In the essay two weeks ago (see "End-Time Cavemen"), we considered the spiritual state of the people dwelling in caves in the apostle John's vision recorded in Revelation 6:15-17:
And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"
A superficial reading of this passage seems to indicate that everyone—noble, rich, mighty, slave, and free—is asking the "mountains and rocks" to fall on him, hiding him from God. Yet, Revelation 9:20-21 clearly indicates that many continue to shake their fists at God:
But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols. . . . And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
So, the "cave dwellers" of Revelation 6 seem to be only a segment of society, not everyone. If the word every does not mean everyone in the world, what does it mean? To whom does the term "every slave and every free man" refer?
The phrase "every slave and every free man" is a merism, a rhetorical device wherein a single entity or action is described by opposites, as "looked high and low" or "on-and-off enthusiasm." "Every slave and every free man" refers to a small subset of people, to a single class of person, the person who is at once free and enslaved. The merism refers to God's people—who are free and slave simultaneously. Let us see how this works.
Christ promised that, if we remain in His Word, we are free: "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Along this line, the apostle Paul writes: "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2; compare Galatians 5:1).
Yet, the same apostle calls us slaves, bought by God: "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Corinthians 6:19-20). He makes similar comments to the Roman church: "But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life" (Romans 6:22). Peter provides yet further witness to the fact that we are God's slaves: "For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God" (I Peter 2:15-16).
We could look at the merism a bit differently. "Every slave and every free man" could refer to true Christians, those who know the truth and are therefore free (John 8:32) in God's sight, but who have become enslaved by man through end-time religious persecution. Slaves are expropriated and disenfranchised individuals, having lost personal and property rights. The Jews, taken in the Nazi pogroms, were slaves, told by their masters, "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work makes free"). Again, those interned by Stalin in the Siberian gulags were in fact slaves.
Currently, chattel slavery is not a legalized institution in Western civilization. However, it could become legalized and widespread as the result of religious persecution. So it might happen that God protects His people in the caves, arranging to have them taken there as slaves in order to serve others.
What else might God's people do in the caves during the sixth seal? We would hope they would be a light to those around them (Matthew 5:14), examples to others. Armed with far more knowledge about God and His plan than their masters, God's people will be in a position to put the horrifying events into perspective for the already-humbled cave dwellers. For example, God's people might:
As the living among God's people rise to meet Christ, will they say to their fellow cave dwellers, "See you in Jerusalem"?
Though they entered the caves with a degree of resignation, supposing they would eventually perish there, the presence with them of "every slave and every free man" will bring about a change in their thinking. The sixth-seal cave dwellers will become armed with more complete knowledge about God's plan and will. Once Christ returns, they will have all the motivation in the world to make their way to Jerusalem as soon as the journey is feasible. Note Isaiah 2:2-3:
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
"Every slave and every free man" could well refer to God's people, as they play a vital role preparing others for their work in the early years of the Millennium.
- Charles Whitaker
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