wonder of Heaven – the glory and majesty of God’s Throne (ch 4)
• The Worth of the Lamb (ch 5)
• The Worship of the Redeemed
• The Working of God.

The main events of chapter 5 revolve round:
1. The Scroll on the hand of the One sitting on the throne (5:1)
2. The Search for someone “worthy” (5:2-4)
3. The Sadness of the Prophet that no one worthy could be found (5:4)
4. The Slain Lamb (5:5-7)
5. The Song of the Redeemed (5:8-13)
6. The Sentinel Cherubim (5:14)

1. THE SCROLL (5:1)
John saw a papyrus or vellum scroll. It was “written inside and on the back, and sealed with seven seals” The writing on the inside was contents of the scroll, while the writing on the outside was likely the title of the document and a list of contents. When it was read, the reader would break one seal at a time as he progressed from section to section through the scroll.

a) The Meaning of the Scroll
What was in this scroll? The answer is crucial to our understanding of Revelation. It is more than mere prophecy of coming events. God has often chosen unworthy men to reveal His will about prophecy, so why would it require a specially worthy man here?

For the answer we have to turn back to Jeremiah 32 for a similar sealed scroll. Nebuchadnezzar was surrounding Jerusalem. Jeremiah was in prison for his testimony to the Word of God, and God was about to punish His people and send them into captivity. With Nebuchadnezzar at the door, the property market was at an all time low. At this time Hanameel, Jeremiah’s cousin, came and said, “Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is thine to buy it” (Jer 32:7).

On God’s instructions Jeremiah bought the field, paying 17 shekels of silver. The evidence of purchase was written in 2 scrolls; one open, to be kept in the official records, and one sealed to be kept by Baruch for Jeremiah’s legal heir, verifying his legal ownership. These were the Title Deeds.

In doing this Jeremiah was enacting a parable, indicating his faith in God’s promise that one day his people would return and “houses, fields, and vineyards” would flourish again. At that time Jeremiah’s rightful heir would go before authorities, and on the basis of his kinship to Jeremiah would prove he had the right and was “worthy” to open the scroll (to unseal the title deeds) and own the property.

b) The Message of the Scroll
This title deed picture is the key to understanding the whole central section of Revelation. Our world was put in Adam’s hand. He was given title deeds, to rule as God’s representative, and the whole world was subject to him. Then came the Fall. The Title Deeds went back to hand of the One who gave them. The property was forfeited.

For 6000 years the property has lain forfeit. Forfeited property left alone quickly goes into disrepair. Marks of moral and physical neglect are everywhere. The whole universe waits for someone “worthy,” i.e. someone with the authority and ability to claim the title deeds and take over ownership of the world once more.

“Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals? And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it” (5:4). The scroll sits on the hand of the One sitting on the Throne, as though the hand is outstretched in invitation to anyone who is worthy. The cry goes out through the universe, “Who is worthy?”

Surely over a 6000 years period we might find someone worthy from the realms of politics, arts, philosophy, or religion. Someone with the will, the right, and the ability to pay the price. It is as though the universe is ransacked to find someone who will have the moral authority to come forward and take title deeds.

Many have aspired to take the title deeds. Alexander the Great at age 32 wept because there were no more worlds left to conquer. Caesar Augustus, Napoleon, Hitler, and hundreds of others by force and brutality all sought to take them. But still they sit on the hand of the One sitting on the throne. It was not a question of who is willing, but who is worthy.

The sad result was that “no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it” (5:3).

“I wept much” (5:4). What a strange sight to see so many tears amid so much glory. Surely there should be no weeping in heaven!

Why did John weep? Was it because he did not understand what was in the scroll? These are not the tears of a frustrated prophet! These are the tears of a man who knew his Bible, the ways, the mind and the purposes of his God. John knows that unless someone is found worthy, this old earth must spin on out into eternity with Satan in control. God will be robbed of that glory He might have had if earth had been living in subjection to Him.

4. THE SLAIN LAMB (5:5-7)
As John wept, one of the elders spoke to him with a marvellous word of reassurance.

a) The Lion (5:5)
John was told, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” (5:5).

In the context of the chapter with its emphasis on majesty and glory, it is not surprising that John is told someone referred to as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” has been found worthy. This reference to “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” takes us back to Genesis 49:9, and Jacob’s magnificent prophecy concerning Judah and the coming King.

John would have surely been delighted to know that a majestic Lion had been found to rule. The Jews had always wanted a majestic king, and had crucified Jesus because He was too tame for them. They wanted someone who would smash the power of Rome and make Jerusalem the capital of a new world empire.

b) The Lamb (5:6)
John turned to see the Lion, and was amazed to see a little Lamb instead.

(i) The Contrast. What a contrast! From the Lion to the Lamb – the whole range of His glory!

(ii) The Character. John saw a “Lamb as it had been slain.” The memories of Calvary are eternally treasured in heaven. Note how the “Lion” and “Lamb” characters are reflected in Christ’s two comings:

First Coming – He came with: Second Coming – He will come with:
• Meekness • Majesty
• Saviour • Sovereign
• He is judged • He will judge
• God’s grace • God’s government

To us, lambs are the most gentle and passive of creatures, but this was no ordinary Lamb. It was not sitting patiently, but “stood,” ready for action and to move forward. It had “seven horns,” reflecting His perfect power, and “seven eyes,” reflecting His perfect knowledge. This was the Lamb that would terrify the nations of the world in chapter 6 and cause them to call out, “hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”

(iii) The Climax. “Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (5:7). As John watched, the Lamb moved forward and took the scroll, thus claiming the title deeds of the forfeited inheritance (5:7). He did what all the Pharaohs, Caesars, Rulers, Kings have failed to do. What a momentous event!

“Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood” (5:9 .) The narrative may be simple, but the significance of the act was fully grasped by the massed multitude around the throne which now gives vent to an unparalleled song of total and majestic triumph.

a) The Singers
John looked around and saw a unnumbered multitude, “ten thousand times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands” All together in perfect harmony, and all one with the common theme. Every heart was in tune. It is lovely to enjoy these thoughts here, especially at the Breaking of Bread, but up there……!

In the wilderness David longed for drink of water from Bethlehem. He would have gone himself, but his mighty men said, “No, you are worth ten thousand of us.” In the Song of Solomon the Bride says he is “the chiefest among ten thousand,” i.e. greater than only ten thousand. But in heaven the Lamb is greater than “ten thousand times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands.” He is totally pre-eminent! None can compare with Him.

b) The Song
“You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (5:9-10). This is described as “a new song.” In chapter 4 we have an “old song” celebrating God as Creator, “Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they were and are created” (4:11). This new song celebrates him as Redeemer.

We read of other songs in the Bible. We are told that the first song was sung when “the morning stars sang together” at creation (Job 38:7). Another song was the great song of deliverance when Moses and the Israelites passed over the Red Sea (Exod 15).

Today’s composers compose new songs for special occasions, e.g. coronations, etc. The Lamb’s saving work has created a new occasion, and this elicits a tumultuous outburst of praise.

The theme of the song concentrates on:

(i) Christ’s Person – “Thou are worthy” (5:9). In chapter 4 He was praised because of who He is – the thrice-holy One, Creator of all things. Now in chapter 5 he is praised on account of what He has done.

(ii) Christ’s Work – “You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood” (5:9). His worthiness is not measured in terms of power, majesty, or glory, but of His death for men. There is so much in this simple sentence. There is:
 the process of His death – “slain.” Not merely put to sleep, but violent taking of a life.
 the price of His death – “by thy blood.”
 the purpose of His death – “redeemed us to God.”
 the power of His death – “Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God.” Only He could take a poor vile sinner, and make him/her a holy and royal priest to God.

Suppose the question had been asked, “What is the basis of Your claim to the title deeds of earth?” The Lamb’s reply would have been threefold.

a) “It is mine by right of creation – I made it.”
b) “It is mine by right of Calvary – I died for it and redeemed it with my own blood.”
c) “It is mine by right of conquest – Since the only language the unregenerate heart of man understands is the language of power, I am going to claim that world in war.”

Chapter 4:8 tells us that these four “living creatures” seem to be like the cherubim of other Scriptures. As such they have role as guardians of God’s righteousness. They are seen in:

o The Garden of Eden, guarding the Tree of Life
o On the Veil of the Tabernacle, guarding way in to Holiest
o Over the Mercy Seat, watching lest any draw near without blood.

Now what will they do? For 6000 years they have guarded the way back to God. They stand and watch as the little Lamb with the fresh marks of Calvary on it moves forward. Will they object? Will they cut it down? They have only one word – “Amen” They bow their heads, and “fall down and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever.”

Lamb of God! Thou now art seated
High above Thy Father’s throne;
All thy gracious work completed,
All Thy mighty victory won.
Every knee in heaven is bending
To the Lamb for sinners slain;
Every voice and harp is swelling,
“Worthy is the Lamb to reign.”

A man came into hospital for an operation to remove a cancer on his tongue. The surgeon told him that, although he would be able to speak, he would never again be able to sing. Whereupon the patient said he must have one more song before his tongue was touched.

In the presence of the doctors and nurses he burst forth in the song of William Cowper’s hymn, “There is a fountain filled with blood,” and concluded thus:

Soon in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing thy power to save
When this poor lisping cancerous tongue
Lies silent in the grave

The patient never recovered from the operation.


Revelation 6:1-8

The date was May 18 1980, and the geologists in the state of Washington were watching their seismographs with growing wonder as the earth began to dance beneath their feet. Mt. Saint Helens was angry, and belching grey steam plumes hundreds of feet into the blue Washington sky. All the evidence predicted that the volcano was about to explode with awesome fury.

State police and rangers were already herding tourists and residents from an ever widening zone of danger. Loudspeakers on patrol cars and helicopters, as well as radio and TV all blared the same message, “Warning!” It echoed over the mountain side and villages.

One man, however, Harry Truman, the caretaker of the recreation lodge on Spirit Lake, 5 miles north of Mt. Saint Helens, refused to budge. Neighbours begged him to move. Even his sister called to persuade the old man. Harry’s reply was always the same, “Nobody knows more about this mountain than Harry, and it don’t dare blow up on him…” On May 18 1980, as the boiling gases beneath the surface buckled the landscape to its final limits, Harry cooked his eggs and bacon, fed the scraps to his 16 cats, and began to plant petunias around the border of his freshly mown lawn. At 8:31 the mountain exploded.

We are left wondering whether Harry regretted his decision to stay in the millisecond it took before the concussion waves, travelling faster than sound flattened him and everything else for 150 sq. miles. Did he have time to regret his stubbornness as millions of tons of rock disintegrated and disappeared into a cloud reaching ten miles into the sky? Did he struggle against the 50 ft high wall of ash that buried his cabin. Or perhaps he was just vaporized when the mountain erupted with a force of 500 times greater than the nuclear bomb that levelled Hiroshima.

Harry is now a legend in the corner of Washington where he refused to listen. He smiles down from posters, and from the front of T-shirts and beer mugs. They sings songs about old Harry, the stubborn old man who refused to listen to the warnings.

Away on a barren rock island, ten miles long, and six miles wide, in the Aegean Sea, 2000 years ago, we read about another old man. He was putting his ear to the ground, and as he did so he heard the hoofbeats of approaching danger. So moved was he by what he heard that John sounded an alarm that has continued to sound for 2000 years. That alarm is the book of Revelation

The taking of the scroll by the Lamb in chapter 5 and the opening of the seals in chapter 6 is the prelude to the commencement of the divine programme for the next seven years of earth’s history, climaxing in the moment of Christ’s return. In fact, the Tribulation period begins with the white horse rider, who comes flattering and brings false promises of peace. It also ends with a white horse rider, Christ Himself, coming to destroy the rebellion on earth and establish His kingdom (19:11).

The programme is introduced by the breaking of the first four seals. As each seal is broken in heaven, so four horses and their four riders leap from the pages to thunder from heaven to earth. Horses are amongst the most beautiful of animals on earth, but these four horses are anything but beautiful. They are terrible and terrifying war horses, with heaving flanks and flared nostrils, rearing and pawing the air with their terrible hooves. The scenes they depict are amongst the most dreadful in the Bible. This tired old planet has known its share of war, famine, disease, and death. But the sixth chapter introduces the most awesome period the world has even known. The period is for the primary purpose of shaking man loose from his false sense of security, so that he may call on the name of the Lord just before the end of the age.

In Matthew 24 the Lord’s disciples asked Him what signs would precede His coming and the end of the age. The Lord’s answer is an almost exact replica of the events foretold by the pictures presented by the four horses and their riders in this chapter. Both passages tell of war, famine, death, martyrdom, the sun and moon being darkened, stars falling, and a time of divine judgment. Thus the features of Matthew 24 are parallel to the events of Revelation 6.

What do these four horse and their riders represent?
The horsemen are not so much individual persons as principles or power. The first has to do with counterfeit peace and religion, the second deals with war and peace, the third deals with famine and disease, and the fourth represents the trauma of death and the sufferings of hades.

Two forces will be absent from earth during this period of Tribulation:
a) The Church. The church will have been taken to be with Christ at the rapture.
b) The Holy Spirit. He is “the Great Restrainer,” who presently restrains evil throughout the world. When He is removed, unrestrained evil will surge forward.

The action begins at once. “Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, Come! And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (16:1-2).

At the summons “Come!” the hoof beats are instantly heard as the first rider is called into action. This rider is not so much a person as a satanic programme that will flood the minds of men across the globe.

a) He is Peaceful
“I looked, and behold, a white horse.” The colour white has a double significance. The “white horse” symbolizes a victorious warrior (Christ comes on a white horse at the end of the Tribulation). The white colour also suggests that the rider is a man of peace. Peaceful victory is implied. “He who sat on it had a bow.” The bow symbolises military power, with the emphasis on conquest at a distance.

b) He is Deceitful
This victorious rider is also the most deceitful person ever to have lived.

(i) His Teachings are Deceitful. He represents all the deceitful “isms” and philosophies of the last days, that prepare men’s minds for the ultimate reception of the great lie, the strong delusion (2 Thes 2:3-12). The philosophies presently floating around our society give an idea of what it will be like when restraints are removed and this rider’s propaganda is unleashed. Evolution, situation ethics, moral freedom, sexual permissiveness, euthanasia, abortion, gay rights, all pervade our government, our constitution, our schools, our media and our churches. It is but a shadow of what is to come.

(ii) His Treaties are Deceitful. The rider personifies the deception that will engulf mankind. People think they are entering the millennium, when they are only entering the Tribulation. Even Israel will sign a covenant with him thinking he is Messiah. The world church will also be deceived, and later destroyed by him. This is the same person Daniel wrote about, who will “come in peaceably and obtain the kingdom by flatteries” (Dan 11:21-23).

c) He is Successful
“A crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (16:2). Victory is his total aim and object. In military might and diplomatic skill he outranks the greatest figures of world history. He is presented as the greatest peacemaker the world has ever seen. He is given a victor’s crown, stephanos, not the sovereign crown. Note that is “given to him.” God permits it for His own purposes.

Let us understand that the hoofbeats of this horse are clearly heard today. People get deceived into Satanism, or into the cults, just as Paul warned Timothy, “evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (1 Tim 3:13). Satan doesn’t build a church and call it “The First Church of Satan.” He deceives by materialism, by the idea that sin doesn’t matter, or that we can sin and get away with it. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.”

How can we avoid being deceived?

(i) By Daily Bible Reading. “Thy word have I hid in my heart…” In the hour of His temptation the Lord said, “It is written…” The Head of the Scotland Yard Counterfeit Investigation Division was asked if he had to spend lots of time studying counterfeits. He replied, “No, on the contrary, I spend my time studying the real.”

(ii) By Prayer. “Pray continually” (1 Thes 5:17). We should pray that our conversation will be right when we are with others, that we will not be deceived, that we will be a blessing.

(iii) By Being Filled With The Holy Spirit. When He, “the Spirit of Truth,” is in control, we won’t be deceived.

(iv) By Having fellowship With Other Believers. There is much to be said for small churches. If we don’t go to church, we won’t learn. If we don’t learn we won’t grow. If we don’t grow, we will have no immunity to whatever infection blows our way.

“When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see.” Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.”

“Come” is now spoken to the rider of the red horse. “Red,” the colour of blood, always speaks of war and slaughter. This rider stands for world war on a scale never before known. We learn about:

a) His Purpose
“…to take peace from the earth that they should slay one another.” The first horse brought the hope of world-wide peace for which the world longs. But the real purpose of that rider is revealed in the second horse – “to take peace from the earth.”

Later we read that a man will arise during the Tribulation whose total purpose is to make war. Wars don’t happen by accident. Read your history books and see how world leaders have engineered wars. Read the story of the Anglo-Zulu wars here in S. Africa. Or how WW1 started. Or WW2. But there will be no war like this war!

b) His Power
“…there was given to him a great sword.” To the Romans and their soldiers the sword was the symbol of might throughout the empire. To the conquered it was a symbol of violence and death. Here is “a great sword” indicating great might and a slaughter that will take place.

Today many nations have “great swords.” Our earth has shrunk to the size of a global village. Not long ago the current stockpiles of nuclear weapons was 60,000 hydrogen bombs. That is enough to destroy the entire earth seventeen times over through nuclear flames reaching 130 million degrees – and all that in one blinding flash. It used to be that wars were territorial, confined to battlefields and shipping lanes. But all that stopped when on 6 August 1945, at 8:15 a.m. a warning bell rang in the broadcast department of the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation. The Broadcaster announced, “Three enemy aircraft have been spotted over the Saijo area…” Suddenly there was a blinding flash of light over Hiroshima, and the resulting mushroom cloud has cast a shadow over the whole of humanity. The newsman was vaporised and the radio station flattened. The nuclear age had begun.

We need to understand that God is not the cause of war. Man, created free, chose not to obey God, and his resulting fallen nature turned to making war, not peace. God once sent men a peace offer when the Prince of Peace was born, but they scorned and crucified Him.

Today we don’t have to put our ears to the ground to hear those same hoofbeats. We hear the metallic thud of machine guns, the whistle of the mortar rounds, the crackle of burning schools, and churches, the shriek of missiles homing in on their targets. The sound of heavy metal piercing flesh, and crunching bone, the sound of women screaming and children crying, the groans of the wounded, and the gasps of the dying.

Do we hear the hoofbeats of the red horse rider riding in our direction? The Lord Himself prophesied that “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Mt 24:6,7). How many people will die in a nuclear war. Einstein predicted that in a full-scale nuclear exchange, at least a third of the population of the world would die. That is what the Bible also states.

In Winston Churchill’s book, “The Gathering Storm,” the first volume of him memoirs on WWII, he recalled how people laughed in the 1930s when he warned of coming war. He was mocked, scorned, and ridiculed. We do well to learn the lesson.

“When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard 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 the wine.””

The opening of this seal allows the third living creature to summon the third horseman, and a black horse with its rider appears. Black is associated with mourning, but also with famine. Jeremiah said “Our skin was black because of the terrible famine.” The message is that millions will die of famine. The cause of the famine is not stated. Perhaps the fields were left untilled, or perhaps a severe drought had set in. But famine on this scale is the likely aftermath of war. World famine followed WWI.

a) What He Carries
“He who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.” Instead of a bow, this rider holds a balance in his hand. This is to ration the food, which indicates it is in short supply. Famine conditions become universal.

b) What He Says
“And I heard 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 the wine.”” This heavenly announcement refers to two classes.

(i) The Poor. A “penny,” or denarius, was a small silver coin, a typical day’s wage. It would normally purchase 8 measures (or a cup) of wheat, or 24 measures of barley, enough bread for a man and his family. Under these famine conditions, however, it would purchase only one measure, food enough for one person for one day, and hardly the 2,600 calories needed for health. Food will be increased to eight times its normal value. There would not be enough for families. Three measures of the cheaper barley could be purchased for the same price. Social security comes to an end. Barley was the food for slaves and horses. Anyone unable to work will starve.

(ii) The Rich. “see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” These were the finer things in life, and represented the luxuries of the rich. Famine and inflation will play such havoc that a working man’s wage will buy only enough of the poorest food to satisfy his own immediate needs, but the rich continue to enjoy their luxuries.

This is the kind of situation reflected in Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Tale of Two cities,” where he described the high-living luxury of the nobility, and the awful poverty of the poor. Today more than half the world go to bed hungry. The mortality in third world societies is 60 times what it is in the west. In the U.S. enough food is thrown into the garbage cans every day to feed a family of 6 in India. 15% of all edible food in the U.S. ends up in the garbage. While we sit down to dinner, 400 people will starve to death.

What generates such food shortage? Inadequate food supplies, poverty, population explosion, unstable food supply, and human selfishness and greed, all play their part.

We do well to remember what the Bible says about providing for the poor in times of poverty, and famine. No, we are not all called to give away everything we have. The question is, “Are we using what God has given us to His glory, or our own selfishness, when round about us is a sea of poverty?” In Leviticus the farmers were told to leave enough in their fields for the poor to glean. In Deuteronomy they were told to be open handed towards their brothers, and toward the poor and needy in the land. Proverbs says, “Blessed is he that is kind to the needy.” One of the sins of Sodom was that the people did not help the poor and needy.

“When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”

John says “I looked, and behold, a pale horse.” He was clearly surprised by what he saw. It was a “pale” horse (chloros), a pale sickly greenish colour.

“His name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” John quickly recognises the rider as Death. The rider is not alone, but is followed by “Hades.” These two companions, “Death” and “Hades” are inseparable. Death deals with the physical side, but the soul goes to hades. Death deals with the body; hades deals with the soul. These two are custodians of the bodies and souls of men.

In 1:18 the Lord Jesus said, “I have the keys of Hades and Death.” The power (death) and the place (hell/hades) are placed in Christ’s authority, so that for the believer these hold no terror. Death for us has lost its sting. Christ has robbed the grave of its victory. However, for the unbeliever there is no such bright future. Chapter 20:13 says, “Death and Hades delivered up the dead which were in them, and they were judged.”

The Four Horsemen Together
These four horsemen, called into action at the beginning of the Tribulation, are never recalled. The blasphemous philosophies associated with the rider of the white horse, the belligerent policies that lead nations into war under the red horse, the fearful famine experienced under the black horse, all culminate in the pale horse and his companion, which rampage over one quarter of the earth to the end of the Tribulation.

“And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” The “them” refers to the four horsemen together, and the sphere of their action covers a fourth part of the earth. They are granted power to kill with the “sword” (red horse), “hunger” (black horse), and with “death” (pale horse). This means about 1½ billion people, total of Europe and S. America. In Revelation 9 we read of another third of the earth dying. These two together involve more than half the world’s population in a short space of time.

“…with the beasts of the earth.” Are these literal beasts, or (like the coming Beast himself) men of beastly character (as in chapter 13)? Or they may be disease and plagues. War and famine invariably give rise to plagues. 20 million people died in the flu epidemic after WWI. 6 million more died of typhus. Drug resistant bacteria, AIDS, anthrax and biological weapons, are all realities today.

If one quarter of the earth is affected directly by these judgements the death toll must be very high. Earth’s population is around 6 billion and for a quarter to die will be 1½ billion souls. By comparison a mere 50 million died in WWII.

“What is the world coming to?”
We often use this common expression after reading the newspaper headings each morning. Let them read John’s Revelation for God’s reply. Millions all over the world are desperate to know what the future holds. People everywhere are studying the signs of the zodiac. Spiritual mediums are doing well, trying to predict the future.

Judgement is coming, but God always warns before. He warned before Sodom, before Nineveh, before Noah. “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Mt 24:37). Yet, in each case time ran out.


Revelation 6:9-17

The opening of the seals in chapter 6 has introduced us to the study of the Tribulation, the most awesome period the world has ever known. God is going to break off diplomatic relations with the earth, so to speak, and wage war on the forces of wickedness then to be given full reign. The horrors of this age to come are latent in society today, but they are being mercifully restrained by the Holy Spirit operating through the church. By then the church will have gone, and the Holy Spirit removed. Once those restraints are removed, human and Satanic forces of wickedness will be given a brief period to come to full flower. God, who for 2000 years in His grace has been making peace through the blood of Christ’s cross, will go to war over that blood.

All this is nothing new to those who have read the Lord’s description of the end of the age in Matthew 24 which closely parallels this chapter. Both passages tell of war, famine, death, martyrdom, the sun and moon darkened, stars falling, and a time of divine judgment.

Sometimes we refer to this Tribulation period as “Daniel’s 70th week.” This refers to Daniel’s amazing prophecy in Daniel 9:27 which described a seven-year period (i.e. a “week” of years) during which awesome and fast-moving events would overtake the earth. Actually, this seven-year period will be divided into two halves.

a) The first 3½ years will be a period of apparent peace during which a world ruler arises, the Middle East question is at last settled with peace assured for Israel.

b) The second 3½ years will be a time of unprecedented trouble when, instead of being protected by her enemies, Israel becomes object of persecution. This is the period known as “the Great Tribulation,” or “the time of Jacob’s Trouble” (Jer 30:7).

1. THE FIFTH SEAL (6:9-11)
The first four seals are connected with the four horsemen summoned to appear to appear on the earth. In the fifth seal the scene shifts from earth to heaven, and John sees a vision of those who will be martyred for their faith in Christ.

a) The People
“When He opened the fifth sea, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” John is shown an altar in heaven beneath which he sees the souls of those who will be martyred for the sake Word of God and for their testimony to Christ.

(i) Who Are These Martyrs? Every generation has seen many martyrs, and even in this century thousands have died for Christ in Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America. However, all such belong to the church age. By the time the events of this chapter take place, the church will have been raptured, and the dead in Christ will have been raised. Hence those pictured here do not include the martyrs of this present dispensation. They are those who, because of their obedience to the Word of God and faithfulness to Christ, will not accept the creed of the great deceiver will be martyred. How these became believers will be seen in chapter 7 where we will see that at the beginning of the Tribulation there will be a great soul harvest throughout the world.

(ii) When Are They Martyred? These martyrs belong to the period between the rapture and the mid-point of the Tribulation when the four horsemen will be rampaging over the earth.

(ii) Why Are They Martyred? “…for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” The opening of this seal makes it clear that in the future time of tribulation it will be difficult to declare one’s faith in Christ. A great period of martyrdom lies ahead, and it may well be that the majority of those who trust Christ as Saviour in that day will be put to death. This is confirmed in chapter 7 where another picture of the martyred dead during this time is given, and in chapter 13 where death is inflicted on all who refuse to worship the beast. The world despises a clear-cut testimony based on the Word of God, and that hatred will be given free reign during the Tribulation, resulting in an agonizing time for God’s people.

b) The Place
John saw these martyred souls “under the altar.” The mention of blood in their cry identifies the altar as the brazen altar, the place where the blood of the sacrificial victims would have been poured out. The pouring out of the blood indicated the completion of the sacrifice and signified that a life had been poured out. Instead of blood, John sees souls, and the fact that they were underneath the altar is a figurative way of saying their deaths were a sacrifice on God’s altar.

c) The Prayer
“And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”” (16:10). This cry that ascends from the brazen altar is not a Christian cry. It is a cry for vengeance that will be quite appropriate once the age of grace is over, and conditions revert back to the pre-Christian era.

It is interesting that the martyred saints do not address God as “Father,” like the church saints. This prayer is so different from that of Stephen, “Lord, lay not this sin…”

“How long?” This is a familiar Jewish cry in that day of future trouble, and is found repeatedly in the imprecatory Psalms referring to that period. As the blood of Abel cried out for vengeance, so these souls called aloud to God to judge and avenge. This is “non-Christian” and indicates they are not connected with the church. It is comforting to know that although this time must be “fulfilled,” it is also just “yet for a little season.” This will likely be the greatest period of cruelty to Christians the world has ever known.

We have already seen from Nazi-dominated Europe just what persecution can do. Six million Jews, 60% of all Jews in Nazi-dominated Europe, were killed, as mass murder became a state industry.

d) The Programme
“Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed” (16:11). In answer to their cry heaven gives two things:

(i) A Symbol of Righteousness. God answers the prayer of the martyrs by giving them white robes. These are symbols of the righteous glory of God. Before their fall into sin, Adam and Eve were robed in the glory of God, and were not aware of their nakedness.

(ii) A Word of Reassurance. Vindication was sure, and the interval was “a little while.” In the consciousness of this assurance they could “rest.” Their labours are over, their blessedness is assured. The “little while” is at least the second 3½ years of the Tribulation. During this time multitudes will die for their faith in Christ. Martyrdom will become commonplace. This will continue until this awful time will be “fulfilled.”

Why does God allow evil to continue, and murderers continue to live? This surge of tribulation evil is seen to be according to God’s permissive plan, and for a limited time. God is always in control, even though the reason is unclear.

John is also warned that things will get worse before they will get better. Many more of the martyrs’ “fellow servants and their brethren, would be killed.” Revelation 13 describes the Antichrist in detail, and anyone who will not worship his image will be killed, and forced to stand the test of being faithful unto death.

2. THE SIXTH SEAL (6:12-17)
“I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood” (16:12). The previous judgments of war, famine, death and martyrdom have resulted largely from human deeds and decisions made in the evil heart of man. Here the judgments originate with God. Great cosmic disturbances take place as blind panic and total chaos cover the earth.

This picture of cosmic changes, with earthquakes, the sun becoming black, and the heavens departing as a scroll, is nothing new. Identical prophecies about the end of the age were made by Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, and the Lord Jesus himself.

a) The Cause of the Panic
These disasters can be taken as literal, resulting in major topographical changes on the planet. Six Catastrophic Events are listed:

(i) “There was a great earthquake” (16:12). There have always been earthquakes, but they have doubled in number every ten years since records have been kept. This earthquake is “great” – The Big One! We read of “great “earthquakes again in chapter 11 and 16. In 1970 an earthquake hit northern Peru, and took 67,000 lives. In 1883 on an island in the Dutch East Indies, an earthquake occurred with an explosion that was heard 3000 miles away. The sun was blotted out with volcanic ash for 100 miles. Tidal waves travelled up as far as Cape Horn 7000 miles away, and 36,000 people were killed.

(ii) “the sun became black as sackcloth of hair” (6:12). Joel predicted, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood” (Joel 2:30-32). What is this due to? Volcanic eruptions?

(iii) “The moon became like blood”(6:12). Perhaps as the result of atmospheric phenomenon, or nuclear explosion.

(iv) “The stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind” (6:13). This seems like a rain of meteors on the earth. In Arizona there is a meteor crater 1 mile wide. Meteors or cosmic debris will fall and hit as hard as unripe figs. In Arizona there is a crater, about a mile in diameter that was caused by a falling meteor. During the tribulation these will fall everywhere, as God begins to shake the heavens. The metaphor of a fig tree shedding its unripe figs before a mighty wind is the same as that used by Isa 34:4, “…all their hosts shall fall down, as the leaf falls off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.”

(v) “The sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up” (6:14). This is not the final break-up of the world as described later in chapter 20 when a further period of terrible judgements will be poured on the world. A different verb is used. To an observer on earth the swirling cloud of debris would darken the sun, make the moon look blood-red, produce a cloud of meteors so that the very stars seem to be cascading to earth, and give the impression that the heavens themselves are being rolled up like a scroll. The Lord foretold this in Mat 24:29. Isaiah prophesied: “All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll” (Isa 34:4).

(vi) “Every mountain and island were moved out of its place” (6:14). A literal moving of physical structures occurs as the judgements cover the whole earth.

b) The Completeness of the Panic
These happenings cause blind panic on earth. All differences between the classes are eliminated as terror grips all alike. Men lose all hope and can find no place to hide from the anarchy that grips the globe.

(i) Man’s Response. “The kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains” (16:15). The world realises that this is a judgment from the Lord, for they recognise Him as the Lamb. Yet they do not run in repentance. Instead of turning to God, they turn from Him, seeking to hide.

Isaiah foretold exactly the same thing: “They shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord…In that day shall a man… go into the clefts of the rocks and into the tops of the ragged rocks for fear of the Lord and for the glory of His majesty, when he arise to shake terrible the earth” (2:19-21).

(i) “Kings” are the heads of the nations. Usually protected from such disasters, they are now face to face with God.
(ii) “Captains” are the military leaders who would normally feel secure behind their armies.
(iii) “Rich men” are leaders of industry, usually cushioned by their wealth and security.
(iv) “Strong/mighty men” describes those behind the scenes who wield great power in politics and society. Their secret can no longer protect them.
(v) “Every slave and every freeman.” This completed the social register of those days. It includes blue and white collar workers.

(ii) Man’s Request. “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (16:16-17). It has been said, “There are no atheists in foxholes,” and there will be no atheists in that day.

Somehow the world will know that this is a judgement from “the Lamb.” Suddenly they recognize that they are being judged, and know that there is no place to hide. Here are men who having rejected the blood of the Lamb, must now face His wrath. They have ignored His offer of mercy and salvation in the Day of Grace, and now must face the Day of His Wrath. For centuries the Lamb of God, the gentlest of all creatures, has been presented as the One who offered himself as a sacrifice for sin. Now in the Day of His Wrath, He confronts those who defy him. There is no escape.

This seal is not described until later (8:1-6). As the seals are broken, the forces of destruction, latent in human society are allowed to develop, and under the trumpets they precipitate the crisis that makes is possible for the Beast to take over.


Revelation 7:1-8

Chapter 6 closes with the question, “Who shall be able to stand?” This question is now answered as John receives two contrasting visions which demonstrate God’s amazing grace, even in the day of judgement. The chapter reflects a great revival – likely the greatest the world will ever know, and it is important for us to understand who will be saved during this time, and how and why.

The first vision (7:1-8) concerns Israel and is limited to 144,000 Jews who are somehow “sealed” and protected by God. We are told that nothing can happen until this is completed and God’s further judgement on the world is held back until this takes place.

The second vision (7:9-17) concerns a multinational multitude referred to as those “who come out of the great tribulation” (7:14). They are saved in this darkest hour of earth’s history, and come to stand before the throne. Most of those saved during this time of tribulation will be martyred for their faith, but many will live through it until the Lord Jesus returns to earth to judge the nations.

The two scenes of the chapter are related; one company goes into the tribulation, the second, far larger company, comes out. The second is a result of the first. First the preachers (the 144,000), then the harvest.

1. THE PRELUDE (7:1)
“After these things I saw the four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth.” John saw the earth as a four-cornered plain with an angel standing at each corner holding back God’s forces of fury, called “the four winds of the earth.” There are lessons here of:

a) Certainty
An awful storm is about to burst on the earth and affect the sea and the trees. Just like the deluge in Noah’s day, or the awesome judgements that fell on Israel and Judah in OT times, “God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world” (Acts 17:31).

b) Sovereignty.
John saw four angels “holding the four winds of the earth.” Here was pent up power. Every awful storm is under divine control, and cannot be released until heaven gives permission. Just as in Job’s day, no storm, no vile deed, no “nine/eleven” can take place without God’s express permission. He is not the cause of such tragedies, but He is always the controller.

2. THE PAUSE (7:2)
John “saw another angel ascending from the east” who called to the four angels to hold back the storm and put God’s judgement programme on hold the rest of this vision has been completed. All action is halted, and for the moment, a stillness descends on human affairs. Doubtless the politicians pride themselves on achieving “peace in our time,” but that peace is only a heaven-permitted lull between storms.

The purpose of the pause is that the 144,000 Israelites can be sealed. It tells of:

a) God’s Mercy
The pause permits God’s mercy and grace to move towards responsive sinners before judgement falls. This is God at his best – reaching out to rebellious man and providing a way by which he might hear the gospel before the dark clouds of judgement break. We note that this period of God’s grace is:

(i) Short. “Do no harm…until we have sealed the servants of our God”’ (7:3). The short gap of God’s grace and mercy will be limited, and will expire when the last of God’s special servants would be sealed. At this time the sealing angel will have finished his work, and the destroying angels permitted to hurt the earth, and sea, ushering in the 6th seal. It is a serious mistake to take God’s grace for granted.

(ii) Successful. God’s action in sealing the 144,000 will result in a mighty revival, the subject of the second half of the chapter.

b) God’s Mark
The angel from the east appears “having the seal of the living God” (7:2). A “seal” in NT times was a mark on a person indicating ownership and protection. Many slaves and soldiers had a visible tattoo on their hands or forehead to ensure that their allegiance was known. Here God publicly acknowledges His own by marking them with a “seal” in their foreheads (7:3). The exact nature of this seal is unknown, but it is a mark of ownership and protection.

Even today believers are sealed. They do not have a visible seal, but they are also nonetheless sealed (Eph 1:13-14) with the Holy Spirit, and there is the identical thoughts of ownership and protection. The mark of the Beast (13:16) carries the same idea, as his mark in the forehead of his followers identify them as belonging to him.

3. THE PURPOSE (7:3-4)
The onset of judgement is delayed “till we have sealed the servants of our God.” The sealing must be completed first. There is thus a time span between the rapture of the church and the commencement of the tribulation, marked by the signing of a peace treaty between “the coming prince” and the Jewish leader of Israel (Dan 9:27). This moment of signing on earth parallels the moment in heaven when the Lamb begins to open the seals which marks the beginning of the tribulation period.

Scripture gives no indication as to the length of this time, but there should be sufficient time for:
• the sealing of the 144,000 individuals,
• the impact of the rapture to give way to a period of security (1 Thes 5:3),
• the political rearrangement of the nations for the emergence of the 10-power kingdom and the rise of the Beast (13:1-2),
• the temple to be built in Jerusalem (11:1-2),
• a great commercial centre to be re-established on the ancient site of Babylon (16:10).

Several things are seen regarding this company:

a) The Number (7:4)
This specified literal number of 144,000 is in contrast to the unnumbered company later in the chapter. We note:

(i) Who They Are. They are Jews or Israelites drawn from “all the tribes of the Children of Israel” (7:4) who receive Christ after the Tribulation begins. They will somehow be protected from their persecutors and brought through that awful period.

(ii) Who They Are Not. Many false religions have produced colourful and conflicting theories about the identity of these 144,000. Jehovah Witnesses teach that the 144,000 include only the overcomers of their persuasion who continue faithful to the end. Another, “The Flying Roll” cult, claims the same thing, only with them, the 144,000 are those who will have their blood so cleansed that they cannot die, but will have immortal life on earth. Even the SDA’s apply it to the faithful of their communion, who will be found observing the Jewish Sabbath at the Lord’s return. They suppose that these will be raptured when He descends, and judgement poured out on the rest of the church. All these overlook the simple fact that these 144,000 are all Jews. There is not a gentile among them.

How did they hear the gospel? Perhaps from the two witnesses of Rev 11. Many will turn to Christ as a result of their preaching. Perhaps these Jews who turn to Christ, also turn against Antichrist who has made a covenant with Israel. Because many will turn against him the Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel and brings intense persecution on Israel during the last 3½ years.

c) The Names (7:5-8)
The names of the tribes are given. Judah is first, perhaps because it was from his tribe that Christ came. Dan and Ephraim are omitted, possibly because of their association with idolatry.

These souls, saved and sealed, will be sent to preach Christ.

a) Their Ministry
Many throughout the world, including many from Israel, will hear their message and believe. Some of these will die for their faith (as in 6:9); others will endure to the end (Mat 24:13). Many of these true Israelites will be part of the company in 7:9.

b) Their Message
What message will they preach? There is only one gospel. Those converted through their preaching are referred to as having “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14).

The substance of their preaching is summarised in 14:6-7. It suggests a continuation of the interrupted mission of the 12 disciples sent out by Christ (Mat 10:1-11), where they were dispatched on a specific mission to the nation. That programme was interrupted by the rejection of Christ and the cross. Preaching throughout the subsequent period concentrated on a risen Christ and the fuller commission of Mat 24:18-20. When this dispensation closes with the rapture, the older commission will be taken up again. The preaching will be world wide.


Revelation 7:9-17

In verses 1-8 John received a vision concerning 144,000 Jews somehow “sealed” and protected by God. God’s judgement on the world was held back until this was completed. These 144,000 were sent as missionaries into the tribulation period to preach the gospel of the coming Christ.

In verses 9-17 we now see a second company, a multitude “which no one could number” which stands in contrast to the first. These are the saved from every nation during the tribulation period, the darkest hour of earth’s history. This is a harvest of the preaching of the 144,000 of first company.

The Sealed Ones (7:1-8) The Saved ones (7:9-17)
The Number 144,000 Innumerable
Nationality Jews only (7:4) International
Time-period Going into the tribulation Coming out of tribulation

This multinational multitude is composed of those who are saved during the tribulation, and come to stand before the throne.

a) The Composition
Two things are noted about this company

(i) Its Size. John saw “a great multitude, which no one could number”(7:9). It is composed of Tribulation saints who died or were martyred in this period. They are an important part of those mentioned in 6:9-17 (“slain for the Word of God and the testimony”) who are given white robes (6:11). Countless people of all nations will come to know Christ. However, the cost of confessing Him will be high (7:16), and many would seal their testimony with their blood.

(ii) Its Scope – “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.” This ultimate rainbow society reflects the power and progress of the gospel at that time. All national barriers will fall before the preaching of the gospel, as salvation reaches out to all men (7:10). So today the gospel goes where no other message can go.

b) The Clothing
John saw them “clothed with white robes”(7:9). These are robes of righteousness symbolising their acceptability with God. They are perfectly at home standing “before the throne, and before the Lamb” (7:9). They do so only because of their white robes of righteousness, given because of faith in Christ.

c) The Celebration
Both what they carry and what they cry symbolise the celebration of salvation.

(i) What They Carry. They carried “palm branches in their hands” (7:9). Palms in eastern countries symbolised joy and victory. The scene pictures the OT Feast of Tabernacles when the year’s labour ended and harvest was gathered amid much rejoicing.

(ii) What They Cry. “They cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (7:10). The multitude praises God for His wonderful “salvation,” which describes all that God has done in saving their souls by the blood of the Lamb, and delivering from the horrors of the Tribulation. Earlier in history God saved 3 million Israelites from Pharaoh at the exodus from Egypt. Later He saved over a million of Nineveh. Here is an even greater number, all acutely aware of the wonderful work God has done for them.

The triumphant shout of the great crowd is answered by the angels standing round about the throne. They cry, “Amen” as they fall on their faces and worship in a great “Amen chorus” (7:11-12). We note concerning the angels:

a) What They Do
“They fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God” (7:11). The word “worship” comes from an old English “to bow down.” The essence of worship is not thinking nice thoughts about God, but a bowing of our wills to His. When that happens, then what we say is automatically acceptable to Him.

b) What They Say
“Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen”(7:12). The song, beginning and ending with “Amen,” is a majestic acknowledgement of the might, glory, and wisdom of God, as heaven’s angels wonder in worship at the majesty and glory of their God.

Sadly, this attitude is in sharp contrast to man’s own independent philosophy that excludes God from his thinking.

(i) “Blessing.” Man considers that the blessings surrounding him are the result of his own efforts.
(ii) “Glory.” He loves to glory in his own achievements.
(iii) “Wisdom.” He considers his own wisdom to be such that he doesn’t need God’s wisdom.
(iv) “Thanksgiving.” What makes man so reluctant to turn to God with a simple, “Thank you, God, for the health you have given me, for the job I work at, for the blessings of family and friends”? Yet, allow a tragedy to happen, and we immediately blame Him. Romans 1 says that one major characteristic of man without God is that he is unthankful.
(v) “Honour.” Honour is ascribing praise to whom it is due. Take the National Geographic Magazine for example.
(vi) “Power and might” for man come either through the ballot box or through the barrel of a gun, as he forces his way to the top.

The whole philosophy of this New Age says we have it in us, we can be our own king, and don’t need the crutch of an imaginary God. That’s exactly what the serpent said to Eve in the Garden.

When asked about the identity of the multitude, John didn’t know (7:14). He only knew that judgement was ahead for the earth, and that there would be a special taskforce of 144,000 raised up for God. Now he was to learn that out of those dark days would come a great host of saved out of every nation.

We learn a number of important lessons about this massed multitude.

a) Their Standing.
“Therefore they are before the throne of God” (7:15). That is the place of honour and access. Where is God’s throne? Some commentators tell us it is in heaven, others say it is on earth. The point is that these guilty sinners are elevated to positions of such prominence and honour as to be able to stand in the presence of such blinding majesty.

In 6:17 the panic-stricken men of earth cried, “Who shall be able to stand?” Here is the answer to that question. Their standing is based on the fact that they “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). Such radical “washing” includes both cleansing from the filth of sin and the guilt of sin. The power of the blood is seen in that they are “arrayed in white robes,” symbolising their acceptability before God. That’s what God does through Christ: He removes the guilt and filth of sin, and then clothes us in His righteousness.

b) Their Service
“They serve him day and night in his temple” (7:15). Perhaps we feel that to be in God’s presence in a future day will be one long stretch of worship. We will, of course, do that. But there is much more to being with God than that. There is rich, fulfilling service to be performed. Work here is often routine and not fulfilling.

c) Their Security
“He who sits on the throne shall dwell among them” (7:15). A divine canopy will be spread over them. The reference is to the desert cloud which protected Israel. He Himself is the answer to all the OT prophecies of shelter and security for His people.

d) Their Supply
“They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat” (7:16). This refers to the deprivations of the tribulation period, and the cessations from earth’s sufferings. Economic conditions during the tribulation will be such that these believers suffered hunger, thirst and nakedness.

During the tribulation the scorching heat of the sun and reduced water supplies will be features of God’s judgement, and will impact on believers as well. Now all that is past, and on this very same earth they are assured of the fullness of divine provision. It will be just as Isaiah prophesied of physical blessing in the millennial earth: “They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat of the sun smite them” (Isa 49:10).

How wonderful to know that we are headed towards a place before the throne of God where the absence of hunger, thirst, exposure, and tears, all point to the presence of the Saviour.

e) Their Shepherd
“For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them, and lead them to living fountains of water. And God shall wipe away all tears from the eyes” (7:17). This tells of the tender comfort and care of the Saviour who leads them to the source of life. The grief and sorrows of the tribulation are over for ever. These blessings will be enjoyed under the shepherd care of the Lamb which shall feed and lead them. These “living fountains of water” are the satisfying streams that meet the needs of the human heart.

f) Their Sympathy
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” These suffering saints had wept much during the awful days of tribulation. Now every trace of sorrow is to be removed by the very hand of God. Similar words repeated in 21:4 indicate that millennial bliss will be carried into the eternal state.