Friday, March 28, 2014

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The Sealed in the Seals

“When he opened the second seal,
I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’”[1]

          In my quest to remain within the bounds of what is written, I find myself looking for simplicity, not for secrets that only elite interpreters can find. With that in mind, here’s where I am at.

          This introductory phrase to the second seal is just that, the introduction. It is a sign-post. It is directing the attention of those who are “sealed” by God[2] to the next description. By showing us how Jesus opened the second seal, and one of the living creatures called out, “Come!” we are now attentive to what comes next.

          From there, we can receive what is described as another characteristic of the age in which we are living. We are in the last hour, the last days, the end times, and there is going to be little distinction from one end of the age to the other. It seems like there may a recognizable intensity of experiences as we approach the end, but, since these things will be spread out over so many generations, it will be difficult to measure the present against the past, or to know how intense things must become to fully match the prophecies we are given.

          There is a sense in which, if we can first let our hearts rest in the fact of these prophecies, without worrying about how they apply, or what we will see, or what will come of these things, we will have a picture in our minds that we will recognize when they happen.

          If we can then rest in the little bit we know, and accept that we see similarities to the divine descriptions that show the validity of God’s words, while holding off the demandingness of the adult-mind that must put things in boxes and make things fit prophetic time-charts, we will then be able to appreciate that things will happen as described, for as long and as often as God has determined is necessary to fit that description.

          In other words, this isn’t ever about us being able to decide when something has been completely fulfilled, but for us to realize that these things will happen. They are in God’s hands; Jesus is the one who breaks the seals, so it is really up to him how much has to take place for any one of the seals to be fulfilled. When we can rest in Jesus, not in an interpretation of the seals, we will have rest in everything that is happening in the world.

          We are given this revelation of Jesus breaking the seals so we can rest in the fact that he knows what all has to happen for this seal to be fulfilled. One of the living creatures calls out “Come!” and whatever has to happen at that command will happen without reserve.

          If we do not know all that this means, or all that it will entail, we can rest in the fact that everything Jesus means by this seal will be exactly as he said, and everything the living creature called to come forth at this command will come forth. When Jesus returns, this seal will have fully done its work, and there will be no doubt that these things happened just as Jesus said they would happen. It is not necessary for us to see and recognize all the ways these things will happen, nor to be able to say that we know how full the end times are, and how close to reaching their completion.

          The fact is that we are the servants of the Lord Jesus Christ,[3] so we are to serve him until he comes.[4] Each of the seals tells us the things to expect during the last hour so that we don’t get sidetracked by fears that things are not turning out the way God planned. If we can accept that our serving of Jesus Christ will be surrounded by things that look the way these seals describe, we will not focus on the seals, but on the service.

          There are times I have undertaken projects that exceed my experience. I have had to rely on descriptions and diagrams to give me assurance that I am on the right track. Sometimes I have been surprised at the order things need to be done, or the way that pieces need to be put together, so the diagrams have assured me that I am doing things the right way.

          In a similar way, we are setting out to walk through the end times. We are surrounded by stories of what things are going to be like. We will meet many people intent on taking us way beyond what is written, and getting us side-tracked with wondering how to measure what we see taking place around us. Plus, we hear all kinds of nattering from the world about how wrong we are, and silly we are, and stupid we are to believe in Jesus, and to believe in the Scripture’s description of world events.

          We are given these pictures in the book of Revelation like the diagrams in a set of instructions. The diagrams tell us what to expect as we serve Jesus. We are told what to think of the generation in which we live. We are told the kinds of things we may see in our generation, in our locale, in the world during our lifetimes. The instructions for serving Jesus are not about those diagrams, but the diagrams tell us what will happen as we serve Jesus.

          In other words, seeing these things do not tell us we are doing things the wrong way. We are given these diagrams to tell us that serving Jesus will be surrounded by these things, so don’t let them distract you when you see them. You see something happen in your day that looks like a beast coming out of the sea? Jesus told us that would happen; now carry on serving him until he comes.

          You see something that looks like the biggest expression of the antichrist any generation has ever known? Don’t worry, Jesus said that would happen, so become more earnest in serving Jesus until he comes because the days in which we live are so evil.[5]

          Do you see things going on in the world that seem like a return to the ultimate, quintessential wickedness and idolatry of Babylon? Don’t waste time being surprised by such a thing, because Jesus said we would see things like this. Now what work has he given you to do? Put your time, and energy, into doing that work with all your heart, and soul, and do not be distracted by the things that are turning out just as Jesus said.

          Do you see churches turning to adulterous relationships with the world that fit the description of a wife prostituting herself with many lovers? Do you see churches forsaking their first love, falling in love with the world, doing things in ways that please the world instead of pleasing Jesus? Be assured that God said such things would happen, so do not become distracted by them. Serve the Lord Jesus until he comes. Let the adultery you see in other churches stir your heart to pure-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ in your generation.

          In other words, do not be discouraged about the work Jesus is doing to build his church, because he is building his church, and you are part of it. The apostate church, the church that prostitutes itself with the world, is part of the grand tapestry picturing this last hour. Instead of considering the decline of the church to be a sign of failure on Jesus’ part, seek to be the most Spirit-filled, Christ-centered, God-honoring, Bible-following church you can be part of with the help of the Holy Spirit who fills us up to the full.

          Even when it appears to us that there are many descriptions of the red dragon trying to devour the woman, the church that Jesus is building,[6] and when it seems like God has withdrawn any experience of that true church from our generation, and we feel like Elijah when he thought that he was the only one in Israel who was still following God,[7] there is the picture of the triumphant church in the midst of red dragons to assure us that God has kept his elect safe all throughout the last hour.

          One exhortation that stood out to me this morning as an application of what I am learning, is this: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”[8] The seven seals show us the characteristics of the last hour so that we will appreciate that the church will go out conquering, and to conquer,[9] in a world that is exceptionally evil. The world will go from bad to worse,[10] while the church that Jesus builds proclaims “this gospel of the kingdom”[11] that the gates of hell cannot restrict.[12]

          Put Paul in prison, and the prison guards become his mission-field.[13] Put Paul to death, and his testimony lives for two thousand years, assuring the worst of sinners that Paul received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”[14]

          Now Paul’s example, and John’s book of Revelation, and all the gospels, and epistles of the New Testament, stand as an example to us of what it looks like for the church to be “more than conquerors”[15] in a world that is quickly traveling the wide road to the lake of fire. Because the days are evil, we do not become discouraged and mediocre. We become careful about our walk, wise about our ways, devoted to the best use of our time for the kingdom.

          Do you see the days turning as evil as the book of Revelation describes? Then the seals are being opened and fulfilled just as Jesus revealed. Now, what has he spoken to you about this morning, what is he doing around you, and how are you going to join him in his work?

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)


[1] Revelation 6:3
[2] Revelation 7; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30
[3] Revelation 1:1
[4] Luke 12:37
[5] Ephesians 5:15-16. Note that all the context of Ephesians 4-6 shows how the church should live because the days are evil, and we are exhorted to live worthy of our calling in the Lord Jesus Christ (4:1).
[6] Revelation 12 uses this imagery and shows how the church Jesus is building is kept safe from the red dragon’s lies and deceptions.
[7] I Kings 19:9-18; Romans 11:1-5
[8] Ephesians 5:15-16
[9] Revelation 6:1-2
[10] II Timothy 3:13
[11] Matthew 24:14
[12] Matthew 16:13-19
[13] Philippians 1:12-13
[14] I Timothy 1:16
[15] Romans 8:37

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