- After visions of the worship of God and the worthiness of Christ in the previous two chapters, we are now drawn down to see the rebellion of the earth.
- Revelation contains 3 different series of God’s judgments – the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. – John Phillips has said:
- The seals – the world is ruined by man
- The trumpets – the world is ruined by Satan
- The bowls – the world is rescued by God (Exploring Revelation, 95)
- Chapter six contains six of the seven seals mentioned earlier in chapter 5.2. If you remember, the seals are representative of God’s judgment, thus in this chapter, we will begin to see and understand what that looks like.
- As a reminder, depending on one’s end times view, some may see these as specific future events and others may see these as general descriptions which happen throughout the course of history until the return of Christ. Regardless, many of the conclusions of these seals have large agreement among various scholars.
- The seals seem to progressively increase in intensity as the Holy Spirit’s restraint is removed from the earth.
6 Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.
- “Come!” – either an invitation to John to see, or perhaps an invitation for the rider of the white horse. Most likely the horseman.
- “horse” – often used in the bible as a symbol for war. A conquering king would often ride through defeated enemies on a horse after battle. In contrast, Jesus conquered sin, death, and the grave, but instead, he rode on a young donkey. However, at the end of Revelation, Jesus returns, this time riding a horse himself.
- “white horse” – may suggest that this victory was won without bloodshed.
- “had a bow” – another symbol of war.
- “a crown was given to him” – meaning this conquering was was successful.
- “its rider” – some seek to interpret these riders as specific persons, but it is probably best understood more symbolic, as personifications of unpleasant events (Phillips, 96).
- Phillips suggest that the first seal is “the blasphemous philosophies of the last days, those anti-Christian ideologies” (96).
Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. – 2 Thess. 2.11-12
- Others see this as a picture of worldly dictators who promise peace, but ends up the exact opposite, think Hitler. -“If the first rider is “Conquest” personified, the white color hints at the peaceful promises that many a military conqueror has started with. From the first century until today, powerful generals around the globe have set out bent on conquest, yet appearing, at least at first, as peaceable to the conquered peoples” (Easley, 106).
- Still others see this rider as symbolic of Jesus or the church.
3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.
- There is more agreement on the nature of the second seal and the second rider.
- “bright red” – the color of war.
- “permitted to take peace from the earth” – Even war cannot occur outside of God’s sovereign hand.
- “a great sword” – a quick google search of “wars by death toll” demonstrate the greatness of this sword.
5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”
- The third seal, although scholars disagree on the exact nature, points to famine and economic decline/disaster.
- The statement issued here points to the value of food during famine and the inflation that often accompanies it. It paints a picture of a worker, who after working a full day, barely has enough money to afford the simplest and cheapest of meals for his family.
- “do not harm the oil and wine” – may point to economic disparity between the majority of the world and those who have amassed great wealth.
7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.
- “pale horse” – the grayish-green color of corpses.
- “Death” – John is so certain of who this rider is, that we are told plainly.
- “Hades” – unlike the other horses, this rider is noted to have someone following behind on foot. Hades is most likely a reference to “the grave.” In 4 instances Hades is mentioned in Revelation, each time he is accompanying death.
- Some seek to specify the forth seal as a reference to disease and pestilence as an attempt to clearly define each of the four riders.
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
- Verse 7 concludes our view of the 4 horsemen and now our attention is drawn to martyrdom.
- Notice that the fifth seal revolves around “those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne”.
- “word of God” – synonomous of the gospel.
- “cried out with a loud voice” – a cry for justice.
- “Sovereign Lord” – the subtle theme of God’s sovereignty over world events is now loudly proclaimed in heaven. He is even sovereign over the number of those to be martyred is fulfilled.
- More Christians have died during the 20th Century for their faith than the other centuries combined.
- “white robe” – a symbol of purity and victory.
12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
- The 6th seal seems to refer to various natural disasters which will occur before the second coming.
- What do these events mean? 3 possibilities…
- Symbolic – meaning they refer to world shaking events of some sort.
- A literal final earth destroying earthquake. Rev. 16.18.
- Events throughout history until Christ returns. Mark 13.8
- The 6th seal results in a panicked population which draws the conclusion that God is angry. And they also demonstrate that man is not in control – but God is sovereign.
- The sixth seal concludes with the fact that God’s righteous wrath against the rebellion of mankind is just and it is coming, and can presently be seen by the description of the seals in chapter 6.