Breaking Open the Sealed Scroll
1Then I watched as the Lamb broke open the first of the seven seals. # 6:1 The breaking open of the seal would allow a portion of the scroll to be read. Immediately I heard one of the four living creatures call out with a powerful voice of revelation sounding like thunder, saying, “Come forth!” # 6:1 Or “Go forth!” 2So I looked, and behold, there was a bright white horse. # 6:2 The horse is an emblem of overcoming, invincible power in battle. The color white is found throughout Revelation, always associated with Christ or spiritual victory. Its rider had a bow # 6:2 A bow without arrows shows that he is coming to conquer, not militarily but spiritually. He holds a bow to shoot the arrows of truth into our hearts. and was given a crown of victory. He rode out as a conqueror ready to conquer. # 6:2 Or “He went out continually conquering so that he might conquer.” This is Christ coming forth as King in authority and power, riding out to conquer everything within us that hinders the life of Christ emerging in our transformation (Ps. 45:3–4). The words “Come forth” reflect the groaning of creation to see the unveiling of the sons of God. See Henry Alford, Alford’s Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary, vol. 4, 1875 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980); Henry Barclay Swete, Commentary on Revelation (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977). This is the calling forth of Christ by the power of his Spirit to conquer us fully. All the universe will one day be conquered by the one riding this white horse. Here he rides alone, but in Rev. 19:11 he does not come alone but with those whom he has conquered. John uses this word conquer more than any other New Testament writer. See Rev. 2–3.
3When he broke open the second seal, I heard the second living creature call out: “Come forth!” # 6:3 Or “Go forth!” 4And there appeared another horse, red like fiery flames, # 6:4 See Mal. 3:1–3. The Greek word for “fiery” or “flames” comes from the word for “pure,” or “to purify.” Christ rides this fiery red horse as one robed in the flames of God to bring purity to his priestly people. See also Ps. 12:6. and its rider was given a great sword and the power to take peace from the earth, # 6:4 See Matt. 10:34; Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17. causing one to put to death another. # 6:4 See Col. 3:5.
5Then he broke open the third seal, and I heard the third living creature call out, “Come forth!” # 6:5 Or “Go forth!” And behold, I saw a black horse right in front of me, and its rider was holding measuring scales. 6And I heard what seemed to be a voice from among the living creatures # 6:6 This is likely the voice of the Lord, who dwells in the midst of the living creatures. See Rev. 4:6 and 5:6. These commands are for the four horses to come from the throne room. The Lamb who was slain is giving these decrees. He who gave his life now speaks of four commodities that bring life to us: wheat, barley, oil, and wine (Deut. 8:8). These four commodities point us to the promised land of God’s blessings. The wheat and barley point to the Passover Feast. The second day of the feast was the Feast of Unleavened Bread (wheat). The third day of the feast, a sheaf of barley representing the first grain harvested in the land was waved before the Lord (Lev. 23:9–11). Jesus was crucified on Passover, and on the third day, Jesus, God’s firstfruit (three measures of barley), was raised up from the dead and waved before the Father (1 Cor. 15:20, 23). To truly feed upon him will cost us all we have each day (a day’s pay). See also Prov. 23:23; Rev. 3:18. saying, “A small measure # 6:6 Or “a choenix,” a dry measure slightly less than a quart. It would be equal to the food supply of one man for one day. See Herodotus, Histories 7.187. of wheat for a day’s pay, and three measures of barley for a day’s pay, # 6:6 Or “a denarius,” equal to a day’s wage for a laborer. but don’t harm # 6:6 Or “damage” or “do wrong to.” The oil and wine will not be limited. We are in the day of the oil and wine being given in fullness to the sons and daughters of God. the olive trees producing oil and the vines producing wine.”
7When he broke open the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living creature call out, “Come forth!” # 6:7 Or “Go forth!” 8And behold, I saw a green # 6:8 The Greek word kloros always means “green,” not “pale green.” It is used four times in the New Testament and always refers to grass (green grass) or green living things. The color of the horse speaks of life, but the rider’s name is Death. Death rides on life (life comes through death—Gal. 2:20). The death is his death. horse, and its rider’s name was Death, and Death’s Domain # 6:8 Or “Hades.” followed him. They were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, # 6:8 This is the sword from his mouth, the word of God that kills and makes alive. famine, # 6:8 To kill with hunger is the Lord’s method of starving to death our old ways, desires, and lusts. His resurrection life emerging in us overcomes (starves to death) what we cannot overcome. To hunger and thirst for righteousness is the key to being filled (Matt. 5:6; Col. 3:1–10). death, # 6:8 This is not pestilence, but death. To kill with death is not trying to die to flesh, for that is a form of suicide, but to see that the death of Christ is our death too (Gal. 2:20). We cannot kill ourselves or by self-effort bring our flesh to death; it must be wholly the work of Christ. To kill by death is a death by death. Jesus rides into our lives on the green horse to put to death all of Adam through the life poured out by his (Jesus’) death. and by the wild beasts.
9When the Lamb broke open the fifth seal, I saw gathered under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God and because they had the testimony of the Lamb. # 6:9 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “because of their testimony.” These souls gathered under the altar (an emblem of sacrifice unto death), died to every soulish way, and were offered as love sacrifices to God. 10They cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Sovereign Lord, holy and dependable, how long before you judge those who live on the earth and vindicate # 6:10 Although the Greek word ekdikeo can mean “avenge” or “render a fair verdict,” its primary meaning is to “validate” or “vindicate.” our blood on them?” # 6:10 This was a vision and is full of symbolism. We are like the souls “under the altar,” for we are under the shelter of the altar where Christ has been sacrificed on our behalf. We are those who cry out for a powerful move of God that will deal with the nature of man and bring the glory of God. This is not simply a cry for revenge but a cry for revival among the nations to break loose.
11Each one was given a glistening white robe. # 6:11 These symbolize the robes of the priesthood, the clothing of Christ upon our souls. And they were told to rest a little longer, until the full number was fulfilled of both their fellow servants and brothers and sisters who were going to be killed just as they had been.
12And behold! I saw the Lamb break open the sixth seal, which released a powerful earthquake. I saw the sun become pitch black # 6:12 Or “black as sackcloth made of [goat] hair.” This may represent our outward reasoning. What once gave us light is now turned into blackness. and the full moon become bloodred. 13The stars fell from heaven to the earth, as a fig tree shaken by a stormy wind sheds its unripe figs. 14The sky receded with a snap—as a scroll rolls itself up. # 6:14 Scrolls were equal to today’s books. They were unrolled and read, then rolled back up. To have the sky rolled up like a scroll is equal to saying, “The book is closed!” The old heavens must be removed to make room for a new heaven. When Jesus was baptized, the new heavens were opened up to him like a scroll, inaugurating this era of an open heaven through Christ. And every mountain and island was moved from its place. # 6:14 Upon opening the sixth seal, the scene changes to earth. The power of God is released, which shakes every continent and every island. Yet is this destruction meant to be taken literally? Great earthquakes throughout the Bible were a regular feature of divine visitation. Methods, movements, governments, and structures (mountains and islands) will all be shaken by God in this wonderful visitation. Stars do not literally fall to the earth. Some of them are so huge they are larger than our solar system. If they were to fall, it would destroy all that we know. Yet, as we read further into the book of Revelation, we find that the earth continues to exist. So this scene must be taken symbolically. The old order of the natural realm is passing away and a new order is being established. There are many prophecies of the Old Testament referring to the lights going out on the old order as something new is set in place (Isa. 24:23; 34:4; Jer. 15:9; Joel 2:30–31; Mic. 3:6). A superior light of the kingdom of God will make dim the light of the old covenant. 15Then the kings of the earth and its great princes # 6:15 Or “high-ranking officers” or “heads of thousands.” The heart of each person is being laid bare by the light and glory of Christ rising upon his people. It was Adam who first wanted to hide from the face of God, but for the believer we hide only in the Father’s love. and generals, the rich and powerful, and everyone, whether they were slave or free, ran for cover and hid in the caves and among the mountain boulders. 16They called out to the mountains and the boulders, saying, “Fall on us at once! # 6:16 See Hos. 10:8. Hide us quickly from the glorious face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, # 6:16 Few phrases in the Bible could seem more contradictory than “the wrath [anger] of the Lamb” (not the anger of the Lion). This is corrective and redemptive—not beastly rage but fiery passion to judge whatever gets in the way between the Lamb and his bride. The Greek word orge means “to reach out with passionate desire and take hold of.” The simplest definition of the Greek word orge could be “fiery passion.” 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”