Revelation Chapter 6 and 7: The Seven Seals

In the last study, Jesus was found worthy to open the book in the Father's hand. He took the book from the Father. It was sealed with seven seals. In this study, we will examine each of the seven seals in turn as they are removed from the book.

The timing of the removal of the seven seals corresponds with the 70th week of the prophecies of Daniel that we studied earlier. Revelation 6:1-9:21 cover the time period of the first 3 1/2 years of this 70th week or 7 year time period. We will go from Revelation 6:1-8:6 here, and take up the trumpets in next week's lesson, carrying us through the end of chapter 9.

The Seals

The opening of the seals of the book show a progressive unfolding of history of Daniel's 70th week. As history unfolds, God's judgment begins to be poured out on the people who are left. You don't want to be among this group. It is true that many will turn fully to Christ during this period, but many will give their lives for their choice. Even if your life isn't required by the Antichrist, it still will not be a good place to live during the time God's wrath is being poured out.

The seven year time period of Daniel's 70th week is generally divided into two halves. The first 3 1/2 years is known as the lesser tribulation and the last 3 1/2 years is known as the greater tribulation. The following will describe some of the things that God has declared will come to pass in the lesser tribulation. If you haven't accepted Christ as your Savior, now is the time to do so.

The First Seal

Revelation 6:1-2:

6:1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

6:2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

The first beast (which you will remember was like a lion) orders the white horse to come. Now, I know that it just says one of the four here, but each of the succeeding seals identifies the second through fourth beast, so I'm going to make an assumption that this is really the first beast. It is somewhat appropriate, since it appears as a lion, and this verse is announcing the rise of the Antichrist who will gradually establish rule over several kingdoms.

Dake comments on verse 1 that:

the word Come in v Revelation 6:1, 3, 5, 7 is addressed to the 5 horsemen, not to John. The words and see in these verses are omitted in many texts, for John is already present looking at every scene.

Dake also identifies the white horse rider as the Antichrist, with this commentary...

Antichrist - white horse rider (6:2)

This is not to be confused with the white horse rider of 19:11-21. This one is symbolical; the other literal. This one represents Antichrist; the other is Christ in person. This one begins a series of terrible events on earth; the one in Rev. 19:11-21 ends these events. Furthermore, this white horse rider is not a symbol of a great revival of the Word of God, as some teach from Hab. 3:8-9, which is in the past tense and refers to God leading Israel out of Egypt. This rider is future and will be the first of 62 post-rapture events of Daniel's 70th week (see p. 306)

7 proofs this rider is Antichrist:

  1. An individual is referred to (v 2)
  2. He comes on a white horse, imitating Christ and claiming to be Him (Rev. 2; Mt. 24:4-5; Jn. 5:43; Dan. 9:27, 11:37)
  3. A bow in symbolic language in connection with man pictures evil designs and conquest (Ps. 7:12, 11:2, 37:14, 46:9, 58:7; Jer. 49:35). Christ is always symbolized as having a sword, not a bow (Rev. 1:16, 19:15, 21)
  4. Scripture makes it clear that Satan is the one who gives Antichrist a crown (Dan. 8:24, 11:38-39; 2 Th. 2:8-12; Rev. 13:2, 4)
  5. Antichrist is the only person predicted in Scripture as going forth conquering and to conquer at this particular time, beginning Daniel's 70th week (Dan. 7:7-8, 20-21, 23-24, 8:23-25, 9:27, 11:36-45; Rev. 6:1). It takes him the first 3 1/2 years of the 70th week, or the last 7 years of this age, to get power over the future 10 kingdoms inside the Roman Empire territory. He first overthrows 3 of them (Dan. 7:23-24). Then by the middle of the week the 10 kings submit to him without further war. He then reigns over the 10 kingdoms for 3 1/2 years and fights Christ at Armageddon (Rev. 13:1-5, 17:8-17, 19:11-21)
  6. This rider will cause the wars, famines, pestilences, death, and hell of the following 3 seals (6:3-8).
  7. If this is not Antichrist, then we do not have him mentioned in Revelation before the middle of the week (Rev. 13). Were that the case, we should have two men going forth to conquer at the beginning of the week - one clearly pictured in Dan. 7:23-24, 8:23-25, 9:27, 11:36-45, and one here. Without these passages in Daniel the sphere of conquest, the number of nations conquered, the identity of the conqueror, his rise to power, and other facts could not be defined. But putting these passages with Rev. 6:1-2, 13:1-18, 14:9-11, 16:13-16, 17:1-17, 19:19-20 we have the complete revelation of the one man. If we do not take the one in Daniel and the one here as being identical, then we can know nothing regarding the identity of the white horse rider.

The Second Seal

Revelation 6:3-4:

6:3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.

6:4 And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

The second beast (which you will remember was like a calf) orders the red horse to come. The calf is a sacrificial animal. In this case, peace is sacrificed as a result of the actions of the white horse rider who goes forth to conquer. The rider who rides the horse has a sword and peace is taken from the earth so that people will kill one another. Dake maintains that this scripture marks the beginning of a second tri-continental war (presumably including Europe, Africa, and Asia (or parts thereof)). He feels that there will be a first tri-continental war from Dan. 7:7-8, 23-24, which will be necessary to form ten combined kingdoms in the region.

As we discussed when we were studying Daniel, this could certainly happen. It is also possible that ten current day kingdoms in the region that were part of the old Roman Empire are the kingdoms that are referred to in the passage. It is possible that ten kingdoms in either the Roman or Persian empire are the ones referred to. There are at least ten Arabic kingdoms that could certainly band together to oppose Israel, although as noted in prophecy, it will probably take a war for a particular leader to rise to rule all of them. There are certainly many possibilities to choose from.

If any of the later interpretations are correct, then perhaps a first tri-continent war would not be needed as the existing ten kingdoms are already formed. At any rate, there will be war between the Antichrist and seven kingdoms of some sort (whether they exist today or whether they will be formed yet in the future) as he expands from the original three kingdoms that immediately accept his leadership to control all ten.

I know that today, it seems that there is no peace in the world. But when even the peace that we do have is taken away and the wrath of man is kindled against his brother and sister, the number of incidents of killing for little cause will be greatly increased. I think that this scripture is primarily speaking of the war as Dake notes. But I also think that much of the world will suffer from a greatly increased murder rate as small offenses that previously would have resulted in hard feelings or simply anger will be magnified to rage and murder because peace is removed. Even today, we see some vestiges of this unwarranted wrath over small things. Sometimes this is increased due to drug or alcohol use. There is also a huge eye-for-an-eye attitude in much of the world as it is. When peace is removed, all of these things will be even more manifest.

Keep in mind that the rapture of the church will have happened at this point in time. The peacemakers will be gone (we pray!). There is likely to be a lot of disruption of the world's normal agriculture, business, government, and military forces due to the rapture. What percentage of farmers and ranchers are Christian versus the city-dwelling population? I'll bet it is higher. There is likely to have been a lot of major accidents due to vehicles of all sorts suddenly without drivers causing crashes (from bicycles to airliners, trucks to trains) that will have caused great disruptions in moving goods and services around. Utilities may be spotty. Stores may be bare of food quickly as many horde. People will be living on the edge. The removal of peace will be a very significant "over the edge" sort of event that will be awful to experience first hand.

The Third Seal

Revelation 6:5-6:

6:5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

6:6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

The third beast (which you will remember had a face like a man) orders the black horse to come. The third beast calls forth a rider with a pair of balances. This rider is suggestive of famine that will come. The numbers here need to be put into perspective as Dake notes on these verses...

Famine is the result of the conquest and wars of the first two seals. CP. Lam. 4:4-8; Mt. 24:7; Bread by measure and weight signifies scarcity of food (Ezek. 4:10-17)...

A penny as used here was the daily wage or about 17 cents (in 1961 dollars).

A measure was about 1 quart, a slave's daily ration, an amount usually purchased for about 2 cents. One could usually buy 8 measures of wheat or 24 measures of barley for a penny, but during this future famine only 1 measure of wheat or 3 measures of barley can be purchased for a penny. This will make food 8 times higher than in normal times. The olive and grape need no cultivation; hence their ruthless destruction is forbidden.

To put that in perspective, that would put our food costs at over $100,000 per year. There are disadvantages to a big family these days. Of course, we believe that the innocent children would be taken by Christ at the time of the rapture, so that would drop the cost substantially if we were found wanting when Christ returned!

The Fourth Seal

Revelation 6:7-8:

6:7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

The fourth beast (which you will remember was like a flying eagle) orders the pale horse to come. This is the first of the prophecies that are limited in scope directly in Revelation. The others may be limited in scope by the prophecies of Daniel, depending on their interpretation. The extent of this rider's influence is 1/4 of the Earth, which I would assume would mean the land portion of the Earth, but this may be an incorrect assumption. Death is explicitly named as the rider. Hell followed as most of those who were to die would not have accepted Christ in the time between the rapture and the opening of the fourth seal.

Dake notes that the word translated pale here is translated green in other places. This summarizes the end of the victims of the first three riders and horses (conquest, war, and famine). Here we note that in many cases the beasts of the earth may rise up against mankind as well under control of the fourth rider.

The Fifth Seal

Revelation 6:9-11:

6:9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

6:11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

The fifth seal doesn't directly mention Earth, but it does mention a large group of souls who are gathered under the altar in heaven, crying out with a loud voice asking God how much longer He was going to wait to avenge their deaths. The answer is that they must wait until the rest of their brethren and fellow servants have been killed in like manner. They are given white robes and told to rest for a little season.

Persecution does occur on Earth today. When the Antichrist takes power, persecution and martyrdom for proclaiming Christianity will be the norm. The extent of the Antichrist's influence is hotly debated. Some maintain that he will have world wide influence. Some maintain that he cannot even keep control over the 10 kingdoms, so it is unlikely that his influence will be world wide in such a short time.

Regardless of which party is right, wherever he does rule, Christianity will be an offense punishable by death. These verses specifically state that they are slain for the word of God and for their testimony. We are uncomfortable spreading the Gospel message as Christians today. Think how much harder it will be when doing so is a death sentence around the world. At least today, the number of places where you are likely to be killed for preaching the gospel is not high. You may be driven out of town, disowned, deported, put in jail, but usually not killed.

The Sixth Seal

Revelation 6:12-17:

6:12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

6:13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

6:14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

6:15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;

6:16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

6:17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

With the sixth seal, we have a change of pace. In some respects, everything that has gone on in the first five seals has had one or more equivalents in human history. There have been religious pogroms, war, famine, and disease throughout human history. It is possible that people will believe the Antichrist's deceiving words about these things (and the rapture) not having any divine overtone. The tactics that will be used by the Antichrist in spreading the lies may take on strange faces - space aliens, abductions, et cetera. With the sixth seal, the people begin to see the truth.

Here, there are great earthquakes. The sun becomes black and the moon red as blood. This could easily happen if fires or volcanic eruptions dump a lot of ash into the sky. The sun could literally appear darker and the dust could literally make the moon appear red in the sky simply due to atmospheric conditions. This doesn't have to get to some celestial extreme where the sun actually dims and the moon changes color to be described this way by John. God could do those things, but it will most likely come about due to fires.

The stars falling to earth are in all likelihood meteor showers. Massive amounts of contaminants in the atmosphere would make the heavens appear to depart as first dim stars were no longer visible, followed by brighter and brighter stars fading from sight due to smog like effects of fires or volcanoes. The mountains and islands being moved out of their places again speaks of world wide earthquakes, tsunamis, et cetera causing massive physical destruction on the earth.

At this, even the kings of the earth, great and rich men, captains and mighty men in the military, and all bond and free men that are left run and hide, going to the mountains and crying out to be buried under avalanches in order to be hid form the face of God and from the wrath of the Lamb. They recognize that all they have read about and scoffed at - these words, for example, were true. They see that the great day of his wrath is upon them and realize that none can stand before an angry God. This wrath continues to be poured out during the trumpet and vial judgments that we will begin to study in the next lesson.

A Parenthetical View Of Heaven

As this occurs, there is a parenthetical section describing some of things that will be going after the time of the sixth seal and continuing on till the end of the week (or 7 year period that makes up the bulk of Revelation).

Revelation 7:1-3:

7:1 And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.

7:2 And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,

7:3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.

In this passage, we see four trumpet angels ready to blow the trumpets and initiate certain plagues and events on the earth. Another angel ascends from the east and tells the previously mentioned four angels to hold off starting their work until 144,000 individuals are sealed from the tribes of Israel. 12,000 are sealed from each tribe. These Jews were not ready for the rapture, or they would have been taken then. However, by studying the scriptures, history, and current events, at least this many Jews accept Christ as their Savior post rapture and are sealed against the things to follow. This revival is predicted in Acts 2:16-21.

Revelation 7:4-8:

7:4 And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.

7:5 Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand.

7:6 Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nepthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand.

7:7 Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand.

7:8 Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.

They receive a literal mark on their forehead as servants of God. Of the tribes, Dan and Ephraim are not recorded as being sealed in this passage. Dake notes that the names of Levi and Joseph take their places. Many point to reasons why Dan isn't sealed here, but the simple fact is that there were no followers of Christ amongst them (or at least such a small percentage that they didn't receive any special mention here). Perhaps this indicates a certain stubborn or rebellious streak in them, perhaps not. Regardless, they receive no special protection from what is to follow by being sealed.

This doesn't say that there are only 12,000 in each tribe that have accepted Christ. All it means is that of those in each tribe who have accepted Christ, only 12,000 are chosen from each to receive special protection. God is allowed to play favorites. He is God, after all. Each Jew has had access to the New Testament for a long time and had the choice to accept Christ and go in the rapture. Like all gentiles who didn't make the right choice, the members of God's chosen people will pay the price. That some are saved and protected to further carry out His work is an example of God's mercy. But His mercy does have limits for those who, of all the people's of the earth, should have been ready and weren't ready when Christ returned.

Revelation 7:9-17:

7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

7:10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

7:11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,

7:12 Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

7:13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?

7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

7:15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.

7:16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.

7:17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

The last portion of the chapter describes the raptured and martyred saints who are standing before God along with the angels and the beasts worshiping His majesty. Here we see God's promise that they will not hunger or thirst any more. God will light heaven, so they won't depend on the sun or risk the sun's heat. The Lamb will feed them and water them and comfort them for all they have suffered and lost that they will cry over. Some say that there will be no tears in heaven, but this is not an accurate statement. All the Bible says is that the Lamb will wipe away all tears from their eyes.

The Seventh Seal

Revelation 8:1-6:

8:1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

8:2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.

8:3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.

8:4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.

8:5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

8:6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

The seventh and final seal is opened at the start of Revelation 8. After the seal is opened, there is silence for one half an hour, but the reason isn't stated. Perhaps it is dreadful anticipation for what will now be revealed as the last seal is removed and the scroll can now be opened. We see that seven angels are given seven trumpets which are symbolic of the judgments and wrath that are about to be poured out on the earth.

We also see an angel come and stand before the alter with a censer filled with much incense. The incense is offered with the prayers of the saints before the throne of God. The angel takes the censer and fills it with fire from the alter and casts it to earth. This is heard as voices, thunder and lightning and another earthquake. The seven angels then prepare to sound their trumpets.

Conclusion

This is the stopping point for this study. We will take up the seven trumpets in the next study, finishing out Revelation 8, 9. That will take us through the first 3 1/2 years of Daniel's 70th week.

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Dake excerpt taken from Dake's Annotated Reference Bible, © 1961, 1963 by Finis Jennings Dake, and is reproduced on our web site with permission from representatives of Dake Publishing.