The scroll, sealed with seven seals, holds a message John longs to hear.
At least he thinks he does.
I’m not nearly so sure I want to know the future. In this case, as the seals are broken, the revelation is anything but inviting. The four horses of chapter six depict mankind’s obsession with power and control. In the wake of conquest comes bloodshed (the red horse), scarcity (famine – indicated by the scales weighing grain for one person’s meal for one day’s wage), and death.
But whose death?
In chapter six, only one group matters: the people of God. Their deaths have come because of mankind’s pursuit of power, a determination to have their way regardless of the testimony of Christians. I’m reminded of Herod Antipas’ beheading of John the baptist (for calling him out on his immoral marriage). I’m reminded of Herod Agrippa I’s beheading of James, Felix’ imprisonment of Paul, and, most of all, the crucifixion of Jesus. Whenever good people cry against the callousness of the powerful, good people die.
What I find strange is that they cry from the altar of God.
Now dead and in the Lord’s presence, comforted by Him, why should they care any more about the happenings on earth? Obviously, all heaven cares about earth’s goings on. Injustice, cruelty, greed, and oppression have never escaped the notice of God, nor those in his presence.
The martyrs wonder why God doesn’t do something.
We don’t know. We’re never told. I do take some measure of comfort however in attributing it to God’s patience. He wants people of the earth to repent, and no matter how awful they act, every day judgment is delayed is another opportunity to change. I’m reminded of God’s patience with me. Asaph, in Psalm 73, vexed with the same apparent delay in God’s judgment, remembered that though he himself had sometimes acted no better than the beast of the field, still, God was with him, holding his hand, and guiding.
God’s patience is sometimes hard to swallow. It helps to remember how beneficial it has often been for the impatient.