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ch. 6:1 - 17

 

Introduction To The Judgments

 

There are two major ways of interpreting the chronology of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls, judgments among Prophetic Futurists.  One way is to see them in chronological order.  That is to say all of the seals take place first, then the trumpets, and then the judgments.  The second way to view them is taking place all at the same time. 

 

There is another way to view them that should not be discounted, although not as popular.  This view is to understand the seven seals as an overview of the tribulation.  The seven trumpets and the seven bowls are then seen as being understood chronologically.

 

As yet, I'm not fully convinced on what position I take.  All have their good points, however, at the moment, I am leaning towards the third view, mainly because the sixth seal appears to me to be the end of the age, and, if that is the case, the seven trumpets and the seven bowls cannot come after the seven seals.        

 

The Seals (ch. 6:1-17)

 

In this chapter we will see the Lamb who has been slain open the seals to the scroll we saw in the last chapter.  The Lamb is Jesus.  If you read Daniel 12 you will note that God told Daniel to close up, or to seal up, the scroll that contained the visions he saw.  The scroll was to be sealed until the time of the end.  It is quite possible that the scroll Daniel was told to seal is now being opened by Jesus in this chapter.        

 

One thing we should note before we go any farther is that what John sees in this vision is taking place in heaven, but, what is taking place in heaven has earthly consequences.  I say this because some people think there will be riders on horses at this moment of time in history as seen in this chapter, but that's probably not the way it will be.  If John was viewing the actual events on earth, he would have seen things differently, but he didn't.  He saw events unfold in heaven, and, as they unfolded in heaven, the corresponding events on earth unfolded.         

 

Chapter 6 begins the opening of the seven seals, although
only six are actually opened in this chapter.  The seventh seal is not opened until chapter 8.  Most Prophetic Futurist scholars generally agree that the opening of the seals begin the last seven years of this age, known as the time of tribulation.  That being said, some view the first six seals as an overview of the tribulation period.  I might suggest as well that it might be possible, and I use the word "might", that the first six seals is the time leading up to the tribulation period where things are put in place before the last seven years can actually take place.  It's my thinking that the tribulation of those days just doesn't suddenly come on the world.  Certain events must take place prior to pave the way for what we've called the Great Tribulation. 

 

One thing to note is that what happens from here on out in Revelation is not necessarily chronological.  The last verse of chapter 6 seems to say that the Great and Terrible Day of Jesusí return comes, but how could it come with more events needing to be fulfilled that are written in the rest of the book?  It appears that chapter 7 is actually stepping back from the actual vision to explain something else, or is a rewind back to the first seal.  So, many scholars suggest that what you read from chapter 6 through 19 is not chronological, but much of what is happening is happening all at once.  It is like viewing different scenes in a movie.  The scene comes after one another, but in the time line of the movie they are all happening at the same time.  That being said, there are a good number of Bible teachers who do believe Revelation is in chronological order.  As I've said above, there is a less known way to understand this and that is to view the first six seals as an overview of the tribulation and the seven trumpets and bowls as being in chronological order.  

 

The first four seals have men and horses as the main aspect to the seal, while the last three donít.  They are merely events.  For this reason, some feel that we should view the four horsemen as events as well, thus each of the horsemen donít have to symbolize men.  That being said, most Prophetic Futurists view the first rider on the horse as a man, who is the anti-Christ.

 

A side question, as I've mentioned beofre, could these events begin to happen and gradually reach a climax or do they just suddenly appear on the scene in all of their fiery force?  I canít say for sure, but it would not surprise me that once the seal is broken the event begins to take place and gets worse as time goes on.  That means, if you believe in a post-tribulation rapture, these seals could already be broken and the events have now been set in motion.  If you believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, then these seals are not yet broken because we Christians are still on earth. 

 

Again, I would also suggest that prior to these seals being opened we will see things that happen on earth that make it easy for the events of these seals to take place.  For example, the first seal, as we will see, is commonly understood to be the anti-Christ's appearance on earth to establish his one world government.  Prior to the anti-Christ's move for world domination, the move towards a one world government will well be underway.  People will believe that this is the way the world should go, which in turn makes it possible for the anti-Christ's plans to be realized.  This is happening right now as I write here in 2015.   So, it may be possible, and I say may be possible, that some of these seals have already been opened and gradually the things they cause to happen on earth are beginning to take place.  That's assuming we are that close to the end.  On the other hand, if the first seal releases the anti-Christ onto the world scene, then that clearly has not taken place, unless he is already alive and has not yet risen to power.        

 

I'll say one more thing before we comment on verse 1.  Many Futurists suggest that there is a strong correlation between the first four seals and the first four things that Jesus says will take place before the end comes, as seen in Matthew 24.  The first thing that Jesus warned about was anti-Christs or false prophets.  Most Futurists believe the first rider is the anti-Christ, although a few think it's Jesus.  It can't be Jesus.  How can Jesus be both the opener of the seal and the rider that comes forth once the seal is opened?  That makes no sense.       

 

In verse 1 you notice it is the Lamb, not the Lion, who opens the seals, as we saw in chapter 5.  Godís Lamb is quite mighty and powerful.  He is not shy or sheepish.  This makes me believe that there is great power in the cross of Christ.  It was the cross of Christ that permits Revelation to take place in the history of man.

 

One of the four creatures announces in a thundering voice that the Lamb is about to open the first seal.  Notice again the voice is described as thundering.  It appears that all of what is seen by John is very powerful.  Even the creatures when they talk speak in thundering voices.  It's not only Jesus who speaks in a thundering voice.  This thundering voice may be commonplace in heaven but when heard by mere humans may be loud and overwhelming.  We have two very different spheres of reality here.  Heaven is an altogether different type of place than earth.

 

When the first seal was opened a rider on a white horse appears.  We see a rider on a white horse riding across the land, bent on conquering.  Many, if not most, who hold to the Prophetic Futurist and pre-millennium view of prophecy suggest this is the anti-Christ.  Some have suggested that it is Jesus, but I donít believe this to be the case.   

 

White always suggests righteousness, but in this case, if this is indeed the anti-Christ, then this is a false righteousness.  The rider on this horse is given a crown, suggesting him to be a ruler, which the anti-Christ surely will be.  The idea that he will be given a crown suggests to me that the majority of those on earth will want him to lead them.  They will give him the authority to do as he sees fit.  On the other hand, we should ask who gives this rider his crown.  Is it the people on earth or is it God?  It's obvious that this rider can do nothing on earth unless permitted by God.  So, it might be possible that God gives him his crown, not the people on earth.

 

One thing to note is that if this person is the anti-Christ, he cannot come onto the world seen until Jesus opens this seal, that is, until Jesus allows him to rule the earth.  So, we need to understand that the anti-Christ can't do anything without Jesus' permission.  The fact of the matter is that the anti-Christ, although he would not admit it, is actually a tool in the hand of God.        

 

Some suggest that the anti-Christ will establish his kingdom in a diplomatic way and not by war.  They say this because he holds a bow in his hand without any mention of any arrows in this passage.  I can understand the reasoning here but it is a bit speculative, and, the argument is based on silence.  Silence is not a good foundation to base any argument on.  Besides, what we do know is that this man is bent on conquering, and in my thinking, conquering suggests a fight.   

 

One thing we should note about the anti-Christ here is that he is just a man without being heavily influenced by the devil.  Satan doesn't give him his power and authority until Revelation 13:11 and following.   Although, if this chapter is an overview of the Great Tribulation, then the anti-Christ might have full power here in this verse, as we see he has in chapter 13.  At this point, I'm not convinced that this chapter is an overview. 

 

In verse 3 we see another creature telling John to watch the second seal being opened.  This time a rider was riding a red horse.  This rider was given power to take peace from the earth that would cause men to slay one another.  Possibly the red horse stood for red blood of dying people.

 

Most in the Prophetic Futurist camp say the first rider is the anti-Christ, a literal man, but they donít say this second rider is a literal man.  I think that is quite evident.  The text pretty clearly states that war breaks out on earth when this seal is opened. 

 

When thinking of these riders on their horses, the actual riders might well be angelic beings that represent something that takes place on earth.  In other words, the angelic being causes the anti-Christ to rise to power and war to break out on earth.    

 

In verses 5 and 6 we see Jesus opening the third seal.  This seal has to do with the worldís economy.  A voice says that a quart of wheat and three quarts of barley costs a dayís wage.  Then the voice says not to harm the oil and the wine.  To me this suggests world wide economic problems.  I can only guess what the reference to oil and wine mean.  I do believe "oil" is in reference to olive oil, not the oil in the ground that runs our economy.  Many prophetic Futurists suggest that the oil and wine speaks of wealth.  When the oil and wine aren't touched by a bad economy, this suggests the wealthy of the earth still maintain their affluence.  This might well be the case.  Whatever the case, the breaking of this seal suggests economic challenges on the whole earth which in part causes a famine on the earth. 

 

When Jesus opened the fourth seal in verse 7 John saw a pale coloured horse called Death, and right behind him was a horse called Hades.  In this case the text actually tells us something concrete about the horse and rider.  Either they are symbolic of death and Hades or, as I said earlier, the riders are angelic beings that cause something to take place on earth. 

 

We need to know that Hades is the place of the lost and unsaved dead. It is not the Lake of Fire as seen later in the book of Revelation.  The only ones in Hades at this point in human history are the unsaved. 

 

The rider on this horse appears to be followed by another horse and rider as I've just mentioned.  Both are given the authority to kill one quarter of the worldís population by war, starvation, and animals.  By today's population standards that would be more than a billion and a half people.  That's a lot of people. 

 

It is interesting to note that one way people are killed is by animals.  Animals will attack people.  We're seeing that more and more these days as humans expand into the country side where animals have traditionally lived.  It appears that the whole animal kingdom will go wild in the last seven years of this age.  Of course, that will all end when Jesus returns and rules the earth for a thousand years.    

 

In verses 9 through 11 we see Jesus opening the fifth seal.  This seal is different.  The first four seals portrayed men on horses which are often called the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  They were told to come on the scene by the four living creatures.  There are no men or horses this time.  There are the martyred saints that appear under an alter crying out to God concerning their death being avenged and when final judgment would come to the earth.  At this point all these people were given a white robe and told to wait just a little while longer until the complete number of martyrs were killed.             

 

The fact that these souls were given a white robe has caused much debate.  Did these souls already have their glorified eternal bodies?  I don't think so.  That would come later.  How can white robes be placed on souls?  Are these real robes?  Are they symbolic robes, or, are these some kind of spiritual robes?  At the moment I tend to lean towards the idea that they are spiritual robe

 

As Iíve seen in other places throughout the New Testament, God has a time table and He seems to have a numbering system.  There are a specific number of martyrs that would be killed for the name of Jesus, and to this point, that number had not been reached.  God appears to be the ultimate mathematician.

 

This also tells me that there must be Christians on earth at this point in time or else there could not be anyone martyred for Jesus during this time.  Either these Christians are here because they got saved during the tribulation period, or else thereís no such thing as a pre-tribulation rapture.  Some believe in what is called a "pre-wrath rapture".  They say this takes place at the end of chapter 6.  They say that Christians won't experience God's wrath, which I believe is true.  They say God's wrath begins after chapter 6.  That which is seen in chapter 6 is satan's wrath, according to the "pre-wrath rapture" theory.  These people separate the last seven years of this age into two halves; the second half being what they call the Great Tribulation.  They believe the rapture comes around the half way point of the last seven years.  

 

Most Prophetic Futurists believe that these martyrs were killed during the last seven years of this age.  They don't believe these are believers who have been martyred prior to these last seven years.   

 

There is some debate over whether these martyrs are just Christian Jews or if they include Christian Gentiles.     

 

We should note that in heaven there is an altar.  This we should already know from our study of the Old Testament because the tabernacle that Moses built was an earthly replica of the one in heaven.  That being said, we can not assume that the earthly altar looks like the heavenly altar, just as we can't assume the throne we've seen so far in Revelation looks like an earthly throne.  Remember, we're in heaven at this point and I don't believe there's a lot of similarity between heaven and earth.     

 

The fact that these souls are under or before the altar tells me that their lives have been sacrificed for the sake of the Lord and His gospel.  This sacrifice obviously is not atonement.  Only Jesus' sacrifice can atone for sin.  This is what the Old Testament calls a drink offering, or, as the Apostle Paul once put it when he said his life was being poured out like a drink offering (Philippians 2:17).       

 

It should be noted that in Romans 12:19 Christians are not to have anything to do with avenging their blood.  As Jesus said, we are to love our enemies.  But, here we see that these martyred souls are crying out for vengeance.  This might well suggest, as I believe, the time of the tribulation as seen in Revelation is actually a different dispensation, or age, from the present age in which we live.  The tribulation period is a time of judgment and the pouring out of God's wrath, thus, the reason why these souls can cry out for vengeance.         

 

Note the aspect of time concerning these saints under the altar in heaven.  They are waiting for God to avenge their blood.  God says that it is not time yet for Him to avenge their blood.  They must wait a little longer.  The point that can be made here is that, although God Himself lives outside of our time and space, these souls still live in time and space even though they are in heaven.  Therefore, existence in heaven has some kind of element of time and space.       

 

From verse 12 to the end of this chapter we see what happens on earth when the sixth seal is opened.  There are great earthquakes.  The solar system seems to be going out of control.  The sun is darkened.  The moon turns blood red.  These things are also seen in the prophet Joel whom Peter quotes on the Day of Pentecost. 

 

If you believe that the book of Revelation is written chronologically, this seal isn't at the last of the seven years.  There is more to come.  If you believe that the events in Revelation take place in scenes that overlap each other, this seal might well be the very end of the last seven years.  If you believe this chapter is an overview of the tribulation, then you'll believe this is the end of the age.  In my thinking, no matter what you believe, the things described in the sixth seal clearly take place at the end of this age as seen by the prophet Joel and others.  That would tell me that these seals are either a broad overview of the judgments seen in Revelation or they overlap the other judgments we will see.  You can't have the end this earth as we know it with this sixth seal when there is more to take place on earth as seen in the following chapters.  That's simple common sense.  So, I don't believe all of Revelation is in chronological order; at least these seals aren't anyway.  The rest of what we see in Revelation might well be in chronological order, but not these seals.                  

 

In verses 15 through 17 we see that everyone on earth, both great and small are in tremendous fear.  They try to hide themselves for fear of the One who sits on the throne and from the Lamb.  We should notice the fear isnít fear from the earthquakes and natural disasters. They fear the One who sits on the throne and the Lamb who is bringing about these disasters.  At this point in history, all mankind acknowledges the existence of both God and Jesus.  They understand that what they are experiencing is because of God and Jesus.  The day of the atheist is long gone at this point.

 

The last verse says that ďthe great day of their wrath has come and who can stand itĒ.  This is the great day of Godís judgment.  When speaking of the "Day of Wrath" we need to know that it can be taken in two ways.  The word "day" in this respect is commonly used as a period of time in the Bible, not just one twenty four hour day.  The tribulation period, whether you view it as all of the last seven years or just the last three and a half years, is seen as the Day of Wrath.  The Day of Wrath can also be understood as the very last day of this age, meaning, a literal day.  Depending on how you view the chronology of Revelation will determine whether the Day of Wrath spoken of here is a period of time known as the tribulation period or the very last day of this age.  I believe it's the very last day of this age.  

 

The question is asked in verse 17, "Who can stand" the wrath of God?  No one can endure the wrath of God.  At this point we should note the difference between God's wrath and God's discipline.  They are two different things.  Christians can and will be disciplined by God but they will not experience God's day of wrath.  All that being said, we will see in the next chapter that those who are sealed with the seal of God will be protected by what takes place here on earth.

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