Much has already happened in the first five chapters of Revelation. But now, in Revelation 6, we come to a turning point: the beginning of the end.
At this point, Jesus has come forth as the Lamb of God who is worthy of praise and is able to break the seals of the seven scrolls. Now, as He opens each scroll, a different type of judgement is unleashed. In the sixth chapter of Revelation, six of the seven seals are opened. The result is calamity on a scale that has never been seen before.
To work through this chapter, we’ll first look at the six seals of chapter 6 to understand what these judgements will entail. Then, we’ll see that within a chapter filled with death and destruction, there are is still a reason to hope. And that hope makes all the difference.
The Breaking of the Seals
The first four seals to be broken will release the four horsemen of the apocalypse. You may be familiar with this image as it is one that has entered pop culture vocabulary. But far from being a fictionalized Hollywood trope, the four horsemen are very real and will bring great pain and suffering.
First will be the rider on a white horse who likely represents deception. Then, the second rider will come on a red horse and bring worldwide war. Next will be the rider on a black horse, bringing widespread famine and hunger. Finally, the last horseman of the apocalypse will be death riding in on a pale, grey horse. Through these four horseman, a quarter of the earth’s population will be killed. It will be a time like no other.
The chapter then takes a turn. Upon the fifth seal being broken, John gets a glimpse of Christian martyrs who are now in Heaven. In Revelation 6:1011, he hears them cry out for justice.
“‚ÄòHow long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.”
So, with the fifth seal, we see there will be people who will get saved after the rapture and then be martyred for their faith.
Finally, we come to the sixth and final scroll of this chapter. When this seal is opened, John sees terror unleashed throughout the world. Creation will fill people with terror as natural disasters, possibly including earthquakes and meteor showers, will occur on an unprecedented scale. People will then realize the Creator and His wrath are what they should be most afraid of.
As I mentioned at the beginning on this post, this chapter is filled with a staggering amount of destruction. Trying to imagine war, famine, and a quarter of the world’s population dying is nearly incomprehensible. But as I also mentioned, there’s a cause for hope in this chapter. I know, at this point, you might be doubting it, but I promise it’s there.
A Sovereign God
The Great Tribulation isn’t the world spinning out of control, even though that’s surely how it will feel. It is all a part of God being in control. We can’t overlook the reality that these judgements are only released when Jesus opens the seal. He is the one in control.
The situation we find ourselves in with COVID-19 is undoubtedly different from the beginning of the Great Tribulation in many ways. I don’t believe this is God releasing judgement; rather, viruses and sickness are a normal result of living in a fallen world. It’s also worth pointing out that the Great Tribulation will bring far greater suffering than what is taking place today.
However, between this pandemic, this polarized election season, and any number of other societal and personal issues, you might be feeling like your life and this world are out of control right now. And I can understand why you’d feel that way. Our hospitals are overwhelmed, stores are closed, and we don’t know what the future holds for nearly any aspect of our lives.
All of this is why Revelation 6 is actually a surprisingly comforting passage at this time. It’s not a chapter to discount the pain of this moment. It’s a chapter that points us to a God who is holy, just, and in control because if God will still be in control during the chaos of the Great Tribulation, then He is in control within the chaos happening right now.
I hope that as you walk away from this chapter and this post that you are reminded that no matter what is happening and no matter how bad things get, God will always be in control. He is omnipotent and omniscient. He is sovereign and present.
In that, and in Him, we can find rest.