At the opening of the fifth seal, the wrath of Antichrist is poured out upon believers in Jesus Christ. John beholds under the altar, the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. This is a time of tremendous persecution upon the righteous, who are willing to give their lives to the very end. A cry is heard ascending from under that heavenly altar, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” The answer to their petition is soon to be realised at the opening sixth seal as the Day of the LORD approached upon the ungodly. Satan has had his time to exercise his wrath and not it is God’s turn to execute His wrath.
Anyone who has walked with the Lord for long enough, knows full well, that there are seasons to this Christian life—I mean, it’s not all smiles and hi-fives! Living in England, we observe well, the changing patterns of nature as the bleak months of winter give way to the fresh life of budding spring. The lengthened days of summer bright with their glorious rays, alas must come to an end as the green vegetation retreats and the golden brown of autumn fills the landscape. Brethren, whatever way you look at it, we cannot avoid trial and affliction in this Christian life; we’ve a cross to bear that’s part and parcel of being called a disciple of Jesus Christ.
This sermon is an encouragement to believers who find themselves in a season of affliction and distress. In all of your tribulation, Satan is after one thing and so is God. Satan is after your faith to destroy it, but God is after your faith to strengthen it!! Don’t lose heart Christian soldier…No matter how fierce the trial, no matter how great the battle, THERE CAN BE NO TURNING BACK!
As we come to this eight and final beatitude, it appears at first sight to be a contradiction in terms. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake…” How can it be, that the words “blessed” and “persecuted” could ever appear in the same sentence? Doesn’t persecution involve pain and suffering; torment and affliction? Aren’t these bad and to be avoided at all costs? So, our Western mind theorises because we’re so used to a Christianity that’s crossless. Yet for the vast majority of believers today who find themselves living in Communist countries or in Muslim countries, they know firsthand the meaning of the words; “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt. 16:24).
The secret of the blessing lies in the second part of the verse; “…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. There are two senses in which I believe the idea of the kingdom of heaven being “theirs” is to be understood. One points to the here and now and the other to the kingdom which is to come at the appearing of our Blessed Saviour. May the Lord bless this teaching to your heart and prepare you to stand for the coming storm.
Before turning to examine the first four seals, the ground must be prepared in order to give one a framework in which to make sense of these tremendous events. That which shall take place at the opening of these seals all pertain to a future period of time yet to come, known as Daniel’s seventieth week. At that time, according to the prophet Daniel, a peace treaty will be signed between the Jewish people and their enemies, marking the start of the Tribulation period. Mid-way into these seven years, the man of Sin will break the terms of the covenant and set up the abomination of desolations in the holy place. The following 3½ years will be characterised by a great tribulation, such as the world has never seen and will come to its close at the Second Coming of the Lord.
In this teaching, we explore the first four seals.
The longer that I walk with the Lord, the more I realise that I’m not an island. Must I walk with the Lord alone, absolutely!! But my personal walk with the Saviour is for the purpose of a corporate walk with the Body of Christ to which I am a member. The time that I spend alone with the Saviour in fellowship, is fitting and preparing me for the fellowship that I am to spend with others! My relationship vertically is not in isolation to my relationship horizontally. The two are not mutually exclusive but rather are interdependent. I’m only as good to the Body of Christ as I am rightly related to God but...I’m only as rightly related to God as I am rightly related to the Brethren!
This sermon is a call for the Body of Christ to strive to be peacemakers. One of the great themes of salvation is reconciliation. We have peace with God through the blood of His dear Son. How much more should we now pursue peace with all men?
I’ve found that a man will study theology all day so long as nothing is required of Him that will disturb the stagnant waters of the heart. Someone once told me of a minister who when pressed on the matter of the quality of his personal devotional life to God, he refused to give an answer. Business was his cover and when backed into a corner and forced to give an answer, he slumped into a chair and said; “...the reason why I won’t get alone with God is because I’m scared of what He might say to me!!”. THIS MY FRIENDS IS THE HEART OF THE MATTER!! I fear that in many quarters of the so-called remnant Church, the sheep run frantically to and fro from one conference to the next; amassing to themselves much truth after the head kind. Yet, these same people are not willing to get alone with God and to expose themselves to convicting light of God the Holy Ghost!!
The easiest way for me to explain what I believe is meant in part by “Blessed are the pure in heart” is this. Happy (in a most favourable condition) is the man or the woman who will get alone with God in the secret place and say with the Psalmist David; “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24). Purity of heart has everything to do with honesty. Is there one who would say; “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart” (Ps. 26:2)?
Two whole chapters are given us by the Apostle John in order to prepare the reader for the awesome events that are to follow, when in chapter 6 a scroll is opened which sets in motion a series of cataclysmic events known as the Tribulation period which culminate in the closing out of this present age and the bringing in of the Messianic Age. Chapter 4 prepared us for what we have now come to in chapter 5, and chapter 5 will prepare us for the opening of the seals in chapter 6. Chapter 4 was a chapter of magnificent worship around the throne of God and in the chapter before us, this scene of heavenly worship is set to intensify as One is found worthy to open the book and to loose the seals.
I’ve found generally, that in times of peace, man is much more the ready to cast judgment upon his neighbour and throw stones at his fellow man. From his seat of comfort and safety, he peeks his haughty head over his proud shoulder to peer down on those beneath him. “Thank God” he say’s that I am not as other men are. You say, I’d never say that...ah friend, you might not say it in so many words but I tell you, these sentiments express many a prideful heart that is only too quick to get the magnifying glass out to remove the speck out of their Brother’s eye when they’ve a beam 10 inches thick in their own!
Hear the fifth beatitude stated plainly in our hearing and answer me this; what is the attitude of your heart when it comes to this attribute of mercy? “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy”. Seeing that we ourselves hope to receive mercy in abundance from the Lord, it is incumbent upon us that we show mercy to others. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).
There are some things that you cannot give to a man in this life, and one of those things is an appetite. You can set a plate of food before a man sick with an illness and he’s no stomach for it, even it be his favourite meal! In fact, rather than crave the food, he’s repulsed by it...and you know, when we open the door to sin in our lives and we allow worry and unbelief to consume us; when we go wondering in our hearts after the world’s possessions; do you know what happens? The hunger and thirst for righteousness in our lives are quenched.
Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled”. What a promise!!! We can have as much righteousness as we have the appetite for!! Oh God, what is hindering me from moving forward? What is stopping me from climbing higher? God is always wanting to take His people up higher, the question is, are we willing?
We move on in this eleventh teaching to survey an awesome sight. John hears the voice like a trumpet, calling him to come up hither, where he beholds the throne of God surrounded by a company of celestial beings, worshipping the One who sits upon the throne whose appearance is like unto a jasper and sardine stone!
O how feeble are our praises by comparison! How little worth we ascribe to God by our praise! How conditional is it dependent upon our feelings and emotions. Brethren, the LORD is worthy to be praised!!!!