We dive into the rest of Revelation 6 and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. We see that God is a God of life. He defeated death with life, and He calls us to defeat Satan, evil, and falsity by living a true and faithful life. Looking into the wrath of God and His justice also allows us to see his extravagant mercy and His relentless pursuit of life.
Last time we looked at chapter 6 very briefly and looked at the four horsemen of the apocalypse. We’re going to go through now and do a little more of a deep search and then hopefully make it through the rest of chapter 6.
Revelation 6:1. Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.” And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
Now, we are in the throne room, and we are seeing things. First thing we see is the opening of a seal, and you might recall that there was a scroll, and it was obviously incredibly important that this scroll be opened, and no one was found worthy to open the scroll. John cried when this event happened, then somebody came and said, “It’s okay. There’s One who’s worthy,” and it’s Jesus the lamb. So the lamb is opening the scroll.
What happens is, he’ll open the scroll, he’ll break a seal, open the scroll, and then come to another seal, break that seal, open the scroll. And each time, as opposed to someone reading the scroll, the scroll comes to life. The story comes to life. And we see what happens in each of these seals.
What we’re going to see in the rest of this book, we’re going to see seven seals. Each time a story comes to life, the seventh seal is going to produce seven trumpets. Each one of the trumpets is going to be like an event, you blow a trumpet and something important happens. The last three trumpets are the three woes. It will escalate in severity on the earth each time one of these things happens. And then the seventh trumpet, there are seven bowls of wrath poured out on the earth. Then the end comes. Jesus returns.
So seven seals, seventh seal, seven trumpets, seventh trumpet is seven bowl judgments. That’s going to be kind of the structure of the rest of the book. When Jesus returns, we’ll get a little peep into the new heaven and the new earth.
The 70th week of Daniel
We are in this section of Revelation, chapter 4 on, we are in the 70th week of Daniel. It’s a seven-year period. We’ve gone through that, and in Daniel chapter 9 it tells us that the 70th week begins with a treaty between the antichrist and Israel. And in the middle of those seven years, Jesus said there’s going to be an abomination of desolations, spoken of in Daniel. That’s going to then trigger the Great Tribulation. This is going to be, I believe, things that are happening in the Great Tribulation.
The first speaking creature
We see here the seal broken, and one of the four living creatures speaks. This is very interesting. There’s four living creatures. These are not people, and they’re not angels, they’re creatures. And they’re speaking.
I think C. S. Lewis may have picked up on this in his Narnia Chronicles.
Wouldn’t you like to live in a place where the animals talk? I don’t know if the animals we knew here will be there, or if it’ll be a different group of animals. Could be either; could be both.
But it appears as though the animals are going to be speaking, not just with body language and other forms of communication, which—I don’t know about you, but we have dogs that speak very clearly. You know exactly what they want. Their vocabulary is very limited: ball, food, outside to go potty. There’s certain things that they tell you. But they’re very clear about it.
Here these are creatures actually speaking words. Why you have the creatures in charge of this is an interesting thing as well. Perhaps the creatures in heaven and the creatures in the new earth are going to have very important functions like this. It’s quite fascinating.
Where does John go to see?
The creature says come and see. Now they’re in the throne room, so the interesting question is, where does John go, and where does he look?
If we skip down just a little bit, we can see in 6:9, When He opened the fifth seal—it says—I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain.
So when we get to that point, we’ll see that he’s actually seeing something happening in the throne room. These first four seals, apparently he’s going and looking at something that’s happening either in a different part of the throne room or, more likely, outside.
What is it? A big screen, a window, a porch that you’re looking out on to see what happens? We don’t know. But we do know each time he goes back to the throne room again.
So it’s happening from the throne room, and he’s seeing some kind of a vision that’s happening either projected within or outside the throne room.
Authorization comes from the throne room
This living creature says come and see, and he looks, and what he sees is a white horse. We’ve already emphasized what’s happening here; these apocalyptic events are being authorized in the throne room. And one of the overriding points of Revelation is when you see these horrible things happening on earth, they are being authorized. It’s not that suddenly God has lost control. It is that God is in his throne room, on his throne, authorizing things to be happening on the earth.
Again, the point of Revelation is to read, understand, and do; and what we’re supposed to understand is things are going to get really bad, but they’re authorized. What God wants us to do is be faithful witnesses and not fear death. That’s the gist of it. Very simple. Very clear.
What’s not so simple is these events. But the point is not to understand the events. The point is to understand, there’s going to be a lot of bad stuff happening. And when it does, God’s still on his throne.
The first seal: The person on the white horse is authorized to conquer
What happens is the crown is given to the guy sitting on the white horse, and he goes out conquering and to conquer. Anybody know what the Greek word is that’s translated conquering and conquer? Nikao.
Let’s look back at Revelation 3:20 because now that you see that it’s authorized to this person on the white horse to go out and conquer, it’s exactly the same word as in 3:21. Let’s look at 3:20. This is the Laodicean church, the seventh church that we saw a letter written to. Greek colony. So these are Greek people with Greek language.
Revelation 3:20. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Now remember these Laodiceans were people who thought they needed nothing. They’re very rich people. They had the ability to not depend on others. They could depend on themselves. And Jesus tells them in this letter, you actually are naked, miserable, and wretched. And you don’t see. Your problem is you don’t see yourself as you really are. So what you need to do to be actually rich is buy gold from me. And the way you buy gold from me is to listen to my voice.
So this is the answer: listen to my voice. Then he says, To him who overcomes—same word, nikao. To him who conquers. And how do we conquer on earth? Listen to God’s voice.
Go back to the very first part of Revelation. Blessed is he who reads, hears, understands, and then does. The whole point here is listen to my voice, let me interact with you, and if we do that, what we’re going to do is live a life that’s not of the world. It’s in the world, but it’s not of the world. We’re going to live a life apart from the world. And when we do that, we are conquering.
Chapter 6 is a different kind of conquering, of course. We’re not conquering sin and the world and so forth. This conqueror is conquering physically with armed violence. And we can see that in the second seal.
The lamb breaks the second seal and unrolls. And another story comes to life. I hope all the books in heaven and in the new earth are going to be this way. Where you go check out a book, and you unroll it, and boom, it comes to life! I kind of think that’s the way it is going to be.
I’d like to learn about the crusades. Unroll it. Boom! There they are. You’re there. You’re in it. I sort of expect that.
The second seal: The person on the red horse is authorized to remove peace from the earth
Revelation 6:3. When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying—So here we’ve got another creature talking. It’s not just one. And each one of these creatures is apparently associated with triggering this apocalyptic horse. The first guy’s conquering and to conquer. He says, Come and see.” Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.
So when there’s a conquering force that’s authorized, a crown was given to him, of course there’s going to need to be war. And this war is authorized. Notice there: it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace—by whom? Where are we? We’re in the throne room. It’s granted by God for there to be violence on the earth.
God poured out his wrath in the flood
It’s interesting because the very first time God poured out his wrath on the earth in a major way, it was for a specific reason. Look at Genesis 6:11 real quick. Genesis 6:11 says The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”
That’s the reason why the flood came, because the earth filled with violence. God did not make an earth to be full of violence.
It’s interesting to think about, but from all appearances what took place is an earth that was very lush and productive and easy to live in became an earth that was very harsh by comparison and difficult to live in. And God said, if you’re going to spend all your time fighting with each other, I’m going to take your time away from you. And you’re going to spend all your time trying to stay alive. Now you’re going to spend your time farming and working. Otherwise, you just kill each other.
And the first thing, of course, that happens when they repopulate the earth is they start gathering to a city again so they can fight some more. And he scatters them out through all the earth. Of course, we still fought. But just in little skirmishes. We couldn’t all fight at once.
It was granted to him to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another—which was part of the conquering and to conquer.
The third seal: Great scarcity comes to the earth.
He opened the third seal, and the third living creature says, “Come and see.” So again—I don’t know if he’s going back to the same place every time to look or to a different place to look, but there’s something happening that he’s seeing beyond just what’s in the throne room.
And I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
A denarius is a day’s wage. So what we’re seeing here is basically all work is just sufficient to barely get enough to eat. A quart of wheat is roughly one day of calories for one person. So there’s great scarcity that comes to the earth.
It’s interesting, this voice in the midst of the four living creatures. It doesn’t tell us whose voice this is. But apparently these living creatures are an orchestrated and integrated part of God’s plan. Perhaps this is their whole purpose that they’ve been waiting to accomplish. But it’s going to be very interesting to see what the workforce looks like in heaven. It may look a lot like Star Wars.
The fourth seal: death and hades
The fourth seal now opens. When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.” So again, he’s going to look. And I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.
Here you’ve got conquering and war and famine, and one other thing that’s added there is beasts. And this pale horse rider is death.
Personification of death
This is interesting because death, of course, is an event. All men are appointed to die. And hades is a place. So one of the questions that I thought about was how can a place ride a horse?
In the Greek world, the personification of events was a common way of doing things. In fact, this term death is a translation of thanatos, and hades is a translation of hades. It’s not translated. It’s just hades. Thanatos and Hades were both persons in the panoply of Greek gods in Greek mythology. There were personifications of events. Thanatos was not very commonly depicted. He wasn’t one of the main characters in the Greek mythology. Hades is.
Hades is both a place and a person. There was personification of the place. And the place was the place where all the dead went.
It’s interesting this word hades that follows along with death. They’re a duo, because death is the event and hades is the place. But hades, it’s interesting that in the King James Bible, hades is translated, so you don’t see the word hades if you look at the King James Bible. But in the New King James, they figured out that they shouldn’t decide for people. They should just put hades in there, at least here they do.
Different uses of the word hades in scriptures
Hades is a very interesting term to me. If we look at Acts 2:27, you’ll see the word hades. Acts 2:27 is Peter giving his defense of the gospel, and he’s talking about Jesus being resurrected, the resurrected Messiah. And he says in verse 25, For David says concerning Him—and then he quotes a Psalm. And he says—
I foresaw the Lord always before my face,
For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;
Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
He’s saying, look, David predicted that the Messiah would be resurrected. Because he says you’re going to go to hades but not stay there.
Well, the interesting part of this is if you go to the Old Testament and look at this Psalm, the Hebrew word that is translated hades in this verse is the Hebrew word sheol. And if you look at sheol in the Old Testament, it’s translated variously: pit, death. It’s basically the place of the dead. It’s pretty well universally the place of death. It’s sheol that’s used 65 times in the Old Testament, and then the King James version translates grave 31 times, hell 31 times, and pit 3 times.
But sheol actually just means where you go when you die, whether it’s your body going in the grave, or whether it’s the ultimate place that you go.
The first use is in Genesis 37:35. And it says And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, “For I shall go down into the grave—sheol—to my son in mourning.” I think this is Jacob mourning Joseph.
Sheol, the place of the dead, and hades are the same place. Now the fascinating thing to me about that is, hades was an already developed concept in Greek mythology. And so the gospel writers just said that’s an accurate enough picture. We’ll just substitute it in for our view of sheol.
Because, mythology always comes from somewhere. It has truth embedded in it. And apparently Hades was close enough.
In fact, if you look at the story of the rich man and Lazarus, it says that Lazarus was in the bosom of Abraham, and the rich man was in hades. And there’s this gulf between them, but they can see each other. So they’re in the same place with a division.
That’s exactly what the Greek idea of hades was. You cross the river Styx and then you go into either the good compartment, Elysium, although that word never shows up in the Bible. And then, what’s the bad place called? Maybe I’ll think of it later. That word is actually in scripture a couple of times.
It appears that the New Testament talks about the bad place as hades and the whole place as hades.
If we go look at the instances of the use of hades, look at Matthew 11:23. It says And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades—So hades is used as the lowest place as opposed to heaven, which is the highest place. That’s one use of hades.
Matthew 16:18, it says, And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Here hades is actually a fortress with a gate, and it’s trying to keep people out and keep people in. And the picture here is the church will get a battering ram and go and bust down the gates and bust into hades.
So that’s our job. Our job is to assault death and defeat it with life. That’s a pretty cool picture, isn’t it?