The Sixth Seal

THE SIXTH SEAL: THE GREAT EARTHQUAKE (6:12-17). This is the first of five earthquakes in the book of Revelation:

1. Breaking of the seventh seal, 6:12
2. Before the first trumpet, 8:5
3. Marks the middle of the Tribulation, 11:13
4. Opening of Heaven, 11:19
5. Marks the Second Coming of Christ, 16:13

Historicists view these signs as the fall of paganism to Christianity in the time of Constantine. The sun, moon and stars represent earthly dignitaries, political authorities, and “great lights” in the political or religious “heavens.” The great earthquake is the shaking of the foundation of the Jewish church and state that affect all mankind (every mountain and island).

Preterists tie these disasters to the day of the LORD predicted by Malachi, John the Baptist, Paul and Peter.

Idealists see the catastrophes as representing the judgment of God upon Rome for its oppressing of Christians in John’s day. Most see the Second Coming of Christ pictured here.

Futurists hold different views. Some hold to a strictly literal interpretation of the Phenomena mentioned; others see both symbolic and literal; and others entirely symbolic.

Similar language is used in the prophecies of the Day of the LORD in Isaiah 13:10 and of the end times or the overthrow of Pharaoh in Ezekiel 32:7-8. Likewise, Jesus uses this kind of language to describe His Second Coming in Matthew 24:29.

The reaction and actions of the inhabitants of the earth indicate that this seal does not belong to the return of Christ, but the coming of His wrath. With the opening of this seal, the world will be aware they are in the Tribulation—the time of the Lamb and God’s wrath.

Some passages point to a literal interpretation (cf. Isaiah 2:10, 19, 21; 13:10; 24:4; Jeremiah 4:29; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:31; 3:15). It is difficult, however, to take these things literally, since the preceding seals use symbolic language to describe literal events of the future. For instance, no one would suggest that Death actually rides a literal horse. The sun, moon and stars are figurative of people and rule in Joseph’s dream.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” (Genesis 37:9-10).

Some contend that a nuclear exchange is pictured here triggering the great earthquake. Others envisage meteors striking the earth and causing these catastrophes.

God’s wrath is evidence of His holy love for all that is right and His holy hatred for all that is evil. Revelation reveals that the peoples of the earth during the Tribulation will face:

1. The Wrath of God and the Lamb (6:16-17 11:18; 14:10; 16:19; 19:15)
2. The Wrath of Satan (12:17)
3. The Wrath of the Nations (11:18)

PRE-WRATH RAPTURE VIEW. Until the sixth seal, the Antichrist is the instrument of the Lamb and Satan’s wrath. Those who espouse the Pre-wrath Rapture view place the catching up of the Church here. To do so, they have divorced divine wrath from the first five seals. Consequently, they hold that the Day of the LORD begins with the sixth seal, which they place in the middle of the latter three and one half-years of the Tribulation Period. Hence, the Church participates in most of the distress of this time.

Pre-Wrath View of Daniel’s Seventy Seven

prewrath rapture

1. The Rapture of the Church will occur immediately prior to the beginning of the Day of the Lord.
2. The Day of the Lord commences sometime within the second half of the seventieth seven.
3. The cosmic disturbances associated with the sixth seal will signal the approach of the Day of the Lord.
4. The Day of the Lord will begin with the opening of the seventh seal.

The sixth seal is a prelude that unleashes the seventh seal events covering the balance of the Tribulation Period. However, before the seventh seal is opened, John writes a parenthesis.

The Fifth Seal

THE FIFTH SEAL: THE SOULS UNDER THE ALTAR (6:9-11). Here it is apparent that for believers, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. The white robes indicate they have received resurrected bodies.

Historicists see those killed during the persecution of the Church under Diocletian, and a few hold to under Maximian (A.D. 270 to 304).

Preterists see the Jews killed in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It should be noted that those Jews had rejected Christ; they will not be in heaven pleading for vengeance. The Christians had fled Jerusalem before it was destroyed.

Idealists believe this seal concerns the suffering Church during this present age, picturing the sacrificial character of their death.

Futurists believe the souls under the altar are persons martyred for their faith; they are the great multitude who have come out of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:9-10, 13-14).

CRY FOR VENGEANCE. Their cry is like the imprecatory prayers of the Psalms: “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Their cry sublimely aligns with Deuteronomy 32:35 quoted by Paul:

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19).

There can be no response to their cry until the number of the martyred is complete. The number of the elect is definitely fixed: perhaps to fill up that of the fallen angels. However, this is mere conjecture. The question is not whether but when their enemies will be judged.

WAIT A LITTLE LONGER or “yet a little time” adds up to at least eighteen to twenty centuries if the martyrs are from the early centuries as historicists, Preterists and Idealists claim. It seems seven or three and one-half years better fits the period.

The Fourth Seal

THE FOURTH SEAL: THE PALE HORSE AND ITS RIDER (6:7-8). Death here no doubt refers to a great pestilence following the wars and famines of the first three seals (cf. Matthew 24:6-7; Ezekiel 14:21).

Historicists assign this seal to a period of twenty years (A.D. 248-268) during the reigns of Decius, Gallus, Aemillianus, Valerian, and Gallienus. Others stretched it out to A.D 296, but historically this does not correspond with the devastation of this seal.

Preterists remain focused on the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. They translate thv ghv as “the Land” instead of “the earth.”

The same dreadful judgments are found in the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments—sword and famine and wild beasts and plague—to kill its men and their animals! Yet there will be some survivors—sons and daughters who will be brought out of it. They will come to you, and when you see their conduct and their actions, you will be consoled regarding the disaster I have brought upon Jerusalem—every disaster I have brought upon it (Ezekiel 14:21-22).

Certainly, the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. prefigures A.D. 70, which prefigures the distress of the end times.

Idealists see this seal as a series of judgments that repeats itself in history, where a quarter of the human race will be wiped out by disasters.

Futurists apply this seal to the entire period of the Tribulation or to the final three and a half years.

PALE is the translation of the Greek word (clwrov), where we get our word “chlorophyll.” An ashenyellowish-green characterizes the decomposition of a corpse. God granted this horseman the authority to bring death to twenty-five percent of the world’s population. One-fourth equals more than all the people of North America, Central America and South America.

HADES (SHEOL) is the abode of the unsaved dead, a fitting comrade of Death. Death deals with the living and Hades with those killed. Since Christ holds the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1:18; 20:13-14), He gives them power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

THE WILD BEASTS OF THE EARTH might be taken literally from what is said following the first Battle of Gog and Magog of the end times.

Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Call out to every kind of bird and all the wild animals: ‘Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you, the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel. There you will eat flesh and drink blood (Ezekiel 39:17).

On the other hand, in apocalyptic genre “beasts” symbolizes empires, nations or governments of the earth (Daniel 7). “Wild” indicates that the nations will be ferocious, fierce, barbarous, cruel, inhumane, and savage during the end times. The wild beasts provide the arena for the next seal.

The first four seals deal with the earth, the last three concentrate upon heaven. They are the beginning of birth pains (Matthew 24:8). The first four seals is a sifting of the wheat and chaff, resulting in the fifth seal—martyrs (Luke 21:12-19).

The Third Seal

THE THIRD SEAL: THE BLACK HORSE AND ITS RIDER (6:5-6). Some believe this rider cannot be a person since its name is “Death.” However, Jesus has many similar names; He is “the Life.”

Historicists see the fiscal oppression imposed by some of the emperors of the third century in this horse and rider. Taxes could be paid either in money or in produce— particularly in grain, oil, and wine. Others place the economic deprivation of Diocletian, who greedily raised real estate taxes to an unprecedented level.

Preterists find this seal to be the food shortage of besieged Jerusalem in A.D. 70, citing passages like Leviticus 26:26; Deuteronomy 28:53; Luke 21:20-23; 23:28-29.

Idealists see famine arising from the war waged by the previous rider on the fiery red horse, or simply a God-ordained drought (Deuteronomy 28:23-24).

Futurists also see famine because of the opening of the previous seal, which causes an economic upheaval with inflation, recession, panic—the justification that the Antichrist will use to impose rigid controls over buying and selling (Revelation 13).

SYMBOLISM. Denarius was the average laborer’s daily wage. The oil and wine constitute luxuries, whereas grain is a staple of survival. The olive and grape need no cultivation; hence, their ruthless destruction is forbidden. Black indicates death, diseases, malnutrition from famine; it is the color of suffering. Famine always follows war. Pair of scales was the common measuring device, having two small trays hung from each end of a balance beam. It points to the shortage of food and barley, usually fed to animals, and cheaper than wheat. A day’s wages bought eight to twelve quarts before this seal. One quart will feed one person.

The Second Seal

THE SECOND SEAL: THE FIERY RED HORSE AND ITS RIDER (6:3-4). This rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword. The conquest that began peacefully turns to bloodshed.

Historicists relate this seal to the period from the accession of Commodus (A.D. 180) to the accession of Diocletian (A.D. 284). This was a period of civil wars and bloodshed in the Roman Empire. Others believe it refers to Judea being deprived of all tranquility.

Preterists believe the second horseman represents the loss of peace from the land of Israel with the Jewish Wars (A.D. 66). Zechariah predicted this as a consequence of the Jew’s rejection of the Messiah (Zechariah 11:10-14).

Idealists see the fiery red horse representing war in general. Some understand the red horse to be the persecution of the Church based on Jesus words:

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34).

Futurists say the color of the horse suggests bloodshed, and speaks of a time of war that comes upon the earth as the Tribulation progresses. Though wars and rumors of wars are characteristic of this present age, it is apparent a series of wars precede the coming of Christ. Some identify the rider on the red horse as Russia, with Arab allies in the Middle East, attacking Israel (Ezekiel 38; Daniel 11). Others associate the large sword with nuclear weapons. It seems more likely a large sword indicates the authority to kill.

THE RIDER of all four horses might be the Antichrist in different phases of his conquest. He will break a covenant of peace in the Middle of the Tribulation. It is possible that the four horses and riders only convey world conditions during the Tribulation.

When diplomacy fails to achieve the Antichrist’s goal of being worshiped as God, peace will be taken from the earth. He will attempt to force Jews, Muslims, Tribulation saints, and atheists to bow down to his image and embrace the Babylonian mystery religion of the last days. It will be a repeat performance (to a far greater extent) of the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar when three Jews refused to bow to the image erected by King Nebuchadnezzar on the plain of Shinar (Daniel 3). It is evident from the opening of the next two seals that the “fiery furnace” will be worldwide.

FIERY RED. The first occurrence of red in Scripture divulges that Esau came out red at birth and the last mention of his name characterizes him as godless (Genesis 25:25; Hebrews 12:16) The last usage of red in the Bible is associated with an enormous red dragon, the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray (Revelation 12:3. 9). Red symbolizes what is godless as well as blood, terror and slaughter. Fiery to red pictures inflamed fierceness.

The Willful King

The Willful King is none other than:

The Serpent’s Seed of Genesis 3:15
The Wicked Man of Psalm 10
The Assyrian of Isaiah 10:5, 12
The King of Babylon of Isaiah 14:4-20
The Oppressor and the Aggressor of Isaiah 16:4
The Little Horn of Daniel 7:8
The Profane King of Daniel 7:25-27
The Stern-faced King of Daniel 8:23-25
The Coming Prince of Daniel 9:26-27
The Worthless Shepherd of Zechariah 11:11-16
The One who comes in His Own Name of John 5:43
The Man of Lawlessness of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 8
The Antichrist of 1 John 2:18
The Beast of Revelation 13:18; 17:12-17; 19:19-21

First, as to the Willful King’s personality and genius:

He is a great orator and demagogue, Daniel 7:8.
He is a speaker with regal authority, Revelation 13:2.
He is a philosopher of distinction, who traffics in deception, Daniel 8:23.
He is a clever and persistent politician, Daniel 8:25.
He is a deceiver who will use the false religious system to gain power, Revelation 13:1-18.
He is a military genius, Daniel 7:8, 24; Revelation 6:1-2.
He is a man different from other men, Daniel 7:7, 19, 23; Revelation 13:4.
He is a highly intelligent man, Daniel 7:8.
He is a perfection of unholiness (“666”), Revelation 13:18.
He is a man who will look more imposing than other rulers, Daniel 7:20; Revelation 13:3-4; 17:8.
He is a last wonder of the world, Revelation 13:3-4.

Second, as to the moral character of the Willful King:

He is the personification of selfish ambition, Daniel 11:36-37.
He is an absolute dictator, Daniel 11:36.
He is a blasphemer extraordinaire, Daniel 11:36; Revelation 13:1, 5-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:4.
He is the greatest antinomian (rejecting moral law), Daniel 11:36; 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8.
He is a rejecter of religion, Daniel 11:37.
He is an egotist, who exalts and magnifies himself above every god, Daniel 11:38.
He is a materialist, Daniel 11:38.
He is a worshiper and financier of military power, Daniel 11:38.
He is a rewarder of those who acknowledge him, Daniel 11:38.

Third, as to the origin of the Willful King:

His economic origin is displayed in making prosperous the Revived Romans Empire, Revelation 17:1-5; 18:3.
His political origin is from the Revived Roman Empire, Daniel 2, 7-8.
His national origin is Roman, Daniel 9:26.
His racial origin is Jewish according to some, Daniel 11:37; John 5:43.
His spiritual origin is of Satan, Genesis 3:15; Revelation 13:2; 16:3.
His providential origin is of God, Daniel 8:2, 8; Revelation 6:1-8.

Fourth, as to the steps in the rise to power of the Willful King:

He will be the product of iniquity, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7-8.
He will have an inconspicuous beginning, Daniel 7:8; Revelation 6:1-2.
He will confirm a covenant with many, Daniel 9:27.
He will strengthen the Ten-Nation Confederacy, Revelation 7:8, 20, 24.
He will be the world power by the middle of the confirmed covenant, Revelation 17:12-13.
He will destroy the false religious system that helped him rise to power, Revelation 17:3, 16-17.
He will slay the Two Witnesses of God, Revelation 11:3-13.
He will persecute Israel and the Tribulation saints, Revelation 7:9, 14; 12:13-17.

Fifth, as to the Willful King’s rise to power, he will be aided by:

Chaotic world conditions, “Beginning of Birth Pains,” Mark 13:5-13
False religion, Revelation 17:1-5
Satanic deception, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; Revelation 13:2
Divine permission and help, Psalm 75:6-7; Revelation 6:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2:11
Economic and military sanctions, Revelation 13:15-17
Men who worship him and blaspheme God, Revelation 13:8; 16:10-11
Military might, Revelation 13:4

Sixth, as to the end of the Willful King:

His campaign against the Lamb of God ends with the Battle of Armageddon, Revelation 16:12-16; 17:4; 19:17-19.
His capture takes place along with that of the False Prophet, Revelation 19:20.
His spirit is cast into the depths of Sheol and his body will have no grave, Isaiah 14:9-10.
His body is cast alive into the Lake of Fire, Revelation 19:20.
His continuous and conscious torment will go on forever, Revelation 20:10.

The Antichrist comes on a white horse, imitating Christ and claiming to be Him (Revelation 6:2; Matthew 24:4-5; John 5:43; Daniel 9:27; 11:37).

The Lamb Opens Six Seals

THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE DAY OF THE LORD (6:1). I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” The opening of the first seal begins the Day of the LORD. The first occurrence of this eschatological phrase paints a vivid picture of what it will be like.

Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man’s heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame. See, the day of the LORD is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.

The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. I will make man scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of his burning anger (Isaiah 13:6-13).

Each of the four living creatures is associated with the Lamb’s opening of the first four seals of the Title Deed to the Earth. The living creatures’ voice like thunder indicates that judgment has begun. The gentle Lamb turns fierce with His wrath.

The Lamb opens the seven seals one at a time, revealing the contents of each seal (Revelation 6:1-17; 8:1). Now Christ unseals the history of the last days that He had closed and sealed earlier:

He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand (Daniel 12:9-10).

THE FIRST SEAL: THE WHITE HORSE AND ITS RIDER (6:2).

Historicists place the white horse and its rider in the period of Roman imperialism (the Golden Age or Indian Summer) from the death of Domitian (A.D. 96) to the peace made by Commondus with Germans in A.D. 180.

Some Preterists believe that nothing happens until all seven seals are opened. The most chapters six and seven do is introduce the reader to the main characters, forces and circumstances. Others believe breaking the first seal starts the progression of events leading to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Idealists believe the four horses do not “come” at all, but are simply revealed to view. The imagery of the first seal represents the preaching of the gospel and its success. The victorious Christ is riding out to conquer.

A few futurists see Christ as its rider; others suggest the rider is a personification of government in the last days of the Gentiles. The vast majority believe its rider is the Antichrist riding forth to conquer the world.

Often the triumphant conqueror rode a white horse in the ancient world. Alexander the Great and Napoleon rode white horses. Consequently, one should not identify this rider as Christ simply because He will return from heaven on a white horse:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war (Revelation 19:11).

The only similarity between these two riders is the white horse. Everything in this chapter points to the unfolding of disasters. The tribulation comes in like a lamb but goes out like a lion—the calm before the storm.

Here the crown (stephaons) indicates conquest, not the legitimate sovereignty of a diadema crown. The rider on the white horse is a great deceptive leader, subduing the world by peaceful means, symbolized by the bow without arrows. Christ is always symbolized as having a sword, not a bow (Revelation 1:16; 19:15, 21).

At first, the Antichrist will be the insignificant eleventh king who rises to power during the time of the Revived Roman Empire.

While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully (Daniel 7:8).

“Eyes like of a man” suggest this king is an intellectual genius with penetrating insight and discernment. “A mouth that spoke boastfully” suggests persuasive oratory skills, while at the same time blasphemes God. This little horn is the Man of Lawlessness (the Beast, the Antichrist) of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4:

Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

While the Antichrist conquers by the power of the dragon, who is Satan (Revelation 13:2 and 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10), he does nothing that is not within the will and plans of God, who overrules evil for good. Just as Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar were instruments in God’s hands, so will it be when the Antichrist appears. He will rise from the ranks, like a Napoleon or Hitler, until he wears the crown.

Scripture makes it clear that Satan is the one who gives Antichrist a crown (Daniel 8:24; 11:38-39; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12; Revelation 13:2, 4). The Antichrist is the only person predicted in Scripture as going forth “conquering and to conquer” at this particular time, beginning Daniel’s Seventh Seven (Daniel 7:7-8, 20-21, 23-24; 8:23-25; 9:27; 11:36-45). If this is not the predicted Antichrist, where is this person in Revelation?

The rider on the white horse is the Willful King of Daniel 11:36-39:

The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his fathers he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price.

Communications and economics are propelling the peoples of the earth toward a one-world government. Interdependence among nations, especially the European Union, is growing rapidly.

This rider is “the ruler who will come” of Daniel 9:26, who is to head up the Revived Roman Empire (Beast out of the Sea of Revelation 13) and ultimately becomes the world ruler. Once his rise to power begins, there will be no stopping this Rider on the White Horse once his rise to power begins. Much can be gleaned from the Scriptures concerning the Willful King, who is popularly called the Antichrist.