Revelation 6 - Outline of Revelation (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 persons - 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, etc. to present events.
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 following 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. The absence of an arrow may suggest that he comes at a time of peace, or that his power is not intended for aggression, but rather, is 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 the 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, with the coming of the 'prince that shall come' (as the antichrist is identified in Dan 9:26,27). 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).
Rev 6.3
The second seal
Rev 6:4
...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
...to take peace from the earth {cp. 1The 5:3}
...that they should kill one another
kill = slaughter [Wuest]
...a great sword
The red horse and its rider represents War.
Rev 6.5
The third seal
...a black horse
black relates to mourning and famine. Jer 4:28; Lam 4:8,9
Rev 6.6
...a measure of wheat for a denarius
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).
Rev 6:7
The fourth seal
Rev 6:8
...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
cp. the fourfold judgment of Eze 14:21 and also the four 'carvers' of Zech 1:18-21 who weaken the gentile powers.
with sword {ie., War}
with hunger {ie., Famine}
The repetition here of the plagues of seals #2 & 3 emphasizes their intense and widespread character.
with death {ie., Pestilence, eg., 'the black death'}
possibly biological warfare.
with the beasts of the earth
Wild beasts- Gk= therion, used 38x in Rev.
All other occurences refer to two men (the Antichrist and his false prophet): the evil political & 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.
Note the same sequence in Mat 24:5-8:
- false christs - wars - famines - pestilences.
These are 'the beginnings of sorrows' (Mat 24:8). 'Sorrows' is lit., 'pangs', or 'travail.'
There are two aspects to Israel's travail (see Mic 5:1-5; Isa 26:16-21; 66:7-10)
  1. the birth of the Messiah,
  2. the new birth of national Israel.
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. In the NT, "altar" refers most frequently to the sacrificial altar in the earthly Temple. However, in Rev., it refers most often 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, the altar is a place of sacrifice & prayer. Both are in evidence here.
the souls of them that were slain
slain-Gk= esphagmenon- not the usual word for offering of a sacrifice,
in some contexts, it means 'to butcher.' (The same word is used of the Lamb 'slain.') 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,
or: until when?
O Lord, 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 & True. He would not be just if He does not judge the butchers of His people.
Rev 6:11 And white robes...
the righteousness of the saints, through Christ's blood. cp. Rev 7:14; 19:8
and it was said unto them, that they should rest
yet for a little season,
season= time, ie., wait a little while.
until their fellowservants also and {i.e., even} their brethren,
that should be killed as they [were], should be fulfilled.
ie., those that are about to be killed in the near future.
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; Rev 16:18
and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair,
and the moon became as blood;
Note the use of simile (sun...as/like...)
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 & end of the Great Tribulation (which is also called the Day of Wrath, and corresponds with the last half of Daniel's 70th week)--
-- 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
Rev 6:13 ...the stars of heaven...
Gk= aster, star or luminous meteor (note that they fell 'unto the earth')
Rev 6:14 ...the heaven departed as a scroll... {cp. Rev 20:11}
...every mountain and island were moved... {cp. Nah 1:5}
There is no simile here!
Rev 6:15
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 Gracious redemption through the Lamb's blood.
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 is 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). These and other passages show the relationship of wrath & mercy: Rom 1:18; Joh 5:22; Psa 2:10-12 [McGee]
Rev 6:17 ...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 recognizing God's wrath, men persist in their refusal to call upon Him. They cry instead to inanimate objects.
Meanwhile... until the Great Day of God's wrath comes...
God's wrath waits (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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