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Revelation 6:12-17 by Robert Dean
Click here to view the chart Dr. Dean presented during this Bible class.
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:41 mins 4 secs

Seal Judgments; God Punishes the Earth Dwellers, Rev. 6:9-17

 

How do you respond to the Word of God? We need to reflect upon that question. People respond in a lot of different ways. A lot of people give the Word of God lip service. By that is meant that they will show up on a fairly regular basis on Sunday mornings, they learn the vocabulary, they like to be with other Christians because they are generally nice people and they agree with them about basic issues of life; but they never have an in-depth understanding of God's Word, never make a priority out of living the spiritual life, and they basically grow just a little bit after salvation. It is comparable to the initial products of the seed in the parable of the sower. Various issues in life somehow to manage to distract them and keep them from any kind of growth.

 

But there are those within the body of Christ who are not satisfied with simply coming to Bible class, learning a few things about the Word. They realise that if God's Word is what it claims to be and the truths of God's Word are what they claim to be then really nothing else matters in life and that life itself is to be focused on God's Word, understanding it and letting that work its way through every area of our life—every thought, every opinion, every concept, all the things we hold dear and the things we don't. It is the Word of God that transforms us in terms of our thinking from the inside out and not just having a facade, a superficial approach to Christianity, or that veneer.

 

There are others though—some believers, most unbelievers—who when they hear the Word of God it is like hearing fingernails on a blackboard. Their reaction is one of antagonism, hostility, even violence, and we live in a world today where the truth of God's Word has that kind of an impact in western civilisation. For the first time in almost 1700 years, since Constantine converted to Christianity and legalised Christianity in the Roman empire with the edict of toleration in 315 AD, we live in a world in western civilisation that is increasingly antagonistic to Christianity culturally and politically. Because this is our heritage this opposition is often couched in acceptable ways, but this will only last for a while and before long it will become instituted in law. There are laws that have been passed in some countries that will have the force of limiting the freedom to hold to, to espouse and to proclaim certain truths of God's. Some of these have to do with "hate speech" laws. We see the mechanics of this kind of reaction to God's Word in the response to the judgments that we see in the seal judgments at the beginning of Revelation. 

 

Another aspect to the divine judgments is that they are designed to reveal the hardness of either the unbeliever's rejection of God or the hardness of the believer's heart in rejection of Bible doctrine. There are those who have a facade of religion and religious morality but who are in their hearts hostile to God, and as these judgments come out from God it exposes their duplicity, their true rejection of truth in God's Word, and the response whether they are an unbeliever or a carnal believer is to harden themselves against God, become hostile to God, and to react to God. This is what happens in the fifth and the sixth seal judgments.

 

Revelation 6:10 NASB "and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'" They called Him "Lord" but it is not the word kurios [kurioj], it is despotes [despothj]. The difference here is that depotes emphasises His sovereign authority. It is where we get our word "despot" but in the Greek it doesn't have the negative connotation that the English word has. It has the emphasis, though, on His authority, His sovereignty, and so they are calling upon God as the sovereign ruler of the universe, as the ultimate judge of the universe—indicated by the term "holy and true," and this is in a construction in the Greek which indicates that "holy" and "true" are seen as being bound up in one concept. Holiness has to do with His uniqueness and truth has to do with the fact that there is one, and only one, truth. So they are bound together here as an integral concept here by the way the Greek treats it and we would pull it together in English by using the word "integrity." This unique integrity of God is what allows Him to be the judge of the universe because He is the only one who has omniscience and thus knows all the facts. When man stands before God, the members of the Trinity, he knows that everything is exposed in its reality, there is no hiding. So they are calling upon the sovereign, ultimate judge of the universe to be the one who will execute justice for them. That is the idea of the two words "judging" and "avenging." The word translated "avenging" here is a word that has the idea of justice. It is not vengeance in terms of personal retribution but of executing judgment. It is the Greek word ekdikeo [e)kdikew] based on the root dikeo [dikew] which is the basic word for justice. They are calling upon God as the true judge of the universe to finally intervene on their behalf in history.

 

The concept behind the phrase "the earthdwellers" seen in this chapter is an important one that we see throughout the Scriptures, and the role of His judgment on the earthdwellers is going to open up a discussion thinking about how we respond to God's Word and the role that God's Word plays in history. The word is used in Revelation 6:10, "…avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" They want justice on the earthdwellers. The earthdwellers is a technical term for those ho have already rejected God and will never, no matter what happens, believe in Christ. They are set and they will never change. God doesn't set them that way, that is the operation of their own volition. There is another class of people not referred to as earthdwellers but are referred to as saints, and these are those who believe in Jesus Christ. Every day in the Tribulation hundreds of thousands of people will trust Christ as their Saviour. We see that the number of martyrs that John saw in heaven are without number, and yet there are very large numbers in other places in the book of Revelation, e.g. the 200-million demon army that is released from under the Euphrates. So you can count very high in the book of Revelation but John says the number of martyrs is innumerable. There are enormous numbers, earthdwellers, those who worship the Antichrist and are antagonistic to God, His plan, His purposes and His people. There are those who are not part of that group, who will not worship the Antichrist, and among those there will be many who are saved.

 

In Revelation 3:10 we have the first time this phrase is used and Jesus is promising the church at Philadelphia: NASB " … I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that {hour} which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth." The Greek word for "test" means to assay, to evaluate, to expose, to weigh, to prove the nature of something. The idea here is to expose their true nature, motivation and belief. So this testing is to remove the veneer of morality, ethics and religiosity from unbelievers on the earth, and to expose them in all of their evil and hostility toward God.

 

Revelation 8:13 NASB " … 'Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!'" This is in the midst of the fourth trumpet judgment which is very similar to the sixth seal judgment in that there are various manifestations in the geophysical plain. So these earthdwellers are a particular object of divine judgment.

 

Revelation 11:10 NASB "And those who dwell on the earth {will} rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth." This chapter deals with the two witnesses, two Jewish prophets—many believe that they will be Elijah and Moses—who return to proclaim the gospel during the time of the first half of the Tribulation period. They are opposed by the earthdwellers. When the Antichrist kills these two witnesses they have a world-wide party. It shows their antagonism, their hate for those who have represented God, that they have a celebration over their execution.

 

Revelation 13:7, 8 NASB "It was also given to him [Antichrist] to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, {everyone} whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." These are unbelievers who will remain unbelievers; they will never ever turn to God, they are hardened in their unbelief. [12, dealing with the false prophet] "He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed." This is a violation of the first commandment, i.e. to have another god other than God. Romans chapter one says that this is the core of all hostility toward God, to worship the creature rather than the creator. [14] "And he [false prophet] deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life."

 

In Revelation 14:6 we see that God's grace does not stop towards the earthdwellers. Despite their opposition He continues to give them the gospel.

 

Revelation 17:8 NASB "The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come." This is when the house of cards comes crashing down and they finally realise that the beast will never give them victory.

 

This same terminology is found also in the Old Testament passages. Isaiah 24:21 NASB "So it will happen in that day, That the LORD will punish the host of heaven on high, And the kings of the earth on earth." This is a similar phrase, the earthly kings. This is a term that comes out of a section in Isaiah which emphasises what happens just prior to the establishment of the kingdom. just toward the end of the Tribulation.

 

Isaiah 26:9 NASB "At night my soul longs for You, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently; For when the earth experiences Your judgments The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness." This is their experiential learning when they are going through the testing. So this is the counterpoint to the testing because God is teaching about His righteousness and His righteous judgments.

 

The final two verses in Isaiah 26 indicate the Tribulation period, especially in relation to Israel. Isaiah 26:21 NASB "For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; And the earth will reveal her bloodshed And will no longer cover her slain."

 

The legal basis for this judgment goes back to the Noahic covenant, "the everlasting covenant" as it is stated in Isaiah 24:5. This is the covenant God made with Noah, and on the basis of that covenant God judges the Gentiles. They are not judged on the basis of the Mosaic Law, that was only for Israel; they are judged on the basis of their violation of the Noahic covenant which establishes the error of idolatry. So the Noahic covenant continues in effect. Even today we know that because we see the rainbow, and this should remind us of at least three provisions in the Noahic covenant. The first provision is that God authorised capital punishment and that those who commi8t certain crimes, especially murder, should be executed. The second that we should remember is that we should enjoy good steak because it is also in the Noahic covenant that God establishes the fact that man should now eat meat. Before that they did not. The third to celebrate is that God will not again destroy the earth by water. That reminds us that he will destroy the earth in the future through fiery judgment when He will then create the new heavens and the new earth.

 

What we see by the proclamation of God's Word by the witnesses, by those who are martyred, is that the hearts of these unbelievers are heartened. We should be reminded that both believers and unbelievers can harden their hearts toward God. One of the classic pictures of the hardening of believers' hearts to the Word of God is in Psalm 95. In Psalm 95:8 God says NASB "Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness, [9] When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work." This section is picked up and quoted three times by the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews and applied to church age believers. We are not to harden our hearts to God's Word. But unbelievers will harden their hearts. Their rejection of God will become intensified by God's judgment. Part of the purpose of that judgment is to expose their hardened hearts, their rejection of Him, as God brings about justice and the judicial destruction of evil during the Tribulation period. But Revelation is not just a book of judgment, it is also a book of grace. Throughout the Tribulation God will continue to bring the gospel to these unbelievers who are hardened against Him because God's desire is that all be saved.                   

 

Illustrations