A. The opening of chapter 6 of the book of Revelation marks an important milestone in the progressive revelation of the end of the age. In chapter 5 John is introduced to the seven-sealed book in the hand of Christ. In chapter 6 the first six seals are opened with the resultant tremendous events occurring in the earth. The interpretation of these events depends upon the understanding of other portions of the prophetic Word. If the events portrayed are taken in any literal sense, it should be clear that they describe an event yet future, in the words of Christ “the things which shall be hereafter” (1:19). Van Ryn expresses the common pretribulational position:
B. The opening of the seals ushers in the terrible judgments to fall upon this earth after the Church has been caught up to glory, as we saw in chap. 4:1. (August Van Ryn, Notes on the Book of Revelation, p. 87.) (Walvoord Commentary).
II. Scripture Text And Commentary.
The First Seal: Conqueror on a White Horse
1 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!” 2 I looked, and behold, a white horse, and the one who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
Note. 6:1. Here begins the first of three series of judgments in the book (seals, chap 6; trumpets, chap 8-9; bowls, chap 16).
Note. 6:2. “he who sat on it.” Evidently a reference to Antichrist. His method of conquest at first does not seem to include open warfare, since peace is not removed from the earth until the second seal is opened (v 3). This corresponds to the description of delusion (1 Thes 5:3).
The Second Seal: War
3 When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come!” 4 And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that people would kill one another; and a large sword was given to him.
Note. 6:3-4. Everything about the second seal judgment indicates bloodshed (e.g., “red horse”, “take peace from,” “sword”).
The Third Seal: Famine
5 When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come!” I looked, and behold, a black horse, and the one who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”
Note. 6:6. “a denarius.” A Roman silver coin that had a normal purchasing power of 10 qt (9.5 lit) of wheat was the daily ration for a soldier. Thus a daily wage will buy for food for only one person, who will have to share with his family.
The Fourth Seal: Death
7 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come!” 8 I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and the one who sat on it had the name Death, and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, and famine, and plague, and by the wild animals of the earth.
Note. 6:8. “ashen=a sickly, yellowish-green. Probably representing the inevitable result of disease that accompanies war and famine. “Death” claims the bodies, and “Hades,” the souls and spirits of one-fourth of the world’s population in this single judgment (cf 9:18).
The Fifth Seal: Martyrs
9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who live on the earth?” 11 And a white robe was given to each of them; and they were told that they were to rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers and sisters who were to be killed even as they had been, was completed also.
Note. 6:9. “the souls of those who had been slain.” Evidently the martyrs of the first months of the tribulation period.
Note 6:10. Notice that these martyrs are alive and conversing with the Lord in His presence.
Note 6:11. “rest for a little while longer.” I.e., wait a little while. It is difficult for these martyrs to understand why God would allow their murderers to live; yet, God asks these saints to trust Him.
The Sixth Seal: Terror
12 And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the eminent people, and the commanders and the wealthy and the strong, and every slave and free person hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they *said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the sight 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 is able to stand?”
Note. 6:12. These cosmic disturbances are predicted elsewhere in Scripture (Isa 34:4; Joel 2:30-31; Matt 24:29).
Note 6:16. When the Tribulation comes, men will act as if they believe the end of the world is at hand, not simply talk as if it were.
III. Additional Examination.
A. It is important to understand that the Seal judgments, as well as the Trumpet and Bowl judgments, are released upon the earth as God’s judgments, through Christ and angels, as they broke each seal.
6:1. “the Lamb broke one of the seven seals”
6:3. “when He (the Lamb) broke the second seal”
6:5. “When He (the Lamb) broke the third seal”
6:7. “When the Lamb broke the fourth seal”
6:8. “When the Lamb broke the fifth seal”
6:12. “I looked when He (the Lamb) broke the sixth seal”
6:16. ” and they said, hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the lamb.”
6:17. “the great day of their wrath has come”
B. All of the Tribulation judgments are God’s wrath, beginning with Rev 6:1. In 6:15-17, those whom will have been left behind from the rapture have come to recognize that “wrath has come” (has already come), as opposed to, “will come” in the future, (beyond this account of God’s seal judgments). These verse accounts show that the wrath is of God, and not of mankind, Antichrist or of “mother nature,”
C. God’s wrath is not confined to the Book of Revelation. The Noahic flood was of God’s wrath (Gen 6:13, 2448 B.C.). The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was of God’s wrath (Gen 19:24, 2056 B.C.). The overthrow of Jerusalem and the Temple by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. was of God’ wrath (2 Chron 36:14-21).
A. Paragraph I. Revelation Commentary, John F. Walvoord, Th. D.
B. Paragraph II. New American Standard Bible Text was cut and pasted from Bible Gateway. Comments come from Ryrie Study Bible, Charles C Ryrie, Th. D., Ph. D.
C. Paragraph III. Comments are mine, using data and notes from Scofield Study Bible and Ryrie Study Bible.