Apocalypse
Greek for the revealing of something hidden. Today the term is most often used to refer to time period in which the end of the world will occur.
Apostasy
The turning from and opposing of one’s former religion.
Apostolic
Having to do with the 12 apostles or their teachings. This term is also sometimes used in Catholic circles as a synonym for “papal,” as the Pope is seen as the successor to the Apostles.
Heresy
Primarily used in religious circles to describe a person or doctrine that disagrees with that religion.
Idolatry
Worship of any object, idea, or person rather than the one true God.
Papacy
The Roman Catholic Church’s system of government led by the Pope, or the political influence of this system.
Papal
Having to do with the Pope or the Roman Catholic Church.
Revelation 6 Commentary
Summary: Read Revelation 6 KJV along with a helpful commentary.
 
 

The seven seals repeat the same history as the Seven Churches, but with a different emphasis. Later in Revelation chapters 8-11 we will see how the seven trumpets cover the same basic timeline but with another distinctive focus. While the Seven Churches covered the history of God's faithful people, the Seven Seals cover general world religious history.

Revelation 6 KJV
Commentary

1And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

2And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

6:1-2 The first four seals are widely known as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” In Revelation the horse is an animal associated with war. See Revelation 19:11, 19. The four horsemen represent the churches as they go forth to battle their enemies. The colors of the horses (white, red, black, and pale) indicate a change from purity to apostasy.

The 1st Seal: A White horse: The Pure Church

White represents purity and righteousness. Revelation 7:14; 19:8; Isaiah 1:18. The pure white church went out “conquering and to conquer.” During this time the Gospel spread like wild fire. Paul said that the Gospel “was preached to every creature which is under heaven” (Colossians 1:23), and his opponents said that they had, “turned the world upside down.” Acts 17:6. The white horse is the apostolic church going forth victoriously under the banner of Prince Jesus. The 1st seal represents the same period as the 1st church - 0-100 AD.

3And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.

4And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

6:3-4 The 2nd Seal: A Red Horse: The Persecuting Church. Red is the color of sin (Isaiah 1:18), the dragon (Revelation 12:3) and bloodshed or sacrifice (2 Kings 3:22-23). When the faith and devotion of the Church became corrupted it lost the power of God to carry the Gospel forward in victory. It then began using the power of the state, uniting with the dragon (Pagan Rome controlled by Satan) to persecute dissenters. The phrase “kill one another” talks about the persecution during this era. The great sword that the horseman carries represents this war and bloodshed. (Isaiah 3:25, 1 Chronicles 22:8, Acts 12:1,2) The 2nd seal represents the period 100-323 AD just as the 2nd church did ending with the conversion of Constantine. It also depicts the compromise that began in this period when errors arose and worldliness came into the church. During this period church and state began to work together.

The spirit of this period perhaps reached its climax as we come to the days of Constantine, the first so-called Christian emperor, whose conversion to Christianity in AD 323 brought about a compromise between the church and the Roman Empire. The Edict of Milan in AD 313, is said to have granted toleration to Christians allowed conversions to Christianity. i.

Historian Kenneth Latourette declares that the acts immediately preceding and culminating in the Edict of Milan in 313

... still remain the most significant of the many milestones in the road by which the church and the state moved toward cooperation.... Christianity, by bringing the church into existence, developed an institution which in part was a rival of the state. It created a society within the empire which, so many believed, threatened the very existence of the latter. The conflict was very marked in the century or more before Constantine.... When Constantine made his peace with the faith, however, it long looked as though the conflict had been resolved by the control of the church by the state. Yet, even in the days of the seeming subordination of the church to the government, ecclesiastics sought to influence the policies of the latter. ii.

iDaniel and the Revelation, Uriah Smith, page 426 427
iiA History of the Expansion of Christianity, Vol.1, The First Five Centuries, Kenneth Scott Latourette, page 159

5And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

6And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, 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.

6:5-6 The 3rd Seal: A Black Horse: The Corrupt Church. Black is the color of darkness, apostasy and error (Acts 26:18, John 12:35), the very opposite of white. The “balances” used for measuring “wheat” and “barley” are a symbol of the buying and selling of the Gospel, salvation and forgiveness. The Church, during this time, entered a period of great moral and doctrinal error, substituting pagan beliefs and practices for the truths of God’s Word, and merchandising the Gospel. Thus they caused a scarcity of the bread of life and made commerce of it. The Bible was a banned book during this period, and preaching from the Word of God was hardly heard. There was indeed a famine for the Word of God. (Amos 8:11,12) God decreed, “Hurt not the oil and the wine,” which symbolize the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:3, 6) and the blood of Jesus (Matthew 26:26-29). Even though the Church was in great darkness, God preserved a people with the true Gospel of salvation.

The 3rd seal represents the same period as the 3rd church - 323-538 AD and was filled with superstition and darkest errors.

The balances in the hand of the black horse represent union of church and state. William Miller states:

The balances denoted that religion and civil power would be united in the person who would administer the executive power in the government, and that he would claim the judicial authority both in church and state. This was true amongst the Roman emperors from the days of Constantine until the reign of Justinian, when he gave the same judicial power to the bishop of Rome. i/

i. Evidence From Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ , William Miller, page 176.

7And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

8And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

6:7-8 The 4th Seal: A Pale Horse: The Dead Church. This pale horse is the color of nausea and death. The Church that should have been pointing the way to eternal life was instead spreading death. “And Hell [the grave] followed with him.” The spiritual “Death” that spread across Christendom was accompanied by a moral and intellectual paralysis. The Holy Scriptures were forbidden to the people; nobles, commoners and clergy alike were largely ignorant of the great truths they contain. For centuries the Christian world made no progress in science, arts or civilization. Millions lived miserable lives of ignorance and squalor.

Ezekiel 14:21 lists war, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts as judgments on apostasy from God. Whenever the Church takes up the sword to coerce the conscience, a famine of God’s Word results. Pure Bible truth is replaced with the pestilence of heresy, opening the way for persecutors (wild beasts) to punish and chastise the Church, and multitudes perish. This was the time referred to in Revelation 12 where the woman (God's Church was nourished in the wilderness (in hiding) and covers the period when the Papacy bore its unrebuked, unrestrained and persecuting rule. The fourth part of the earth refers to the territory over which this power had jurisdiction. The verse says this period had power to kill with "sword", "hunger", "death", and the "beasts of the earth". This is exactly how the Papacy killed God's people.

The period of this church stretches from 538 AD to the time of the Reformers, approximately 1450 AD.

9And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

10And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

11And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

6:9-11 The 5th Seal: The Martyred Church. “Under the altar the souls…slain for the word of God.” Apocalyptic language teaches lessons and truths in pictures or symbols. God does not keep literal souls under a literal altar in heaven. During the middle ages, the Papal system had millions of people put to death because they would not renounce Bible truth. Here is pictured, in symbolic language, the many martyrs of the preceding seal, whose blood, like the blood of Abel (Genesis 4:8-10), cries out to God for justice and a vindication of the truths for which they died. This crying out for justice is an example of personification used in the Bible. Personification is used in other areas of the Bible: Habakkuk 2:11, James 5:4

Although some might wish to use this verse as proof that spirits are in heaven in a conscious state, the Bible teaches that the dead in Christ rise and put on immortality when He returns. Until such time, they are asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53. Heaven would not be a very pleasant place if there were souls shut up under an altar crying.

The altar mentioned is symbol of sacrifice (specifically papal sacrifice). Adam Clarke writes:

A symbolical vision was exhibited, in which he [John] saw an altar; and under it the souls of these who had been slain for the word of God--martyred for their attachment to Christianity--are represented as being newly slain as victims to idolatry and superstition. The altar is upon earth, not in heaven.

They had gone down to the grave in the most ignominious manner. Their lives had been misrepresented, their reputation tarnished, their names defamed, their motives maligned, and their graves covered with shame and reproach, as containing the dishonored dust of the most vile and despicable characters. Thus the church of Rome, which then molded the sentiment of the principal nations of the earth, spared no pains to make her victims an abhorrence to all people. i.

In verse 11 they are given white robes. After the Reformation began its work, those that had died were vindicated - it was seen that they had suffered, not for being vile criminals, but for "the word of God and for the testimony which they held".

Then their praises were sung, their virtues admired, their fortitude applauded, their names honored, and their memories cherished. White robes were thus given to every one of them. ii.

This seal just as the others represents a period of time, and this one begins when the Reformation began to undermine the papal dominion and restrained the persecuting power of the Roman Catholic Church.

"A little season": The cruel work of the Roman Catholic church did not cease even after the Protestant Reformation had been widely established. It continued until in the 1750's when finally the spirit of persecution was restrained. The full vindication of their cause would have to be delayed.

"until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled" refers to the multitudes that were still to be persecuted during the Reformation. Many reformers gave up their lives for their work of bringing the Bible to the people and speaking against the errors of the Roman Catholic faith. Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Lawrence Saunders, and many more were killed for their stance against the Catholic church.

i. Commentary on the New Testament, Adam Clarke, Vol I, p. 994
ii. Daniel and the Revelation, Uriah Smith, page 436

12And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

13And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

Artist's rendition of the Dark Day from Our First Century by Richard M. Devens (1880).

6:12-13 The 6th Seal: The End-Time Church, Mid 1750s to The Second Coming of Christ. This seal corresponds to the time of both the church of Philadelphia and the church of Laodicea. Under the sixth seal the language shifts from symbolic horses and souls to literal signs and disasters. The prophecy says “there was a great earthquake,” “the sun became black as sackcloth,” “the moon became as blood,” and “the stars of heaven fell.” These signs have all received a striking and impassive fulfillment.

An 1889 rendition of the 1833 meteor shower, Bible Readings for the Home Circle (Chicago: Review and Herald, 1888).
Public Domain Chicago: Review and Herald, 1888 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leonids-1833.jpg

The event that marks the opening of this seal took place in 1755. On November 1, Lisbon, Portugal was the center of a tremendous earthquake. Its effects were felt over an area of 4 million square miles. On May 19, 1780 beginning around 9:00 AM. heavy black clouds blotted out the sun drawing the dark of night over New England. That night, when the darkness finally lessened and the moon appeared, it had the appearance of blood. November 13, 1833, brought the most extensive display of falling stars which has ever been recorded. These are the same signs that Jesus gave to let us know when His coming would be near. Matthew 24:29-30. These events also signify the beginning of the time in the Bible known as the "time of the end". This time involves the final events to take place before Jesus comes, and although it is a longer period of time (since Jesus has not yet come), there are several waymarks that can be observed and compared with Scripture.

14And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

15And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;

16And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

17For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

6:14-17 The rest of the sixth seal is yet future and describes events that occur when Jesus returns. We are currently living between vs. 13 and 14 and it is almost time for Jesus to come. When He comes, the heavens will be rolled back “as a scroll,” and the earth will be in a state of violent upheaval. Those who are ready to meet Jesus will joyfully exclaim “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him and He will save us.” Isaiah 25:9. But what a sad day for those who have rejected Jesus as King; they will beg for the mountains to fall on them and hide them from His face.

In these precious hours while time yet remains, we can still make peace with God through Jesus Christ who loves us. To those who repent, He extends forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9); for those who persist in evil, He will have no other option but to dispense punishment in the lake of fire and the second death. Revelation 20:14-15. Which destination will you choose? Make Jesus your personal Friend and Saviour and you will have nothing to fear.

But there were seven seals that the Lamb opened. We have only covered six in this chapter. The opening of the seventh seal is not discussed until chapter 8:1. It is only 1 verse long and describes our journey to heaven. What happens in the next chapter - chapter seven - takes place before the events of the seventh seal in 8:1. Chapter 7 is mentioned parenthetically (or as a side discussion) that needs to be noted before the narrative of the seals continues. In the next chapter we will discuss why.

 

Ahead to Revelation 7

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Reformation
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