The Opening of the Seven Seals
1. The first seal (Revelation 6:1-2)
2. The second seal (Revelation 6:3-4)
3. The third seal (Revelation 6:5-6)
4. The fourth seal (Revelation 6:7-8)
5. The fifth seal (Revelation 6:9-11)
6. The sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17)
7. Parenthesis: The remnant of Israel (Revelation 7:1-8)
8. The saved multitude (Revelation 7:9-17)
9. The seventh seal (Revelation 8:1-5)
The Lamb, invested with all the authority to execute judgment, having received His commission from God, begins now to open the seals of the book which is in His hands, the hands which were once nailed to the cross. It is evident that the breaking of the seals does not begin till His saints are gathered around the throne in glory. Until then it is still the day of grace. When the first seal is opened one of the living creatures said in voice of thunder, “Come.” The words “and see” must be omitted here and in Revelation 6:3; Revelation 6:5 and Revelation 6:7. A rider upon a white horse appears; his is a bloodless conquest. He has a bow, but no arrow. He receives a crown and goes forth to conquer. Many expositors make this rider the Lord Jesus or some power which represents Him. It is positively incorrect. The rider here is a great counterfeit leader, not the personal Antichrist, but the little horn which Daniel saw coming out of the ten-horned beast (Daniel 7:1-28). This coming leader of the revived Roman empire will go forth to conquer and become its political head. He is Satan’s man as we shall see later.
The second seal reveals a rider upon a red horse. He takes away the false peace, which the rider upon the white horse as a divine judgment act established. The universal peace of which the world dreams without the presence of the Prince of Peace, will be of short duration. Another awful war follows. It will not be war alone between nation and nation, but it will be a world-wide reign of terror and bloodshed, a carnage unknown before in the history of the world. See in Matthew 24:1-51 how our Lord mentions the great conflict of nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom.
The black horse rider brings famine, exactly what our Lord mentions next in Matthew 24:1-51 : “There shall be famines.” Famine follows war and inasmuch as the second seal brings the greatest war, the third seal will bring the greatest famine. The judgments of God fall then on the earth. Our Lord also mentions famines.
The next rider under the fourth seal is named death. And Hades, the region of the unseen (not hell), is populated. Sword, hunger, death, that is pestilences and the beasts of the earth, claim an awful harvest (Ezekiel 14:21). And so our Lord spoke of “pestilences.” These four seal judgments are hardening judgments.
The four living creatures have uttered their four-fold “Come.” They are thus seen in connection with the providential government of the world. Under the fifth seal the scene changes completely. John saw under the altar the souls of them that had been slain. And they cry, “How long, O Lord!” Who are they? Not the martyrs of past ages. They are risen from the dead and are in glory with redeemed bodies. The words of the Lord in the Olivet discourse give us the key. Speaking to His Jewish disciples He said: “Then shall they deliver you up, and shall kill you and ye shall be hated of all nations for My Name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9).
The Lord speaks of another company of Jewish disciples who will bear a witness during the end of the age, after the rapture of the Church. He will not leave Himself without a witness. He calls a remnant of His people Israel and they bear a witness to the coming of the Messiah, their coming Deliverer and King. Many of them suffer martyrdom. Their cry, “How long?” is the well-known prayer of Jewish saints; and their prayer to have their blood avenged is equally a Jewish prayer. Christians are not supplicating for vengeance on their foes. The prayer for vengeance refers us to the imprecatory psalms prewritten by the Holy Spirit in anticipation of the final persecution of Jewish believers. And the fellow-servants and their brethren, who are yet to be killed (Revelation 6:11), are the martyrs of that remnant during the final three and one-half years, which is the great tribulation.
Are the things mentioned under this seal to be taken in a literal sense or symbolically? Most of it is symbolical, yet at the same time great physical phenomena are also involved. The earthquake possibly means a literal earthquake. “Earthquakes in diverse places” our Lord predicted. And they increase as the age draws to its close. But the language is symbolical. Everything is being shaken in this poor world. The civil and governmental powers on earth all go to pieces; every class from kings to slaves is affected by it and terrorized. The political and ecclesiastical world is going to pieces. And when these shaking times have come, when thrones fall and anarchy reigns, when the great collapse of civilization and human society has come with signs on earth and in heaven, the earth-dwellers will see in anticipation the approaching day of wrath. Terror fills every breast and those who sneered at prayer, as the Christ-rejectors do now, will gather for a prayer-meeting to appeal to the rocks to cover them. Read the following Old Testament passages in connection with this seal: Isaiah 24:1-23, Isaiah 34:2-4; Joel 2:30-31; Zephaniah 1:1-18; Haggai 2:6-7.
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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Revelation 6". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany