Revelation 6: The First Six Seals

The scroll with seven seals to be opened only by the Lamb of God.

The scroll with seven seals to be opened only by the Lamb of God.

The Seven Seals

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!” (Revelation 6:1, ESV)

Introduction

As we enter into Chapter Six of Revelation, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the imagery and symbolism that is presented to us as readers.  It’s important to remember, therefore, that John is recalling for us his visions that he was given by Jesus while in the Spirit. We must, then, tread carefully and prayerfully; allowing the Spirit who allowed such visions to guide us in understanding them.

So far we have a progression. The vision began by examining seven churches on earth. Yes, the message to each of these churches was meant for all of us, but the messages were also to seven specific churches on earth at that time. Next, we drew close to the throne and were presented with John’s vision of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We also saw beings that represented creation around the throne who worshiped and prayed to God continually. 

We are being drawn further and deeper into this vision and being allowed access to deeper Truths as we draw closer and nearer to our God. Our finite language cannot hope to describe exactly what John saw, nor could we understand it if it could, therefore care and prayer are must needs in this holy quest toward God.

I invite and encourage readers to read Revelation Chapter 6 before reading on.  No one has to, of course, but I know I read it more than once before sitting down to write this post. I do not pick apart Chapter 6 in this post. Instead, I include my conclusions based upon the verbiage and symbolism characterized in this chapter. So, it really is a good idea to read it before going on, unless you wish to merely take my word for it. As flattering as such a course of action may be, reader who are familiar with this blog will realize that I wouldn’t encourage this. Do the work and question anything.

Power, War, Famine, and Death

Power, War, Famine, and Death

The Four Horsemen

Just as I believe we are being drawn nearer to God as we progress through John’s Revelation, the visions of the four horsemen demonstrate a progression in the affairs of human kind.

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.(Revelation 6:2, ESV)

Much speculation has been made concerning the rider on the white horse. To one person he represents Christ.  To another, he’s the anti-Christ. I don’t believe we’re deep enough into this vision for either of those representations to be accurate.  I believe he personifies political aspirations of world leaders.  It could be that this is a spiritual being who is sent to earth to inflame the egos of world leaders, creating a culture of hostility and  personal power mongering on a grand scale  which ininevitably leads to the second horseman.

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 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. (Revelation 6:3-4, ESV)

What can the second horseman be but war? The hostile atmosphere created by the power elite and their political and military maneuverings will inevitably bring about wars that are so prevalent that there will be no peace on earth. There will be massive bloodshed like never before.  World-wide wars will disrupt the world’s economic structure including crop production and trade.

Enter the rider on the black horse:

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. (Revelation 6:5, ESV)

Basic food prices will skyrocket.  There will be shortages of essential foodstuffs, though those with sufficient resources will be able to procure high-end luxury items as is often the case during times of strife.  This time, it will occur on a global scale, however. Political corruption, wars, then famine will usher in the rider on the pale horse.

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. (Revelation 6:7-8, ESV)

Death on a massive scale will be the immediate result of the selfish politics, wars and essential shortages and people will compare this time to hell on earth.  That’s the extent of the damage that will be caused and yet we are only on the fourth seal and in the 6th Chapter.  It only gets worse from here.

The earth strikes back

The earth strikes back

The Saints Cry Out and the Earth Strikes Back

The fifth and sixth seals are intriguing especially since the first four demonstrated such a logical progression of political maneuverings and abuses, war, famine and death.

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. 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?” (Revelation 6:9-10, ESV)

With the opening of the sixth seal, the faithful who had been slaughtered for their beliefs during the tribulation so far, are given a special place before the throne of God and white robes that symbolize their purity. Their cries are heard as we can see by the events that unfold when the sixth seal is broken.

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, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. (Revelation 6:12-13, ESV)

Much of the rest of this paragraph is a fuller description of the above.  The earth itself opens up with massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions which turn the sky so black with dust and fumes that darkness will cover the earth. With the earthly context of this entire chapter in mind, what appeared to John to be stars falling are more than likely flaming chunks of volcanoes.  If one sees such flaming balls falling from a sky and subsequently are unable to see stars, this is a pretty good assumption to draw. Remember, John is describing a vision, not documenting tangible events, so fireballs of earthly origins might appear to be stars falling from the sky.

Conclusion

I don’t know if the horses and their riders are actual spirit beings or representatives of God’s Spirit or if there is a difference between the two.  But, it appears, as I said before, that we are being drawn closer to God’s inner workings as we make our way through Revelation and as we saw in the breaking of the fifth seal, believers will be on earth during these troubling times.

Many will make the ultimate sacrifice for their faith.  Others (as we will see) will remain on earth after the fifth and sixth seal periods.  We have been exhorted to keep our faith in the first few chapters and now we have seen why this reminder was needed.  We can also be assured that our faith will be rewarded and the persecution of the Church will not go unheeded because of the faithful who proceed us into God’s presence.

The final thing to be noted at this time is that there appears to be a practical lesson that we are being taught as we study:  In order to keep our faith through these tribulations, we need to press closer into the presence of God.  This may  be a frightening idea, and indeed it is, but for our sake and and for the sake of those dear to us, it is necessary.

I am reminded of the story of Ester before the king, “And who knows whether [we] have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, ESV)

To be continued….

God Bless,

Christopher

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