This chapter has to do with the opening of six of the seven seals. It is also the beginning of something known in the Bible as the “Day of the Lord.” This “Day” begins with the seven years of tribulation and ends with the Great White Throne of Judgment before which all the unsaved shall stand. See Rev. 20:11-15. This period of seven years is also called, “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.” Jacob’s name was changed to Israel in Gen. 32:28. So, “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble” is really “The Time of Israel’s Trouble.” The events of this period are recorded in chapters 6 through 19 of Revelation. These same events are also covered in Matthew 24:25.
The conditions that we will describe to you here cannot happen in the world today. The reason for this is that the Restrainer, who is the Holy Spirit, is still in the world. He will remain here until the rapture of the church (see 2 Thess. 2:7). “For the mystery of iniquity is already at work; but He who now hinders will continue to hinder until He is taken out of the way.”
Toward the end of the Church Age, things will grow worse and worse (see 2 Timothy 3:13). Paul, writing to Timothy, said that in the last days, “evil men and seducers shall proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” When the residence of the Spirit and the Church are removed from the earth, the whole world will practice their evil without restraint. Even though men run amok, God will still be in control and His judgments will fall mercilessly on those who refuse to believe in Him.
Before we proceed to explain Rev. 6, let me point out something that is very interesting: The Tribulation begins with the appearance of a rider upon a white horse. He is the Antichrist in disguise. He bursts onto the scene with flattering words and false promises of peace. The Tribulation ends with another rider on a white horse, Jesus Christ Himself. He is depicted as one coming to destroy the rebellious on the earth with His heavenly armies and establish His kingdom (see Rev. 19).
Please notice the parallel between Matt. 24 and Rev. 6. Matt. 24:5 says, “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” This corresponds to the first seal, where the Antichrist comes in disguise riding upon a white horse. Matt. 24:6-7 says, “And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: See that you 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: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in diverse places.” These verses parallel the other riders in Rev. 6. “The wars and rumors of wars” is the work of the rider on the red horse. The rider on the black horse produces “The famines”. “The pestilences” (which naturally follow famines) result from the rider on the pale horse.
The Opening of the First Seal
Read Rev. 6:1-2. John saw a white horse; victorious generals rode on white horses. The rider of the horse is an imitation of the white horse rider of Rev. 19, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the judgment of the first seal is a judgment of great delusion. 2 Thess. 2:9-10 says, “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.”
At this time the world will be longing for some world ruler to come and bring peace and order out of chaos [describe]. Nations will be at each other’s throats, each with its own stockpile of modern weaponry. A war would be disastrous for any of them, but no one can be found to stop the tragedy and bring peace. Into a scene like this the white-horse rider will come.
This rider will come in power. He is a conqueror and has the power to conquer. He will usher in a false peace. Daniel 11:21-23 says, “He shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. And with the arms of a flood they shall be overthrown before him, and shall be broken; And after the league made with him, he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up and shall become strong with a small people.” Daniel 11:36 says, “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every God, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished, for that that is determined shall be done.” The Antichrist will be the most powerful leader that the world has every seen.
The rider has a “bow,” but no mention is made of any arrows. This indicates a “cold war,” rather than actual fighting. The crown that he wears is the victor’s crown. He is the leader of the nations of the world. Because of what he promises, the peoples of the world will think that they are about to enter the Millennium, when, in actuality, they will be entering the Tribulation. Hundreds of millions will be deluded and deceived by him. Israel will sign a covenant with him for seven years. They will accept him as their Messiah. The ecumenical church will also fall for the program of the Antichrist and later will be destroyed by him. Since the church and the Spirit have been removed, Satan is free to use his full power. The period of the white horse and its rider will last for 3 ½ years.
The Opening of the Second Seal
The abomination of desolation (See Rev. 13:14 and The Book of Daniel)
Read Rev. 6:3-4 and Rev. 12:7-17. The horse of the second seal is “red.” The rider is the same one as he who appeared on the first horse. Red speaks of war and bloodshed. When the red horse and its rider go forth upon the earth, it is the fulfillment of 1 Thess. 5:3. “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.”
The Antichrist’s real character will be revealed in the opening of the second seal. He will “take peace from the earth,” not give it. War seems to engulf the world. They will “kill one another,” according to Rev. 6:4. A great sword was given to the Antichrist (Rev. 6:4). In my opinion, this seems to be the first battle in the greatest global conflict the world has ever seen. This conflict will culminate in the last great battle of Armageddon, which will be brought to an end by the return of Christ Himself.
Sinners are destined to appear before the Great White Throne where all unsaved will stand. For those who would defy God, there is no way of escape from His wrath. Think now for a few minutes on the closing words of Rev. 6, “For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Only those who know Christ, as Savior, will escape the judgment of God.
The Opening of the Third Seal
Read Rev. 6:5-6. The Lord said in Matt. 24 that there would be wars and famines followed by pestilences. In verses 5 and 6, the aftermath of war is seen. The same rider is seen on a “black horse.” The picture here is that of uncontrollable inflation which is followed by famine. The Antichrist riding on the black horse is seen with “a pair of balances in his hand.” This speaks to the weighing out of food or rationing. This will certainly be true of the Tribulation period. The people will need to have the mark of the beast before they can buy or sell, (see Rev. 13:16-17).
We are given a glimpse of the severity of this famine. A measure of wheat will cost a day’s wages; this measure is what a man would eat for one meal. (Denarius = a day’s wages for a laborer). This being the case, how will a man feed his family? The Antichrist will bring the world under his control as he disperses the food. Perhaps the image will have been erected in His temple – people will worship him to live. At this point, it is reasonable to think that most of the money gathered in taxes will be appropriated for military use. Mostly the working class will feel the famine. The escape of the rich is only temporary. When the sixth seal is opened, they, too, come under the judgment of God.
The Opening of the Fourth Seal
Read Rev. 6:7-9. (Deception – War – Famine – Death) The rider (The Antichrist) is now riding a pale horse. Literally, this word means ”pale green.” The horse that the Antichrist is now riding looks like a corpse. This is very fitting, because Rev. 6:8 says that the one who sat on the horse is called “Death.” This verse also tells us that Hell or Hades follows death. These two are inseparable companions.
Allow me to divert for a moment: There is not only physical death, but there is also spiritual death and the second death. When a believer dies physically, his body is placed in the grave, but his soul and spirit go immediately to be with the Lord (see 2 Cor. 5:8 and Phil 1:21-24). Absent from the body, etc. To be with Christ, which is far better. When a person dies, who is spiritually dead (that is to say, dead in sins, because he has not received Christ as Savior), his body is placed in the grave, but his soul goes to a place called Hades. See Luke 16:19-31. The Second death, which has to do with the unsaved only, is when death at the grave (where the body, the material part of man, has gone) and Hades (where the immaterial part of the unsaved man has gone) will be cast into the lake of fire. See Rev. 20:14-15.
As a result of the opening of the fourth seal, a fourth of the world’s population will die (Rev. 6:8). Figuring on the basis of the world’s population of three billion, this would mean that 750 million people would die at this time. This number is 15 times greater than the number of people who died in the last war. This would represent the greatest destruction of human life ever recorded in history. The population of the human race in Noah’s day was undoubtedly far less than the figure here cited as dying. This figure is more than the population of Europe and South America. By any standard of comparison, this judgment is by far one of the most awesome catastrophes that will ever befall this earth of ours.
Our Lord, in Matt. 24:21-22, said of this period, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should be no flesh saved: but for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened.” This is the slaughter that takes place when God deals with the King of the North and the South. Let me project your thoughts for a moment to consider what happens when God deals with the King of the East and the Prince (or Beast) of the West. In Rev. 9:18, we see that 1/3 of the world’s population will die. The two battles will take the lives of 7/12 of the world’s population.
The Opening of the Fifth Seal
The martyred souls in heaven
Read Rev. 6:9-11. The scene shifts from earth to heaven. John sees a vision of those who had been martyred for the Word of God and for the testimony they held of Christ (see Rev. 6:9). In identifying these martyrs, we feel that they are the saints who have been slain during the first 3½ years of the Tribulation when the four horsemen stalled the earth (describe the conditions). These souls are certainly not the martyrs of the Church Age, for they would have been raptured with the Church, see 1 Thess. 4. These verses show conclusively that the martyrs are from the Tribulation, because their prosecutors are still living on the earth when the fifth seal is broken.
Rev. 6:10 depicts the martyrs asking God, with a loud voice, how long it would be before He would avenge their blood on them that dwell on the earth. In Rev. 6:11 lies the answer. In effect, God says to them, “Be patient and rest for a little while, for there are many more of your brethren and fellow servants to be slain.” The time when God will avenge the blood of the martyrs is when Christ comes to the earth in great power and glory – “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them who obey not the gospel of Christ,” (2 Thess. 2:7-8).
With the opening of the fifth seal, one half of the Tribulation is over. Many, many more will be killed for their testimony of Christ during the second half. It may very well be that the majority of those who trust Christ as Savior in that day will be put to death. Read Matt 24:9-13. John confirms this in Rev. 7:14. Rev. 13:15 says those who do not worship the beast will be killed. “These are they which came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
John’s vision reveals to us that martyrdom in those days will be as common as it is uncommon today. Earthquakes, war, and pestilence will kill many of those who have accepted Christ. Others will be the objects of special persecution by the Antichrist. They will be hounded to death (Jews in Germany). Those who accept Christ will be faced with the solemn alternative of both renouncing their faith in Christ and worshipping the beast or being slain. The result will be tens of thousands of martyrs. These are whom John saw in heaven.
The Opening of the Sixth Seal
Read Rev. 6:12-17. The opening of this seal introduces the “day of God’s wrath,” see Rev. 6:17. God now speaks to the nations through natural means; Rev. 6:12-14 describes these. There are six elements of divine judgment foretold in the prophetic scriptures: (1) Christ predicts a great earthquake in Matthew 24. (2) Joel 2 predicts earthquakes and the sun becoming black. (3) The heavens departing as a scroll is mentioned in Isaiah 34. (4) The moon will take on a deep red color. (5) The stars of the heavens (meteors) will fall upon the earth. And, (6) Mountains and islands will be moved out of their places. The result of all this is described in Rev. 6:15-17.
The unbelieving masses are terrorized. Previous to this, they have been defying and rejecting God. Now, they are terrified and want to escape from Him (no Atheists in fox holes). Read Rev. 6:15-16. These people realize that the day has come when they must meet God face to face, but they do not turn to Him in faith and repentance. Instead of pleading for mercy, they turn from God hoping they can hide from Him.
What is worse than an atomic hydrogen bomb or even a “ bacteria bomb?” The wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16). The day of wrath is contrasted with the day of grace. Some may find fault with God for dealing with man in this fashion. The day of His wrath lasts for seven years. His mercy has extended over 6,000 years. In this proportion, 6,000 years of grace to 7 years of wrath, we see the mercifulness of God.
[Describe the matchless grace of God] When the sixth seal is opened, it has its effect upon the whole world and on every strata of society (Rev. 6:15). Instead of turning to God in repentance, men look for a place to hide. All of these people could be saved – some will be saved - but the majority will try to hide. This hope is futile. Death is not an escape, but only an exchange of existence from one state into another. Those who do escape the immediate judgment of God at this point will spend eternity with Him.