The Wrath of the Lamb
“Francis Ford Coppola directed one of the most disturbing movies about the Vietnam War, with a title straight out of the book of Revelation. Apocalypse Now described war as a crazed mayhem in which objectives are confused and morality is impossible. In one scene, an American officer arrives in the midst of a firefight. Shells are exploding everywhere, machine-gun tracers fill the air, and soldiers look wide-eyed and desperate. ‘Who’s in charge here?’ the officer asks. Nobody answers, which is Coppola’s point in the film. It is a scene out of hell, with no direction, purpose, or solution.”
Adapting the above paragraph from James Boice’s unpublished papers, Richard Phillips writes, “The book of Revelation presents exactly the opposite understanding of the barbarism of human history. As John’s vision continues in chapter 6, the opening of the seals on God’s scroll unleashes great tribulations on the earth. Yet far from being without purpose, they are shown by John’s vision as reflecting the divine will under the lordship of Jesus Christ.”
The visions of God’s throne and of the glorified Lamb in chapters 4 and 5 occupy the very heart of the book of Revelation, depicting God as sovereign over history. In chapter 6, Jesus begins opening the seals of the scroll that he has been found worthy to open. Four riders and additional cataclysmic events go forth at Christ’s command, showing that Christ reigns not only over the hearts of those who love him but also over the dangerous forces unleashed in the world. Jesus truly is, as John has said, ‘the ruler of kings on earth’ (Rev. 1:5), and therefore his followers can face tribulation with hope. This section reveals, in fact, that destructive events are brought about by Christ for both redemptive and judicial purposes. It is Christ sitting on his throne who controls all the trials and persecutions of the church.
In his shorter commentary on this section, G. K. Beale aptly summarizes this passage as he writes:
“The opening of the seals coincides with Christ’s taking up his position at the right hand of God, so that the events depicted in the seals will take place immediately and continue until the Lord’s return. The opening of the seals begins the actual revelation and execution of the content of the scroll of chapter 5. This makes sense of the exhortations in the seven letters to persevere in the face of suffering, for the suffering unleashed by the seals had already begun to take place even in the life of the seven churches to which John was writing. Christ opens each seal in the heavenly throne room and issues the command for the contents of each to be executed on the earth. The disasters that unfold are the same foreseen as the four judgments prophesied by Ezekiel (sword, famine, wild beasts, and plague, Ezek. 14:12-21) and the judgments prophesied by Jesus (war, famine, and persecution, Matt. 24:6-28). Therefore, following on from chapter 5, Revelation 6 describes the operation of the destructive forces which were unleashed immediately upon the world as a result of Christ’s victorious suffering at the cross, His resurrection, and His ascent to a position of rule at His Father’s right hand.”
The church needs to know that nothing happens outside of the will of God. We can rest our hearts in the knowledge that no matter what disaster strikes the world, everything is under His absolute sovereignty. We may hide ourselves in the Rock and say: ‘When all around my soul gives way; He then is all my hope and stay’ (My Hope is Built on Nothing Less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness).
There are times when we are bent low and think we cannot carry our trials one day longer. Then we must listen to Christ, who says, ‘Even this is set within the framework of My gracious providences for your life.’ Jesus Christ in the power of His gospel has rounded up all the wild horses of history. They now serve His purposes for your salvation and the salvation of sinners all over the globe. We do not now understand, but afterwards God will show us the whole tapestry of His good and wise plan.
We invite you to join us this week as we look at ‘The Wrath of the Lamb’ from Revelation 6. In these tumultuous times I trust that you are praying for those whom you love, that they might come to know the grace and mercy of the Savior who died for our sins, has risen from the grave, and is coming again. I join you in those prayers, and eagerly await worshiping with you this Lord’s Day.
Grace upon Grace,