Revelation 5 established Christ alone was “worthy to open the book [scroll] and loose the [seven] seals” (5:5). He, who was “the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David” (5:5), was also “the Lamb” that had been slain (5:6-7). As John looked on, “the Lamb” took the scroll from God, and suddenly the four beasts about the throne, and the 24 elders, and a multitude of angels said with “a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (5:12).
Every creature, in heaven, earth, and hell worshipped the Creator, and praised Him saying, “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever”(5:13). Then, the beasts about the throne said, “Amen,” and the 24 elders “fell down and worshipped Him” who is the Lord God Eternal (5:14).
Revelation 6 – The Tribulation
The First Seal – A White Horse and Rider (6:1-2)
The Lamb, who was Christ, had taken up the scroll with seven seals, and opened the first seal. John testified, “I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see” (6:1). The opening of the first seal marked the beginning of the tribulation. As John looked on, he saw “a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (6:2).
A white horse was the choice steed of a conqueror, and a picture of both peace and cessation of war. Though he was not identified by name, I believe the rider on the white horse was symbolic of the antichrist. He carried a bow, but there was no mention of arrows. From Scripture, we know the antichrist will be welcomed by the world as one who might save the nations from turmoil. He will promise seven years of peace (1 Thessalonians 5:3), but in the midst (3.5 years) will break his treaty (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11; Daniel 9:24-27), and usher in a season of violence, trouble and sorrow like the world has not known.
The Second Seal – A Red Horse and Rider (6:3-4)
Christ then opened the second seal, and the second beast about the throne said to John, “Come and see” (6:3). John beheld the emergence of a red horse, a symbol of blood and fire. His appearance broke the 3.5 years of false peace promised by the antichrist. Bearing “a great sword,” he brought with him war, and violence reigned on the earth (6:4).
The Third Seal – A Black Horse and Rider (6:5-6)
When the third seal was broken, the third beast said to John, “Come and see” (6:5). As he looked on, there came forth, “a black horse.” The rider on the black horse carried in his hand “a pair of balances” (6:5). Black, a symbol of death and devastation, promised a dreadful season of famine and starvation (6:6).
The balance scales borne by the rider on the black horse symbolized the rationing of meager grain. Understanding a “penny” in the first century was one day’s wages, the dearth of the tribulation will be so great a man will labor a day for only a “measure” or quart of wheat.
The Fourth Seal – A Pale Horse and Rider (6:7-8)
The opening of the fourth seal was followed by a fourth beast saying to John, “Come and see” (6:7). The apostle testified, he looked, “and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him” (6:8a). Notice, the rider on the pale horse was named “Death,” and sitting behind him was another named “Hell” (6:8).
The pale horse and its riders (Death and Hell) ushered in a devastating time of sorrow and suffering. One-fourth of the earth’s population would perish, being killed in four ways; “with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth” (6:8b). (Imagine, with the current population of the earth nearly 8 billion souls, 2 billion would perish in this time of tribulation.)
Some will die by the sword, a symbol of war. Others will go hungry and starve to death. The mention of death, is probably a reflection of widespread disease (perhaps multiple pandemics will sweep the world). The beasts may not be wild beasts, but creatures that carry disease bringing death (rats, mosquitos, and other pests).
Closing thoughts (6:9-17) – Time and space do not allow an exposition of the fifth (6:9-11), and sixth seals (6:12-17), but I hope to address them in another year. Notice in Revelation 7 there were two groups of people addressed. The first (7:1-8), those saved during the tribulation and sealed as belonging to God (7:1-3). The number sealed is given as 144,000, 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel (7:4-8).
The second group identified in Revelation 7 was a multitude of saints who will be saved during the tribulation, no doubt because of the witness of the 144,000 evangelists from every tribe of Israel. An elder came to John and asked, “What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?” (7:13). John did not know, and answered the elder, saying, “Sir, thou knowest” (7:14). The elder revealed they were martyrs, “which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14).
Millions will be martyred in the tribulation, but they will be given a great privilege for their sacrifice. They are promised they will be “before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple” (7:15). They will be free from the sorrows of this world, and will want for nothing (7:16). Why? For the Lamb will be their Shepherd, and will “feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (7:17).
Think about it: There is coming a day when all tears and sorrows will be wiped away (7:17). There will be no hunger, thirst, sorrow or death. No more crying, and no more pain. “For the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
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