Summary: Revelation 6. Quickly John sees an overview of either world history of the final Tribulation. Whichever it is, it clearly will be re-visited in the book. Revelation is not in chronological order. The end of chapter 6 is the end of the world!
3. The things which will take place after this
Generally speaking then, the rest of the book is part 3 of the Lord’s outline for John (1:19). Here is where the going gets tough. Here is where sequential methods of book-reading will not work. Part 3 starts with chapter six, which speaks of the opening of six of the seven seals.
It is critical to see the relationship between the three sets of seven judgment happenings. First to remember is that the seals (all of chapter 6,and 8:1-6) cover all. Then the trumpets (8:7-11:19) recap and give close-ups of the latter seals. The bowls (15-16) are a close-up of the final trumpet. There is much overlapping and repetition, so as to include more and more details, but not more elapsed time. Chapters 7, 12-14, and 17-22, give background material to help us understand what is going on while the judgments of God fall on the earth. As the book unfolds, I believe this arrangement will become clear.
So here is chapter six. Remember now, chapter six covers the entire scope of the Lamb’s Scroll in its 17 verses!
The first six seals
Seals 1 through 4 (6:1-8). Jesus opens all seven seals. The first four seals are further introduced by one living creature each. The living creatures are given a number and a name in 4:7. Their number only is referred to in the chapter before us. Seal one is introduced by the lion, two by the calf/ox, three by “man”, and four by the eagle. But the connection from these four horsemen to the living creatures is further strengthened in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 1 and 10). There, the same creatures that John sees here are described, with the addition of the mysterious “wheels”. I am not aware of a plausible interpretation for Ezekiel’s wheel vision. But I do believe that it is somehow tied in to the end time by way of John’s revelation of the living creatures, and the four horsemen. I believe there is an interpretation that will make perfect sense when the time is right. Scales will fall off someone’s eyes and the truth will manifest itself. God would not tantalize His people with a vision of no meaning.
Zechariah 6 mentions horses of the same hue as the ones described here, albeit in a different order. And while we’re looking at Biblical precedents for the four horsemen, it might be interesting to see that the number four is used elsewhere significantly: There are the “four winds of heaven” spoken of in 7:1, and by Jesus in Matthew 24. There are the four corners and quarters of the earth in 7:1 and 20:8. Four angels are stationed there. There are four horns on the altar in Heaven, 9:13, and four angels at the Euphrates River. An important number.
I believe that these first four seals should be viewed as a unit, separate from the other three, because of the connections mentioned above, because of the significance of the number four, and especially because of John’s use of the fraction one-fourth as compared to one-third later.
Seal 1 (6:1-2), The world conqueror. The events of the scroll begin with one conqueror. They end with Another (chapter 19). The unnamed world leader of the first seal is replaced permanently by the Son of God. Both appear on the world scene with a white horse (19:11). Both bring destruction on the planet. The destruction of the former we know of as the Tribulation. The latter Horseman ushers in the ultimate wrath of God, and then a new Heaven and Earth. All of this, from antichrist to Christ, is found in one chapter!
At least, that is the traditional explanation of the white horse, and it is quite believable. But it is fair, I think, to suggest an alternate idea to the interpretation of this white horse figure. Deeper probing into the Book lets us know that there will be another ruler of world-wide proportions before antichrist sits on his throne. We will speak more of him later. It seems possible to me that this conqueror with “no arrows” (6:2) may be a man of peace and that nations bow to him because of his great political charisma. Perhaps he is the one who has resolved the Middle East crises, and an appreciative world brings him to power, marking the beginning of the seven-year countdown. Perhaps he reigns the first three and one half years.
There is an interesting parallel between Revelation 6 and Matthew 24. Could the four horsemen be “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8) mentioned by Jesus, the clue that we are at the very end of history? Some of course see all these things of Matthew and the first four seals happening today and in all generations for that matter. But, at least speaking for Matthew’s account, Jesus was being asked a very specific question when he spoke of these parallel occurrences . It was a request for Him to spell out the signs of His coming and the end of the age. Though many will come in His Name, and wars will be constant, along with poverty, there will be, according to John’s vision here, one in particular that will come, sparking the final series of wars and plagues.