Six of the seven seals, the four horsemen, and nowhere to hide. Hard times for humanity.
1. Then I saw the lamb open one of the seven seals. I heard one of the four creatures say, like a voice of thunder, ‘Come!’
2. Behold, I saw a white horse. The one sitting upon it had a bow and was given a crown. He went out so as to conquer in victory.
3. When he opened the second seal, I heard a second creature say, ‘Come!’
4. Another horse, a red one, went out. It was given to the one sitting upon to take peace from the earth so that they might slaughter one another. He was given a large sword.
5. When he opened the third seal, I heard the third creature say, ‘Come!’ Behold, I saw a black horse and the one sitting upon it had a pair of scales in his hand.
6. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four creatures saying, ‘It will take a whole days wages to buy a quart of grain and three quarts of barley, but there will be no change to the oil and wine.’
7. When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth creature say, ‘Come!’
8. Behold, I saw a yellow-green horse. The one sitting upon it was named Death. Hades was following him. Power over a fourth of the earth was given to him to kill with the sword, famine, disease, and the wild beasts of the earth.
9. When he opened the fifth seal, Underneath the altar I saw the souls of those who had been slaughtered because of the word of God and their witness.
10. They shouted in a loud voice, saying, ‘Holy and true ruler, when will you judge? When will you avenge our blood upon those living on the earth?”
11. Each of them were given a long, white robe and they were told to rest for a little while until their fellow-servants were finished, their brothers and sisters about to be killed as they were.
12. When he opened the sixth seal I saw a great earthquake happen. The sun became black like sackcloth. The moon became as blood.
13. The stars fell from heaven to earth like a fig tree drops unripe fruit when shaken by a strong wind.
14. The heaven was separated, like a scroll being rolled up. The hills and the islands were removed.
15. The kings of the earth, the important people, the generals, the rich, the strong, the slave, the free they all hid themselves in caves and rocky hills.
16. They say to the hills and rocks, ‘Fall on us. Hide us from the one sitting upon the throne and from the lamb’s wrath.’
It feels as though one horsemen and one seal would be enough. Yet, God is thorough. When judgment comes upon the earth, it comes from all four directions. Just as the wind may blow from the north, south, east, or west, judgment may come from war, famine, plague, or oppression.
As a student of history, one has to ask is this all future from now, or is this some kind of summary of the human experience? A third to half of all humans died during the great black death of the Middle Ages. How many billions have died from war? Economic and social unrest along with environmental disaster have caused famines since the beginning of time. What of concentration camps and gulags, genocide and slave ships? John indeed, with the six seals, be seeing that which has happened as much as what will happen.
The question of why then so much death and carnage is not on God’s hands, but human hands. The seals of the book are broken because the book, maybe, just maybe, is what contains the record of mankind’s story, and it is not a pretty store.
One can feel this time shift as the sixth seal is broken and the heavens signal something new. The sun goes dark and the moon bleeds. The stars fall from the sky like out-of-season figs shaken by the wind. What an image. Surely it is not stars, they don’t fall. Meteors, perhaps? Missiles? Satellites? Planes?
The rich and famous, the powerful and the privileged recognize this is the day of the Lord, the great and terrible day, and they run away to hide. Yet there is no place to hide. The Psalmist warned us:
‘If I ascend to heaven, you are here! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!’Psalm 139:8
That is the lesson of the seals. God is coming, and there is no where to hide from his judgment.