Revelation – the end…or the beginning… Rev 6 – Cosmic Meltdown
What was your favorite game as a little kid? Unless you were some kind of child prodigy it probably wasn’t chess-so what was it? Maybe duck-duck-goose, tag, freeze tag, red light/green light, Simon says, red rover (the teachers always tried to stop that one), kickball was big at my school, soccer or football was 15 minutes of choosing teams and arguing with about 5 minutes of game time, and what about 4 square or tetherball? Are those even around anymore? But I want you to think back to your favorite childhood game-and I think we’d all have to admit that one of the classics is hide-and-seek. Anybody played hide-and-seek recently? Just the other week, as a family we were out at Caumsett having a bike ride and one of the places we like to go when we’re finished is the walled garden that’s there by the entrance. The flowers and trees are always spectacular whether spring or fall-it’s like a well-manicured English garden. But one of the things we’ve done there-and we did it just recently was play hide-and-seek. There’s great places to hide in there-and we had lots of fun taking turns counting and hiding. And maybe you have fond memories of playing hide-and-seek at your house growing up with a favorite hiding spot. Or maybe when you went to grandma’s house that was a big, old house with endless hiding spots. Hide and seek was how Lucy discovered Narnia when she hid in the wardrobe. It’s an important game. So no matter if you’re young or old I encourage you to play a game of hide-and-seek with your family this week. You’ll have a blast. But let me ask this-who tends to be the worst hiders? Pic-Behind the tree is a classic-but it’s little kids who think they’re well hidden. Check a few of these photos out-pics 1-7. And if this is hide-and-seek as parents you’ll pretend not to see your kids to have fun playing the game. Where are you, I can’t find you-even though you can totally see them. And yet I think a visual like this is exactly what we try to do as people-and that our ability to hide is about this effective. But of course we’re not hiding from parents but from God. Do you remember what it says in Gen 3:8-9. And this wasn’t hide-and-seek in the Garden of Eden, this wasn’t a game that Adam and Eve were playing with God while He counted to 50 so they could hide behind some palm trees. This was Adam and Eve choosing to hide instead of be honest; to cover themselves up instead of confess. And I don’t think God was confused-Where are you? I sure knew Eden had a lot of good hiding spots-you guys are good at this. God knew exactly where they were-just as parents know where their kids are. Back to our pic-this is how Adam and Eve-the very first people on the planet appeared to God after they sinned. And oddly enough as we go from Genesis to Revelation, from the beginning of our Bibles to the end, things haven’t changed all that much. We’re going to see that people are still choosing to hide from God instead of honestly facing Him; to run away instead of repent.
So you can open up your Bibles to Rev 6 or we’ll put it up on the screen-and this is where we left off last week-Rev 6:7-8. And that’s not a great place to be with a quarter of the population destroyed! Following the 4th seal, the 4th horsemen, things are a bit dismal on planet earth-one out of every four people are dead! And if you were here we mentioned that the Greek name for Death was Thanatos. So the arch-enemy from Avengers-Thanos-is riding in on that 4th horse to bring death and destruction. And if you’ve seen the Avengers movies you know that Infinity War ended with him wiping out half the population of the universe leaving everyone with that great cliffhanger-what happens now? Where do we go from here-is this the end? What’s the endgame? And that was the title of the last Avengers movie-Endgame. And that’s what we’re asking this morning-and really what we’re asking throughout this series-because while Avengers is fiction, the book of Revelation is fact-and yet there’s an endgame to it all, there’s a purpose, a great purpose that God is orchestrating even through this season of Tribulation on the earth. So the first 4 seals, the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse usher in the beginning of the Tribulation, that 7 year period on the earth that culminates with Christ’s return. And most Bible scholars believe these first 4 seals cover the first half of the Tribulation, those first 3.5 years. But then the 5th seal moves us into the midpoint, the second 3.5 years of the Tribulation-and if the first half was bad, a quarter of the population was wiped out-things are about to get a whole lot worse!
Take a look at it-Rev 6:9-10. So speaking of Avengers, here’s believers who over the course of the Tribulation have been killed and martyred for their faith-asking when God will avenge their deaths. When will justice be delivered? And this request is exactly how justice should proceed. God never commands His people to take matters into their own hands or exact their own justice. This request from martyred believers in heaven is exactly what God tells us to do and how to trust in Him. Look at Rom 12:19. And that’s what’s going on in Revelation, that’s the purpose of the Tribulation on the earth. God’s wrath is being poured out upon all the sinfulness, wickedness and unfairness on planet earth. If you’ve ever cried out for justice-and we all have-the book of Revelation is telling us that one day justice will happen-God will bring His justice, vengeance is His, He will repay people for what they’ve done. Look at Gal 6:7. Despite what we think, people aren’t getting away with things, the world isn’t getting away with things. God’s goodness, God’s justice won’t be mocked-the world will reap what it sows. And that happens sometimes now in the short-term, but ultimately it will happen when God judges the world as Jesus opens the 7 seals. The issue we face is that as believers we won’t be treated well, there won’t be fairness in this life precisely because this world is broken by sin. God never told us to expect fairness now-and if you’re bent on receiving fairness you’ll be severely disappointed. Look at-2 Tim 3:12. He didn’t say all who desire to live a godly life will be treated fairly as they deserve. Paul is telling Timothy the opposite-that all who desire to live a godly life will be treated unfairly and persecuted. People will slander you, ridicule you, hurt you, harm you, hate you-possibly even kill you. And it’s only going to increase as this world approaches the end-that’s what these believers in the Tribulation were experiencing. Look back at it-Rev 6:9. They were killed because they trusted in God’s Word and maintained a witness for Christ. They didn’t compromise what they believed even though it cost them their life.
What a tremendous faith-I’m amazed by it. It makes me ask how I would respond if I was faced with persecution like that. And honestly it’s not an if-but a when. What happens when persecution comes? How will I respond? How will you respond? In this world persecution is a reality as we’ve seen and as the end approaches it’s only going to increase so we all must be ready for it. Look at God’s response-Rev 6:11. God’s vengeance and wrath will come-we’ll read about it momentarily with the 6th seal-but it comes in His timing-because this is saying that more believers will still be martyred as the end approaches. That God has predetermined that, He has a set number, it’s all within His sovereign control. And so those who’ve already been martyred are told to rest in Him and wear a white robe. That robe isn’t just a fashion statement but refers to finally being glorified and forever perfected and made righteous in God’s presence. It’s the visual of a hard day’s work, you’re dirty and muddy from working outside all day-and when it’s over you shower up, freshen up, wipe off the dirt and put on a clean, white robe. God’s people have worked hard faithfully serving Him and standing for the truth-and now as their life is over, as their life has unfairly been taken from them, they’ve showered up in heaven, all the dirt and mud of this world is forever washed away and they’re given a comfy white robe receiving their rest. So as last week we outlined the first 4 seals-so we’ll do so today-Pt1:5th Seal: All truth is no longer tolerated-will we remain faithful to God’s Word? Now we walked through the timeline last week and recognized good biblical support for a Pre-Trib Rapture where believers wouldn’t be here during this time. So the idea is that these martyrs from the 5th seal are those who’ve come to Christ during the Tribulation. But we said these are hard details to determine, Revelation is a challenging book-so Pray for Pre, but be prepared for Post. We could be here during the Tribulation, God might not rapture the church away but have us endure it-and yet either way this 5th seal isn’t all that different from the reality we’re experiencing in our world now-Pt1. Will we hold strong and keep proclaiming the truth of being saved by grace? Will we continue to be a faithful witness to Jesus, following Him and living for Him even when it’s hard and costly?
We all know that people don’t want to hear the truth; they don’t want to embrace the gospel or put their faith in Jesus-and that’s largely because people don’t want to repent and be held accountable for their sin. People don’t want to humbly confess before God. We live in a world where it’s somebody else’s fault not yours. Someone else is to blame for why you’ve acted the way you have or done the things you’ve done. You don’t have to own up and repent. Now we know that’s the heart of the gospel-what did Jesus say when He first began His ministry-repent and believe for the kingdom of God is at hand. Faith and repentance are what we’re called to do in order to be saved and forgiven. Faith and repentance are the gateway to eternal life, the gateway to joy, the gateway to a relationship with Jesus. And yet people don’t want to do that precisely because it requires repentance. That if turning to Jesus requires humility and honesty and owning up to your mistakes then forget it-people would rather runaway and hide from God than do that. And that’s exactly what we’re going to see people do with the next seal.
Look at Rev 6:12-13. Talk about vivid language-this is a scene of utter catastrophe! Earthquakes, blackened sun, blood red moon, falling stars! Chicken Little said the sky was falling-this is it! The image you can picture is a tree shaken back and forth by the wind that blows off all its figs as the verse says or apples or acorns so the tree is bare-that’s how the stars have fallen from the sky. And scholars believe this isn’t referring to the actual stars, like our sun, but massive amounts of asteroids and meteors raining down upon the earth. Stars was the only word they had back then for celestial objects-now we have technical words like asteroids and meteors in our vocabulary to be more precise. But unlike the previous seals that were the result of manmade disasters like violence and war and famine and martyrdom, this is now God’s direct intervention on our planet. And you can especially see that in the next verse-Rev 6:14. This is global upheaval and major atmospheric changes. I can’t even visual the sky being rolled up like a scroll-what’s behind it-another sky? Nothingness? One commentator said-Swindoll, 116. And when I read that I imagine some sort of Hollywood sci-fi disaster movie, don’t you? That’s what this sounds like as the sky peels back and the mountains and islands crumble. But the problem is that this isn’t fiction or the results of good CGI special effects, this is fact. This is what’s going to happen one day to our planet. It’s not silly doomsday language you can brush off, it’s an event that you need to be prepared for-total cosmic meltdown. That’s what’s being described! And again, I pray that as believers we’re not here for that. I pray that we’re not running from crumbling mountains and sinking islands-but maybe. And so Pt2:6th Seal: All creation is starting to collapse-is our hope still here? That’s the question people will need to ask themselves then-but that’s the question we need to ask today. Is my hope still here on planet earth? Is my hope anchored to what I know and call home? And on the one hand, I think it’s easy to say-No it’s not-my hope is set on eternity with Christ, my hope is in heaven-and it should be. But on the other hand, creation is what we know. The house you live in, the neighborhood you reside in, the nation you’re a citizen of, the ground you walk on is what you know. So what happens when it starts to collapse? What happens when what you know starts to crumble and fade away-because God’s Word is telling us it will. This day of cosmic meltdown is coming. How will you respond?
Have you ever been on one of those swinging bridges-and maybe it’s made of rope and wood? You’re hoping it doesn’t collapse as you’re walking across it-that all of a sudden the wooden planks don’t fall out from under your feet and tumble into the valley below-because if they do there’s nothing you’re standing on. Well the same is going to happen to our planet, to creation, to the ground we walk on-it’s going to crumble and sink as Revelation says-and the question is how will we stand. Look at how it says people will respond-Rev 6:15. And that’s a fascinating verse because it includes people from every walk of life and every socio-economic group. Kings of the earth and the great ones, the rich and powerful are not heading to their well-stocked underground bunkers, they’re not jetting off to their private islands that are safely secured. All sense of status, privilege and wealth vanishes; they’re hiding out in the caves and rocks just like everybody else. This is where humanity ends up. Pt3:6th Seal: All people are held accountable-will we hide from God? As I said before-this isn’t science-fiction, it’s fact. And I remember that old sci-fi movie from the 90s Independence Day where all of humanity led by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum took their stand against the aliens trying to destroy the planet. And in the end they rallied and won the day and it was awesome! Great film! That’s not what humanity is going to do in the end of our world. There’s no rallying and taking their stand-it’s all about running away and hiding in fear.
And here’s where we circle back to where we started, here’s where we see the cohesiveness of God’s Word, that it’s one big story from Genesis to Revelation. Where did humanity begin, what was mankind’s response to God at the start-Gen 3:8-9. Cosmic hide and seek! Immediately after sinning and doing the very thing God told Adam and Eve not to do-don’t eat some fruit-which is not hard! If God had said don’t some chips or pizza different story! But God said don’t eat the fruit of that 1 tree-they did it anyway despite millions of other trees that were fine-and so instead of confessing, instead of honestly owning up to their mistake, instead of repenting before God and turning to His mercy, they hid. Two people made by God, loved by God ran into the trees and tried to hide from the Almighty, all-knowing Creator of the universe-back to our-pic. This is how humanity looked to God! And yet as we come to the grand conclusion of humanity’s story, to how planet earth ends, mankind has done the exact same thing, the only difference is the location of the hiding place-Rev 6:15-17. Mankind went from hiding behind the trees in the garden to hiding behind the rocks of the mountains.
And what’s more, instead of asking God for forgiveness, instead of recognizing the abundance of His love and saving grace, what do they ask for? To be crushed and killed by giants rocks and boulders! That’s what mankind is asking for! We would rather hide from God and just die than face Him. And yet notice who they’re addressing-the one seated on the throne (God the Father) and the Lamb (Jesus, the Son), the Lamb who was slain. The Lamb who has given up His life for the very purpose of paying for our sins so that we don’t have to hide from God but can step into the light of His forgiveness and grace! One writer said-sin turns us into fools-that instead of bowing before God in worship, we’ll bury ourselves in caves in frenzied fear. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen one day-people will hide from God in caves in frenzied fear-but what about today? Back to Pt3. Are you hiding from God now? Clearly this is our default mode as Scripture has shown us. The moment we’re confronted with the guilt of our sin, our gut reaction is to go hide-and desperately hope God doesn’t do any seeking. But that’s the extraordinary, truth of the gospel-that despite our hiding we do have a God who seeks us; and He seeks earnestly, searching high and low to find His lost children. Look at-Luke 15:4-5. Jesus isn’t saying that He begrudgingly goes after us and finds us. He isn’t saying that He lays us on His shoulders after He’s given us a stern talking to. He joyfully lays His lost sheep, you and me, on His shoulders in order to bring us out of our hiding places, to forgive our sins and take us home to be with Him.
Have you been hiding from God? Maybe you’ve been hiding from God quite a bit lately-caught up in things you’re ashamed of, hanging out with people you shouldn’t, doing things you hope God doesn’t see. But the reality is that He does see-and despite all you’ve done-He still loves you and is ready to save you and forgive you. These words in Luke can be your story, your testimony. That’s what being a child of God is-saying I was once the 1, totally lost, trying to hide and Jesus left the 99 to come find me. That’s the heart of the gospel-and it’s why we can have hope, it’s why we can stand with confidence when this world is collapsing around us. Back to Rev 6:16-17. That’s the question-who can stand? Where do you stand when this world is falling apart? What’s there to stand on when it all gives way and collapses? The people hiding in the mountains have no answer, they realize they can’t stand in the face of God’s wrath-but that’s because they’ve ignored and failed to recognize the truth that Lamb came long ago to give His life on a cross to face that wrath on our behalf. For them it’s too late-but you can stand when you trust in the Lamb today. Have you done that? Or are you still running? Still hiding? Exposition, 151. That’s exactly what the book of Revelation is telling us-you can face the Lord and find forgiveness instead of fleeing from Him in fear. You can play hide-and-seek with your family and have a great time-but don’t play it with God. Stop hiding-and let Him seek you out-because He’s really good at finding lost people!