What does Revelation 6: 1-8 mean to us now?

 

This passage warns us of what is coming in the daily sufferings of life and in the finality of end times. Be prepared, frugal, wise, and be ready for anything. This means that when times are tough and there is rationing, making sure one is a wise steward of their goods and services is important. This is a warning not to waste but get ready for food shortages that are common in war and tribulations. If Revelation has a late date, during this time Asia Minor was experiencing severe inflation because Dominitian took essential crop land away, and thus the food the people needed was not being produced. If Revelation has an early date, this was a prediction that John’s people would be facing this situation soon. 

Christ’s worthiness is proved and provided by His entering our human world as a baby first, then, as a man, lived a life on our behalf. He was killed and His blood spilled for us, for the covering of our sins. He paid the ransom for us all, regardless of nationality or position, for all who are unworthy (and all of us are unworthy). His salvation is for all who will receive His election, His payment for our sin so we can be clear and right before God. Christ pays the way for His Kingdom and our citizenship, participation, and reign in it. But, in receiving His election, we still have to take delivery of it. Hs grace is “irresistible,” but are we receiving, growing, and applying it? By His sacrifice, He became worthy to save us and now He makes us worthy before the Father. What stops us from receiving His acceptance? 

Questions to Ponder:

What needs to take place for lukewarm Christians, who are weak in their faith or too busy for Christ, to comprehend both His judgment and His grace? Do you see that in these heinous depictions His love is there玆His care is there, and He is protecting His saints? 

Do you think the horsemen are just symbols of judgment or literal angelic beings? 

Do you think it is worthwhile to spend significant time in debate over this? Does it really matter considering that the centrality and object of this passage is that God is pouring out judgment and we need to repent and be ready; the means is immaterial?

Do you have confidence in the status quo of the comforts of life or in His Sovereignty? 

What can your church do to educate people that their focus needs to be on Christ rather than on personal needs? How can your church show that Christ’s care is there, protecting? What would that look like?  

© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org

The Four Main Views of Revelation 6: 1-8

 

The Preterist view sees this passage as nothing significant happening until chapter eight; this is just a “predatory show,” a seal玅breaking ceremony and introduction to what will take place soon, and thus, already has. Some see this as the Judgment of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. as horsemen represent war and conquering by Rome. Others say these are the tribulations the seven churches faced (Luke 21:22). Some see the white horse as Christ and His victory. They see the second seal as a loss of peace from the land because of the fighting between the Jews and Romans and the slaughter of the Jews prior to the destruction of the Temple. In actuality, what Zechariah predicted is not necessarily about end times (Zech. 11:10-14). The black horse is the famine during the Roman siege (Deut. 28:53; Lam. 5:10; Luke 21:20-23; 23:28-29). They see the pale horse and third seal as pestilence, carnage, and death during the Roman occupation.

The Futurist view sees this passage as the state of the tribulation. Many see the while horse as Christ and His victory, but this contradicts their theory. Some see these as symbols of materialism, government, or a new world order rule in the last days. Others see this as representing the antichrist or a counterfeit leader. This is “isagesis,” or reading into the text something that is not there and taking Daniel 9:26; Luke 4:6; Rev. 13:2 and 2 Thess 2:8-10 out of context and/or sequence. The second and red horse and seal they see as war before Christ’s climatic return. Some commentators love to read the newspaper into these images and say that the red horse is Russia or Gorbachev or whoever the evil dictator of the day is. Further, the large sword is the battle of Armageddon or nuclear war, a bit of a stretch. The black horse is the famine, inflation, and calamity during the tribulation. They see the pale horse and third seal as pestilence, carnage, and death during the tribulation. “Fourth of the earth” means one quarter of the earth’s population will be killed (Matt. 24:21).

Idealist view: They also mistakenly see the white horse as Christ or the progress of the Gospel. Others see this as the universality of war, conquest, and the rise of empires that bring death and suffering, a process continually repeated throughout history (Prov. 17:11; Dan. 2:21). Others see this as the downfall of Rome. The second and red horse and seal are seen as general conquest and the propensity of man to wage war and, some say, Judgment (Amos 3:6; Matt. 26:52). Others have said the persecution of the church and application perhaps, but not what the passage means. The black horse represents the consequences of war, such as famine. Many see it as a drought (Ezek. 5:16). They see the pale horse and third seal generally as famine and death. They see these images as repeating throughout history, and when you study history, they are correct. However, this is an application, not necessarily the veracity of the meaning here in the text. They see “fourth of the earth” as a coming global catastrophe or as referring to the general woes of the world population as they live in a sinful earth. 

The Historicist view sees the white horseman as representing the period of Roman occupation and the evil of Domitian. “Peace,” in this passage, means the period of peace and prosperity that was from after the death of Domitian in 96 A.D. until after Aurelius in 180 A.D. The bow refers to the dynasty of Rome and the Cretians who were raiders and horsemen at that time. The breaking of the seven seals is considered the same view as that of the Preterist. Others say this passage represents the person and dignity of Christ, His mild judgments and grace and His triumph over all over paganism and evil. Others have said that the bow refers to the rapid spread of Christianity during this time. The see the red horse as depicting civil war and the second seal as the period 180 to 280 A.D.玆a period of many wars and unrest. “Take peace from the earth” means to deprive the Jews of tranquility; in addition, there will be further judgments. The black horse is the oppression imposed by many of the Roman emperors and the period of 218-222 A.D. when Caracalla granted citizenship to any man who could pay taxes. This caused heavy taxation and an economic depression with food shortages. They see the pale horse and third seal as the period of time from 268-248 A.D. that produced shame for the Romans because of the barbarian raiders and Rome’s inability to deal with them. “Fourth of the earth is viewed as the four Roman providences into which Rome was divided. Normally, this view is the more correct one; here, the historicists’ focus is only on the possible applications, missing the point and context of the passage.

Exegetical look into Revelation 6: 1-4

  • I watched. John serves as a witness, an important position in legal “testate” renderings then and now. A witness points to the validity of the contents of a document (Deut. 30:19; Psalm 50:4).
  • Opened the first of the seven seals. A document could not be opened until it was ready for the seals to be broken, such as in a will, the death of the testator, or the decedent (person who wrote or leaves the will). When all the seals are broken in chapter eight, then the contents are read. At this point, in chapters five to six, symbols and themes are used, pronouncing its power, scope, and coming judgment (Rev. 8:1). 
  • Come means a summons to come and see.
  • White horse. White represents conquest, and along with a horse, symbolizes the conquering king and subjugation. Some commentators argue that this represents Christ; others say the antichrist. However, these arguments are from human reasoning and not from Scripture. In ancient cultures, a white horse was a common symbol usually meaning dire subjugation, calamity, or something to be feared. The color white and/or a horse do not necessarily represent Christ in Hebrew thinking or in the Early Church. The white horse as Christ was a symbol from the Middle Ages. Many commentators from the mid 19th century and on mistakenly think of this as being Jewish or Roman, but it is not. “White,” in this context, meant “Judgment” in biblical times. White meant “purity” in midlevel times or referring to priestly dress in biblical times; this is a category mistake. It is also contradictory, as Christ is the One who opens the seal and is the Lamb. How can he also be the horseman? Also, in the fact that Christ’s reign brings peace, and not war or famine, understanding this as referring to Christ here is a major contradiction to His character and purpose. He conquers sin but does not bring pestilence (Zech. 1:8-17; 6:1-8; Rev. 19:11).
  • Held a bow was a symbol of conquest and war. This was an image of sheer terror as one is being conquered. Everything is lost, perhaps even one’s life. The biggest enemy to the Romans in Asia Minor then was the “Parthians” who were archers on white horses and invoked utter fear and chaos to the villages. Bow in the Old Testament was also a symbol of Judgment (Job. 30:11; Psalm 7:10-14; Isa. 21:15; 41:2; Jer. 6:23; 50:14, Ezek. 39:3; Zech. 10:4).
  • Conqueror…conquest proves the point that Revelation interprets Revelation. If you keep reading, observe the context, and know your Old Testament, it will tell you what the images mean, not a newspaper, a madman, or a false teacher!
  • Another horse … fiery red one. Red is a color that meant bloodshed and war, as Mars is the red planet and god of war (Zech. 1:8; 6:2).
  • Power to take peace, meaning the times will be harsh.
  • Make men slay. Chaos begets chaos; violence has the tendency to escalate itself.
  • Large sword was a symbol for judgment and war; large perhaps referred to its eminence and veracity.

Revelation 6: 1-8

Introduction 

 “The Four Horseman”   

And so it begins, Judgment from God’s throne, poured out on the world. The four horsemen embody the judgment and themes of conquest. They were symbols of an agrarian, warlike culture that engaged in war such as in the time of David when they were successful by their besieging of the enemy. These four horsemen encompass all of the most impacting judgments or sufferings a person or people could face¾that of war, famine, and death. Here, God is chastising a world that has disrespected and even forgotten Him. Its confidence is in the status quo, not in His Sovereignty. As humanity rises up against Him, He raises His Hand against those who would boldly defy Him. 

The theme for the last two chapters has been worship and how Christ is sovereign and worthy. Now, the attention turns to Judgment. This passage begins a series and is the first three of seven of judgments climaxing in chapters 8-9 and 16. The themes from this passage are also drawn from Zechariah, chapters one and six about the angelic horsemen who guard the earth and signify divine judgment. There is a sequence, first of conquest, then of bloodshed, followed by famine, and, finally, death. Such themes were common in ancient cultures and apocalyptic literature. 

How does it make you feel that God is pouring out His judgment to the world? 

What does it mean to you that Jesus is also Redeemer and Sovereign, exercising His love and protection? Are these ideas contradictory or complementary? 

Jesus is the Sacrifice for our redemption and reconciliation. He saves us, but if we reject Him, we bring judgments upon ourselves. He did more than He could or should for we who are wretched and undeserving!

Revelation Theme and Purpose

Revelation is written to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, which is now modern Turkey (Rev. 1:4, 11). The principle purpose for the writing is the encouragement and chastisement for how they were running their churches (Rev. 2:1-3:22). John was fully convinced that Christ would triumph over the forces of Satan and his work in the world. He then exhorted them to be faithful and discerning between what is false and what is truth, and also warned them not to worship the Emperor or to comply with evil, apathy, or compromise. He restated the importance of discipleship and Christian formation so they (we) can be authentic Christians of excellence and distinction, bringing no disrepute to Christ or His Church.

Revelation is about the victory Christ brings, giving hope for those who are in Him and fear for those who do not know Him (Rev. 2:13; 19:20-21; 20:10-15).

As Christians, we can embrace Revelation rather than fearing it or the end times! God is the one who is in charge and in control. He has the big picture of the consummation of all humanity and history. He rules all of time and space, all events, and all actions; there is nothing in all of creation outside of His providence! Even in the darkest hours, God is in control. He will win and we who are in Him will be triumphant. Then, all of humanity will stand before the Throne, and all will be accountable; judgment for all who ever lived, rewards, condemnation, Heaven, and Hell await, and those who have oppressed His Church and children will be severely judged (Rev.1:12-16; 4:1-5:14)!

Revelation is just as much about how we are to live as it is about what is coming.

Our purpose is to understand that no matter what we have been through or will go through, God is in control and has our best interests in hand. Therefore, we can trust Him as we see His mighty hand throughout history and also in the future. We learn here on earth how we are to endure suffering and problems, not escape them, for there is no escape in a sin-infused world. Rather, it is how we discover and grow more from God’s work in us regardless of our situation that matters.

John knows what the church is going through, for he has personally experienced it. He has also experienced Christ firsthand and now has been receiving updated files from Christ in the form of seven visions. John’s visions bring hope as do all things in life when we are in Him. Our lives have significance and purpose; we are not alone for He is there with us. God is in command of all outcomes, the consummation, the fulfillment, the fruition, and the ultimate goal of His plan and purpose. Our call is to keep our churches in line with His precepts and in obedience (Rev. 4:1-5:14; 21:22-23; 22:5).

Revelation is also about the conflict between good and evil. It is both history and prophecy. It speaks to the first century churches of Asia Minor and it speaks to us today. For John’s readers, this book was also about what was going on in their day and in their churches. Knowing what is coming is important for our hope, but not vital to how we are to grow in Him or our faithfulness in staying firm to His truth.

Thus, John meets them head-on with the truth and with hope. He reassures them that Christ has not gone away, but He knows of their circumstances and has His plan for them. John gives them glimpses of the wonders of Heaven (Rev. 4-16). John is seeking to restore their confidence in Christ, and to persuade them to be encouraged and hold fast to their faith. He does not want them to fall prey to pagan practices and temptations or to false teachings, but, rather to focus firmly upon Christ so He is Lord over all fears and situations.

Christ has already secured the victory for life now and for eternity by His shed blood. Satan has been defeated and those who are evil and corrupt have been judged and sentenced (Rev. 5:9-10; 12:11; 19:11-20:10). We are victorious. We are made for eternity to be in Him, and our real hope and home is still to come (Rev. 7:15-17; 21:3-4).

The bulk of Revelation is dedicated to John’s seven visions in which Christ extols and rebukes the Church to get us to get our act together. John’s visions give us a depiction of things to come—a future history of the world through the Second Coming and into eternity. John also gives significant details in imageries. John not only gives us a glimpse of things to come, he also tells us how Satan operates and how to be on guard.

Revelation depicts how God is still in control even when Satan, the ultimate false prophet, the great dragon, and Beast is unleashed in his full power, causing insurmountable and suffering. Satan is seeking to lead the world astray now just as he will in his final act by seeking to not only blaspheme Christ, but trying to counterfeit Christ and provide us with a variety of misrepresentations. He seeks to attack God’s power and purpose and persecute those who are His (2 Cor. 11:14-15; Rev. 13; 17:1-9:10).Christ is the Divine Warrior who fights for us (Ex. 15:3; Isa. 59:16-18; 63:1-6; Eph. 1:13; Hab. 3:3-15; Zech. 9:13-15; 14:1-5; Dan. 7:1-8), and we can take hope because God is the One who is still seated on His throne and wins (Psalm 2:7; John 5:21-23; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3; Rev. 13: 1-10; 16:13; 17:14; 19:1-21).

At the same time, God has his remnant who remain faithful and true to Him, because fulfillment is in Christ, not in the false words and deeds of the false prophet (Rev. 12:11). The theme for the Christians in this age is to learn and to trust, to obey and remain faithful even against all odds, so we can remain spiritually pure and continue to grow. Satan seeks us to worship him; when he can’t, he seeks to disrupt us from who we are in Christ. Because Satan does not want us to be a good witness of Christ, he tries to sway us to only see our struggles, be seduced by the ways of the world, to conspire, fight, and gossip amongst ourselves, and to misunderstand or misuse our faith (Rev. 12:11; 14:4; 19:8; 21:9, 22-27).

Revelation is not a puzzle for which we must endeavor to find a code or secret meaning, nor is it a source book for our inclinations, theories, or conjectures.

Revelation is given so we can see God at work, His Wonder of Wonders, so we can pursue our faith with more diligence in trust and obedience, and to be prepared when He does return!