The Book of  REVELATION
James J. Barker


Lesson 11
THE FIRST FOUR SEALS ARE OPENED

Text: REVELATION 6:1-17


INTRODUCTION


  1. We saw last week that in chapter 5 John saw a seven-sealed book in the hand of Christ (5:1), and that only the Lord Jesus Christ was able to open that book (5:2-5).
  2. Here in chapter 6 the first six seals are opened with the resultant catastrophic events occurring in the earth.  In Revelation 6, the tribulation has begun, and we are introduced to the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
  3. This evening we will look at these four horsemen, and then next week, Lord willing, look at the fifth seal and the sixth seal.
  4. Many Bible teachers say the tribulation will begin when the antichrist, referred to in Daniel 9:26 as "the prince that shall come," makes a covenant (a peace treaty) with the nation Israel.
  5. That covenant is not referred to in the book of Revelation, but the antichrist is seen here in Revelation 6:2 as the rider on a white horse, going forth conquering, and to conquer.
  6. The antichrist appears when the Lord Jesus Christ opens the first seal (6:1). The opening of the seven seals ushers in the seven-year tribulation period, the terrible judgments that will fall upon this earth after the Church has been raptured (cf. 4:1).
  7. It is significant that the church, which is very prominent in chapters 2 and 3, is not mentioned again until 19:7-9, where we see the church pictured as the bride of Christ at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
  8. The marriage supper takes place at the end of the tribulation.
  9. The rapture of the church takes place between Revelation 3 and 4.
  10. There is a remarkable similarity between the prophesies of Revelation chapter 6 and the those given by our Lord in the Olivet Discourse.
  11. Matthew 24 parallels the events described here in Revelation 6.
  12. In both Matthew 24 and Revelation 6, the order is
  • false christs (Rev. 6:1, 2; Matt. 24:4, 5, 23-25)
  • war (Rev. 6:3, 4; Matt. 24:6, 7)
  • famine (Rev. 6:5, 6; Matt. 24:7)
  • death (Rev. 6:7, 8; Matt. 24:7-9)
  • martyrdom (Rev. 6:9-11; Matt. 24:9, 10, 16-22)
  • the sun darkened, the moon darkened, and the stars falling (Rev. 6:12-14; Matt. 24:29)
  • a time of divine judgment (Rev. 6:15-17; Matt. 24:32--51).

 

I. THE FIRST SEAL (6:1, 2).

  1. As the first seal is opened, John in his vision hears "the noise of thunder," symbolic of a coming storm.
  2. John Walvoord says, "On a warm summer day one can hear thunder in the distance even though the sun is still shining where he is. The approaching dark clouds and the roar of the thunder presage the beginning of the storm" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  3. The book of Revelation is in chronological sequence, and the events given here indicate a succession of events.
  4. The six seals unfold successively in a chronological pattern. Out of the seventh seal will come the series of seven trumpets, and out of the seventh trumpet will come the seven vials of the wrath of God.
  5. John Walvoord points out that, "Different actors are prominent, namely, the Lamb opening the seal, the angels sounding the trumpets, and God Himself pouring out the vials. Actually, however, the seven seals comprehend the whole, as all the trumpets and all the vials are comprehended in the seventh seal. The seven-sealed book therefore is the comprehensive program of God culminating in the second coming of Christ."
  6. In verse 2, John sees a white horse on which a man is sitting carrying a bow. The rider, to whom a crown is given, is pictured as going forth conquering and to conquer.
  7. In Biblical times it was customary for a conqueror to ride in triumph seated on a white horse.
  8. Some commentators, especially those who follow the "historical" method of interpretation, believe this rider on the white horse in Revelation 6:2 is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Commentators who follow the "historical" method of interpretation regard the book of Revelation as history rather than prophecy.
  9. However, some who take the historical position regard these prophecies as future and interpret Revelation 6:2 as a picture of Christ as the conquering King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Rev. 19:11-16).
  10. The correct interpretation is that the rider on the white horse is actually the “prince that shall come” of Daniel 9:26, who will head up the revived Roman Empire and ultimately become the world ruler.
  11. The rider on the white horse will appear at the beginning of Daniel's seventieth week. He is not the Lord Jesus Christ, but the counterfeit of all that Christ is or claims to be.
  12. This is why he is seen in the role of a conqueror, riding on a white horse.  Our Lord said to the Jews in John 5:43, "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive."
  13. When we go out into the neighborhood to give out tracts and preach the Gospel, most people slam the door in our faces.  But when the antichrist comes riding in on his white horse, these same lost sinners will jump for joy.
  14. The antichrist is referred to in the Book of Revelation as "the beast."  Revelation 13:4 says, "they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?"
  15. The whole world is being prepared for beast worship.  And devil worship too, for that same Scripture says, "And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast..." (13:4).
  16. This rider on the white horse cannot be the Lord Jesus Christ, because His return to earth will not bring war, famine, and strife in its train.
  17. The first rider, like the three other riders, is a personification of a judgment to be sent upon the earth.
  18. By comparing Revelation 6:2 with prophecies in the book of Daniel (7:8, 20; 8:9; 11:36-43), we see that the antichrist will conquer the world by warfare.
  19. Today the stage is being set for the Battle of Armageddon, and sinners are being programmed to receive the antichrist.
  20. They are being programmed by the politicians, by the United Nations, through the public schools, through the liberal churches, and so on.
  21. Listen to this quote from P.H. Spock, who was the premier of Belgium: "The truth is that the method of international committees has failed. What we need is a person, someone of the highest order or great experience, of great authority, of wide influence, of great energy. Let him come and let him come quickly. Either a civilian or a military man, no matter what his nationality, who will cut all the red tape, shove out of the way all the committees, wake up all the people and galvanize all governments into action. Let him come quickly. This man we need and for whom we wait will take charge of the defense of the West. Once more I say, it is not too late, but it is high time."
  22. Notice Mr. Spock said his coming superman "will take charge of the defense of the West." According to the book of Daniel, the antichrist will emerge as the head of the revived Roman Empire, i.e. the united states of Europe.
  23. Let me give you a couple more quotes and then we will move on. One of the leaders of the European Common Market, a man by the name of Henry Speck, has said: "We don’t need another committee. We want a man of stature to hold the allegiance of the people and lift us up out of the economic morass we have gotten ourselves into…Send us a man, whether he be God or a devil, send him!"
  24. The historian, A.J. Toynbee said: "By forcing on mankind more and more lethal weapons and at the same time making the whole world more and more inter-dependent 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."
  25. "Unity and peace" are what the world is looking for and the antichrist will give them what they want. First Thessalonians 5:3 says, "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."

 

II. THE SECOND SEAL (6:3, 4)

  1. John observes a second horse described as red and bearing a rider to whom power is given to take peace from the earth and to cause men to kill one another.
  2. The second rider is given "a great sword." The first seal signifies a period of peace (a false peace), but when the second seal is broken, warfare breaks out and peace is taken from the world.
  3. Our Lord said the days leading up to His second coming would be characterized by "wars and rumours of wars" (Matthew 24:6).
  4. Everyday we read in the paper about turmoil in Israel, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Libya, and other places all over the world.
  5. This constant tension among nations and the ambitions of dangerous men will culminate in the Battle of Armageddon.
  6. The other day, President Obama announced that he’ll deploy 2,500 Marines in Australia. Our Asian allies were happy, but China and Indonesia responded with negative comments.
  7. China has been a menace to our allies in Asia.  Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world.
  8. The president said that America intends to “project power and deter threats to peace” in the region.
  9. Consider how rapidly things will change after the rapture.
  10. The hope of permanent peace by the United Nations and other human organizations is doomed to failure.

 

III. THE THIRD SEAL (6:5, 6)

  1. In verses 5 and 6, the aftermath of war is seen and a great famine is revealed.
  2. John sees a black horse and one sitting on the horse with a pair of balances (scales) in his hand, indicating a careful rationing of food.
  3. A voice is heard from the midst of the four living creatures saying, “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.”
  4. There will be a worldwide famine during the tribulation, and this will include the U.S.A.
  5. A penny (literally a "denarius") was a day’s wages at the time John wrote the book of revelation.
  6. Our Lord said in Matthew 20:2, "And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny (a denarius) a day, he sent them into his vineyard."
  7. Revelation 6:6 is saying that it will cost a day’s wages for a measure of wheat. In other words, a man will have to work all day for a loaf of bread or for a bowl of barley soup. One can only imagine how difficult it will be to put gas in your car or pay rent or purchase the basic necessities of life.
  8. The end of Revelation 6:6 says, "and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine." Working class people will not be able to make ends meet. The hard-working family man will find it extremely difficult to provide for his wife and children. But the rich will still have their luxury items and their wine.
  9. This indicates that the very rich will not be affected right away during the beginning of the tribulation period, but eventually they will be driven to desperation and madness (cf. 6:12-17).

 

IV. THE FOURTH SEAL (6:7, 8)

  1. The pale horse is yellowish-green, a sickly color of death. The pale horse is a dramatic picture of divine judgment upon the world.
  2. Death is the rider and Hell is following. Death is for the body of the unsaved, and hell is where their spirit goes.
  3. Both body and soul will be reunited to be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15).
  4. According to the Bible, one-fourth of the world’s population will be wiped out by warfare, murder, hunger, famine, pestilence, plagues, loathsome diseases like AIDS, and so on (6:8).
  5. Wild beasts will roam around unrestrained at this time and will attack and kill anyone who gets in their way (6:8b).
  6. This will probably include vermin such as rats since they will be widespread with all of the poverty, famine, diseases, pestilence, and so forth.
  7. Our Lord said that this is only "the beginning of sorrows" (Matt. 24:8). It will get so bad that Revelation 9:6 says men shall "seek death, and shall not find it."
  8. John Walvoord said, "If one-fourth of the world population is destroyed in the fourth seal, it would represent the greatest destruction of human life ever recorded in history. The population of the human race in Noah’s day undoubtedly was far less than the figure here cited as dying" (The Revelation).
  9. If this prophecy were to be fulfilled next year, 1,750,000 people would die (one quarter of seven billion people).
  10. These prophecies are terrible and awful beyond any words, yet worldly people scoff at them or ignore them.
  11. It will be a period without precedent in its character and extent. Far worse than WWI and WWII and all of the other wars combined.

 

CONCLUSION:

Again, I will quote John Walvoord, "From this introduction to the judgments portrayed in the book of Revelation, it should be evident that the world is facing a time of trouble such as man has never known before. The dream of the optimist for a world becoming increasingly better scientifically, intellectually, morally, and religiously does not fit the pattern of God’s prophetic Word. The ultimate triumph of God is assured; and as the book of Revelation makes plain, Christ will reign over the earth and bring in a kingdom of peace and righteousness after the time of trouble has run its course. First, however, there must be the awful time of the great tribulation (The Revelation).



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