Summary: When we pray for Jesus’ kingdom to come, it results in serious consequences that we must respond to with faith.
For those of you who have had the privilege to join us on Thursday nights, you’ve been exposed to the power of prayer and hopefully been encouraged to develop a deeper prayer life both personally and corporately. But perhaps nowhere else in the Scriptures do we see the power of prayer demonstrated more clearly than we will see this morning in Revelation chapter 6. So go ahead and open your Bibles to that chapter and be ready to follow along as we examine that passage together this morning.
The six seals which we’ll see in chapter 6 begin a more in depth look at the three series of seven that we previewed with a broad overview last week. Again this week, I want to caution us not to get so bogged down in all the details that we miss the big picture.
In this passage, John sees the Lamb, Jesus, open the first six seals. But before we get to the detail of those seals, we need to step back and look at the bigger picture because that is the key for us as we attempt to apply this passage to our day to day lives.
The opening of each seal is accompanied by prayer
• First four seals – “Come!”
The opening of each of the first four seals is accompanied by one of the four living creatures saying “Come!” But to whom do the living creatures address this request? There are three possibilities:
o To John?
Some translations translate the request “Come and see”, which makes it appear that John is begin addressed here. Unfortunately those translations are based on inferior underlying texts. In the first verse of chapter 4, John had already been commanded to “come up here” at which point he describes himself as being “in the Spirit”. So there is no need to call John to come and see at this point.
The only other place in Revelation where John is commanded to come and see what God wants to reveal to him is in Revelation 17:1 and there, as well as in chapter 4, John uses a completely different Greek word for “come” than the one spoken by the four living creatures here in chapter 6. So it seems very unlikely that the request to “come” is directed to John.
o To the horse and/or its rider?
The second possibility is that the four living creatures are calling out to the four horses and or the riders of those horses. But if you read the text carefully, you will find that at least three of the four horses don’t come in response to the words spoken by the living creatures. The first, third and fourth horses merely appear. John merely says, “I looked and behold…” Only the second horse is described in any way as “coming”. In verse 4 it reads “And out came another horse…”
But the even bigger question is this: why would the four living creatures call the four horsemen who, as we’ll see in a moment, represent forces that would destroy creation? At a minimum, the idea that the request to “come’ is addressed to the four horsemen raises some serious questions.
o To Jesus
The third possibility is that the request to “come” is addressed to the Lamb, Jesus. Given the context of this passage as well as the rest of the book of Revelation, this seems to be the most likely scenario.
Let’s begin by going back to the last time we saw the four living creatures:
And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Revelation 5:8 (ESV)
Here the living creatures are holding the golden bowls which contain the prayers of the saints. So it seems that it is at least possible that the prayer to “come” in chapter 6 could be the four living creatures delivering the prayers of the saints.
If that is all we had, that would be pretty flimsy evidence, but let’s look at how else this request to “come” is used elsewhere in Revelation.
Since the entire book of Revelation is focused on the coming of Jesus, we shouldn’t be surprised that it is bookended with the claim that Jesus is coming. John opens the book with this description of Jesus:
Behold, he is coming…
Revelation 1:7 (ESV)
And then in the last chapter, we find that Jesus makes that same claim about Himself twice:
And behold, I am coming soon…
Revelation 22:7 (ESV)
Behold, I am coming soon…
Revelation 22:12 (ESV)
Notice that in all three cases, the verb is in the present, and not the future tense. As we’ve pointed out frequently, the coming of Jesus and His kingdom is an ongoing process that began with His death and resurrection and which will culminate with His physical return to the earth. That is completely consistent with how Jesus is continually referred to in Revelation as the one “who is, and who was, and who is to come”. As I’ve pointed out before, the phrase “is to come” is actually a present tense participle which literally means “the one who is coming.”