Saturday, June 25, 2011

Revelation Chapter Six, Part 4 of 6

6:7-8 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
The fourth and final rider comes, and he is given power (the Greek word means authority) over a fourth of the earth. With this authority he kills by war or crime (the red rider), famine (the black rider), death (pestilence and disease), and with the beasts of the earth. The fear of man that animals were stricken with after the Flood has apparently been removed, Genesis 9:2. Whereas God once gave all animals into man’s hand for food; now God reverses this fear that He placed in the animals and they come and kill men.

Here again we see the very real difference taught in Scripture about death and Hell. The rider on the horse is named Death, and it is given to him to use these four plagues previously mentioned to kill a quarter of mankind. This is physical death. Yet Hell, or Hades, follows after him collecting the souls of the dead to await their final judgment. Death is not the final judgment of God; physical death or annihilation of the soul is not the end of all who reject Jesus Christ. God made man in His own image, and that image includes an immortal soul. That soul, our personality and true self, must reside somewhere once the temporary residence of the flesh has been abandoned. Heaven or Hell happens to be our only choices; and said destination involves a conscious choice regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. While believer and unbeliever alike may share the fate of the grave and physical death, like the beggar and the rich man, one goes on to eternal comfort, the other to everlasting torment.

Here we see God micro-managing, if you pardon the term. There is no debate about God’s sovereignty. He is perfect in knowledge and power. We learn that during the ride of this fourth horseman a fourth of the earth’s present population will perish; this may be a number that is the culmination of the previous riders as well. We shall see this repetition of an exact percent of the population perishing with various waves of judgment. This reveals to me that God is in absolute control; He always has been, and He always will be. The Antichrist may assume center stage presently, and Satan’s day may have come, so to speak; but they derive their power and authority from God. Satan is God’s Devil, and the seven years of Tribulation are not to permit Satan to triumph and exalt himself. This day is “the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth,” Revelation 3:10.

6:9-11 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
The cry of Abel, whose blood called to God from the earth and cried for vengeance, is now echoed by the new Tribulation saints, Genesis 4:10; Hebrews 12:24. This, in my own opinion, is a definite Old Testament theme. In the New Testament you find the saints blessing and praying for those harming and killing them, such as in Stephen’s case, Acts 7:60. In the Old Testament it was a common prayer for the persecuted believer to pray to God for their destruction and to be avenged on their enemies.

There was a distinct difference between the saints in the Old Testament and the New: since Pentecost we have had the Holy Spirit indwelling and sealing God’s purchased possession (us). Greater privilege brings greater responsibility, and in the NT we find God revealing that He does not wish us to pray against our enemies but rather for them. He commands that we love our enemies, and bless instead of curse. He gives us His Holy Spirit to enable us to fulfill this lofty ethical and moral command. Anyone who believes we are to hate God’s enemies with perfect hatred (in reference to men) does not understand that God does not hate men. Our genuine enemy is the great deceiver and his followers. God loves men and desires their salvation, 1st Timothy 2:4-6; 4:10; 2nd Peter 3:9.

The OT revolved around God’s earthly people in an earthly kingdom that fought men of flesh and blood. The salvation they often (but not always) referred to was temporal. In the NT the stakes are higher; Christians comprise a heavenly kingdom (Luke 17:20-21) whose battle is not with men but with angelic powers of wickedness in heavenly places, Ephesians 6:12. Whereas OT saints had the Holy Spirit come upon them to empower/enable them to complete God’s will, Christians have the Holy Spirit perpetually abiding in us as a gift of God’s grace, and an earnest (down payment) that what He began He will complete: namely our total salvation and glorification. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance, Romans 11:29. Consequently, God called Israel as well, Hosea 11:1. Anyone who believes Israel is cast off has a very flawed view of God’s promises and character.

The white robes of imputed righteousness were given to these martyred saints under the altar, and they were bidden to be patient until their exact number had been killed in like manner. Again we see God’s perfect knowledge. He knows exactly how many more saints will people the altar before the Tribulation is finished, and to each of them the same thing will likely be said. But why does God permit this slaughter of His children? Is it not written that precious in the sight of God are the death of His saints, Psalm 116:15? Our Lord does not deal arbitrarily with men. You ask Him to stop injustice here and there, but if He rose to judgment all at once He would have to act against all sin, and therefore against all sinners. God’s patience is our salvation, 2nd Peter 3:15. Should God suddenly arise and judge the world as He certainly will, none would survive, Psalm 130:3; 143:2. Peter makes it quite clear that when scoffers erect this argument they really have no idea what they’re asking for, 2nd Peter 3:4. They want God to be just, but only according to THEIR interpretation of justice.

As we note in this passage, the souls beneath the altar before the Lord are quite conscious. Some Christian sects advocate “soul sleep” or annihilation of the spirit at death. The Jehovah’s Witnesses also teach this. Yet Jesus told the historical story of the rich man and Lazarus in Hell and Paradise respectively, who were very much aware and cognitive as to what was happening to them. Likewise here; the saints are certainly dead, but their souls, the real person that housed and animated the body, is capable of thought, emotion, and articulation. The soul survives death and will immediately find itself in its new place of residence, as was the case of Judas Iscariot when he killed himself, Acts 1:25. Suicide does not permit anyone to escape the just and impartial judgment of their God and Creator.

1 comment:

  1. It has always fascinated me that Satan would think he can take over God's position when he has to get God's permission to even attack God's people, as we see in Job 1&2.

    Great point that Physical death is just the precursor of the second death.

    ReplyDelete

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