16 - OPENING OF THE SEALs
- OPENING OF THE FIRST SEAL—RIDER ON A WHITE HORSE
The Lord Jesus Christ takes the seven- sealed book, and He breaks the first seal.
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. 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 [Rev. 6:1–2].
- Christ is going to break all the seals, ad seriatum, right in order. He is in full charge, and every creature in heaven is moving at His command. So the four horsemen are now to ride forth. He breaks the seal, and says, “Go.”
- It is restated by John that he “saw” and he “heard.” This is television that we are looking at.
- Attempts to determine the symbolism of the rider on the white horse have given rise to many differences of opinion. The preponderate interpretation among commentators is that he represents Christ. They use Psalm 45 and Revelation 19 in support of their position. But most of the contemporary Bible expositors of the premillennial school say that the white horse and the rider is Antichrist. That is the position of Scott, Ironside, Chafer, Walvoord, Woodbridge, and Pentecost. And it happens to be my position also. It would be pretty difficult for the Lord Jesus, who is the One opening the seals, now to make a quick change, mount a horse, and come riding forth.
- We are moving today in the direction of a world dictator. More and more is this true. All the nations of the world are disturbed. Lawlessness abounds, and governments are not able to control as they should. This is all preparing the way for the coming of one who is going to rule.
- Antichrist does not appear as a villain. After all, Satan’s angels are angels of light. He is not going to have horns or cloven feet. Rather, he is going to be the most attractive man the world has ever seen. They will elect him, and the world will acclaim him because he has come in his own name. But when he takes over, it sure is going to be bad for the world.
- This is not just the ravings of a preacher here in California. This is something that other men in other walks of life, who apparently make no great claims to being Christians, have said. Professor A. J. Toynbee, Director of Studies in the Royal Institute of International Affairs, said:”By forcing on mankind more and more lethal weapons and at the same time making the whole world more and more interdependent economically, technology has brought mankind to such a degree of distress that we are ripe for deifying any new Caesar who might succeed in giving the world unity and peace.”
- That will be the platform that Antichrist will come in on—world unity and peace. I think that if anybody appeared on the scene now and offered the world that, the world wouldn’t ask whether he came from heaven or hell. I don’t think they would care, because they want peace at any price, and we have spent billions of dollars trying to obtain it.
- G. K. Chesterton observed in his day: “One of the paradoxes of this age is that it is the age of Pacifism, but not the age of Peace.” There is a great deal of talking about peace.
- In a news item some time ago, we read of a woman in Fayetteville, Arkansas, who named the United Nations as the beneficiary to her $700,000 estate “in the fervent hope that this relatively small contribution may be of some effect in bringing about universal peace on earth and good will among men.” I want to say that she poured that money down a rat hole, because you are not going to buy peace with $700,000 or even millions of dollars. We have given away billions of dollars throughout the world, and we do not have peace.
- The Ford Foundation, one of the world’s wealthiest private organizations, has announced that their money eventually will be used to work for world peace and better government, living and education conditions—yet the world gets worse all the time.
- When Antichrist comes to power, he is going to talk peace, and the world will think that it is entering the Millennium when it is actually entering the Great Tribulation. The Great Tribulation comes in like a lamb, but it goes out like a lion. A promise of peace is the big lie the world is going to believe.
- This rider could not be Christ, therefore, in view of the fact that Christ is the Lamb in the midst of the throne who, as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, is directing these events from heaven and is giving the orders to the four horsemen to ride. Christ is clearly identified in Revelation 19, while here the identity is certainly obscure, which suggests that it is not Christ but an imitation of Him.
- OPENING OF THE SECOND SEAL—RIDER ON A RED HORSE And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 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 [Rev. 6:3–4].
a. And when He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, Go. And another horse, fiery red (flame colored) went out. And there was given to the one sitting on him to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill (violently) one another, and there was given to him a great sword.
b. The first horseman could not be Christ, because when He brings peace to this earth, it is going to be permanent. This is a short-lived peace. Immediately after the white horse went forth, here comes the red horse of war on the earth. The peace which the rider on the white horse brought to the earth was temporary and counterfeit. The Antichrist presents himself as a ruler who brings peace to the world, but he cannot guarantee it, for God says, “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isa. 57:21). And that passage of Scripture certainly has been fulfilled.
c. Isn’t peace exactly what every candidate for office in our country has promised? Certainly that has been true in my lifetime. I never shall forget the candidate who said that our boys would never again go across the ocean to fight. What baloney that was! We were promised peace, and every candidate since then has promised peace. One of them dropped two atom bombs, and immediately afterward we began to talk about peace. Every candidate since then—no exception and regardless of party—has said he was going to bring peace. My friend, we are as far from peace today as we have ever been. Already the clouds are gathering for World War Ill.
d. Antichrist will be a phony. He won’t bring peace because here goes the fiery red horse of war riding throughout the earth again. And this is going to be a real world war. Don’t say that this has been fulfilled—it hasn’t been. It is future.
- OPENING OF THE THIRD SEAL—RIDER ON A BLACK HORSE
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.
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 [Rev. 6:5–6].
- And when He had opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, Go. And I saw, and behold a black horse, and the one sitting on him having a balance (scales) in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures say, a choenix (a quart) of wheat for a denarius, and three choenix (quarts) of barley for a denarius; and do not hurt the oil and the wine.
- John again says, “I heard” and “I saw.” He just wants to make sure that we know that. The color of the black horse indicates mourning (see Jer. 4:28; Mal. 3:14, “mournfully in black”), and it also speaks of famine. In Lamentations 4:8–9 we read: “Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick. They that be slain with the sword are better than they that be slain with hunger: for these pine away, stricken through for want of the fruits of the field.”
- The black horse represents the worldwide famine that is to come on the earth. Always after a war there is a shortage of foodstuff.
- The Greek historian Herodotus says that a choenix (quart) of corn was a soldier’s daily supply of food. A denarius was a day’s wage (see Matt. 20:2). Therefore, a working man will be unable to support his family in that day.
- The oil and the wine are luxuries that are enjoyed by the rich. Oil would correspond to our toiletries, the beauty aids and the body conditioners that we use today; that is, the luxuries of life. The wine corresponds to the liquor that will be in abundance. Isn’t it interesting that there will not be enough foodstuff, not enough barley for food, but there will be enough barley to make liquor! They will make it in that day, and the rich are the ones who will get it.
- The rich are going to get theirs, but the poor won’t be able to get theirs. That is the way it has always been. I feel like saying, “Ho hum,” when I hear these sincere egg-headed boys talking about how they are going to work out the poverty problem. All that it has accomplished is that it has given a good job to a lot of them, but so far it hasn’t filtered down and been a blessing to the poor. It has never helped the poor to lift themselves up with any degree of pride. Why? Because the only Man who can lift up the poor is Jesus Christ. None of these egg-headed boys is able to do it. I am sorry to have to say that, but somebody needs to speak out against all of this tomfoolery that our government is going through. All that this wasteful spending of money does is to create more bureaucracy and to sap our tax dollars. This is the sort of thing that is abroad today, but just think what it is going to be like in that future day. This which we are talking about in the Revelation is future. The only reason that I make application to today is to show that this is not unreasonable; it is going to take place.
- Way back in 1798, the Rev. Thomas Malthus concluded that “the power of population is infinitely greater than the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man.” His prediction had little weight in his day.
- In 1959 the United Nations’ seventy-seven-nation Food and Agriculture Organization met in Rome to talk about “the fight against hunger and malnutrition.” At this meeting Toynbee declared: “Sooner or later food production will reach its limit. And then, if population is still increasing, famine will do the execution that was done in the past by famine, pestilence and war combined.”
- Sir John Boyd Orr, at one time the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, warned, “I shall finish my office by giving a last warning to the world. If it is not solved there will be world chaos in the next fifty years. The nations of the world are insane.” Someone has reported, “There are today 750 million people getting hungrier in countries bordering the Communist sphere.”
- This thing is growing, my friend. Famine always follows war.
- OPENING OF THE FOURTH SEAL—RIDER ON A PALE HORSE And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 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 [Rev. 6:7–8].
a. And when He had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, Go. And I looked and behold a pale (greenish-yellow) horse; and the one sitting upon him, Death was his name; and Hades followed with him. And there was given unto them authority over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with famine, and with death (pestilence), and by the (wild) beasts of the earth.
b. Here is a pestilence that is going to take out one-fourth of the population of the earth. There will not be enough antibiotics and penicillin to go around in that day to stop it.
c. “Death was his name.” Death is no more personalized here than is war—although the rider is given the name of death. There is more involved in physical death than meets the eye, for the human being is more than physical, and death is more than cessation of physical activity. While death takes the body, hades is the place where the spirit of a lost man goes (see Luke 16:23, ASV).
d. A literal translation of Romans 5:14 reads thus: “And nevertheless death became king from Adam down to Moses, even over them who did not sin after the fashion of Adam’s sin [transgression] who is the type of Him [The Adam] who was to come [The Coming One].”
e. Death evidently has an all-inclusive, three-fold meaning that we do not ordinarily attach to it. We think of death as referring only to the body.
i. This is physical death, and it refers only to the body. It comes to a man because of Adam’s sin.
ii. Then there is what is known as spiritual death, which is separation from, and rebellion against, God. We inherit a dead nature from Adam; that is, we have no capacity for God and no desire for Him at all.
iii. Finally, there is eternal death, which is eternal separation from God. Unless a man is redeemed, this inevitably follows. This is the second death that we will find later on in chapter 20, verse 14.
b. Before Adam sinned, God said to him, “… for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
i. Well, Adam lived physically for more than nine hundred years after that, but he was dead spiritually to God.
ii. He ran from God. He no longer had a desire for fellowship with God. He died spiritually, and physical death followed and has come into the human family.
iii. More and more it deteriorates mankind. Most of us are being propped up today by modern medicine and the marvelous developments of science in order to stay alive. Actually, the human race is deteriorating all the time. Human life would be much shorter than it is if it were not for all the modern gadgets which keep us alive down here.
iv. During the Great Tribulation, death will ride unbridled. The Lord Jesus put it like this: “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matt. 24:22).
v. At the Great White Throne judgment, death will be finally destroyed (see Rev. 20:14). This is confirmed by Paul who writes, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). And John reasserts it in Revelation 21:4: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
vi. The sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts will decimate this earth’s population by one-fourth. This is something that, through His prophet Ezekiel, God had said would come: “For thus saith the Lord God; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?” (Ezek. 14:21).
vii. The pale horse represents plague and pestilence that will stalk the earth. It also encompasses the possibility of germ warfare. Dr. Frank Holtman, head of the University of Tennessee’s bacteriological department, said, “While the greater part of a city’s population could be destroyed by an atomic bomb, the bacteria method might easily wipe out the entire population within a week.”
viii. We have seen the riding of the four horsemen, and this follows exactly the pattern that the Lord Jesus gave while He was on the earth. In Matthew 24:5–8, in the Olivet Discourse, He said: “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many [the white horse]. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars [the red horse]: see that ye be not troubled: for all these must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines [the black horse], and pestilences [the pale horse], and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” This is the opening of the Great Tribulation.
- OPENING OF THE FIFTH SEAL—PRAYER OF THE MARTYRED REMNANT
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:
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? [Rev. 6:9–10].
- The souls mentioned here are the Old Testament saints. As the Lord Jesus put it: “That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation” (Luke 11:50–51).
- Included with these are those who will be slain in the Great Tribulation Period, as we have already found that one-fourth of the population will be wiped out. They are resting on solid Old Testament ground as they plead for justice on the basis of God’s holy law.
- 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 fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled [Rev. 6:11].
- In other words, the tribulation saints are to be included with the Old Testament saints in the second resurrection.
- OPENING OF THE SIXTH SEAL—THE DAY OF WRATH HAS COME 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;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 [Rev. 6:12–13].
a. This is evidently the beginning of the last half of the Great Tribulation Period. The great day of His wrath is before us. The Great Tribulation opens and closes with these upheavals in the natural universe: (1) The beginning of the Tribulation (compare Joel 2:30–31 with Acts 2:20) and (2) the end of the Tribulation (see Joel 3:9–17; Isa. 13:9–13; 34:1–4; Matt. 24:29).
b. The fact that we are having an increase in earthquakes today is no fulfillment of this at all. This is to take place in the Great Tribulation Period. But the interesting thing is that in the past earthquakes have really destroyed a great deal of the population of this earth.
c. Professor R. A. Daley, in his book Our Mobile Earth, has written this:In the last 4,000 years earthquakes have caused the loss of 13,000,000 lives, and far the most awful earthshock is yet to come. “And there was a great earthquake, such as there was not since there were men upon the earth, so great an earthquake, so mighty; and the cities of the nations fell” (Rev. 16:18).
d. What a picture we have here! The earthquakes today are not a fulfillment. They merely show that it could happen as God’s Word says it will.
e. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places [Rev. 6:14].I think that this verse is to be taken quite literally. We see the same thing in Nahum 1:5 and again in chapter 20, verse 11.
f. 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;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:For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? [Rev. 6:15–17].
g. And the kings of the earth and the princes, and the chief captains, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman and free man hid themselves in the caves and rocks of the mountains. And they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One sitting on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the Great Day of their wrath came, and who is able to stand?
h. There are those on the earth who are praying to the rocks and to the mountains to fall upon them, because they want to be hidden. Hidden from whom? From the wrath of the Lamb. This is the great day of the wrath of God.
i. “The wrath of the Lamb” is a paradoxical phrase. The wrath of God is the Day of the Lord, that day that is spoken of all the way through the Old Testament prophets, a day that is coming upon the earth and is yet future. It is called here “the wrath of the Lamb”—that is a strange statement.
j. Here we have “the wrath of the Lamb.” The lamb is a familiar figure of Christ. Suppose a little lamb, which is noted for gentleness and meekness, did get angry? What then? It is like a tempest in a teapot. From the days of Abel to those of John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus is depicted as a lamb. The apostle John calls Him “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13.8). In other words, God did not choose the lamb because it possessed characteristics of Christ, neither did He choose it for the sacrificial aspect. God created such an animal to represent Christ. Christ is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, before any lamb was ever created.
k. The Lord Jesus Christ has the qualities of a lamb. He was meek—“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29). He was gentle—“… Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). He was harmless—You never see a sign saying, “Beware of the lamb.” You see “Beware of the dog,” but not of the lamb. He was humble—Christ washed the feet of His disciples. This is a tremendous thing. He is One whose life was marked by winsomeness. His life was like the perfume of a lovely and fragile flower. His coming was a doxology. His stay was a blessing. His departure was a benediction. Even the unbelieving world has been fascinated by His life. The lamb sets forth His sacrifice. Abraham said, “… God will provide himself a lamb …” (Gen. 22:8), and God did provide Himself a Lamb.
l. But what about “the wrath”? Wrath is strange and foreign even to the person of God, is it not? God loves the good. God hates the evil. He does not hate as you and I hate. He is not vindictive. God is righteous, God is holy, and He hates that which is contrary to Himself. He says that Jehovah is a man of war. He is strong and mighty. He is mighty in battle. The gospel reveals the wrath of God. Paul said, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).
McGee, J. V. (1997, c1981). Thru the Bible commentary. Based on the Thru the Bible radio program. (electronic ed.) (5:940-947). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.