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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 6

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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In chapters 6 & 7, the Lamb who took the sealed scroll (Revelation 5:7), now begins to open the seals and to disclose a sequence of events.

Verse 1


Then I saw. The Lamb breaks open the first of the seals. Come. The four living creatures (cherubim) take turns introducing a horseman.

Verse 2


There was a white horse. The Rider on the white horse symbolizes Christ. [This is still a vision.] The bow, the crown, and the white horse, are symbolic of conquest and victory. As a conqueror to conquer. Christ is a conqueror (Revelation 3:21). He has already conquered death and the world of the dead (Acts 2:24; Revelation 1:18). Compare the Rider in Revelation 19:11 ff. Christ stands among his gold lampstands (Revelation 1:12 ff), and this can be taken as symbolic of his conquest through his church. It is the church (the messianic community) which is commanded to: “Go!” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Verses 3-4


Another horse came out. This horse is red – symbolic of violent death. As the Good News of Jesus is preached, persecution and sacrifice follow. Read what Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-39. The red horse refers to religious persecution stirred up by preaching Christ. The sword here is the sacrificial knife which was used to kill the animal on the Jewish altar (compare Hebrews 9:12 ff). “Kill” as used here means to “slaughter as a sacrifice.” The world slaughters the people of God as a sacrifice [they don’t intend it that way] to God, which he accepts as praise to him (Revelation 13:9-10; Revelation 14:13).

Verses 5-6


There was a black horse. Symbolic of great economic hardship. The scales are symbolic of famine (Ezekiel 4:10 ff), and the prices given for wheat and barley are famine prices. But it is not famine, since plenty of wheat and barley are available if you can pay the price! Oil and wine symbolize luxury here, but these people can barely buy the cheapest food. Who are they? – The Christians. See note on Revelation 2:20; Revelation 13:17. The second and third Riders belong together. As soon as the Good News of Christ is preached, the world will persecute the church in every way. The two forms mentioned here: slaughter and economic hardship – are symbolic of every form of persecution.

Verses 7-8


There was a pale-colored horse. This horse is a very sickly gruesome color, symbolic of disease and death. Its Rider is Death, and Hades (the world of the dead) comes trotting along behind. War, famine, disease and wild animals come on believer and unbeliever alike. Death cuts down, and Hades [symbolizing disembodied spirits of the dead (see notes on Luke 16:22-23)] seizes them. To the believer, this punishment is helpful (Hebrews 12:5-11); but to the nonbeliever, it is a curse, because they do not turn from their sins (Revelation 9:20-21).

Verse 9


Then the Lamb broke open the fifth seal. This is still a vision. I saw . . . the souls. He sees an altar, and under it the SOULS (not bodies) of those who were being slaughtered under the second seal. Their lives were both a sacrifice and a testimony to Christ.

Verse 10


How long? These souls shout in a loud voice, asking for vengeance! But did not Jesus ask God to forgive those who killed him? We answer, these souls do not ask for revenge, but they ask God’s vengeance for God’s sake. By slaughtering them, the world repudiates God! See Jude 1:14-15.

Verse 11


They were told to rest. A white, flowing robe is given to each of them (symbolic of being free from guilt, of being holy, and of great happiness). God hears their prayers, but his purpose is not yet fulfilled. God knows the exact number of martyrs to his cause, and not until this many are sacrificed to him, will our world come to an end.

Verses 12-14


And I saw the Lamb break open the sixth seal. The sixth seal introduces the Judgment, and shows us something of the terror of the wicked at that time. The events of Revelation 6:12-14 are to be lumped together around the central idea of God’s wrath and power unleashed [at Christ’s Second Coming] against the world of wicked people. Compare Ezekiel 38:19; Amos 8:8; Joel 2:10.

Verses 15-16


Then the Kings of the earth, etc. Under the symbolism of six groups of men, John sees [in his vision] the total godless world in terror as they will attempt to escape from God’s wrath. As the very earth shakes to pieces beneath their feet, even death itself seems less to be feared than the wrath of the Lamb who comes in Judgment (Revelation 1:7). Suffering Christian, you have no reason to be afraid of all this! THE LAMB IS YOUR KING AND YOUR FRIEND!

Verse 17


The great day of their wrath is here. Chapter 6 closes with Judgment Day, but the seventh seal is not yet opened! God sends punishment on the world in our day [or at least allows it to come] because the wicked persecute his people. But God will not execute his complete vengeance, nor close the door of grace, until his Plan is fulfilled and Jesus returns to begin his work of Judgment (see Acts 17:31).

Judgment halted for the sealing of God’s people. 144,000 is symbolic of God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Revelation 6". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/revelation-6.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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