A Commentary on Revelation 6
INTRODUCTION TO REVELATION CHAPTER 6
A white horse comes forth, with a mounted cavalier, having a bow and a crown that was given to him. He goes forth conquering and to conquer. During the reign of Trajan, who came from the Island of Crete which was famous for bows, he went forth conquering and to conquer. The empire of Rome grew to its greatest extent. From Armenia to Assyria, from Albania to Carduchian hills, every day new nations fell under the sway of this famed bowman. No sooner had this ended than a fiery red horse bursts on the scene. For the next hundred years the empire is drenched in blood from the Praetorian guards. They were the secret service of the emperors; with their sword they slew emperor after emperor and sold the office. Then a black horse races on the scene with a rider holding a pair of balances. This was a time of extreme taxation and exorbitant prices. Then a pale horse revealed in the opening of the fourth seal symbolizes death, and portrays in horrific panoramas the awful horrors of death during this period of history. The Greek word chlooros, translated “pale” means livid, ghastly, corpse-like. This horse looks like he was dead on foot, having famished away till there is nothing left but skin and bones. His rider is the grim monster of death. This represents a period of war, famine, pestilence and disease. The opening of the fifth seal reveals the martyrs. These martyrs all cried to God for vindication. Rest assured He has not forgotten a solitary wail or groan. Hence, an awful retribution, with accumulated and compound interest, is on the track of all the people in all ages that have persecuted God’s saints. There is but one Greek word for martyr and witness. Martyr is a pure Greek word, translated witness. When Jesus met an infuriated Saul on the Damascus road, He said unto him “I have appeared unto thee to make thee a minister and martyr.”Acts 26:16. From that time forward Paul knew he would have to suffer martyrdom. When he opened the sixth seal there was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth. This must emblematize the terrible political convulsions, which shake every potentate on the globe from the mighty thrones of time-honored empires. The sun emblematizes the kings, the moon the queens, and stars the state governors and all subordinate rulers. We see, amid these terrible national convulsions and a revolution, every ruler is to be shaken from his throne. This was no doubt fulfilled when paganism fell and Christianity took control of the Roman Empire.
EXPOSITION ON REVELATION CHAPTER 6
1 I 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!”
Christ the worthy one opens the first seal to reveal an era of future events. One of the four beasts saying, Come and see. This seraphim invites John to view the first scene on “set” in heaven. `
2 I 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.
FIRST SEAL: 98-192 A.D. Reign of Trajan to Commodus . Ninety four years of prosperous condition. His army went forth conquering. Had a bow. Two races on earth who were famed bowmen. Parthians and Cretians. Trajan was the adopted son of Nerva and his family was from Crete. And he went forth conquering, and to conquer. I will quote from Gibbon’s Decline and fall of the Roman Empire Vol 1 P,5-9:
Such was the state of the Roman frontiers, and such the maxims of Imperial policy, from the death of Augustus to the accession of Trajan. That virtuous and active prince had received the education of a soldier, and possessed the talents of a general. The peaceful system of his predecessors was interrupted by scenes of war and conquest; and the legions, after a long interval, beheld a military emperor at their head. The first exploits of Trajan were against the Dacians, the most warlike of men, who dwelt beyond the Danube, and who, during the reign of Domitian, had insulted with impunity the majesty of Rome….The new province of Dacia was about 1300 miles in circumference….Trajan was ambitious of fame; and as long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters….Yet the successes of Trajan, however transcend, was rapid and specious. His fleets ravaged the coasts of Arabia; and Trajan vainly flattered himself that he was approaching towards the confines of India. Every day the astonished senate received the intelligence of new names and new nations, that acknowledged his sway. They were informed that the kings of Bosphorus, Colchos, Iberia, Albania, Osrhoene, and even the Parthian monarch himself, had accepted their diadems from the hands of the emperor; that the independent tribes of the Median and Carduchian hills had implored his protection; and that the rich countries of Armenia, Mesopotamia, and Assyria, were reduced into the state of provinces….Nor was there a province of the empire which, in the course of his reign, was not honored with the presence of the monarch….They preserved peace by constant preparation for war.
The empire grew as this warrior went forth conquering and to conquer. By the year 300 A.D. the empire was three and one half million square miles with 200,000 miles of highway system. Therefore I conclude that the rider on the white horse with a bow and a crown and going forth conquering and to conquer was fulfilled under the reign of Trajan.
3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!”
See comments on verse 1.
4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.
This would be fulfilled during a period of civil war. And that they should kill one another: When emperors and contenders battle for the throne they kill one another. And there was given unto him a great sword. A sword was given to the Praetorian Guard when they became a part of the secret service. SECOND SEAL: 193-284 A.D. During this period 32 emperors and 27 contenders died as they fought for the throne. When one was made a Praetorian guard he was given a sword. History shows that these guards were the lawless ones who slew their own emperors. Red was a symbol of carnage, war and bloodshed. Gibbon described this period of history as a period of carnage and warfare. In chapter four he recited the murder of Commodus. The election of Pertinax and his attempts to reform the State. His assassination by the Praetorian guards. In chapter five he tells of the public sale of the empire to Didius Julianus by the Praetorian Guards. Over and over we are told of the Praetorian Guards who murdered their emperor and sold the empire.
5 When 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.
Black is a symbol of want, lack, famine; the color of mourning. A pair of balances symbolizes a time of rationing or extreme taxation.
6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart [Greek a choinix (probably about a liter)] of wheat for a day’s wages, [Greek a denarius] and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!
THIRD SEAL: 193-284 A.D. The death penalty was issued to anyone caught cutting down their own olive trees or vineyards to prevent taxation. Wheat, which was the staff of life, sold for $4.50 a bushel and $1.50 a bushel for barley. Exorbitant prices–cost today would be over $50.00 for wheat and $16.50 for barley. Nor was the rapacious son of Severus (Caracalla) contented with such a measure of taxation as had appeared sufficient to his moderate predecessors. Instead of a twentieth, he exacted a tenth of all legacies and inheritances, and during his reign he crushed alike every part of the empire under the weight of his iron scepter. Gibbon’s Vol. 1. p 161-162:
Swarms of exactors sent into the provinces, filled them with agitation and terror, as though a conquering enemy were leading them into captivity. The fields were separately measured, the trees and vines, the flocks and herds were numbered, and an examination made of the men. The sick and weak were borne to the place of inscription, a reckoning was made of the age of each, years were added to the young and subtracted from the old, in order to subject them to the higher taxation the law imposed. The whole scene was filled with wailing and sadness. (Lactantius) “In the course of this history, we shall be too often summoned to explain the land-tax the capitation, and the heavy contributions of corn, wine, oil, and meat, which were exacted from the provinces for the use of the court, the army, and the capital.
7-8 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
FOURTH SEAL. A pale horse. This horse was sickly green in color. The color of this horse suggests war, famine, pestilence, disease and death personified. Death and Hell followed him. God said long ago to ancient Babylon, “Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming:” Isa 14:9 Now the empire of Rome is told that Death and Hell is following them. As the barbarous invaders came and killed by the sword, pestilence followed, as many as 5,000 people died daily at Rome. Famine brought about starvation. Fourth part. Gibbon states that about a half of the human family perished. John says about a fourth part.
9-11 When 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. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
The altar was where sacrifices were made. John sees the martyrs under the altar. He would have seen Stephen, who suffered martyrdom at Jerusalem, James the son of Zebedee, Martyred by Herod Agrippa, Phillip, Suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison, and crucified . Matthew In Ethiopia he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halbred in the city of Nadabah. James the Less, he was beat and stoned by the Jews; and finally had his brains dashed out with a fuller’s club. Matthias, He was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded. Andrew, He preached the gospel to many Asiatic nations; but on his arrival at Edessa he was taken and crucified on a cross. Mark, he was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria. Peter, crucified, as some do write, at Rome. Paul, Crucified at Rome under Nero. Jude, Crucified at Edessa. Bartholomew was Crucified in India. Thomas, Martyred by Pagan priests in India. Luke Hanged on an olive tree by the idolatrous priests of Greece. Simon, Crucified in Britain. The list is endless, historians estimate that at least fifty million were killed by Papal Rome during the dark ages. But, the church daily increased, deeply rooted in the doctrine of the apostles and watered with the blood of saints. FIFTH SEAL: A.D. 303-313. Persecution. Diocletion tried to extirpate Christianity from the earth. Churches were burnt. Bibles were gathered and destroyed. Millions estimated to have been killed. Christian worship was forbidden.
Faith of our fathers! living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whenever we hear that glorious word!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!
Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free;
How sweet would be their children’s fate,
If they, like them, could die for thee!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!
Faith of our fathers! We will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife;
And preach thee, too, as love knows how,
by kindly words and virtuous life:
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death!
No doubt that this would include John Wycliffe, Savorarola, Swingli, Jerome, Tindale, Coverdale, the Waldines and Albigines, in which 1,000,000 perished, from the beginning of the Jesuits 1540-1580 900,000 were destroyed. 150,000 perished by inquisition in 30 years. In the low lands 50,000 people were hanged, beheaded, burned alive or buried alive for the crime of heresy (Christianity) They persecuted and tried to put down the reformation in Germany and Switzerland. The historian W.E. H. Lecky says,”The church of Rome has shed more innocent blood than any other institution that ever existed among mankind.” God says to the martyrs “Rest yet for a little season,” We can be assured that God will bring vengeance upon the enemies of Christianity.
12-17 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
SIXTH SEAL 307-337A.D. The symbols that follow were used extensively in the Old Testament to describe the fall of nation or empire. I call your attention to Isaiah:
See, the day of the Lord is coming–a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger–to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. I will make man scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the Lord Almighty, in the day of his burning anger. Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep without a shepherd, each will return to his own people, each will flee to his native land Whoever is captured will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives ravished. See, I will stir up against them the Medes, who do not care for silver and have no delight in gold. Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants nor will they look with compassion on children. Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ [Or Chaldeans’] pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah She will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherd will rest his flocks there But desert creatures will lie there, jackals will fill her houses; there the owls will dwell, and there the wild goats will leap about. Hyenas will howl in her strongholds, jackals in her luxurious palaces. Her time is at hand, and her days will not be prolonged. Isa 13:9 -22
The Lord has stretched out his hand over the sea and made its kingdoms tremble. He has given an order concerning Phoenicia that her fortresses be destroyed. ISA 23:11
The moon will be abashed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously. ISA 24:23
All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree. ISA 34:4
When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you; I will bring darkness over your land, declares the Sovereign Lord. Eze. 32:7,8
I have underlined several words in order to illustrate how the Holy Spirit used symbols. The following symbols are defined SUN Supreme ruler.
Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’ When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, ‘What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?’ Gen 37:9
MOON represents Rulers, queen and princess rulers but not supreme ruler. STARS Princes and Rulers, Governors, Senators, conspicuous men. BLOOD represents Bloodshed such as war. MOUNTIANS Kingdom
Before your eyes I will repay Babylon and all who live in Babylonia declares the Lord. ‘I am against you, O destroying mountain, you who destroy the whole earth,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will stretch out my hand against you, roll you off the cliffs, and make you a burned-out mountain. Jer. 51:24,25
ISLANDS represents European states. This is a symbol of a great commotion or disturbance or a great rearranging of Government and religion. I believe it to be fulfilled when the Pagan powers fell and Christianity took over the Roman Empire.