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Revelation 6:1-2 & Romans 1:18-19 by Robert Dean
Also includes Romans 1:24-31
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:58 mins 4 secs

Judgement; God's Passive and Active Judgement; Rev. 6:1-2; Rom. 1:18-19, 24-31


We live in a world today where people are increasingly hostile to the truth of God's Word. It is more and more evident that just the reading of the Word of God, just the very knowledge that there are conservative Bible believing Christians that might actually take the principles in God's Word and let them impact the way they live, angers and meets a hostile reaction from elements in the culture in which we live. And just because they know that when a believer makes a certain statement that implies a belief in the absolute it shakes them to the very core. Part of the reason for this is because, as we will see in Romans chapter one, in every single human being there is the absolute knowledge that God exists and that God's Word is God's Word, and that it represents the way things actually are. But fallen man in his rejection of God is constantly suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, and in a culture that has moved into the whole realm of licentiousness and of tolerance and promotion of sin, when suddenly people who have managed to anaesthetise themselves to any kind of absolute morality come into contact with somebody who believe in absolutes that ugly little sense of God that they have down in their souls starts to rear, in their opinion, its ugly little head and they have to stuff it back down. Often their reaction is quite hostile and quite violent. And the more we live in a culture that is dominated by relativism, by atheism, by just pure permissiveness in every area of life, the more the reaction to those who believe in the truth is going to come forward. This is simply a picture of the extreme hostility that will be present in the Tribulation against those who hold to the teaching of God's Word.


One of the elements that comes out of this is the fact that the Bible teaches that there is future accountability for every single human being, that it some point we will all stand before God, the ultimate judge of the universe. As believers we will be evaluated at the judgment seat of Christ but unbelievers will go before the great white throne judgment at the end of the Millennial kingdom; but there is this principle of accountability, the principle that we cannot live life as we would like to live life. Throughout history God has built into the nature of reality, moral laws and spiritual absolutes, that when they are violated they bring about certain consequences. But rebellious, autonomous man, man who has rejected God and who tries to live as if there is no God constantly rails against this whole idea that there are absolutes. The book of Judges in the Old Testament is a perfect portrayal of what man wants to do living in autonomy from God: everyone did that which was right in his own eyes. That is just a pure moral relativism that occurred during the time of the Judges and it led to the anarchy and the collapse of all order in Israel at various times during that time because of the reign of moral relativism.


That brings our focus on two principles that are embedded throughout Scripture, and specifically in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 6-19 the focal point is on divine judgment in history, It is a judgment that has been put off until the right time. Six times between chapters 6 and 19 we have the use of the word "wrath"—either the wrath of the Lamb or the wrath of God. This word "wrath" is a term that is used in Scripture to talk about the judgment of God, the exercise of His judicial power in human history as He brings judgment upon man for their sins. So we see the principle in Scripture that God is going to judge sin. Man cannot just sin and rebel against the authority of God with impunity and there are two ways in which God judges sin.


The first way has to do with internal dynamics. What that means is things that God has built into the warp and woof of the ways things are, reality—moral laws, spiritual laws. It is the principle that we often see, that we reap what we sow. There are certain consequences that will flow from sinful actions. They may not occur immediately, it may take months or years before the consequences build up enough and there are negative results. This is a judgment that God builds into the internal dynamics and we often see the judgment come with the cumulative effects of bad decisions. In history the cumulative effect of bad decisions can often be quite disastrous. Fortunately, God in His grace often overrides those natural consequences. On the other hand, God in His grace has often restrained the effects of evil so that many people, many organisations and groups, have wanted to perpetuate certain kinds of behaviour, certain kinds of actions, certain philosophical systems, and have been prevented from doing so. Human history should be much worse than it has been but God has restrained evil. That restraint of evil will disappear during the Tribulation period. God also has an indirect intervention that goes along with these internal dynamics where He will at times remove certain restraints in the history of certain people and cultures and mankind in general, and as we will see in Romans chapter one, He gives the people over to their evil intentions.  


The second way is what could be called external dynamics. This is where we have a direct supernatural intervention by God in history. For example, the flood of Noah was an external dynamic where God intervened supernaturally and caused a world-wide flood in order to judge those who were in rebellion against Him. There was also the judgment at the time of the exodus. The ten plagues that God brought against Egypt were God's direct intervention, His direct judgment on the evil of the Egyptian civilisation. The judgment on the city of Jericho was a direct intervention. We see both of these principles in the outworking of judgment in the book of Revelation. 

Rom 1:18-19 NASB "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." The subject here has to do with the wrath of God which is the Greek word orge [o)rgh]. It is used for a term to express the harshness of divine judgment. It is a figure of speech because it is not that God is losing His temper and having an emotional reaction to what man does, because God in His omniscience has always been aware of everything that happens in human history, He knows everything that happens in human history, and he has not been eternally angry or throwing an eternal temper tantrum with regard to man's sinfulness. Wrath is an anthropopathism related to applying to God certain human emotions that He does not actually possess in order to help us to understand and relate to God's plan and purposes in history. So wrath is a term that is used for divine judgment. Cf. Revelation 6:16, 17; 11:18; 14:10; 16:19; 19:15. The entire Tribulation is the outpouring of God's judgment on rebellious man.

"…all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." These two nouns are linked together by the grammar. They are not identical but they are synonyms and they refer to two aspects of the same thing. The first word is asebeia [a)sebeia]. The "a" is equivalent to the English "un". The word sebeia has a rich history going back to classical Greek and originally it had the idea of keeping your distance from something. It came to indicate reverence of fear for something and it was applied to religion in the sense of having piety toward a deity, having a sense of respect. When it comes to the Old Testament usage it relates to the concept of having a fear of God—not fear in the sense of being fearful or afraid but the sense that we recognise that God is the ultimate authority and there is accountability, and so just as a child should be motivated to obey his parents by a fear of the consequences human beings should be fearful of God because they know that there is accountability and there is future judgment. But when there is asebeia there is no fear of God, no concern for God, no spiritual life, no recognition of God's authority at all. That word is combined in this passage with adikia [a)dikia]. It comes from the noun dike [dikh] meaning "righteousness," so adikia means "unrighteousness." So the expression that we have here in Romans 1:18 is that the wrath of God is revealed against those who have rejected God's authority and rejected the standard of behaviour as expressed in the righteousness of His character.

Then we have a relative clause that describes this category of men. It is not describing all mankind because there are those who have responded in positive volition, trusted God, wanted to know more about God and responded positively to the gospel. But this is wrath against a certain classification of mankind who "suppress the truth in unrighteousness." The idea there is suppression is the idea of holding something down, pushing it down. It is knowledge of God that is built into the heart of man because we are in the image and likeness of God that is constantly going to be bringing itself to the surface. There is nothing man can do to change that and yet man in his fallen state in negative volition seeks to suppress it, to push it down, to constantly try to stuff it down into the basement of his soul, but it constantly keeps popping up because everything in God's creation keeps reminding them again and again and again that God is and that God exists and that they will be accountable to Him. The more they resist the more sensitive they become to any witness or testimony to the reality of God the more they just go ballistic every time somebody mentions there might be a God. They can't live on the basis of the reality that there is a God because that means that they are going to be accountable, and that is the one thing they are trying to suppress.

The next phrase "in unrighteousness" is really an expression of means—they suppress it by means of unrighteousness. In other words, there is an unrighteous thought system that seeks to justify the rejection of God. The reason they do that is stated in verse 19: "because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." In their soul they have complete certainty of the existence of God but they've been suppressing it, covering it up, drugging it, doing everything in their power to try to stuff this down into the sub-basement of their thought. We may tell them that God exists and they will say they don't believe God exists because they have been suppressing this for so long.    

Romans 1:20 NASB "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." Within the very structure of creation there is this testimony, a spiritual sign saying: "God made this." The non-verbal testimony of the creation itself is enough evidence to hang them, to hold them accountable; they are without excuse. The problem: [21] "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile [mataiotes/ mataiothj = emptiness or vanity] in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." The first cause for divine judgment was their negative volition at God consciousness; the second cause is expressed in vv. 21, 22, that they don't glorify God and they are ungrateful. This provides the basis for the judgment—their rejection of God. [22] "Professing to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." In this second result they substitute the worship of something that is in creation for the creator.

Then God is going to do something and this explains how God works to remove the restraint of sin and evil. Romans 1:24 NASB "Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them." The verb in the Greek is paradidomi [paradidomi], the same word that describes Judas's betrayal of Jesus. God is in effect says: "So you want to live as if I don't exist? Okay, I'm going to remove some of the restraints and now you are going to fully experience the results of your rebellion." God giving them over is God judging them through the means of the natural consequences built into the system. The first stage of God giving them over is that they become dominated by the lust patterns of their own sin nature, so everybody in the culture begins to run around operating on their own lusts—whether it is materialism lust, sex lust, or any other kind of lust that they have—and everybody begins to operate as though there are no absolutes and they can fulfil all of their lusts and they become completely self-absorbed in lust satisfaction. God gives them over to that. That is God's judgment on a culture. It is not something that is going to bring about God's judgment. This is God's judgment because there has been a rejection of God already and so He is giving the culture over to all of their lusts. And that is going to lead to something else. 

Romans 1:25 NASB "For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie…" In our country that began to happen in the early 19th century, and by the 20th century that had worked itself out in a major way in our culture. There was still a residual impact from previous generations that had honoured God and had applied His Word, but the foundation was already crumbling. By the time of the post-WW 2 era, and especially into the 1960s, there was just a façade left of what this country once was. There was the exchange of the truth of God for a lie: that man was the centre of the universe and that man could determine his destiny. "… and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." The unholy trinity came together in the middle of the 19th century and we had Charles Darwin, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Those three men and the philosophies that they set forth set up the foundation for modern American culture. But it doesn't stop there. When man carries out the lusts of his heart and continues to reject God then God is going to go to stage two of judgment, v. 26, and the judgment on the culture is homosexuality. 

Romans 1:26 NASB "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, [27] and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error." The homosexuality that we see has become rampant in western civilisation is the judgment of God on western civilisation for the rejection of His authority in our lives. This means that there is an eternal consequence of judgment on the soul because the lust of the flesh, as Peter says, wars against the soul. It increases the distortion and the foolish thinking, the darkened thinking, of those who are engaged in this sin. But it doesn't stop there, it goes to the next level, a third stage of judgment that God takes the culture to as He removes restraint.  

Romans 1:28 NASB "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, [increased perversion] [29] being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; {they are} gossips, [30] slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, [31] without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; [32] and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them." That is where we are in our culture: we want to give approval and recognition which goes way beyond the concept of tolerance. Now these things are okay and we want to legitimise all of these different perversions and it is really okay because man is avoiding the judgment of God. But what we see in Romans chapter one is a clear illustration of how God has built certain things into the structure of human society and human beings so that when we commit certain sins there are consequences that flow from those sins. When there is an accumulation of those sins within a culture then it leads more and more to the internal collapse of that culture. There is an accumulation of unintended consequences and the house of cards that has been built upon this atheism, this rejection of divine authority, when it collapses it is going to collapse in an unbelievable way. This is what will happen in the first four judgments in Revelation chapter six.

The first four seal judgments, the four horsemen, represent a natural internal dynamic that God has built into the system. When we get down to the next judgments we then begin to see God's direct supernatural intervention in terms of the judgments, but these first four judgments all flow naturally from the consequences of sinfulness of man and the rejection of God and His authority. The riders are not representative of human beings, they are personifications of the judgments that God is allowing to take place upon the earth as he has pulled back His restraint of evil. The first horseman is the conqueror and represents the conquest of the Antichrist, and initially that conquest is a peaceful conquest as represented by the fact that he has a bow but no arrows.      

Revelation 6:3 NASB "When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, 'Come.' [4] And another [of the same kind], a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that {men} would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him." The second seal is the removal of peace and as restraint is taken away war breaks out. This represented in Daniel 7 by the little horn taking power through military action against three of the horns to establish his kingdom in the western confederacy of the revived Roman empire. The horse is a flame coloured horse. The Greek term that is used here is hippos purros [i(ppoj purroj]—purros is the word for fire, so it is the colour of fire. It is a metaphor for the blood that will be shed in the wars that break out at this particular time. This is not a reference to any kind of war that we are familiar with, this is going to take war to a completely different level. Any war that we have had in history to this point will pale in comparison to the destruction and loss of life when these wars break out during the early part of the Tribulation. The words "it was granted to take peace from the earth" doesn't man that there was peace already on the earth. Frequently is Scripture there is a negation stated to express the positive and it is a much stronger way of expressing that there will be incredible war on the earth by saying that there won't be any peace. What it is emphasising is that there will be no peace on the earth at all, there will be war breaking out at this point that goes far beyond anything seen in previous wars. The word that is used here for "slay" is a word that indicates a great slaughter. The sword mentioned is the machaira [maxaira] which was the offensive and defensive weapon used by Greek soldiers—the short sword that they had, not the longer broadsword. It is the sword that represents the power of death. It is used in Romans 13:4 where the government has the power of the sword, i.e. the power to take life. The sword represents the cause of death. Cf. Jeremiah 15:17.

Again we have a parallelism with Matthew chapter 24. Beginning in 24:4 Jesus is answering the question: What are the signs of your coming? What Jesus says in answer to that, beginning in verse 4, is not related to the trends of this dispensation. At the end He says: "These are the beginnings of the birth pangs." So everything we have here—even though we have famines and poverty and earthquakes, etc. now, He is not talking about now; He is not talking about trends today at all, He is talking about what will happen at the beginning of the Tribulation. Famines relates to the third seal judgment and earthquakes relates the fifth seal judgment. But then He says: "But all these things are {merely} the beginning of birth pangs." Then in verse 9 NASB "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name." That is the martyrdom that occurs in the fifth seal judgment. As we go through this and we get down to the fourth seal judgment we learn that one fourth of the earth is killed during this time.

Then we come to the third seal judgment, Revelation 6:5 NASB "When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, 'Come.' I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand." The scales are going to indicate value. We use scales to weigh out certain things that we purchase. [6] "And I heard {something} like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, 'A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.'" From the imagery that we saw in chapters four and five the one who is in the midst of the four living creatures is the Lamb who was slain. This is the Lord Jesus Christ speaking. The first seal judgment was the allowance of conquest—even though it began without war it eventually led to war in the second seal judgment. War led to the destruction of both the means of production and the distribution of products. Products can't make it to market and there becomes a scarcity of products. Economics is ruled by the law of supply and demand, and when there is a large supply and a low demand the products are cheap. When there is a low supply and a high demand then the cost of the goods will go up. In the Tribulation period in the third seal judgment it is not an artificially restricted supply, it is a supply that is going to be restricted because of the outbreak of war. So there is a destruction of the entire infrastructure where supplies and moved from the farm to the market, and as a result of that prices are going to go through the roof on basic staples.

A denarius is the equivalent to a day's wage. So if a day's wage is what half a pound of flour is going to cost we get some idea of how difficult it is going to be to survive. What is not damaged is the oil and the wine, and this represents luxury items. So the rich get richer, the wealthy have the resources to still get what they need, but the people who get damaged the most in this seal judgment are going to be the people who are at the lower end of the economic scale. But it is going to be the natural consequence of the arrogance of man that leads first to the international conquest by the Antichrist, then the breakout of incredible war, and then here we will see the damaging economic consequences. We will see in the fourth seal that this leads to incredible death.