Do you remember the children’s fable of Chicken Little? She was eating her lunch one day and an acorn fell on her head. She went into a panic, running around yelling, “The Sky is falling! The Sky is falling!” In the English version, that dates centuries ago, the chicken runs toward the palace to warn the king, gathering all sorts of animals along the way. She convinces them that the sky is truly falling and they all get in a panic. All of these animals, if you remember, had rhyming names! “Henny Penny” and “Turkey Lurkey” and “Goosey Loosey”. Then who comes along? “Foxy Loxy.” Do you remember him? He promises the animals that he can protect them from the falling sky. However, he lures them into his trap and eats all of them, except Chicken Little who escapes with her life. The moral of this story? “Don’t believe everything you hear.”
What has survived over the centuries with this phrase, “The sky is falling,” is this is the message of an alarmist who predicts the worst. People will say, “They think the sky is falling.” This is sort of a mocking statement. In other words, “Do not believe the doomsayers. They are deluded, confused people, running around like silly chickens. The sky is not falling and the sky will never fall.”
It’s interesting, however, to observe a change in attitude in today’s generation. The tune of “Chicken Little” has changed. One author put it this way, “Forty years ago, Hollywood’s futuristic movies were utopian”—life evolved into something perfect and wonderful—but today, they are apocalyptic.” The world is not getting better—the world in the future might be a world of wild creatures, with earth either uninhabited or unlivable, and the planet filled with dangerous or a barren wasteland. So, it’s not unusual anymore to hear a philosopher like Alfred North Whitehead say, “It is the business of the future to be dangerous.”
Carl Sagan, the astronomer and secular humanist whose television program, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage in the 1980’s was watched by an estimated six-hundred million people, led many people to basically worship the universe. In fact, his pseudo-science theory laid the groundwork for the current rage in which people were told to communicate their wishes to the universe. The universe will then, by the laws of attraction, fulfill their wishes. Before his death, Carl Sagan wrote, “We may have only a few decades until doomsday.”
No one accuses these men of being “Chicken Little.” “The sky is going to fall.” A new prediction says that “The world will be destroyed in twelve years,” and the average person today believes it’s true. They know that this is a threatening universe. They can’t prevent it no matter how many new green deals are confirmed; God’s judgment is going to come. Friends, there will be no more earth day’s. This is a disposable earth.
Ladies and gentlemen, yet we have a great opportunity to deliver the truth today of this impending judgment of God. Prophecy is not just about tomorrow but it’s relevant today. We can announce to our generation that their inborn fear of the future; their sense of doomsday is coming; their suspicion that earth and the human race cannot keep going forever without encountering global, apocalyptic terror is all true. There is coming a day when the sky will truly begin to fall. Challenge for EE.
What a great privilege we have this morning to once again look into the future and see God’s prophetic message. Take your Bible, or one under the seat in front of you, and turn to the sixth chapter of Revelation. I want us to get this message this morning: Prophecy is not just about tomorrow but it should impact us today. Because the wrath of God is coming!
Follow along as I begin reading from verse one to the end of the chapter. “Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, ‘Come and see.’ (2) And I looked and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. (3) When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, ‘Come and see.’ (4) Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword. (5) When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. (6) And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine. (7) When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come and see.’ (8) So I looked, and behold a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth. (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 testimony which they held. (10) And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ (11) Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed. (12) I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. (13) And the stars of the heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. (14) Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. (15) And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, (16) and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! (17) For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’”
The days of God visibly working on earth seem so far gone. A thundering voice from a cloud, a fire from heaven, and devastating, divine plagues are just distant words we read about in the Old Testament. In the technological and scientific world we live in today, often wickedness looks as if it is winning and nothing will arouse God to show His hand publicly. Right now man is having his having his day, but don’t be fooled. One of the central prophetic themes in Scripture is the coming of the great day of God’s wrath. Revelation 6 begins the fulfillment of this future prophecy that we have themed The Beginning of the End.
In Revelation 6 the first four seals depict it for us with horsemen. That’s where we get the term, “The four horsemen of the apocalypse.” The imagery is vivid; it’s potent and even shocking. Jesus stated, “All these [judgments] are the beginning of sorrows [or birth pangs-NASB] (Matt. 24:8). So you will see a more severe progression that develops as we go through these seal judgments. Look with me at the insights and lessons the Lord gives us for these last days.
- Seal One - Be aware of deception with the white horse. The rider on the first horse is the Anti-christ and he comes as a counterfeit prince of peace primarily for Israel. Deception works because it includes as much truth as possible. There are skilled deceivers today. At this moment, ladies and gentlemen, there are dozens of semi tractor trailers parked on the property of Yisrayl Hawkins’ compound near Odessa, Texas, stocked with food and water, where all of his followers await the beginning of the end of the world in a nuclear war. He is a self-proclaimed prophet and witness sent by God to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ. In fact, he claims that he and his brother were prophesied in the Old Testament to be the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11. He has a few seeds of truth mixed into his bushels of deceptive teaching. Blinded people ignore the cover-up of delusion and greed. What’s worse, he is a public disgrace to Bible believers everywhere who claim to believe in this Book. Maybe you’re thinking, Ken, I would be the last person on the planet to fall for some guy who says nuclear war is coming. That’s good, but maybe you have fallen for a different kind of deception—a deception just as deadly. Like, God wants you to be happy first and foremost, so do what makes you happy. All that stuff about holiness and discipline—that kind of talk will only hold you down. Satan has always and will always come with a message of deception.
- Seal Two - Be aware of devastation with the red horse. The color of the second horse is “fiery red” and rightly depicts his mission of bloodshed and slaughter. The idea seems to convey civil strife within, and between peoples and nations. No one will be safe. One will live in fear of life not knowing who to trust. Jesus said in Matthew 24:10, “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.” Anarchy and worldwide bloodshed will be signatures of the last days. As if that weren’t bad enough, the Lamb opens the scroll just a little further as another rider mounts up and then another. Look with me at the third and fourth horsemen.
- Seal Three - Be aware of deprivation with the black horse. vv. 5-6. War has always had a close companion, an ever-present partner we call famine. “When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.”
- Famine is unstoppable - v. 5 Christ opens the third seal and the third living creature commands the rider, “Come.” John looks and its rider is holding a “set of scales” or balances in his hand as he rides onto the stage of history. The color black is associated with the famine found in Lamentations 5:10. There is no reason to wonder what these scales symbolize. There will be measuring and rationing of food. Look with me at verse six. “And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
- Famine is unbearable - One quart of wheat in the first century represented the daily need for one person to survive. The denarius was a Roman silver coin equivalent to one day’s full wages. In other words, enough wheat to feed one man for only the cost of a full day’s labor. Let me put it to you this way. Suppose you work at a fast-food job and you work tomorrow for eight hours and are paid the minimum wage, which in our state is $7.25. You would need every bit of Monday’s income $58 minus taxes puts you at $43, to buy one loaf of bread. Imagine paying $43 for one loaf of bread! You wouldn’t even be able to eat at McDonald’s because a Big Mac would cost a hundred dollars. It’s runaway inflation. You gather the family around your paycheck and decide that more than one person needs to eat today. And since you cannot afford one loaf of wheat bread anymore, you will eat barley. John tells us that a person can get about three times more barley than wheat for one day’s wage. By the way, coarse barley bread was the food of animals and poverty stricken people.
- Seal Four - Be aware of death with the pale horse. vv. 7-8 “When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come and see.’ (8) So I looked, and behold a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.” By the way, the Greek word for “pale” is chloros from which our English word “chlorine” is derived. It is a word that referred to a “pale green color.” This word was used by the ancients to refer to the decay of death. In the fifth century BC, Thucydides, the Greek historian, used the word for the appearance of people dying in a plague.
- Identity of the rider - “Death and hell” The mention of the word “hades” would indicate that this worldwide tragedy is affecting those who are unbelievers. “Hades” is the resting place for the wicked until the lake of fire.
- Impact of this judgment - In the wake of this horseman, one-fourth of the world’s population will die. Today it would be like the entire population of Africa and South America combined being wiped-out. In 1800 the world reached a billion in population. In 1974 the world reached 4 billion. In 2011 the world reached 7 billion people. By 2044, the projection is 9 billion. Think about it. In all too brief a time, over 1.75 billion people will depart planet earth, not by the rapture but by death. Later in Revelation 8:18, because of the sixth trumpet judgment, one-third of those remaining will die. In less than 7 years, a half of the world’s population will be taken in death (Ezekiel 14:21).
- Instruments used in this judgment - These four instruments have been predicted by God to be His means of judgment in a number of Old Testament passages. Jeremiah 14:12, “I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence or by plague.” (Jeremiah 24:10, 44:13; Ezekiel 6:11. Listen to what Ezekiel wrote, “Son of man, when a land sins agains Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it; I will cut off its supply of bread, send famine on it, and cut off man and beast from it. (14) Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness, says the Lord God. (15) If I cause wild beasts to pass through the land, and they empty it, and make it so desolate that no man may pass through because of the beasts, (16) Even though these three men were in it, as I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘they would deliver neither sons nor daughters; only they would be delivered, and the land would be desolate’” (Ezekiel 14:13-16). In other words, even the presence of righteous men will not ultimately stop the judgment.
- First by way of the sword - I believe, along with many others, that this is a reference primarily to death by murder. People will take the law into their own hands and create their own killing fields.
- Second by cause of famine - This is the culmination of lingering starvation, with few survivors foraging for whatever food they could find.
- Third by cause of pestilence, or another word would be plague. Can you imagine the effects of worldwide hunger, bloodshed, and plagues as well as the loss of civility and respect for human life? It will be the survival of the fittest, fastest, strongest, or meanest.
- Fourth by cause of wild beasts on the earth. Have you ever been chased by a wild animal? I havea group of young men on a twenty acre ranch where lion’s roam. I was on a missions trip with a group of young men from Brookside including two of my sons. We were touring a twenty-acre ranch where lions roam free. I was walking with another man from our church when my son decided to run back to the house. I told him to stay by the fence in case he needed to climb over. Before I knew it, he came running back up over the hill, with sheer fear on his face, screaming for us to run. I stood there in shock, while my buddy took off running, and the whole time I was thinking, what am I doing out here without a weapon? But soon a jeep with the rest of the team came roaring up over the hill, laughing at their joke on us. I can’t imagine if it had been real! But friends, Revelation will come true. Some believe that this could be bears, lions, and tigers on the rampage. My primary objection with this view is that the carnivorous beasts would have all they want to eat among the starving, and the already dying, worldwide. The most dangerous wild animal on the planet, by far more dangerous and destructive to man than the lion, tiger, or bear, is the common rat. The rat carries at least thirty-five known diseases. Their fleas carry bubonic plague, and history verifies the impact they had in Europe 600 years ago when the bubonic plague swept millions to their death. They also carry typhus, which has killed an estimated 200 million people over the last four centuries.
Transition: There has never been a time when the results of all four horsemen have occurred in overlapping sequences of time; there has never been a time in world history when world madness like this has been experienced in this sequence, to this extent. And this is just the beginning. But the thundering of the four horsemen and the coming world madness with all its terror, as the wrath of God is unleashed on the planet, is still nothing compared to having the wrath of God unleashed on you forever. Perhaps you have been brought here this morning to hear one more fire and brimstone warning. My prayer is that time you will hear, and believe in, and find safety in Christ.
Listen, the wrath of the Lamb, the wrath of God are a reoccurring theme (11:18; 14:10; 16:19; 19:15), in God’s prophetic message. Dr. Warren Wiersbe, former pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago, puts it all in perspective, “If men and women will not yield to the love of God, and be changed by the grace of God, then there is no way for them to escape the wrath of God.” Look at the two remaining seals here in chapter 6 and what it will be like, and what we should learn when the wrath of the Lamb comes?
- Seal five - Martyred saints will seek justice - vv. 9-11 As
Jesus opens this fifth seal, three truths leap from the
passages of Scripture from the perspective of His saints
during these terrifying days.
- Their justice is declared before God - vv. 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 testimony which they held.” The question first of all is, who are these people? These are martyrs who have already died during the onset of the persecution in the Tribulation. During the beginning of the birth pangs in the first three and half years, there will be initiated persecution. It is not going to be a wholesale massacre; it will be a beginning persecution. These martyred ones parallel Christ’s words in the Mount Olivet prediction that was read for us this morning, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). Some believe that these people are the martyred from the entire church age—not simply this martyred during the Tribulation. The primary problem with this view is simply the fact that, as we will see in a moment, they are praying for justice against their tormentors who are still alive on the earth. They are praying in heaven while their persecutors are alive in earth. The word “souls” comes from the Greek word psuche. This sounds like misty spirits floating around heaven. The word translated “souls” can be translated “living ones.” They are under the altar which means they are not hiding but “under” the altar. The Greek noun used for altar in verse 9 is always used to refer to the golden altar of incense—patterned after the altar of incense in the Old Testament tabernacle and temple. These are the lives of those who were slain crying out to God. John leaves no doubt about the reason for their death. These people died because they would not recant their new found faith in Christ alone.
- The Word of God - They would not deny its message
- The testimony (witness) which they hold.
- Their justice is deferred to God - v. 10 “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” This does not sound like a very spiritual prayer request, does it? But the prayer is not for personal revenge but for divine vindication and justice. This request arises out of concern for the reputation of God. Romans 12:19 says, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’ says the Lord.” Vindication, not bitter revenge, is their prayer, and all of it they defer to God.
- Their justice is determined by God - v. 11 “Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” The fact that they are given white robes certainly implies some sort of intermediate, temporary bodies while they wait for their resurrected bodies. Interestingly, they are told to rest which is their reward in heaven as they await the purposes of God to be fulfilled. Dear Christian, you do not need to fear death. Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Paul is saying it’s greater leave this world and live with the Lord. It’s also comforting to know that God is in complete control over the wickedness of men. Aren’t you glad? Because when I am going through suffering, all I need to know is one thing. I don’t need to know why, but I do need to know that God is in complete control. Notice that God has a specific number that will be martyred for their testimony. When that number is completed, His patience will run its course on the wickedness of men.
- Seal six - World’s response to earthly and heavenly
disturbances - vv. 12-14 Jesus opens the sixth seal and the
world begin to convulse and reel. Just as Scripture promises,
the entire cosmos and all of nature begins to unravel and
come apart at the seams. While some students of Scripture
regard these judgments as symbolic and a reference to social
and political upheaval, it is better to take these end-time
events as literal descriptions of God’s direct intervention and
judgment upon a world in rebellion against its Creator.
- There will be earthly disturbances - v. 12 “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake.” The original language calls this a megas seismos meaning this is a mega earthquake, the like of which mankind has never seen or felt.
- There will be heavenly disturbances - “And the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.” Listen again to Isaiah’s prophecy, “Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine” (Isaiah 13:9-10; Joel 2:10-11, 3:14-16; Matthew 24:29-30).
- Total eclipse of the sun and moon - These disturbances bring fear and terror to the world.
- The stars and sky fall and split open
- There will be unbelievable fear of the Judge - vv. 15-17 “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, (16) and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! (17) For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” The message title for this sixth seal could easily have been, Scared to Death! The writer of Hebrews states, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
- They will fear His presence - vv. 15-16 From kings to common laborers—all are running to find safety somewhere, anywhere. They are all screaming, literally out of their minds, as we can only imagine. What’s amazing is that, with all of these terrifying events, it sparks the biggest prayer meeting the world has ever seen. This is a universal call to prayer and all of humanity is praying. However, they are not praying to God—they are praying to Mother Nature and not the Creator God. They pray to be hidden from the face of God or to die, rather than face God. One author said it this way, “They would rather hide from God in fear than run to Him in faith.” In the unbelievable rebellion of these people, like Pharaoh of old, they absolutely refuse to submit to the terrors of these plagues and they harden their hearts. Make no mistake about it, these people know that God is behind their terror, yet they reject the Rock of Ages and pray to the rocks of the earth.
- They will fear His punishment - v. 17 “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” When we look at Revelation 7 we will see the ones who are able to stand before the Lord in that great day of His wrath. But unrepentant people will fear His punishment.
Conclusion: In closing, I need to ask, Are you ready to be rescued from all of this should Christ come for His church today? If you know Christ, the wrath of God has already been released against Jesus on your behalf and you will never experience the terrors of these seals. The message is a difficult one but it’s for your benefit. When the Surgeon General of the United States first issued dire warnings that smoking increases the possibilities of cancer, he was not very popular, but he saved lives. It’s told that one man was so concerned from the newspaper articles about the dangers of smoking that he decided to give up the newspaper. You can call me “Chicken Little,” but it’s coming! The sky will one day fall—but there is a way out. There is a way up, and away from the wrath to come—Are you ready?