Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.”…(cf. Rev. 6:1-8)
I must confess after having read all these different commentaries about the book of Revelation, i am a bit confused. Much of the interpretations come from presuppositions of people who are committed to a particular eschatological grid or system. There are some major questions that will arise as you study chapters 6 and 7 of the book of Revelation. Number 1, what is the relationship between the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. Number 2, who are the 144,000 mentioned in chapter 7:1-8, and who are the group without number from every kindred and tribe. How do they relate? And number 3, what is this tribulation period that’s mentioned in chapter 7. Which one of the tribulations is it that’s mentioned in the Bible. Now to me, i think those are the crux of the interpretation. And i’m really amazed in every commentary i could find, how emphatic people are on their own positions when very little of what they say comes from the text.
It’s obvious there’s some Old Testament allusions being drawn here, and the real question is not only where is the Old Testament account found, but what exactly is John using it to stand for? Example, in verse 1 – John saw when the Lamb opened the first of the 7 seals, and he heard one of the four living creatures say with a loud voice (voice like thunder) “come”. And John saw the first of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. This obviously comes from Zechariah 1:8, and also an allusion to the 4 colored horses in Zechariah 6:1-8, where these horses pulled chariots. Now it seems to me it’s a direct allusion to Zechariah here in this first passage. Now the real question is, who is on the first horse? There are numerous interpretations as to who is the rider of the white horse, and they have gone as far as from Jesus Christ to the anti-Christ. If a godly man can interpret the same metaphor all the way from Jesus to the Antichrist, you know there’s some kind of confusion. And the most we can do is to present the different theories and choose what we think is the best. Now some say that the living creature is speaking to John. “John, come and see what’s going to happen”. But in context the angelic creature is speaking to the Four Horsemen – “Go do your thing” as they ride across. I think when you see he’s speaking to the four horsemen, and not to John, it changes the interpretation. What makes it so significant here is when they make Jesus Christ the first horseman. It’s funny to me that He’s one in a series. It’s also funny to me an angel can command him to “come”. Why have some thought that this first white horseman is Christ? Well, as a matter of fact, Jesus will be riding on a white horse in Revelation chapter 19 verse eleven. Some say well, he wears a crown here and He wears a crown in Chapter 19. Yes, but the crown here is ‘stephanos’ and the crown in 19 is ‘diadema. So it’s a different crown. ‘Diadema is a royal crown, while ‘stephanos’ is a victor’s crown – 2 different crowns. Some say that this is not referring to Christ Himself, but to the expansion of the Gospel as is mentioned in Mark 13:10 or Matthew 24:14. And they say this victory and conquering as the propagation of the gospel. But really, i think in context, these are four horsemen are the traditional enemies of man, like plague, and death, and war, and famine – those kind of things. And Zachariah 1:8 shows that.
Now notice as it mentions, “I looked, and a white horse appeared and the rider was carrying a bow” – this can’t be Roman, because Romans don’t carry bows. Some say this refers to Jesus carrying a bow. But in chapter 19 Jesus is said to have a sword coming out of His mouth. Some say it’s an allusion to the Parthians who were the traditional enemies of Rome who defeated them. It might be an interesting footnote in history but it has nothing to do with the context of this passage, and it says a crown (stephanos) was given to him. We get the word Stephen from it; a victor’s crown. “And he came forth to ride for a conquering and to conquer” i think it a symbol of war here and not victory. “Then the Lamb broke the second seal, and i heard the 2nd living creature say, come. And another horse came forth red. Now red here seems to be the idea of slaughter. Some say if the first one is war, the second one is civil war. I’m not sure we can be that specific. I just think it’s another aspect of men killing each other we see quite often perhaps like Joshua’s conquest to move 4the enemies from the promised land. Now notice as it says, another horse comes, a black horse and he’s carrying a pair of scales in his hand. That’s the symbol of famine. The pair of scales probably refers to the weighing of bread in a famine, and a measure of wheat is worth a denarius. We learn from Matthew 20:2 that a denarius is a day’s wage for a laborer and a soldier. And so all he can buy for a one’s day wage is a quart of wheat, and what took a one man alive is one quart of wheat. And then it says you buy quarts of barley for the same price. Barley was a pure kind of grain that poor people it. Some would say, here is a man working all day just for enough food to feed himself and not his family. Maybe that’s the idea, and there’s been much discussion about “…but you must not damage the wine and oil”. What does that mean? Well we just don’t know. Not enough information here. I guess it is a limited famine. Kind of like, the people who are going to die in verse eight are limited to one quarter of the earth. It’s a way of showing the limit to the famine, and I don’t think it’s any symbolic action here about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the offering of wine and oil by others who are just reading too much into it. It seems to me this is an instance where we can see the progressive cycle of judgment like from the seals, and then it intensifies a little in the trumpets in the next section. And then finally the bowls are very intense.
Notice as it says in verse 7, “I looked and a pale horse appeared, and he that sat upon him, his name was Death, and Hades followed with him ” – The word pale, ‘chloros’ in greek is where we get the word chlorine, and it’s kind of a yellowish green – a pale green if you wish. “Death and Hades” come in pairs in numerous times in the Bible. That’s the symbol of war again – war, famine, plague, and death altogether. There are several places in the Old Testament that these four-fold enemies of man are mentioned. You might want to see Ezekiel 14:21 and Leviticus 26:21-26 where the four are mentioned together – people are killed with sword, famine, and wild animals. And so here we see a terrible time of judgment.
I want to say that these seals, trumpets, and bowls must be related to the wonderful throne vision of chapters 4 and 5, and I personally think the throne vision of four and five is connected to the 7 churches that are undergoing persecution. I don’t think we cut off the church in Chapter 3. I think the churches set the stage for the rest of the book. And the rest of the book are done in light of the churches, not in the exclusion of the churches. In these four horsemen, John sees a vast world-wide power, outwardly victorious and eager for fresh conquests, yet full of the elements of unrest, danger, and misery; scarcity, pestilence, mortality in all its forms. This series of pictures repeats itself in history, but will intensify even more as Christ prepares His way for His second advent.