by Roger McCay
16 January 2022
Sermon Passage: Revelation 6:1-8
Link to Audio Version
Reality is like music with many notes. It is linear, but multilayered. Consistent with this, when we read of the seals on the scroll and the realities that are called forth in their breaking, we find a multilayered progression of powerful forces. And we recognize them. Having been woven in the fabric of the world since the fall, these forces are nothing new. Thus today, with national and international news constantly piped to us, in addition to the happenings in our own lives and community, blatant evidence of the continuing phenomena, symbolized by the first four broken seals, in Rev. 6:1-8, is obvious.
Indeed, in our fallen world, if we dwell on the horror these forces entail, it is easy to become overwhelmed, despairing of justice, questioning hope. Further, as Christians, when we see Christian values increasingly marginalized in society, witness and feel the persecution pressures to conform to the world, hear of the brutal persecutions of our brothers and sisters abroad, and mourn over the blatant apostasy and capitulation going on in so many churches … well, it’s a lot to process.
Thus, it is good for our health to zoom-in and focus on specific notes and the controlling melodies of the composition. So, like we studied last week from Heb. 12:1-2, we focus on Jesus, following him by the power of his Spirit, casting off those things that easily entangle us, running the race of life with endurance. We also study and internalize the Lord’s Word, which, through God’s Spirit, helps us process, gives us a lens for understanding, and trains us to find the harmonious threads within the cacophony, guiding and comforting. Ergo, our passage today.
Since it has been a few months since we finished Rev. 5, a quick review is in order to make sure we are on the same sheet for understanding this enigmatic book. I’m going to be brief, as all this has been explained from this pulpit, in detail, over the last year, as we’ve journeyed through the Apocalypse. You can find the audio recordings and manuscripts on my website (rogermccay.org) if you want to catch up with or review what we’ve covered so far, for both the Olivet Discourse (in Matthew) and Revelation. I’ve also provided a handout for you in the bulletin with most of this info, for your reference.
Now, first off, you may remember the five foundations for understanding. 1) A key to interpreting Revelation is the Olivet Discourse; 2) the date of writing was in the mid-60s AD, a few years before Jerusalem and the Temple’s destruction, which Jesus had prophesied in the Discourse; 3) the repeated theme of judgment coming upon the apostate Jews and their religion touched on in Rev. 1-3, in harmony with Jesus’ Discourse; 4) the legal-judicial aspect of the covenant of marriage between God and his people (the Old Covenant under the law), which was broken by the Jews, making them liable to the covenant curses; and 5) the covenant promises and blessings for the bride of Christ, the inheritors of the covenant, given by the bridegroom (the New Covenant under the gospel).
Second, we identified the scroll, sealed with seven seals, held in the hand of the Father on the throne, in Rev. 5:1. The scroll signifies a legal document with specific covenantal significance, acting as “a divorce decree” against apostate Judaism (God’s adulterous wife), heralding the execution of the covenant curses (God’s wrath) upon them due to their unfaithfulness. Thus, it definitively announces the end to the Old Covenant under the law, and frees up the inheritors of the Covenant of Grace (the bride of Christ) to experience the fullness of the New Covenant blessings under the gospel.
Third, we considered the positioning of the seals on the scroll, which were, as Jay Adams put it, “spread in a row across the overlapping edge of the scroll.” This fits because, as he explains, “All seven seals had to be broken before the roll could be opened…. They are preparatory to the action which will take place once the book is opened.” Indeed, as we will see, the seals are preliminaries to the judgments contained in the scroll. They are what Jesus called “the beginning of birth pangs” in his Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:8), coming prior to the destruction he prophesied would come, fulfilled in AD 70.
So, John describes this seven sealed scroll in the hand of God. Who is worthy to open such a thing? Ch. 5 answers (which we looked at in detail back in late September). Verse 5: “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Jesus, the Lion who is the Lamb (Jn. 1:29; Rev. 5:6) … Jesus is the only person in all of heaven and earth that is worthy. Why?