This past week’s passage (Revelation 5) was an easy passage to preach. The narrative held enough dramatic tension to keep us on the edge of our seats. And then the tension was broken with a powerful scene of worship. The chapter ends with this massive heavenly audience all surrounding the once-slain lamb. If a preachers can’t get excited about Revelation 5, there’s a problem.
This week, we flip over to Revelation 6. Let me warn you, this is not as easy passage. While we are glad of a worthy lamb who can open the scroll, the broken seals might surprise us. Instead of awe inspiring scenes of worship, we encounter the dreadful reality of evil. This is on the last time we will encounter such sinister creatures. In fact, we will experience the full display of evil before it is over.
As we encounter this text, we will ask questions about the role of evil in the story of God. Let me encourage you to read the chapter as you prepare for worship on Sunday. This is not necessarily good bedtime reading.
(Revelation 6 NTE) The next thing I saw was this. When the lamb had opened one of the seven seals, I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ And, as I watched, there was a white horse. Its rider was holding a bow. He was given a crown, and he went off winning victories, and to win more of them. When the lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ And another horse went out, fiery red this time. Its rider was given permission to take peace away from the earth, so that people would kill one another. He was given a great sword. When the lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ As I watched, there was a black horse. Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand. I heard something like a voice coming from the midst of the four living creatures. ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius!’ said the voice. ‘And three quarts of barley for a denarius! But don’t ruin the oil and the wine!’ When the lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ As I looked, there was a pale horse, and its rider’s name was Death. Hades followed along behind him. They were given authority over a quarter of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with famine, and with death, and by means of earth’s wild animals. When the lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been killed because of the word of God and because of the witness which they had borne. They shouted at the tops of their voices. ‘Holy and true Master!’ they called. ‘How much longer are you going to put off giving judgment, and avenging our blood on the earth-dwellers?’ Each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to rest for a little while yet, until the full number of those to be killed, as they had been, was reached – including both their fellow-servants and their kinsfolk. As I looked, he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake, the sun turned black like sackcloth, the whole moon became like blood, and the stars were falling from heaven onto the earth as when a fig tree, shaken by a strong wind, drops its late fruit. The heaven disappeared like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. The kings of the earth, the leading courtiers, the generals, the rich, the power-brokers, and everyone, slave and free, all hid themselves among the caves and rocks of the mountains. ‘Fall upon us!’ they were saying to the mountains and the rocks. ‘Hide us from the face of the One who sits on the throne, and from the anger of the lamb! The great day of their anger has come, and who can stand upright?’