In Need of a Good Diagnosis
Rev. 6:1 Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures call out, as with a voice of thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there was a white horse! Its rider had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering and to conquer.
Rev. 6:3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature call out, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another; and he was given a great sword.
Rev. 6:5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature call out, “Come!” I looked, and there was a black horse! Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand, 6 and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s pay, and three quarts of barley for a day’s pay, but do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”
Rev. 6:7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature call out, “Come!” 8 I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth.
These four seals depict dire situations to be found on the earth. The first seal reveals the warring factions which conquer simply to conquer. The second seal shows that peace has been removed from the earth and the root of peace generally comes when peoples’ deepest personal needs are not met. Famine, displacement and struggles lead to a lack of peace which may just be brought about because of the third seal. Why is it that food for the average person is so expensive but the oil and wine, those items for the wealthy continue to be available? There is a sense of injustice and then the fourth seal, death comes upon the land.
N.T. Wright in “Revelation for Everyone” paints a fascinating picture for us of this passage of scripture. Instead of being a mystery which we are to unravel about some future time, it is a descriptor of the current state of humanity. It is a bit of a diagnosis which reveals the deep need for a cure. Humanity has a problem.
We love to fight.
Our selfishness leaves no space for peace.
Our greed and lack of justice means the wealthy get wealthier and the poor become more poor.
Death sweeps across the earth because of greed.
Wright would go on to argue that Christians do not want to deal with these deeper issues. Instead we want to have a type of Christianity-light in which we may discuss the need at a superficial level but if that’s the case, there will be no real diagnosis, nor will there be a genuine cure.
The revelation reveals to us the real state, or condition, of the earth and without understanding what’s really wrong, there will be no hope. The first step toward a cure, is a good diagnosis.
Our world truly is sick and yet the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer to her ills. If the people of God would live as God’s holy people, then there would be an intersection between the ills and the cure. However, when most of us read this scripture we think about some cosmic event which will occur sometime in the future. But what if the seven seals are simply a reality check for God’s people? Also, they are not necessarily something that will happen in chronological order, but just like a song, they are different voices which are playing out simultaneously and creating discord.
Receiving a real diagnosis means that we can plan the correct treatment. As God’s people we may need to have some light shed on the real issues of the day and recognize where we may fit into the picture. Even Christians are living as selfish and greedy individuals and we may not even realize what we are doing. Today the price of oil will be discussed by a group of nations. Americans love their cheap oil and yet, are willing to have that oil at any cost to the world? What about our cheap clothing and/or food? Do we look beyond the surface level and realize what is happening deeper? That’s what these seals are all about, diagnosing what is happening internally so that there can be an appropriate cure. Then, as God's holy people we are to live in the presence of Jesus Christ, the cure, and bring hope to the deepest levels of need which are found in the world. When Christ is in us, we are the cure for the diagnosis.
Lord, please help me be willing to receive your diagnosis and move with you into the cure. Amen.
Thank you to Nazarene Publishing House and Keri Mitchell for helping to create and publish Reflecting the Image. This is not a devotional book, but rather a collection of thoughts and stories which lead us in the direction of reflecting Christ. Click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.