Welcome to the beginning of the end of the book! Well…sort of. This is the beginning of the center of the book that builds towards the end. It is hard to lay out a definite structure to the book because each section is deeply connected to its surrounding context. Trying to break the book down into major and minor sections always proves hard to uphold because the book as a whole flows well from one section to another. Revelation can be broken down into basic themes but I’d stray away from any rigid organization of the book. Chapter 6 flows naturally from chapter 5 where Christ is the one who is “worthy” to open the seals. This transition begins the central section of the book – the seals, trumpets, and bowls.
The first four seals center on the depravity of mankind. The progression of the horsemen goes from conquest (the first seal) to civil war (the second seal) to famine (the third seal) to pestilence and death (the fourth seal). This is the natural progression of man’s inhumanity to man. Simply put, God allows human sin to come full circle, turn upon itself, and self-destruct.
The cosmic scene in the next two seals to come follows the four horsemen. The fifth seal moves from the devastation of the earthly scene caused by total depravity and focuses on the heavenly scene of the martyred saints who cry out for vindication and vengeance for the torment that has come on them from their oppressors. In the first four seals the sinners destroy themselves while the next three seals (the seventh being in chapter 8) the saints have been destroyed by the sinners. The focus of these chapters is quick to point out that the plea for vindication is quickly answered. When going through persecution, keep your faith because vindication will come.
At the end of this chapter there is a great scene where everyone goes into hiding trying to try and flee from the wrath that is coming. There are two mindsets in which to read this chapter and the wrath that is to come. You can read it in fear because you have been worshiping the wrong god and wrath is coming or you can read it with hope knowing that vindication is coming to the righteous who have been oppressed. One of my mentors summed up the Book of Revelation as this, “God wins! Pick a side. Don’t be stupid.” Depending on which side you stand determines whether or not this is a book of hope or a book of fear. Take heart! God is greater than those who oppress! Vindication is coming!