Revelation Bible Studies Chapter 6
Opening the First Six Seals.
The First Seal - The Conqueror. v1 - 2.
1. "Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, "Come and see."
After the Lamb had taken the scroll from the One who sat on the throne, John saw Him open the first seal and heard the first living being invite him to come and see what the first volume of the scroll contained.
2. "And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer."
The scroll was written on both sides, but John did not read it. The living being did not tell him to read it but to "come and see". Thus the words came alive to John in the form of a vision, revealing to him the things that were to come.
With the opening of each of the first four seals, John sees a vision of a horse with its rider, and these four horsemen are meant to symbolise various forms of God's judgement. The first vision is of a white war-horse, a picture of strength, speed and fearlessness (Job 39:19 - 22). A white horse was used by the leader of a conquering army in triumphal processions. The person on this horse had a bow, a weapon of war. This may suggests that he was a soldier. Throughout the history of the earth men have sought to conquer, rule and dominate other men. Many empires have tried to establish world dominion e.g. the Roman and British empires, or the Third Reich. At the time of the end, an even more sinister form of "Empire" will emerge. The fact that the crown was given to the rider denotes that victory in terms of ultimate world domination was assured, but only in accordance with God's sovereign purposes. This crown of world domination, sought in vain by so many world empires until now, will be given for a brief time to the Man of Sin, the Anti-Christ.
John tells us that the spirit of Anti-Christ, inspired by Satan, has already gone into the world, deceiving men's hearts and turning them against God. It is in this way that the Anti-Christ will "conquer the world". The fact that God gives men over to believe the lie is an act of His judgement on the unrepentant. 2 Thess. 2:11,12
The Second Seal - Conflict on the Earth. v3 -4.
3. "When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come and see."
When the second seal is opened the second living being invites him to "come and see"
4. "Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword."
The second horse is red - the word used, "purrhos", means "fire like" or "flame coloured". This is a symbol of carnage, butchery, slaughter and strife. To the rider of this horse was given the "divine mandate" (Tatford) to take away peace (Matt. 24:7) and bring anarchy (lawlessness, disorder) throughout the earth. The result of this would be men butchering (literal word used) each other. This vision not only denotes war between nations but also civil unrest, terrorism, revolution and an upsurge of violent crime in the nations themselves. The rider in the vision was given a massive (megas) sword, a symbol of the devastating extent of the work that he had to do.
The Third Seal - Scarcity on the Earth. v5 - 6.
5. "When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come and see." So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand."
When He had opened the third seal the third living being again invites him to "come and see." Did John withdraw in horror after the opening of each seal? A black horse rode out - black is the colour of mourning and famine (Jer. 8:22, Lam. 5:10). The one who sat on this horse held a pair of scales in his hand, signifying a scarcity of food.
6. "And I heard 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 the wine."
From out of the midst of the living beings came a voice - evidently the voice of the unseen God who sits on the throne which the seraphim surround. As the rider went out the proclamation was made that so terrible would be the famine throughout the whole earth that a measure of wheat, an ordinary day's allowance for one person, would cost a day's wage, one penny (Matt. 20:2). Barley, as depicted here was about a third the price of wheat. These staple foods would be sold at eight times their normal cost. The majority of mankind would have to spend all their income on food just to stay alive. However, the wine and oil were exempt. Since oil and wine were healing agents, (Luke 10:34) the command not to harm the oil and wine may be seen as an act of God's mercy even in the midst of judgement.
The Fourth Seal - Death on the Earth. v7 - 8.
7. "When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come and see."
On the forth seal being opened the forth beast invited John to "come and see".
8. "So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth."
The forth horse is pale. The word used, "chloros", means pale or yellowish green - the colour of death. Death itself is the rider of this horse. He holds no instrument in his hand as did the others, for his instrument is death in its many forms. Hades, the place of departed souls, is depicted as accompanying death on his ride through the earth, gathering up all those who will die at his hands. Death and Hades were given power over a quarter of the world's population, destroying men by violence, starvation, disease and by wild animals. This verse suggests that wild animals would increase to such numbers as to pose a threat to man.
The events represented by the four horsemen are not confined to a particular period but have continued to greater or lesser extent throughout the world's history. The message of the vision is that these things will continually increase on the earth as the Day of Judgement approaches.
The four horsemen are four messengers, bringing God's judgement in a way that grants men opportunity to repent in the midst of their calamities. (Rev. 16:9). See Zech. 6:1 - 5.
The Fifth Seal - The Cry of the Martyrs. v9 -11.
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 testimony which they held."
When the fifth seal was opened John saw the souls (not bodies, for the resurrection of saints has not yet taken place) of those who were killed for preaching the Word of God and for being faithful in their witness. The fact that he saw them beneath the altar signifies that they had already given their lives as a living sacrifice to God. In the Law, the blood of the animals sacrificed had to be poured out at the bottom of the altar (Lev. 4:7).
10. "And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"
The martyred saints called loudly on the Lord, the holy and true Judge, asking how long it would be before He would judge and take vengeance on those who had killed them (Rom. 12:19). They had no doubt that God would do so, but how long till He did?
11. "Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed."
First of all, they were given white robes, the symbol of their righteousness which is given by Jesus Christ alone. Then they are assured that evildoers would be punished: they must be patient as God is patient and rest in peace for a little longer until the remaining number of their brothers and fellow servants would be martyred for Jesus Christ as they had been.
The Sixth Seal - Cosmic Disturbances. v12 - 17.
12, 13, 14. "I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place."
John watched as the breaking of the sixth seal gave rise to a tremendous (megas) earthquake. The words used denote that not only the earth, but the heavens also were shaken. Hag. 2:6 - 7. As a result of this Divine shaking the sun's light was completely blotted out, like an eclipse only more dreadful, this caused the reflected light of the moon to become blood-red so that there was no light at night. The stars fell to the earth as the starry heavens disappeared. With no light from the sun, moon or stars there would be nothing left but the blackness of space. With the disruption in the heavens came disruption on the earth as every mountain and island was moved out of place (Matt. 24:29).
Although some commentators see this verse as predicting a complete breakdown of law and order and the downfall of world governments giving rise to global chaos, there is absolutely no reason why the verse should not be taken literally.
15, 16, 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?"
The supernatural cause of this catastrophe is evident to all who dwell on earth and all classes of people who have rejected the Lord Jesus Christ will seek refuge in caves. They realise that the day of reckoning for their sin has arrived and that they will receive the just punishment for their godless deeds and rejection of Jesus Christ. They call for the mountains and rocks to fall on them and hide them from the One who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 2:19 - 21). Such a call is as vain as it is desperate, for there will be no place to hide.
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