Revelation 6 - Outline of Revelation (Book Notes menu page)
6:1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals,
There is an orderly progression in the revelation of God's wrath:
7 seals - 7 trumpets - 7 bowls - - - the end of Babylon.
Christ will break the godless nations with a rod of iron (Psa 2:9), but the tribulation does not break upon the world suddenly. It comes gradually, logically, seal by seal.
Note that as these notes are being written, we are still in the church age ('the things which are,' as described in ch. 2 and 3). Chapter 4 and following are yet future. Therefore, we should not force fit the seals, trumpets, and bowls, into present events. However, those who are watching, will observe prophetic elements coalesce, with increasing clarity as the time draws ever nearer.
and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts
The first 4 seals are announced by the 4 living creatures which are focused on the holiness of God.
Thus, the judgments poured out are meant to vindicate God's holiness.
Man has rejected-
- (1) God's Law, the standard of righteousness
- (2) God's Grace & Truth, the way of redemption.
Man remains in rebellion. Such a state cannot continue in the face of God's holiness.
saying, Come and see.
In some MSS, 'and see' is missing. A variety of meanings have been suggested.
[eg., McGee: 'Come' should read 'Go' and is a command to the horsemen.]
[JBS says, 'Come and see' is the best reading, and is directed to John, in the sense of 'come... I will show you...' (cp. 4:1)]
6:2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him
The scene shifts from heaven (ch. 4,5) to earth (ch. 6-18).
This is the first of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Many see this rider as Christ (citing Psa 45:3-7 & Rev 19:11-16, which clearly speak of Christ). They say the gospel is conquering the world today. However, the subsequent horses and riders hardly fit this view. It is also inconsistent for Christ to be both opening the seals and riding forth. In Rev 19, Christ is clearly identified. But the rider of 6:2 is strangely obscure. No one really knows his heart.
     This rider is the Antichrist, who presents himself as the savior of the world (cp. Joh 5:43; 1Joh 4:14). While heaven rings with praises to the Lamb who is worthy to receive dominion (Rev 5), a usurper steps forward on earth claiming the ability to rule, and the world welcomes him.
had a bow; and a crown was given unto him:
a bow- but no arrow (cf. the picture of the conquering Christ in the references above).
When this rider appears on the scene, he already has military power (Dan 11:38). The absence of an arrow may suggest that he comes at a time of peace, perhaps through the recent exercise his power, or perhaps through the display of his power, not intended for aggression, but rather, held in reserve for beneficent purposes.
a crown {GK= stephanos, a victor's crown or wreath} was given to him-
The people of the world will elevate him to still greater power, perhaps on his promises of peace and security. But his power does not come from them. cp. Psa 75:6,7; Dan 4:17; Rev 13:4,5
and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
conquering (Gk= nikao, overcoming). The repetition (of 'conquer') suggests complete mastery. He wields the authority of a dictator. He moves from victory to victory, even with limited use of military power.
     Note that the first seal opens where Daniel's book was sealed. In Daniel's visions, the Antichrist was foreshadowed as the little horn that would arise from the fourth 'dreadful' empire (Dan 7:8), the 'prince that shall come' (of Dan 9:26,27), and 'the willful king' (of Dan 11:36). Daniel foresaw characteristics of the man of sin. But his identity and important details were not clear when the book was sealed (Dan 12:4). Although many speculate concerning the identity of this person, he will not be fully known until the seals are opened (after the true church has been caught up to heaven, in the Rapture).
The second seal (v.3-4)
6:3 And when he had opened the second seal,
I heard the second beast say, Come and see.
6:4 And there went out another horse [that was] red:
and [power] was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth,
and that they should kill one another:
and there was given unto him a great sword.
...another {of the same sort} horse... red...-
The first horseman cannot be Christ, because when He comes, He will bring in everlasting righteousness and peace. cp. Dan 9:24; Jer 23:5,6; Isa 32:17
...power was given to him that sat thereon...-
Could this be Gog (from the land of Magog), at his first incursion into Israel?
[See Ezekiel ch.38,39 and related Book Notes. The final aggression, by Gog and Magog, will be discussed in the Book Notes at Rev 20:7,8.] take peace from the earth... {cp. 1The 5:3}
...that they should kill {GK= sphazo, slaughter, butcher} one another...
...a great sword.-
The red horse and its rider represents War.
The third seal (v.5-6)
6:5 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.
6:6 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 the wine.
...a black horse.- Black relates to mourning and famine. Jer 4:28; Lam 4:8,9
...a measure of wheat for a denarius -
ie., A person's daily food ration in exchange for a day's wage. Mat 20:2
...three measures of barley...-
A man might barely be able to feed a small family with a less costly grain, but nothing will be left for other necessities.
...hurt not the oil and the wine.-
Yet, luxuries (toiletries and liquor) will be available for the rich.
Grain supply, inadequate to feed the poor, will be plenty enough for liquor.
The black horse is Worldwide Famine (famine follows war).
The fourth seal (v.7-8)
6:7 And when he had opened the fourth seal,
I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse:
and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.
And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth,
to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
...a pale horse - pale {GK= chloros, yellowish green} the color of new grass (as in Mark 6:39; Rev 8:7).
(Also cp. English 'chlorine,' and 'chlorophyl,' which are greenish.)
The Heb. word for paleness has a similar meaning (Jer 30:5-7).
In this context, it is the color of terror.
...his name...was Death... and Hell {GK=hades, the grave} followed with him.-
Physical death never goes alone. Death does not end all.
     Hades is the holding place of the soul/spirit of those who have died physically.
     Physical death is not the end of a man's existence (Heb 9:27). The man who is spiritually dead will be subject to the eternal second death (Rev 20:14,15). Have you trusted in Christ, to receive life from Him? (Joh 11:25,26; Eph 2:1)
     Death is the 'last enemy' which will be done away, for those who are 'in Christ.' Rom 5:14,15; 1Cor 15:26; Rev 20:14; 21:4
power was given... to kill {GK=apokteino, destroy, slay}...-
The four methods (of slaying) recall the fourfold judgment of Eze 14:21.
(Some see these as the four 'carvers,' of Zech 1:18-21, who weaken the gentile powers.)
  • with sword {ie., War}
  • with hunger {ie., Famine}
    These were the plagues of seals #2 and #3.
    Their repetition (in seal #4) emphasizes their intense and widespread character.
  • with death {GK= thanatos, death}
    This may include pestilence (eg., 'the black death') and biological warfare.
  • with the beasts of the earth.- ie., Wild beasts {Gk= therion}
    This word occurs 38x in Revelation.
    All other occurrences refer to two men (the Antichrist and his false prophet): the evil political and religious leaders that will arise (in ch. 13). The reference, here, may also be to these men. But see Lev 26:22 where wild animals are instruments of judgment.
It is evident that 'except those days should be shortened, no flesh should be saved' (Mat 24:21,22).
The first four seals, taken together, provide a general description of the Great Tribulation.
A similar sequence, in Mat 24:4-8 (false christs... wars... famines... pestilences...), is an accurate preview of the general world conditions during the Church Age. However, because Matthew 24 is actually addressed to Israel, those verses primarily apply to the first half of the Tribulation period.
     [For an extended discussion, see the Book Notes on Matthew ch.24.]
Jesus identified these as 'the beginnings of sorrows' (Mat 24:8). 'Sorrows' is lit., 'pangs', or 'travail.'
Two events are associated with Israel's travail (see Mic 5:1-5; Isa 26:16-21; 66:7-10):
  1. the birth of the Messiah (which would occur 'before' Israel's travail),
  2. the new birth of national Israel.
The fifth seal (v.9-11)
6:9 And when he had opened the fifth seal,
I saw under the altar
Some have suggested an alternate reading: "...the souls slain under the altar..." (indicating the disregard for the sacred by the slayers).
However, the Gk. may not support this. Elsewhere in the NT, "altar" refers most frequently to the sacrificial altar in the earthly Temple. However, in Revelation, it usually refers to the altar of incense (the golden altar) in heaven, which speaks of the offering of prayer. Since the scene here is in heaven (cp. Rev 7:9-17), and since the martyred saints are engaged in prayer, the latter altar seems to fit best.
Others suggest this verse refers to-
-- The altar in heaven where Christ's blood was offered once for salvation. Heb 9:23,24
-- The altar of personal sacrifice for Christ's sake. Rom 12:1
In any case, this altar is a place of prayer which arises out of prior sacrifice.
the souls of them that were slain
slain {Gk= esphagmenon}- This is not the usual word for offering of a sacrifice,
in some contexts, it means 'to butcher.' The same word is used of Cain who 'slew' his brother (1Joh 3:12), and of the Lamb 'slain' (Rev 5:6,9,12). The executioner has no intention of offering sacrifice to God, but rather of ridding the world of undesirables.
However, the attitude, of those slain, is that of offering themselves. 2Tim 4:6
for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held {were having}:
Their crime: they hold the Truth, they serve the True God.
6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying,
cried...loud - Their request is urgent.
How long,
lit., until when?
O Lord {GK=despotes, absolute ruler}, holy and true,
lit., the Holy One, the True One
dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
They rightly call for justice, for they died, like Christ, committing themselves to Him that judges righteously. 1Pet 2:23
They base their appeal on His character: Holy and True. He would not be just if He does not judge the butchers of His people.
6:11 And white robes were given unto every one of them...
Having been cleansed by Christ's blood, they are clothed with righteousness. cp. Rev 7:14; 19:8
and it was said unto them, that they should rest
yet for a little season,
season {GK= chronos, time} - ie., wait a little while.
until their fellowservants also and {ie., even} their brethren,
that should be killed as they [were], should be fulfilled.
ie., fellow believers, who would soon be slain, as they had been, for their witness for Christ.
The sixth seal, 6:12-17
6:12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal,
and, lo, there was a great earthquake;
Today's earthquakes foreshadow this, but are incomparably small in scope & magnitude (Mat 24:7). Yet, this great earthquake does not reach the intensity of the final great earthquake, which occurs at the seventh bowl judgment (Rev 16:18).
and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair,
and the moon became as blood;
Note the use of simile (eg., sun... as / like... sackcloth)
Such phrases are descriptive, rather than statements of literal fact. The probable picture here is of obscuration by smoke or other atmospheric contamination.
Upheavals to natural order are foretold in connection with both the start and end of the Great Tribulation (called the Great Day of God's Wrath, in v.17).--
-- at the start: Joel 2:30-32; Acts 2:20
-- at the end: Joel 3:9-17; Isa 13:9-14; 34:1-4; Mat 24:29
6:13 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.
'star' {Gk= aster, star or luminous meteor} - Note that they fell 'unto the earth.'
6:14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; {cp. Rev 20:11}
and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. {cp. cp. Nah 1:5}
That last line contains no simile!
6:15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men,
and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man,
hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
Seven strata of society are mentioned here, representing all of mankind.
The various classes of society are erased in the face of catastrophe.
They have in common: rebellion against God & exposure to God's wrath.
6:16 And said to the mountains and rocks,
Fall on us
{at once [Wuest]}, and hide us {quickly [Wuest]}
from the face of him that sitteth
{the One sitting} on the throne,
and from the wrath of the Lamb:
As stated before (v. 1 note): Rebellious man has refused...
-- 1. the Holy standard of God's Law.
-- 2. the Redemption, which God graciously provided through the blood of the Lamb.
There is nothing left to them but the wrath of the Holy One and of the Lamb.
Some stumble over the paradox that the Lamb can show wrath.
Lambs are meek creatures. It would be uncharacteristic to post a sign "Beware of the lamb." As the Lamb, Christ was gentle, meek, and a willing sacrifice. (Mark 10:14; Mat 11:28,29; Isa 53:7)
     But Christ displayed righteous anger in the days of His flesh (eg., when He drove out the moneychangers, or pronounced woe upon the religious hypocrites).
     All sinners are under the wrath of God. But God has extended mercy and grace, in providing the Lamb slain for our sins. Those, who refuse His grace, remain under His wrath. Joh 3:16-21,35-36; 5:22-29; Rom 1:16-18; Psa 2:10-12
6:17 For the Great Day of His Wrath is {has} come;
and who shall be
{is} able to stand?
There is no repentance in this statement.
Though aware that they are about to perish under God's wrath, men persist in their refusal to call upon Him. They cry instead to inanimate objects, to conceal them from His gaze. But there is no escape for those who have refused His salvation (Heb 2:3).
Meanwhile... until the Great Day of God's wrath comes...
God withholds His wrath (waiting for those who will turn to Him in repentance):
     Joh 3:16; Rom 2:3-5; 1Pet 3:20; 2Pet 3:3-10
God's wrath is not meant for His own: Rom 5:9; 1The 1:10; 5:9,10

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