The Third Sunday in Easter

Revelation 6:1-17

Anno Domini

Anno Domini, usually abbreviated by the initials A.D., is a Latin phrase simply meaning, “in the year of the Lord.”  The phrase refers to the time since the birth of Christ.  It is a recognition that both the world and time have experienced a change since our Lord’s birth, that Christ is the centerpiece of history, that all of history leading up to him was prelude, and that all of history since his birth, life, death, and resurrection is the marvelous era of salvation, for which the prelude was preparing us.

But that is far from saying that history since his coming is hunky-dory.  We already know from First Peter that we are often called to suffer in this world that we are passing through, that we are being slowly transformed according to the image of His Son.  Here in chapter six of Revelation, we get a summary of world history and God’s judgments upon it.  We know from our Lord’s own “Olivet Discourse” in which he spoke of the coming destruction of the temple (A.D. 70, roughly forty years after his prophecy; see Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) and of his own return (the Blessed Hope for which we wait), that there will be wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines.  But he added that “these are the beginning of birth pains” and that “the end is not yet.”  So time goes on.

And indeed, we have seen just that in two thousand years of history.  The four horsemen introduced by the breaking of the first four seals represent the ravages of human sin still at work in the world: war, famine, and death.  The fifth seal shows us the martyrs who have been slain because of their testimony to Christ, martyrs who have populated every century.  But it is also important to note that it is the Lamb who breaks these seals.  In other words, these calamities are not mere accidents (as, indeed, nothing ever is), but judgments from the very throne of God.  Yes, living anno domini is a wonderful blessing, but “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3)?  The wrath of God is poured out upon rebellious men who “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18-32), and this is as true “in the year of the Lord” as it was before his coming.  But the purpose of God’s dreadful judgments is to bring sinful men to repentance, that they may see the error of their ways and their need for Christ.  Then they too may live under the dominion of the Spirit as aliens in this world of sin.  And though these aliens are sometimes subject to the same calamities (for it rains on the just and unjust), they know that they need only “rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete.”

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