Revelation 024 – God’s Perfect Timing

Dr. Andy Woods | Dec 30, 2018 | Revelation 6:9-17 | Revelation

Andy Woods

God’s Perfect Timing    12-30-18

Revelation 6:9-17        Lesson 24

Good morning everybody, almost a Happy New  Year to you.  If we can take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 6 and verse 9, looking this morning at verses 9-17, with 2018 almost behind us and 2019 in front of  us, it’s a good time to think about God’s Perfect Timing.   That’s the title of our message this morning, God’s Perfect Timing as we continue through verse by verse the Book of Revelation.

We’re in that section of the Bible, the futuristic section of the book where Jesus is in heaven, He has taken a seven-sealed scroll which He is qualified to open, and as He breaks these different seals on the scroll another judgment comes to the earth.  The first judgment that He brought in, early on in the Tribulation period was the man, the antichrist, the rider on the white horse, chapters 6:1-2, who seem to bring in world peace.  [Revelation 6:1-2, “Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” [3] I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”]

He will actually guarantee Israel’s security and once that cove with Israel is entered into, according to Daniel 9:27, the tribulation period at that point will begin.  [Daniel 9:27, “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”]

The church, as we have studied, can’t be here during this time because our presence on the earth is preventing that rider on the white horse from coming forward in the first place.   You’ll find that in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7.  [2 Thessalonians 2:6, “And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. [7] For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.”] God is currently restraining the coming of the antichrist through the presence of the church.  But one of these days the church will be translated into heaven through an event that we call the rapture (are you looking forward to that), and once that happens there will be nothing left to hold Satan’s hands at bay, he will, under God’s sovereignty, bring forth his antichrist.

But the peace that he brings will be short lived, it will quickly disintegrate into war; that’s seal judgment number two.  It’s very different than Jesus Christ, Isaiah 9:6-7, which you no doubt have seen many times, it’s on all our Christmas cards this time of the year. That when Jesus comes into the world at His second advent He will bring in a forever peace. [Isaiah 9:6-7, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  [7] There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousn­ess from then on and forevermore.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”]

But not so the artificial Christ of the first seal judgment, a temporary peace and that’s really the best the world system has to offer people.  If people will reject Christ, the truth, what they are stuck with, what they must settle with is an artificial substitute and the artificiality of the anti­christ’s peace becomes evident because world war breaks out with the second seal judgment.

And if that weren’t enough then you have seal judgment number three which we’ve already studied, worldwide famine, economic collapse.  And when we were looking at that a couple of weeks ago I tried to make the case that the teetering economies of the world with their artificial prosperity is virtually setting the stage for this worldwide economic collapse through widespread national debt.

Then seal judgment number four comes to the earth as the fourth seal is opened and horrifically a quarter of the world’s population is destroyed.  And when you look at numbers this large it’s hard to identify these with anything that’s happened in the past.  There  obviously have been terrible events concerning rapid destruction of life in past history but nothing on this magnitude.  And so we are taking these judgments as future, yet to come.

So that would leave seal judgment number five and seal judgment number six which we will study this morning.  So notice, if you will, Revelation chapter 6 and notice, if you will, verse 9.  “When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained;” you’ll notice again with all of these judgments it’s the Lamb breaking these seals and bringing these judgments to the earth.  We’ll see the wrath of the Lamb later described in this chapter.

You’ll notice it’s called “the fifth seal.”  So the understanding of the Book of Revelation is that we are to take these judgments in chronological order. That’s why they’re described first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc.  And when this seal is opened you have something that looks like a massive degree of martyrdom.  Certainly God’s people throughout history have always been persecuted; certainly around the world we see examples of Christianity persecution today.  In fact, The Voice of the Martyrs ministry documents all of these persecutions in our world today, arguing that there have been more people killed in the twentieth century alone, now moving into the twenty-first century, that have been killed for the cause of Christ in all of the last two thousand years of church history.  So we see martyrdoms but apparently this trend will accelerate when seal judgment five comes to the earth and you have those, it says there in verse 9, “slain.” I saw “the souls of those who had been slain.”

Now when you look up this word “slain” in the original language it means killed by violence.  That’s what’s happened.  These are people that haven’t died of natural causes and things of that nature, they have been slain through violence itself and as John sees a heavenly altar he sees the souls of those slain, believers, under the altar itself crying out to God.  And we ask ourselves, well what got these people into so much hot water that they went through a violent death for the cause of Christ?  And the answer is right there in verse 9, it says, “because of the Word of God, and because of the testimony.”  The Word of God is logos, the testimony is martyría, where we get the word martyr, and what got these people into trouble with the world system during the tribulation period that’s coming is they stood on two things, the Word of God and their testimony.

And may I just say to you that as you look at the new year coming those are the two things that’ll get you into trouble with people every single time.  Number one, standing on the Word of God, what God has revealed in this book, the Scripture, and number two, speaking up about Jesus Christ.  Speaking up about Jesus Christ doesn’t get you saved, faith alone saves.  But speaking up about Christ is a testimony to the world of what Jesus has already done in our hearts.  And we have a tendency to shy away from these two things because of the reaction that it brings.  In fact, I would contend this, as you went through the holiday season, New Year’s Eve tomorrow, New Year’s Day on Tuesday, probably maintaining a walk with the Lord in His Word and in your verbal testimony are probably the greatest two struggles in your life.  And I can say that from personal experience because those are the two greatest struggles in my life as well, staying in the Word and speaking up for Jesus Christ.  That’s what these two things did for this crowd of martyrs that got destroyed through a violent death with the opening of seal judgment number five.

Revelation 12:11 says, “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”  Apparently this crowd of martyrs, more important than physical life itself was God’s Word and their testimony concerning Jesus and the world system reacted against them.

2 Timothy 3:12 makes us a promise.  It says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  The more you live out your faith publicly the more you can expect an onslaught from the world system and that’s what this crowd of martyrs, who have just suffered a violent death, verse  9, are experiencing.

So John moves away from what he sees, verse 9, in the fifth seal judgment, and then he starts talking about things that he hears.  Look at verse 10, It says, “and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’”   John hears a request, a request from these martyrs for their blood to be avenged.  Now when you look at this in the original language this is not a whisper that’s happening; this is not a quiet form of prayer.  This is a loud scream by these martyrs.  This is an exclamation; it’s the same word that’s used to describe demons possessing people and screaming at Jesus Christ in His first coming earthly ministry.  That’s the same word.  And it doesn’t just say “voice” there, it says “a loud voice,” and the word “loud” literally is a…  you can recognize an English word from those two words, megaphone.  They are just yelling out to the Lord, how long, Lord until you avenge our blood, until you avenge us.

And  you’ll notice that in this exclamation and in this cry they appeal to God’s character.  They call God, verse 10, “holy and true.”  In other words, Lord, this is an injustice that has been perpetrated.  This is contrary to  Your ways, this is contrary to your Will, this is contrary to Your wishes, how long, they’re yelling out to God, megaphone, exclamation, screaming, how long are you going to allow this to transpire?  We have a tendency to think that God has somehow, when we don’t get immediate answers to our prayers, when injustices are perpetrated against us, we have  a tendency to think that God has somehow forgotten about those injustices.  But I can assure you based on the authority of God’s Word that He has not forgotten.  In fact, you might recall the words of Genesis 4:10, very early on in the Bible we have the first murder, Cain murdered his brother, Abel, as you know, and God says this in Genesis 4:10, the blood of your brother is cries out “to Me from the ground.”  [Genesis 4:10, ““What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.’”]

I mean this injustice has happened and his blood is personified as crying out to God to correct the problem, bring justice to this situation.  That’s what these martyrs who have just suffered this violent death, this is what they are calling for; they’re crying out to God.  And may I just say that that is the call of the ages, isn’t it?  Because all of us are living in a fallen world, all of us suffer injustices, all of us suffer unfair treatment and we’re always asking God to correct this problem.  And what we learn in these verses is we’re told to wait a little while, by way of application, because God’s timing is perfect.  God knows exactly what has happened; He has actually a plan of justice in motion whereby injustices will be rectified.  The problem with us is we want those injustices corrected now on our schedule and God says wait on Me because My timing is perfect.

I’m reminded of 1 Peter 5:6 and although we are not going to be in these judgments we can certainly make applications of them to our lives.  1 Peter 5:6 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you” when? “at the proper time.”  The perfect timing of God.  In other words it’s not yet time for this violence to be avenged but payday someday.

It’s also very interesting for me to observe here in verse 9 and specifically verse 10 that these martyrs who have suffered this violent death under the altar portrayed as departed and in the presence of the Lord are, number one, fully conscious, and number two, fully conversing.  In other words, the other world, the world that these folks move into after death is just as physical, it’s just as real, it’s just as personal as the world that we’re living in now.  I think we kind of look at the afterlife as some kind of mystical experience that we’re not sure about.  But biblically speaking this is a full conversation that’s happening.  You’ll notice that they have a remembrance, it’s very clear what happened to them, and they’re yelling out to God, megaphone form—when are You going to fix this problem?

2 Corinthians 5:8 says this concerning the presence of God,  “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”  That’s what death brings; death is not an ending, it’s a beginning.  It’s a transfer, if you will, from the physical realm of this world into a very real existence in the next realm.  In fact, Paul Himself couldn’t wait to get there.  Philippians 1:21-23, Paul says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. [22] But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. [23] But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;”  Conscience and conversing.

You’ll notice that the verses continue, look at verse 11, John continues to record what he saw and he heard.  Verse 11, there was as the answer of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is coming forth, “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.”[Revelation 6:11]

They’re given a white robe; now it’s sort of hard to put a robe on, isn’t it, if you don’t have a body?  And I think that’s very interesting because I’ve always thought of this in terms of folks will not, in this case, receive their resurrected body until Revelation 20:4-5, the beginning of the millennial kingdom.  [Revelation 20:4-5, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. [5] The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.”]

That’s when they will receive their resurrected bodies.   I actually think there is a case to be made in Scripture that people have some sort of intermediate body awaiting their resurrected body.  I think that’s true with people in heaven and I also think it’s true with people in hell.  You recall Luke 16:24, the rich man who died and went into Hades?  “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger” isn’t that a body part, a finger? “… in water and cool off my tongue,” isn’t the tongue a body part? “… for I am in agony in this flame.’”

Now this is not something to be dogmatic about; this is not something necessarily to start a new church over because a lot of people would disagree with me on this and say well, you just sort of go into heaven in sort of a soulish experience awaiting your resurrected body.   But to me this looks like they already have a body before their resurrected body and perhaps it’s a vailed hint of some kind of intermediate body that people in heaven receive, and in hell also receive awaiting the final resurrection.  There’s a lot of things that can be learned here simply by letting the details of the Bible speak for itself.

But it’s also interesting that God gave them a white robe, and by way of application I can’t think of any more important gift than that because to me that white robe speaks of the transferred righteousness of Jesus Christ.  In fact the white robe I would argue is probably the most important Christmas present you could ever receive because the reality of the situation is in the final day I don’t really plan on standing before the Lord through my own self-righteousness.  Gee, Lord, look at what I’ve done for You kind of thing, which really isn’t going to get me very far in the end.  I plan on standing before the Lord in the righteousness that He gives me at the point of faith alone in Christ alone.

Philippians 3:9 says, “and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”  The Protestant Reformers called this alien righteousness.  Why do they call it alien righteousness?  Righteousness from another world, righteousness that’s not our own, that is transferred, a fancy name is imputed to us at the point of faith.  Maybe this white robe here represents the transferred righteousness that these martyrs have already received.  I don’t know if I could answer all the particularities of this but I know this, that’s not the Christmas present I want— in fact, that’s a Christmas present I desperately need.  If I don’t have that white robe what am I left with?  I’m left with my own self-righteousness.  Self-righteousness will not stand, God demands perfect righteousness and thus I must receive it—transferred alien right­eous­­ness at the point of faith.

And so we are given this robe that it perhaps gives us some kind of an intermediate body prior to this, I’m not completely sure on it, but they’re given a message from Jesus Christ that they are to wait a little while. Verse 11, “There was given to each of them a white robe and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer” for their vengeance from God in other words, “until” what? “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 God’s justice is not denied; in this case it’s being delayed.  God is going to avenge these martyrs; He’s going to avenge every injustice that’s ever been perpetrated in human history and what we are called to do is to wait on the perfect timing of God.  In this case there are more martyrs to come in the tribulation period and once that number has been made full, once that number has been made complete, it’s the Greek word, plērōthō, being made full, being complete, then God will deal with injustices that come our direction.

If you’re into New  Year’s resolutions for the year 2019, how about this for a New Year’s resolution—learn to wait on the Lord.  Learn the discipline under His power of simply waiting on Him to fix problems in your life rather than you going out and trying to fix everything on your own, in which case you’ll probably make it worse, just learn the discipline of taking issues that come into our lives and saying even though this is bigger than me I’m just going to hand this over to the Lord, He knows how to fix this, and watch your level of joy increase in the year 2019 rather than always trying to fix in our own flesh problems and injustices.

And so the fifth seal judgment has been opened and these martyrs are portrayed as crying out to God for justice in the presence of the Lord.

And now we move into verses 12-17 where the sixth judgment takes place; the sixth seal is opened and what we see are cosmic disturbances taking place.  Notice, if you will, verse 12 “I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood;” so you’ll notice that John is looking in this vision that he sees on Patmos back in the first century, John having been brought into heave to see these things and again it’s very clear it’s the Lamb, Jesus Christ, bringing this judgment to the earth as He breaks the seal.  You’ll notice John gives us a number here, “the sixth seal” indicating that these things are meant to be understood chronologically.  And what takes place here is very interesting to me, not just an earthquake but “a great earthquake.”

Now having been raised in southern California I know a little something about earthquakes, having gone through in my life multiple minor tremors or earthquakes.  And nothing brings  you to an awareness of the fact that you have no control over your life that you think you have when the earth itself starts to shift under your feet.  I mean, it is a feeling of absolute helplessness when that happens.  You realize very fast there are things that happen in this life that we have no control over.  And we are very deceived today because we think we have a lot of control over things.

And so what does God do?  He sends an earthquake into your life.  Maybe it’s a physical earthquake, maybe it’s a relational earthquake, maybe it’s an emotional earthquake, maybe it’s a psychological earthquake but the fact of the matter is we look at those things as the enemy but the reality of the situation is that earthquake may become your best friend because it’s emptying us of the deception that we are under that we are really in control when in reality we’re not in control at all.  I mean, has an earthquake of some sort hit your life in some sense; that maybe a friend!  That may be a change of perspective for all of us as we move into the year 2019.

It talks here about an earthquake but let me tell you something, it’s not the only earthquake that’s coming in the Book of Revelation. There’s earthquakes and then there’s like REAL earthquakes; I mean, this is a REAL earthquake but it’s sort of minor compared to the earthquake that is described in the Book of Revelation, chapter 16 and verse 18, and it says there, “and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty.”  So don’t think that this is  the last earthquake that we encounter here in the Book of Revelation, more apparently is coming.

And as these cosmic disturbances are being described John says “the sun,” in this case the s-u-n sun became black as sackcloth and the moon became blood red.  Now you’ll notice the simile here; a simile is where you equate two things metaphorically through the word “like” or “as.”  The Greek word for as is hōs, the Greek word for like is mios, and those are used repeatedly in the Book of Revelation because John, I believe, is struggling to describe what he’s seeing.  I mean, he doesn’t have all of the, assuming these things happened in the 21st century, he doesn’t have all of the sophisticated vocabulary so he starts to analogize this to things from his own time period.  It was “like” this, it was “as” that.

It would be like taking Benjamin Franklin, one of our Founding Fathers, bringing him back from the dead and setting him in Hobby International Airport.  I mean, he sees someone talking on a cell phone, how would he explain that?  He’s got no vocabulary for cell phone so he says it’s “like” such and such, trying to describe it in sort of a struggle from his own time period.  He sees an airplane land or take off; he sees an airplane being refueled, he sees luggage being loaded on an airplane, he sees someone on the internet, he hears someone speaking over the loud speaker.  How would you describe that as Benjamin Franklin with a 17th-18th century vocabulary?  You couldn’t.  So you’d be forced to use similes, it’s “like” this, it’s “like” that.  And this is the struggle that John is in because He is told by way of commands the vision is coming, now write it down.   And so he uses over and over again these similes.

In fact, in the Book of Revelation, chapter 8 and verse 8 you’ll see John using that kind of simile.  You’ll notice what he says there.  He says, “The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood.”  People say what is that, is that a nuclear bomb with radioactivity contaminating the waters.  I’m not sure if that’s what it is but let’s pretend it is.  How could John say that?  Well he couldn’t, so he says it’s “like,” it’s like a mountain on fire that hit the ocean and the ocean, a third of it turned blood red.

We continue on with these cosmic disturbances, verse 13 and he says, “and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as” notice the simile again, “a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.”  Verse 14, “The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their place.”  Now when it says “every mountain and island were moved” you shouldn’t interpret that as the mountains at that point are completely destroyed because they’re not.  When you go down to the second part of verse 15 you’re going to find people hiding in the mountains.  So the mountains are not eradicated as some teach, they’re just somehow displaced, just somehow moved showing the sovereignty of God, that God is bigger than the greatest things on planet earth, the mountains themselves.

And if God is greater than mountains themselves why is it so difficult to trust Him with the mountain in your life that you can’t move, economically, financially, relationally, emotionally, whatever it is there’s something in your life that’s bigger than you and just because it’s bigger than you doesn’t mean it’s bigger than God.   God is sovereign over those mountains as we see here in the Book of Revelation.

It’s interesting to me, he says the sky rolled up like a scroll.  Now when you back up to Revelation 5 and verse 1 isn’t it this seven sealed scroll that Jesus is opening, that Jesus is qualified to open, that’s bringing these judgments to the earth?  So the judgment emanating from the scroll are kind of creating in John’s simile here the sky itself rolled up like a scroll.  It’s sort of a reminder of where these judgments are coming from; they’re not happening spontaneously, they’re not happening coincidentally, they’re not happing accidentally, they’re happening through the sovereign outworking of God’s purposes.  And it’s the same with trials in your life, the trials that you’re facing sort of come at us by surprise but as you begin to walk with the Lord and trust Him through those circumstances what you’ll quickly see is those things are orchestrated by God.  Those are faith building exercises that God introduces into our lives.

We drop down to verse 15 and look what it says, “Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains.”  Isn’t it interesting how calamities of this nature are the great equalizers, because it mentions here all of these people that apparently in the world system hold power but what good is that power and those resources in the day of judgment.  Who is affected?  Number one, kings.  Number two, great men.  Number three, commanders.  Number four, the rich.  Number five, the strong.  Now I’m so glad this one is put in here, even the slave is affected as well as the free man.

The delusion of having the world resources is you think that somehow  you’re higher or better than somebody else who doesn’t possess the same resources.  But isn’t it interesting how judgment affects all of us, rich and poor, slave and free; it’s the great equalizer.  It’s sort of like in the movie Titanic when the rich were discovering the Titanic was leaking they thought they could sort of buy their way out of their problem.   But the Titanic affected upper class, it affected lower class, it affected everyone equally and that’s what the judgment does.  It reminds us that all of us in the hands of a sovereign God are equal and equally in need of His grace.

You’ll notice verse 16, it says, “and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;’ [17] for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  Who do they want to be hidden from exactly?  Well, they want to be hidden from the One who’s on the throne and who is the One on the throne?  It’s God the Father and God the Son.  That’s why it says in verse 17, “the great day of their wrath has come.”  Why does it say “their wrath”?  Because in Revelation 4 and 5 we learn that it’s God the Father, Revelation 4, and God the Son, Revelation 5, on the throne of God.

Revelation 3:21 you might recall, says “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”   Once you get to verse 15 they are afraid; verse 16, of this one that sits on the throne, the triune Godhead.   And backing up to verse 15 what are they trying to do?  They’re trying to hide from Him.  You see that in verse 15, you see that in verse 16.  And what you’ll discover as you move through the Book of Revelation is that the human heart is perpetually gaining greater and greater hardness against God.  The first thing you see early on in these judgments is people are wanting to hide from  God.  But what you’ll discover as you go through the Book of Revelation is the hardness of the heart continues to grow where in Revelation 9:20 they would not repent, they’re becoming recalcitrant against God.  [Revelation 9:20, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands….”]

First they’re hiding from Him, then they wouldn’t repent according to His Word, and it gets so bad that you get to Revelation 19:19 and John says, “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.”  Now they’re not just stubbornly rebelling against God, refusing to repent, they are going out and fighting against God Himself.

So first they hide from God, Revelation 6; Revelation 9 then they’re simply stubborn against God, and then Revelation 19 they do something which to me is absolute insanity, they go out and try to fight Jesus coming back to the earth at the end of the seven year tribulation period. What an interesting role model of the human heart and what it’s capable of.  I would say this: the longer a person stays away from Christ and refuses to respond to His free offer of salvation the more difficult it is for them to respond to that free offer of salvation the next time it’s offered to them.  And then if they shut God out again it becomes more difficult the third time around, and it becomes more and more difficult the fourth time around.   You see, the same Son which melts is the same Son that hardens.  The same Son, S-o-n, Jesus Christ, that can melt the human heart is the same Jesus Christ doing the exact same teaching that hardens the human heart.

Hebrews 4:7 says, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.”  [Hebrews 4:7, “He again fixes a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, ‘TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.”’]  Why does the Bible place so much emphasis on “TODAY”?   Why does it say “Today is the day of salvation”?  [2 Corinthians 6:2, “or He says, ‘AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU, AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.’ Behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,’ behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION.”]

Because God knows something about the human heart.  If the grace of God is not received early on then it becomes more and more difficult to receive that grace as the difficulties of life unfold.  And you see, this is something we need to be teaching our youth because what’s going through their mind is the same thing that was going through your mind when you were their age, oh, I’m just going to out and sow some wild oats, I’m just going to go out and live my life and then when I get ready I’ll trust Jesus Christ as my Savior.  It doesn’t work that way.  The next time the gospel is offered to you so much of life will have unfolded living outside of His grace, so many consequences most likely will have come into your life, a root of bitterness can easily develop against God.  And so after all of that life unfolds the offer of salvation is given and it’s just postponed because it’s more difficult to penetrate the human heart.

That’s why here at Sugar Land Bible Church we place an emphasis on children ministries.  We’re trying to get these kids young before they go off somewhere else and the difficulties and the adversities of life come upon them in such a sweeping fashion that they will never trust Christ as Savior.  Why not get to them early, before the college professors get to them?  Before the temptations into immorality and other things get to them?  Before the temptation for drug abuse comes their way?   Why not get them the gospel?

One of the things I’m so thankful for in my life is I was raised in a Christian environment, protected from a lot of things that I see other people experiencing that I was protected from simply because I was raised in a Christian based environment.  I’m so thankful for the fact that I trusted in Christ as a teenager, before life really began to unfold with its difficulties and its adversities and its problems and its setbacks, before I could start blaming God for problems that I myself created.  I’m so thankful for the fact that I had Christ early.

And some of you need to trust Christ now, because the reality of the situation is this idea that I’m going to postpone it.  That’s a delusion! First of all,  you may not even be alive tomorrow if you think about it, given the reality of death in our world.  Secondly,  you have no idea what’s happening to your heart as this process of unbelief is continuing.  And there are some things in my life as a Christian and your life as a Christian that you know that the Holy Spirit through the process of progressive sanctification wants to root out.  Oh, you know, I’ll just let it slide because after all, 2019 will come and go and there’s always 2020.  I’ll take care of that in 2020 under God’s power, 2019 is my time.  What a deception!  I mean,  you’re assuming that by the time 2020 even rolls around you’re even going to have a desire to change.  Today is the day of salvation. [2 Corinthians 6:2, “…Behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,’ behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION—”]“Today if  you hear His voice do not harden  your hearts.”   [Hebrews 3:15, “while it is said, ‘TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.”’]

And so we see this progressive hardening of people as the judgments unfold.  Now there’s an upside to this; there are many people that are saved as we’ll see in Revelation 7.  That’s going to happen.  In fact, I believe the greatest harvest in world history [can’t understand word] is just around the corner in the future tribulation period.  I’m sort of the belief of Tim LaHaye and John Walvoord and many others there will probably be more people saved during the tribulation itself than all of church history combined.  I’ll try to show you where some of those prophecies are next week in Revelation 7.  But the same Son that melts is the same Son that hardens.  And there’s also, as you travel through the Book of Revelation, an increasing hardness in people wanting nothing to do with God.  And the condition gets worse and it gets worse and it gets worse to the point where they’re not interested in hiding from God any more, I’m going to go out and fight His return, Revelation 19.

Which group are you in?  Are you in that group that’s hardening their hearts against God by way of application?  Or are you in that group that’s softening its heart towards Jesus Christ?  Hide us from the one who sits on the throne?  [Revelation 6:16, “and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;”’]

Look at what it says here in verse 16, “For the great day of their wrath has come” I’m looking there at the end of versed 16, “and from the wrath of the Lamb.”  Why in the world would it be called “the wrath of the Lamb”?  I mean, when you think of a lamb do you think of wrath?  I don’t, I think of a docile creature.  So to me the word “wrath” and the word “lamb” is a self-contradictory concept.  We might call this today an oxymoron, a self-contradictory statement.  It’s like saying black white top, jumbo shrimp, postal service, government efficiency, government intelligence, Microsoft works, and my personal favorite, reasonable attorney’s fees.  I mean, two ideas that contradict each other, “the wrath of the Lamb.”  Why is Jesus portrayed as a lamb and also one of wrath?  The very simple answer to that is because He’s not just the Lamb, He’s the what?  He’s the lion, Revelation 5:5, “the lion that is of the tribe of Judah.”  [Revelation 5:5, “and one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.’”]

The same Jesus Christ as the Savior is the same Jesus Christ in heaven opening these seals, bringing these horrific judgments to the earth.  Hide us from the one “who sits on the throne” the triune Godhead, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, “the great day,” verse 16, “of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” verse 17.  [Revelation 6:16, “…and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;”]

Matthew 24:12 says, “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.”  Before lawlessness really overtakes your life and your love for the things of God grow cold, what does the Bible say?  It says “Today is the day of salvation.”  [2 Corinthians 6:2]

Notice if you will verse 17, “for the great day of their wrath” why “their”? Because it’s plural, God the Father, God the Son, on the throne, bringing this wrath to the earth, Jesus specifically bringing it because of the seven seal scroll and Him opening it, “for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’”  Now unfortunately there’s a lot a lot of theology there in verses 16 and 17 because what people are arguing today, and I cannot believe that this movement is offending, but because the word “wrath” isn’t used (the Greek word orgēs) until verses 16 and 17 everything that’s happened up to this point is not the wrath of God.  So if I don’t see the word wrath the wrath of God hasn’t started yet is the logic.  And they will argue that yes, correctly (at least on this point) that the church is exempted from the wrath of God.  1 Thessalonians 1:10 says, “who rescues us from the wrath to come.”  [“…and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.”]

1 Thessalonians 5:9 says, “For God has not destined us for wrath, [but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,]” and that’s true, but you see the wrath of God doesn’t start until seal judgment number six and so the church will be here for these first five judgments; that’s called the pre-wrath rapture theory.  If that’s what you believe then number one, you can’t believe Jesus is coming back today, can you?  The doctrine of imminency, the any moment appearance of Christ, because the church will have to experience these first five judgments before they have the hope of being raptured.

By the way, is there any comfort in that?  And why did Jesus, when He introduced this concept of the rapture, John 14:1 says, “Do not let your heart be troubled….” Suddenly my heart is troubled.  Why did Paul say “Comfort one another with these words”?  What comfort is there in that if I’m going to be here to experience these first five judgments… prewrath rapture of the church?   Originally postulated by a guy named Van Campen, in his book The Sign, and then it became somewhat popular through the ministry of Marvin Rosenthal and now others are promoting this idea and when you actually look at what they’re saying they’re very aggressive about this.  The fact of the matter is it changes your whole mental outlook.

Instead of waiting for the any moment appearance of Jesus Christ what are you doing?  You’re arming yourself, your stock-piling, and by the way, let me say it’s not a bad idea to be a prepper, it’s not a bad idea to know how to use a weapon, it’s not a bad idea to have savings and supplies and other things in your home.  I have some of those things myself but it has nothing to do with the fact that I think I’m going into the first five seal judgments.  I’m not planning on seeing the antichrist; I’m planning on seeing Jesus Christ.  In other words, being a prepper is just of smart living in a fallen world where things can go wrong, but being a prepper has absolutely nothing to do with my eschatological position.

And you wonder why there’s so many sad-faced saints out there today, so many [can’t understand word].  I mean, I would be a sad-faced saint too if I thought that my divine destiny was to move into these first five seal judgments and then maybe I’d have the hope of being raptured.

So how do we answer this idea? Well, the word “wrath” isn’t used yet, so the wrath of God doesn’t start until seal number six and so we’re here for the first five seal judgments, pre-wrath rapture of the church as they call it.  Well, one answer to that is the word “come.”   You recall that I told us as we studied this material to focus on the word “come.”  “For the great day of their wrath has” what? “come,” verse 17, the Greek word erchomai.  Where does the word “come” start?  It starts in verse 1, “Then when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, I heard one of the four living creatures with a loud voice of thunder saying” what? “Come.”  Verse 3, “When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying,” what?  “Come.”  Verse 5, “When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying,” what? “Come.”  Verse 7, “When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying,” what? “Come.”

So when it says, “For the great day of their wrath has come” verse 17, same verb, erchomai, the expectation is that you would back up in the chapter and apply the wrath of God to the whole chapter.  That’s one of the answers you can give to these people that are trying to argue that this is not the wrath of God.

Beyond that would you say that the flood that hit this world, the global deluge, was the wrath of God?  I think it was, and yet as you study the flood story in Genesis 6 and Genesis 7 and Genesis 8 do you find a single reference to the word “wrath” or “wrath of God”?  You do not!  My point is simply this: the word itself doesn’t define the wrath of God; the concept is there whether the word is there or not.  Why is it called “the wrath of the Lamb”?  Because Jesus, Revelation 5:7, has taken the seven sealed scroll and He, Jesus, beginning in Revelation 6:1 is opening the different seals on this scroll which are bringing forth God’s judgment to the earth.  That’s why it keeps saying the Lamb opened, the Lamb opened, the Lamb opened.

This is very clearly the wrath of Jesus Christ, whether I have the word wrath here to satisfy me on that or not.  The word “wrath” itself is immaterial; it’s irrelevant.  It’s just a descriptive phrase.  The concept is there; the whole seven year tribulation period is the wrath of God.  And that’s why you, as a blood-bought saint, as a member of Christ’s church won’t see one millimeter of it because if the whole thing is the wrath of God how could I be here for that when my Bible and your Bible, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Romans 5:9, a plethora of Scriptures I could give you explain that you are not a candidate for God’s wrath.

And since you’re not a candidate for God’s wrath and since you’re going to be exempted from this time period life today can get rough but not as rough as it’s going to be; you’re exempted from it.  Praise the Lord for that.  You ought to shout for joy.   You shouldn’t go through life so down and depressed and beaten back.  You ought to have a walk of optimism in the year 2019.  Well gee, pastor, would you please preach on something practical, give us something relevant.  Isn’t the joy in your life relevant?  And how are you supposed to have joy in your life if you think that you’re moving into the wrath of God.  I think theology, particular this area here is highly relevant.  So what is happening here in Revelation 6:16-17?

Revelation 6:16-17, “and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; [17] for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  What is happening here?  The pagans, the unbelievers, who don’t know anything about the Bible, or theology, or the judgments of God, they’ve finally figured out what’s happening and that’s why the word “wrath” shows up.  This is coming from the unbelievers, the earth dwellers on the earth at the time.  You don’t figure out when the wrath starts based on what unbelievers, how it finally dawns on them.  You figure out when the wrath starts simply by looking at who’s opening the seals, Jesus Christ, and tracking that word “Come” which goes all the way back to the beginning of that chapter.

And yet this last one on the list at the very bottom, prewrath rapture of the church, what is it saying?  The church will be here for three-quarters of this time period in their scheme.  The whole thing is wrong that they’re teaching; the whole thing is false.  And I have noticed  this, the people that promote these kinds of doctrines, midtrib, posttrib, prewrath, have you ever noticed that they always have something to sell?  I mean people say well, I love Infowars and Alex Jones… I don’t!  You know why I don’t love Inforwars and Alex Jones?  Because Alex Jones, almost every opportunity he gets bashes the pre-trib rapture of the church.  Why does he do that?  Because them man sells what?  Survival gear! You’re not going to sell out your stock of survival gear teaching what we teach here at Sugar Land Bible Church, when it comes directly from your Bible the church is removed from the earth before the wrath of God comes.  The wrath is something now dawning on the pagans as they’re contemplating what happens.

Robert Thomas, in his excellent commentary on the Book of Revelation, says this concerning this sixth seal judgment: “Mankind in his rebellion correctly analyzes the cosmic and terrestrial disturbances as a part of the great end-time day of wrath from the one sitting on the throne and from the Lamb. The verb ēlethen (‘has come’)” [right there in verse 17, “the great day of their wrath has come,”] “ēlethen is aorist indicative, referring to a previous arrival of wrath, not something that is about to take place. Men see the arrival of this day at least as early as the cosmic upheavals that characterize the sixth seal (6:12-14),” which is what we’re studying here, “but upon reflection they” who’s “they”? the pagans, “probably recognize that it was already in effect with the death of one-fourth of the population (6:7-8), the worldwide famine (6:5-6), and the global warfare (6:3-4).” In the prior seals.  “The rapid sequence of all of these events could not escape notice, but the light of their true explanation does not dawn upon human consciousness until the severe phenomena of the sixth seal arrive.”

This is the pagan trying to figure out what’s happening and it finally hits them; this is the wrath of God!  And when they say “the great day of their wrath has come” it’s an aorist indicative referring to a previous arrival of wrath. We figured it out, this is the wrath of God and guess what?  It’s been happening through the whole chapter.

That’s how you understand Revelation 6, you don’t have to get into this idea that part of the tribulation of God’s wrath because the word is there and in another part it isn’t.  Those are all false schemes that are floating out there that should be rejected by careful Bible students and careful readers.  Are you telling me that Jesus in heaven opening various seals on a scroll, bringing the antichrist, world war, famine, a death of a quarter of the world’s population, and unprecedented martyrdom is not the wrath of God?  And yet that’s their position.  They’ll look at  you square in the eye and say that’s not the wrath of God.  Well what is it then? Oh, it’s the wrath of Satan. Oh, it’s the wrath of the antichrist.  Excuse me… Jesus is causing these things in heaven by opening the scroll.  That’s why it says as clear is it can be seen “the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand.”

Which brings up another question with which we’ll close.  Who can stand during this time period?  I mean, if it’s as bad as we’re making it sound, as the Bible portrays it, who can stand? Well, you start getting an answer to that in Revelation 7.  The question in Revelation 6 leads to the answer in Revelation 7 because God has His people in place.  Who would those be? Those would be the 144,000 Jewish evangelists coming from the twelve tribes of Israel, which to me is exciting when  you contemplate the fact that over two thousand  years of worldwide dispersion God has sustained ethnically, nationally, the nation of Israel and look at this… there they are in their land in unbelief, waiting for a conversion.

See, every time God bring something dark there’s always a bright spot.  The Judges era was a dark time period, wasn’t it?  Three hundred years of a very difficult time period.  But do you know there’s a bright spot in it?  Read the story of Ruth, which continues the Messianic lineage leading to David, ultimately to Jesus Christ during the very difficult time of the Judges.  The pre-flood world was very difficult but there was a bright spot, wasn’t there?  There was Noah and his family that walked by faith.  How about the days of Elijah, that was a pretty dark time, wasn’t it?  And yet what does 1 Kings 19:18 say?  I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.  [1 Kings 19:18, “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”]

And guess what folks,  I won’t  lie to you, the world we’re living in right now pre-tribulation, pre-rapture, is a dark place, isn’t it?   But you know there’s a bright spot in it?  It’s you!  It’s His church.  It’s His people.  What does Paul say?  Romans 11:5-6, “In the same way then, there has also come   to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. [6] But if it is by grace, it      is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”  Every era of history, tribulation, flood, present day, judges, you name it, God is always at work with people.  And God, just by virtue of the fact that you’re here today and listening to this is at work in your life, in the midst of some of the darkness that we see all around us.

Did you notice what Paul said there in Romans 11?  “By grace.”  How do you get on the right team exactly?  By grace!  Well what is grace?  It’s favor coming your direction that you don’t deserve, that’s grace, unmerited favor.  How is it accessed?  It’s accessed through the gospel; the gospel is what?  The death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ which bridged the gap between sinful humanity and a holy God that only He could do.  And His final words on the cross were “It is finished.”

So how do you receive this unmerited grace and unmerited favor?  You receive it just like you received, just this last week, a gift, a present.   What if I were to tell my daughter when she turns sixteen, I’ve got a bright red Ferrari waiting for you in the driveway.  Now you all know I’m hypothetically speaking!   The keys are there, the tank is filled with gas, have a great time.  Oh by the way, you can start making payments on that beginning next month!  What did I just do?  I took a gift and turned into something that she must earn.  See that?  And this is the problem with how the gospel is presented.  Yeah, Jesus did it all but you’d better pray, pay and obey.  That’s not the gospel!  The gospel is it is completed, “It is finished.”  [John 19:30, “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”]

Revelation 22:17 says anyone can come and drink from “the water of life without cost.”  [Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”]  That’s why this remnant of the last days, Paul says, is by grace.  If you won’t receive the grace of God it’s like taking a Christmas present and saying I’m too prideful to receive that present.  I don’t want that present.  If you want to make that decision that’s your prerogative.  God is not going to override your free will but He’ll offer it to you.  And as we talked this morning that offer, which is out there for you right now, may not be as appetizing for you six months down the road… same offer but a lack of receptivity.  So why not just receive this present now?  Why not let today be the day of salvation?

Why not do what the Bible says, to trust in Christ, which means to believe; you come under the conviction of the Spirit and  you place your hope for your eternal destiny, not in your performance but in Jesus Christ alone, and you receive that gift and now you’ve come onto the wining team.  If the gospel is something you want to receive you can receive it right now, without doing anything.  It’s something that the transaction that takes place in the quietness of your own mind, the quietness of your own heart, as the Holy Spirit places  you under conviction the best you know how you trust in that message, the gospel.  It’s not something you have to raise a hand to do, walk an aisle to do, join a church to do, give money to do, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord, when you respond to His offer.  It’s something you can do right now even as I’m talking.  If it’s something that you need more explanation I’m available after the service to talk.  Shall we pray.

Father, we’re grateful for the Book of Revelation and what it reveals to us.  I ask, Lord, that You’ll guide us next week in our study as we look at the bright spot in the midst of the darkness, Revelation 7, the hundred and forty-four thousand Jewish evangelists.  Help us to walk these things out this week by way of hope.  Thank You for the hope that You’ve given us in Christ Jesus.  We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen!