Revelation Series – Six Seals Opened

Revelation 6:1-17
1 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!”
2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!”
4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.
5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand.
6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”
7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!”
I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.
10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”
11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red,
13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.
14 The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.
16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
In the sixth chapter of Revelation, we get into material the causes lots of arguments. For example, what do we do with the four horsemen? The imagery is well know, even outside Christian circles, there are references to the 4 horsemen in literature, movies, etc.
The problem is that people are trying to understand the horsemen as signs to give a timetable, now is the time for this horseman or that horseman, this many seals have been opened, this much time is left.
Let us keep in mind our principle, that which began this study with, that the book of Revelation says nothing different than the rest of the Bible. It has the same message, the message that God is in control, and we need to keep that in mind. So with that in mind, we look at the opening of the scroll.
Six seals are opened, and things are seen and things begin to happen, the dramatic portrayal of God’s plan going into effect. The scroll is not completely opened until chapter 8. These first six seals are preliminary to the final opening of the scroll, when we see God’s plan in its fullness. Forces are released upon the earth, forces by which God’s plan is carried out or which God’s plan addresses.
We must remember this, it is the lamb who opens the seals. whatever we say, we need to remember that the forces let out, are under the control of the Lamb, the Lion of Judah who opens the seals. Not only is he worthy to open the seals, but he does it. It is he who puts God’s plan into action, he carries out God’s plan, it is under his control. To emphasis that again, the plan, the forces are under the control of the Lamb, he opens the seals one by one, and he releases that which was held back. Until the lamb opens, these forces cannot escape.
When the first seal is opened, what is released is a white horse with a rider. This imagery comes from Zechariah 1:8-17 and Zechariah 6:1-8. This rider is has a bow and is given a crown and he goes out conquering and to conquer, his whole purpose is to conquer
What can we make of this? Many meanings have been given to this picture. It is the beginning of pain and suffering. Or Christ as the conqueror. But he has already conquered, why must he go forth to do it again. Or the one I favor, it is the Word of God. This describes the going forth of the gospel. The gospel is described as that which conquers, that which wins victories all over.  A picture which gives confidence to the ones reading and hearing and gives the same message as the rest of the Bible.
The second seal is opened and the second horse and rider out are the war horse, a fiery red horse whose rider carries a big sword. He is the one that can take peace from the earth. Here is a description of the beginning of the persecution of God’s children, for where the gospel goes, non-peace follows. See Matthew 10:34. The gospel is accompanied by persecution, the gospel tears apart families and countries. When nations, families hold onto Jesus and the gospel, the rider on the fiery horse appears and he is given a large sword, a sword that has to do with judgement. For the Word of God brings judgement. See Hebrews 4:12.
The third seal is opened and what comes forth is another horror that accompanies the going forth of the Word, the black horse and rider who carries the scales. Famine grips the earth, a period of famine and suffering. All of a days wage is going just for food, especially true for God’s children, who face difficult times of persecution. Along with the gospel goes famine, satan is going to do his work, to try to win as many as possible.
The fourth seal is opened, the pale horse and rider, literally, a yellowish green, the color of gangrene and death. This rider has a follower, hades, who swallows what death delivers. Those who hold onto the word will be persecuted to the point of death. But we must remember, there is one who has conquered death and hades and they cannot take unless he gives up
We are told that death spills over to the world and 1/4 of the earth is stricken by the power of death and hades. It is comforting to note that their power is limited, only 1/4, not 100%, they cannot kill all.
What this shows us is that when God’s plan is put into effect, it is not all nice and comfortable. When the Word of God rides forth, it goes forward in hostile company. The Lamb opens the seals, he allows the events to take place, but, he limits them to what they can accomplish. Once they have accomplished their purpose, they are stopped, and not allowed to continue.
The fifth seal is opened and the scene shifts from the earth to an altar in heaven. This is something new, an altar, never mentioned before in the book of Revelation and our focus is on the foot of the altar. Here are the ones who gave and give their lives for the gospel, the ones who went out with the word of God and are slain by the other 3 horsemen. They have stood by the Word of God, thought it was better to serve God than be popular, who would rather go broke than disobey the Word, who have been slain because of their faith.
Their cry goes up, How long before you avenge our blood. There have been interpretations for this: 1) It is a cry for revenge.  If this is so, what about the prayer of Jesus and Stephen who prayed for forgiveness on those who were killing them.  Does the Father allow for such a cry for revenge when He taught continually that we are to love our neighbors?  Do the saints in heave live differently than we do, we who are told to bless and not seek revenge? 2) A cry for vindication.  This is an appeal to God and his promises.  It is a cry for God to make the shedding of their blood worthwhile.
They have shed their blood for a reason, for the Word of God and it seems as if their testimony had no effect on the world. How long will that situation last? How long will God’s people live and die as if they had no defender? How long will God allow the Word of God to be hampered by war, famine and death?
When you stake your life on the Lord, the greatest pain is his seeming absence. People kill the righteous, rob the faithful, and Jesus lets them get away with it. The Word does not look like it is conquering.
How long, O Lord, will you let your servants bleed to death? Hear our cry, and open the gates of heaven, and come to our rescue. Let your weary children be refreshed by the glory of their Lord, In essence, this is the same cry of Revelation 22, Come quickly Lord Jesus, God fulfill your promises, fulfill your Word.
They are given white robes, the symbol of blessedness, and peace and rest and they are told to rest a little longer, till they are joined by the others who will be killed for their testimony and faith.
The sixth seal is a picture of the end of the Lamb’s patience. While we sit here, the day of grace is at hand, for the day of wrath has not yet come.
We live in a world where it is unclear to most that Jesus is Lord, for millions, there is no real evidence that Jesus is Lord.
The sun still shines, the church bells ring, people laugh, this is still the day of grace. Above it all is God’s hands stretched out to all and his call is tender, Come home.
The patience of the Lamb does have an end to it, holy anger will reach a point when it cannot be contained. The sixth seal is opened, and we see a picture of the Lamb turned Lion, a picture is one of awesome destruction. Earthquakes rock the world, as all of mankind’s footholds are stripped away. The sun turns black, the moon we romance under and sings songs about, splashes red like blood, the stars fall from the sky like ripe fruit from a tree in a gale. The blue sky is ripped open and mankind sees the Lamb turned Lion, his wrath is revealed.
A picture of awesome destruction as the wrath of the Lamb is seen. So horrific is that glimpse that men run to hide. They call mountains to fall on them, for they cannot bear the sight. The earthquakes, the stars falling, the sun turning black and the moon turning red, don’t scare mankind. The very universe can fall around their ears, but man believes he will still win through. But one glimpse of the Lamb and he turns to hide.
The wrath of the Lamb sounds like a contradiction. For are not lambs gentle, cuddly. Maybe that is why it is hard for man to understand. We have to convince people that the Lamb is also a Lion and right now the grace of God allows us to do that, to be about that business.
We have been witness to the opening of the first 6 seals. We have seen the Word of God go forth, accompanied by the forces of evil. We have heard the cry that is raised to God to fulfill his word. We have caught a glimpse of the wrath of the Lamb, and the awesome destruction that accompanies it.
The four horsemen are a part of every generation. We see them in evangelism, in missiles, in famines, in death as they stalk their prey. The early church saw the armies of Rome, the persecutions the death by cross, torture, lions.
The four horsemen still go through the earth, God’s word still goes forth to conquer, the only horse and rider that do conquer while the others go forth to try and stop the Word.
We cannot prevent war, famine will abound and death will receive victims.
But we see things in a different light, for behind all of this is the Lamb, is our Jesus. This is not an explanation, an excuse or a justification for letting wars go on and famines continue. No, this vision is here to strengthen us. In darkness ahead, He is there, he is in command. Our cry goes up, How long. But God’s hands are stretched out in grace.
Rest beloved of the Father, be at peace. The Lamb is in command. Wait, remain faithful.
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