The Great Day of Their Wrath (Revelation 6.12–17)

It has been said that God is slow, but never late. God’s slowness to fulfill his promise of a just world order redounds to the benefit of us sinners, who are given ample time to repent of the error of our ways. But God’s patience is not limitless. As C.S. Lewis somewhere puts it, there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who say to God, “Your will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Your will be done.” When God determines that more time will not result in another change of heart, then he will … Continue reading The Great Day of Their Wrath (Revelation 6.12–17)

O Sovereign Lord, How Long? (Revelation 6.9–11)

Submission, peacemaking, generosity, and hospitality all require patience: Patience with a corrupt government to reform, with the violent to act peaceably, with the poor to move from dependency to productivity, and with the sick to heal. The last two items are borne with comparative ease. The first two items? Not so much. It is fascinating to me that after describing the devastation wrought on earth by the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rev. 6:1-8), John turns again to a scene in the throne room of heaven (6:9-11). There, he sees “under the altar the souls of those who had been … Continue reading O Sovereign Lord, How Long? (Revelation 6.9–11)

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (6.1–8) 

There are many believers enduring tribulation all around the world right now. Enduring tribulation raises the question, how shall we then live? The answer to this question depends on “then.” It depends, in other words, on the environment we are called by God to inhabit. As we read Revelation 6.1–8, it becomes clear that God calls some of us to live in an environment of conquest, war, scarcity, famine, pestilence, and death—or at least to be prepared to do so. Consider three facts: First, conquest, war, scarcity, and the like describe the actual conditions of many Christians around the world … Continue reading The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (6.1–8) 

When Will the Great Tribulation Take Place? (Revelation 6:1-8:5)

In Revelation 6.1–8.5, John turns our attention from heaven to earth, from the Lamb to the seven seals that he alone is worthy to open. The turn is abrupt and unpleasant, for the earthly scene John portrays is the polar opposite of the heavenly scene he has just revealed. Instead of the unending worship of heaven, we see unceasing warfare on earth, as successively greater disasters—manmade, natural, and divine—befall the planet upon the opening of each seal. This is “the great tribulation” (7.14; cf. 2.22, Matt. 24.21) whose intensity forces the question: “And who can stand?” (6.17). Obviously, we would … Continue reading When Will the Great Tribulation Take Place? (Revelation 6:1-8:5)

Worthy! (Revelation 5.7–10)

John wept because no one was able “to open the scroll and break its seals.” Then one of heaven’s twenty-four elders comforted him with the arrival of God’s Lion-Lamb, who approached the throne and took the seven-sealed scroll. With that action, worship once again breaks loose in heaven. Look, for a moment, at what takes place (Rev. 5:7-10): “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” I have sometimes heard an alcoholic referred to as a “stumble-down drunk.” … Continue reading Worthy! (Revelation 5.7–10)

The Lamb Who Was Slain (Revelation 5:6)

So far, what John has seen and heard has prepared him to expect great things. He has seen the throne room of God. He has heard that “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered” (Rev. 5:5) He therefore expects to see the procession of a king, filled with pomp and circumstance. What he sees instead is a sheep with its throat cut. In his own words: “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and … Continue reading The Lamb Who Was Slain (Revelation 5:6)

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5)

In Greek, the word for gospel is euangelion, meaning good news. It is an announcement of victory in battle. Although the word “gospel” itself is absent from Revelation 5:5, the idea is present throughout: “And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Finally, someone has been found who is worthy and able to open the scroll and break its seals! So, the elder commands John, “Weep no more!” As I wrote earlier, … Continue reading The Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5)

A Weeping Prophet (Revelation 5:2-4)

John’s response to the double-sided, seven-sealed scroll is curious. We might have expected him to dance with joy at the fact that God has an exhaustive plan for the ages, that the events of history and our lives find a place and meaning within that plan. But he does not. He weeps instead. Why? Read his answer for yourself (Rev. 5:2-4): And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the … Continue reading A Weeping Prophet (Revelation 5:2-4)

A Double-Sided Seven-Sealed Scroll (Revelation 5.1)

As in the previous chapter of Revelation, so here, the setting is the throne room of heaven. But whereas that chapter focused on the “one seated on the throne,” this one focuses on “the Lamb who was slain” (that is, Jesus Christ). In it, the Lamb takes a scroll from God’s right hand because he is “worthy to open the scroll and break its seals.” What is the scroll? Why must its seals be broken? Why is the Lamb worthy to break them? We must answer these questions if we are to hear and heed God’s Word to us through … Continue reading A Double-Sided Seven-Sealed Scroll (Revelation 5.1)

Worshiping God for What He Has Done (Revelation 4:11)

The four living creatures, whose body-covering eyes are fixed constantly upon God, praise him for who he is. The twenty-four knee-bending, crown-casting elders—Israel’s patriarchs and the church’s apostles—praise him for what he does. They lift their voices with the words of this song: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11). The English word “worthy” translates the Greek term axios. Taken with the phrase, “our Lord and God,” it is thoroughly political language. Robert H. Mounce comments, “‘You … Continue reading Worshiping God for What He Has Done (Revelation 4:11)