Sunday, October 23, 2016

Revelation 6:1-4

Revelation 6:1-4
And I looked when the lamb opened one of the seven seals.  And I heard one out of the four living creatures while saying as a voice of thunder, “Come.”  And I looked – and behold – there was a brilliant horse and the one who sits upon it has a bow and a crown was given to him and he went out while conquering and in order that he should conquer.  And when he opened the second seal I heard the second living creature say, “Come.”  And another horse – a fiery red one – went out and the one who sits upon it was given to him to take peace out of the earth even in order that they will slaughter one another.  And a great sword was given to him.

Thoughts for Today

First Thought:

From this point on in the book of Revelation, many people immediately jump into a perspective of “the end of the world” or even the Apocalypse.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that these people are wrong.  I am a firm believer that God can take scripture and make it true in multiple different contexts.  However, I am a firm believer in making sure that we understand the text in its original context.  We can always see backwards into history with 20/20 vision and learn about ourselves.  We don’t usually look into the future very well.  In that light, remember why this book is called “Revelation.”  The English word Revelation is the same as the Greek word Apocalypse (αποκαλυφις).  This word means “revelation” or “announcement,” not “end of the world.”  This leads us to the style or type of writing that we have in the book of Revelation.  Revelation is Apocalyptic Literature.  Apocalyptic Literature is not writing designed to tell the future.  Apocalyptic literature is about giving hope to people caught under oppression.  When John writes this book, He is not writing with the primary premise of foretelling the end of the world.  If that was his goal, then he failed pretty badly because it is a difficult book to use to make accurate predictions about the future!  Instead, John is writing very creatively to remind the people in Asia Minor that when they are under persecution that there is a God who is more powerful than the world that is persecuting them.  That is the perspective out of which I am going to write the vast majority of what remains in this blog for the book of Revelation.

How can this understanding of the word apocalypse help shape your perspective on this book?  Given what we’ve already read in the first four chapters, do you think this understanding makes more or less sense than the “end-of-the-world” perspective?

Second Thought:

The lamb opens the first of the seven seals.  When he does, a rider on a brilliant horse comes forth.  That rider has a bow and a crown, conquering the world.  What’s John saying in this description?  In the ancient world, and especially in Roman culture, when a military general conquered new territory, he would march through the capitol of the conquered area on a white horse.  This explains why the rider who conquers is on a white horse.  So what is the bow?  The Parthians were one of the few nations or tribes who were able to resist and even beat back the power of the Roman legion.  The Parthians were from the same area of the world as the ancient Persians.  People in that part of the world typically fought on horseback with bows.  In fact, they still do to this day!  As the Roman Empire persecutes the Christians in Asia Minor, John is reminding the people that the Romans are capable of being conquered.  Their persecution is not final.  God understands our persecution and He can defeat it.

Where has God been able to bring you through persecution?  How can this passage be useful to you the next time you feel trapped or oppressed?

Third Thought:

When the second seal is opened, we see a rider on a red horse come out.  This rider was sent out in order to take away peace so that he could lead them into war.  He is given a great sword to accomplish this purpose.  What is John’s point here?  Humanity always has a violent streak within us.  We like strife and conflict.  It is not hard to make people mad and control their reactions through their anger.  When we are under oppression, this becomes even more true.  John is warning the people of Asia Minor that when they are being oppressed that the temptation will be for them to turn on one another.  How does this become a message of hope?  God knows our tendencies.  When we are angry, we are not alone.  Others feel the same emotions within them.  God understands this and can help us through it.

When are you likely to lash out in anger against people who make you mad?  Is your anger more easily provoked when you are under stress or pressure?

Passage for Tomorrow: Revelation 6:5-8
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