November 30, 2011

Thursday after the First Sunday in Advent

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 10, Is.4:2, Mk. 1:40
Evening - Ps. 24, 30, Is. 5:1-7, Rev. 6:1-11

Commentary
Revelation 6:1-11

In chapter 6 we see the beginning of those "things which must shortly come to pass" (Rev. 1:1). As Christ releases the seals of the book, He also unleashes incredible catastrophes upon the persecutors of His Church. The book itself is the book of God's wrath upon the unGodly, and the deliverance of His people. Verses 1-8 reveal what has become known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The white horse (6:1-2) symbolises the pomp and power of the Roman Empire going forth "conquering and to conquer." In His providence, God used Rome for His own purposes several times. It was Rome that stabilised the world enough to allow the Gospel to be proclaimed throughout the Empire. It was Rome that gave the Empire a common language by which the Gospel could be communicated, which is why the New Testament was written in the official language of the Roman Empire, Greek. In the book of Revelation, Rome is being used by God to bring to fulfillment the prophecies of Christ in Matthew 23:38 and 24:2. From chapter 6 to the 11th chapter, the Book of Revelation is about the fulfillment of Christ's words in Mt 23 and 24, which is the desolation of the house of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. This occurred in 70 A.D when the Roman army sacked Jerusalem. Flavius Josephus' Wars of the Jews chronicles the fall of Jerusalem in detail.

The second beast speaks, and the second seal releases a red horse whose rider is given a great sword and power to take peace from the earth (3 & 4). The Romans destroyed many Jewish settlements. The battles were so fierce the Jews even turned upon one another in ways that sickened even the battle hardened Roman soldiers.

Verses 5 and 6 release the black horse of famine, which was so severe during the siege of Jerusalem cannibalism became common. "A measure of wheat for a penny" (6:6) shows the impossibly exorbitant cost of even a tiny bit of grain in a city that once had great stores of food. According to Josephus, 11,000 Jews of Jerusalem died of starvation before the Romans even breeched the walls.

The fourth seal (7-8) sends forth death and Hell on a pale horse. Before the Roman destruction ended nearly one and a half million Jews were killed throughout the Empire. What a tragic loss of life and wanton waste. How sad it is to think of the city of peace filled with death. Yet, "God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7), even Jerusalem (Mt. 23:38).
The fifth seal (9-11) does not release more trials on the persecutors of the Church. Instead it presents a vision of Christians who have been murdered in the persecution (6:9). Their cry to God is "How long?" How long will God wait before He completes judgment on their oppressors? How long before He ends the persecution? These concerns are clearly stated in verse 10. Truly the Church continuously sends this cry up to God. Yet the answer from God is "rest yet for a little season" (6:11). When God's purpose, and He has a purpose, even in the persecution of the Church, is fulfilled, He will bring His enemies to judgment. That is an important message. It is the task of the Church to be faithful. When God is ready He will bring the world to its conclusion and bring His Kingdom into its complete fullness, but until then, we are to remain faithful, period.