St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
“The Book of Revelation: Part Three”
Sunday, November 11, 2001
This morning, Father Mike Kreutzer led us through chapters six through nine of the Book of Revelation.
CHAPTER 6: I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword. When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
Discussion on Chapter 6: The scroll represents God’s plan. The first four horses have a connection to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which is also referenced in Zechariah. The first horse was white which is the color of victory. The Romans had not conquered the Parthians, who were great riders and bowmen. They were fearful of being invaded by them as well. This was a signal for John of God’s judgment against the Roman Empire. The second horse was red which represented waves of destructive power of wars. The scales of the third horse represented weighing of food which was symbolic of famine as the food is shown to be eight times its normal price. The fourth horse is a sickly pale green color symbolic pestilence and sickness coming upon the Roman Empire and its people. Mike also noted that from the phrase “It was given him” that the meaning was that God allowed this to happen and as such remained very much in command of things. Note here that one-fourth of the earth is consumed which will change in later chapters. When opening the fifth seal, he saw the souls who had been slaughtered for the Word of God. These martyrs were given an immediate resting place beneath the great altar in heaven and dressed in white robes. There had to be a full number of martyrs before the end would come. (This was actually a Jewish theme.) God will revenge the martyrs as they cannot seek revenge on an individual basis themselves. Finally, the sixth seal is opened and the moon turns blood red and the sky is torn apart. Everyone hid as the great day of judgment had come. Judgment of the world would be by the lamb who had already brought the gift of redemption.
CHAPTER 7: After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000. After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Discussion on Chapter 7: The four angels were at the corners of the earth holding back the winds. The earth at that time was thought to be flat and square. The winds from the north, east, south, or west were considered to be good. However, the winds from the diagonal corners were thought to be evil. This was the signal of a new beginning. The number 144,000 was meant to indicate a large number of people, yet was symbolic since it was a multiple of the number 12. The number 12 was thought to be good since it represented the 12 tribes of Israel. The description is very detailed, symbolic of apocalyptic literature. The “true Israel” were those who were the followers of God. About 20% of the Roman Empire was made up of people of Jewish descent. John doesn’t portray the happenings of the “rapture” where the saved disappear from the face of the earth. Instead, even though they are saved, they must still remain and endure the tribulation. The Song of Victory is similar to what we sing on Palm Sunday. There is victory at this point for both God and the Lamb. The robes are made white from the blood of the Lamb, much like an orphaned lamb is smeared with its dead mother’s blood so that one of the other ewe’s will adopt it and ultimately save its life. Finally, there is the description of the victory and how the Lamb will care for its people.
CHAPTER 8: When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them. The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water– the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter. The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night. As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!”
Discussion on Chapter 8: The opening of the seventh and last seal opened the seven trumpets. There is a one-half hour silence period and then the seven trumpets are delivered to the seven angels who are the chosen ones which stand face-to-face with God. After sounding the trumpet and receiving the prayers of the first angel, coals are thrown down upon earth to start the tribulation. One-third of the earth was destroyed. After the second angel sounded his trumpet, a huge blaze destroyed one-third of the sea. After the third angel sounded his trumpet, a giant star fell and one-third of the rivers and streams were destroyed. Finally, after the fourth angel sounded his trumpet, one-third of the sun, moon, and stars were destroyed. An eagle (vulture) was seen which was symbolic of destruction. The three “woes” were analogous to the plagues in Egypt and were telling Christians of the time not to expect a “quick fix” and that the time of tribulation may be long lasting.
CHAPTER 9: The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them. The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come. The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number. The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury. The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood–idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Discussion on Chapter 9: The fifth trumpet sounded and this brought about the first of the woes which was the star falling from heaven to the earth, which was analogous to the fallen angel. These verses should not be taken literally. Out of the abyss came locusts and scorpions. They only attacked those people who did not have the seal of God on their forehead. People were harmed for five months. The locusts had human-like faces, symbolic in showing the human qualities of evil. The angel of the Abyss was king. Then the sixth angel sounded his trumpet and a voice spoke from the horns of the altar, which is a sacred place of sanctuary, to release the four angels bound at the river Euphrates. They will kill one-third of humankind. The Parthians numbered two hundred million, a large number, like ten thousand times ten thousand. Fire, smoke, and sulfur came from the mouths of the horses. The remainder of mankind still did not repent of their evils and did not stop worshiping idols.