Revelation 6 (NRSV)
The Seven Seals
Here begins a series of chapters that describe God’s judgment. The seven seals (6:1-8:5), the seven trumpets (8:6-11:19), and the seven bowls (15:1-16:21) all herald greater destruction. These sets of seven do not form a single continuous story line, going from beginning to end, but, more like preachers’ illustrations, serve to emphasize a single point in increasingly intensive ways. They share in this agreement: God acts in history and will bring it to a just and imminent conclusion.
–Robert H. Conn
Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures call out, as with a voice of thunder, “Come!”
The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes:
“Come!” — the word can also be translated “Go!” — addressed successively to each of the four horsemen who accomplish God’s purposes.
2 I looked, and there was a white horse! Its rider had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering and to conquer.
The white horse: a conquering power that none can resist. Many readers see the rider, who brings war, famine, and strife, as the antichrist.
3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature call out, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another; and he was given a great sword.
The red horse: war and bloodshed.
5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature call out, “Come!” I looked, and there was a black horse! Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand, 6 and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s pay, and three quarts of barley for a day’s pay, but do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”
The black horse: famine, which follows the war.
7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature call out, “Come!” 8 I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth.
The pale green horse: pestilence and death. (The rider of the fourth horse has entered popular culture as the Grim Reaper.)
Our modern age has seen hundreds of millions killed by dictators, war, and famine. Yet all that will pale in comparison to the death toll coming. No wonder Jesus said of this time — For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21)
The judgment human being experience they often inflict upon themselves — war, famine, hardship, and death: the afflictions of the four horsemen.
–Robert H. Conn
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given;
The souls of the martyrs are said to be “under the altar” because they had been sacrificed. The idea is drawn from Leviticus 4:7 — And he shall pour the remaining blood at the base of the altar of the burnt offering.
10 they cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” 11 They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed.
12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and there came a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated 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?”
Only the believer can stand before this great judgment, the one who is justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.
1 Corinthians 15:1
I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand.
1 Peter 5:12
Testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand.
Who can stand? We can! “Here in the love of Christ I stand.” HERE is “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty (from Northern Ireland; he wrote the music) and Stuart Townend (from England; he wrote the words). The hymn was released in 2001.
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