[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
6 And 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.
Some people believe that the scroll is partially opened as each seal is broken, and the events occur as each section is unrolled, There is, however, no scriptural support for this view, and scrolls were simply not sealed in that way. Also, we clearly saw, in Revelation 5:1, that all the seals were on the outside of the scroll. Another point is that the scroll contains the wrath of God, but the first five seals deal with the atrocities of man.
The first four seals initiate the coming of the four horsemen, which set the stage for the Great Tribulation. Only these first four seals are announced by the four living beings, which shows that they should be of special interest to us.
In the Greek text, the living being simply says “Come”. Some translations, like the KJV, view this as a command for John to come witness the events. Other translations view it as a command to the horseman to come forth. Both views, however, lead to the same result.
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.
In chapter 19, Jesus comes riding on a white horse, so many people jump to the conclusion that this rider is also Jesus. This rider, however, represents the Antichrist (Matthew 24:4-5). Satan copies the works of God, but with an intent for evil. The Antichrist will not come literally riding a white horse, but this just symbolizes that he will come parading as a savior. The crown symbolizes power, and the Antichrist will be given power and authority for 1260 days (Rev. 13:5).
We should take particular notice to the fact that so many people are deceived by this description of the Antichrist, in this verse, and he has not even come yet. This should be a great warning to Christians concerning the actual appearance of the Antichrist.
The Jews believe that scripture prophesies two messiahs. Christians understand those prophecies to be about the first and second coming of Jesus. But the Jews, who never accepted Jesus, might accept the Antichrist as the first messiah (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
It is not clear when, during the 70th week, this occurs. Some people believe this is the revealing of the Antichrist at the abomination of desolation (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12). The Antichrist will, however, come on the world scene some time before he proclaims himself to be god.
3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.
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.
Some believe the four horsemen, of the first four seals, all symbolize the Antichrist. Regardless, they are all four associated with him and his agenda. Together they set the stage for the Great Tribulation. Just like the first horse and rider, this horse and rider are symbolic of the events taking place. This horse and rider, which takes peace from the earth, goes hand in hand with the first, which went forth conquering. Whether, or not, the entire world is at war, the entire world will be affected. The Antichrist will promise the world peace (Daniel 8:25), but will actually take peace from the earth.
Matthew 24:6-7a says, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom“.
Many people suggest that the color red represents the blood of Jesus, or the blood of the martyrs. In the Greek text, however, this is referring to the color of fire. While there certainly will be much bloodshed, I believe this symbolizes that these events originated in hell.
The sword given this rider, in the original Greek text, is not a long sword of war, but a short two-edged sword, or dagger. This sword was used for animal sacrifice or for judicial retribution (see also- Romans 13:4). So the first rider gives the Antichrist authority to conquer, and the second rider gives him authority to judge and execute. The sword may also suggest a religious association.
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.
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.
The black horse, and rider, represents the famine that accompanies the first two seals. Famines are a natural consequence of wars, but Matthew 24:7 mentions that there will also be earthquakes. Jesus says, in Matthew 24:4-8, that these events of the first three seals are “the beginning of sorrows”. These are the birth-pangs of the coming Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3; Isaiah 13:6-9).
Matthew 24:8-9 says that the Great Tribulation will not begin until after these things occur. We will see the Great Tribulation beginning during the next seal.
7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
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.
Notice that the rider’s name is Death, Hell followed him, and the other riders worked with him. This shows the satanic origin of the four horsemen.
This last horse and rider, like the others, is not literal, but symbolizes the events that will take place. This verse does not say that a fourth of the world’s population will die at this time, but refers to the Antichrist being in control of a fourth of the world geographically. Daniel chapter 7 prophecies four beasts, or four kingdoms that will rule the world. Many people interpret this to mean four sequential kingdoms, and want to link them to the four kingdoms of Daniel 2, but a closer look at the prophecy reveals that all four kingdoms exist at the same time. The fourth kingdom, said to be diverse from the others, is the kingdom ruled by the Antichrist. All four kingdoms will eventually combine to form a global government, and the Antichrist will be in control this government (Revelation 17:18).
Notice that the verse says the four riders are given power to kill, but does not state their level of accomplishment. While the scripture does not specifically state how many people will be killed, the combined effects of all four horsemen will be devastating, and could possibly equal one fourth of the world population.
The Greek word, translated here as “beasts of the earth”, or “wild beasts” in some translations, occurs 39 times in Revelation. This is the only time it is not translated as the “beast”. Also, in the sequence of events in Matthew 24 (see Matthew 24:9-14), and in the following verses, this is the time-frame for the martyrdom of the saints. Therefore, I believe that John is actually saying they killed with war, famine, death, and with persecutions by the beast-kingdom (see Revelation 13).
9 And 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:
In Leviticus 4:7, the Israelites are commanded to pour the blood of the sin offering at the base of the alter, so some people view this to be symbolizing the blood of martyrs as being a sacrificial offering. This verse, however, is referring to the altar of incense rather than the altar of sacrifice. The smoke, from the burning incense, represents the prayers of God’s people going up to heaven (PS 141:2; Rev. 8:3-4).
John will cover the Great Tribulation in many of the following chapters, but in the sequence of the seals, it begins sometime after the opening of the fourth seal, and will end during the events of the sixth seal. There has been persecution of Christians from the time of the apostles until today, but the “Great Tribulation” is the time of intense persecution which occurs during much of the 1260 days that the Antichrist is given authority. The Great Tribulation will cease before the end of the 1260 days, as we shall see in the events of the sixth seal.
Jesus said to watch for the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15-28) as a sign that the Great Tribulation is about to begin. If we look for a “peace treaty with Israel” we will, most likely, never see it coming.
10 And 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?
The term “those that dwell on the earth” occurs several times in Revelation, and refers to those who are actively hostile toward the people of God, or are at least supportive of the Antichrist. It does not include every non-believer living on the face of the earth, as we shall see later.
For those who confuse the tribulation with the wrath of God, note that there is no confusion among the martyrs. They clearly understand that it is not God’s wrath which caused their deaths. The martyrs, which died in the tribulation, asked God how long before He begins pouring out His wrath on the wicked which killed them. (See- Revelation 16:1-21; 19:2)
That the martyrs asked God to avenge their deaths shows, once again, that their blood was not a sacrificial offering to God.
11 And 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.
We can clearly see, from this verse, that the Great Tribulation is still ongoing at this point. Notice the two groups, fellowservants and brethren, that will be killed. I believe this is referring to Christians and Jews, as both will be present during the Great Tribulation.
12 And 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;
13 And 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.
14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
Jesus specifically mentioned these cosmic events of the sixth seal in Matthew 24:29-31, and said they would occur immediately after the tribulation, and just before the rapture. Therefore, we can safely conclude that the rapture must occur sometime after opening the sixth seal. (See also- Joel 2:30-31; Haggai 2:6; Isaiah 13:9-13; Mark 13:24-25; Luke 21:25-28; Acts 2:17-20). We will see in chapter 11 that the rapture actually occurs between the sixth and seventh trumpets.
We should be careful to understand that the heavens departing is not speaking of the destruction of the heavens when the earth is destroyed after the millennium (see- 2 Peter 3:10; Revelations 20:11; 21:1).
15 And 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;
16 And 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:
The “face’ of God is not literal, but refers to the unbelievers’ acknowledgment of the presence of God.
17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
Notice that the Bible does not say that the day of wrath has come. It says people SAID the day of wrath has come. God’s wrath is sealed within the scroll, so it cannot occur until after the seventh seal has been broken. The sixth seal, with all the cosmic signs, is just the proclamation of God’s wrath (you think this is bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet). Joel 2:31 says these signs will occur “before the great and terrible day of the LORD.” These events, however, will be so climactic that the unbelievers will conclude that they must be the outpouring of God’s wrath. (See also- Isaiah 13:9-10)
At this point in time, unbelievers can still be saved (Acts 2:19-21). But even though the wicked will acknowledge God and Jesus, they will refuse to repent. They wish only to die and be hidden from their sight (see also- Isaiah 2:10-21). If you are a Christian, however, and are still alive at this point, these are all good signs. Luke 21:28 says “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Mark 13:24-27 says “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.” Notice that Mark says these cosmic signs will occur after the tribulation, but before the rapture.
Christians will not be subject to the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9), but some will still be here at this point in time. Although the Antichrist will still be in power, apparently the tribulation will stop at this time. I believe that this is the shortening of days that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:21-22, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” The scriptures clearly say that the Antichrist will reign for 1260 days, but apparently his system of persecution falls apart during these cosmic events. Note that it is not the rapture that ends the tribulation period, but the rapture is very near (Luke 21:25-28).