Revelation 6: The Scroll Revealed--an Overview of History (6 Seals Opened)

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Reading: Revelation 6

1I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, "Come!" 2I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
3When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, "Come!" 4Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword. 5When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand....
7When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" 8I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him....
9When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained....
12I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake.... (Rev. 6:1-2, 3-4, 5, 7-8, 9, 12)

Thinking and Reflecting
In this chapter, the first six seals are opened. Remember that the Lamb controls the contents of the scroll as he opens the seals. The four riders are apparently representations of conquest, war, famine, and death. The fifth seal reveals suffering souls under altar and the sixth an earthquake. Since we are dealing with apocalyptic literature, we must always ask, "What do these mean?" These are representations-what do they represent? What do they say, other than that God is in control? Can God work through the death of martyrs? Can natural events really be the wrath of God and the wrath of the Lamb?

What events in history have caused people to think about the existence of God, either to doubt or to affirm the existence of God (for example, the Holocaust)? What difference does it make whether we take a long or short view of history? What if we are called to live our entire lives in one of the "faith valleys" of history where Christianity is under attack? What difference would this message have made for first-century readers?

Father God, help us see your presence in the world about us, both in good and bad, blessings and challenges. May we continue faithfully regardless of the circumstances in which we are called to live, and the historical times in which we are born. Thank you for the assurance that you are working all things toward your ultimate goals and ends. In Jesus' name and by his power we ask these things, Amen.

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Last updated September 3, 2011