Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Opening the First Six Seals of the Scroll - A study of Revelation 6:1-17

Hello friends,

At our "Bible for Dummies" class at Royal Palm, we continue, now, in our study of the Book of Revelation by opening Revelation 6.

Revelation 6 reveals the first six (of seven) seals (think judgments) that God will bring on the world in the End Times.  I've provided an outline for you (below) so you can follow the teaching.

As always, this Book is complex, so there are sometimes different interpretations of the same passage. The point of the book, though, is to prepare God's people for the Final Days.  So my prayer is that God will help us all to prepare well, and to share the inevitable with those who need it most.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments. Thank you for allowing me to be your teacher! God bless, Kirk McCormick

Revelation 6:1-17
Six of Seven Seals are Opened

** To Recap:
      John sets the scene by establishing his writing in a historic context (Chapters 1-3)…by writing words from Jesus to the 7 Historic Churches of Asia Minor
Then, Chapter 4 begins the Vision/Revelation:
o   Starts with a vision of the Throne Room of God
§  4 creatures protecting the throne
§  24 elders (Tribes of Israel and Apostles) sitting around throne worshipping
§  Angelic realm after that, with saints of people – worshipping Father
o   God is holding a scroll – the contents of which have never
been known
§  Scroll is God’s last will/testament of how he will dispose of his greatest asset:  Creation
·      Chapter 5 continues by introducing us to the One who is worthy to open the Scroll:  Jesus – the Lamb of God

** In short, Chapters 1-3 celebrate what God has done to “save” creation…so now it is time to reveal the plan that will bring about the Final Redemption of Creation.

** Now…the scroll will be opened and its contents revealed (Chapters 6-19)

** To understand the 7 Seals, use this diagram/flow chart
There are 7 Seals followed by 7 Trumpets (which are a sub-set of the 7th Seal)
followed by 7 Bowls (which area sub-set of the 7th Trumpet).

With each level  (i.e.:  Seals à Trumpets àBowls) the intensity increases significantly.

Revelation 6:1-17 – The Scroll is Opened, Seal by Seal

** There are two primary views of what is happening starting in Chapter 6.

1. This chapter gives an overview of what happens to the church between the first and second coming of Jesus. 

2. This chapter begins the seven-year period often called, “The Great Tribulation”. Thus, Chapters 6-19 describe the growing horrors, destruction, devastation, desolation that creation, specifically mankind, SUFFERS as the end approaches.

Note:  The church suffers as much, if not more, than the unbelievers.

** As we read, remember that Apocalyptic writings is not like reporting on a crime scene (i.e.: less sequential) that is recorded one piece at a time, but more like writing a symphony whose story is told in the interaction of the various sections playing their notes simultaneously

vs. 1-2 – The First Seal

** Jesus opens the scroll…one of the Creatures (i.e.: cherubim: lit: Gk – zoon = living beings – from zoe) says (voice like thunder – perhaps the “lion” creature), “Come!”

Note: This is not the voice of Jesus. His voice was like a “trumpet” (1:10) or “rushing waters (1:15).  So, clearly, the creatures are the gatekeepers of the things of God

** The Four Creatures summons Four Horsemen… each of which brings another, more severe pronouncement .

Note: In Zechariah 1 and 6 there are four horsemen, too. But the ones in Revelation are given quite a different role.)

“White Horse”

·      In Biblical days, a conquering general would ride into a defeated town on a White Horse or on a chariot pulled by 4 White Horses.
·      So: this white horse is symbolic of the plan of the rider to be conquering general of an army


·      This is NOT Jesus…though there are similarities to Jesus (19:11)
·      Holds a “bow” = symbol of military power/strength in warfare

Note:  Examples of the “Bow” representing military power

1.     In the final defeat of Babylon, the mighty men are taken and their bows –  that is, their military power –  destroyed (Jeremiah 51:56).
2.     God will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel (Hosea 1:5).
3.     God breaks the bow and shatters the spear and burns the shields with fire; that is, no human military power can stand against him (Psalm 46:9).

·      Given a “Crown” = victor’s wreath (like Olympics).

o   Note: Not the regal crown of the monarchy

·      Rode out to conquer…to take over the world!

** So who is this Rider?

A:  Not Messiah…but one who looks like Messiah (19:11), conquers the world, rides in like the sovereign after the conquest is over.

i.e.:  Likely this is our introduction to the Antichrist.

Or could be symbolically representing all of the nations/kings/despots (like Hitler) who have tried to conquer the earth since Jesus’ resurrection.

Point: This rider establishes himself as the sovereign over the world. He brings Peace through War.

vs. 3-4 – The Second Seal

“Horse – Fiery Red”

·      Red symbolizes bloodshed
·      So this is symbolic of world-wide war and bloodshed

Zechariah 14:13 – “On that day men will be stricken by the LORD with great panic. Each man will seize the hand of another, and they will attack each other.”

Note: The horse that came was a fiery red one, a color in the New Testament used elsewhere only to describe the dragon (12:3) – always a symbol for Satan.


·      “Given” (note they are under God’s control) Three Descriptors. The Rider is given:

1.     “Power to take peace from the earth”
2.     “Power to make men slay each other”
3.     A Large Sword
a.     This sword was not the one carried by Messiah (i.e.: the double-edged sword – 1:16), but the dagger used in close, hand-to-hand battle.

Point: All human relationships will be destroyed and the world would become a seething cauldron of embittered hate.

vs. 5-6 – The Third Seal

“Black Horse”

·      “Black” always symbolizes destruction.
·      If the sequence is literal, death, and the consequences thereof, always follow war.


·      “Holding a pair of Scales” = the seriousness of the measurement…symbolizing the severity of the shortage of food, making the measurement crucial
·      “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages” and “do not damage the oil and wine”
o   Wheat (rich person’s staple), barely (poor people’s staple), oil and wine (i.e.: staples regardless of class) appear to be scarce
o   Highlighting the cost of the wheat and barley suggests food will cost 12 times normal cost… either a shortfall of food or huge inflation, or both
o   So, economic disaster strikes the earth bringing poverty and famine…pitting one family/person against another

Note: These are perfect conditions for the Antichrist to rally people behind him.

Point: The times in which the Antichrist (and Satan, by proxy) are desperate times where peace is scarce and food (i.e. the staples) are even more rare.  Again, this is the perfect setting for Antichrist to garner complete control.

vs. 7-8 – The Fourth Seal

“Pale Horse”

·      “Pale” (chloros) = ashen, “Like death warmed over” – Mom said.


·      Death enters the picture. (Think Clint Eastwood – “Pale Rider”)
·      First of the riders to be given a name, “Death”…working in close relation with another, “Hades” (i.e.: the eternal grave for the condemned)

** “Hades” is, of course, the god of the underworld

Note: The combination of these, “Death and Hades”, is under Jesus’ control:

Revelation 1:18 – Jesus said, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

·      Given “Power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts”

o   This shows the pervasiveness of this first set of judgments from Jesus – ¼ of the earth will be impacted.

Ezekiel 14:21 – “For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments – sword and famine and wild beasts and plague – to kill its men and their animals!”

vs. 9-11 – The Fifth Seal


·      This is a new addition to our vision of the Throne Room in Heaven.

·      The Altar represents the shedding of blood as a sacrifice of life to God.

Note: Jesus left his followers in no doubt about the suffering and the martyrdom they would be called upon to endure.

“Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated of all nations because of my name.” (Matthew 24:9; Mark 13:9–13; Luke 21:12, 21:18).

The day would come when those who killed Christians would think they were serving God in doing so (John 16:1-3 - “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.”)

·      At the ancient tabernacle of the Israelites, the blood of slaughtered animals was drained at the base of the altar, with the blood representing the life (soul) of the animal (Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 4:7, 17:11).

Point: The “blood of the martyrs” was not shed in vain as it was given as a sacrifice to God.

“Word of God”

·      Either the Gospel or, specifically, Jesus himself. (See John 1:1-4 – where John calls Jesus the Word of God)

“Sovereign Lord” = (Gk: despostes …implies ownership: slave/master relationship)

·      Even the martyrdom of believers is part of God’s sovereign plan…just as Jesus “gave up his life”, so the martyrs lives are “given”, not “taken”. 

i.e.:  Martyrdom (i.e.: from which we derive our English word, “witness”) is not in vain when it is done to glorify God.
** The Martyrs question:  “How long until our deaths are avenged?”

Romans 12:19 – “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

God will vindicate his elect by punishing those who killed them.

Luke 18:7-8 – “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 – “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.”

“White Robe” = righteousness and purity

vs. 12-14 – The Sixth Seal

** Here, the signs of the second coming are displayed:

1.     The great earthquake

** This is the first of five reference to earthquakes being a sign of the Lord’s return and wrath (8:5; 11:13, 19; 16:18).

** In the OT, at the coming of the Lord, the earth will tremble

Amos 8:8 -  “Will not the land tremble for this, and all who live in it mourn? The whole land will rise like the Nile; it will be stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt.”

Ezekiel 38:19 – “In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel.”

Haggai 2:6-7 – “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

2.     A storm will darken the sun (turning black) and moon (turning red)

Joel 2:31 - “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”

Matthew 24:29 – Jesus said, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

“Sackcloth” = the attire of mourning and repentance…this will be a dreadful time for those on the earth

Isaiah 50:3 – “I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering.”

“Red”…usually a reference to someone’s horrendous death…

… perhaps alluding/due to particles blown into the sky from all of the warfare

3.     The stars will fall to earth

Great meteor showers afflict those on earth.  Of course, these showers have a direct impact on agriculture, to say the least.

Isaiah 34:4 - “All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.”

vs. 15-17 – The Effect of the 6 Seals

** John named five groups of people who react to the natural disasters of the 6th seal:

1.     Political leaders (kings and princes)
2.     Military leaders (generals)
3.     Economic leaders (the rich, the mighty).
4.     Every slave
5.     Every free man

Point:  The judgment of God does not discriminate…God’s wrath will come on all people, no matter their status in life.

Isaiah 2:19 – “People shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.”

** v. 16 - People beg for relief through death…but it’s too late.

Note: the irony of “the wrath (Gk: orge) of the Lamb” (Lamb’s are usually peaceful, gentle animals)


** From Chapter 6…

1.     God will allow Satan, the Antichrist and all of their disciples to inflict terrible pain on creation, even killing the followers of Jesus, but in this God is still sovereign.  This time of infliction is called, The Great Tribulation

2.     Through the Tribulation, believers are martyred.  The church does not escape the Tribulation but will not die in vain as their deaths are a testimony to God.

3.     Even when it is clear that God is judging the world, non-believers will not repent.

4.     There is no escaping the Judgment of God.  Hide if you will, but it will be in vain.


Homework: Read Revelation 7

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