The Fifth Seal: Cry for Justice! Part 2

Revelation 6:9-11 con’t

how long before you will judge and avenge our blood… .

There is a “cost to discipleship,” as Bonhoeffer reminds us in his book by that name.

Photo above from Open Doors. Women from a Christian village in Cameroon recover after having their ears chopped off by members of Boko Haram. 

III. The faithful church must bear witness during turbulent times.

“The Word of God” is the Greek word logos tou Theou indicating the content of the witness these martyrs had. Remember that John in his Gospel used logos in the first chapter to refer to Jesus.

In our day it costs to remain faithful to God’s Word. However, we must witness to God’s image in man. We must defend the Biblical teaching on marriage, which is between a biologically-born-male and a biologically-born-female because marriage is the symbol of the union between Christ and His church! There is no distinction in Scripture between sex and gender! Genesis 1 makes this clear —

In-His-Image-.00126 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (emphasis mine.)

“Witness” is the Greek word martyrion from which we derive the English word martyr.

“Had borne” is imperfect tense indicating that this testimony was one that was maintained over a long period of time.

Ideological Colonization.

I have already referred in previous posts to African Bishops crying out against “ideological colonization.” (I will place the link to the full article in the notes below.)

BrainwashingWe therefore implore you [the West] to end the filthy campaigns that promote a civilization of death on our continent. …contraceptives, sex education programs fabricated elsewhere, purely technical and deprived of moral content, so-called “safe abortions,” have become commodities that are more accessible to Africans than the way of delivering integral development, of which we have such a vital need.

It can no longer be denied that under the euphemism of “sexual and reproductive health and rights,” such programs are plainly imposed as a condition for development assistance.

Such is also the case of the so-called “gender perspective,” according to which motherhood, the filial and nuptial identity of the human being and the family based on marriage between a man and a woman would be “discriminatory stereotypes.” No! Women and men in Africa are not mere individuals, autonomous from their parents, spouses, children… .

These political and economic pressures have but one objective: the drastic control and reduction of the African population, the planned destruction of marriage and the family. We Africans must categorically say No to this plan, which is killing our continent. (see Fitzgerald below; emphasis mine.)

The African Church is increasingly persecuted partly because they will not give up the Biblical Teaching on the family! You might think, well, that’s over there. How long until Biblical Teaching on gender and the family will be classified as Federal Hate Crimes! (It is currently being considered in Switzerland.) If it becomes law here in America, we will see who is faithful. 

Altar-of-Sacrifice

Blood pouring out of the sacrificial animals onto the ground under the altar of sacrifice from https://hoshanarabbah.org/blog/2017/03/04/altar-of-sacrifice/

IV. This prayer for vengeance is consistent with Christ’s teaching about “loving our enemies.”

10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

Earth-dwellers is a technical term for those who are at home on the earth and who have no desire for anything more. They stand opposed to God and his will for the earth. The idea of avenging blood is based upon Gen. 4:10. The martyrs are crying out for righteous vengeance. It will not be denied, even if it is postponed!

WORLDVIEW-header

Carl Sagan, “The cosmos is all that there is, was. or ever will be.” For earth-dwellers, they have all they want here and now. They see nothing but what they want to see.

I have heard on two occasions preachers in the heat of anger call down imprecations upon their personal enemies. One said, “If my enemy opposes me, I pray he has a heart attack.” I do not believe this is justified by Scripture.

The Imprecatory Psalms must be adjusted in application to people today according to redemptive history. Jesus said any thought of holy war is to be waged through evangelism and discipleship. (see Matthew 28:16-20.) 

Tremper Longman issues this caveat about using the imprecatory psalms today —

…The imprecations are not just expressions of anger; they allow us to turn our anger over to God for him to act as he sees fit. These prayers do not ask God for the resources and opportunity to take vengeance on our enemies; they ask God to do so and acknowledge his freedom to act or not act as he sees fit. In this way, the imprecations conform to the advice that Paul gives to his readers: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17–19; Firth, 2005). (see Longman below; emphasis mine.)

imprecatory-psalm-part-2-of-2-fullIf we pray the imprecations of God’s word, they must be directed against the evil one and his minions behind the scenes pulling the strings of evil people in our world. (see II Corinthians 10:4-5; and Ephesians 6:10-20.) I like the old KJV — “leave room for the wrath of God.”

The Greek word for Lord is despotes from which we get our word despot. It means “sovereign Lord.” It was a title of the Caesars. Here it is applied to the Lord of glory.

Next time we will look into Rev. 6:12-17.

Notes

Alexander, J. A. (1850). Commentary on the Psalms. Riverside, CA: E4 Group. Kindle Edition.

Altar of Souls, The. (2011). Accessed 3 February 2020 from http://www.messianicjudaism.me/yinon/2011/07/28/the-altar-of-souls/

Fitzgerald, R. (2015). “African Bishops Sick of West’s ‘Ideological Colonization’”. Accessed 8 February 2020 from https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/african-bishops-sick-of-wests-ideological-colonization

Hendricks, S. (2016).”‘God is dead’: What Nietzsche really meant.” Accessed 8 February 2020 from https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/what-nietzsche-really-meant-by-god-is-dead

Longman, T. (2014). Psalms: 15-16 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Schaff, P. (1910). History of the Christian Church. accessed 8 February 2020 from https://ccel.org/s/schaff/history/About.htm

StudyLight. (2020). Accessed 4 February 2020 from https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/greek/4969.html

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Fifth Seal: Cry for Justice! Part 1

Revelation 6:9-11

Etching above from The Illustrated History of the World Published by Ward; Lock & Co; 1890 


9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.

Souls under the Altar

I. Although the Four Horseman do not ride to punish Christians, they are “fair game” for persecution in times of upheaval.

In Revelation 6:1-8, the judgment of the ungodly nations is portrayed. The Four Horsemen are not riding against Christians! They are riding in punishment of nations that deliberately forget God. Psalm 9:17 (ESV) states — The wicked shall return to Sheol (hell), all the nations that forget God.

J. A. Alexander writes of this verse —

17. The wicked shall turn back even to hell…all nations forgetful, of God. The enemies of God and of his people shall be not only thwarted and repulsed, but driven to destruction; and that not merely individuals, but nations. (see Alexander below.)

Hell by Gustave-Dore-Ferinata-
Hell” from Dante’s Inferno illustrated by Gustave Doré (1832-1883).

Europe’s rebellious nations rejoiced when Nietzsche proclaimed, “Gott ist tot!” (“God is dead”). Nietzsche thought this could be a good thing for some people, saying: “… at hearing the news that ‘the old god is dead’, we philosophers and ‘free spirits’ feel illuminated by a new dawn.” “Nietzsche was an atheist for his adult life and didn’t mean that there was a God who had actually died, rather that our idea of one had.”  (see Hendricks below.)

How has that worked out for them? Are not they dead while God Almighty still lives!

Christians, who still hold to the Scriptures, are caught in the middle between God and His judgment on unbelievers. Unbelievers cannot strike out directly at God, so any true believer nearby often becomes an object for them to lash out at. 

Rarely do unrepentant sinful leaders of nations attribute their sufferings to God’s judgment against them. (See Isaiah 36-37 for an incident where invaders attack God’s people and Hezekiah, King of Judah, humbles himself and repents of sin against God.) Usually godless nations turn upon Christians rather than acknowledge God as Sovereign. 

environmental-science

Modern rejection of God’s judgment.

One modern case is the rejection of God and attribution of climate change to people. (“Green Warriors” usually fly on jet planes to deliver their messages that the common people’s carbon footprint is too large and this is the chief cause of climate change.) I do not recommend wilful misuse of natural resources, but neither do I worship the earth and its ecology.) God brings judgment in the form of climactic calamities. Exodus 9:18 — “Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.”

Compare this with Revelation 8:7 —

The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

I cannot predict the Second Coming of Christ based on climate change, and I am not trying to. I am saying God is in control and even if the climate is changing, He is still Creator and Sustainer of this world. (see Christian below for a Creationist perspective on climate change.)

Such judgment does not bring people to repentance, but issues in persecution of believers. Christians are often at the bottom of the social order. When times of unrest and scarcity occur, Christians are caught in the middle. Since the four seals apply during the last days between Christ’s First and Second Coming, we see judgment of God falling on nations and Christians persecuted by the ungodly for their faithful witness to God and His Word. 

II. Martyrs are not necessarily murdered, but they bear faithful testimony to God and the veracity of His Word for this they are persecuted.

Hebrews_4-16

These witnesses are in the very presence of God and are “martyrs.” They carried their faithfulness to God to the point of death. The Jews spoke of the departed righteous as being under the altar.

Similar descriptions of the heavenly altar and throne are found within rabbinic texts —

The Holy One, Blessed be He, took the soul of Moses and stored it under the Throne of Glory … Not only the soul of Moses is stored under the Throne of Glory, but the souls of the righteous are also stored there … Rabbi Akiva used to say … “Whoever is buried under the altar is as though he were buried beneath the Throne of Glory.” (Avot de-Rabbi Natan 12:4, 26:2). (see Altar of Souls below.)

“Slain” is literally “slaughtered” (sphazô), the same word that is used of the Lamb in Rev. 5. It is perfect tense here. It means “to put to death by violence” or “to deal a mortal wound to.” (see StudyLight below). Note the description of the Confessors at Council of Nicaea —

Some, as confessors, still bore in their body the marks of Christ from the times of persecution… . Patamon of Heraclea in Egypt, had lost one eye in the last persecution; Paphnutius had one eye bored out and his legs cut off during Maximin’s persecution. Another bishop, Paul of Neocaesarea, had had his hands burnt by the red-hot irons. (See Schaff, Chapter 9, pg. 626, below).

These men are martyrs even though they did not die immediately from their torture. Surely their lives were shortened by the persecution of ungodly, unrepentant people. 

More on the fifth seal next post!

Notes

Alexander, J. A. (1850). Commentary on the Psalms. Riverside, CA: E4 Group. Kindle Edition.

Altar of Souls, The. (2011). Accessed 3 February 2020 from http://www.messianicjudaism.me/yinon/2011/07/28/the-altar-of-souls/

Christian, M. (2008). “Global Warming in Perspective”. accessed 8 February 2020 from https://answersingenesis.org/environmental-science/climate-change/global-warming-in-perspective/

Fitzgerald, R. (2015). “African Bishops Sick of West’s ‘Ideological Colonization’”. Accessed 8 February 2020 from https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/african-bishops-sick-of-wests-ideological-colonization

Hendricks, S. (2016).”‘God is dead’: What Nietzsche really meant.” Accessed 8 February 2020 from https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/what-nietzsche-really-meant-by-god-is-dead

Longman, T. (2014). Psalms: 15-16 (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Schaff, P. (1910). History of the Christian Church. accessed 8 February 2020 from https://ccel.org/s/schaff/history/About.htm

StudyLight. (2020). Accessed 4 February 2020 from https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/greek/4969.html

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Pale Horse and its Rider: Revelation Six, Part 4

Revelation 6:7-8

Image above is from WikiMedia Commons; “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” an 1887 painting by Viktor Vasnetsov. 


vs. 7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “[Go!]” (ESV; modification of word “come” to “go” by me.)

I. Death and Hades are under the authority of Christ!

Remember what we read in Chapter 1:17-18 —

17 When I saw Him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”

Before each horse makes its appearance, an order comes forth from the throne room of God for it to appear. The Four Horsemen do not ride until later, but that is not introduced here. Two more seals remain in this chapter and one more in a later chapter. The interlude between the six and seventh seals explains a lot about the church’s circumstances during this time. But, that is for a later post. 

We as believers have no fear of death and what lies beyond. We know our destiny is to live forever with the Lord in the place He has prepared for us!


vs. 8a And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him.

Fourth_Rider

From Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, an 1887 painting by Viktor Vasnetsov.

The Fourth Rider — The word for “pale green” is chloros (“Clorox” is an English derivative with the idea of killing germs). It is used of grass and greenery in general. Here it is the pale green of a corpse.

If seal one describes conquest, seal two speaks of war, and seal three of economic hardship and scarcity, which follow war; then, the fourth seal speaks of disease, pestilence, etc. that also accompany all the Four Horsemen.

This rider is the grim reaper himself. He is followed by hades — the place where the unrighteous dead go. Hades follows along behind swallowing up the dead.

In the picture above, you can see a hole beneath the fourth rider. This represents hades, swallowing up the dead from conquest, war, and scarcity. The latter part of the verse below describes the means of death that follow the Four Horsemen’s ride.


GoldenKey-1024x768

II. Christ is Sovereign over all disruptive elements in our world.

vs. 8b And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

The “they” refer to all four of the Horsemen and not to the fourth only. 

Authority in Greek is exousia = “the right to take action.” In this case, the riders have the authority over 1/4 of the earth. This is also the second time a limited judgment occurs in the book. The four horsemen are limited precisely to 1/4th of the earth.

Literally, the text says the rider has “authority to kill.” The four judgments mentioned here are drawn from Ezekiel 14:21. They are the means by which the riders kill  their victims.

21 “For thus says the Lord God: How much more when I send upon Jerusalem my four disastrous acts of judgment, sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast! [ESV]


III. Modern nations suffer Old Testament calamities if they have known God at one time and later abandon Him.

No doubt Leviticus 26, Ezekiel 14, and the Olivet Discourse of our Lord (Matt. 24) form the background of these four judgments for the nations that stray from God’s commandments and persecute Christ’s Church.

Sword Bearing Barbarian

By the sword — The Greek word is different than the one the second rider had — this is rhomphia. It was the large broad sword of the heathen invaders of Rome. This is invasion by one’s enemies. Rome was afraid of the Parthians (Persians) who were like the rider on the first horse. We today fear terrorists from rogue nations who threaten our way of life. Christians trust in God as enemies attack!

By famine — Seal three was scarcity. This is famine to the point of death — little food if all. It is sad, but aid sent by the UN to Somalia today is often hijacked by thugs and sold for profit at a high price to those in famine. (See Somalia below.) God provides for Christians because he is Lord over the climate and resources needed to grow food.

By pestilence — The Greek word is thanatos “death.” However, the rider is death. “To kill someone with death in Hebrew is an idiom meaning disease. Hans Zinsser drew this conclusion about pestilence and Rome —

Again and again, the forward march of Roman power and world organization was interrupted by the only force against which political genius and military valor were utterly helpless — epidemic disease — and when it came, as though carried by storm clouds, all other things gave way, and men crouched in terror, abandoning all their quarrels, undertakings, and ambitions, until the tempest had blown over. (see Johnson below.)

Christ is Lord even over bacteria and germs. He heals Christians in times of pestilence. God always heals disease except for one. The last malady we have that ushers us into our larger life forever with Him.

Worldwide viral outbreaks 2

This Map illustrates the vast numbers of viruses that exist and can be transmitted more easily since the world is a global community (see Fauci below for source of the map). 

By wild beasts — With the decimation of populations in the civilized world, wild beasts lose their fear of mankind and roam the formerly inhabited world. They kill those who survived the horrors of war and plagues. Wild animals venture into the human population as their habitat shrinks and their food chain is disturbed by war and famine. I have seen a coyote, several bobcats, and one dark panther in our little town in South Carolina. Christ is Lord over nature and can preserve His people from harm.

On to Seal Five next time!

Notes

Fauci, A. S. (2017). “Three Decades of Responding to Infectious Disease Outbreaks.” Accessed 1 February 2020 from https://www.niaid.nih.gov/news-events/three-decades-responding-infectious-disease-outbreaks

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Wilmington, DE: P & R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Somalia. (2009). Corruption eats into Somalia’s food aid accessed 28 January 2020 from https://www.thenational.ae/world/africa/corruption-eats-into-somalia-s-food-aid-1.502144

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved