REVELATION 6 AND 7: The First Four Seals

Greetings fellow eschatologists! It’s time to begin our next series which covers Revelation chapters 6 and 7. These two chapters contain the events that take place when the seven seals on the scroll are opened. The seals take place during a period of time Jesus referred to as “wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24). It’s when wars break out among people groups, and out of this time of wars, a personage the prophet Daniel referred to as the “little horn” will rise up to become king of a Middle Eastern nation. Daniel refers to this man as the little horn, but the New Testament refers to him as Antichrist, and the book of Revelation refers to him as the beast. The Bible, unfortunately, doesn’t tell us the length of time it takes for all seven seals to be opened. When each seal is opened, it brings forth a different colored horse with its rider. Each horse represents an escalation of activity after the little horn becomes king. The events that happen when the seven seals are opened lead up to the start of the seven-year covenant of peace as prophesied by the prophet Daniel. This seven-year covenant is Daniel’s 70th week (a week of seven years) (Daniel 9:24). Let’s get started!

REVELATION 6 AND 7

First in a Five-Part Series
by Karen Thompson

A Warrior Is Crowned King

Rev. 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. 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.

In verse one, the apostle John tells us he saw the Lamb open one of the seals, and when He did, he heard a noise like thunder. As soon as the thunder clap went off, one of the four beasts spoke and said, “Come.” In the King James translation, it has the beasts saying, “Come and see,” but the words “and see” are not in the original Greek text. Therefore, other translations have this passage reading simply as “Come.” This makes sense because the beast is not speaking to John to “Come and see.” He is speaking to the rider on the horse simply to come forth.

When the beast said, “Come,” John said, “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” (v. 2). He saw a white horse come forth with a rider. The rider had a bow, a weapon of war, which means the rider is a man of war. This scenario symbolizes the time when the man Daniel called the “little horn” will rise to prominence during the time of wars and rumors of wars. About the little horn, Daniel prophesied: “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast … and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn” (Dan. 7:7–8). (See also Dan. 8:9.) This little horn will most assuredly be a leader of a military group during the time of wars and rumors of wars.

The next phrase in this verse says, “and a crown will be given to him.” The Greek word translated as crown is stephanos, and its primary definition is “a mark of royal or exalted rank.” A royal or exalted rank tells us that the man being given a crown will be a king, a leader of a nation. The idea that this crown refers to someone becoming a king is in agreement with Daniel’s prophecies about the little horn rising up to become king, or leader, of a nation. That means during the time of wars, a seated king will be dethroned and the little horn will take his place.

Notice it says a crown was “given” to him. This tells me he doesn’t take the crown. It will be conferred upon him; however, I surmise the phrase “given to him” does not mean the crown comes by electoral vote. We’re talking perhaps about a situation in which a rebel army will have unseated a king during a civil war. A possible scenario is that he will be given the crown by the rebels who have been in battle with him, fighting at his side. They will look to him as their leader.

Notice what happens as soon as he is given a crown: “and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” The little horn doesn’t lay down his bow and settle down into his new position as king. He immediately goes forth in battle for the purpose of conquering. The word conquer is the Greek word nikao and it means “to conquer, to be victorious, win over your foes, to overcome.”2 He goes forth to conquer, and he will be victorious.

Fortunately, the Bible tells us exactly who he will conquer. In Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, he tells us the little horn will go forth and conquer three nations: “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast … and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots…” (Dan. 7:7–8). Before the little horn becomes a king, there will be 10 kings already in power, and they are symbolized in Daniel’s vision as 10 horns. When the little horn becomes a king, he will uproot, or conquer, three of those ten horns (kings).

Daniel’s vision of the ram and goat gives us more information about the three horns that will be uprooted. We are told the location of the three horns in relation to the little horn: “…came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land” (Dan. 8:9). When it says the little horn “waxed great,” it means he grew in size. His kingdom grew in size because he uprooted three horns: one to the south of him, one to the east of him, and notice the last king uprooted will be “the pleasant land.” The pleasant land is Israel. (Ps. 106:24; Jer. 3:19; Zec. 7:14)

Peace Is Taken From the Earth

Rev. 6:3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 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 Lamb opened the second seal and a second beast said, “Come.” A red horse came forth, and its rider was given power to take peace from the earth. The red horse represents an escalation in the time of “wars and rumors of wars.” The escalation is that there will no longer be peace on the earth. This disruption of peace will come through “killing one another.” That means that one nation, or people group, is not doing all the killing. But various nations, or people groups, are warring against each another, with all sides taking casualties.

The rider on the white horse had a bow, but the rider on the red horse is given a great sword. The sword most likely symbolizes an escalation of power for the little horn; after all, he is now a king. It could also symbolize an escalation in the overall killing.

Economy Affected

Rev. 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 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 Lamb opened the third seal and a third beast said, “Come.” John said, “I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand” (v. 5). The rider on the black horse was holding a pair of balances in his hand. The balances are scales one would use in a market place to measure goods to sell.

John heard a voice 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” (v. 6). The rider of this horse brings forth one of the consequences of war: devastation to the economy. Inflation will cause increased hardship and ruin. It is a further escalation of the time of wars and rumors of wars.

Wheat, barley, oil, and vine—these are four of Israel’s seven species listed in Deuteronomy 8:7–8: “For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land … A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey.” The seven species were the mainstay of Israel’s diet. Wheat was the preferred grain over barley, and it cost three times as much as barley. You see that reflected in the statement that a penny purchased one measure of wheat but it purchased three measures of barley. Commentaries say these prices reflect an eight-fold increase in cost.

Next, let’s look at the phrase “see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” The oil and wine represent olive trees and grape vines from which oil and wine come. Does it mean, as one source said, that these crops were not to be harmed? Not likely. The point of the third seal is to address one of the consequences of war, which is economic devastation. So I doubt this is referring to which crops will be saved and which crops will be devastated by war.

The phrase “do not hurt the oil and wine” is symbolic. In ancient times, oil and wine were symbols of prosperity and wealth. You can see this symbolism reflected in the following scriptures. Psalm 128:3, “Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.” Also Proverbs 21:17, “…he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.” What verse six is telling us is that constant warfare will devastate the economy, but there will still be pockets of wealth.

The Time of Wars Affects One-Fourth of the Earth

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

When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, the last beast said, “Come.” A rider on a pale horse came forth. The rider’s name was death and hell followed after him. In this verse, death and hell are being personified, given human-like qualities.

I want to draw your focus to this phrase: “And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth….” The rider on the pale horse, who is death, was given power over a one-fourth part of the earth. What that means is that the time of wars and rumors of wars will focus primarily in “one-fourth” part of the earth, a specific part of the world. The prophecies in the book of Daniel reveal that the one-fourth part of the earth where these ten kings and the little horn will emerge will be the Middle East.

This brings us to a very important detail that should not be missed. The biblical prophecies regarding end times all have to do with the Middle East and its relationship with Israel. The prophecies are specific to that geographic area and not the whole world. No doubt, the chaos will spill over onto the whole world and the nations will be drawn into the chaos. Certainly, they will react in various ways and in varying degrees to what is happening in the Middle East, but in the end, the majority of killing and warring will be located in the one-fourth part of the world known as the Middle East.

Why is that important for us to know?

There are those that have the idea that Antichrist will rule the world. Very often, when people discuss end time prophecies, the conversation usually turns to the “new world order.” People talk about it, and yet, they’re not really sure what it is. They describe a secretive group made up of the world’s most influential people who scheme to create a one-world government where all the nations are stripped of their regional and nationalistic identities. There are those who believe in it and are convinced that Antichrist will be the head of it. This theory, however, isn’t scriptural. And when you give it some practical thought, it doesn’t make sense.

Reason number one: When the little horn becomes the beast, the length of his reign as the beast will only be the last half of Daniel’s 70th week, which is 3 ½ years! He along with his false prophet will do monstrous things, but 3 ½ years is not enough time to conquer the entire world! Give or take, there are approximately 193 countries that are recognized in the world. Can we really give serious thought to Antichrist conquering 193 nations in 3 ½ years? Antichrist ruling the entire world is a wrong idea. In practicality, it doesn’t make sense and cannot be supported scripturally. What can be supported scripturally is that in the end, Antichrist’s empire will be ten nations strong. And of those ten, he will have conquered only three of them. This is symbolized by the little horn uprooting three of the ten horns in Daniel’s vision (Dan. 7:7–8). The other kings will voluntarily submit to his leadership in some kind of union (Rev. 17:16).

Reason number two: Another reason why many think Antichrist will control the whole world is because of phrases like these: “all the world wondered after the beast… and all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him… (Rev. 13:3, 8). The King James translators translated certain words in a way that makes it sound as if all the world would worship the beast, despite other verses of scripture that say otherwise. The Greek words ge (earth) and oikoumene (world) can be translated to mean many different things. They can be translated as the universe, the whole entire earth, or a portion of land within certain boundaries, a country, an empire, or just simply the ground, or dirt. Thus, we can conclude that when it says the “whole world” or “all the earth,” it doesn’t necessarily mean all the nations in the whole world. Most often, it just means that one-fourth area of the world, the Middle East.

Judgment Is Four-Fold

Let’s look at the last half of verse eight: “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.” Lastly, we see killing in that one-fourth area will be accomplished four-fold: with the sword, with hunger, with death, and with the beasts. We can surmise that to kill with the sword will be war casualties. To kill with hunger is a result of famine brought on by war. To kill with death includes a list of many possible things like disease, for instance. And to kill with beasts could mean a couple of things. The Greek word used for beast here is therion, and its primary meaning is animal, but it can also be used as a metaphor for a brutal, bestial man, savage, and ferocious.

As a note of interest, this isn’t the only time that judgment is meted out four-fold. Very often, when you read judgment coming from heaven, it will be administered four-fold. Here are just a few examples:

Isaiah 51:19, “These two things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? 1) desolation, 2) and destruction, 3) and the famine, 4) and the sword….” 

Ezra 9:7, “Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, 1) to the sword, 2) to captivity, 3) and to a spoil, 4) and to confusion of face, as it is this day.”

Ezekiel 14:21, “For thus says the Lord God: How much more when I send My four sore acts of judgment upon Jerusalem—1) the sword, 2) the famine, 3) the evil wild beasts, 4) and the pestilence—to cut off from it man and beast!”

Revelation 11:5–6 “And if any man will hurt them, 1) fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies … These have power 2) to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: 3) and have power over waters to turn them to blood, 4) and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.”

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