And so it begins… In Revelation 6, we start a section that actually ends in chapter 11. This is the section where the seven seals of God’s scroll are opened. Here we see God responding with judgment upon the church’s enemies. Those struggling under oppression and persecution by the worldly powers will be vindicated. As the first four seals are opened, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse are unleashed. The Lamb opens the seals one by one reminding the suffering church that despite the oppression and persecution they are experiencing, the world and its powers are still under God’s rule and authority. War, famine, starvation, and pestilence are unleashed by the four horsemen. These are the judgments of God being worked out in human history. The four horsemen are symbols of God’s wrath. NT scholar, Bruce Metzger, explains that the first rider on the white horse suggests and invasion that will be successful. The second rider on the red horse symbolizes war and bloodshed. The third rider on the black horse symbolizes death as a result of inflation and famine. The fourth rider on the pale horse is death and Hades, which symbolizes the devastation and aftermath of war. This is what is coming to those who oppose the will of God, reject the Lamb, and persecute the Church.
What strikes me about this passage is that God is true to His word. Suffering, persecution, and affliction can cause us to forget that God promises to set all wrongs to the right. Moreover, biblical teaching maintains that God will avenge and vindicate us in due time. The following passage from Romans 12:17-21 is instructive to us today:
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 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. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This passage from the Apostle Paul sheds some light on what is going on in the Book of Revelation. It is hard for us to understand that the churches in Revelation, which are being persecuted and killed, are not instructed to fight back or retaliate. The same idea is found in Paul (and the teaching of Jesus). We are to give witness to the Prince of Peace by not taking revenge and by actively making peace with everyone, including our enemies. We are counseled to leave vengeance to God. This is difficult to do, but as we see from Revelation, God is true to His word of promise.