"Judgment and Protection"
As we examine chapters 6-7, we see the scroll come to life as the seals are opened. We find judgment upon the earth. Yet, we also find those who have suffered and also 144,00 that God protects. But what does this mean to me today?
Judgement and Protection
A. It is the most difficult moral argument to try and answer: Why does an all-powerful God allow suffering upon those who follow Him? It is a little deeper than just, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” The moral question centers not upon “good people” but upon “saved people.” What does God allow Christians to be killed simply because they claim Jesus as their Savior?
B. It is not a question that will be answered by this sermon, but we will at least see a hint of what God is doing and the greater outcome of those who die for their faith.
C. I am reminded of the book of Hebrews where read the great “Hall of Faith” names. In each of the cases, there seems to be a connection between their faith and what life could have been like if they did not have such a faith. But the writer wanted to make sure his readers knew that great faith does not protect you against sinful people. He reminded them that some died, others were tortured, and others had to hide in cave. They were destitute, afflicted, mistreated – “of whom the world was not worthy.”
D. But the writer did more than just tell us that saved people suffer at the hands of sinful men. He told us (READ Heb. 12:3). Jesus warned the 11 the night Judas betrayed him that they would face spiritual persecution and even death because of his name and the people who harm them think they are doing God a favor. Yes, evil and suffering come upon the people of God and God allows it. But that doesn’t answer the question of “Why?”
I. The First Four Seals
A. So we come to Rev. 6-7 and we find the Lamb begin to open the seals. John doesn’t read the scroll; he sees it played out before him. The visual is given for us to understand what was yet to come. People argue over the timeline, but there is no doubt that tribulation comes.
B. The first four seals are opened and each of the four living creatures cry out, “come.” And from the scroll comes riders on horses. And in them we see affliction happening on the earth. The first is a rider on a white horse that came out conquering and to conquer. Then red horse and the rider allowed people to kill one another. Then the third is a black horse, his rider has a scales in his hands we hear a financial woe upon the earth. Then the fourth horse, a pale horse comes whose rider is named Death and Hades followed him and they kill a quarter of those living on the earth in many different ways.
C. While many seek to give specific meaning to each of the horses and riders, there is little doubt to greater meaning that greater trials and peril are coming upon the earth. Sadly, the church would face an even greater persecution than it had seen and it would come at a cost to the lives of some Christians. If the opening letters only speak of one martyr, this makes it clear that more will face death. Remaining faithful, even to the point of death is never easy. We want God to stop all pain, suffering and death, but especially with his chosen ones, but God allows it to continue.
II. The Fifth and Sixth Seals
A. The fifth seal is opened (Read Rev. 6:9-11). Did you catch the change in location? The first four seals all spoke of what was to happen on the earth, this fifth seal speaks of those who are “under the altar” in heaven. They are not given a direct answer to their question; instead, they are given a white robe. The sad reality God tells them is that other Christians will suffer the same deadly persecution.
B. The white robes are victory robes. Their enemies thought that killing them was a defeat, instead their death gave them entrance into rest and victory. Jesus told the ones in Sardis who had not soiled their garments that those who conquer will be clothed in white robes and their names will be in the book of life.
C. The question of why God allows suffering is not answered in individual cases, but the bigger answer is that God rewards those who do suffer with a glory this earth cannot know.
D. With the sixth seal we come back to chaos on earth. This time we find people fleeing because God’s wrath is now being poured out on them. They know they cannot stand.
III. The 144,000 Sealed
A. After the sixth seal is opened and before the seventh, we get the telling of the 144,000. A seal on a person has meaning. It marks them as to which side they are on. The point of the people putting blood on the doorframes of their houses in Egypt; the point of circumcision; and the point that Christians have the Holy Spirit in them and unbelievers do not, is to signify which “side” a person is on. Just as these are marked, so will the beast mark his own. Call it what you want, but the marking is a way to show whose side you are on and for the people of that side to know one another. The 144,000 are marked, sealed by God on the earth, but they are not alone.
B. READ Rev. 7:9-10. So who are the ones that sealed? Who are the ones that wear the white robes? The answer is given (Rev. 7:14).
C. The beauty of the answer to why God allows his children to face pain, suffering, and even death because of their faith is the reward for such faith is this (Rev. 7:15-17).
A. I won’t deny the trails that some of you face. Some suffer with physical pain, deep emotional scars or even religious persecution. But this I will tell you, it’s worth it.
B. Paul put it so well in Rom. 8:18. Whatever the suffering, just know that God sees, cares, and rewards those who remain faithful. If we can help you to walk with Lord, then come as we stand and sing.
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister