• Introduction: Fairy tales seem to always have a happy ending. There is the expression …”and they lived happily ever after.”  Today’s message has a similar ending.  However, like in many stories, there are problems and circumstances to overcome in order to get to the happy ending.
    • You may have once heard of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.  We will spend a few moments discussing these four horsemen and what that symbolism means for us as we also keep in mind the saints who have gone before us this All Saints Day.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank you for the promise of eternal life for all who acknowledge Your Son Jesus in their action. Send Your Spirit to encourage us as we live through this sinful Age that delivers toil, pain, and death.  Have us focus on the prize of eternal life with You as we overcome the evils of today.  We pray this through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with the You, Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Background:  In order to really understand our text for today in Rev Ch#7, it is worth looking back into the previous two chapters of Revelation to see why the Lord would make a point to interrupt visions of the destruction of this Age with a sweet Gospel-filled message for us.
    • Rev Ch#5 is the view from heaven of Jesus’ ascension into heaven.  A key verse in Rev Ch#5 is v5 -  And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; 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.”  What exactly are these seven seals that was so important? Up to this point, no one was worthy to open the scroll with those seals.
      • Many of the seven seals are symbols of what plagues the people of this Age will experience from the time Jesus ascended into heaven until He returns to earth a second and final time to end it all and bring His people home to the place He prepared for them.
      • What is interesting about these seven seals is that they are not all gloom and doom. God has left Gospel messages within the tribulations plaguing the earth.  Let’s take a moment to go through some of the seals leading up to Ch#7.
    • Rev Ch#6[1] starts out with a seal that is a symbol of tribulation, but not for us.  It is a symbol of tribulation for demons and Satan himself.  We read from the beginning of Ch#6 - Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.
      • White is a symbol of holiness.  In ancient times, conquerors and rulers rode on white horses.  Horses were associated with war, conquest, and triumph.
      • We see in Rev Ch#19 another reference to a rider on a white horse who leads the armies of God.  In both Rev Ch#’s 6 & 19 the symbolism indicates the reality of the Word of God roaming throughout the world.  The Word triumphs over everything
      • So where is the terror in this rider on the white horse of Rev Ch#6?  The terror isn’t for us.  As we explored a couple weeks ago, the word is 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2Ti 3:16-17 ESV)  The word converts our soul from the evil which dwells within us to working the good that God would have us do in the world He created.
      • The terror of this first of seven seals is for Satan and the demons who follow him. They know their time is short before their eternal torment comes.  In Luke Ch#4, Jesus 31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. (Luke 4:31-35 ESV) The demons know probably better than us about what the future holds for them.  It is nothing but eternal punishment.  For us who are baptized and in Christ, we have the wonderful expectation of Jesus bringing us to the place He has prepared for us.
    • When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.
      • You might say violence has been a fact of life on earth since before the time of Noah. We read from Gen 6:11-13 - 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
        • The earth was filled with violence so bad that God wanted to wipe out mankind about 6,000yrs ago and start over.  It is frequent in the city of Chicago, right here in the United States and not some third world country, there will be dozens of shootings over a weekend.  Gang violence is definitely the norm in areas of Chicago, but last Thursday, Halloween night, is an example of just how far down the path of violence Chicago has gotten. From the New York Times on line[2], the following was reported:
          • A 15-year-old male was charged with two counts of attempted murder on Friday in connection with a shooting on Halloween in Chicago that injured a 7-year-old trick-or-treater and a 31-year-old man, the police said.  The unidentified juvenile was also charged with two counts of aggravated battery/discharge firearm, the Chicago Police Department said in a news release on Saturday.
          • A 7yr old little girl out trick or treating is shot.  You scratch your head and wonder what could have prompted the attempted murder of this little kid?  Violence is increasing as we get closer to the end of the world.  As we abandon God’s word in this nation, we can only expect it to get worse.  As we said with the first seal, the Word of God can and does conquer.  Evil cannot stand in the presence of God.  Please get and keep the word of the Lord in your life. Live God’s word and the peace of the Lord will dwell with you now and forever more.  God’s people have been targeted for violence throughout history, but it is equally true God’s people have been spared violence because of His protection.
    • When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”
      • The symbolism of this third seal is not so clear until it is understood the price for a quart of wheat is an entire day’s wages.  What we draw from this is the end times from Jesus’ ascension into heaven until the last day will be a time when many will live hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck.  People will be in terror of just figuring out how to get enough to eat.
      • A fellow SMP pastor, Ron York of sister LC-MS congregation Peace in the Valley located in Benson, once told me about an experience he witnessed on a mission trip to Honduras.  The mission was to teach and preach the word to kids in particular.  It’s tough for people to learn when they are hungry and so the mission would provide two meals a day on week days for the kids being reached in the mission.  What did the kids do when there weren’t any meals provided?  They concocted a literal mud pie to eat.  The “pie” was made of dirt wetted into mud that would fill the stomach and quell the severe hunger they were experiencing.
      • However, this third seal is the first with a boundary.  In the latter part of v6 the statement is made, “…do not harm the oil and wine.”  This portion of the third seal is hard to interpret.  Oil and wine were used for healing as we see in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  To recall, in Luke Ch#10, Jesus is quoted telling the parable of the Good Samaritan in answer to a question on who is our neighbor.  A person is attacked on the path to Jericho.  A priest and a Levite see this person who was left half dead by robbers, but walk away from the victim.  However, a hated Samaritan sees the victim and we pick up the parable in Luke 10:33-34 - 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.
      • What we don’t see in the third seal is God protecting oil and wine from being priced out of the reach of people so much as we see God setting a limit on how bad affordability will be a problem.  This is no different than God setting limits on how far the seas come ashore.  God said to Job - Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, 11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?  (Job 38:8-11 ESV)  There is no problem you will encounter in life which the Lord has left unbounded.  He will provide a way out of temptation that becomes too great to withstand.  God has set a limit in your eternal life of 70 or 80yrs if you have the strength, before He, like the saints of old, will call you to eternal rest where He invites you to 1Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Isa 55:1 ESV)  Whatever troubles you experience in this Age are a blip on the radar screen of your eternal life, because God has set limits on what His people will have to endure.
    • When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.
      • The danger with this fourth seal is to assume that we have a literal fourth of the earth being killed with sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts.  100% of the people born in or before 1890 are dead. 😊 The souls of some of those who died are in heaven with the Lord this very moment.  However, those not in heaven are in the grave.  The OT rendered the word “sheol” to indicate the grave or the pit.  The NT equivalent word in Greek is ᾅδης.  People who had no intention to give glory to the Lord and led their life as far away from God that they could be are in a deep sleep awaiting Judgement Day.  They will be raised from the dead only to then be sentenced to be eternally banished from the presence of the Lord.
      • However, this is not what God wanted nor wants for any of His most prized creation – mankind.  God said in Eze 33:11 - 11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?  God has provided the way to salvation from this eternal death and punishment as symbolized in the fourth seal.
      • Jesus said just before He ascended into heaven - 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.  The formula is simple: believe and be baptized.  This is the mission of the church and its individuals like you and me.  We need to be faithful in the word, the word provided in the first seal, and we need to proclaim God’s word to those around us.  You don’t have to be a great public speaker to preach and teach the word of God. Sometimes, your actions will speak louder than any words you would speak.  The Word is a conquering force which overcame death and hades on the cross. These cannot prevail against the Word and we read later in Revelation Jesus tosses death and hades into the lake of burning sulfur which is hell.  Your baptism is a deposit of the Holy Spirit who is a guarantee of what is to come if you are faithful to the Lord.  Because we are so spiritually corrupt, God provides His Spirit so that we can believe.  Trust in His great mercy!
  • These four seals each had symbolism of a rider on a horse.  Some throughout history have referred to these riders as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.   Three of the four brought tribulation upon the world. The first of the four however brought tribulation to the forces of evil who work against God and His creation.  God is in control of everything whether we think He is or not.  We will confess after this sermon the Nicene Creed in which we will confess Jesus sitting at the right had of God the Father.  What this means is Jesus is the Father’s “right hand man” so to speak.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus, God’s one and only Son who was faithful even to death on a cross.
    • We now look at the fifth seal, which is not a plague like the previous three seals.  In fact, the fifth seal has nothing to do with earth, but is in heaven.  When he (Jesus) opened the fifth seal, I (John) saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
      • These souls are those who departed from this Age either in faith of the Messiah who was to come, or faith in that same Messiah who did come.  Last summer, we covered in a sermon what the Apostle Paul saw in heaven that he could not describe.  I repeat from 2Co 12:2-4 - I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. What both John and Paul saw were the saints who have gone before us and are already waiting for us to get there.
  • Conclusion:  On this All Saints Day remembrance, it is these souls of the saints who have gone before us that we remember.  They, like us, endured the plagues of three of the Four Horsemen. Unlike in a fairytale, the pain experienced from the tribulation was real.  It caused tears.  For them, God limited the amount they had to endure as He built character in them through suffering and disciplining them to shape and mold them into the people He had plans for once in heaven.
    • This same God who brought them into a place He prepared specially for them, is the same God who does and will do the same for you and for me.  Jesus said to His disciples on the night He was betrayed - “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
      • We have a glimpse of what that place prepared in advance for each of us looks like from our reading for today in Rev 17:16-17 - 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
      • Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd as recorded in John Ch#10.  We now see in our text for today what Jesus ultimately had in mind.  He is the Good Shepherd for us here on earth, and He continues to be the Good Shepherd for all those souls who died in Christ and now dwell this very moment in heaven.
      • None of those three horsemen will be anywhere near heaven. No more hunger.  No more thirst.  No more desire to commit acts of violence against others.  No more death.  The first horseman, the Word, will be there as your Shepherd.  You will have conquered, because Jesus the Good Shepherd has conquered.  And He, in all gentleness and respect for what you will have endured, will wipe every tear from your eyes.  He did it for the saints you have known who are now with Him, and He will one day do it for you too!   Amen.

[1] Significant portions of the material presented on Rev Ch#6 is condensed from Poellot, Luther, Concordia Classic Commentary Series, Revelation, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO, 1987

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/31/us/chicago-shooting-halloween.html