Today we read of Christ opening the seven seals. This is the beginning of the Tribulation. Tribulation is just another word for trouble – sever trouble, but trouble nonetheless. I don’t mean to diminish how horrible the Tribulation will be. We use the word tribulation because trouble just doesn’t do it justice. There will be great pain and suffering through this period. It isn’t any wonder we Christians would like to find evidence that we will be raptured before it begins. As far as that goes, I hope those that assert such a scenario are correct, but I just don’t see it in Scripture. I hope this is due to my lack of knowledge and understanding but still, John was told not to lock up the words of this book. We are meant to understand it. Why so many brilliant godly men disagree in so many different ways about the meaning of the things in this book is a mystery to me. Perhaps we have our eyes on the wrong things.
Some believe the things that are described in today’s reading have already taken place. Some believe they will take place at some future time and still others believe some of these events have taken place and some are yet to be. I’m not sure where I come down on that but I’m sure where ever it is I’ll be in good company!
The breaking of the first seal releases a rider with a bow and a crown mounted on a white horse. Some see this fellow as the anti-Christ; that he unites the world as some sort of messianic figure – the savior of the world. I’ve noticed here in America we seem to be very willing to give up control over our lives to such individuals. Sweet talk us, tell us what we want to hear, and we’ll let you do whatever you want. That happened in Germany once-upon-a-time and it didn’t work out well for the world. This situation won’t work out any differently. (By this situation I’m referring to the rider on the white horse.)
The second seal releases a rider on a red horse wielding a sword. This is thought to be war. After the world has been lulled in to a false sense of peace, war will overtake the Earth. The third seal releases a rider with a scale on a black horse. It is thought that he represents grief and famine. Certainly the results of world war will include grief and famine. We are told that it will take a day’s wages to buy enough food for one person for one day, but the rich will still be able to get their comforts in life – oil and wine. The fourth seal releases a rider named Death on a pale horse with Hell close upon his heels. It is thought this represents a great plague that will decimate a quarter of the Earth’s population. Since the sword and famine are mentioned as coming along with this rider I get the sense of these things are just piling up, one on top of the other. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Now we come to one of the reasons I don’t think the church has been raptured yet. At the opening of the fifth seal we see the many souls who have been slain for the Word of God and their witness for Christ. They are told, however, to wait until the rest of their fellow martyrs were killed. Now how can the church be taken to Heaven while part of their number are left behind? Boy would I feel gypped! Ninety percent of my brothers and sisters get to go home to be with the Lord but I’ve got to stay behind to live through the Tribulation and possibly experience martyrdom? Well I say let the Lord’s will be done! If He wants that, then I’m His man, but I tell you now I’ll struggle with it. Now God could take the Church out of the World and then call others to Him like He did Paul. Paul wasn’t converted by the followers of Jesus. God spoke directly to him from Heaven, blinding him and convicting him of his need for a Savior. I’ll bet old Paul had to change his robes after that moment!
The thing is, the moment Christ has followers upon the Earth there is a Church upon the Earth. As I mentioned the other day, the Greek word translated as Church means “called out ones”. A follower of Christ is called out of the World. We are to live differently than the World while in the World, and one day we will also be called physically out of the World.
The sixth seal brings earthquakes, and a darkened Sun, and blood Moon. The stars fall, the mountains fall and the islands sink. Those that are left understandably hide in whatever caves they can find. I suspect, after all of that shaking, there won’t be many buildings left standing.
There seems to be a bit of a break here as we wait for the seventh seal which we will read about in chapter 8. In the mean time we see another reason why the Church cannot have been raptured by this point – at least in my opinion. God has His angels seal the foreheads of 144,000 of His servants who are of the tribe of Israel. If they are God’s servants then they are part of the Church and they aren’t home yet. Tomorrow we’ll read of a group of in white robes who we discover are saints who were brought out of the Tribulation. The phrasing gives me the sense that they experienced at least part of the Tribulation. My sense could be wrong but that is my take.
Again brothers, I’m not willing to die on this hill of skepticism with regard to missing the Tribulation, but I worry about people having their minds set on the idea that they won’t experience the Tribulation. If we miss it great! But if we don’t miss it, will our faith be strong enough to weather the storm? How can you be prepared for a storm you don’t think you’ll face? Can you imagine believing with all your heart that you’ll miss the Tribulation only to discover that you’ve got to go through it just like everyone else? Would you ask something like “God, I’m your child! How can you leave me here to suffer with the Lost?” The problem with the question is you are only thinking about yourself at that point.
You became a child of God the moment you submitted your life to Him. Why are you still here among the Lost today? Why hasn’t He taken you home now? You are still here for a reason and that reason is to proclaim the Gospel so that any who hear your voice and repent will be saved. If you’re still hear for the Tribulation the same reason applies. Don’t worry brothers, if He keeps you here for the Tribulation He will prepare you for the work He has for you to do. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.