Avenger of His Children
Chapter 4 opened this vision with a picture of God
on His throne and being worshipped by all creation.
Chapter 5 introduced Jesus Christ as the one worthy
redeemer, qualified to reveal the will of God and
likewise being worshipped. The Holy Spirit is also
represented as being with those who were pictured as
being in the midst of the throne (Revelation 5:6).
So we have all three persons of the Godhead, present
in the throne room of God and receiving the worship,
adoration, praise and honor of all the saved.
Something of significance
to the first readers of Revelation is happening.
Jesus receives the sealed book of God's will from
the right hand of the Father who sits on His
throne. This book contains the totality of God's
will for mankind from the beginning to the end,
however, of importance to John and His brethren
living under the immediate circumstances of the
persecution, the focus is on their immediate future
and the future of the Lord's church.
"And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven
seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures
saying as with a voice of thunder, Come."
Lamb and the creatures represent the same thing
they did in earlier parts of the vision. Once their
identity is established in a vision, it remains
consistent throughout. Jesus is opening the first
seal. A seal in this usage represents something
that is hidden from view. The breaking or loosing
of the seals in figurative for revealing the
contents therein. Jesus is starting to reveal the
contents of the scroll and the creation is telling
John to come.
"And I saw, and behold, a
horse, and he that sat thereon had a bow; and
there was given unto him a crown: and he came forth
conquering, and to conquer."
Horses were always a war animal, especially when
someone is pictured as seated on them with weapons
of war in their possession. White is the symbol of
purity and righteousness so this white horse is
symbolic of something good. In the old testament
prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ we read:
"From him shall come
forth the corner-stone, from him the nail, from him
the battle bow, from him every ruler together. And
they shall be as mighty men, treading down (their
enemies) in the mire of the streets in the battle;
and they shall fight, because Jehovah is with them;
and the riders on horses shall be confounded. And I
will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save
the house of Joseph, and I will bring them back; for
I have mercy upon them; and they shall be as though
I had not cast them off: for I am Jehovah their God,
and I will hear them" (Zechariah 10:4-6).
The cornerstone and the
house of Judah is representative of Jesus Christ.
Earlier in John's vision, the lamb was also called
lion of the tribe of Judah. We know that Jesus
Christ descended from the patriarch Judah (Hebrews
7:14). We see in the prophecy of Zechariah the
conflict, the battle, and the battle bow. Jesus is
pictured in Revelation as riding a white horse,
carrying a bow and conquering. The prophecy of
Zechariah 10:4-6 is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and
confirmed in Revelation 6:2. The loosing of the
first seal was the coming of the Gospel, the perfect
plan of redemption for mankind, the law of Christ.
The crown given to Jesus
was the crown of a winner indicating victory in the
conflict as He went forth conquering and to
conquer. Jesus overcame the world and lived a
sinless life. He delivered the New Covenant, the
law of Christ while He was on earth and after being
crucified, He arose, conquered death and ascended to
Heaven where He reigns as the King of Kings and the
Lord of Lords at the right hand side of God the
"And when he opened the second seal, I heard the
second living creature saying, Come. And another
(horse) came forth, a red horse: and to him that sat
thereon it was given to take peace from the earth,
and that they should slay one another: and there was
given unto him a great sword."
The persecutor of the church is introduced. He is
pictured riding on a
red horse. The color red was associated with
bloodshed in the minds of the first century
Christians so the red horse here is a symbol of
bloody persecution. The rider on the red horse was
given the power to wage war and would cause the
inhabitants of earth to kill each other. Swords are
used in battle to kill one's opponents, thus we see
more reference here to the shedding of blood. Jesus
had come on the white horse and had delivered the
way of righteousness and established His church.
Close upon His heels came the rider on the red horse
who would persecute the Christians in the Lord's
This persecution was nothing
new to the Christians. "Then shall they deliver
you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye
shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake"
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ
Jesus shall suffer persecution"
(2 Timothy 3:12).
they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye,
when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and
shall say all manner of evil against you falsely,
for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for
great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted
they the prophets which were before you"
(Matthew 5:10-12). The
churches had already been warned earlier that
persecution was coming and who was the cause of it in
"Fear none of those
things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil
shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be
tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be
thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a
crown of life."
"And when he opened the third seal, I heard the
third living creature saying, Come. And I saw, and
behold, a black horse; and he that sat thereon had a
balance in his hand. And I heard as it were a voice
in the midst of the four living creatures saying, A
measure of wheat for a shilling, and three measures
of barley for a shilling; and the oil and the wine
hurt thou not."
The color black is
representative of darkness and oppression. Darkness
came over the earth when Jesus died on the cross.
The life of the light of the world was being
extinguished and left darkness in its path. There
were a lot of trade guilds in the Roman empire.
These trade guilds were similar to the labor unions
of today. One had to be a member of the trade guild
in order to work in that profession. These trade
guilds were idolatrous and would offer worship to
various pagan gods and in to the Roman Emperor as
well. A trade guild that properly worshipped the
Emperor was well favored by the Empire and was
allowed to conduct business unmolested. This
presented a serious problem for the Christians.
They could not be a part of these trade guilds and
participate in their idolatrous practices. Not
being a member of these trade guilds meant the could
not get good jobs which resulted in leaving them
Then to make matters worse,
the imperial cults in charge of enforcing emperor
worship in the empire had the power to deny the
right to participate in any kind of trade to anyone
refusing to bow down and worship the emperor. The
main imperial cult that was responsible for this was
called the "Concilia".
A balance was a simple set
of scales used to evenly and fairly weigh out such
things as silver, gold and food. They were
constructed with a simple beam with a balancing
point or fulcrum in the center. They worked by
placing an object with a known weight on one side of
a beam and when the food or other substance to be
weighed was placed on the other side, the equal
weights on both sides would cause the whole to
balance. Balances were an emblem justice in
Biblical times, (Job 31:6; Psalms 62:9; Proverbs
11:1) and today as well. Our justice system in the
US today is represented by a blindfolded woman
holding a set of balances on which truth is weighed
out fairly. Balances were used to weigh out food
in exchange for money and a shilling was about a
days wages for a days work for someone in the lowest
working class. The first century Christians,
incapable of working the better jobs found
themselves struggling just to earn money enough to
feed their families.
Oil and wine were luxuries
beyond necessary needs. The Christians who were
forced to work the lowliest jobs were unable to buy
such things, restricted to only that which would
sustain their lives and barely enough of that. They
couldn't afford oil, wine or other luxuries and
those who were represented by the the rider on the
black horse held it out in front of them, taunting
them with it.
The rider in the black
horse with the balance in his hands had the power to
tip the scales against the Christians thus causing
poverty and hardship for them. In Jesus' letters to
the churches of Asia, one of the things stressed the
most was the forbidding of participating in the
riotous public feasts where the meat sacrificed to
pagan gods was eaten. Hunger and poverty was a
powerful means of persecution in the first century
and we see this vividly portrayed in the rider on
the black horse carrying the balances.
"And when he opened the fourth seal, I heard the
voice of the fourth living creature saying, Come.
And I saw, and behold, a pale horse: and he that sat
upon him, his name was Death; and Hades followed
with him. And there was given unto them authority
over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with
sword, and with famine, and with death, and by the
wild beasts of the earth."
The color of dead flesh is pale. The rider on this
horse is picturesque of our modern day grim reaper.
His name is death and he is populating the realm of
the dead with the souls of men, especially the
righteous. The Christians were put to death by
swords, they were starved out and they were slaughtered
in the Roman arenas by gladiators and wild beasts.
History records that Nero blamed the great fire of
Rome on the Christians and used them as scapegoats
in an attempt to detract the blame from himself.
The executions of Christians was intended to be a
spectacle. Those professing faith were often sewn up
inside the skins of wild animals and thrown into the
arena where dogs tore them apart. Others were
covered in flammable material and burned alive to
light Nero’s gardens at night while he rode around
in his chariot among them. Some fell by the sword,
others were beheaded, still others were tortured to
death. All in all, this was the most widespread and
brutal persecution of Christians to date. And it
wasn't over when Nero died. The Christians still
had to deal with the persecution under the reign of
Domitian, which was worse yet.
The forth part of the earth
is interesting. To those living in the first
century, the number four was symbolic of the world
in which we live. In Revelation 20:8, all of the
people on earth are represented by the nations "in
the four corners of the earth." so it is probable
that the fourth part of the earth could well be the
whole world. The persecution under Nero was bad in
Rome, but under Domitian, it escalated to the whole
empire. Christianity became illegal and the
imperial cults were dispatched across the realm to
stamp out Christians wherever they could be found.
To be fair to the
scholarship of more learned men than myself, I feel
compelled to point out the fact that many hold to
Revelation 6:7-8 to be a judgment of God on Rome in
some fashion. I disagree with this view of the
fourth seal. Those following along with this study
should be well advised to seek out for themselves
the history and the facts and make a determination
for themselves. It is my belief that seal number
four is representative of the Empire, (world), wide
persecution of the saints under the rule of imperial
Rome. The judgments upon Rome were yet to come
after the souls of the martyrs cried out for justice
as we will see in the loosing of the fifth seal.
"And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw
underneath the altar the souls of them that had been
slain for the word of God, and for the testimony
which they held"
In the vision of the opening of the fifth seal we
see a picture of all the multiplied thousands of
Christians who had been slain because of their
faith. These are the Martyrs of Christ. These are
the ones who sacrificed everything for the testimony
of the word of God.
"Blessed are they that have been persecuted for
righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven. Blessed are ye when (men) shall reproach
you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil
against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be
exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:
for so persecuted they the prophets that were before
you" (Matthew 5:10-12). "For whosoever will
save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose
his life for my sake, the same shall save it"
"and they cried with a great voice, saying, How
long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not
judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the
earth? And there was given them to each one a white
robe; and it was said unto them, that they should
rest yet for a little time, until their
fellow-servants also and their brethren, who should
be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled
The souls of those who had been slain wanted to know
when justice would be served to their murderers.
This indicates that those who are dead are conscious
and aware of the circumstances around their death.
The account of Lazarus and the rich man portrays the
lost rich man as being in torment and begging for
relief while Lazarus was being comforted in the
company of Abraham.
They were pictured as being
given white robes. As is often the case, the book
of Revelation often explains itself: "And one of
the elders answered, saying unto me, These that are
arrayed in white robes, who are they, and whence
came they? And I say unto him, My lord, thou
knowest. And he said to me, These are they that come
of the great tribulation, and they washed their
robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
The tribulation was the great persecution of the
saints by the Roman Empire. And the white robes
they wore were made spotless by the blood of Jesus.
Obviously this is figurative, not to be taken
literally. Blood would not wash anything white.
The imagery here is of the sacrificial blood of
Jesus washing away the blackness of sin from the
redeemed. Clothing is the first thing one sees when
they see someone. Sin can not be hidden from God,
therefore the stains of sin are pictured as being
out there in plain view, on their garments and not
hidden beneath. Those who are clothed in white
garments overcame, kept themselves pure and are
clothed in righteousness. "But thou hast a few
names in Sardis that did not defile their garments:
and they shall walk with me in white; for they are
worthy. He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in
white garments; and I will in no wise blot his name
out of the book of life, and I will confess his name
before my Father, and before his angels"
They were told to rest "until
their fellow-servants also and their brethren, who
should be killed even as they were, should have
fulfilled (their course)". The Christians who
were killed were told that more would die before it
was all over. This persecution had been going on
for some time and it was going to continue for a
while. God was not going to out and out destroy the
Roman Empire in one blazing torrent of destruction.
In the garden of Eden, God granted man the freewill
choice to decide whether to obey or rebel and this
choice has never been taken away. When someone
really loves someone, they give them a choice. God
has never forced mankind to follow Him and is
longsuffering of rebellion. The Roman empire was
enormous and it was populated with millions and
millions of souls all of which were given plenty of
opportunity to repent. God did not want any of
them to be lost, not even the evil emperors who were
slaughtering Christians. "The Lord is not slack
concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but
is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any
should perish, but that all should come to
repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). No one who died lost
in the Roman empire will ever be able to say they
didn't get a fair chance to repent. "And the
rest of mankind, who were not killed with these
plagues, repented not of the works of their hands,
that they should not worship demons, and the idols
of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of stone,
and of wood; which can neither see, nor hear, nor
walk: and they repented not of their murders, nor of
their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of
their thefts" (Revelation 9:20-21).
Of importance also is that while so many had been
killed because of their faith, and that so many more
were going to be killed, the Christian facing such
tribulation has the promise from God that they will
never be tempted beyond what they are able to
withstand. Paul wrote, "There hath no temptation
taken you but such as man can bear: but God is
faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted
above that ye are able; but will with the temptation
make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to
endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13). This is an
important promise in that it teaches us that God
knows individually what each of His children can
endure and that Satan will not be permitted to force
a child of God to sin against his or her ability to
withstand. A way of escape is promised and to the
faithful martyrs of Christ, this way of escape was
mortal death. "Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints" (Psalms 116:15).
"And I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and
there was a great earthquake; and the sun became
black as sackcloth of hair, and the whole moon
became as blood; and the stars of the heaven fell
unto the earth, as a fig tree casteth her unripe
figs when she is shaken of a great wind. "
We are getting into a part of the Revelation now
that would be dangerous to the Christians in the
first century in the hands of their oppressors.
This is the beginning of the judgment of the enemies
of God and if they could understand what it meant,
it would make life for the Christians all the more
difficult. The Revelation would be rounded up and
denied from circulation by the authorities. The
imperial cults in charge of enforcing emperor
worship would have immediately confiscated all
traces of such a letter and would likely have
immediately put to death anyone found possessing
it. By now, the Christians reading it know that the
key to understanding the message is the rest of the
Bible. The first visions were easily associated
with Jesus Christ and have become progressively more
difficult as we get deeper into the letter. The
faithful Christians reading it are easily taught in
a progressive manner to look to the rest of
scripture for the keys to unraveling the symbols and
their meaning while those who have no knowledge
whatsoever of Christ or of old testament scripture
are left in utter bewilderment and confusion over
it. They will not perceive any danger or threat to
themselves, merely thinking the Christians who
cherish this letter are merely a bunch of foolish
idiots following after a confusing God who
communicates in unintelligible ways.
The genius of God is so
evident in how this letter is presented. The
Revelation is given in such a way that only those
familiar with the symbolism could understand it and
at the same time pointing His faithful children into
a study of His word for the things they don't
understand. God communicates to His afflicted
saints while protecting them from their enemies and
at the same time sends them through a journey of
scripture unlike anything else could have. One can
visualize the old grey headed Jewish Christians who
had grown up under the old law setting with the
younger ones studying this cherished message of hope
from God by inspiration of John and combing through
the old testament scriptures to show them what all
these symbols meant. Jerusalem had been destroyed
and the Jewish Christians had been dispersed all
over the Roman Empire. There were plenty of people
with the knowledge and ability to comprehend the
Revelation and to teach those who could not how to
What's the big picture so
far? Laying aside the imagery of all the symbols
and focusing on the activities, what is going on so
far in the opening of the seals? The first seal was
the coming of Jesus, the second seal represented the
coming of the persecutor of the church, the third
seal saw this persecution on a worldwide scale, the
forth seal was the death of the saints by
persecution, and the fifth seal was a picture of the
slain crying out for the killing to end and for
justice. Since this letter is addressed
specifically to those living in the 1st century and
with seven of their congregations having been
addressed specifically and in consideration of the
fact that the first sentence of the letter told them
the events contained therein were going to "shortly
come to pass", we have no logical recourse but
to conclude that this letter is in reference to
their immediate situations and use that as the basis
for how we understand it today and to make the
appropriate applications to our lives as necessary.
The opening of the sixth
seal brings the judgment of the persecutors of the
church into view. The martyred saints had cried out
for justice and were told to wait yet a "little
time" and now in the opening of the sixth seal,
we see God's assurance to them that He will avenge
their blood on those who inflicted their deaths and
caused such hardship. By inspiration, John pictures
a world in upheaval, with earthshaking natural
events, the falling of earthly kings, the loss of
the light of righteousness and the encroachment of
darkness upon an evil oppressive people.
To illustrate this,
inspiration draws heavily on old testament pictures
and descriptions brought upon earlier heathen
nations who had sought the destruction of God's
people. Isaiah used similar language to describe
the downfall of Babylon, "Behold, the day of
Jehovah cometh, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger;
to make the land a desolation, and to destroy the
sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven
and the constellations thereof shall not give their
light; the sun shall be darkened in its going forth,
and the moon shall not cause its light to shine"
(Isaiah 13:9-10). "She shall be visited of
Jehovah of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake,
and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest, and the
flame of a devouring fire" (Isaiah 29:6). "I
clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make
sackcloth their covering" (Isaiah 50:3).
The prophet Joel use these
symbols to describe a future judgment against Israel
in connection with the coming of the Messiah, "And
I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun
shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into
blood, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah
cometh" (Joel 2:30-31).
And in the new testament
Jesus used this same symbolic language to foretell
the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, "But
immediately after the tribulation of those days the
sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give
her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and
the powers of the heavens shall be shaken"
Like many times before, the
imagery of falling empires is pictured as the
shaking of mountains, the falling of the stars,
things turned to blood, loss of light, the
encroachment of darkness, smoke, fire and
desolation. This picture of the judgment of God
coming on the Roman empire is nothing new in the
minds of Christians familiar with similar events
foretold in the old and new testament.
"And the heaven was removed as a scroll when it is
rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved
out of their places."
Here is more old testament imagery used to visualize
the judgment of God bringing about the end of an
empire. "And all the host of heaven shall be
dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together
as a scroll; and all their host shall fade away, as
the leaf fadeth from off the vine, and as a fading
(leaf) from the fig-tree" (Isaiah 34:4).
Mountains were symbols of permanence, strength
and the foundations of the earth were going to be
removed from their places. These are not literal
mountains, but rather are used as a figure for the
Roman Empire which seemed to be invincible and
unconquerable in it's power.
islands represented to the 1st century people
the outer reaches or most remote lands and far away
possessions of a nation. At the fall of Tyre, God
said the islands would shake, "Thus saith the
Lord Jehovah to Tyre: shall not the isles shake at
the sound of thy fall, when the wounded groan, when
the slaughter is made in the midst of thee?"
(Ezekiel 26:15) "Now shall the isles tremble in
the day of thy fall; yea, the isles that are in the
sea shall be dismayed at thy departure" (Ezekiel
26:18. The coming of judgment of God on the enemies
of the Christians would shake the powers of the
earth to their furthest reaches.
"And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and
the chief captains, and the rich, and the strong,
and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves in the
caves and in the rocks of the mountains; and they
say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us,
and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the
throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:"
All the inhabitants of the earth from the slaves to
the kings are stricken with terror as the judgment
of God descends upon them. They will go anywhere to
hide from the destruction associated with the fall
of a great world power. There was always death and
destruction and great fear when an empire was
conquered. And this holds true today. Great world
powers do not go quietly into oblivion. They are
destroyed and the results are far reaching and
This is not a picture of
the end times judgment as many today try and teach.
These people have time to hide in the caves and the
rocks of the mountains. There is not time to hide
when Jesus returns for the final judgment. This
return will be in the twinkling of an eye, (1
Corinthians 15:52), as a thief, in which
day [singular] "in the which the heavens shall
pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall
be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and
the works that are therein shall be burned up"
(2 Peter 3:10). The judgment in view here is not
the judgment of all creation, rather the judgment of
the Roman empire.
"for the great day of their wrath is come; and
who is able to stand?"
Jesus has opened the sixth seal which is the
judgment of the enemies of all righteousness.
Nothing can stop it, nothing can stand in the way.
God is seated on His throne, in complete control and
nothing can interfere or stand in the way of His
judgments. The evil Roman Empire for all it's vast
wealth and power cannot hope to stand.
Who is able to stand?
Nahum asked this same question as God's judgment was
about to fall on Nineveh. Once repented at the
preaching of Jonah, but forsaking God and returning
to her evil ways, she faced the same fate as the
Roman Empire before the wrath of God.
"Jehovah is slow to anger, and great in power,
and will by no means clear (the guilty): Jehovah
hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and
the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebuketh the
sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the
rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel; and the
flower of Lebanon languisheth. The mountains quake
at him, and the hills melt; and the earth is
upheaved at his presence, yea, the world, and all
that dwell therein. Who can stand before his
indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness
of his anger? his wrath is poured out like fire, and
the rocks are broken asunder by him."
And I saw Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, the
Lion of the tribe of Judah open the first of the
book and the saved cried with a thunderous voice,
"Come". And I saw a vision of Jesus riding on a
white horse with the Gospel of the Kingdom of God
and He rode forth to conquer the enemies of
righteousness and He prevailed.
And then I saw Jesus reveal the second part of
the book and the creation around the throne said
"Come". And I saw a vision of someone riding on a
bloody horse, who came to take peace from the earth
and to compel mankind to slay one another. He was
given great power to accomplish this from Satan.
And then Jesus revealed the third part of what
is to come and I heard the voices of the creation
around the throne say "Come". Then I looked and saw
a rider on a horse of darkness carrying a set of
scales. And then I heard a voice coming out from
those around the throne saying "A measure of wheat
for a days wages and three measures of barley for
the same. And don't even bother with the oil and
the wine because you can never afford it."
And then Jesus, the Lamb of God revealed what
was next and I again heard the voices of the
creation say "Come". When I looked I saw a rider on
a pale ghostly horse and the rider's name was death
and the realm of the dead was filled in his wake.
And he was given the freedom over all the four
corners of the earth to slay mankind with swords,
famine, wild beasts and other forms of killing.
And then the Lamb revealed the next part and I
saw underneath His alter, all the souls of the
righteous who were slain because of their faith to
the testimony of Jesus. And they cried out in
unison with a loud voice saying, "Oh Holy and True
Father, how long before you judge our murderers and
avenge our blood on their heads?" And each one of
them was clothed in robes of righteousness and told
that they must rest and be patient a while longer.
For God's righteous purpose is not yet fulfilled and
many more of their faithful brethren will be slain
and will join them before it's done.
And then the lamb revealed the judgment of the
enemies of the Christians. There were upheavals and
the darkness on the earth was so thick, the sun
could not shine through it. The moon shown only
bloodshed and the leaders of the earth fell like
green figs blown from their trees in a storm. The
heavens revealed the coming judgment from God above
and the unshakable powers and strongholds of the
earth were moved out of their places to their
And all the unbelieving kings of earth and all
their princes and captains; everyone from the rich
and powerful to the slaves will hide themselves
wherever they can to try and escape. They will beg
the mountains and the rocks to fall on them in order
to hide themselves from the face of the wrath of
God's judgment. For their time of facing God's
wrath has come and who among them will be able to