I. THE FIRST SEAL: ANTICHRIST 6:1-2
II. THE SECOND SEAL: WAR 6:3-4
III. THE THIRD SEAL: FAMINE 6:5-6
IV. THE FOURTH SEAL: DEATH 6:7-8
V. THE FIFTH SEAL: THE MARTYRS 6:9-11
VI. THE SIXTH SEAL: GREAT DISTRESS 6:12-17
Chapters 6 through 18 record three great series of judgements upon the earth: the 7 seals, the 7 trumpets and the 7 vials. Chapter 6 records the opening of the first 6 seals, and this brings the reader up to the day of the Lord or the day of wrath. Chapter 6 begins the 7 year period known as "The Great Tribulation." This period is usually considered to correspond to Danielís 70th week. In the next chapters John records a series of visions which portray the wrath of God poured out upon unrepentant mankind. The severity of the judgments are not paralleled anywhere in the Scripture. God, however, acts justly, because his holiness must be vindicated. There is, therefore, no inconsistency with his nature.
The lamb opens the first seal, and John sees a white horse and an unnamed rider carrying a bow and wearing a crown, verses 1-2. White horses are mentioned in only two places in the book of Revelation, here and in 19:11. The two riders seem to have nothing in common except the white horse. Some scholars identify these two as the same rider. Since the Lord is opening the seals it is not him. The rider on this horse is probably the Antichrist or the symbol of some condition which will prepare for his coming. This rider seems to lead the way for the coming of the other riders.
The second seal is opened, verses 3-4, and a red horse comes forth carrying a rider with a great sword. This is a symbol of war and bloodshed which follows the Antichristís violence.
The third seal is opened, verses 5-6, and a black horse comes forth carrying a rider with a pair of balances or scales in his hands. The seals symbolize famine which follows war.
The fourth seal is opened, verses 7-8, and a pale or yellowish-green horse carrying the rider death comes forth. It says that Hades followed with him. It does not say whether he is riding on the same horse as death or riding on another horse. One fourth of the earthís population is destroyed by four means: war, famine, death (disease) and wild beasts.
The fifth seal is opened, verses 9-11, and John sees the souls of those who were slain for the Word of God and the testimony which they had given. The word esfagmenwn is translated "slain." This word is a perfect passive participle and seems to indicate deaths by terrible means. These people cry out for the justice of God to be visited upon those who oppose his people. These people are given white robes symbolizing purity and righteousness.
The sixth seal, verses 12-17, is opened and the wrath of God against unrighteousness is revealed. The first five seals seem to indicate the results of a conqueror who brings war and its consequences. The sixth seal, however, focuses more upon the wrath of God. His wrath produces cosmic catastrophe and great distress in the earth. An earthquake comes and is followed by eschatological events. Those who have ignored the mercy and grace of God try to hide in dens and caves but cannot escape the wrath of God. The reader would expect for the opening of the seventh seal to be immediately recorded; however, John in chapter 7, gives an interlude of two events.
TEXT w/Scofield Notes
(Rev 6:1 KJV) And 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.
1 "OPENED": vv. 3,5,7, 9,12; 8:1
(Rev 6:2 KJV) And 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.
1 "FORTH": The rider on the white horse is not Christ. Those who identify this rider with Him consider the passage a prophecy of conquest by the Gospel. But no crown was given to the Lord as the proclamation of the Gospel began, and the terrible world events which accompany the other three riders (vv. 3 - 8) do not imply an earlier conquest by Christ.
2 "CONQUERING": Mat 24:5; cp. Dan 7:7
(Rev 6:3 KJV) And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.
(Rev 6:4 KJV) And 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.
1 "RED": Cp. 2 Ki 3:22 - 23; Nah 2:3; Zech 6:2
2 "PEACE": Mat 24:6 - 7
(Rev 6:5 KJV) And 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.
1 "BEAST": See Ezek 1:5, note
2 "HORSE": Cp. Zech 6:2
3 "BALANCES": Mat 24:7; cp. Ezek 4:16 - 17
(Rev 6:6 KJV) And 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.
1 "MEASURE": See Measures and Weights (N.T.), Acts 27:28, note
2 "PENNY": See Coinage (N.T.), Mat 5:26, note
(Rev 6:7 KJV) And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
(Rev 6:8 KJV) And 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.
1 "DEATH": Cp. Acts 3:15; Rom 6:23
2 "HELL": See Luke 16:23, note
3 "SWORD": Mat 24:9
4 "BEASTS": Cp. Ezek 14:21
(Rev 6:9 KJV) And 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:
1 "SLAIN": <Death> (physical): vv. 9 - 10; Rev 9:6. (Gen 2:17; Heb 9:27, note)
(Rev 6:10 KJV) And 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?
1 "HOW": Ps 13:1 - 6
(Rev 6:11 KJV) And 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.
1 "WHITE": <Righteousness> (garment): vv. 9 - 11; Rev 7:9. (Gen 3:21; Rev 19:8)
2 "THEM": <Remnant:> vv. 9 - 11; Rev 7:3. (Isa 1:9; Rom 11:5, note)
3 "FULFILLED": Cp. Heb 11:40
(Rev 6:12 KJV) And 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;
1 "EARTHQUAKE": Mat 24:7
2 "HAIR": Joel 2:10,31
(Rev 6:13 KJV) And 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.
1 "EARTH": Mat 24:29
(Rev 6:14 KJV) And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
1 "MOUNTAIN": Rev 16:20; cp. Jer 3:23
(Rev 6:15 KJV) And 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;
1 "KINGS": Ps 2:2 - 4; cp. Dan 2:21
2 "HID": Isa 2:12,19
(Rev 6:16 KJV) And 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:
1 "US": Luke 23:29 -30
2 "THRONE": Rev 20:11
(Rev 6:17 KJV) For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
1 "FOR": Cp. Isa 13:6; Mat 24:8
2 "WRATH": <Day> (of the LORD): vv. 12 - 17; Rev 16:17. (Ps 2:9; Rev 19:19)