In chapter 6 we begin to see the chain of events which must take place to bring about the end of the age of evil. There are several thoughts on whether these are now historical, current or future events but theories of them being historical do not quite match up with all the detail given so I am proceeding on the basis that they are still to come although some may already be starting. It certainly appears from reading chapter 6 that these are consecutive events and as we read through Revelation later on in the book we see other events taking place. Again the number 7 is significant although in chapter 6 we only read of the first 6 seals being opened.
- Seal 1 – as the first of the seals is broken, one of the four living creatures shouts “come”. A white horse appears with it’s rider holding a bow. He was given a crown and rode out to conquer. The colour white is thought to signify the spirit of conquest, military agrression
- Seal 2 – the second living creature calls “come” and this time a red horse appears. The rider is given the power to bring war on earth and has a large sword. The red this time signifies bloodshed.
- Seal 3 – the third living creature calls “come” and this time a black horse appears with it’s rider carrying scales. The black this time signifies famine with the scales reflecting the shortage and inflated prices. Limitations are set however that the olive trees and vineyards are not damaged. Both these have deeper roots and so would not be affected immediately by drought.
- Seal 4 – a fourth horse is called forward by the forth living creature. It is pale in colour reflecting death and it’s rider is called Death and Hades. They were given authority to kill a quarter of the earth
- Seal 5 – This is very different; John notices the souls of those who have been martyred for the faith who are crying to God from beneath the altar to take action against those who killed them. They are given white robes and told to rest until the appointed time, until the complete number of martyrs has been achieved. What I find interesting here, is the thought that we touched on in chapter 5 – why does God wait? Some say that this number is not just the martyrs, but the required number of righteous which could also be prescribed by time. God is waiting for all those he has called to be ready. The white robes are a symbol of purity and blessedness
- Seal 6 – Triggers a violent earthquake, the sun turns black (an eclipse), the moon turns to blood red (we’ve heard a lot recently about blood moons) Stars fall down to earth, the mountains and islands shake and disappear. The day of the wrath of the one who sits on the throne and the Lamb is here.
There are many many different theories and interpretations of what all this and the other signs we will read about later mean.
Preterists say that these were fulfilled during the time of the Roman Empire and reflect what happened to the churches – particularly those mentioned in chapters 2 and 3
Historicists say that these tell the story of the church throughout the last 2,000 years and that it is cyclical in that the church goes through periods of great trial, war, famine, even death but God restores them and then follow periods of growth
Futurists say that this is entirely the end times, compressed into the last few (3.5) years before the second coming of Christ.
Idealists say that this is, and has been the story of the ongoing struggle between good and evil throughout all time.
All of these theories have weaknesses which become too complex for a simple short study
We see in Daniel 12 he is given a vision of the end times which have many similarities with what we read in Revelation and he is told to write what he sees in a scroll and seal it up. In verse 4 Daniel is told that many people will waste their efforts trying to understand what is happening. When Daniel asks for an explanation and how everything will end – he is told;
You must go now, because these words are to be kept secret and hidden until the end comes (v 9)
In other words, no one will know until the appointed time so endless speculating and study is of no benefit.
Zephaniah in chapter 1 verses 14 – 19 speaks of the Day of Judgement, a sudden end to everyone who lives on earth.
Personally I am inclined to think that these speak more of the end times, not to get bogged down into pre or post millennium theories etc but to be ready and alert for Christ’s coming.
Where are we in relation to this chapter? Have the seals already begun to be broken? Is what we see around us a result of this? It would not be difficult to think that perhaps they have.
All quotes from The Good News Bible