Chapter 6: Opening the First Six Seal Judgments
When considering the Apocalyptic Judgments, we must remember that "God is the Judge" (Psalm 75:7). The LORD Jesus Christ's Second Coming is all about His judgment of the Earth. "26 For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; 27 And hath given Him authority to execute Judgment also, because He is the Son of Man" (John 5:26-27). The Lamb of God (John 1:36) was alone found worthy to open the seals (Revelation 5:9). The "four beasts" (6:1) are the angelic seraphim around the throne of God described earlier (4:6; 5:6). Their invitation to John to "come and see" (6:1) has the thunderous sound of authority.
This is the First Seal Judgment, which signifies political conquering. "When Thy Judgments are in the Earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (Isaiah 26:9). Though the LORD Jesus Christ returns riding a "white horse" (Revelation 19:11), this rider appears to be a spurious, substitute Christ, i.e., the Antichrist, who begins the Tribulation Week by confirming "the covenant with many for one week" (Daniel 9:27). This "conquering" (6:2) is reminiscent of Hitler's pre-WW2 conquering of Europe by means of the diplomatic appeasement of British prime minister Neville Chamberlain. Antichrist's "bow" and "crown" (6:2) indicate that his conquering is based upon his threat of military force and the recognition of governmental power that he already possesses. The "rulers of the darkness of this world" (Ephesians 6:12) have already given their assent to his quest for Global Government.
In the midst of these Apocalyptic Judgments, it is the same LORD Jesus who gave the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) that is unsealing these Divine Judgments upon the world. This Second Seal Judgment is announced by the "second beast" (6:3), i.e., angelic seraphim, with the words, "Come and see" (6:3). This reminds us that the Revelation was first a vision given to the Apostle John before it was penned. "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand" (Revelation 1:3).
This Second Seal Judgment (6:4) shows us a red horse, which indicates the blood of warfare. Permission must be granted to the rider of the red horse "to take peace from the Earth" (6:4). When the Restraining Influence of the Holy Spirit is suddenly-- but not permanently-- removed via the Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Saints, then the Antichrist can conduct his conquering by political treaty, i.e., "the covenant with many for one week" (Daniel 9:27). "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He [the Holy Spirit of Promise] who now letteth [restrains] will let [will continue to restrain], until He [the Holy Spirit via His indwelling in the Saints] be taken out of the way [through the Pre-Tribulational Rapture]" (2Thessalonians 2:7). God is still in sovereign control of this world. "And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he [Job] hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand" (Job 1:12). Since the Almighty has covenanted that "not an hair of your head [should] perish" (Luke 21:18), then the killing of "one another" of this judgment by a "great sword" (6:4) indicates a great deal of death-- of the unelect.
The Third Seal Judgment reveals a rider of a black horse (6:5). Black indicates the suffering of famine, which is the general consequence of warfare (Second Seal Judgment). "Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine" (Lamentations 5:10). The fact that the rider of this black horse "had a pair of balances in his hand" (6:5) denotes that the weighing out of the food to feed or starve the population of the world is given into the hands of the Antichrist. "For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon" (Jeremiah 21:10). Just as it is true, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31), if God wills someone to be judged, who can withstand Him? "Who can stand before His indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him" (Nahum 1:6).
A "measure" (6:6) is translated from the Greek word choinix, which is a dry measure
of less than a quart and closer to a liter. A "penny" (6:6) is used for the Latin word denarius, which was the Roman silver coin
that was accepted as the equivalent of the ordinary pay for a day's wages. "2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a
day, he sent them into his vineyard... 9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour,
they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should
have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11 And when they had received
it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, 12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou
hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. 13 But he answered
one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for
a penny?" (Matthew 20:2-13).
A "measure of wheat" (6:6) weighs roughly between 7 and 8 ounces (approximately 1/2 pound), which would produce about 1/2 of a loaf to one complete loaf of bread. "15 The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto Him: but their time should have endured for ever. 16 He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee" (Psalm 81:15-16). This would only be sufficient for the wage earner to feed himself for a day, but not enough wage left to buy anything else for himself, i.e., "see thou hurt not the oil and the wine" (6:6). Only by economizing with a less expensive-- and less versatile-- grain such as barley, can there be a threefold increase in the availability of food to feed a small family of two more for one day, i.e., "three measures of barley for a penny" (6:6). "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!" (Luke 13:34).
The LORD Jesus Christ as Judge of All the Earth (Genesis 18:25) opens the Fourth Seal Judgment, which is death. A warning: "31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the LORD, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1Corinthians 11:31-32). [See our article, "Tribulation Timeline: When Shall These Things Be? (Part 2), The Seven Seal Judgments" ---New Window for an earlier, spirited analysis of the Seal Judgments-- with a chronology. Also, our Timeline Tribulation Chart ---New Window may aid in visually placing events.]
A pale horse is ridden by one named "Death"-- followed by "Hell" (6:8)-- in this Fourth Seal Judgment, which is hardly a good name for anyone but an emissary of Satan. As the Year 2000 (Y2K) approaches, the population of the planet is projected to be about 6 billion. The "fourth part of the Earth" (6:8) is prophesied to die in this one Seal Judgment alone-- about 1.5 billion people. "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat" (Matthew 7:13). Death and Hell accomplish their Divinely allowed mission through killing with:
(1) "sword" (6:8), i.e., warfare, extermination, murder, etc.,
(2) "hunger" (6:8), i.e., famine-- such as seen in Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, and contemporary North Korea,
(3) "death" (6:8), i.e., any of a vast number of other means of death-- "Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the Earth: for the powers of Heaven shall be shaken" (Luke 21:26), and
(4) "beasts of the Earth" (6:8), i.e., "So will I send upon you famine and evil beasts, and they shall bereave thee; and pestilence and blood shall pass through thee; and I will bring the sword upon thee. I the LORD have spoken it" (Ezekiel 5:17).
The Martyrs' Seal is the Fifth Seal Judgment. Death for the "Word of God, and for the testimony which they held" (6:9) is distinguished from simply dying as the unelect in the Fourth Seal
Judgment. John the Beloved "saw under
the altar the souls of them that were slain" (6:9), indicating
by their proximity to His throne, the friendship and endearment that the LORD especially
has for those who die for Him. Remember, "Greater
love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Certainly not all of the Saints have been martyred, but those
who have been martyred have been given special mention and honor. "35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were
tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they
wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
whom the world was not worthy:)" (Hebrews 11:35-38).
Martyrs especially understand the power of their testimony for the Word of God-- as witnessed by Stephen's martyrdom. "6 [Stephen said] And God spake on this wise... 54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into Heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God... 58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul" (Acts 7:6,54-55,58). Though no one seeks martyrdom, i.e., "no man ever yet hated his own flesh" (Ephesians 5:29), our LORD will give clear indication to those who trust Him, if he expects you to witness for Him with your death. "But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost" (Mark 13:11).
The martyred Saints cry out for vengeance, which the LORD has clearly promised. "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the LORD" (Romans 12:19). Both God's Holiness and His Truth demand that He avenge His martyrs, i.e., "O LORD, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the Earth?" (6:10). For God to be true to His Word, His holiness is a hatred of sin, which demands judgment. "1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. 2 For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great Salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the LORD, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him" (Hebrews 2:1-3).
Both Isaiah and the Apostle Paul would appreciate the "white robes" (6:11) of
righteousness described by the Apostle John. Isaiah described the "robe of righteousness" of the Saints.
"I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my
soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh Himself
with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels" (Isaiah 61:10). Paul was confronted with the stark contrast of the "filth of the world" versus
the cleanness that is the "righteousness
of Saints", i.e., "And
to her [the Bride of Christ] was
granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen
is the righteousness of Saints" (Revelation 19:8). "Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth
of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day" (1Corinthians 4:13).
Not only are the Martyred Saints given "white robes", but they are told to wait a "little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled" (6:11). How long is a "little season"? Less than 7 years-- the Tribulation Week. Also, Satan is loosed from the Bottomless Pit for a "little season" after the End of the Millennium. "And cast him [Satan] into the Bottomless Pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season" (Revelation 20:3).
How are these Martyred Saints killed? They were evidently beheaded. "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshipped the Beast [the Antichrist], neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4). Martyrs, like all Christians, can do whatever God has called us to do. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).
The Sixth Seal Judgment is Heavenly Turmoil. God has used a "great earthquake" (6:12) before to announce or punctuate significant events:
(1) at the crucifixion of the LORD Jesus Christ, i.e., "Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God" (Matthew 27:54),
(2) after the Apostle Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi because they answered the Macedonian call to spread the Gospel to Europe, i.e., "And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed" (Acts 16:26), and
(3) after the Resurrection of the Two Witnesses and the Pre-Wrath Rapture, which is in addition to an earlier Pre-Tribulational Rapture [see our article, "The Seventh Trumpet and the Second Rapture, Or, The Last Trump and the Pre-Wrath Rapture" ---New Window , for insight into this Rapture], i.e., "11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 12 And they heard a Great Voice from Heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to Heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. 13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of Heaven" (Revelation 11:11-13).
The "sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood" (6:12) describes the Word that was given to the prophet Joel. "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come" (Joel 2:31). Also, the "sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining" (Joel 3:15). The "lights"-- sun and moon-- that God has placed in the heavens for "signs" (Genesis 1:14) will become "black as sackcloth of hair" and "as blood" (Revelation 6:12). "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years" (Genesis 1:14).
Ezekiel was given a prophecy concerning "Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Ezekiel 32:2) that corresponds to the Sixth Seal Judgment. "And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the Heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light" (Ezekiel 32:7). "Shooting stars" are another name for the streak of light produced by a meteor as the small bits of space rock burn up when passing through our atmosphere. This could be what the LORD intended to convey to John, i.e., the "stars of Heaven fell unto the Earth" (6:13). Meteor showers that can generally be viewed in the Northern Hemisphere are the Perseid (August 12th) and the Leoneid (November 17th).
A "scroll" is generally pictured as a parchment with rolled ends. For the Heaven to depart "as a scroll rolled together" (6:14), would imply that the atmospheric heavens have suddenly and rapidly cleared themselves-- as if in preparation for something or Someone. "And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree" (Isaiah 34:4). Though this Sixth Seal Judgment does have an Apocalyptic sense of being the Last Judgment of God against the planet-- it is only the beginning. "There shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows" (Mark 13:8). Since the previous four Seal Judgments can be variously interpreted by ungodly men as "acts of men", this Judgment will leave little to the imagination-- this is an "act of God". "That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this" (Isaiah 41:20).
God is "no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34). "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezekiel 18:20). God will judge all men-- rich and poor, mighty and low, master and servant-- by the standard of how much Truth and understanding did they reject. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). Hiding in the "dens and in the rocks of the mountains" (6:15) is useless before the All Knowing God. "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13).
As our Blessed LORD walked to His doom at Golgotha, He instructed
the women that bewailed and lamented for Him with words from the prophet Hosea. "28 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem,
weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. 29 For, behold, the days are
coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never
bare, and the paps which never gave suck. 30 Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on
us; and to the hills, Cover us [Hosea 10:8]. 31 For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done
in the dry?" (Luke 23:28-31).
Notice that they begin to notice and admit that the One doing the judging is Jesus Christ, i.e., the "face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" (6:16). The very fact that these who are being judged cry out, "Hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne," (6:16) indicates that they have just seen the face of the LORD Jesus Christ when the "Heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together" (6:14). "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him" (Psalm 2:12).
These Seal Judgments encompass a period of 3 1/2 years-- the first
half of the Tribulation Week; and, the "vials
of the wrath of God" (Revelation 16:1) will not be poured
out until the End of the Tribulation Week. Therefore, the exclamation of the ungodly
that are being judged, "For the great
day of His wrath is come," (16:17) indicates only the
excited state of their hearts and minds-- not an exact assessment of the progress
of the Tribulation Week. Correctly, they cry out, "Who
shall be able to stand?" (6:17). The men of Bethshemesh,
who looked into the Ark of the LORD, were slain by the LORD. The surviving Bethshemites
exclaimed, "Who is able to stand before
this holy LORD God?" (1Samuel 6:20). No man can stand
before God unless the Mighty God upholds him. "For
the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the LORD upholdeth the righteous" (Psalm 37:17).
All Praise to the Long Suffering God for His goodness and forbearance! "Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Romans 2:4). Blessed be the Merciful Jehovah who still desires that men would be saved! "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the Truth" (1Timothy 2:4). May the Holy Spirit yet reap a harvest of souls from the fields of men, who are still "crooked and perverse" (Philippians 2:15).
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