The work of the church, the work of Christ continues today in the middle of epidemics, war and famines. A world where some have too much and many have too little. Yet the end, the point of history is coming and we are told to prepare for it. [Audio | Notes]
For further thought
In a group, take turns reading out loud a few verses until you have heard all of these two chapters. Do the same thing with Mark 13.
Q: How would you summarise the message and application of Mark 13?
Q: How would you summarise the message of Revelation 6 & 7?
Q: Who is able to stand before God at the end? (Rev 6:17 & 7:9)
Q: What difference does it make to us now to know who will stand and who will cower?
As Jesus, the lamb, opens the seals we are given the first of four descriptions of the last days, the times between Jesus rising to rule and his coming again to fulfil his kingdom.
Seal 1 – The white rider. White is God’s colour in this book (1:14) and the only thing said to conquer in Revelation is the gospel, the news of what God has achieved for us in Christ’s life, death and resurrection (1:18, 2:11 etc, 19:11-16). The rider then is Christ who goes forth with his word to conquer. This is the time of the mission of the church where people are called from every nation to be a kingdom of priests to God (5:9,10)
Seals 2 to 4. The context of the conquest of Christ (him winning people to his kingdom) is famine, want, death and fear of hades. In other words, the earthly context for the mission of the church is a world marred by sin and disaster.
Q: How does this prophecy challenge more romantic ideas of Christian mission?
Q: Christ is active as the white rider (Seal 1) but only opens the rest of the seals. Describe God’s influence over the tragedies of history revealed here.
Q: How would this understanding of God and his authority over world events help a persecuted and small church in the first century?
Seal 5. The heavenly context of the mission of the church is the martyrs, kept safe under the altar of God’s presence (a sacrifice of thanksgiving?) from where they are calling for justice and an end to the troubles unleashed in Seals 2 to 4. These prayers are powerful (8:2-5).
Q: What does this teach us about prayer and about God’s care of those who have died in Christ?
Seal 6. There are two types of people in this book. Those who receive the conquering gospel and those who reject it.
Q: What does this passage teach us about those who claim they would believe if they could see God?
Q: Why do people want to be crushed to death rather than face God the Father and Son?
Q: How do people avoid God in your experience?
In Chapter 7 the same group of people is described from two different perspectives.
12X12X1000 = 144,000 is symbolic for the full number of God’s people (12 tribes, 1000 for an uncountable number). The symbolism is emphasised by the oddities in the list of tribes. Judah (the Messiah’s tribe but not the tribe of the first born, Reuben) heads the list. Dan and Ephraim are missing. Also, at the time of writing, the 10 Northern tribes did not exist anymore and the temple and the tribe of Judah were ruined. This is a vision of the Old Testament prophecies where even the gentiles will be added to Israel (God’s people – see Paul in Romans 9-11).
The second description of the same group cannot be numbered (7:9 onwards).
Q: What does comparing 7:10 and 7:17 teach us about our God and our Salvation?
Q: Why has Jesus given the church this prophecy about the end of time (7:14)?