JESUS CHRIST BREAKS THE FIRST FOUR SEALS OF THE SCROLL — UNLEASHING THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF COUNTERFEIT CONQUEST, WAR, FAMINE AND DEATH AS THE BEGINNING OF BIRTH PANGS IN THE END TIMES
Marvin Rosenthal: [The argument of the pretribulationists is] that the second, third and fourth seals of Revelation 6 indicate war, famine, and pestilence. War, it is suggested, is a method of God’s judgment (Lev. 26:21-28; Ezek. 14:21); famine is a method of God’s judgment (Deut. 11:17; Ezek. 14:21); famine is a method of God’s judgment (Deut. 11:17; Ezek. 4:16-17); and pestilence is a method of God’s judgment (Num. 11:33; 16:46). And these seals are opened in the first part of the seventieth week of Daniel. Since the Scriptures indicate that these instruments of death are expressions of God’s wrath (and the Day of the Lord is a time of God’s wrath), the Day of the Lord must, therefore, start at the beginning of the seventieth week.
[This would refute the Pre-Wrath Rapture position.]
This is a classic illustration of erecting a straw man and then knocking it down. There is no question that God has sometimes used war, famine, and pestilence as means of judgment. That is a given – but it begs the question. The issue is not whether God has used war, famine, and pestilence as a means of judgment, but whether the war, famine, and pestilence of the seals (Rev. 6) originate with God or man. Men also start wars; men also cause famine; and men also generate pestilence. What is conspicuous by its absence on the part of those who advance the view that the seals are God’s judgment, is any convincing explanation of the first and fifth seals. The first seal depicts a white horse and rider (Rev. 6:1-2). Dispensational pretribulationists have consistently and almost universally interpreted the emergence of this horse and rider to represent the Antichrist who will at first conquer by deception (Matt. 24:5; Rev. 6:2). If the second, third, and fourth seals are attributed to God, so also must the first one be. If the seals are God’s wrath, then God alone must take direct responsibility for a counterfeit religious system and the emergence of the Antichrist, for that is precisely what the first seal depicts.
To attribute the emergence of the Antichrist to God is obviously preposterous. It is to have a divided house – to have God opposing Himself – and a house divided cannot stand. The emergence of the Antichrist will signal movement toward the ultimate rebellion against God: the deification of man by men at the Tribulation temple on Mount Moriah at Jerusalem. To attempt to achieve his satanic ambition, the Antichrist will plunge the world into war (the second seal, the red horse and rider); the resultant devastation of war will cause famine (the third seal, the black horse and rider); and the predictable unsanitary conditions which, like a waiting scavenger, always follow war and famine will result in pestilence (the fourth seal, the pale horse and rider). That has been the historic pretribulational, premillennial interpretation of the first four seals. To suggest that the first four seals are God’s wrath is totally unfounded. It strains reason to think that once God begins His Day of the Lord wrath, the Antichrist is able to assume control of the world.
But what of the fifth seal? It cannot be omitted from this discussion. When the fifth seal is opened, it depicts the martyrdom of a believing remnant who have not bowed to the Antichrist. . . If the seals are God’s wrath, then He is responsible for the martyrdom of His own faithful children, those who refuse to give their allegiance to the Antichrist and thereby forfeit their lives. . .
Even Walvoord, commenting on the seals, has written, “The judgments of war, famine, and death, and the martyrdom of the saints ([the fifth seal] have largely originated in human decisions and in the evil heart of men.” Leon Morris has written, “The first four seals form a unity. They show us the self-defeating character of sin. When the spirit of self-aggrandizement and conquest is abroad all God need do is let events take their course and sinners will inevitably be punished.”
The significance of the Lord Jesus Christ opening the seals is, among other things, the assurance of eternal security [cf. the purpose of a seal to indicate ownership and protection] for those believers who may be martyred for Christ’s sake. The Antichrist, under the permissive hand of the sovereign Lord, can touch their bodies – but not their eternal souls. The seals are not God’s wrath; they are God’s promise of eternal protection during man’s wrath, a wrath precipitated by the Antichrist who is empowered by Satan (Rev. 13:4). Here is the ultimate manifestation of the principle, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee” (Ps. 76:10). That the Lord is in sovereign control during the opening of the seals is underscored in the strongest possible way. The impact of the first four seals is restricted by Him to one-fourth of the earth (Rev. 6:8). . .
Permit one further word at this time concerning attempts to start the Day of the Lord at the beginning of the seventieth week. Even a cursory examination of the Day of the Lord texts indicates it is a period of unprecedented, awesome judgment from the hand of God. The arm of omnipotence is depicted unleashing righteous wrath upon an unrepentant and unrighteous world. This planet and its inhabitants will reel under its impact. The proposition that after the Day of the Lord judgment begins, the Antichrist will emerge, expand his power, erect an image of himself in Israel, ask men to bow to his authority, kill multitudes who refuse, and eventually become a world ruler (Rev. 13:1-8) – all of this over a period of time extending more than three and one-half years into the Day of the Lord judgment – cannot be seriously entertained in the light of biblical characteristics of the Day of the Lord. Isaiah 2 says the Lord alone will be exalted in that day and all the proud brought low.
Not only does starting the Day of the Lord at the beginning of the Tribulation have its own insurmountable exegetical problems, it compounds its error by standing in opposition to the clear teaching that the Day of the Lord starts with the opening of the seventh seal. . . The clear and repeated teaching of the Word of God is that there must be a cosmic disturbance of considerable magnitude before the Day of the Lord begins.
Van Parunak: The judgments in chapter 6 are not the contents of the scroll. It cannot be opened until all seven seals are opened. . .
John’s vision is particularly close to the version of the Discourse in Matthew 24 [see Notes below]. There, our Lord describes these events as “the beginning of sorrows” (24:8) and says explicitly, “the end is not yet” (24:6). Indeed, these events have characterized the entire era since the first century. [Ed: I disagree; These events start with the beginning of Daniel’s seventieth week with the emergence of the Antichrist and his directed campaign to elevate himself.]
More likely, the sealed scroll recalls the last chapter of Daniel. Daniel’s visions include many things that extend to the end of the world. At the end of his book, he records a conversation with an angel in which the full meaning of these visions is said to be “shut up and sealed”:
Dan 12:4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: … 9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.
The scroll claimed by the Lamb in Revelation 5 appears to contain this sealed information, which pertains to the very end of time. We are reminded again of God’s sovereign control: he has a plan (a book already written), though we do not have access to it (it is sealed). . .
Several distinct features mark off the first four seals from the last three.
Speaker: Each of the first four seals is introduced by one of the living creatures from ch. 4-5. At 6:9, the speaker changes to the martyrs, marking off the first four as a set.
Invitation: Each seal begins with the angelic invitation, “Come and see”. Only one other place in the book do we hear the invitation, “Come,” in 22:17, with a better prospect,
Rev. 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
Without this final invitation, these first four would be depressing. But God’s judgments, as necessary as they are to vindicate his holiness, are not the last word. The final invitation, open to any who wish to receive it, is not to judgment but to life.
Pattern of Zechariah 6: The image of the four horses reflects the four chariots whom the Lord sends forth in Zech 6:1-8, drawn by horses of the same colors as here, to patrol the earth.
Here is a paradox. The four horsemen in Revelation 6 clearly reflect wickedness and bring widespread human disaster, yet the background in Zechariah suggests that they are sent forth by the Lord, from his presence (Zech 6:5). We should remember that evil spirits as well as holy angels are subject to the God of heaven, as the story in 1 Kings 22 shows.
Throughout the judgments and disasters of the Revelation, we must hold fast to this insight: the Lord is in control, and bends evil as well as good to his purposes.
The Four Judgments: The judgments of the four horsemen reflect another OT image, summarized in v. 8, and in Ezekiel 14.
Rev 6:8b And power was given unto them him over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Eze 14:21 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 [LXX death], to cut off from it man and beast?
Ezekiel’s judgments in turn are a synopsis of the categories of blessing for obedience and punishment for apostasy in Leviticus 26 (chart below). These are a repeated theme throughout the OT, and they will be helpful to us in understanding the judgments throughout the Revelation. In addition to the summary in 6:8, some of them are reflected in specific seals.
The consistency of this theme puts a positive spin on the first four seals. These are not the capricious acts of a heartless God toying with his helpless creatures, but responses to the persistent disobedience of the human race, vindicating his holiness and his justice. As we will see in the sixth seal, they are a final call to sinners to repent:
Isa 26:9 … when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.
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[Ed: It must be noted that it is possible for these OT prophecies to use similar language to describe events that are not the same. In any event, it must be admitted that these events described by the seals in Rev. 6 are initiated by the Antichrist, reflecting the perversity of man and are not a part of the pouring out of the wrath of God in the final Day of the Lord. Yet in another sense they do serve as judgments allowed by the permissive will of the sovereign Lord as Van Parunak explains.]
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Grant Osborne: The first four seals center on the depravity of mankind. As the commentary will show, the progression of the four seals is from lust to conquest (the first seal) to civil war (the second seal) to famine (the third seal) to pestilence and death (the fourth seal). This is the natural progression of man’s inhumanity to man. In other words, God simply allows human sin to come full circle, turn in upon itself, and self-destruct. . . In this sense God is not so much pouring down judgment on the earth-dwellers as allowing their depravity to come full circle (so O’Donovan 1986: 71–73). This is a common theme in this book, as sin turns upon itself and self-destructs.
Robert Thomas: The happenings enumerated follow the pattern of Jesus’ Olivet discourse (cf. Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21), sometimes called the “Little Apocalypse,” which He delivered on the Tuesday before His crucifixion. The similarities are so close that some venture to call that discourse the main source of the seal judgments (Charles; Beasley-Murray). Throughout apocalyptic literature, the sword, famine, pestilence, and earthquake recounted here as well as in the Olivet discourse, related to the last days (Beckwith). In Jewish and Babylonian literature, also, such an expectation of civil strife as these seals include was one of the precursors of the personal return of the Deliverer (Charles). In His teaching Jesus divided the time into two periods, the beginning of birth pangs (Matt. 24:8) and the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21). The former part closely parallels the first four seals in particular. So an important key in fixing the time period of the seals in this message was given by Christ some sixty-five years earlier when He taught about the future time of trial on earth.
Kendell Easley: The breaking of the first four seals forms a group. If the number four in Revelation often represents the world, then it is right to see these as worldwide, history-wide scourges. The four horsemen have thundered down through history and all around the globe. They will continue to wield authority only as long as Christ, who holds the key, permits.
James Hamilton: In Matthew 24:8 Jesus said these judgments are “the beginning of the birth pains.” Birth pains are awful. But just when they are at their worst, the baby comes. That these judgments are birth pains means that they are more than angry retribution. They are part of a necessary process that will bring forth new life.
Before Jesus can take his people to the new and better Eden, the new heavens and the new earth, he has to bring judgment for all the despising of God’s glory and the defiling of his holiness. God is just, and Jesus has taken hold of the scroll. As he opens its seals, Jesus sets in motion the outworking of God’s justice.
I. (:1-2) BREAKING OF THE FIRST SEAL – WHITE HORSE – COUNTERFEIT CONQUEST — EMERGENCE OF THE ANTICHRIST ATTEMPTING TO CONQUER
A. (:1) Introduction to the First Seal
- Breaking of the First Seal
“And I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals,”
Sola Scriptura: “Then I saw” – is a very important linking phrase used thirty-three times throughout the book of Revelation. It can introduce a new vision or a major segment of a continuing vision. Here it is obviously introducing a new segment in a continuing vision. The Lamb receives the scroll in chapter five and breaks the first seal in chapter six. There is no indication of a time lapse between these two chapters.
Daniel Akin: The Lamb, King Jesus, opens the seals (6:1). All that unfolds is under His command. . . The command to the first rider is simple and direct: “Come!” Warren Wiersbe notes, “Events will now take place because of God’s sovereign direction in heaven” (Be Victorious, 62). The riders come because God sends them.
“and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, ‘Come.’”
John Walvoord: The noise of thunder captures John’s attention, and he witnesses the scene unfolding before him. John says he looked, and then he adds the word “behold” to indicate the startling character of the vision: a white horse on which a man is sitting. He is carrying a bow, has been given a crown, and his purpose is to conquer. . .
A more plausible explanation [than Christ] is that the rider of the white horse is none other than the “prince who is to come” of Daniel 9:26, who is to head up the revived Roman Empire and ultimately become the world ruler. He is Satan’s masterpiece and the counterfeit of all that Christ is or claims to be. He is therefore cast in the role of a conqueror, which seems to be the significance of the white horse. In biblical times, it was customary for a conqueror to ride in triumph on a white horse.
B. (:2) Unleashing of the Antichrist
- White Horse
“And I looked, and behold, a white horse,”
Buist Fanning: The color white may be taken from Zechariah 1:8 and 6:3 without special significance, or it can represent a satanic parody of the true king or his more general attempt to deceive Christians, just as the beast later “conquers” both the two witnesses (11:7) and the saints (13:7). A more likely possibility than these is the association of white horses with victory celebrations or military dominance: the warrior rides on a white horse in recognition of his overpowering conquest (cf. Herodotus, Hist. 9.63; Dio Cassius, Rom. Hist. 43.14.3).
Charles Swindoll: The rider on the white horse (6:1-2) most likely represents bloodless conquest —false peace and security. Notice that he carried a bow without arrows. The type of crown on his head is the stephanos  —not a crown of regal authority but a victor’s crown. The Tribulation period [Ed: 70th week of Daniel is better nomenclature] will begin with a deceptive peace accompanied by a counterfeit spirituality and false religion. Paul describes this same general condition in 1 Thessalonians 5:3: “While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” The coming of false religion is seen also in Christ’s own description of the end times in Matthew 24:4-5.
William Barclay: Without any doubt, the white horse and its rider stand for conquest in war. When a Roman general celebrated a triumph, that is, when he paraded through the streets of Rome with his armies and his captives and his booty after some great victory, his chariot was drawn by white horses, the symbol of victory.
Daniel Akin: The better view is that this is the spirit of deception and conquest that will be embodied in the counterfeit Christ, the antichrist (2 Thess 2:3-4), the beast of 13:1-10. This deceptive, conquering rider keeps company with war, famine, and death—the next three riders. This rider fulfills the warning of Jesus in Matthew 24:4-5 where He tells us to be on guard against deception and false christs. Beale provides helpful commentary: The first rider represents a satanic force attempting to defeat and oppress believers spiritually through deception, persecution, or both (so 11:7; 13:7). The image of the rider may include reference to
(1) the antichrist,
(2) governments that persecute Christians, or
(3) the devil’s servants in general. An allusion to forces symbolized by the beasts later in the book could be uppermost in mind.
- Counterfeit Power
“and he who sat on it had a bow;”
Sola Scriptura: The bow is used figuratively in Scripture as a symbol of war.
Warren Wiersbe: We would expect the Antichrist to resemble the Christ, because the Antichrist is Satan’s great imitation! Even the Jews (who ought to know the Scriptures) will be deceived by him (John 5:43; 2 Thess. 2:1–12). This great deceiver will come as a peaceful leader, holding a bow but no arrows! (Our Lord’s weapon is a sword; Rev. 19:15.) The Antichrist will solve the world’s problems and be received as the Great Liberator.
Richard Phillips: It is probably best, however, to see the first rider as neither Christ nor the Antichrist, but as the calamitous woe of military conquest. The bow was a weapon of violent warfare and was the preferred weapon of Rome’s chief menace, the Parthians. Philip Hughes summarizes: “The bow . . . is a symbol of violence, the crown he is given signifies despotic rule, and the white colour of his horse betokens conquest, while his going forth conquering and to conquer expresses his lust for power and world domination.”
Understood this way, the first seal unleashed warlords into history—warlords who are granted authority to achieve conquest on the earth. The Roman emperors claimed a Pax Romana in which peace had been secured by the Roman sword. Yet the Parthians who defeated their legions in A.D. 62 showed the frailty of this claim. Throughout history Christ has sovereignly unleashed men such as Attila, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and Hitler to overthrow human claims to peace on earth while mankind was all the while at war with God. Vern Poythress writes: “Roman peace promised prosperity, but the reality was different. Conquest, bloodshed, famine, and death have stalked the human race throughout the church age.”
- Counterfeit Reign
“and a crown was given to him;”
- Goal of the Antichrist Is Worldwide Domination
“and he went out conquering, and to conquer.”
Van Parunak: On this basis, some understand this horseman to represent Christ, or the spread of his gospel throughout the world. But comparing the first five seals with Matthew 24 suggests that the reference is rather to the false Christs against whom the Lord warned. The superficial similarity reflects the counterfeit nature of the spirit of antichrist, seeking to take the place of Christ, but two details remind us that these are after all distinct: the horseman’s weapons, and his crown.
Instead of the bow carried by the horseman in Revelation 6, Messiah’s weapons in Revelation 19 are a sword and a rod of iron. But the bow is the weapon of Gog in Ezek 38-39, who is an archetype of the Antichrist:
Eze 39:3 And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand.
Both riders wear crowns. But the crowns are different. The horseman of Revelation 6 wears a single στέφανος G4735, the wreath of laurel awarded to the victor in an athletic contest, or as an award for military valor, but the rider in Revelation 19 wears many διαδήματα G1238, royal crowns. In chapter 6 we meet a foe with great military power but no true title to reign; in chapter 19, we are presented with the king of all earthly kings and lord of all earthly lords (17:14; 19:16).
Notice that the crown “was given unto him,” a verb that often describes the permission that God gives the wicked. We see it again in the second horseman (6:4), the summary in 6:8, and other forces of evil (7:2; 9:3, 5; 13:5, 7, 15; 16:6). John wants us to understand that whatever evil comes upon the earth, it is completely under God’s control, and subject to his permission.
II. (:3-4) BREAKING OF THE SECOND SEAL – RED HORSE – WAR / STRIFE
A. (:3) Introduction to the Second Seal
- Breaking of the Second Seal
“And when He broke the second seal,”
“I heard the second living creature saying, ‘Come.’”
B. (:4) Unleashing of War / Strife
- Red Horse
“And another, a red horse, went out;”
Robert Thomas: Little disagreement exists over the general nature of the second seal. It brings war, internal strife, and international and civil strife to the world (Swete; Charles; Beckwith; Walvoord).
William Barclay: The function of the second horse and its rider is to take peace from the earth. They stand for that destructive strife which sets individual against individual and nation against nation in a chaos of tragic destruction. . . The vision of the end was a vision of a time when all human relationships would be destroyed and the world would become a seething cauldron of embittered hate.
Daniel Akin: The red horse of war inevitably follows the white horse of conquest. . . The color of the second horse is “fiery red” and rightly depicts his mission of bloodshed and slaughter (Mounce, Revelation, 143). But while he takes peace from the earth, the people slaughter one another. The idea seems to convey civil strife within and between peoples and nations. Assassination and civil unrest, riots in the streets, and rebellion against authority will run rampant. No one will be safe. One will live in constant fear of life not knowing whom to trust. Jesus said in Matthew 24:10, “Many will take offense, betray one another, and hate one another.” No one will be excluded. This rider takes peace from the earth. Anarchy and worldwide bloodshed are signatures of the last days.
- Removal of Peace from the Earth
“and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth,
and that men should slay one another;”
Sola Scriptura: “it was granted” – another indication that a third party is controlling these events.
Grant Osborne: With the sword, the lust for conquest in the first seal turns to civil war. First, God allows the rider to “take peace from the earth.” Some have connected this with 2 Thess. 2:6–7, the removal of the “restraining” force that holds back “the man of lawlessness.” This interpretation would be viable if one sees Rev. 6:4 as describing the final period of history.
John MacArthur: So before the terrors of the Tribulation break loose and lead to the battle of Armageddon there will come a period of world peace. But it will be a deceptive peace, as the world is lulled into a false sense of security followed by war, famine, and death. The world’s desperate desire for international peace will serve as the bait for the satanic trap. That longing for security and safety will play into the hands of Antichrist, Satan’s ruler, who will convince the world that he can provide them. He will particularly deceive Israel, whose people have for so long desired peace, and he “will make a firm covenant with the many [Israel] for one week” (Dan. 9:27). Antichrist’s peace pact and protection of Israel will not last, however: “in the middle of the week [the Seventieth Week of Daniel’s prophecy; the Tribulation] he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate” (Dan. 9:27). The false peace that Antichrist brings will come to an abrupt halt at the midpoint of the Tribulation when he desecrates the temple in Jerusalem, betrays the Jewish people, and launches deadly attacks on them (cf. Matt. 24:4–10). There can and will be no peace until the Prince of Peace sets up His earthly kingdom (20:1–6).
G.K. Beale: the second horseman seeks to take peace from the earth by stirring up strife and warfare among the world’s nations. This includes persecution of believers, as the allusion is to Jesus’ warning to His disciples that His coming would bring not peace but a sword to the world (Matt. 10:34). The point of the Matthew text is that Jesus’ followers should not be discouraged from confessing His name to the world when persecution comes, since such persecution is part of God’s sovereign will. Their faithfulness amidst oppression may result in loss of their physical lives, but it will also result in the salvation of their spiritual lives (so Matt. 10:28-39). The gospel itself produces peace, but the attack of Satan upon its progress leads to war. The phrase that men should slay one another points to the persecution of believers, for the word slay is used otherwise in Revelation only to refer to the deaths of Christ and His followers (5:6, 9, 12; 6:9; 13:8; 18:24). Even the “slain” head of the beast in 13:3 is a mockery or false imitation of Christ’s death. Those who are slaughtered in 6:4 are probably the believers pictured as slain in v. 9. The same connection between the woes of international strife and persecution is drawn in the Synoptic Gospels, where such strife is interpreted as a woe on unbelievers and testing for Jesus’ followers (Mark 13:7-19; Matt. 24:6-21; Luke 21:9-19).
- Violent Bloodshed
“and a great sword was given to him.”
Robert Thomas: The sword is better seen as a symbol for a specific period of dreadful bloodshed. Because it has not yet occurred on the scale that it will someday, the relegation of it to “the beginning of birth-pains” in the future is necessary.
III. (:5-6) BREAKING OF THE THIRD SEAL – BLACK HORSE — FAMINE
A. (:5a) Introduction to the Third Seal
- Breaking of the Seal
“And when He broke the third seal,”
“I heard the third living creature saying,’Come.’”
B. (:5b-6) Unleashing of Famine
- (:5b) Black Horse
“And I looked, and behold, a black horse;”
- (:5c) Symbol of Famine = Weighing Bread on Scales = Food Rationing
“and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.”
Sola Scriptura: “a pair of scales” – represents the dire situation some will face on the earth. A balance scale would be used for weighing bread only in a severe famine. Leviticus 26:26 and Ezekiel 4:16-17 both indicate that weighed bread is a condition of severe famine.
- (:6) Devastating Famine Conditions
“And I heard as it were a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying,
‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius;
and do not harm the oil and the wine.’”
John MacArthur: God’s pronouncements reveal how devastating the famine conditions will be. A quart of wheat is barely enough to sustain one person for one day, while a denarius represents one day’s wages for an average worker. People’s labor will barely provide enough food for themselves and not enough to feed their families. Those with families will be able to purchase three quarts of barley for a denarius. That will provide food for their families, but barley was low in nutritional value and commonly fed to livestock. Thus, a person’s wages will barely feed three people with low quality food. Both of those scenarios represent starvation wages, and signify severe famine conditions.
In light of those extreme conditions, God cautions people not to damage (waste) the oil and the wine. Basic food staples will become priceless luxuries. Olive oil and wine, used in the preparation and cooking of food, as well as the purification of water, will need to be carefully protected.
Daniel Akin: phrase “do not harm the olive oil and the wine” is less clear as to its meaning. Some see the phrase as setting a limit on the deprivation caused by the horse of famine. Others argue that oil and wine were the commodities of the wealthy. The former understanding is more likely. Food for the poor will be scarce and in short supply. Still, there are limits, at least for now. However, once the trumpet and bowl judgments are finished, nothing will be left. Nothing.
IV. (:7-8) BREAKING OF THE FOURTH SEAL – PALE GREEN HORSE –
MASS DEATH / PESTILENCE
A. (:7) Introduction to the Fourth Seal
- Breaking of the Fourth Seal
“And when He broke the fourth seal,”
“I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come.’”
b. (:8) Unleashing of Death / Pestilence
- Ashen Horse
“And I looked, and behold, an ashen horse;”
John MacArthur: The Greek word for the horse’s color is chlōros—from which we derive our English word chlorine. Chlōros usually denotes a pale green color and is used elsewhere in Revelation to describe the color of grass and vegetation (8:7; 9:4) In Revelation 6:8, it pictures a decomposing corpse. Robert Thomas describes the grotesque color of the fourth horse as “the yellowish green of decay, the pallor of death. It is the pale ashen color that images a face bleached because of terror. It recalls a corpse in the advanced state of corruption.”
Daniel Akin: The world is fatally flawed. The pale horse of death with the grim reaper riding saddle is just around the corner with nothing less than a global agenda.
- Identification of Death / Hades
“and he who sat on it had the name Death;
and Hades was following with him.”
Sola Scriptura: Death and Hades = is referred to here as a person. This is called “personification” and is a figure of speech. This occurs four times in the Revelation (1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14). The term death is always followed by the term Hades. Since Hades is a result of death (there would be no Hades if there was no death); death is primary.
Warren Wiersbe: John saw two personages: Death riding a pale horse and hades (the realm of the dead) following him. Christ has the keys of death and hades (Rev. 1:18), and both will one day be cast into hell (Rev. 20:14). Death claims the body while hades claims the soul of the dead (Rev. 20:13). John saw these enemies going forth to claim their prey, armed with weapons of the sword, hunger, pestilence (death), and wild beasts. In ancient times, hunger, pestilence, and the ravages of beasts would be expected to accompany war (note also Jer. 15:2; 24:10; Ezek. 14:21).
- Comprehensive Devastation
“And authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.”
Sola Scriptura: There is no grounds for the translation wild beast in Revelation 6:8. Since beast (antichrist) (Rev 13:7), the false prophet (Rev 13:15), and the image of the beast (Rev 13:15) all have power to put to death; and since both the beast (Rev. 13:1) and the false prophet (Rev 13:11) are of the earth, they are better referents for “beasts” in Revelation 6:8.
John Walvoord: There are three main views on the identity of the “wild beasts of the earth” in Revelation 6:8.
- First, it’s possible that this refers to actual wild animals that will become especially ferocious during the tribulation as their normal food supplies are disrupted. They will look for prey and take advantage of the defenseless as God uses them to terrorize and destroy.
- Another view is that this term is a reference to brutal military and political leaders of the end times. This view is based on the fact that the same phrase “wild beasts,” which in the Greek is thēriōn, is used thirty-eight times in Revelation, and every other time refers to the coming Antichrist or his henchman, the false prophet.
- A third view is that this is a reference to pandemic plagues such as swine flu, bird flu, AIDS, Ebola, etc. that come from animals.
Whatever the final fulfillment, this will add to the misery of earth’s darkest hour.
Robert Mounce: It may be that this fourfold plague represents an intensification of that which is represented by the first three seals. Death by wild beasts would be expected in a land decimated by war and famine.