In Revelation 5:1–7, Jesus received from God the Father a scroll sealed with seven seals. The scroll contained the title deed to the earth but unlike normal deeds, it did not contain a description of Yeshua’s inheritance, but rather details on how He will execute His reclaiming of what is rightfully His (Matthew 21:33 ff).
Beginning in chapter 6, that scroll is unrolled and its seals broken. The unrolling of the scroll marks the beginning of God’s wrath and judgment on mankind as the Lord takes back creation from Satan. Each of the scroll’s seven seals represents a specific judgment that will be poured out sequentially on the earth. The seals cover the entire period of the Tribulation (Revelation 3:10), culminating with the return of Christ.
It seems best to understand the first four seals as taking place during the first half of the Tribulation, the fifth stretching from the first into the second half, called the “great tribulation” in 7:14 and lasting three and one-half years (Revelation 11:2;12:6;13:5) and the sixth and seventh taking place during that ” great tribulation.”
The seventh seal contains the seven trumpet judgments (Revelation 8:1-11:19) and the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15) contains the seven bowl judgments (Revelation 16:1-21). The seven seals therefore contain all the judgments to the end when Jesus Christ returns. The seven seals parallels the chronology of Tribulation events found in Jesus’ message describing the end times and His return, recorded in Matthew 24.
The first seal describes a brief, false peace that will precede the final holocaust. In Matthew 24:4-5, Jesus also spoke of that peace, warning of deceiving, false messiah’s who will promote it.
The second seal depicts a worldwide war, which Jesus also predicted (Matthew 24:6-7).
The third seal, famine, finds a parallel in Matthew 24:7.
In that same verse Jesus predicted earthquakes, representative of natural disasters; the fourth seal represents death by those natural disasters, including earthquakes and plagues.
The fifth seal, reveals the martyrs at the foot of the altar, finds a parallel in Jesus’ warning that believers will be martyred during the Tribulation (Matthew 24:9).
During the unfolding of the sixth seal, the sky goes black – just as Jesus predicted it would (Matthew 24:29).
The seventh seal reveals the final judgments, including all the devastation from the trumpet and bowl judgments, leading up to His second coming (Matthew 24:37ff).
Just as a mother’s birth pains increase in frequency and intensity as the time to give birth approaches, so the judgments depicted by the seals will intensify throughout the Tribulation until they culminate in the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ in blazing judgment glory. The first four seals cover the period Jesus described as ” the beginning of birth pangs ” (Matthew 24:8). As terrible as those four judgments are, they are just the preliminary outpouring of God’s final wrath in the last three seals.
Revelation 6:1-2 -The First Seal: False Peace – Turning from praise the focus now turns to judgment. The scene shifts from heaven to earth. Yeshua has received from His Father the title deed to the earth and the Lord has now broken the first of the seven seals. As each seal is broken what is written on the scroll is not read, but acted out.
Immediately, John heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, ” Come. ” A white horse comes bearing its rider. The first four seals involve horses and riders known as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Horses in Scripture are associated with triumph, majesty, power, and conquest (Revelation 19:11,14; Job 39:19-25; Proverbs 21:31; Isaiah 43:17; Jeremiah 6:23; Zechariah 9:10; 10:3).
Some believe that the rider is on a white horse is Yeshua, but since He is opening the scrolls it cannot be him. Yeshua carries a sword but this rider carries a bow. Some believe that the rider is the Antichrist, but since the other three riders represent not individual persons but impersonal forces (war, famine, and death), in keeping with the motif we believe that this first rider is a force as well. That force is a worldwide peace, a false peace like the”Pax Romana” or Roman peace. The next seals shatter that peace.
The world’s desire for international peace will serve as the means by which the Antichrist, Satan’s ruler, who will convince the world that he can provide them. He will particularly deceive Israel, whose people have long desired peace, and he ” will make a firm covenant with the many [Israel] for one week ” (Daniel 9:27).
Antichrist’s peace pact and protection of Israel will not last, as Daniel tells us. 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 (Matthew 24:4-10). There will be no real peace apart from the Prince of Peace. Jeremiah warned Israel about a false peace (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11; 14:13-14).
Paul also spoke of a false peace that the Antichrist will bring (1 Thessalonians 5:3). You will note that the rider had a bow but no arrows, and that he was honored with a crown that was freely given to him, denotes that his conquering will involve bloodless victories. He will not conquer by military force, but by cunning and deceit (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11). His conquest will be a ” cold war ” victory, a peace won by agreement, not conflict (Daniel 9:24-27). Even as the Armageddon draws near, Antichrist will promise a golden age of peace and prosperity. In gratitude, the world will honor him and elevate him to the position of supreme leadership.
Revelation 6:3-4 The world’s joy over of peace and unity will be shattered as the second horse and rider appear. The second living creature calls the second horse and rider and says to him “come”. The color of the horse is red which is the color of fire and blood, and depicts war. This rider was given permission to take peace away from the earth. God allows the false peace, and He ends by bringing war on the earth.
Contrary to the teaching of some, the judgments of the Tribulation is not the result of the wrath of men or the wrath of Satan; it is the wrath of the One who releases the horseman, the wrath of the Lamb. It is He who holds the seven-sealed scroll and the Lamb who unrolls it. Describing this time Jesus said, ” You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. … Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom ” (Matthew 24:6-7).
John with his comment that a great sword was given to the rider describes that men will slay one another and violence will run rampant. The antichrist who initially promotes a false peace will have a major role in the wars that follow it. This will be precipitated when wars break out all over the world so that he will have no choice but to resort to war himself in order to preserve his authority and power.
Antichrist will be as skillful at war as he was at promoting the false peace. We see this in the prophecy of Daniel 8:23-25. He will put to death many of God’s people (Revelation 6:9; Matthew 24:9). The Antichrist will set up of the abomination of desolation (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:9-11; Matthew 24:15) which will cause Israel to reject the covenant they will make with him this will touch off a massive conflict, described in detail in Daniel 11:36-45.
The Antichrist will initially portray himself as a champion of peace and do what no one has been able to do, bring peace to the Middle East. He will make a treaty with Israel, posing as their protector and defender. Then he will be revealed for who he really is and Israel will rise up against him. That rebellion against him by Israel will cause a united nation type force to joint together against Israel which culminates in the battle of Armageddon (Zechariah 12:1-9). When it appears that Israel will be about to be wiped out Yeshua will return and Israel will recognize Him as Yeshua the One that they pierced (Zechariah 12:10-13:1).
Revelation 6:5-6 With the breaking of the third seal there is the voice of the third living creature who calls forth the third horse and rider. One of the byproducts of war is famine when food supplies are destroyed and those involved in food production are killed. To a degree we saw this possibility as our forces were involved in the war in Iraq. It was proper planning that prepared for this. Jesus also predicted this future famine in Matthew 24:7
This rider has a set of scales to measure out the grain and a “penny” (denarius) to buy a measure of wheat which is about a quart and a penny to buy three measures of barley. A penny was about a day’s wage. Imagine working and earning only enough money to buy what food was needed for that day! What would a person do about feeding his family and providing the other necessities of life such as housing, heat, clothing, and transportation?
The rider controls food distribution so it is believed that he is either the antichrist or a servant of his represented on the black horse. This is probably another way that he gains and holds control over the world, at least for a season. The idea is that food will be strictly controlled. But yet there will be plenty of oil and wine. How could oil and wine which come from trees and vines be available when wheat and barley are scarce and shriveled up with a drought? Probably from stockpiles and from the fact that trees and vines have roots more deeply in the ground than crops. They can usually survive and produce more through a drought than crops.
Also, trees will produce for years without being cared for. War will keep men from growing crops, but trees will keep on producing without much attention. Oil and wine were luxury items in the ancient world. As is true in most famines, the wealthy will have food, the poor will not. The end time will be marked by famine after famine all over the world. It will take all a man can do just to survive. following the appearance of the black horse and its rider, John hears something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures. Since the four living creatures were stationed around the throne (Revelation 4:6), this is likely the voice of God, the One sitting on the throne (Revelation 4:2-3). God also speaks in connection with the fifth seal (Revelation 6:11). He speaks here as a reminder that the famine is a direct judgment from Him.