Have you ever thought about the future of war? The experts predict future combat that will be much worse than anything we have seen before.
The Bible has been saying the same thing for thousands of years. Human beings have always been good at self destruction. We think we will succeed by conquering and stealing from the neighbors, and we always bring down destruction, in the end.
The Christian Bible ends with the book of Revelation. Most people know about images from the book, but most people do not know the book. For example, if I mentioned the Antichrist, or the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, people everywhere would have some cultural knowledge, but it’s hard to find even a committed Christian who has read the whole book.
Let’s change that.
Revelation is one narrative, a story that progresses from a beginning to an end, and it is useful for us to read the whole big picture. Those images that we all know are small steps in the whole sequence, as the action progresses. The story starts in the present time, for the author. That is two thousand years ago for us, but the messages are for Christian churches, and Christians commonly apply the lessons to our churches today. I wrote about those first three chapters, last week. This is my second chapter in this series.
The messages to the churches have some positive compliments, and some really harsh criticism. I believe the summary is; we need something new. That change to something new will bring the end of our time in human history, the end of days, or the apocalypse. The series of end-time events must begin, and that is where the action shifts from the present to the future.
[Read chapter 4 of Revelation]
The author of Revelation, John, travels to Heaven in a vision, and sees a throne:
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. (4:1 and 2)
[Read chapter 5 of Revelation]
John also saw a scroll with seven seals. Imagine a paper document rolled up, with seven wax seals along the seam. Someone must break the seals to start the action, the unwinding of history, but no one is worthy:
I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (5: 4 and 5)
In John’s vision, Jesus steps forward and takes the scroll, to break the seals and reveal the writing on the scroll. He is worthy, and He starts the action.
[Read chapter 6 of Revelation]
The first four seals are; conquest, violence, famine, and death, the four horsemen of the apocalypse. This is easy to understand. Humans think they can conquer and steal from the neighbors, but the easy prize spirals down into destruction. That’s like most wars in history.
The fifth seal is persecution of people who identify with God, and the sixth is natural destruction, but the story doesn’t say what causes the destruction. Persecution makes sense. Hitler blamed the Jews, and someone will be blamed and persecuted when the human race destroys itself. At the end, people know that they have made some terrible decisions and the consequences will be terrible. The human race will create its own destruction.
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 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! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” (6: 15 to 17)
The seventh seal brings the next series of seven, when God begins to correct the human race.
It’s easy to imagine the story in Revelation chapters 4, 5, and 6 because we have seen that story many times in history. The Bible promises that we will see what we have already seen; people will do what they have always done and at the end, God will be provoked.
Revelation is not a strange book, like a future fairy tale. It’s a picture of the human race bringing destruction on itself, for one last time.
Really, when it happens, it will be their fault.
I can see myself in that story. The reason I am a Christian is because I became unhappy with myself, when I saw myself at the beginning of an adult life that could spiral downward. My life could be a mirror of the story in Revelation chapters 4, 5, and 6. That happened to many of my friends. I am old enough to see now that this downward spiral is the common story of the human race.
In my experience, these words are true:
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself … (2 Corinthians 5: 16 to 18)
More in this series: