Reading: Revelation 6:1-17
This chapter does not make for easy reading. It describes the opening of the first six seals of the scroll that Jesus was worthy to open, the same scroll that John saw originally in the hand of God.
In the Old Testament Ezekiel is given a similar two sided scroll, in which are recorded lamentations, mournings and woe (Ezekiel 2:9-10). This also seems to be the nature of the seals on this scroll in Revelation. The judgement of God, by his Son, is about to begin. It is important for us to note that in the Gospels, Jesus said these things would happen and there is a huge parallel between the Seven Seals and the words of Jesus in Mark 13.
When we combine the imagery of the seals (judgement) with the allusion we noticed a couple of days ago, to legal documents in the ancient world, particularly, those of inheritance and title, we can be fairly certain that this is Good News. John is seeing that the events of the coming judgement are actually the means to a beautiful and glorious end result: God putting things right!
We often think of judgement as a terrible thing, and for some it is. Yet for those who get their day in court, those who have been wronged, it is a great day – it is the day that they get justice and vindication. The great day when things are put right. God is just, therefore there has to be a day of putting things right.
Judgement is good news for at least three reasons.
First, people have cried out to God and said that he’s not fair! When the Lamb opens the seals he will be vindicated. As I write today’s reflection there is an interview in the Guardian newspaper with the actor Richard Dreyfuss (famous for Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind) he says,
“When I die I hope I’ll have a chance to hit God in the face. If there is a God he already knows about this and he’ll get away – and as an agnostic I probably won’t get the chance…”
Famously Stephen Fry was even more vociferous. In his imaginary conversation with God, Fry would tell him:
“How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”
During the opening of the seals it will be clearly seen that God is not the author of pain, suffering, injustice and poverty. It’s us: humanity. The majority of the world’s suffering is because of our rebellion, our pride, our selfishness and foolishness. We want to blame God, but the fault is ours.
Second, people have cursed Jesus, mocked and ignored him. On Judgement day he will be vindicated. He will be seen as he truly is, Lord of all! Who, though he was and is God and had the means to destroy anyone who opposed him, actually laid down his life for fallen humanity.
Third, some have mocked, persecuted even killed God’s people. In verses 9 to 11 we notice those who were persecuted crying out for justice. God tells them that through the process of judgement they will be vindicated.
It’s amazing that God tells us of his judgement in advance. 2000 years ago he told us these days would come. He gives all of us opportunity to repent, change our minds and turn to him. The warning of judgement shows his mercy, love and grace. The timing of the judgements is interesting too. Just like Pharaoh, in the book of Exodus, God gives people an opportunity to repent after each judgement, each of the judgements grows in severity as if to get the attention of the rebellious. He is patient and long suffering, longing for people to repent. Finally, each of the judgements are entirely under his control. Unlike the wicked acts of humans, God’s actions will not spiral out of control. His purposes are planned and will demonstrate his glory and power. Even mercy.
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”
and to the hills, “Cover us!”’
For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:28-31)
“They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Revelation 6:16)
Father, you tell your children not to be afraid, yet, when I read of the judgement to come, my heart breaks. It breaks for those who are not ready and for those who don’t know you. Lord, I ask that in your judgement you will remember mercy. I know that you, the judge of the earth, will do right. Please, would you help me to be ready. By your Spirit may I live in step with you. Thank you that Jesus was judged on the cross for my sin, thank you that there, at the cross, you and I were reconciled. At the cross I take my stand. In Jesus name. Amen.
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