25/02/18 Revelation 6:1-8 “First 4 seals, setting the tribulation judgment rolling”
This chapter officially kicks off the tribulation with six seals being opened, each setting in action a judgment of some kind. God’s absolute authority to do so has been established in Ch.4, while His right to do so was established in Ch.5. Now, with those details sorted out, the tribulation may now commence.
As already discussed, satan and his demons can only have the right to exist on earth through the dominion of man over all the earth. If man had continued to obey God, and sin had not come into the world, then satan would have had no right at all to do anything on the earth. It is sin that has separated man from God, and sin therefore that has given satan his right of access to mankind. But, as demonstrated last week, Christ has bought back mankind from satan through His blood sacrifice on the cross. Legally this could have been enforced as soon as Adam sinned, but then, if you desire all in heaven to be there by their own free will choice, then you must have provided an option to rebel, and then an option later on to repent as well. The forbidden fruit was God’s option for Adam to be able to choose to rebel. All who dwell in heaven for eternity must have demonstrated their rejection of the sin option (through repentance) in order to be in heaven. It is sin alone that permits satan and his demons to “rule” mankind. In heaven there will be no sin option; therefore no-one can sin, for all have already shown that they have rejected the sin option, by partaking of the blood sacrifice offered by Christ on the cross to buy back mankind from satan.
The tribulation is a 7-year period during which God exercises His legal right to mankind, paid for on the cross. All mankind will be required to commit to either satan or God. At the end of the tribulation, all will have decided which side they are on. Even those who are not directly involved in the battle of Armageddon will still have to have decided one way or the other, hence the judgment of the sheep and the goats of Matthew 25:31-46. Effectively, at the end of this 7-year period, all will have been judged to have been on either one side or the other. If you were on satan’s side, then you will be destroyed. If you were on God’s side, you will go into the millennium reign of Christ.
The end result for satan is that there will be not one single person that satan can claim as his right, for all have been purchased back again (redeemed) on the cross. All those who choose to exercise their freedom of will to sin will now have been removed from the equation. At the end of the tribulation, satan and his demons will no longer have any option of any right to any person’s dominion over the earth, for all that remain will have, at least temporarily, rejected sin. (At the end of the millennium there will be one more final option for people to follow satan into rebellion – Revelation 20:7-10.) Satan has no legal redress to appeal against the decision to ban him and his demons from any presence on earth, for not one person exists that was not bought back by Christ on the cross. If only satan could have even just one person who had not been bought back on the cross, just one person whose sin remained unpaid for, then that person would be sufficient for satan to claim a right of continued existence on the earth. But, because the atonement was universal, then not even one unredeemed person may exist for satan to claim. God bought back the right to all mankind on the cross, totally, absolutely!
Think of sin as a prison that keeps all sinners locked away behind bars. But, what if, once sin has occurred, every penalty for that sin were paid such that there remained no legal right to keep anyone in prison anymore? How do you make man stay in prison when there’s a way out? The way out is the gospel, that which is able to set man free from the bondage of sin. So, why don’t people just walk out of that prison?
The answer is clear: 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 – 3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
The prison doors are not locked except by the blindness of them that cannot see because of the deceptions of satan. Therefore satan has to work overtime to ensure that those imprisoned cannot see the way out of their prison. However, in the tribulation, it appears that there will be a greater understanding of the choice that must be made: to choose whom you will serve, either God or satan. At the end of the tribulation, all will have made their choice: for God, or for satan. And, at the end of the millennium, all will be judged on the choice they have made. All will be raised to either eternal life, or to eternal damnation (John 5:28-29).
If satan is to rule earth, then he needs to have all the earth worship him; not one vote can be allowed to oppose his rule. Thus satan will strive hard to remove all opposition from the earth. However, it is God’s desire and will that all the earth will worship Him as their Creator; not one vote will remain that can oppose Christ’s millennial rule. What satan has strived for over all the centuries, God will achieve in this 7-year period, according to His will. (He has stated well in advance, through His word, that it will happen.) Clearly, the contest between God and satan is to determine just who will end up with all the earth on their side. Satan has tried over many centuries and failed, while God has decreed a final 7-year period during which he will achieve what satan could never achieve. The 7-year period is the final chapter of this present world before the second coming of Christ. Now, with today’s study, we will begin looking at the victory strategy of God over His very much limited opponent, His creation: satan.
Revelation 6:1 – And I saw when the Lamb (literally “little Lamb”) opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were (something like) the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts (living creatures) saying, Come and see.
“Come and see” is used 4 times in this chapter, once for each of the first 4 seals, in order of the first living creature for the first seal, the second for the second seal, and so on. Each of the first 4 seals is represented by a man on a horse, where the horse clearly represents strength in battle or rank of authority. It is obvious that when any of the four living creatures speaks, it is like the sound of thunder. Thunder always signifies immense power and authority.
These seals appear to be the first stage of the final 7 years before the millennium commences. Just how much time these seals take is not clear; there are no indications of time spent on each seal. However, for each to take place must involve at least some prolonged period. But, do these first 4 seals follow each other or are they concurrent, occurring at the same time as others? The answer is not clear, but, while they appear to occur in the order they are mentioned, it is quite possible for there to be some overlap of some or even all the seals.
I think that the events of Ezekiel 37-39 are in some way also discussing the start of this 7-year period, commencing with the rising of the dry bones into the bodies of the house of Israel, a picture of the reclaiming by God of His people after so many years of being set aside in favour of the Gentile Church. Ezekiel 38 talks of a mighty army coming against the re-established Israel which fights back and, utterly destroys their enemy (Ezekiel 39). I believe that it is at this time that God reclaims Israel as His people and he shall be their God. It is not clear whether this involves Armageddon but does appear to be merely the battle that triggers the judgments of God in the tribulation to follow.
Revelation 6:2 – And I saw, and behold 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.
white – leukos (from luke = light) (white; light; brilliant; bright) cf leukaemia, Lucifer.
Matthew 17:2b – and his raiment was white as the light.
Mark 9:3 – And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.
The white horse represented victory or triumph in battle.
crown – stephanos (mark of royal or exalted rank; the wreath or garland which was given as a prize to victors in public games.) This signifies the winner, or conqueror; this seal signifies victory. But by whom?
Some commentaries (Eg Benson, Ellicott) would say that this is Christ the conqueror on the white horse signifying the victory. A white horse is only mentioned twice in the Bible, once here, and also in Revelation 19:11 where Christ returns to destroy His enemies. (The plural “white horses” is mentioned 2 more times, in Zechariah 6:3 and
Revelation 19:14 – And the armies [which were] in heaven followed him (Christ) upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
However, Christ here is wearing many crowns (diadema) rather than a single wreath of victory (stephanos) as does the rider in Revelation 6:2.
Revelation 19:11-12 – And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him [was] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12 His eyes [were] as a flame of fire, and on his head [were] many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
Cambridge commentary makes a good point when it says that It would be more credible, that the first Rider is a false Christ, just as Matthew 24:5 precedes Revelation 6:6-7.
It does seem illogical that Christ should ride forth conquering and to conquer, yet the 3 horses following the white horse represent slaughter, famine and death! Thus, it is far more logical to see the rider of the white horse as somehow being responsible for the hardships that follow, that in fact slaughter, famine and death stem from the victory of the rider on the white horse. Therefore, the rider on the white horse represents satan or probably the antichrist, who will be revealed as the man of perdition after God removes His restraints as per 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12. The antichrist will appear to be an inspired leader; most of the world will worship his magnetic personality and leadership. The bow, as a weapon, is not consistent with Christ who is pictured with a sword, never a bow; yet satan and his demons are pictured as firing fiery darts (or arrows) at Christians (Ephesians 6:16). Note also that the crown (or victory wreath) was given to the rider, suggesting that it might follow the victory, whereas Christ comes into battle already wearing His crowns (diadems); these signify kingly authority rather than being merely the tokens of victory!
Revelation 6:3 – And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast (living creature) say, Come and see.
When the Lamb opens the second seal, the second living creature thunders (see Vs 1), “Come and see!”
Revelation 6:4 – And there went out another horse [that was] red: and [power] was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
red – or “the colour of fire”, from a word meaning “fire”. The red horse in Zechariah 1:8 (I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that [were] in the bottom; and behind him [were there] red horses, speckled, and white.) uses a Hebrew word meaning the colour of fire. It could signify bloodshed.
Taking peace from the earth suggests a victory for one at the expense of others, for victory always has to assume both the conqueror and the conquered! A winner always presupposes a loser!
great sword – megas (great) machaira (large knife for cutting up animals, thus sacrificial knife; small sword as opposed to large sword) Thus a “mega small sword” or a very large sacrificial knife, probably signifying the sacrificial slaughter of people. The LXX (Septuagint) uses the same term for the knife that Abraham intended to use to sacrifice Isaac. This rider represents the sacrificial slaughter of a great number of people, and in this context would strongly imply that the sacrifices include God’s people.
While the first rider conquered, perhaps establishing peace (but for whom?), this rider causes the destruction of peace which has seemingly lulled the people into a false sense of security. (It may be talking about Israel.)
1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 – 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
Note the unwalled villages of Israel when the enemy attacks in Ezekiel 38:11.
The killing of one another suggests a type of civil war, not nation against nation, but people within a nation killing others (perhaps the Christians or Jews?) of the same nation. The first rider establishes a peace, but the second rider ensures that such peace might not be for God’s people.
John 16:33 – These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Revelation 6:5 – And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
pair of balances – yoke on animals; yoke of bondage or slavery; pair of balances or scales. Translated “yoke” 5 times and “pair of balances” only this once.
Black signifies dark times, a plague; in this case, massive widespread famine and death from starvation. The scales signify the severity of the measuring out of the staple food requirements of the common people.
Revelation 6:6 – And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and [see] thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
measure – choinix (a dry measure; a dry measure, containing four cotylae or two setarii [less than one litre, or as much as would support a man of moderate appetite for a day])
penny – denarion (of Latin origin: denarius = “containing ten”; a Roman silver coin in New Testament time. It took its name from it being equal to ten "asses," a number after 217 B.C. increased to sixteen (about 3.898 grams or 0.1375 oz.). It was the principal silver coin of the Roman empire. From the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, it would seem that a denarius was then the ordinary pay for a day’s wages.) Translated as a penny which was considered in King James’ day to be one day’s wages.
A man might work for a full day just to pay for a day’s supply of wheaten bread just for himself, or perhaps he could buy sufficient coarser bread made from barley that could feed three adults for that day. Oil and wine were considered to be the luxuries of life, generally only affordable for wealthy people.
Thus, the staple diet of the common people, bread, was to be priced almost out of reach of the common people, while the luxury items such as oil and wine would always be affordable to those for whom price was no obstacle. Widespread starvation would be experienced by the common people, while the wealthy would continue to eat well.
Revelation 6:7 – And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
When the fourth seal is opened, the fourth living creature thunders (see Vs 1), “Come and see!”
Revelation 6:8 – And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
pale – chloros (green; yellowish pale) We get “chlorine” from this because it is a pale yellow-green gas. Translated “green” (grass, herbage) 3 times.
Ezekiel apparently talks about the same event.
Ezekiel 14:21-22 – 21 For thus saith the Lord God; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast? 22 Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, [both] sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, [even] concerning all that I have brought upon it.
Ezekiel also talks about sword, hunger, and the beasts, yet has pestilence in place of death. However, note that Ezekiel’s description of that pestilence clearly defines it as the cutting off of man and beast from the land, that is, causing them to die.
Ezekiel 14:19 – Or [if] I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast:
This is clearly satan’s rider; his name is Death, and Hell (possibly satan’s angels: demons) follows him. A quarter of the earth’s population is given for them to kill. A lot of people are going to get killed by violence (sword), famine (hunger), plague or pestilence (death) and by wild animals (beasts of the earth; could also refer to martyrs “fed” to animals). The question is: who are these who will be killed? If it is satan and his antichrist who are involved with these horses (as may be assumed from the context), then logically it would have to be satan’s enemies who are targeted here.
Matthew 24:7-8 – 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these [are] the beginning of sorrows.
The sword in this verse is not the sacrificial sword of Vs 4 but a large sword often worn at the right shoulder, or a long Thracian javelin, thus an effective weapon of war.
These four horsemen probably represent the commencing of the earthly rule of satan through his servant, the antichrist. It will probably be a time of peace generally, but a time of persecution for God’s people, as they are systematically hunted down and slaughtered (possibly represented by the rider on the red horse). Famine could be a consequence of this persecution (judgment?), although it could even relate to the antichrist ruling that they take the mark of the beast in order to buy and sell. (?) It is quite possible that the fourth rider killing a quarter of the world’s population may be largely focused upon God’s people, too. Therefore, it is possible to see these four horsemen as initiating a reign of persecution and death upon those not favoured by satan: that is, God’s people.
These four seals could even relate to the removal of the restraints that God has placed upon satan’s activities, that removal being mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-9 – 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 [Even him], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
While much of the final 7 years seems to greatly favour satan, in actual fact satan seems to be getting drawn out into the open (from his more usual occult or secret state) in order to cause him to take up the challenge of the tribulation (and, of course, its judgments). By the end of the tribulation, satan will have done all he possibly can to gain the worship of all mankind, and will have failed miserably. The tribulation is not a triumph for satan in any way; instead, it is his own judgment, his nemesis, his destruction, or, in the words of a well-known saying, his Waterloo.