Do you ever think back on your childhood/teen years and think may, just maybe, you are remembering events wrong? Especially now that I am the big 5-0, I think back and wonder. The imagery of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as portrayed by the Worldwide Church of God sermons, is such a vivid memory in my head. It’s the whole reason why I have avoided reading Revelation again for so long. But, sometimes I wonder if I remembered the foretelling of the wars, famine, death, and destruction correct. Turns out, I did.
Here we are, the part of Revelation I was dreading. Let’s dig in.
Scripture: In these chapters of Revelation, there is so much symbolism and things that maybe don’t make a lot of sense to us. The best advice I have heard regarding the reading of this book is this: Don’t get caught up in the things you don’t completely understand. Focus instead on the blessings of Revelation.
Read and slowly color-code verses 4-8:1 then we will deconstruct. Make note of important numbers (6 and 7), and the color of the horses. I am using the study guide “Revelation: A 12-week study” by Stephen Witmer as well as online sources to fully understand Revelation. I encourage you to look up anything that you don’t understand as well.
Observation: In Revelation 4, there is so much to note. John, just finishing the letters to the seven churches sees a door standing open to heaven. As if an open door is not enough of an invitation, he hears a voice, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” He states it was in the presence of the Spirit (a.k.a. Jesus). He immediately sees “one seated on the throne” who had “the appearance of jasper and carnelian.
These two stones are of significance. Jasper is a clear stone representing God’s purity. Carnelian (sometimes called ‘blood-stone’ or Sardis) is a ruby red stone representing God as our Redeemer. Turn to Exodus 28:17-21. Here you will read a description of the priests’ garment stones. Sardis (also referred to as Carnelian) is the first stone on the garment, followed by topaz, carbuncle, emerald, sapphire, diamond, jacinth, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx, and jasper. These stones represent the 12 tribes of Israel. The stones reinforce that God is the first and the last, beginning with the Redeemer (Christ’s blood) and ends with a stone of purity. An emerald stone represents life and the rainbow relates back to God’s rainbow promise of eternal life, guaranteed. I love when the New Testament scripture relates back to the Old Testament.
“Around the throne is twenty-four thrones…twenty-four elders…” Why twenty-four? What is the significance of this number? Scripture doesn’t say specifically who these twenty-four are but we can rule out angels because clearly, these guys are wearing white robes (which symbolizes God’s righteousness) and crowns, which is something given to believers. Angels do not wear crowns. It could also be a reference to Matthew 19:28, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who will have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” There were twelve apostles and twelve tribes, equalling twenty-four thrones.
The four living creatures (Rev. 4:6-8). The lion represents the kingship of Christ, the ox (or calf) represents the priesthood of Christ, the man represents the humanity of Christ, and the eagle represents the divinity of Christ. And of course, ‘living’ is significant in describing Jesus Christ in each creature as living forevermore. Six wings symbolize the authority and fullness of Christ, as the many eyes symbolize wisdom as Jesus sees all from side to side, above and below. “They cast their crowns before the throne…” Crowns symbolize eternal life, the crown of Jesus, but the elders cast theirs down before the throne giving their authority to God instead of themselves. That was a lot to unpack.
Scripture: In chapter 5 John weeps because there is no one worthy of opening the scroll with seven seals. But, guess what, there is the only One who is worthy, and that is the Lion—Jesus Christ.
Observation: Again, there is much symbolism going on here. The “Lion of the tribe of Judah” was conquered of being slain (crucified) as the Lamb for all our sins. It is why Jesus Christ is the only one worthy to open the seven seals and implement God’s plans for all on earth.
“I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which were the seven spirits of God sent out into the earth.” (Rev. 5:6) We know seven represents completeness, so seven horns represent complete power and seven eyes which are the seven spirits and their Holy activity on earth. Jesus’ victory sets the example to all believers that we can conquer anything through our faith–even in times of suffering. Upon opening the scrolls, everyone in heaven bows down and sings.
Notice in both 5:12 and 4:11, Glory, Honor, and Power is used in both the worship of the angels and of the elders, respectively, to the “Lamb who was slain” and “our Lord and God”. Christ shares in the worship due to God.
The Seven Seals and Four Horsemen (Rev. 6 and Rev. 8:1):
- The White Horse carries a bow and crown. He came to conquer.
- The Bright Red Horse comes to take peace from the earth with war and fighting. He is given a “great sword”.
- The Black Horse carries a weight scale. He represents scarcity and injustice, inequity. However, he is not to harm oil and wine.
- The Pale Horse, whose name is Death. He carries with him famine, war, dictatorship, disease, and so much death.
- The 5th Seal is the cry of the martyrs who came before us. They cry out for justice. They are given white robes and are told to rest and wait for the prophecy to be complete.
- The 6th Seal creates cosmic destruction with a “great earthquake”, solar eclipse, a blood moon, and the stars fall from the sky. Remember when Jesus was crucified and there were a great earthquake and solar eclipse, and the curtains were torn? (Matthew 27:51)
- The 7th Seal (Rev. 8:1) heaven becomes silent for 30 minutes. Read Zephaniah 1:7, note the proper response when the Lord is near is silence.
More important wording:
- Rev. 7:3 “Servants of God” are marked on the forehead; this also seals His protection of them. Read Ezekiel 9 and Exodus 12 as a reference where the angel of death passed over the houses with the blood of the Passover lamb on the door frame. They were marked with His protection. Again, Old and New are coming full circle.
- 144,000 sealed from every tribe. (Note the parallels in Rev. 7:4 when John “hears” an Old Testament expectation, then “sees” it in Rev. 7:9.) There are several theories on the number 144,00. Either it is the exact number of the souls that ascend to heaven (Jehovah’s Witness believe this), or it is a symbolic number. Since Revelation is full of symbolism, I tend to believe the latter. As 12 is a symbol of completeness and God’s power throughout the Bible, 12 is multiplied by itself and then by 1,000 to demonstrate the ultimate completeness. (12x12x1000=144,000)
Application: I am trying not to be a doomsday person however, my upbringing is hard to shake. All you have to do is look around right now and see all the war, death, disease, destruction, hatred, and think, “Are we near the end times?” Here in the U.S., the Presidential elections just happened and people are either elated that Joe Biden won or freaking out because Donald Trump didn’t. Look, this happens every election. The fear is heightened even more because of a global pandemic. Satan uses fear to get to us. Don’t let him. I urge you not to get caught up in this part, instead focus on the blessing bestowed to you as a believer and as one who is reading Revelation right now. Turn back to Rev. 1:3 and read again.
“Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”
You are blessed because of the blood of the Lamb. Focus on that, not what may come.
Prayer: Dear Lord, this world is scary right now but I know this is not my permanent home. Heaven is where I will live. Help me remember your blessings and see not the destruction of this earth but the good in it. The time may be near during my life or it may pass me by but whatever your will, Lord, I am always faithful. In God’s name, I pray, amen.
This is where I will leave off until next week. Let me know what you think. Have you discovered surprises in Revelation you didn’t expect?