The First Seal
I saw when the lamb opened one of the seals , and I heard as it were the
noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see"
Notice that the first four seals are announced by one of the living creatures. That they are announced by the living creatures implies that the first four seals are related to our four major disciplines. The text states that the voice of this first living creature sounded like thunder. This thunder like voice is unique to this first creature. What is the significance of this voice?
Revelation 4:5 informed us that the throne is the source of "thunders". In scripture thunder is associated with an activity of God. In Revelation this is always the case. The voice like thunder links this seal with an activity of God. Since the living creatures represent humanities four major disciplines, and this ones voice is associated with God, this first creature must be the eagle who represents theology.
John is invited to "come and see". John sees a white horse with an unidentified rider. The color white is refered to 25 times in the New Testament. Sixteen of these times it is used in the book of Revelation. Except for this 6:2 reference, all the other references clearly point to purity or something good. White is never associated with that which is false or deceptive. Therefore to see the reference to white in this passage as a reference to deception, disregards John's use of the term white. Proper exegesis demands that we see the Revelation 6:2 reference to white as in the same category as the other fifteen references in Revelation.
This rider is said to carry a bow.. We would expect the bearer of a bow to also carry arrows. However this rider is not carrying arrows. Yet this rider is said to go forth conquering and to conquer. How does he do so without being fully equipped?
This rider is "given a crown" before he is commanded to go forth to conquer. He is given the reward of victory before he accomplishes victory. Unheard of protocol in any earthly kingdom. So we are left with only one other option: this is the protocol of the heavenly kingdom. Redeemed man is declared king in Revelation 5:10 - we are given a crown, before we are victorious. And Paul declares in Romans 8:37 "we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." However that conquest is not a military conquest, and therefore this rider only carries a bow.
Given the details of the text there is only one thing in Church history that fits the description of the breaking of the first seal. The unidentified rider stands for society of the apostolic period. This period saw the proclamation of a theology that was like thunder from the throne. The early Church went forth conquering and to conquer. The journeys of Paul, as recorded in Acts, testify to that fact. What could possibly stop this rider?
The Second Seal
The breaking of
the second seal is followed by the invitation of the second living creature
saying "come and see". The first seal was announced by the eagle,
who is the last listed in Revelation 4:7. This suggests that the
order that will be followed is the reverse of how they are listed in Revelation
4:7. So this seal is announced by the living creature that had the
face of a man - a representative of the humanities. This seal portrays
what our society used as the foundation stones for the humanities.
John sees a red horse and rider. This rider takes peace from the earth, with the result that they kill one another. “That they should kill one another”, spells out the fact that this is killing by individuals of other individuals. This is not describing military conflict.
It is also stated that this rider is given a great sword.
Notice that the King James Version has the word "power" of verse 4 in italicized print. This means that the word "power" is not in the original Greek text. The insertion of this word has given us the idea that God gives this rider the power to take peace from the earth. However why would God give someone the power to take peace from the earth when He sent Jesus to bring peace? Does God work against Himself? Is God's kingdom divided?
The text does not specify who gives the rider the right to take peace from the earth. Therefore "given" should be seen in the same light as used in Romans 1:24;26;28. In these three verses Paul speaks about God giving man up to follow his own passions. God does not stand in mans way. God allows the rider to take peace from the earth. God sent us Jesus who is the "Prince of Peace". Therefore it is God’s will for us to be at peace with Him and with each other. However society rejected Jesus and the Gospel, so God did not prevent humanity from experiencing the results of that rejection. The things that society sought after society attained. Under the law there wasn’t such freedom. Under the law God’s people were held accountable for their actions. Only redemption - the Lamb - allowed God to stand back while humanity followed its own course of action.
We usually associate peace with the absence of war. However the text is not dealing with or speaking to the subject of military conflict. The text is concerned with interpersonal relationships. For individuals to kill one another means peace is absent between individuals. There is peace when there is love and trust between individuals. However when I have lost love for and trust in my neighbor, I no longer have peace in my world. That is exactly the picture presented by this second seal.
Jesus predicted that there would be opposition to the gospel. In Matthew 24:9 He stated "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my sake." Jesus said that this persecution would be followed by offence, which in turn would give rise to betrayal and hatred of one another. How is it possible that the gospel of peace proclaimed by the first rider, turned so quickly into hatred and betrayal of one another?
As Christians we can in most cases deal with the persecution from the world. However when one Christian betrays another, or hates another, that is not persecution: that is great tribulation. And of course in such a society love and trust vanish. Is it any wonder that society picks up the sword.
A bow and arrows are the instruments of warfare. A sword is a weapon of self defense. So the sword doesn't represent war but taking the law into ones own hands. A rejection of Jesus Christ led to the rejection of living after His example. So society turned from following Jesus, and instead accepts a sword for individual self preservation. What a loss! With that loss society was seated on a red horse and headed for apocalypse now.
The humanities give great insight into societies interpersonal behavior. However if the humanities are not God honoring in that they teach and practice gospel principles then the humanities will fail me. Since societies foundation for the humanities did not include love and trust, they could not guarantee peace. To try and build a society on a platform of mistrust is to build a society that relies on the sword for protection and self preservation.
Our continued study of the breaking of the seals will reveal that we developed a selfish society. A society that rejected God's gift of Love then sought to build its own means of salvation through its own disciplines. However disciplines that are not God honoring are also not people friendly. The breaking of the next two seals shows us just how ungodly and unfriendly our society became.
The Third Seal
states: "And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast
say, come and see, And I beheld, and lo a black horse, and he that sat
on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst
of the four beasts say, a measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures
of barley for a penny, and see thou hurt not the oil and wine."
Because the warning pictured by the red horse was not understood, or if understood, not heeded by society, a black horse follows. Society rejected the life and peace God offered it in Jesus Christ. With that rejection came mistrust and hatred. But how does society function without love and trust? If interpersonal relationships are not governed by love or trust society must establish and enforce rules - also known as laws - which govern all relationships. The third living creature - the calf, which represents the sciences announces the third seal. John sees a rider on a black horse with balances in his hand. Law is a discipline of the sciences. The symbol for law in our society is a set of balances! Since society rejected God's provisions of justice and righteousness she endeavors to compensate for that loss with laws.
Society realized its need for fairness, justice and equity. However when wrongs have been done can they be righted without repentance and forgiveness? But repentance and forgiveness aren't planks in laws platform. So humanity rides a black horse endeavoring to build a just and equitable society on law. Society endeavors to do what God had already shown to be impossible. The law does not bring reconciliation, justification, or righteousness and therefore it can not bring peace. It was for this very reason that God sent His Son, made under the law to redeem those under the law. How did society respond to this provision. The black horse tells us society rejected that provision. Humanity believed that a utopian society could be built without regard or consideration of God or His directives.
However science that does not honor or glorify God only digs a deeper pit for humanity. One of the branches of science - which John saw as eyes - is called economics. The opening of the third seal reveals that even the necessities of life came under the rules of the balances. The words: "a measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny," shows the unfairness of an economic system that is improperly focussed. The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown commentary states that "ordinarily, from sixteen to twenty measures were given for a penny." In John's day a penny was the average wage for a days work, and a measure of wheat, or three measures of barley would be the bare necessities to maintain life. Were it not for the fact that John heard these words, the idea would be unbelievable.
The people of John's day would have found it impossible to believe that there would come a day when the rules governing "supply and demand" would dictate the price for the necessities of life. Individual value and need would take secondary place. The balances carried by this second rider would override humanitarian principles and eventually control the necessities for maintaining life.
We live in just such a time. We consider it economically necessary to be governed by the rules of supply and demand. We will destroy commodities, or pay farmers not to produce them in order to keep the prices up. This is so in spite of the fact that for many it requires a days wages just to maintain life. The effects of this rider on the black horse are undeniably present throughout our society today.
This rider is commanded: "hurt not the oil and the wine." Oil and wine, two things that the good Samaritan used to revive the victim of thieves on the road to Jericho.(Luke 10:34) Jesus is our good Samaritan, standing ready with the oil and wine. Without the given command, even that which society requires for recovery would have come under the control of the rider with balances.
The Fourth Seal
With the breaking
of the fourth seal the fourth living creature - the lion representing the
arts - cries "come and see". John sees a pale horse and this
time the rider has a name. Death is that riders name, and he is accompanied
by Hell. They are appropriately named in light of the power they wield.
They have power over one quarter of the earth, to kill with sword, hunger,
death and beasts. Who gives death and hell such power?
Revelation 1:18 informs us that Jesus has the keys of hell and death. Jesus came to bring us salvation and to destroy the works of the devil. Did Jesus change his mind, so now He releases death and hell in order to destroy? Does our Savior abuse or threaten abuse to win?
In Matthew 16:19 Peter is told by Jesus that he will receive the keys of the kingdom. Those keys carry with them the power to bind and loose. That which is bound in earth is bound in heaven, what is released on earth is released in heaven. Thus to be in possession of keys, gives one the authority to bind; or to loose. Peter as an Apostle represents the Church. By the act of redemption the Church became the guardian of the kingdom on this earth. What she allows on earth is allowed by God. What she doesn’t allow on earth is not allowed by God. Since the Church didn't follow through on forgiveness in the previous seal periods, society enters the fourth seal period which is unparalleled in degradation.
The fourth seal period covers the years 1080 to 1440: The Dark ages. This particular period in earth's history marks the height of the feudal system. A system in which a man sold his soul to a feudal lord in exchange for land, which never became his. Nevertheless the lord was given the power to call on his vassal to give his life for his lord. The system gave power of control according to a persons status. To be human was of no value, to have value a person needed status.
John stated the power to kill was given to this rider over one fourth of the earth. So it was; for feudalism was a tyranny of government that engulfed one fourth of the world. The accepted way to settle differences was either: trial by combat, or trial by ordeal. Trial by combat involved duels to the death against swordsmen or against beasts. Trial by ordeal was to subject oneself to starvation and the elements. Feudalism considered this type of trial as right and proper: because God would help the innocent person to win. But in this feudal system it seldom was the innocent or guilty person who was subjected to the trial. The system considered righteousness to be served by deliberate killings. Killings which became a form of art, and entertainment. Feudal lords would send their vassals into arenas to do combat, in order to provide entertainment. This, in a so called civilized world. Is it any wonder that this rider is called Death and he is followed by Hell?
With the breaking of the fourth seal we come to the end of the seals which are announced by the four living creatures. These living creatures stand for societies four major disciplines. With the breaking of each successive seal we are given the foundation upon which those disciplines are built. John saw the living creatures around the throne as worship leaders in the throne room. Our present secular society is not even interested in the worship of God, let alone combining secular education with theology. However God's methods for success and purpose in life have been made clear. These living creatures are mutually dependent. Therefore for society to be successful we will need to bring these disciplines into line with what John saw in the throne room. History has shown us the overwhelming cost to society for building with disciplines that did not honor God. Are we going to continue the fatal trend?
The Fifth Seal
With the opening
of the fifth seal John sees under the altar the souls of the slain martyrs.
The period referred to is the years 1440 to 1800, and specifically the
reformation and its martyrs. In spite of the fact that society is
depicted as a death rider in the previous seal, God's provisions and plans
for humanity are not going to be stymied. With the breaking of the fifth
seal there is a resurgence of Biblical truth. With the invention
of the printing press, and the efforts of men like Wycliff, the bible becomes
available for the average citizen to read.
However a resurgence of Biblical truth is not without cost. Many give their lives for their support of Biblical truths. In John's vision these martyrs ask to be avenged. This suggests that these martyrs have a different attitude than the martyrs of Acts. In Acts 7:60 Stephen cries: "Lay not this sin to their charge," as he is stoned. The Church was promised and given the Holy Spirit so they would have power to be martyrs for Christ. The New Testament does not provide the Church the right of retaliation. The cry for vengeance by these Revelation martyrs shows us that the Church had taken on the same attitude as the society they lived in.
In Revelation 6:11 the martyrs are told to rest not retaliate. But the reformers did not rest. Discovery of further Biblical truth was meet by opposition. Luther called for the same treatment of Zwingli and his followers as he had been treated. Zwingli in turn called for the martyrdom of the Anabaptist leaders. There was resistance to martyrdom by military force. This eventually led to a thirty year religious war. Christians living and acting by the moral principles of the society in which they lived. Christians believing that truth, freedom, peace and spiritual teaching must be perpetuated by military force and violence.
However force and violence are not options for the Church. At the breaking of the first seal she was not given a bow and arrows, only a bow. Truth will be vindicated, but not by violence. God's will for the believer is to rest in Christ. The declaration of Revelation 6:11 is pointed and clear. There is a time and place when martyrdom will be "fulfilled". Then like the three Hebrew children, who were cast into the fiery furnace, death will not touch God's anointed. In fact the fire which was meant to destroy the three Hebrew children, only released them from the ropes that bound them. The Church will walk in those same miracles when she comes to the hour of the fulfillment of martyrdom. Therefore we are not called to vengeance or retaliation, for what is sown is also reaped. Remember the Church is the guardian of the kingdom. What the Church releases on earth is released in heaven.
If Revelation 6:12-17 is literal, then the earth as we know it would cease
to exist. Since there is no indication on John's part that the planet is
destroyed, suggests this to be parabolic language. The first four seals
showed us an escalation of evil that hi-jacked societies four major disciplines.
The fifth seal draws our attention to the fact that God began to reverse
the effects of that hi-jacking. God brought life back into a theology that
was dying. Howbeit that life was not welcomed. So in the sixth seal period
God intensifies what He began under the fifth seal.
The first thing John sees is a great earthquake. In Matthew 28:2 we are told of an earthquake that happened at the time of our Lord’s resurrection. In Acts 16:26 an earthquake results in Paul and Silas being set free from their confinement. Thus scripture links earthquakes with spiritually significant events. Revelation speaks of earthquakes in the same context as thunder. Remember Revelation 4:5: lighting, thundering, and voices proceed from the throne of God. Earthquakes are also listed in this same category. We must therefore conclude that earthquakes mark a divinely initiated activity, just like thunder, lighting and voices.
Therefore the earthquake suggests that the events described under the sixth seal are God initiated. "A great earthquake" would indicate this event has great spiritual significance. Is there such an event in our history? Yes!
Triggered by the work of men like John and Charles Wesley, as well as George Whitefield; the world experienced a spiritual awakening which had the magnitude of a great earthquake. This spiritual awakening affected society at every level. The awakening gave rise to the Evangelical movement, the Sunday School movement, the missionary movement as well as organizations like the YMCA and the YWCA. It marked the end of the slave trade, and the abolishment of child labor practices. This indeed was a great earthquake!
Following this John tells us "the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind." (v 12,13)
It has been shown that scripture uses the term sun, moon, and stars to refer to people. Since the sun is darkened, we need to think in terms of people that are seen as major lights in society. A distinctive mark of the revival movements of our time is that the leading lights of society - the clergy - do not accept the revival movements teaching. However in every God sent revival the teachings have proved to be true to scripture. As a result the revival movement has gone on to dominate the spiritual thinking of society. In doing so, the sun - or clergy that rejected the revival became black as sackcloth; they lost their effectiveness as a light. At the same time the moon - a reflector of the light - becomes like blood. Blood speaks of life, and the moon stands for the lay persons who perpetuate the revival.
John then speaks of the stars falling from heaven. As believers scripture states that we are seated in the heavens with Christ Jesus.(Eph. 2:6) The stars of heaven are symbolic of those believers. Given the events of the history of this period there is here a possibility of double application. First: One of the trends in our time period is that church organizations which once boldly proclaimed the gospel no longer do so. Members of those churches are like stars falling from heaven, they no longer occupy the spiritually significant position they once had.
However I also see a second application which is a warning to us all. The stars falling to earth is likened to a fig tree casting her untimely figs, when shaken by a mighty wind. The fig tree is figurative of Israel, i.e. the people of God. An untimely fig is a fig which has not ripened properly. Throughout the sixth seal period God is sending us repeated revivals. These revivals are like bright sunshine. We as figs need to exposes ourselves to that sunshine in order to ripen. For God is soon going to loose the wind of the Holy Spirit on this earth like never before. If we aren't ripe we will be blown from the tree like untimely figs. Mark it: the individual or denomination that rejects the move of God will loose their significance as a light - or as John puts it: they will be like stars falling from heaven.
John sees the heavens departing as a scroll, the mountains and islands moving out of their places. Heaven speaks of our position in Christ. As noted in chapter one, the term mountain is a reference to a belief system: like our systematic theologies. Islands would be in the same category as a mountain. However islands are land masses in a body of water or a sea. In Revelation sea stands for society. Thus islands could be representative of the belief systems held by societies other disciplines.
So John is here predicting that in the sixth seal period – from about 1800 to 2160 we will see cataclysmic changes in all four major disciplines. Our present understanding of the believers position with God will disappear. For with the wind of the Holy Spirit will come theological truths that will cause our present theological understanding to appear to depart as a scroll.(1 Cor. 2:9) There will be massive changes in all the other disciplines as well.
It has already begun!
God moved a mountain, when in April 1906 a Pentecostal revival shook Los Angeles and it was duplicated all around the world. An island disappeared, when in 1989 the Berlin wall came down. Are you prepared for what’s coming?
Our responses to these acts of God are not always favorable. Some men - stated by John to be kings, great men, rich men, chief captains, mighty men, bondman, and freeman - call on their belief systems: their arts, humanities, sciences, and theologies to fall on them and hide them from God and the wrath of the Lamb.
Since my chosen field of study is theology I wish to speak concerning what I see as a theological mountain and/or rock that theologians call on to hide them from God. It is a mountain that will also be removed in this sixth seal period. That mountain/rock is our present understanding of wrath as it relates to God, and the Lamb.
Note the phrase “the wrath of the Lamb”. Before jumping to a conclusion on what the wrath of the Lamb is, you need to study the characteristics of a lamb. Above all you need to study about Jesus who became our lamb. Sad to say dispensational theology depicts the wrath of the Lamb, as a rabid lion. The imagery of the lamb in scripture always points to Jesus as our sacrificial lamb. Of Him it is declared: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."(John 1:29) Isaiah declares: "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." (Isa. 53:7) To see the lamb of Revelation 6:16 as depicting the judgement of humanity for their sin, is the epitome of eisegesis.
We do a grave injustice to God and His revelation of Himself when we read our own theology into scripture. Scriptures imagery of Jesus as the Lamb should never be associated with vengeance, retribution, retaliation, or even justice. For if God would have wanted to meet out justice on the human race, why provide a Lamb to take away their sins? The Lamb always speaks of God's work of grace: our redemption. It is a blasphemous theology that associates the Lamb - redemption from our sins - with retaliation against us for our sins. Therefore our understanding of the term wrath, in Revelation 6:16, must be understood and interpreted in keeping with the characteristics of The Lamb.
God's wrath is as far removed from our wrath, as His righteousness is from ours. God’s "passion" and “wrath” work in harmony. God's passion is that all men come to repentance, and His wrath is complimentary to that goal. God so loved the world that He gave His son as a Lamb. That which God began by giving His Son will come to fruition on this earth, "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."(Matt. 16:18) The great day of the Lamb's passion has come, how are you responding?
We live in a religious world in which every teaching and manifestation of the Holy Spirit is called into question. That is not wrong or bad in and of itself. However when our religious background causes us to close the door to Biblical truth and the manifestations of the Holy Spirit we are saying no to what God is doing. Remember the untimely fig! Ripening properly is important, as we will see when we study Revelation 14. God initiated a move back to Himself and His ways with the reformation. With the breaking of the sixth seal that move was intensified. As we move further into the period of the sixth seal, the passion of the Lamb will only be intensified. Unfortunately many during this same period are calling on the mountains and rocks - their belief systems - to hide them from the Lamb. However those systems can not hide you from the passionate wrath of the Lamb. It is His passionate desire to be your Shepherd, and lead you out of your darkness into His light. Will you follow Him?
Consider some observations concerning the revivals and teachings that are happening today. Some are totally consumed with finding the counterfeit! Tell me does finding the counterfeit bless you? If not, why look for it?
Sure you can find problems with the Pentecostal movement, the faith movement or the "Toronto blessing". After all “we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” (2 Cor. 4:7) So it is guaranteed that I could come to your church and find problems. Does the fact that people become involved in gossip in your church mean the preaching of the gospel should be held in question? No of course not! We are capable of separating the questionable action from the gospel. We don't hold the Holy Spirit hostage just because someone got involved in spreading some gossip. So why do we endeavor to do so with the revival movements that are happening outside our denominational structures? If we’re all part of the body of Christ is it not valid to assume that He works in and through all denominations? So we must conclude that there is good happening in the present day revival movements. Find that good. Find out what brings about that good, then promote the good. What you don't understand or see as good, leave it alone, for to speak against it could find you speaking against the Holy Spirit.