Summary: Just wehn and what are the last days? And what differrence does it make?
“The Great Unveiling: You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!”
Growing up I had three very close friends in my church. We did everything together – we inseparable. People fondly referred to us as the 4 horsemen. At the time, I thought that was complimentary. Now that I’ve read Revelation, I’m not so sure! But then, perhaps they weren’t thinking of Revelation at the time! At least I can hope that was the case!
Today we join John attending a play in the divine theater. In this first act, we meet the real 4 horsemen, better known as the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. The action unfolds quickly and decisively before us. Let’s pray as we seek to unveil the mystery before us.
Father of wisdom, grant us insight beyond our own, understanding deeper than what we possess. Use your Holy Spirit to enlighten us as we listen to you in the midst of this great but difficult portion of Your Word. What we can understand in the here and now, teach us; what we are to know only when we see You face to face, help us accept in faith, and trust You all the more. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
We begin by affirming that there is a CONTEXT OF HISTORY in the book of Revelation. It’s clear that the visions that begin in this 6th chapter concern what has come to be known as the last days. It gives us AN IMPORTANT PERSPECTIVE. Understanding when the last days are is critical to the rest of our interpretation of Revelation. Yet great disagreements have developed when trying to establish the timing of the last days. So, “WHEN ARE THE LAST DAYS?”
When do you think? Are they still future – off in the distance somewhere? Are they only at the ultimate end of time? Are they of an unknown period? I direct your attention to Acts 2:16-17. It was Pentecost and people were questioning what was happening. Peter’s first sermon was simply that Joel’s prophecy was now coming true. “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days, it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. . .’” The events of Pentecost set in motion the last days. THE LAST DAYS BEGAN WITH THE DEATH, RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION OF JESUS CHRIST and will end only when Christ returns!
Such was the belief of the early church. Hebrews 1:1-2a: “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son...” The beloved apostle John affirmed this when he wrote (I Jn. 2:18): “Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that anti-Christ is coming, so now many anti-Christs have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour.” The last days are here now – and will be until Christ comes again!
This perspective points us to AN INTENSE PROGRESSION which is our focus this morning. The scrolls contain a description of the last days. That is, they describe what is happening now, as well as at the end! We will see the world as it is today, and as it progresses towards the ultimate end. WE ARE SEEING WHAT IS AND WHAT WILL BE. That is, after all, John’s purpose of writing the visions (1:19): “Now write what you see, what is and what is to take place hereafter.”
That means that THE SEALS, THE TRUMPETS, AND THE BOWLS ARE ALL INTERCONNECTED. Each is symbolic of various principles of divine judgment. Through them we see how God judges through forces and dynamics already operating in history. Perhaps an example will serve to show how the seals, trumpets, and bowls are connected. Imagine a computer. You pull up a map of a certain area, an overview of the whole city. You press a certain icon and immediately get a view of less territory but with much more detail. You press the icon again and you see only a few blocks but also great street-by-street graphics of the place you’re interested in. You see many more details that are critically important. All three maps show the same basic thing only from different perspectives and distances. So her, WE ARE SEEING WHAT IS AND WHAT IS TO COME WITH INCREASING INTENSITY and clarity until we see the end.
From within this context, we can understand what is CURRENT IN HISTORY. The answer lies within the first 5 seals in Revelation 6. The play opens with THE FIRST SEAL (vs. 1-2); we see a rider on A WHITE HORSE carrying a CROSS BOW AND WEARING A CROWN. This is the SYMBOL OF WARFARE AND DESIRE FOR CONQUEST. It indicates that there will always be one nation conquering another; forceful subjugation of people will be a part of life – and increasingly so. Nations will always crave the power to conquer some new foe and claim some new territory.