Conquest, vs. 1, 2,
Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a loud voice like thunder, “Come and see.” 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.
Violence, vs. 3, 4.
When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see.” Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to him 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.
Scarcity, vs. 5,6.
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. 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.”
Slaughter, vs. 7, 8.
When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.” 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.
Martyrdom, vs. 9-11.
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. 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?” Then a white robe was given to them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of the fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
Cataclysm, vs. 12-17.
I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sum 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. 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?” (NKJV)
My, there is so much that could be said about this chapter, and the ones following. There are books and books and books. If you’re interested in such things, I highly recommend Alva J. McClain’s, The Greatness of the Kingdom. McClain was one of the founders of Grace Theological Seminary. Even though it’s a book I read in my youth, it’s still in print. And because viewpoints tend to be recycled from generation to generation, it’s still relevant. I suppose, too, that it’s online somewhere. My son-in-law reminds me of such things. I do find find online study valuable, but when it’s all said and done, give me a book. I bought a Strong’s Concordance from a student at the Bible College I attended. That book made a great “booster seat” for our firstborn son. Do that with your smartphone! That was a long time ago, but I still use it, milk stains and all – though not as a booster seat.
Enough of such reminiscences. What shall we say about this chapter of Revelation?
Some say that these are just generalities, or that they’re always happening. Some say they’re happening now, in this age. And to a degree, that may be true. The one thing Satan desires above all else is to be like God, to be worshiped, Isaiah 14:14; Matthew 4:8, 9; Luke 4:5-7. Perhaps a good deal of the world’s history has simply been him trying to bring that about. And I believe that Revelation shows his final and most successful, though ultimately futile, attempt to make that happen.
At the same time, because of v. 17, I don’t believe the particular events in Revelation 6 are happening right now. Verse 17 says, “the great day of His wrath has come.” According to 2 Corinthians 6:2, this is the day of salvation, not wrath. Granted, terrible things are happening right now, and seem to be increasing, but these are simply the results of man’s own rebellion and wickedness. We’ve pretty much told God to go away, and He’s just letting us reap the results of that. Cf. Jeremiah 17:10.
One: Conquest, vs. 1, 2.
Some believe this individual is the Lord Jesus, going forth to conquer the world and to set up His kingdom. And Revelation 19:1 does describe Him as being on a white horse. His description there is far different from this man, though, and He is clearly identified, v. 16. This man is the last of Satan’s efforts to establish a world empire. Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Napoleon, Hitler, Communism, Islam’s goal of subduing the world – as successful as these may have been or might be, all ultimately must fail. Matthew 24:5-8 give us our Lord’s description of what will happen at the time of the unsealing.
Two: Conflict, vs. 3, 4.
This will be an unprecedented time of violence. While there have always been regional strife, national conflict and even “world-wide” wars, this will be a time when peace will be taken from the earth altogether, v. 4.
Three: Scarcity, vs. 5, 6.
Because of the violence, food will be scarce. A denarius was about a day’s ordinary wages, so it will take everything a person has to be able to buy what food is available. Those who are well-off will still be able to get what they need, though, as seen by the instruction not to harm the oil and the wine. This is not to be seen as a condemnation of the rich, as is becoming common in our day, but simply a fact of life. Even in the halcyon days of communism, when the shelves of stores were mostly bare for ordinary people, the party elite still lived well.
Four: Slaughter, vs. 7, 8.
While the effects of the first three seals will likely be world-wide, it does seem that “a fourth of the earth” will be the special focus of the results of these events. As to which “fourth,” I don’t really want to speculate. I think these four seals fulfill what our Lord warned of in Matthew 24:4-8, and describe what He called “the beginning of sorrows.”
Five: Martyrdom, vs. 9-11.
In Matthew 24:9, the Lord prophesied that the time will come when “they will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.” Persecution of God’s people is nothing new. This will be a time of unusual intensity, however, because, as Revelation 12:12 puts it, the devil knows he has but a short time before it’s all over for him.
Daniel 7:25 has a word about this: Then the saints shall be given into his hand, and then the verse goes on to specify a certain length of time. Now, Daniel may be referring to the same event as John, or a different event; the thing is the devil can’t touch God’s people unless God gives him permission to do so, cf. Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6.
That’s even indicated here. The martyrs are assured that it would only be until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, would be killed as they were, was completed. There’s only so much the devil and his minions can do, and only so many to whom they can do it.
Six: Cataclysm: vs. 12-17.
This earthquake is one of several in the book. Some think that they all refer to the same event in a sort of reiteration of things throughout the book. Though I’ve had to change my thinking a little, I think they are separate events. There’s so much discussion about the book because it is difficult to sort things out. I expect when all is said and done, more than one thing will be done differently than men said it would be.
At His crucifixion, our Lord turned to ladies who were lamenting His suffering and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren…. Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ ” Luke 23:28-30.
Not forever will this world thumb its nose at its Creator. One of these days, we’re going to run into the end of God’s patience, and we’ll see His wrath poured on this wicked world.
In Revelation 5:6, John saw a Lamb as though it has been slain. There is only one way of escape from the judgment of God. That’s not to deny it, as many do today, but to receive by faith the One who bore that judgment for sinners.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.