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The Beginning of Sorrows: The First 6 Seals
Revelation 6 – 7
Key terms in prophecy::
  1. The world –planet earth
  2. The earth – the prophetic earth – Europe, the middle east, and Israel.
  3. The third part of the earth – the area controlled by the old Roman empire, would include israel.
  4. The fourth part of the earth – western Europe.
  5. The land – the land of Israel, probably including all that promised to Abraham, depending on the context.
  6. the city – Jerusalem is the center of the prophetic earth. Ezek. 5:5, Deut. 32:8.
First 3.5 Years – Very little is written on the beginning of sorrows. Other than Rev. 6, read Matthew 24 and the first book of the psalms.
Horses in Scripture generally speak of power to subdue (Job 39:19-25, Rev. 19:11), while Thrones speak of Dominion after the victory has been won (Rev. 20:4). Often Horses speak of a special kind of Power – human agencies moved by divine providence. The king was not to multiply horses (Deut. 17:16). The seals will be carried out providentially by God through human agencies.
In ch.6 the first four seals are carried out through human agencies, the last three are directly from God. 4 (natural) + 3 (divine) = 7 (a complete series). The first four seals will progress in a logical order that men will try to explain away. God will catch the wise and their own craftiness – Job 5:13, I Cor. 3:19.
From ch.6 – ch. 11:18 we have the judgement of the western nations. The seal judgments are providential, while the trumpets are direct from god.

1st seal: conquest through diplomacy – white horse (6:1-2)

And I saw when (1) the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard (2) one of the four living creatures saying, as a voice of thunder, Come and seev.1 notice the order:
  1. the lamb opens the seal (he is worthy, he is able).
  2. the living creatures call forth the judgments – that is their role.
  3. the judgments are carried out by human agencies.
2 (3) And I saw: and behold, a white horse, and he that sat upon it having a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went forth conquering and that he might conquer. v.2 The rider of the White Horse is not the Antichrist because he doesn’t come up until the middle of the week (Rev. 13). It is likely Papal Rome forging the ten-Nation Western Confederacy. We get this by comparing with Rev 17:15. What this rider does is similar to what the Catholic church does with the west in ch. 17. White – a pretense to purity of motives. A bow (distant warfare) with no arrow. Conquering through diplomacy, summits, treaties, etc…. no bloodshed until they get the Roman Empire up on its feet. Dan. 9:27 is a perfect example of one of these treaties.

2nd seal: war and bloodshed – red horse (6:3-4)

¶ 3 And when it opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, Come and seev.3 Only with the 2nd seal “behold” is omitted and “another” is added. This is because the white and red horses are closely connected. Both represent the development of the revived Roman Empire.
4 And another, a red horse, went forth; and to him that sat upon it, to him it was given to take peace from the earth, and that they should slay one another; and there was given to him a great sword. v.4 As he advances his agenda, he has a divine mandate to take piece from the earth which results in mass confusion, violence, and mutual slaughter; Civil War. Matt. 24 speaks of nation against nation, but this is more like town against town. Perhaps it will start with this anarchy, then spread into larger battles. A great sword – for indiscriminate sweeping. Compare with the sharp sword – for discriminant piercing. White → Red: E.g. Hitler’s bloodless takeover of Austria in 1938, followed by his bloody conquest of Poland in 1939… blitzkrieg.

3rd seal: widespread famine – black horse (6:5-6)

¶ 5 And when it opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, Come and see. And I saw: and behold, a black horse, and he that sat upon it having a balance in his hand. v.5 The Black Horse is economic failure and famine, mainly affecting the working class. The 1929 Wall Street crash was called Black Tuesday. See Lam. 5:10 for the significance of “Black”.
6 And I heard as a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, A choenix of wheat for a denarius, and three choenixes of barley for a denarius: and do not injure the oil and the wine. v.6 If the beasts are still around the throne, then this voice is either God’s or the lamb’s. These are famine prices. A denarius was a soldier’s daily pay… could normally purchase a choenix of wheat. In the 3rd seal, one day’s work = one day’s food, so what about families? “Barley” – Poor man’s food. “Oil and wine” – The rich are unaffected at this point (Prov. 21:17).

4th seal: disease and death – pale horse (6:7-8)

¶ 7 And when it opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, Come and see8 And I saw: and behold, a pale horse, and he that sat upon it, his name was Death, and hades followed with him; and authority was given to him over the fourth of the earth to slay with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and by the beasts of the earth. v.8 The Pale Horse represents pestilence (a fatal epidemic disease) and death. “Death and hades” – complete separation from the land of the living. Death claims the body and immediately Hades claims the soul. The reach of these judgments is still limited to a restricted part of the earth, the “fourth part” which is Western Europe. Notice “sword” and “hunger” – the 2nd and 3rd seals are wrapped up in the 4th. Now the animal kingdom begins to attack humans.

5th seal: middle of week – Jewish witnesses martyred (6:9-11)

¶ 9 And when it opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held; v.9 It is likely that the False Church will be behind this persecution. See Rev. 18:24. These souls are the first group of Jewish martyrs, slain by earth-dwellers for their faithfulness. They are in hades. Under the altar because they had just been on it. The sacrifice is now complete. Reference Lev. 4:7… the brazen altar. What was their testimony? See Matt. 24:14.
10 and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O sovereign Ruler, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell upon the earth? v.10 The New Testament proves these are not Christian prayers (Matt. 5:43-44) rather they are the imprecatory prayers of those with Israelitish hopes. E.g. Psalm 94. Earth-dwellers – Those who have been offered heaven but have chosen earth – see Rev. 3:10.
11 And there was given to them, to each one a white robe; and it was said to them that they should rest yet a little while, until both their fellow-bondmen and their brethren, who were about to be killed as they, should be fulfilled. v.11 White robe – A token of special approval for faithfulness. See Rev. 3:4-5. Their prayers cannot be fully answered now, they must wait until the beast kills the remainder of the martyrs under far more furious persecution (Rev. 11 and Rev. 14:13). Iniquity must reach it height before the retribution falls. Perhaps the martyrs of the second half week are seen as: (1) “fellow servants” – Gentile believers and (2) “their brethren” – Jewish believers? All are raised together in Rev. 11:11 and seen together Rev. 20:4.

6th seal: governmental upheaval – hearts fail (6:10-17)

¶ 12 And I saw when it opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as hair sackcloth, and the whole moon became as blood, v.12 No horses with the 5th and 6th seals – this is more direct from God. An earthquake – shaking of great Western governments that had seemed so stable and settled (Heb. 12:26). This corresponds to Satan’s fall from heaven at the middle of the week (Rev. 12:9). At this time the false church collapses (Rev. 17:16) and it will also cause distress among the nations (Rev. 18). The sun, Supreme governing authority (Gen. 37:9) apostatizes under Satan’s darkening power. The moon – all authorities whose power is derived from the supreme authority are covered with moral death.
13 and the stars of heaven fell upon the earth, as a fig tree, shaken by a great wind, casts its unseasonable figs. V.13 The stars (lesser authorities, governments of less important countries) fall morally. Figs that are concealed under the leaves that never ripen, are cast off by the wintry wind of God’s wrath. Perhaps a figure of Israel’s national apostasy when antichrist comes forward mid-week?
vv.12-13 Every authority that previously posed as a moral beacon to mankind in the West now apostatizes is to make way for the beast and false prophet.
14 And the heaven was removed as a book rolled up, and every mountain and island were removed out of their places. v.14 “Heaven rolled up” – Referring to the moral heavens, the framework of society will disappear; e.g. manners, honesty, etc. Mountains would be long established governments like the U.S.A. and England, see Dan. 2:35. Islands may speak of great sources of wealth or great financial institutions (see Ezek. 27:3-15), Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, AIG, etc.
15 And the kings of the earth, and the great, and the chiliarchs, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains; v.15 Every class of persons that gave Western civilization a sense of stability will be struck with terror. A Chiliarch meaning “commander of a thousand” is a military rank, Mark 6:1.
16 and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and have us hidden from (1) the face of him that sits upon the throne, and from (2) the wrath of the Lamb; 17 because the great day of his wrath is come, and who is able to stand? v.16 They beg for anything stable (rocks and mountains), even if destructive, to hide them from God and his discipline. There is no repentance or cry for mercy, just terror. “The Lamb” – These people know who is behind these judgments. It is because we are talking about the part of the world that has had the light of the gospel, but rejected it. vv.16-17 They think it is the end, but their terror is premature. This is only the middle of the week. It is going to get far worse. Compare the earthquake in v.12 with the earthquake in Rev. 16:18.

(Two Companies Preserved: A Jewish and a Gentile) (Rev. 7)

Parentheses between 6th and 7th. There is a parenthesis between the 6th and 7th seal, trumpet, and bowl. In each case we get added details that help us understand the 7th seal, trumpet, or bowl.
Three companies are distinguished in this chapter: (1) v.4 Jew, (2) v.9 Gentile, and (3) v.12 Church of God.
Ch.7 is for our hearts and perhaps for the tribulation Saints. After seeing the first six seals we might wonder if any will make it through the Great Tribulation at all. This chapter shows us that God has a remnant of Jews and Gentiles which will be preserved and brought into the millennium. It is a little bit like flipping to the end of a book to be assured about the outcome.
Noah, a type of the preserved remnant. The difference between ‘saved through’ the tribulation (Rev. 7) and ‘saved out of’ it (Rev. 3:10) is seen in the flood. Enoch (the church) was taken by God, and ‘was not’ – not even on the Earth during the flood. Noah and family (the preserved remnant) were ‘saved through water’ although they never got wet – specially sheltered by God. Another OLD TESTAMENT PICTURE OF THE PRESERVED REMNANT IS DANIEL’S THREE FRIENDS, PRESERVED FROM THE FIRE.
The preserved gentile remnant will be the “sheep” in the sessional judgment at the beginning of the Kingdom (Matt. 25:31-46). These ones will be sympathetic to the Jewish remnant who go into every nation preaching the gospel of the Kingdom.

Introduction (vv.1-3)

And after this I saw four angels standing upon the four corners of the earth, holding fast the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow upon the earth, nor upon the sea, nor upon any tree. v.1 These angels have universal authority over creation. The “four winds” are Disturbing influences throughout the world that God can, at his will, let loose in judgment. Perhaps demonic forces – Eph. 2:2. Three entities that are destined for winds of judgement:
  1. Earth – the nations in the state of stability (Mat. 13:38).
  2. Sea – the nations in a state of turmoil (Rev. 13:1, Mat. 13:1+47).
  3. Trees – the great men of this world (Dan. 4:20-22).
2 And I saw another angel ascending from the sunrising, having the seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it had been given to hurt the earth and the sea, v.2 Is this angel the personage of the Lord Jesus? No. (see kelly’s Exposition) It isn’t until the trumpet series that the Lord assumes the angelic form and title. In the seals or in Ch. 7 he is the lamb.
3 saying, Hurt not the earth, nor the sea, nor the trees, until we shall have sealed the bondmen of our God upon their foreheads. v.3 The seal marks them for preservation from martyrdom. Before the seventh seal is opened we are told the end of the story… A great company will be preserved. An example of this sealing or marking is Jos. 2:18, and Ezek. 9:4-6.

The Jewish company sealed (vv.4-7)

4 And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel: 5 out of the tribe of Juda, twelve thousand sealed; out of the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand; 6 out of the tribe of Aser, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Nepthalim, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Manasseh, twelve thousand; 7 out of the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand; 8 out of the tribe of Zabulun, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand; out of the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand sealed. vv.4-8 The 144000 is a symbolic number.  144000 = 12 x 12 x 1000. Twelve is the number of the dealings of God with man by means of human administration (Rev. 21:12). The multiplier of 1000 refers to the millennium. 12000 from each tribe shows that “all Israel shall be saved” Rom. 11:26. The nation of Israel in a remnant character will be preserved to enter the millennium in administrative perfection. This remnant will form the nucleus of the nation, through whom Messiah will govern the other nations. Only two tribes will be in the land when Messiah comes, but all twelve tribes are mentioned here because the ten tribes will be back home to enter the kingdom (Ezek. 20:33-44, Jer. 30:3). Dan isn’t mentioned – Levi takes his place. This is because Dan was the tribe who introduced idolatry to Israel, see Judges 18. But some will make it because they will have a portion in the land, Ezekiel 48:1 tells us. Ephraim’s name isn’t mentioned because, as the leader of the Northern Kingdom, he led Israel into idolatry (Hosea 4:17). Yet he is included here under the name ‘Joseph’.

Gentle company added – worship breaks forth (vv.9-12)

A Scene on earth

¶ 9 After these things I saw, and lo, a great crowd, which no one could number, out of every nation and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palm branches in their hands. v.9 “Not numbered” because Gentiles won’t be in earthly administration in the millennium. the Lord’s throne will be in heaven (Psa. 103:19). Contrast ‘before the throne’ as to access (Heb. 4:16) with elders ‘around the throne‘ as to location (Rev. 4+5). Although they are before the throne, they are still on earth – the scene where they have been preserved, although the tribulation is over. Additional proofs that they are on earth are in v.15. “White robes” – Moral suitability. They had maintained practical holiness. In v.15 the question of their standing is addressed: the blood is mentioned. “Palms” – Emblems of joy resulting from a victorious deliverance. Are the 144000 a part of this multitude?
10 And they cry with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb. v.10 Although the wording is difficult, I believe the sense of it is: “all praise and credit for our salvation be to God… etc.”. They cry (not sing) of an earthly deliverance through the tribulation from physical and moral damage.

A Scene in Heaven

11 And all the angels stood around the throne, and the elders, and the four living creatures, and fell before the throne upon their faces, and worshipped God, v.11 The elders and living creatures do not fall in worship with the Angels (as in Rev. 5:11-12). Here they appear to be inside the circle of angels. This is because the elders are heavenly Saints (see note at top) and earthly deliverance through the tribulation isn’t something they can appropriately praise for. The angels on the other hand “minister for them who shall be a Salvation” (Heb. 1:14) – even in the tribulation!
12 saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and strength, to our God, to the ages of ages. Amen. v.12 A chant of seven notes. Compare with Rev. 5:12…
Category Rev. 5:12 Rev. 7:12
Harmony Elders join Elders do not join
Order of the notes power → divine glory + happiness. God’s glory + happiness → strength
Differences riches: the theme is Lamb’s worthiness thanksgiving: the subject is thanks.
Addressee to the lamb to god

The Blessed place & portion of both remnants (vv.13-17)

¶ 13 And one of the elders answered, saying to me, These who are clothed with white robes, who are they, and whence came they? v.13 The elder, who is characterized by intelligence, ask John two questions – not because he doesn’t know – but because he is teaching John. A nice illustration of teaching by asking questions!
14 And I said to him, My lord, “thou” knowest. And he said to me, These are they who come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb. v.14 Answer to “whence came they?” They come out of the Great Tribulation, preserved miraculously from the power of the Beast & Antichrist. the Great Tribulation – A term referring to the second half of Daniel’s 70th week of years (3.5 years) see Dan. 9:27, Matt. 24:21. Answer to “who are these?” Their standing before God is on the same basis as every saint in every dispensation: redemption through the blood of Jesus.

the great rewards for the remnant (vv.15-17)

A Scene on earth

15 Therefore are they (1) before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, and (2) he that sits upon the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them. 16 (3) They shall not hunger any more, neither shall they thirst any more, (4) nor shall the sun at all fall on them, nor any burning heat; 17 (5) because the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall shepherd them, and shall lead them to fountains of waters of life, (6) and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.
  1. They will be priests in the millennial temple in Jerusalem. Note: no temple or day/night in heaven (Rev. 21)
  2. They will come under Jehovah’s glory and defense (Isa. 4:5-6) as an overspreading tent. NOTE: IN THE ETERNAL STATE, IT WILL BE TABERNACLING WITH MEN (rev. 21:3), not over it.
  3. Every need will be satisfied – not just physical, but spiritual needs as well (Matt. 5:6).
  4. They will never again experience any suffering or pain – physical or otherwise (Jam. 1:11, Song. 1:6).
  5. They will come under the personal Shepherding care of the Lamb. It will be much more than a holiday for 1000 years!
  6. They will be given everlasting consolation. God himself – against whom we/they have sinned – will remove every sorrow and every occasion for sorrow. See note on Rev. 21:4.

Can you provide comments, suggestions, or corrections?