Vision of the Opening of the First Six Seals
1And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.
As Christ opens the seals, John begins to see the vision of the things which must shortly come to pass. The noise of thunder represents the voice of God announcing judgment (1 Samuel 2:10; 1 Samuel 7:10; Isaiah 29:6). The first of the four beasts, with the face of a lion representing rule and strength, announces the breaking of the first seal.
2And 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.
Thus begins the vision of the four horsemen. These horsemen are servants of God and represent His judgment on the target nation of this prophecy. The horsemen are like those from Zechariah 1 and 6. Let’s examine each in turn.
A. behold a white horse...Edit
White of course is the symbol of purity throughout the Bible. This rider is pure in nature. It is none other than Christ, pictured here not as sacrificial Lamb but Conqueror.
B. he that sat on him had a bow...Edit
The bow is an implement of war, specifically a weapon with long reach and devastating precision in a skilled hand.
C. a crown was given unto him...Edit
This emblem represents the authority given to Christ by the Father to be King over the Kingdom of God. It echoes the images from chapter 5.
D. and he went forth conquering, and to conquer...Edit
This is Christ as pictured in Luke 19:12 going off to make war against the enemies of His Kingdom converting them to Christianity (“to receive for himself a kingdom”).
3And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.
The second seal is opened. A second component of judgment is released. Please keep in mind these are not chronological but typological. John is seeing layers or pieces of a whole, building the context of the judgment. The second beast is the one with the face of the ox representing endurance.
4And 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.
A. there went out another horse that was red...Edit
As in Zechariah, the red horse represents war and bloodshed. His very meaning is described in this verse.
B. 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.Edit
Authority is given to this rider, likely embodied in the general of the army that destroyed Jerusalem [Historically Vespasian]. He is to take peace from the earth (land), the land of Palestine. Note here that it says after the rider takes peace from “the earth” John then writes “they should kill one another”. They refers back to “the earth (land)” indicating quite clearly that the earth represents the people who dwell there, the Jews. The Jews would turn on and kill one another during this time of war. The great sword represents the great word (or command) given to this rider (see Rev 1). His commission was to end the Jewish nation.
5And 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.
The third seal is broken and the third beast with the face like a man, representing wisdom shows John the third rider on a black horse which in this context represents famine. Balances were used in market places to measure out trade weights and coins. This rider is a representation of the scarcity of food to come during the events that must shortly come to pass.
6And 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.
As the rider rides forth, a voice cries out the prices of basic foods and luxury foods like a hawker in the market. A penny, according to Matthew 20 is the wages for a days worth of work. The idea here is that the famine has made food so scarce that a man has to work all day just to buy the food he needs to live. The admonition not to hurt (Grk. adikeo) oil and wine is an admonition not to use them unjustly. So they were to use the oil and wine sparingly because of their scarcity.
7And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
The fourth beast calls John to see the fourth rider. This beast is that with the face of the eagle, representing swiftness, power, and omniscience.
8And 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.
The pale horse is the pale grey of the dappled bay like in Zechariah 6. Here it carries personified death. Hades, the realm of the souls of the dead, is also personified and follows after Death. But Death was conquered by Christ and is now under His command. Death here serves God just as the other horsemen to bring judgment against the enemies of Christ. Death uses the power of the other riders, the sword and famine, along with different forms of death and even wild beasts (seen throughout the Old Testament prophesies) to take out a representative portion of the Jews. All of these horsemen in service to God were sent to weaken the land of the Jews in preparation for the fall of Jerusalem and Judaism. The preaching of the gospel took from their numbers by converting them to Christians. War, famine, and all manner of death reduced their numbers and weakened Judah’s infrastructure further.
9And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
These are the martyrs for the cause of Christ that were slain by the hands of the Jews. This is a pivotal point here. It is vital that the Bible be given eminent, and I would argue sole, capacity for providing the interpretation of this, else the meaning and much else gets distorted. Read through the entire New Testament. Read specifically through Acts for history. ONLY the Jews persecuted the Christians in scripture. In fact, what little we read of the Romans was them becoming annoyed with (or in Pilate’s case, fearful of) the Jews. One Jew was beat for annoying a Gentile leader (Acts 18:17). The Jews were kicked out of Rome by Claudius for being annoying (Acts 18:2).
10And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
These martyrs cry out to Christ to judge and avenge their blood on “them that dwell on the earth” a.k.a. the Jews.
11And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
A. white robes were given unto every one of them...Edit
These martyrs received white robes, symbols of the purity they maintained while alive, remaining faithful even to the point of their deaths at the hands of the Jews.
B. it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.Edit
These martyrs are told to rest (cease their demands) for a little season. This indicates once again that the events envisioned here would happen within a short amount of time. They are to wait until the Jews had “filled up the measure of their fathers” (Matthew 23).
12And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
At the breaking of the sixth seal there are a number of things that are envisioned. These images are taken straight out of the Old Testament Prophets. Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7; Daniel 8:10; Joel 2:10; Joel 3:15; etc.
A. there was a great earthquake...Edit
The shaking up of the people of Judaea. This symbol is found throughout the OT prophets.
B. the sun became black as sackcloth of hair...Edit
The king of the Jews (Herod) would loose his authority.
C. the moon became as blood...Edit
The high priest pictured here is the second highest authority in the land. He is pictured as covered in blood, a vivid picture of his part in the hunting down and killing of the Christians just mentioned above, his part in the filling up of the iniquity of the Jews.
13And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
A continuation of the events with the opening of the sixth seal.
D. the stars of heaven fell unto the earth...Edit
The other rulers of the Jews (e.g. the Sanhedrin Council) would fall from power.
E. even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.Edit
14And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
Read Isaiah 34:4. The judgment against Judah shifted the political structure of all the surrounding domains (mountains) and of all the Gentiles (islands).
15And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; 16And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
Similar to the judgment found in Hosea 10:8. The leaders of the Jews (e.g. Herod) would seek safety in the domains (mountains) of other nations as Judah is destroyed. [Historically Herod sought safety in Rome while the upheaval in Judaea took place.]
17For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
This is the day of the Lord like that spoken of throughout the Old Testament, a day of judgment against a wicked nation, in this case Judah. It is the day of the Lord Christ Himself spoke of in Matthew 24:36; Acts 2:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10, etc. In Truth and Love.