The Tribulation: The Lamb Breaks the Seals
In Part 2, we left off where Jesus, the Lamb of God, stood holding the scroll he had taken from God the Father, ready to break the first seal on it;
"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!” 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." (Revelation 6:1-2, NIV)
Looking at this verse, we see that the first horseman is upon a white horse. Historically, a white horse has symbolized a victorious war, and we are told in this verse that the rider rides out AS a conqueror, i.e. someone who has already conquered. As a side note: the jewish never used horses as beasts of burden, but rather reserved them for war. The ox and the donkey took on the role of burden in that society.
The rider carries a bow, which was used as a distance weapon rather than an up-close melee weapon. We can infer from this fact that the rider himself will not get personally involved in conquering, but will instead command and conduct his warfare from a distance.
We also see that he wears a crown, in this case, the Greek word stephanos , a wreath of victory instead of the diadema of authority. This indicates that he has already won a battle or competition, and is therefore a victor.
So, what we are seeing then is a rider who is already a victor, has conducted war successfully, who rides a hose of victory, and conducts warfare from a distance without getting into the battle himself. This cannot be Christ, as he wears crowns of AUTHORITY, carries a sword which proceeds from his mouth, and gets into the battle HIMSELF. In fact, at Armageddon, he is the ONLY one who does any sort of fighting at all! Not to mention that as John is seeing all of this, Christ is in heaven, present with his father, reading from the scroll.
An important clue that we have to his identity is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8:
"For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming." (NIV, emphasis mine)
The one who holds back the lawlessness in this world, i.e. "the Restrainer" is the Holy Spirit; once he is no longer restraining the evil in this world, then the Antichrist can come forth unopposed. Because the Body of Christ is sealed with the Holy Spirit, at least some Christians would have discernment to recognize the Antichrist for who he is, and would begin preaching against him. So, by necessity, the church would have to be removed from the planet before he could be revealed; in fact, the elders, as mentioned in part 1, represent the church in heaven.
I think we can then put everything together and see for ourselves who the first rider is.
The Lamb then breaks the second seal:
"When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 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. " (Revelation 6:3-4, NIV)
Normally, the Greek word for sword, machaira, means a small sword or dagger; here, a LARGE sword means that the sword is a massive bladed weapon. In battles during that era, warriors usually favored swords that were about 16-18 inches long, such as the Roman gladius. But for executions, a large axe or sword was used to ensure a clean cut. The rider rides as an executioner, taking lives in a pre-ordered, methodical manner. The red color, a fiery red at that, shows the fire of battle and violence, as men fought and killed one another because of this rider. red is also the color of blood, and one can imagine that blood indeed would be spilled freely in such circumstances.
The Lamb breaks the third seal:
"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. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages,c and do not damage the oil and the wine!” " (Revelation 6:5-6, NIV)
A black horse whose rider carried scales was an ominous vision indeed, and the instructions he is given tell us a great deal of his purpose. A quart of wheat was about 1/8 of a bushel, and was the daily allowance of a servant or a slave. Barley, cheaper than wheat and less nutritious, was allowed in more quantity. A penny, in greek "denariou" or denaruis, was a day's wages for a laborer in John's time. We are essentially being told that famine would follow, and that food would be measured out to such an extent that oil and wine, used in medical treatment in ancient times (see Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan) would be scarce. Food and medical supplies (the FDA covers both in the US, incidentally) would be in short supply in the time immediately after the ride of the second horseman, and it makes perfect sense: war usually brings those things. With the command for the oil and the wine not to be harmed, medical treatment can be seen as being "doled out" as well, as supplies would be needed for war.
Jesus breaks the fourth seal:
"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." (Revelation 7-8, NIV)
Upon an pale green horse ( greek chloros, "green"), Death rides. Hades is in tow with him, following behind as would be logical.
Yup: even his horse looks sick!
As described in the verse, 1/4 of the planet is given to them, to kill with violence (sword), famine and plague. This follows the red and black horses, and is a natural result of war and shortage of food. people get sick, are injured, and die of disease, shortage of medical care and starvation. Considering that right now there are almost 7 billion people in the world, 1/4 of the population would be 1,673,007,569 people. That's a little more than 1.5 BILLON people that would die by the time of the 4th seal! To put it into plainer terms, that's more than the ENITRE population of China!
That's a lot of people to die, and this is only the BEGINNING of the Tribulation!
Jesus Christ breaks the fifth seal:
"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." ( Revelation 6:9-11, NIV)
We see in this verse that those who have been murdered for sharing their testimony and the Gospel are crying out to the Lord to avenge them; we don't see a particular judgment happen here, or so it would seem. Some may ask "how is this a judgment on mankind?" Those that were killed by rebellious man for their faith have essentially accused man to the Lord. And unlike Satan, who accuses out of spite and rage, these accuse out of anguish and a desire for justice. And God is not about to let their cries for justice go unheard: they were given white robes, a symbol of righteousness and purity. If they were not just in asking for justice, God would not have given them something symbolizing righteousness. They are told they have to wait because their number is not yet complete. There will be more on the way, sadly, and God cannot jump the gun on this. once their number is full, his judgment can be completed against those that have shed their blood.
The Lord Jesus breaks the sixth seal:
"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." (Revelation 6:12-14, NIV)
At this point, a tremendous quake strikes the planet with concussive force, so hard that every island and mountain is moved!! The Sun is blacked out as if someone dropped a burlap sack over it, and the moon turns a deep, blood red. This sort of thing can happen with such phenomena as volcanoes erupting, which can follow especially violent earthquakes. Another thought is that eruptions of volcanoes can send tremors through the ground as well. The sky disappearing as a scroll begin rolled up refers to how fast the sky is obscured, which can also happen when a volcano erupts; ash is shot into the sky, and in a matter of minutes, all is pitch black and a eerie silence fills the land. As for the reference to the stars in the sky, this could be either "shooting stars" (meteorites) or possibly ejection from volcanoes, which would appear like shooting stars. Literal stars would be a bit of a stretch here, as literal stars in the sky dwarf the planet and would incinerate it. Since John had probably not seen a volcano erupt, he was most likely putting all of this into the best description he could.
We also read the reaction of the people on the earth after all of this:
"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?” (Revelation 6:15-17, NIV)
The planet is in absolute terror, to the point they have taken refuge IN the mountains. It's known that at NORAD's base in Cheyenne Mountain in the US, the complex is built INSIDE a mountain. It's conceivable that other shelters for the rich and for government personnel have been constructed inside mountains or at the very least, within the ground. But for someone to be so scared that they literally want tons of rock to obscure them from the outside says a great deal. It also says how little they care for those they 'control": they would just as soon leave the masses to fend for themselves, while THEY themselves get to safety.
But in this time, there IS no true safety, save in the Lord
In Part 4, we'll see the Lamb break the last seal, and unleash the first of the Trumpet Judgments.
I bid you all peace.