Revelation Study 6 – Jerusalem, the church’s religious foe
Chapters 4 & 5 – Look who’s in charge!
‘… what must happen after this’ (Revelation 4:1)
In the control room of supreme HQ the moving of pins on the war-plan map indicates, either descriptively the military unit already transferred on the battle field (e.g. Jesus had ascended the throne nearly 40 years before), or determinatively the units which will be moved later (e.g. Jerusalem and Rome have yet to fall).
The Lamb’s seven eyes and seven horns = Christ the wisdom and power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24) – omniscient and omnipotent.
The 24 elders = God’s church. The four living beings = God’s world (‘nature’, that immense construction throbbing with the ceaseless activity of God; cf. Romans 1:20). In chapter 4 all creation worships the Creator. But Jesus the Redeemer is not in focus until he appears in chapter 5.
Consider the Lamb’s seven-sealed scroll. We don’t need Christ to tell us that the world is full of troubles, but we do need his explanation of history if its troubles are not to remain meaningless (as in Ecclesiastes). Compare the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Luke 4 when he opened the scroll of Isaiah to explain ‘this day … fulfilled’ in himself. The answer to suffering is only in Christ crucified.
The vision is foundational to the activity that follows. The prayers (5:8) and praises (5:9\) of the saints to the Creator (chapter 4) and Redeemer (chapter 5) release his ministry as Judge (chapter 6).
Chapter 6 – Judaism’s death throes
The rider on the white horse is almost certainly different from the one in chapter 19 who is none other than the Christ. The Parthians on the north-eastern border of their empire terrified Rome (causing a Roman army to surrender to them in AD 62); they rode white horses and were devastating bowmen.
The first four seals are the inseparable quartet: conquest, war, famine, and death. To what time in history do they refer? Primarily to the Jewish war of the Romans, 66 – 70 AD – the last days of the Jewish state. The indicators are:
- The Introduction and Epilogue of the book promise that the events will soon come to pass.
- Jesus foretold that wars and desolations, pestilence, famines and earthquakes would precede the sacking of Jerusalem (Matthew 14; Mark 13; Luke 21).
- The scenes in Revelation 6 culminate in chapter 11 where temple and altar are measured and the holy city trodden under foot.
- From the grim accounts of the overthrow of Jerusalem by Josephus no period in history so literally fulfills these prophecies. From Asia Minor to the borders of Egypt the land was a slaughterhouse. Cities were left without an inhabitant: e.g. 35,000 Jews massacred at Caesarea; in 15 cities of Galilee masses were slain; of the three million crowded into Jerusalem to celebrate Passover less than 3,000 escaped.
- The sixth seal (6:12-14) mentions the standard Old Testament prophetic symbols for the overthrow of the empires of Edom, Babylon, Egypt, Assyria, Samaria, and Judaism (Matthew 24:18-19);
 earthquake (Amos 8:8; Ezekiel 38:19; Joel 2:10; Haggai 2:6)
 darkening of sun and moon (Amos 8:9; Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:31; Matthew 24:29)
 falling of stars (Isaiah 34:4; Matthew 24:28)
 folding up of the heavens (Isaiah 13:13; 34:4; Psalm 102:25-26)
 moving of hills and islands (Jeremiah 4:24; Nahum 1:5)
That the sun, moon and stars represent social and political powers, princes of ‘Church’ and State, is confirmed in the verses that follow (6:15-17). These persecuting powers will try to hide in caves and catacombs as previously their Christian victims had done!
Chapter 7 – the saints of God are alive and well
- The safety of God’s people in the coming holocaust (verse 1-8)
The number is obviously symbolic (cf.’ 0600 hours’ means 6 a.m. not 25 days made up of 600 hours) of Israelite completeness – 12 (tribes) x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10. These are ‘completed Jews’ who have submitted to Jesus as their Messiah. The symbolism of the (unseen) mark of God on their foreheads derives from Ezekiel 9 – the divine care of the godly remnant before Nebuchadnezzar heaped atrocities on Jerusalem when it fell to his armies.
Prior to the Roman siege Christians escaped from Jerusalem to Pella in Transjordan because they took Jesus’ warning seriously (according to the historian Eusebius).
- The bliss of the martyrs in heaven (6:9-17)
Although this universal language reads like Acts 2 – ‘Jews from every nation under heaven’ – it clearly refers to the ultimate consummation of the kingdom at the return of Christ (cf. chapter 21 – 22) as a vision of hope to all persecuted saints of any nation in any generation.