Before we start with chapter 6 I will give you a brief summary of the chapters to come, that you may have a general overview of what will come to pass.
1. In chapter 6 the first six seals are broken. Those six seals describe the first six trials that will come over the earth after the rapture of the church.
2. Chapter 7 is a parenthesis between the sixth and the seventh seal, wherein God shows that a great number of believers will be kept saved, right through the judgments until the coming of the Lord Jesus to the earth. They will enter alive into the millennial kingdom of peace.
3. In chapter 8:1-5 the seventh seal is opened. That causes a silence of half an hour in heaven, after which seven trumpets, blown by angels, give the sign for new judgments.
4. In chapters 8:6-9:21 six trumpet judgments are being described.
5. The portion of chapter 10:1-11:13 forms a new parenthesis.
6. Then the seventh trumpet is blown (chapter 11:14-18).
7. In chapters 12-14 some events of the forgoing period are more precisely described.
8. In chapters 15-16 you read about the seven angels with seven bowl judgments. These are the final judgments. They are the most severe.
9. The chapters 17-18 are specially dedicated to the judgment over the great Babylon, the false church.
10. Then the wedding of the Lamb with the true church takes place in chapter 19.
11. Up till chapter 21:8 it is described in chronological order what still more is to happen until eternity begins.
12. From chapter 21:9 you have a description of the new Jerusalem in the kingdom of peace.
13. The book ends with information on the coming of Christ and His promise that He will come soon.
V11Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.”. Here you see, with John, the Lord Jesus as the Lamb, opening the first seal. As it is said, it is one of the seals of the book in which God has recorded His counsels and judgments with regard to the earth. You may call the judgments that will come over the earth with the opening of each of the seals, the introductory judgments. They are not yet the actual, ultimate judgments with the effect of the purification of the earth and the redemption of it, but they prepare the way to it. The seal judgments announce the beginning of the end, which means that God will fulfil His will by preparing the earth for the reign of Christ.
The command “come” is not addressed to John and still less to Christ. It comes from one of the living creatures that are related to the execution of the judgment and is addressed to the horse as a symbol of the judgment. Here it is still about judgments in providence. That means that those are judgments which by unbelievers are ascribed to natural elements or to political or other circumstances, while in reality they are directed by God. They still do not recognize God’s hand in these plagues.
V22I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.. Horses represent authorities here that God uses for a judgment in His providence (cf. Zec 1:1010And the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered and said, “These are those whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.”; Rev 19:1111And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it [is] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.). The colors of the horses which are related to the first four seals, consecutively represent as follows: white for victory, fiery red for blood, black for mourning and ashen as the color of a corpse (cf. Zec 1:88I saw at night, and behold, a man was riding on a red horse, and he was standing among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine, with red, sorrel and white horses behind him.; 6:2-82With the first chariot [were] red horses, with the second chariot black horses,3with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot strong dappled horses.4Then I spoke and said to the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these, my lord?”5The angel replied to me, “These are the four spirits of heaven, going forth after standing before the Lord of all the earth,6with one of which the black horses are going forth to the north country; and the white ones go forth after them, while the dappled ones go forth to the south country.7When the strong ones went out, they were eager to go to patrol the earth.” And He said, “Go, patrol the earth.” So they patrolled the earth.8Then He cried out to me and spoke to me saying, “See, those who are going to the land of the north have appeased My wrath in the land of the north.”).
The white horse with its rider who goes out conquering is not a representation of the coming of Christ. Christ will come down from heaven only in chapter 19. Indeed an assumption has been made that a prince is represented here who works and sustains the cohesion of the Roman empire. I do want to remind you that we find here the first events on earth that will take place right after the rapture of the church.
When the church has been taken away it will for a moment seem that all human efforts have been successful in order to achieve a sustainable peace. It is a short period of apparent peace and prosperity with a sense of security. God will allow it, while man in his arrogance will see it as his own success (1Thes 5:33While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.). He does not consider about peace with God and about what He finds righteous.
The “bow” without an arrow may probably indicate that there is no arms race at that very moment, but that the disarmament regarding the mass destruction which could be effected at a great distance, has been realized for a great deal. It is also possible that there is such an amount of long distance weapons that the threat is enough to win people without any direct bloodshed. That this process will probably be taking place peacefully can be derived from the white color.
“A crown was given” to the conqueror. That indicates that he overcomes under the approval of God, because it is fitting in His plans. It does not mean that God approves of all his acts and motives, but that He allows the performance.
V3-43When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.”4And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that [men] would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.. When “the second seal” is opened by the Lamb, John hears the second living creature commanding: “Come!” Because in verse 11Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” it is not said ‘the first living creature’, but “one of the four living creatures”, the order of speaking of the living creatures cannot be determined on the basis of chapter 4 (Rev 4:77The first creature [was] like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature [was] like a flying eagle.). The horse that appears has a fiery red color. Shortly after the rider of the white horse had established a peaceful period, the rider of the fiery red horse brutally makes an end to it.
After a period of peace during the first seal, a spirit of discontentment is now working which instigates war, possibly a civil war. Here you do not see a bow, like with the first seal, but “a great sword” for the fight of man to man. It is a ‘great sword’, which indicates that the slaughter is great. Here it becomes apparent that the disarmament is not complete. Men will continue to be deceitful. Peace that is worked by men will not be sustained. Only God can give sustainable peace (Psa 147:1414He makes peace in your borders;
He satisfies you with the finest of the wheat.
). Peace is a result of the submission of man to the government of God.
V55When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.. When the Lamb opens “the third seal” the command of “the third living creature” sounds: Come!” John sees “a black horse” and the one who sits on it. He also sees that the rider has “a pair of scales in his hand”. We don’t need to guess what the black color represents. Black doesn’t evoke pleasant thoughts, but is related to mourning and lamenting (Lam 5:1010Our skin has become as hot as an oven,
Because of the burning heat of famine.
; Jer 4:2828“For this the earth shall mourn
And the heavens above be dark,
Because I have spoken, I have purposed,
And I will not change My mind, nor will I turn from it.”
). The pair of scales indicates an accurate measurement of what is available. The general prosperity is over and done with.
V66And I heard [something] like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”. You can imagine that because of the war under the second seal, an economic chaos arises. The most necessary provisions will be enormously scarce and therefore expensive. This situation is emphatically related to a judgment that comes from God. It is not written for nothing that “like a voice in the center of the four living creatures” announces this scarcity.
Especially the common population will suffer under this crisis. “A quart of wheat” will cost “a denarius”, which is equal to a day’s pay (Mt 20:22When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.). The ordinary man will not be able to afford more than one meal a day. The word ‘quart’ doesn’t evoke the thought that there is much choice. It is scarce, just enough to stay alive. All the money that has been earned will be used for that. There is no more money to spend on anything else.
“The oil and the wine” must be spared. These products are presented as prosperity goods, which we are warned to keep ourselves from loving (Pro 21:1717He who loves pleasure [will become] a poor man;
He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.). If these things must be spared it may indicate that the rich people are still prospering. They can always maintain themselves for a longer period of time. But they will surely have to face the shortage. Maybe not in material sense, but surely in spiritual sense (verse 1515Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains;). I myself prefer to relate the oil and wine with medicines (Lk 10:3434and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on [them]; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.). Then I can see in the sparing of oil and wine God’s compassion, that despite the severe trials which come over the earth, will not be completely taken away.
V7-87When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.”8I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.. When the Lamb breaks “the fourth seal” John hears the command “of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” Now all four living creatures have spoken. The horse you see now is “ashen”. The rider of this horse has a name called “Death” and a follower called “Hades”. Here you can find no trace of compassion. It is all darkness. That cannot be otherwise, for wherever God is being denied as the source of life, death enters.
The territory where this judgment takes place is “the fourth of the earth”. That is a smaller part than ‘the third part’, which embraces the Roman empire (Rev 12:44And his tail *swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.). The judgment is therefore still of a relative small size.
The famine under the previous seal will be followed by death that in several ways will claim victims. Hades follows death because that is the place where the victims of death end up. Death deals with the living and hades with the dead. Together they make victims with “sword” (wars), “famine” (hunger), “pestilence” (cf. Eze 14:2121For thus says the Lord GOD, “How much more when I send My four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague to cut off man and beast from it!) and “the wild beasts of the earth” (Jer 14:1212When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I am not going to accept them. Rather I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence.”; 15:22And it shall be that when they say to you, ‘Where should we go?’ then you are to tell them, ‘Thus says the LORD:
“Those [destined] for death, to death;
And those [destined] for the sword, to the sword;
And those [destined] for famine, to famine;
And those [destined] for captivity, to captivity.”‘
; Eze 5:12,1712One third of you will die by plague or be consumed by famine among you, one third will fall by the sword around you, and one third I will scatter to every wind, and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.17Moreover, I will send on you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you of children; plague and bloodshed also will pass through you, and I will bring the sword on you. I, the LORD, have spoken.’”; 14:2121For thus says the Lord GOD, “How much more when I send My four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague to cut off man and beast from it!; 33:2727Thus you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “As I live, surely those who are in the waste places will fall by the sword, and whoever is in the open field I will give to the beasts to be devoured, and those who are in the strongholds and in the caves will die of pestilence.). Wild beasts probably represent unscrupulous people who terrorize their fellow men.
Now read Revelation 6:1-8 again.
Reflection: Try to summarize in one word (some words are also allowed) the characteristic of each of the first four seals.