"A i kite ahau i te wahanga o tetahi o nga hiri e te Reme, i rongo hoki i tetahi o nga mea ora e wha e mea mai ana, ano he reo whatitiri, Haere mai."
"I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!”
"Na ‘ou iloa atu fo‘i ‘ua tatalaina e le Tama‘i Mamoe le tasi o fa‘amaufa‘ailoga e fitu, ‘ona ‘ou fa‘alogoina ai lea o le tasi o meaola e fa, o lona leo e pei o se faititili, fai mai, “Sau ia!”
The Lamb opens a scroll with seven seals.
In the middle of John's vision, we are shown that the Lamb is at the centre of reality. The Lamb—Jesus Christ—is taking the initiative, drawing human history to a close.
Follow this progression. Jesus takes the initiative and opens each one of the seven seals. Each seal brings a new event, a new part of the story. With each seal opened, four living creatures call “come,” and the four horsemen obediently appear.
Here’s what I want you to see really clearly: the four horsemen are here at the initiative of Jesus. They are here in obedience to the living creatures who worship Jesus. What each horseman will pour out on the earth is given to them by Jesus.
The first horseman rides a white horse and is given a crown to conquer, to dominate, to enslave, to destroy. He seeks to bring people under his rule. He is a counterfeit, because there is only one with the true crown.
The second horseman is given the power to take peace from the earth. He is also given a large sword. This fiery red horse and its rider are opposed to the lamb and opposed to the rule of the Lamb. They will consume the world in blood and war.
The third horseman is a picture of the economic greed and injustice caused by the first two. Any time populations are at war or in turmoil, the cost of food and fuel skyrocket, black markets spring up, and hunger and oppression spread. At the same time, the elite enjoy the spoils of good wine and food.
The fourth horseman is the ultimate fulfilment of the first three. He is without colour—like death itself. The fourth horseman, Death and the Grave, is given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, plague and wild beasts.
Here at the end of history, four horsemen ravage the earth. They instigate war and famine. The powers of evil hold sway and plunge the world into injustice. They trample the earth, bringing only death and despair.
This image is so far removed from what we imagine the rule and reign of Christ to be. He is the prince of peace, the giver of life, the first of the resurrection. What is happening in this vision?
Here's what is going on in this scene. At the end of all time, Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, gives evil powers space to enact what they have given themselves over to. He gives them room to embroil humanity in what it, too, has given itself over to. Jesus has given the evil powers and humanity over to each other. And the consequences of this conflict could come at a great cost to Christians.
But although it's hard to see, there is comfort in this image. There is great comfort in knowing that it is our Lord who holds the history of the world in his hands, our Lord who controls all history and our history.
John's vision doesn't end in death and despair. It ends in life, life everlasting.
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!' ”
I don’t know what you are going through, the secret griefs. I don’t know all that is ahead of us as western Christians, but I do know this: The Lamb who was slain for us, he is the one who holds history in his hands.
We can take comfort in his care and control. The one who gave his life for sinners like you and me, he is the one who has written both the end of time and our own time.
By Mark Grace, CCCNZ Ambassador
International Brethren Conference on Mission
Some of the New Zealand contingent:
Front row (left to right): Italia Tapu and Briony Diffey. Middle row: Kerry Rickard, Max Guptill, Gillian Guptill, Francine Bennett, Ane Ponifasio, Ruth Stormer, Julie McKinnon. Back row: Renata Te Aho, Mark Grace, Joel Birkin, Mark van Wijk, Marina Shannon, Jerome Edwards, Joshua Stormer, Winston McEwan, Bruce Stormer.
It’s Thursday night in central Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. More than 1,100 leaders from Open Brethren heritage churches in 100 countries are meeting together for the 8th International Brethren Conference on Mission.
Thirty people from the movement in New Zealand are here. I am grateful for every church in our wider movement who has commended and sent many people into God’s global purposes through GC3.
It was encouraging to see Dr. Ian Payne from Eden Community Church assisting Bible and theological colleges in the majority world by inviting academics to consider lecturing to them.
Bhatti Nadeem from Pakistan and Benjamin van der Voorn
We were blessed by Benjamin van der Voorn (pictured above), a linguistics student studying in Thailand from Onslow Community Church who is here as part of the New Zealand delegation.
Murray and Joy Stevenson with young leaders from Africa
Murray and Joy Stevenson (pictured above) are here on their way to the Congo with Dr. Winston McEwan and Lorna McEwan (pictured below), along with Briony Diffey from Whitiora Bible Chapel.
It was a real privilege to see Murray and Joy Stevenson serving, coaching, and supporting leaders from across the Congo.
From left: Hannah Fleming, Benjamin van der Voorn, Joshua Stormer and Lorna McEwan
It was lovely to hear from Murray Stevenson about the profoundly significant translation work being done over the last seven years by Hannah Fleming (pictured above).
Hannah is commended by Cornerstone International Bible Church in Dunedin and Rongotea Bible Chapel.
Hannah, we are so grateful for your ministry in translating the scriptures! It is a special delight to think the church family at Cornerstone and Rongotea are contributing to the growth of the gospel in the Philippines through you.
250 of the 1100 people here are younger leaders!
I am grateful for the contributions that Marina Shannon from Orewa Community Church, Joel Birkin from Kingston Community Church and Italia Tapu from LifeChurch Manurewa are making to the conversation among younger leaders.
Left to right: Michael and Carolyn Hanson with Bruce and Ruth Stormer
I appreciate the work of Russell Thorp from Lincoln Road Bible Chapel as he supports theological institutions in the majority world.
It was a privilege to sit in and hear about the contribution that GC3’s Executive Director Michael Hanson and Board Chair Bruce Stormer are making amongst the western and non-western mission agencies here.
I am delighted that Michael and Bruce's wives Carolyn Hanson and Ruth Stormer are able to join us.
Today it was a blessing to see leaders from the Faroe Islands pick the brains of CCCNZ staff Kerry Rickard from Kingston Community Church, Mark van Wijk from Auckland Bible Church and Julie McKinnon from Hillcrest Chapel.
Marina Shannon, a youth pastor at Orewa Community Church and Joel Birkin, Youth and Community Worker at Kingston Community Church contributed to a lunch attended by key youth leaders from the many countries here.
Murray Grindlay (pictured below), from Vivian Street Gospel Hall in Wellington, is also making a considerable contribution. Murray and Ruth Harvey spent 54 years in the Philippines.
Murray works alongside Ruth Harvey, from New Zealand, who along with her husband has spent 54 years in the Phillipines.
We are delighted to have John Vlaming, Chair of the elders at Hope Community Church, here alongside Fraser Scott from Riccarton as part of the Bright Hope World team. I am grateful for the churches that partner with leaders in the poorest communities of the world to bring gospel hope and financial sustainability through Bright Hope World.
Left to right: Linus Otigo from Kenya, Max Guptill from New Zealand, Aneseta Siaosi Mataia from Samoa, and Cefas Dias from Angola
I appreciated the input of Max Guptill (pictured above, second from left) from Mt Wellington Community Church and Ane Ponifasio from LifeChurch Manurewa and the contribution they are making to the wider pacific delegation.
I am thankful too for Rick Iles from Tamaki Community Church and his role on the IBCM advisory team.
It has been truly amazing, getting a tiny glimpse into all the ways our wider movement of churches is involved in God’s global mission through the people we have commended and sent.
It is also encouraging to think about everyone praying for and supporting those who are serving around the globe. We are all in this together. It is wonderful to get a sense of the ways you are all contributing to God’s global purposes.
We are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to be here and for the generosity and support that has made this possible.
Barrywan Tutu Tuwai and Jerome Edwards from Tamaki Community Church