- As the book of future events is opened seal by seal, what points of correspondence do you find with Matt. 24:4-14? Cf., e.g, verses 4, 6 and 9 with Matt. 24:6, 7 and 9. (For the meaning of the white horse, see Note 1 below.) What does this teach about the present course of world history?
- To what climax of judgment do all these things move towards? See verses 12-17 and Note 3 below. Cf. Matt. 24:29, 30. What is to be dreaded more than death? Cf. Is. 2:19-21.
- For what were the martyrs willing to lay down their lives? Are those right who think that God takes no action either for their reward or their vindication? May similar sacrifice still be called for?
- Verse 2. Two principal interpretations have been given of the white horse and his rider. Many take it to be a picture of Christ going forth in the conquests of the conquests of the gospel. Cf. Matt. 24:14; Ps. 45:3-5. Others regard it as a picture of invasion and lust of conquest, leading to the miseries of war, famine, pestilence and death. The latter seems more likely. The four horses, as in Zech. 6, form a series whose mission is to execute judgment.
- Verse 6. Such was the scarcity that a day’s wage (Matt. 20:2) would only be enough to buy only a small measure of wheat.
- Verses 12-14. The imagery of these verses is like that frequently used in the Old Testament to symbolize great upheavals among the nations. See, e.g., Is. 13:9-11, 13; Ezek. 32; 7-9; Nah.1:5.
Before the revelation of further judgments, two visions are interposed for the comfort of believers. In all that has been shown so far, nothing has been said of the church, except with regard to those who have been martyred. This passage shows the church first in this life, on earth, and so always limited in number (verses 1-8), and then numberless, in heaven, having life for evermore.
- What assurance is given in verses 1-8 concerning God’s watchful care over his people? Cf. Ezek. 9:3-6; John 6:27; 10:27-29; Rev. 9:4.
- In verses 9-17, who make up the great multitude, and where are they standing? How did they come to be there, and what are they now doing? Make a list of the blessings that they enjoy, translating the symbols into the realities that they represent.
- Verse 1. It is a task given to angels to control forces of nature. Cf. 14:18; 16:5; Heb. 1:7.
- Verses 4-8. Some have thought that those who are ‘sealed’ represent believers from among the Jews, but in the light of 14:1-4 it is better to regard the visions as including the whole ‘Israel of God’ ( Gal. 6:16).
- Verse 14. ‘The great tribulation’: cf. 3:10. Here both visions show that all who are the Lord’s will be brought safely through this earthly trial.
Revelation 8 & 9
We are brought back, after the interlude of chapter 7, to the opening of the seventh seal. Will it usher in the final end? All heaven is silent, as if in suspense and expectancy (cf. Mark 13:32), but there follows a new series of judgments (cf. Mark 13:7, 8).
- In 8:3-5 we see, in the heavenly sanctuary, what happens to the prayers of Christ’s people. What are we taught as to the efficacy of prayer when mingled with the incense of Christ’s intercession and fire from the altar of his sacrifice? In this case, what kind of answer is granted? Cf. 6:9, 10; Rom. 8:26; and see Note 5 below.
- Contrast the fire four trumpet judgments with the fifth and sixth: (a) in the objects affected, and (b) in the severity of their character and result. What was the purpose of these trumpet judgments? See 8:13; 9:20, 21. Cf. Luke 13:1-5.
- What do we learn from these chapters concerning God’s control over all that happens? See especially 8:2; 9:1, 4, 13-15.
- 8:3, 5. Two altars are to be distinguished, the ‘golden altar’ of incense, and the altar of sacrifice. See Exod. 37:25-38:7.
- 8:6. ‘Trumpets’: indicating that these judgments were sent in warning. Cf. Amos. 3:6; Ezek. 33:1-5. The destruction brought about is therefore only partial – ‘a third’.
- 9:1. ‘The Abyss’: the abode of the powers of evil. Cf. 11:7; 17:8.
- 9:11. ‘Abaddon’ and ‘Apollyon’: both mean ‘destruction’.
- 9:13. ‘The golden altar’: indicating that the prayers of the saints were being answered.
Rev. 10:1-11:13 is an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets, corresponding to chapter 7 (see Analysis). The seer first tells of his new commission (10:1-11), and then describes the church as God’s sanctuary (11:1, 2), and as bearing witness in the world (11:3-13).
- In what two ways does chapter 10 show that the revelation thus far given to John, though it extends to the end of the age (verses 6, 7), is by no means a complete disclosure of the hidden counsel of God? Cf. Deut. 29:29; Job 26:14. Of what was John now solemnly assured concerning truths that had been revealed?
- What made God’s Word sweet to taste, but bitter to digest? What responsibility did the reception of such revelation place upon John? Cf. Ezek. 2:8-3:4; 1 Sam. 3:15-18; 1 Cor. 9:16, 17. Have you any comparable privileges and responsibilities?
Note. Verses 6, 7. The mysterious purpose of God, as revealed through the prophets and worked out in earthly history, is thus to be completed or finished.
- The question of ‘who are the two witnesses’ in 11:3-12 has received many answers. Assuming that they represent the witness of the church throughout the present age, what lessons can we learn from this passage concerning true witness for Christ, the authority of his witnesses, their preservation, their suffering to death, and their find triumph? Cf. Luke 10:19; John 16:2; Acts 7:54-60.
- When God’s purposes are completely fulfilled by the sounding of the seventh trumpet (see 10:7), who is seen to be triumphant at the last? What attributes and activities of God make his triumph over all opposition certain? What ought this prospect to make us do?
- Verses 1, 2. The purpose of the measuring is to mark out what is to be preserved. If the temple represents Christ’s people (1 Cor. 3:16), the outer court may represent the Jews in their unbelief (Luke 21:24).
- Verses 2, 3 ’42 months’ is the same length of time as ‘1,260 day’ and as ‘a time, times, and half a time’ (3 and half years) of 12:6 and 12:14. It appears here to be a conventional description of the duration of the present age. Note the contrast in verse 11- only ‘three and a half days’.