Skip to content
Mar 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Revelation Chapter 6 – 03/03/2024



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion family.          Grace and Peace to you!

Spiritual practices: they are so helpful in our quest to provide a receptive, intentional space for God to meet us.  And I want to offer another idea; spiritual practices are valuable as diagnostic tools.  In Silence, for example, we may notice ourselves saying, “I can’t handle this.”  Or in Simplicity, “I’m not good at this.”  But having the diagnosis isn’t the end, is it?  It’s not an F on our report card.  If we have a diagnostic medical test and it shows we are deficient in potassium, we aren’t called a failure, it is a sign that something more is needed. 

Jesus may ask us, “What do you see?” We want to be honest in seeing and naming even our reactions, doubts, fixations.  We don’t realize just how deep our patterns go until we attempt to form new habits.  I sometimes think that the main reason to attempt hard things is to face and feel our impotence and failure, because it’s humility, not willpower that softens the soul, increasing its ability to respond to reality rather than to try to dominate it.  We will also see our patterns, our perspectives, and our prejudices.  As they are revealed, we want to be honest about those too.  What we see and how we see—we may need new lenses.

Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Jesus also asked, “Do you want to get well?” Knowing what wellness (another word for this is healing, or Shalom)  is needed, we can then carry our diagnosis to what God is offering.  Let’s not be afraid to look carefully and deeply and to ask for and to allow Spirit’s enlightenment.

Pray with me, will you: Thank you, LORD, for your eyes upon us.  We pray that you will give us the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of you, and that, having the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we might know the hope to which we are called, the immeasurable greatness of your power toward us who believe, and your abiding love for us.  Enlighten our own ways to us; light up your path and your ways.  We want to get well.  For Jesus and His Kingdom’s sake, Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

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 Revelation 6:1-2

Intro: A long time ago, I became interested in Douglas Coupland’s works of fiction

One novel he wrote as if it were the journal of a young man traumatized as a child
– his character had lived on a military base that came under a nuclear threat, and everyone was rushed into a shelter
• this had left a lasting and foreboding impression on him
• an entire chapter consists of brief scenarios he imagined of his life interrupted by an atomic explosion
◦ he gives graphic and creative expression to the experience of a flash like lightning, except for it being everywhere, and powerful blast, and the world dissolving into dust
◦ his journal entries in that chapter begin with lines, like:
“I was by the fridge in the kitchen when it happened”
“I was having my hair done when it happened”
“I was at the mall when it happened”
– the feeling he evokes in his powerful images probably has the effect on us as John’s vision in chapter 6 had on its first readers
• we experience our helplessness when our world suddenly explodes
• it turns out that many people have dreams about the apocalypse
◦ in fact, books have been written about these dreams, what provokes them, and their possible meanings
◦ in this chapter John narrates an end of the world nightmare

In this nightmare, the world is destroyed in stages

It’s destruction begins when John watches Jesus open the first seal on the scroll
– only John doesn’t say Jesus, he says “the Lamb”
• and that is because this action is not taking place in our physical world
◦ it is in heaven, and there’s no way to say what John saw that makes literal sense
everything is worked out through symbols!
• we first encountered the four heavenly creatures around the throne in chapter 4
◦ as each seal is opened, one of the creatures is cued to speak (loudly, like thunder)
– in response to the creatures’ call, four horses, each a different color, will appear with their riders
• in battle, soldiers on horseback had an advantage over infantry
◦ in the horses we recognize a powerful energy
◦ in one of his challenges to Job, God points out the majestic nature of war horses
Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
Do you make him leap like the locust?
His majestic snorting is terrifying.
He paws in the valley and exults in his strength;
he goes out to meet the weapons.
He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
he does not turn back from the sword.
Upon him rattle the quiver,
the flashing spear, and the javelin.
With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground;
he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
When the trumpet sounds, he says “Aha!”
He smells the battle from afar,
the thunder of the captains, and the shouting
(Job 39:19-25)
• wild horses can symbolize an untamed, dynamic force within us
◦ it is like the force of the physical and emotional drives that children must learn to tame
◦ anger, instant gratification, self-centeredness, and so on

This is high drama, when each seal is opened and a “creature” shouts “Come!”

It is not like each horse charges out of a gate when summoned
– instead, they simply “appear” – already outfitted and ready to gallop
• this is my general impression of what is going on in verses 1-8
– first, are we now happy that the seals are being opened?
• did we realize it would mean watching the world be ravaged and ransacked until there’s nothing left?
• as the seals are opened, the sad destiny of humankind is revealed
◦ and once it begins, we can’t stop it – the spigot is open and we can’t shut it off

The first horseman of the apocalypse
– the horses are distinguished from each other by color
• the first horseman has a bow (being a weapon, it poses a threat)
• with the arrival of this horseman, people live under the threat of war
– he is given a crown–not of royalty, but a reward for military victories
• the crown intensifies the impression of his unparalleled conquests
◦ he is terrifying, because he cannot be defeated or stopped
• the effect of his arrival on earth is political chaos
◦ his onslaught disrupts all existing alliances and treaties
◦ this horseman destabilizes the international status quo

The second horseman of the apocalypse
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 Revelation 6:3-4
– the first horseman was given a crown–the second is given a great sword
• this horseman rides into the world with permission to tear apart
• whatever peace was held in place by world nations–all the institutions, agreements, and cooperative efforts–dissolve
◦ it’s as if everyone has suddenly gone berserk
◦ driven by aggression or panic, people killing each another
– many sci-fi movies described as taking place in a “dystopian future”
• that is, a disturbing world where scarcity drives people to madness
• this is what we feel when the second horseman rides off
◦ the last vestiges of civilization have disappeared and people have reverted to their animal instincts

The third horseman of the apocalypse
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!” Revelation 6:5-6
– this rider is not carrying a weapon, but balance scales
• this was the primary tool of trade and marketing
• for instance, the value of a loaf of bread was determined by its weight
◦ we still buy fruits, vegetables, meat, and so on by the pound
– two crucial factors are affected by this horseman: food supply and the economy
• the cost of basic staples required for survival are driven up
◦ at the same time, oil and wine continue to flow freely
◦ oil and wine have to do with grooming, hospitality and entertaining
(in this instance, “conspicuous consumption”)
• in other words: the poor are starving while the wealthy are indulging themselves

The fourth horseman of the apocalypse
When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth creature say, “Come!” 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 Revelation 6:7-8
– this rider doesn’t hold anything – what he is given is authority
• his name is “Death” and that’s where he exercises his authority
◦ Death is followed by Hades
◦ Hades can be a proper name — in Greek mythology it refers to the king of underworld
• but the Greek Old Testament uses the same word to translate, sheol – the place of the dead or the grave
◦ Death rides through the earth and the Grave follows behind, scooping up the souls of the dead
– this fourth horseman appears at the call of the fourth living creature
• he delivers four means of death, and kills a fourth of the earth’s population
◦ do you see a pattern here?
◦ we’ll save the symbolism of the this number for another time
• the four weapons in Death’s arsenal are specific to judgment
◦ that is made clear in Ezekiel’s prophecies
I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast (Eze. 14:21)
◦ once God acts, there is no more “getting away with murder”

When the fifth seal is open, we finally get a break
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God ad for the witness they had borne. The 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 earth?” Then the 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

This is an abrupt and jolting scene change
– suddenly our attention is turned to an altar – as if it were there the whole time
• but until now, there had been no mention of an altar
• how are we meant to understand its presence in heaven?
◦ the temple on earth was designed to match heaven
when Moses was about to [set up] the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” (Heb. 8:5)
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself (Heb. 9:24)
◦ John’s readers would know this
– under the altar seems like it would be a safe place
• but it may also remind us that the lives of these souls had been sacrificed (for the word of God and the witness they had borne–cf. Rev. 1:9, the same reason John was exiled on the island of Patmos)
◦ “avenge” here is not a cry for vengeance or “payback”
◦ they are asking, “When will we see the justice we deserve?”
• I sympathize with their longing for speedy justice
◦ but this is something God arranges according to his own purpose
◦ they’re told to shelter-in-place for the time being
– in Revelation, white robes are like an earned reward
• for now, they have to “rest” a little longer
◦ but rest is a blessing – it’s God’s gift of the Sabbath
◦ it is a release and relief from anxiety, stress, fear, agitation, and so on
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Rev. 14:13)

It seems that not just the nations of earth but the entire universe is collapsing
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 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 Lam, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand? Revelation 6:12-17

Here’s a reminder: these geological and astronomical phenomena are dream images and symbols
– they are not to be taken literally — if a single star hit our planet, there would be no more Earth at all
• several passages in the Old and New Testament predict that the sun and moon will be darkened and the stars will fall to the earth (Isa. 13:10; Eze. 32:7-8; Mt. 24:29)

In the first chapter of Genesis, the celestial bodies were created to separate day from night and to be “for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth (Gen. 1:14-15). The significance of these “signs” includes their role of providing us with a means of orientation in space as well as time (think of the importance of the north star and constellations for navigation). To lose these points of reference is to lose our stability and also lose our way. Again, we are dealing with dream images and symbols.

• I mean no disrespect when pointing out that the “wrath of the Lamb” seems more than a little bit ironic
◦ why not “the wrath of the Lion”? That would make more sense — but dreams don’t have to make sense!
◦ symbols exercise a logic of their own
◦ and because they are the language of the unconscious mind, we don’t even need to have rational interpretations for them to work within us as they’re supposed to work

This chapter ends with the world’s population in hopeless terror

Conclusion: Why the nightmare? Why dream the end of world?

It is not the world that is destroyed in the nightmare, it is my world
It is my little universe where I live at the center
It may be that the biggest obstacle to a full Christian life is our resistance to letting go

When Jesus told Nicodemus, “unless one is born again, they cannot see the kingdom of God.” That prompted Nicodemus to ask, “How can a man be born when he is old?” But he missed the point! Nicodemus assumed he could hang onto his old life and at the same time be born again. But rebirth requires a death. The old self must be moved out of the way. Like the souls who sheltered under the altar, they had to die in order to live again. We have to let go!

If our old life gets yanked out of our hands, we can be thankful
[R]ecall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings . . . you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one (Heb. 10:32-34)
If it takes this nightmare to wake us up, well then, we need it
Better a nightmare than the real thing

I cannot hear it enough:
If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves ad take up their cross and follow me. For whoever would save their soul will lose it, but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it (Mt. 16:24-25
If I insist on hanging on to my old self, I will never become my new self
I cannot be reminded enough:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Mt. 6:19-20)

Leave a comment