“The Seven Seals of the Lamb” (Part 2)
The First Seal (Revelation 6:1-2)
Now we come to the opening of the seals and we see four horsemen depicted. They are not literal horses, even though John saw these as horses in his vision, but symbolic of events happening on earth. Each horse follows the one before it. They are seen in the Old Testament in the prophet Zechariah. (Zechariah 6:1-7) In Zechariah they are described as horses pulling chariots yet there are four distinct marks. The first chariot had red horses, the second black, the third white and the fourth dappled. The Apostle John describes these as four single horses but the colours of the horses tell us what they represent in relation to events on earth.
(Revelation 6:1-2) “Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.” And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
The Rider on the white horse appears in Revelation Chapter 19 and describes the Second Coming of the Messiah. He is called the Word of God, the same one who was in the beginning with God and was God and is God and was face to face with God from all eternity. (Revelation 19: 11-16) (John 1:1-2) Revelation Chapter 19 sees the Lord Jesus returning with the armies of heaven and the saints to destroy His enemies and we are told His robe is dipped in blood. (Revelation 19:13)
In Isaiah Chapter 63 we have the same event described and the Messiah’s robes are stained with the blood of His enemies. (Isaiah 63:1-3) This is literal blood. The Messiah in Revelation is riding on a white horse accompanied by the armies of Heaven. (Revelation 19:14) They are His Holy ones comprised of both angels and glorified believers clothed with the garments of salvation who have already physically died.
The Messiah has come for His bride, the ones still alive on earth at His coming. (Revelation 19:6-8) These are those who have kept their garments of salvation on and are clothed with His righteousness. (Revelation 19:8) These are the wise ‘virgins’ who have kept ‘the lamp’ of their spirit filled with the ‘oil’ of the Holy Spirit. These will enjoy the wedding feast. (Matthew 25:4, 10) (2 Corinthians 11:2)
In this first seal that has been opened some see the rider on the white horse as the Lord Jesus Himself but the horse is symbolic as are the other four horses. Another view is that this depicts the Antichrist traversing the earth with a false peace which is based on the dispensational system of eschatology formulated in the 19th century based on their view of Daniel 9:27. Before this for nearly 19 centuries it was believed that the rider on the white horse represented the Lord Jesus and the gospel.
Another view is that this white horse depicts the gospel of the Kingdom going forth and that the other horses are following hard behind. This seems to be the best interpretation although another view says it is a picture of the rider representing the leader of military conquests that dominates human history and leads to the catastrophes that follow in the other three horses. In many pictures depicting conquerors the conqueror himself is riding a white horse but this does not necessarily imply that the rider on the white horse in this first seal is a military conqueror.
However, in Matthew Chapter 24 the Lord Jesus Himself said that the last sign that will be occurring before the end comes would be the worldwide proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom being preached as a testimony to all nations. (Matthew 24:14) Immediately following this the Lord Jesus spoke about the abomination of desolation. (Matthew 24:15ff) It happened in 70AD when the Arab Auxiliaries of the Roman Army set fire to the Temple and afterwards erected emblems to Zeus on the ruins of the temple mount and worshipped them.
The Lord Jesus was not only foreseeing what would happen when the temple was destroyed and the temple mount defiled 40 years later, but also telescoping to the end of the age when the abomination will happen again after the gospel of the kingdom has been preached in all the nations. Today with the internet and modern methods of communication the gospel of the kingdom is being preached in all nations. So following the white horse you have the other three horses hard on its heels.
Irenaeus the Second Century Bishop saw the rider on the white horse as the Lord Jesus and the horse as the gospel being spread throughout the world. Irenaeus also was a contemporary with Bishop Polycarp and had heard him preach. Polycarp of course was a disciple of the apostle John. The colour of white in the Bible has to do with purity and righteousness and so we see the gospel of the kingdom being preached in all the nations of the world. Some say this rider is a false Messiah or a parody of Him but to see this rider as only a ‘parody’ of the Lord Jesus fits in well with the antichrist interpretation that surfaced in the 19th Century.
This rider of the white horse has a bow and a crown was given to him and he went conquering and to conquer. The fact that the horse is white would lead us to believe that it represents the holiness and purity of God and that through the gospel of the kingdom the Lord Jesus is sweeping men and women, boys and girls into His kingdom. The fact that the rider on this white horse has a bow with no arrows speaks of the convicting work of the Spirit that pierces the conscience of men convicting them of sin, righteousness and judgement. The ‘bow’ does not require arrows as it is not speaking about a physical bow. (John 16:8-11). Some see this bow as representing the convicting and converting work of the Holy Spirit.
The arrow of the Spirit is sharp going into the hearts of the Messiah’s enemies. As the Psalmist writes of the Lord Jesus the Messiah; “In your splendour ride forth in victory on behalf of truth and humility and justice; may your right hand show your awesome deeds. Your arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s foes; the nations fall beneath your feet. Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever, and justice is the sceptre of Your kingdom.” (Psalm 45:4-6)
We also notice that the rider on the white horse is given a crown and this would denote royalty and it symbolizes the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus over His Kingdom and over the world of man. This rider on the white horse then symbolises the faithful Body of the Messiah preaching the gospel of the kingdom in the entire world and the gates of hell itself cannot prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18) The rider on the white horse is reaping in those who are being saved. This is the first harvest mentioned in Revelation 14:14-17. The harvester is the Lord Jesus Himself. This white horse then represents the Gospel of the Kingdom being preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations before the end comes. (Matthew 24:14)
The white horse of the gospel of the kingdom comes first as it is the most important horse depicted. (1 Corinthians 15:3) This horse keeps just ahead of the other three horses. Having said this, the time will come when the other three horses will also take their final ride across the pages of history. Already we see that the ride of these three horses has started as we see the wars, rumours of wars, nation rising against nation, Kingdom against kingdom and earthquakes, famines and pestilence increasing in intensity and frequency and the ‘tentacles’ of spiritual deception and apostasy spreading like ‘gangrene’ through Christendom.
So then we can say that the most likely interpretation of this first seal with its rider on the white horse depicts the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom to all nations before the end comes. It is the pure gospel and not tainted with the doctrines and commandments of men. In Revelation 14: 14-20 we see two harvests described. One is a harvest of mercy and the other a harvest of wrath. People will either be harvested for heaven or harvested for hell. There is no middle ground. God’s word says; “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation, today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts” to the message of the gospel. Don’t delay any longer for the time is coming when mercy will have ended and after that there will be no reprieve for the unrepentant.
The Second Seal (Revelation 6:3-4)
(Revelation 6:3-4) “When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see.” Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one, who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.”
There have always been wars between nations and ethnic wars within nations and urban violence and bloodshed but as the end of the age draws closer these will increase in intensity and frequency like birth pains on a pregnant woman. (Matthew 24:8) We live in the nuclear age and Hiroshima and Nagasaki launched the whole world into the sphere of Atomic power. Down through the history of modern warfare we have seen the effect of war. Untold millions have perished in war since the first century when the Lord Jesus predicted there would be war. We have seen two major world wars in the 20th Century. In WW1 the total number of military and civilian casualties was around 40 million. There were 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. The total number of deaths includes 9.7 million military personnel and about 10 million civilians.
In WW2 Some 75 million people died including about 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians, many of whom died because of deliberate genocide, massacres, mass-bombings, disease, and starvation. Today we have nuclear weapons capable of totally destroying the whole world. Because the world will come to the brink of annihilating itself the Lord Jesus must come back to save the world from destroying itself and for the sake of His elect saints. (Matthew 24:21-22) We also know that another major war is coming that will see a third of the world’s population die because of awesome fire power from missiles and nuclear detonations and most likely added to this the atmospheric pollution caused nuclear fallout. (Revelation 9:13-19) (Revelation 16:12-14) At present in 2020 there are approximately 7.8 Billion people and a third of that number would be 2.600 Billion.
As we see the COVID-19 Pandemic sweeping the globe it may well be the beginning of the ‘birth pains’ the Lord Jesus mentioned in Matthew 24 that will ultimately see the birth of His Messianic kingdom on earth. Today there are major players in the world that could ignite this inferno to come. You have countries like Turkey, Russia, China and America, all with nuclear power and Iran and North Korea making rapid strides in developing nuclear capability.
Already China is flexing its military muscles in the South China Sea and possibly heading for ‘a face-off’ with America or possibly India? Turkey is seeking to take Syria and remove Assad so that the Turks can invade Israel. You have Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran with their arsenal of missiles, rockets and with a desire for nuclear capability such as Iran desires and works towards. Israel is ‘the meat in the sandwich.’ A war is coming but when it’s coming we cannot tell but it is coming, a war that will eclipse WW1 and WW2 in casualties.
In all of this there is only one secure place to be and that is in God’s Kingdom through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus for salvation. While faithful believers in the Lord Jesus will experience tribulation in this world they will never experience the wrath of God. (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9) In this world we are destined for tribulation, it cannot be avoided in this life especially as we see the end of this age approaching. (Acts 14:22) (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4) (Revelation 1:9)
The Lord Jesus Himself said that tribulation would happen but that He had overcome tribulation and in saying this was telling believers that they, like Him, would also be overcomers. He said; “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) As the apostle john also writes; “Greater is He in you than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
When we see wars, rumours of wars, nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, famines, earthquakes and pestilences and nations in turmoil not knowing the way out, we are not to bow over at the knees with fear and anxiety but to stand tall, lift up our heads and look to the skies with expectant faith, because these things tell us that our redemption is drawing near and is even now at the very gates! (Luke 21:28)
The Third Seal (Revelation 6:5-6)
(Revelation 6:5-6) “When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
Famine and scarcity of food follows war and pestilence. We have seen this down through history. After a time of war multitudes of people starve. The warning from the World Food Programme (WFP) is that 265 million people could be pushed into acute food insecurity by Covid-19. Then you have millions of displaced people due to war and many are starving for the basic necessities that we all take for granted in the materialistic western democracies. Now we have seen the effects of COVID-19 and people panic buying and shelves not stocked with many items. If this pandemic is not halted millions unemployed and unable to get social security benefits eventually will starve, not having the money to even buy food for their families.
Famine is not always just those places where there is a drought and crops cannot be grown. In a time of war or pestilence many people cannot get the basics they need. If a war erupts then, with the use of missiles and even nuclear weapons, everything becomes polluted especially where water is concerned. We are told a time is coming when pollution, most likely due to missiles weapons of mass destruction and even biological warfare, will be rampant across the globe. (Revelation 9:6-11; 16:1-7) These things begin as the judgements of God but escalate to become the wrath of God. Added to these things natural disasters may also cause polluted rivers and water supplies causing the sickness and death of millions especially in under developed countries in the third world.
When the plagues began to fall on Egypt the Israelites were divinely protected but were still in Egypt and ultimately those who sheltered under the blood of the lamb were spared the destroying angel when He passed through Egypt to kill the firstborn. However, when the wrath of God was poured out upon Pharaoh and his armies the Israelites were out of Egypt. Pharaoh is a type of the god of this world Satan but also a type of the antichrist.
Egypt is a type of the world. The Israelites sheltering by faith under the blood of the lamb splattered on the door post of their houses spiritually typifies believers sheltering by faith under the blood of the Lamb of God the Lord Jesus. The destruction of Pharaoh and his armies at the Red Sea typifies the destruction of the Antichrist and his armies when it looks like his beast empire has almost exterminated God’s people both Israel and the faithful Church.
As the Body of the Messiah we will go into the time of great tribulation and the judgements of God will start to happen. Already COVID-19 is a judgement of God to get men to repent and to purify the Church. It is a global Pandemic like the Black Death and the Spanish Flu of 1918 which saw the death of millions. With modern methods of transport today, and given the density of the world’s population and the ability to travel between nations, COVID-19 can spread very quickly.
Faithful believers are still here on earth during these seals but God is taking care of them. While scarcity and famine always follow war and inflation goes through the roof and the economy collapses, God preserves the ‘oil’ and the ‘wine.’ In the Bible ‘oil’ represents the Holy Spirit and the ‘wine’ the new spiritual life the Spirit produces in a believer’s heart.
Those who have the Holy Spirit in the lamp of their spirit will be spared even in a time of famine and lack of the necessities of life. As the Apostle Paul writes; “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1Timothy 6:6-8) While the Israelites were still in Egypt and things were very dark outside across the whole land, the lights were on in in the houses and in the hearts of the Israelites. They had light, warmth shelter and food. (Exodus 10:23) When the rest of the pagan world was in despair the Israelites were not, but anticipating their exodus from Egypt.
As the Lord Jesus Himself said; “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” (Luke 21:25-28) The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the Day of Judgment. (2 Peter 2:9)
Once again we need to distinguish between God’s judgements from God’s wrath. Tribulation can include judgement but also trials, tests, afflictions, oppression, persecution or a time of great stress and anguish or a sense of being pressed down. All of these are used interchangeably in the word “tribulation” (thlipsis in the Greek language) in the New Testament. It needs to be looked at in the context in which it is used. In the Book of Revelation it is not used for the wrath of God as this is a different Geek word.
When God sends Judgement it is sent to bring about repentance, correction and spiritual restoration. When God sends His wrath there is no reprieve. The Greek word for wrath is “thumos” which describes an anger boiling over and unstoppable in its intensity that eventually subsides. It can also describe someone enflamed with wine and with a passion to act, but God is always in control even when His anger is being unleashed. For the most part the Book of Revelation is set in tribulation (thlipsis) and only at the end does it become the wrath of God (thumos).
So then the third seal reveals that scarcity and famine follow war but the righteous are protected and provided for even in the time of tribulation. There is a third Greek word used for wrath and that is the world “orge” which primarily has the idea of anger but also signifies the passing of a sentence on a criminal by a magistrate in a law court. Faithful, persevering believers will not experience this judgement because their sins were judged at the cross.
The Fourth Seal (Revelation 6:7-8)
(Revelation 6:7-8) “When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”
The breaking of the fourth seal brings a pale horse. “Pale” literally means pale green. The name of the rider on this horse is “Death.” “Hades” followed with him. Death takes the body and Hades takes the soul. When a person dies they will go to one of two places, to heaven or to hades (hell) they do not cease to exist after death. For those who are saved their judgement has been paid for at the cross and they have accepted the sacrifice the Lord Jesus made when He died in their place. However, even though the Lord Jesus has tasted death for every person they still have to respond to the salvation provided for them at the cross. God will not do the repenting for a sinner as that is for the sinner to do. (Luke 13:3)
Four forms of death take place in verse 8. The “sword” represents, not the military, but murder; this is individual assault which is increasing at an alarming rate globally. People will take law into their own hands. This depicts a lawless society and one that sees the breakdown of society. Famine takes many people in death. The phrase “with death” may refer to endemic plagues. Diseases like AIDS and COVID-19 will cover the earth. These sorts of plagues will wipe out entire populations.
In the 14th century the Black Death killed 50 million people, or 60 per cent of Europe’s entire population. The 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic it is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. Today with international travel via planes an epidemic can spread very quickly as we have seen with the COVID-19 Pandemic. Finally, the infrastructures of society that protect people will crumble; wild beasts will attack people. What would happen if the wild animals were able to escape from the world’s zoos due to the devastating effects of terrorist acts?
This is the aftermath of war and famine. People lose their civility. Famine brings out the worst in people. People will descend to new levels of barbarity. The police systems within national entities break down. Many people will die from a variety of crimes. Already in this current Pandemic of COVID-19 we see people lining up to get food and social welfare benefits and panic buying. What will happen when the real disasters hit the world?
There is only one safe place and that is walking in the will of God. This is the spiritual and temporal safety net. You may ask, what then is the will of God? Where does God’s will begin for anyone? Many today even within wider Christendom are seeking the will of God for their lives and for their church but are they obeying what He has already revealed in His Word? If they are not then why should they expect any further guidance from God? Well God’s Word is clear on this matter. God has a will for every person born into this world but not everyone wants to know it or to do it because of the selfish, self-centred sinful nature.
Unless people are spiritually reborn from above and receive a new spiritual nature from God they will never see the Kingdom of God for what it is, neither will they be able to enter into it to be saved from the power and penalty of sin, saved from this present evil age and from the eternal fire from which there is no reprieve. (John 3:3) (2 Peter 1:4) (Revelation 21:8) Where then does God’s will begin?
Firstly; The Lord Jesus himself said; “The work (will) of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (John 6:29) As the Apostle Paul writes; “This is a trustworthy saying, worthy of full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.” (1Timothy 1:15) While God has a will for each of us which are good, acceptable and perfect, He requires that we turn away from our sins and turn to Him for forgiveness, cleansing and deliverance from them all. (Romans 12:1-2) (1 John 1:7-9)
We must give Him permission to be our Lord and Master and desire to do only what pleases Him. “We turn from our idols to serve the living and true God and to await His Son from heaven whom He raised from the dead-Jesus our deliverer from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10) An idol is anything we give more importance to that we give to God. Repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus the Messiah is where the will of God is activated in our life. (Acts 20:21) But there is more.
Secondly; God wants us to live a life set apart to Him for His good will and pleasure. As the Apostle Paul writes; “For it is God’s will that you should be holy.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) Holiness is the God given ability to love the Lord our God with our whole being and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. This is the greatest commandment upon which hang all that is written in the law and the prophets and only possible through the power of the blessed Holy Spirit. (Luke 10:27) (Matthew 22:37-40) (Romans 5:5) We submit to God because He loves us and we love Him back and want to please Him. (1 John 4:19) Only this kind of love is achievable by the power of the Holy Spirit. Apart from being filled with the Holy Spirit we cannot love as God loves.
Thirdly; we must be constantly filled and empowered with, or controlled by, the blessed Holy Spirit as the apostle Paul writes; “Be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) In the Greek text it is a command to be obeyed and is not optional. Added to this it is rendered in the present and continuous sense. We must be born again by the Spirit and when we are He comes to live down on the inside of us bringing us eternal life. (John 3:3, 36; 5:24) However, we need to also allow Him to empower us moment by moment as we walk under His control.
We are saved and justified before God by faith but must also walk in the faith we profess and through this faith of obedience we receive the righteousness from God we need to make us fit for heaven. (Romans 3:21-24) (Romans 5:1) (Philippians 3:7-11) (Romans 1:5; 16:26) When we are filled with the Spirit we are empowered to work for God and to witness for the Lord Jesus. (Acts 1:8)
Fourthly; the apostle Paul writes “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in the Messiah Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) For every believer this is easier said than done and yet we are commanded to do be always being joyful, constantly praying in the Holy Spirit and being thankful in all the ups and downs and changing circumstances in life. When we do these things our confidence in the Lord will be strengthened as we learn to keep casting all of our anxieties on Him because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)
Multitudes of people right at this moment no longer have direction in life. With all of the uncertain times and events happening in the world it is time now to consider the will of God which is good acceptable and perfect to those who submit to it. (Romans 12:1-2) However, there is only one door into the will of God and that is the Lord Jesus the Messiah who said; “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) It is a narrow door and only few will find it because it requires us to walk by faith and love and to obey His commandments and statutes laid out for us in his Word the Bible and to forsake sin. (Isaiah 55:6-8) Our faith is one that works actively by love. (Galatians 5:6)
There is a broad path that many will take to their own destruction but a narrow path which only a few will take that leads to eternal life. (Matthew 7:13-14) The reason so many do not read the Bible is because they know it will read them. As it is written; “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight; everything is uncovered and exposed before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
If we are seeking to obey what God has already revealed in his Word then He will lead and guide us in all of the changing circumstances of life. If we make a wrong decision or take a wrong direction, but keep seeking His will then we have this assurance that “In all things God works them together for our good, to those who love Him and are called according to his purposes.” (Romans 8:28)
Even our mistakes and failures He will use for our good if we keep on trusting Him. If you have repented before God and made Jesus the Lord of your life, and if by faith you are sheltering under the protection of His atoning blood and seeking to love and obey Him in your life, then you will be as strong as the will of God and protected from the wrath to come. (Romans 5:9)
While doing God’s will at first will be difficult for us in the end, when we discover His will for our lives, it will prove to be the best and sweetest thing in all the world. It will be our joy and delight and bring us an eternal reward! Let COVID-19 and any other plague hit this world we have the assurance that He will be with us whatever happens to us in this life. The author of Hebrews gives us some good advice; “Keep your life free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:15) There is nothing more secure and satisfying in life than discovering and walking every day in the perfect will of God!