[Rev. 6:1] ¶ I looked on when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a thunderous voice, “Come!” [Rev. 6:2] So I looked, and here came a white horse! The one who rode it had a bow, and he was given a crown, and as a conqueror he rode out to conquer. [Rev. 6:3] ¶ Then when the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come!” [Rev. 6:4] And another horse, fiery red, came out, and the one who rode it was granted permission to take peace from the earth, so that people would butcher one another, and he was given a huge sword. [Rev. 6:5] ¶ Then when the Lamb opened the third seal I heard the third living creature saying, “Come!” So I looked, and here came a black horse! The one who rode it had a balance scale in his hand. [Rev. 6:6] Then I heard something like a voice from among the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat will cost a day’s pay and three quarts of barley will cost a day’s pay. But do not damage the olive oil and the wine!” [Rev. 6:7] ¶ Then when the Lamb opened the fourth seal I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come!” [Rev. 6:8] So I looked and here came a pale green horse! The name of the one who rode it was Death, and Hades followed right behind. They were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill its population with the sword, famine, and disease, and by the wild animals of the earth. [Rev. 6:9] ¶ Now when the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been violently killed because of the word of God and because of the testimony they had given. [Rev. 6:10] They cried out with a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Master, holy and true, before you judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood?” [Rev. 6:11] Each of them was given a long white robe and they were told to rest for a little longer, until the full number was reached of both their fellow servants and their brothers who were going to be killed just as they had been. [Rev. 6:12] ¶ Then I looked when the Lamb opened the sixth seal, and a huge earthquake took place; the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the full moon became blood red; [Rev. 6:13] and the stars in the sky fell to the earth like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when shaken by a fierce wind. [Rev. 6:14] The sky was split apart like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place.
In the ancient times, royal decrees were written on a scroll, sealed with wax and then impressed with the Emperor’s emblem. Upon receipt, only the authorised representative was permitted to break the wax seal and unfurl the scroll to reveal the King’s judgment. While Caesar was issuing decrees to martyr Christians and forcibly close churches, John sees a vision of the True King issuing the real decrees of consequential rather than temporal judgment.
Today, we still live in a world where kings and tyrants, professors and celebrities rail against God. Feigning brightness they espouse irrationality. Pretending to be mighty they are destined to bow before the One who is Almighty.
John is writing to his readers in two languages. The first is Greek. The second is symbolism, or more accurately: Biblical symbolism. You may never get the opportunity to learn Biblical Greek. But you should create an opportunity to learn Biblical symbolism. Most of the Book of Revelation is written in this latter language which a Bible reader learns from becoming familiar with the Old Testament.
Undoubtedly, John’s original audience knew this latter language. This Biblically symbolic revelation would have been immensely comforting to them. He refers to a precise number yet waiting to be made complete. These disasters against the Church were not a matter of the Enemy gaining the upper hand. In a way that is often beyond immediate human comprehension, the persecution and martyrdom was actually an integral part of Christ’s plan – which would be completed – and still will ultimately be.
Rather than the Church being crushed by the opposition it faced from Rome and Jerusalem, Christ’s plan was still on track and He would be vindicated. And it still is and He was and He will be still.
It’s now up to us to live like it.