In our study of Revelation chapter six, we witness God providing a sort of last chance for people to accept his Son. We are told of the events that will occur when Jesus begins the process of taking possession of all creation. John continues to tell us of what he saw in heaven including the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. We should understand that, throughout the Bible, horses were only used for soldiers going to battle. They were not used for other work or transportation (Even Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem.) This chapter describes the Lamb (Jesus Christ) opening the seals on a scroll. This scroll is like the deed to a home in that it gives ownership to the one that is listed on the document. In this case, ownership was indicated by the fact that Jesus was the only one that was worthy to open it.
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I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, 'Come!' I looked and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
Jesus opens the first seal and a rider on a white horse is revealed. Many read this passage and wrongly assume that this is Jesus because of the crown and the white horse but it is not. This rider is the Antichrist and he is out to conquer the people of the world by deception. He is given power by Satan and a crown by the leaders of this world. Avoiding Satan's deception is one reason why it is so important to study the Bible.
When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, 'Come!' Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.
After the Antichrist has deceived the people with promises of peace and prosperity, the second horse is released. This horse is red as that is the color of blood and its rider is war. The false peace will break down and a huge war will break out between the men of the earth as described by the large sword.
When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, 'Come!" I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, 'A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!'
The third seal is opened and another horseman is revealed. The horse is black which is the color of mourning and its rider is famine. It is interesting to note that, in our history, famine always follows war and if you look at where most of it is happening today it is in areas that have been ravaged by war. One of the four living creatures is calling out the prices for grain. The days wages refers to the wages that a soldier was paid for a days work. Although it may be hard for us to imagine, the cost of grain is so high that a man would have to work all day just for enough to feed himself. When Jesus walked the earth, a day's wages would have bought about twenty four quarts of barley. Here, we are told that it only buys three and this tells us that the money (denarius) is worth only one eighth of what it was in Jesus' day. This happens in many areas of the world even today but, with this rider, it will be a global famine. This horse can remind us to put our faith in Jesus Christ and not money because, at is says there will be a day when the value of the money is one eighth of what it was. The second thing the creature says "do not damage the oil and the wine" which speaks of wealth and plenty. This tells us that, even on this day, there will be the wealthy who eat to their fill and throw the excess in the trash. What we see in this third seal is not only famine but a severe divide between those that have and those that do not.
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, 'Come!' I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
The final horse is released and it is pale (actually green in the original manuscripts) and its rider is Death. This is physical death and we are told that "Hades was following". Hades refers to spiritual death (separation from God). He was given power to kill over a fourth of the earth. And so these first four seals have released what is commonly called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse with the final one being Death.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?' Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
With the fifth seal, those that have been slain for their testimony about Jesus Christ are revealed to John as they are under the altar of the Lord. They cried out for justice and were told that they must wait until all who are chosen for that type of ministry are with them. The fact that some of God's people would be chosen to die for their faith may seem odd to many of us (especially those of us in the USA), but that is what is revealed with the opening of the fifth seal. With this seal, we see a big difference in where people go after death. In the previous passage, we saw that those who denied Christ went to Hades (Sheol in Hebrew) which is a holding place until the day of judgment. Here, we see that those who accept Christ go to be with God in heaven as they also await the coming day of judgment.
I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
As Jesus opens the sixth seal, the heavens and the earth are now affected. We can understand things such as the earthquake and the sun turning black like from an eclipse but the rest of the description is hard to imagine. Finally, the sky recedes and mountains are brought low. Although this sounds strange to us, we must assume that the Creator of the heavens and the earth has the power to do this as well.
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the 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 their wrath has come, and who can stand?'
After the sixth seal and the events that took place, all of the people of the earth are terrified. This passage lists the different types of people and their titles to allow us to see that, when we reach this point in time, the only position or title that matters is that of Christian. Things are so bad at this point that the people are begging to be crushed by rocks and mountains. The answer to the question "who can stand?" is only those who stand in Christ and they will not fear the coming wrath.