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.
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?