Revelation – The Wrath of the Lamb – 13

Revelation 6:1-17 1 Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

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Do you know what an oxymoron is? It sounds like an insult. “You oxymoron!” What it is is when two seemingly contradictory words appear together. Here are some awfully good examples of oxymorons (…see what I did there?)

 Old News / Bittersweet / Jumbo Shrimp / Deafening Silence / Found Missing / Good Grief / Original Copy / Pretty Ugly / Terribly Good / Climb Down / Crash Landing

We see in our passage for tonight one of the most profound and powerful oxymorons that exists: the wrath of the Lamb. It seems like it shouldn’t make sense. In the previous chapter we see the Lamb standing as though it had been slain. The Lamb took on himself the wrath of God. So, it seems like it shouldn’t make sense that the Lamb would have wrath. But that’s what awaits those who don’t follow the Lamb who was slain…wrath. The Lamb took the wrath of the Father and all who don’t trust his sacrifice and follow him will receive the wrath that we all deserve.

As we saw in chapter 5, history is going somewhere…somewhere purposeful, and Jesus holds it in his hands. That’s what this scroll is. And he alone is worthy to break its seals and open it. And what we see in this chapter is the opening of the seals…we see a progression of history, where it has been and where it is going…and we see the wrath of the Lamb poured out on a humanity that does not follow him.

Since Jesus controls history, it makes sense that he would have an inside scoop not just in heaven, but when he was on earth. “The sequence of events that John describes once Jesus takes the scroll and begins to open its seals closely parallels the sequence of events Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24.”[1] It’s worth reading in its entirety right now.

Read Matthew 24

Who’s ever heard of the four horsemen of the apocalypse? Well, this is where it comes from, as the seals of the scroll are opened. And notice that it is God who is doing these things in each seal that is opened. His wrath is purposefully being poured out on a world that doesn’t follow him.

Seal #1 – White Horse (vs 2) – The Antichrist

The rider on this horse looks like Jesus, mainly because in chapter 19 Jesus is seen as riding a white horse. The antichrist will, in a sense, disguise himself as Jesus. He will conquer and seemingly bring peace. Many people will be deceived by him and follow him. But he’s a cheap imitation. The kingdom the antichrist will usher in is not the kingdom of God that Jesus ushers in. This world is full of cheap imitations that promise what it can never deliver. The antichrist is the greatest of these.

Seal #2 – Red Horse (vs 3-4) – Wars

God gives this rider the ability to take away peace. These are the wars that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:6 when he said, “you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.” Could the war between Ukraine and Russia be part of this? We hear of wars and rumors of wars. But, when we hear of these, the end is not yet.

Seal #3 – Black Horse (vs 5-6) – Famine

Famine naturally follows war. Danny Akin, in his commentary on Revelation, perhaps explains this best.[2]

“A quart of wheat was approximately the amount necessary to sustain one person for one day. Barley was the poor man’s wheat, and it was normally fed to animals. It was low in nutritional value and occasionally mixed with wheat to increase the feeding amount. A denarius was basically a day’s wage. In other words, a man will work all day for just enough wheat to sustain himself or enough barley to barely keep his family alive. This means that inflation prices would be 10-16 times above normal according to prices cited by Cicero for wheat sold in Sicily.”[3]

Think about the world we live in right now. We live in the most prosperous nation essentially the world has ever known. Yet baby formula cannot be found on the shelves of our supermarkets. Gas is over $4 a gallon. Inflation is up 8.5% right now. Food costs are out the roof. The cost of living makes it difficult for many people to live. And that is in America. Today, majority of the world is impoverished.

“Some 805 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth…Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five—3.1 million children each year. One out of six children—roughly 100 million in developing countries—is underweight. This is what hunger and famine are like today. It will get much worse when the black horse rides.”[4]

Seal #4 – Pale Horse (vs 7-8) – Death

When this seal is opened, one fourth of humanity will die. Currently, the world population is 7.9 billion. That means almost 2 billion people will die (1.975) when this seal is opened. “Later in Revelation 8:18, because of the sixth trumpet, one-third of those remaining will die. In less than seven years, half of the world’s population will be taken in death (see Ezek 14:21).”[5] To put this in perspective, you know how the coronavirus brought the world to a standstill. To date, 6.3 million people in the world have died from the coronavirus.[6] That means that the death toll from this seal being opened is 317 times more than the death toll from the coronavirus around the world. I think we underestimate the destruction of the tribulation and the severity of God’s wrath.

But even more important than that death toll is are the deaths we see next.

Martyrs (vs 9-11) – We will cover this and the other seals next week. But I want you to consider this: Are you living in such a way that would merit your martyrdom? Would you be willing to die for following Jesus, and are you living in such a way that would lead to your martyrdom if we lived in a context where that was likely? Are you living your life in such a way that you would die for Jesus?

Jesus in Matthew 24 tells us that we don’t know when these things will happen…when these seals will be opened. So, we must be ready right now.

Matthew 24:9-13“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 

Do you know Jesus? Are you following Jesus? If Jesus came back right now and the wrath of the Lamb was poured out, would it be poured out on you, or are you safe because he’s already taken the wrath? Now is the time to decide. It might be too late if you wait.

[1] James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 177.

[2] Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), 136-137.

[3] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997), 145.

[4] Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 137.

[5] Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 138-139.



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