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Author:Rev. A Veldman
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Southern River
 West Kelmscott
 www.frcsr.com
 
Title:The glorified Christ comforts His church when the seals of the scroll are opened - the opening of the first and second seal.
Text:Revelation 6:1-4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Spiritual Warfare
 
Preached:2001-04-29
Added:2004-02-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Liturgy:
Reading : Rev. 5
Text : Rev. 6, 1-4
Ps. 93 : 1,2,3
Ps. 93 : 4
Ps. 20 : 4
Ps. 2 : 1,2,3
Ps. 72 : 1,2,4
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. A Veldman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

In Article 13 of the Belgic Confession the church confesses, "God rules and governs all things so that in this world nothing happens without His divine direction." Indeed, God governs all things including wars, calamities and catastrophes. In Amos 3: 6 it reads, "If there is a calamity in the city, will not the LORD have done it?" These words point us to God's hand in history, as we also spoke about last week Sunday in the sermon. It's good to have an open eye for this. In faith we are to look beyond all the information, which is daily offered to us via the news media. In saying this I do not mean that we should not keep track of this information. But at the same time we should not forget about what I would call the overall picture. For note well, beloved, the news as it is presented to us via the radio, TV, and the daily paper gives no more than just little snapshots of world history. Often also in such a way that the things, which were important yesterday, you no longer read about today. And things, which are important today, will be forgotten tomorrow. That's how it often goes with the news: the one headline overrides the other.

Yet when opening Scripture we learn that God is at work in all these events: wars, famine, revolution, bloodshed, and all those other things we are confronted with on a daily basis when we open the newspaper or watch the news on TV. It's good to realize that indeed God's hands is active in all these events, even though we cannot always understand how and why.

It is God who directs all of history. Directing history God executes His plan with this world. God does so in and through Jesus Christ, who in Revelation 5 is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah who received authority to open the scroll sealed with seven seals. The writings on this scroll are the judgments of God unfolding them-selves as soon as the seals are opened.

When reading about these judgments in the continuation of the Book of Revelation, one trembles with fear. Yet those who are confident of the victory of Christ are also comforted; comforted even when God's judgments are poured out upon this world.

This morning I would like to zero in on this comfort we have in Christ, by minis-tering the Word of God to you under the following heading,

CHRIST'S CHURCH HAS COMFORT EVEN WHEN THE SEALS OF THE SCROLL ARE OPENED AND GOD'S JUDGMENTS ARE POURED OUT UPON THIS WORLD

This morning we will focus on the opening of
1) the first seal
2) the second seal


I The Book of Revelation, Brothers & Sisters, describes itself as prophecy. Both in Chapter 1 as well as in Chapter 22 we read the expression: "the words of the prophecy of this book." Well, like all prophecy, so also the Book of Revelation relates to the past, the present, and the future. It sheds light on the past, for example, in the vision we read about in Chapter 12, where the dragon stands before the woman ready to devour her child as soon as it is born. This woman represents God's people throughout the Old Testament history, whereas the dragon represents Satan, who during all those centuries relentlessly tried to prevent the Messiah from being born: prophecy, which sheds light on the past.
An example of prophecy concerning the present is found in the chapters 2 & 3, which inform us about what was going on in the seven churches of Asia Minor at the time John received this revelation. Nevertheless, this last book of the Bible contains mostly prophecy about the future.
The apostle John, in exile on the island Patmos on account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus, was given the following task, 1,19, "." Well, what John saw we find in Ch. 1: the glorious appearance of Jesus Christ, who died but who now lives for evermore. The seven churches of Asia Minor, Ch. 2 & 3, are "what is." Yet the major part of the Book of Revelation concerns itself with "what is to take place hereafter," Ch. 4 through to the end.

This prophecy regarding to what is to take place hereafter starts - Ch. 4 - with a description of the heavenly throne panorama. In a vision the apostle John sees the Lord God sitting on His throne, holding in his right hand a sealed scroll, Ch. 5. This scroll was sealed with seven seals, which no one was able to open. This scroll contained the judgments the judgments that the LORD would pour out upon this earth. No one is able to open this scroll and to break its seals.

When John weeps about this > weeps, since if the scroll remained sealed God's plan could not be unfold > when John weeps about this, one of the elders directs him to look at Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Root of David. Since He has conquered, He is able to open the scroll and break its seals. In this vision John sees Christ as the Lamb standing though it had been slain. This refers to Christ's victory over Satan by His sacrifice brought on Calvary. Because of this victory our Saviour is worthy to open the scroll and to carry out God's further plan with this world. Christ is indeed worthy to open this scroll; He who upon His as-cension received all authority in heaven and on earth. In LD 19 HC we confess that from now on the Father governs all things through Him.
From this vision recorded in Rev. 4 & 5 we thus learn that the course of world his-tory does not depend on people or earthly powers. The decisions are made not on earth but in heaven, where Christ rules. The Book of Revelation shows us that the victory is Christ's, whose kingdom is coming with glory.

Coming now to Rev. 6 we read that having taken the scroll out of God's right hand the Lamb immediately begins to open its seals. Each seal, as revealed when it is broken, covers one part of the scroll. This morning we will focus in particular on the opening of the first and the second seal. The Lord willing next week Sunday we will deal with the opening of the third and the fourth seal. These first four seals belong together and form a group of seals distinct from the rest. They are distin-guished from the other seals, first of all by the fact they all offer an image of horses and riders. Secondly, they are distinct by the fact that in the issuing forth of each one of them one of the four living creatures which are surrounding the throne of the Almighty sounds the command, or invitation, "Come!"

Thus when the first four seals are opened four horses go out into this world. In Scripture the horse occurs mainly as an animal of war. Hence, when we see these horses go forth into the earth, it highlights that there will be war and battle, yet not as a result of wild and undirected forces. For the four horses of Rev. 6 all have a rider who directs each horse according to his will. Moreover the fact that these horses with riders proceed from the scroll with its seven seals and are liberated to do their work at the bidding of the Lamb may give us confidence that they cannot run at random, they are not blind powers or independent forces. The fact that each of these horses has a rider is symbolic of the fact that the forces symbolized by these horses are well controlled aiming at a definite goal. It points us to the fact that all of history is completely under the control of the Lamb. He directs whatever happens!

This morning we will focus on the first two of these four horses. As to the first horse we read in vs. 2 its color is white which is symbolic of victory, especially in the Book of Revelation. Those who are faithful to the end shall be clothed in white robes, so we read in the concluding part of this book. In Ch. 19, 11 ff., which gives a final description of the battle of Armageddon, the Lord Jesus appears victoriously seated upon a white horse. Also in the Roman army it was a custom for victors to return riding on white horses. Hence, the white horse mentioned in our text is sym-bolic of a victorious power. In harmony with this white color the rider seated on this horse is pictured with a bow in his hand and a crown on his head. The descrip-tion of this horse with its rider concludes with the words, "and he went out con-quering and to conquer." Especially these last words assure us of the certainty of the victory this rider will win.

What now is symbolized by this first horse, what does it stand for, what will it teach us? The commentaries come up with two opposing viewpoints. On the one hand, there are those who see each of these four horses as executives of God's judgment, symbolizing powers of destructions. Within this train of thought also the first of these four horses must be symbolic of some kind of destructive power. True, the color of this horse is white and it goes out conquering and to conquer. As to the destructive power of this horse commentaries identify it with the craving for power as it is found in the curse of imperialism, which tries to extend authority over other territories, oftentimes with aggressive behavior. It makes nations tumble from one war into the other. The rider on the white horse thus becomes symbolic of the power of imperialism.
Yet this solution doesn't satisfy for the following reasons. First of all, this rider on the white horse goes out conquering and to conquer. It thus triumphs from the be-ginning to the end. The crown given to this rider also testifies to this. Yet every imperialistic power after initial victory is defeated again. Never did the victory of any imperialistic power last forever. Moreover when looking at the word 'conquer-ing' in the book of Revelation, with two exceptions it always refers either to Christ or to the believers. In fact this is the very theme of this last book of the Bible: the victory of Christ and of his church. Also as to the color 'white' the Book of Revela-tion always associates it with what is holy and heavenly. I may refer to the white garments, the white cloud, the white throne, and the white stone, for example. It is rather strange, therefore, that here in Rev. 6 all of a sudden this white color should be linked with powers of the devil or the antichrist. As to the bow, mentioned in vs. 2, in other places of Scripture this bow is symbolic of the Word of God, which shoots sharp arrows in the hearts of people to make them subject to Christ. I think of Psalm 45, 6 and Isaiah 49, 2,3, for example. Summarizing this rider on the white horse can't stand for the evil power of imperialism, but instead it will point us to the triumphant progress of Christ's kingdom in this world. No, we must not identify this rider with Christ Himself. After all, He is the One who sent out this rider. Also in Rev. 19 the rider is not Christ Himself, but the Word of God. Thus this first horse with its rider picture us the victory of the cross in a sinful world. This world lies in darkness and is hostile towards the kingdom of Christ, which is to come. As to the coming of this kingdom, it is not sufficient that the evil-doers be destroyed, but it also aims at making spiritual victories calling people to faith and causing them to kneel down before Christ and worship Him instead of the Evil One. See, beloved, that's how this victorious warrior goes out conquering and to conquer, shooting sharp arrows in the hearts of people, making them subject to Christ. It points us to the victory of the gospel, starting from Jerusalem, through Judea, Samaria, Asia Minor on to Europe and from there through to the ends of the earth, conquering and to conquer.

With the opening of the first seal the glorified Christ thus starts with comforting his church. When the seals are opened the first thing we see is a white horse goes out with a bow in his hand and a crown on his head conquering and to conquer. This has first priority after the Lamb's accession to the throne: the gospel has to go out into this world. A white horse goes out. White, a color in the book of Revela-tion related also with righteousness and forgiveness of sins. White are the garments that are washed in the blood of the lamb. Likewise the 24 elders mentioned in Rev. 4 are dressed in white garments, whilst they have a crown of gold on their heads. Thus the victory is Christ's. He will cause the gospel to triumph. True, in the con-tinuation of this same chapter we also hear of terrible judgments, which will cause this earth to shake on its foundations. Nevertheless, the first thing Christ reveals to his church is: I shall triumph. Do not fear the victory is mine!

How great a comfort this is, beloved, also for Christ's church living in the 21st cen-tury. When reading the daily paper or watching the news on TV one can easily be-come upset by the events of the day: civil war in one country, revolution some-where else; bloodshed and famine. Yet Christ reigns supreme. The victory is His.
That's the first thing we hear when the scroll is opened and the seals are broken. The white horse with its rider goes in front and He shall conquer.


II We now come to the opening of the second seal. It's very comforting that Ch. 6 starts off with the victory of the gospel of Christ, but meanwhile as God's children we still live in a world full of war and rumors of war. The second horse with its rider is symbolic of this. Its color is red, or as the original indicates, a color glowing like fire. It is the color of wrath and anger, of heated passion and violent emotion, of envy and revenge, of blood and war. The other detail mentioned in re-lation with this second horse and its rider enforce this idea.
First we read the rider on this horse receives a great sword, which is symbolic of war, death, and destruction. I may also refer to the mandate given to this rider: to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another. It is because of the drive of this horse on the earth that the slumbering passions of men and nations are aroused and called into action, so that nation rises against nation. It's some-thing we have seen all through history.

When reading this one trembles with fear, what a terrible power, this power of the second horse and its rider. Yet, beloved, we should not forget that it is Christ who opens also this seal. He is the one who sends forth this horse and its rider. To know this gives a tremendous comfort. For now in faith we may know that wars in this world never rage at random, but Jesus Christ, the Lamb that holds the scroll with its seven seals, controls them. Riding upon the glowing passions of lust and greed, of power and conquest, of hatred and revenge and jealousy, this second horse and its rider go forth to slay individuals and conquer nations. We see the driving of this second horse with its rider going over the earth today fiercer and redder than ever. What bloodshed! It can hardly become worse, can it? Sometimes we too may sigh, what a terrible world we live in. And yet, beloved, also this second horse and its ride is sent and controlled by the Lamb to serve the coming of God's glorious king-dom.



How, so one may ask. For is it not rather strange that God, who is a God of peace, at the same time gives command to take peace away from this earth, so that people should kill one another. In itself this may indeed seem to be contradictory, yet it is not. For the question is, what of kind of peace do we look for? Do we look for peace from above or for peace from beneath?
I put this question, since we should not forget, beloved, that also the antichrist is eager to build a kingdom of peace; a peace, however, where there will be no place for Christ's church. The antichrist is out to destroy God's kingdom in this world as it manifests itself in the church. When reading on in the Book of Revelation it in-forms us that at a certain moment in history close to Christ's return there will in-deed come a partial realization of this antichristian world power; a short period, during which life will become very difficult for God's faithful children. They will become social outcasts, no longer being able to buy and to sell, Rev. 13. In Mt. 24 we read these latter days will be so terrible, that even the elect would not perse-vere, if those days were shortened.
Thus throughout history nations have conspired, people have plot; rulers have taken counsel together against the LORD and His anointed, against the church of Christ. Yet He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision. He has set His King who shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel, Psalm 2. Well, beloved, this King of Psalm 2 is the same as the Lamb of Rev. 5, who sent out this second horse to take away from the earth this antichristian peace, so that the nations of this earth no longer plot together against the church, but instead rise up against one another, destroying another, in order that as long as the number of the elect has not yet become full there will be living space for the church.


See, beloved that's why Christ sends out this red horse to prevent as yet an anti-christian monstrous alliance from coming true. I like to make clear here that send-ing out this red horse does not make Christ the author of the sinful passions of men by which they slaughter one another. Here too applies what we confess in Art. 13 BC, that God ordains and executes His work in the most excellent and just manner, even when devils and wicked men act unjustly. Thus Christ is in control of history even when nations slaughter one another. It all serves the coming of His glorious kingdom even though we cannot always understand how.

It's also for this reason why never any great and powerful nation was allowed to exist for a lengthy period of time as sole lord of the universe. Throughout history we have seen that no sooner a nation had global power, but another nation came into being challenging this power. For example, during the time of the OT the Per-sians challenged the Babylonian world power so that upon the decree of King Cyrus God's people could be freed from exile. Yet also the Persian Empire did not last forever. It was destroyed by the imperialistic dream of Alexander the Great of Macedonia. The Romans in turn smashed his empire. Thus kingdoms were de-stroyed to make place for others. Yet in all this God directed history to bring about His plan for salvation. That's why the Roman Empire came into being, since Jesus had to die on a Roman cross. Also the civil engineers of Rome had to build roads throughout the world so that missionaries could spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Wars thus served the coming of God's kingdom. God thus used the imperialistic ambitions of the nations of this earth to reach His goal.

In a similar way Christ sent out this red horse and its rider in the previous century, smashing down nation after nation. Once again let me give just a few examples. In the Second World War Germany fought for its own glory. It wanted more 'Lebens-raum', more room to live in. And so it began to occupy its surrounding countries. Hitler wanted to establish an empire, the Third Reich. His plan was to dominate first Europe and then the whole world. Hitler a man filled with hatred towards God and His people. As a result many believers suffered and died in the concentration camps. If Nazi Germany had won the war, it would have tried to stamp out the church of Christ. The same can be said about Japan and Korea in the Far East. But sending out the red horse and its rider the Lamb with the scroll in its hand breaking its second seal put a halt to these imperialistic movements. He rose up England, Canada, the United States, Russia and also Australia to throw down these antichris-tian world powers. It was awful. Cities were devastated. Countries were laid waste. Millions were killed. But through it God's people received freedom again, freedom the serve Christ. Germany and Japan touched the apple of God's eye, and they paid the price. No, then these allied powers did not ally themselves with one another for this specific aim. Rather, God used them to fulfill His plan. It is this same God who in the last decade of the previous century also brought down the Berlin wall, which caused the Russian Empire to crumble and collapse.

See, beloved, that's how we as God's children are to look further than the news passed on to us via the daily paper. True, then we too are often horrified by what we read. I think of what is going on in the Balkan and in the Middle East, where conflicts never seem to end. In a similar way I could point to other hot spots in this world. What bloodshed, never ending indeed! But at the same time we say: it is the driving power of the red horse that causes this bloodshed. And therefore Christ is in control.



All this teaches us how fragile earthly peace is. Peace will never be lasting in this dispensation. Why not? Since it is peace from beneath. True peace comes from above. From Scripture we learn that today's wars and revolutions must serve that peace, must serve the triumph of the Lamb. Blessed is he, blessed is she, who in this way can discover God's hand in the history of this world.

Rev. 6, a chapter that confronts us with God's judgments. When these judgments rage over this world also God's faithful children tremble with fear. But at the same time they are comforted. For all these things must come to pass. When seeing the red horse driving over the face of this earth, we as God's children may find com-fort in the power of Christ, who holds the scroll with its seven seals and controls all things in heaven and on earth. No, then we cannot explain every event. Yet one thing is sure through all the ups and downs we see on the international scene, even through bloodshed and war Christ will come to the New Jerusalem, to that city in which death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Yes, in that city there will in-deed be perfect peace. Peace which will also last forever. Since in the peace of the New Jerusalem Christ's glorious kingdom will have reached its ultimate completion.

Amen.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. A Veldman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frca.org.au/westkelmscott/

(c) Copyright 2001, Rev. A Veldman

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