revelation 6

Day 1

Chapter 6

6 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!’ 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.

One of the big problems we Christians often have is that we’re OK when life is OK, but when things get tough our faith can start to get the wobbles. Have you ever experienced that?  We don’t really have a picture of God that is big enough to handle it when our marriage starts to crumble for instance, or illness strikes, when a loved one dies, when we’re out of work, or when disaster in some form or other comes along. Our theology can’t cope with that. We know in our heads that being a Christian doesn’t protect us from the evils of this world, but we still somehow think that if God loves us and cares about us then he shouldn’t let anything really bad happen to us either. The book of Revelation deals with that very issue.  As we’ve seen, the Christian church is involved with some fairly major persecution and it’s going to get worse. So, Jesus gives this vision to John to help explain what is going on and the encourage his people to keep on persevering.

We pick up the vision with Jesus taking the scroll from God and opening the seals. Now despite the fact that what follows has lots of different interpretations the big picture is very clear. We shouldn’t get too hung up on the details, especially if their meaning is so unclear. Here is the big picture: bad things are going to happen; evil is abroad in the guise of the Satan, who is hell bent on destroying Jesus’ people, but God is in charge.  Let’s take a look.  


We need to start at the end of chapter 6 if we are going to understand the first bit of it. In verse 12 and following we read a very pictorial presentation of Judgment Day. It’s very similar language to some of the Old Testament descriptions of the Last Day [e.g., Joel 2:10 & 11]. It’s called “apocalyptic” language. It’s not meant to be taken literally. Peter actually quotes that from Joel in Acts chapter 2 and says it’s talking about Jesus’ crucifixion. The crucifixion of Jesus heralds in the end times.  Here in Revelation 6, it is end-of-the-world-type imagery. Verse 17 says, “For the great day of their[e] wrath has come, and who can withstand it?’

The Scroll and the 7 seals seem to cover the whole history of mankind leading up to the second coming of Jesus and Judgement Day. And if you go into chapter 7 you see what happens after judgment day when the Children of God are taken to heaven and worship God forever.

The key to understanding the book of revelation is that it is not a progressive story, with each event following the other in time.  It is a series of pictures that all cover the same period of time. The 7 seals and the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls all end with their own version of Judgement Day [11:15-18, 16:17-19]. They are just different ways of looking at events – it’s like having a series of overhead transparencies, each one showing the end times from a different perspective, and laying them over the top of each other.    



Father, life can be so hard at times. Thank you for your Spirit who strengthens us. Please help those I know who are going through difficult times. Amen





Day 2

Chapter 6

6 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!’ 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.

3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.

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. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A kilogram of wheat for a day’s wages,[a] and three kilograms of barley for a day’s wages,[b] and do not damage the oil and the wine!’


Some people claim that the rider on the white horse is Jesus because Jesus rides a white horse and makes war in chapter 19:11, and it might be, but I don’t think the image works when it’s Jesus who opens the seal and then it’s Jesus who comes forth on a white horse.

Whatever the details it seems pretty clear that God has just released warfare on the world. 

Now you might say, “So what’s the big deal.  There have always been wars.” And you’d be right.  The history of the world is littered with wars. Wars are fought for all sorts of reasons: for greed, for self-defence, for economic reasons, to stand up for the weak, for religion, you name it, but they are always the result of evil. They are the work of the evil one and his influence on mankind, yet here God shows his control by giving them authority – he allows them to get on with their evil, but he puts limits on it as well, as we shall see.

Why is there warfare and armed conflict? Because it is part of the work of evil in our world, but God is in control. God does not commit evil. The Bible is clear on that. It is mankind that commits wrong. And yet God can and does use evil as part of his plans.  We see that in the explanation of Jesus’ death and resurrection in Acts chapter 2 where Peter says of Jesus,

“This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”  Acts 2:23

God planned that Jesus should die on the cross, but he did not make it happen – evil people did that. Yet it was part of God’s plan.  God was in total control. It seems like a contradiction to us but the Bible is unapologetic about what it says – mankind brings about war through its evil, yet God is also behind it in a way that is not evil. How can that be?

In Africa tribesmen have a system of closing up wounds using army ants.  These ants have large pincers and the tribesmen hold the ant by its body and work the head of the ant so that the pincers sit on each side of the wound, and then they allow the ant to sink its pincers into the flesh.  The wound gets closed and then the tribesmen nip off the body and leave the pincers attached.  They use the ants desire to attack for their own ends. One action – the immediate actor in the drama, the ant, is trying to do harm, the tribesman behind the action is using the same action for good.  Maybe it’s like that here. Those bent on conquest and warfare are doing it for their own ends, mostly evil, but God is behind it using it for his own good purposes. The ant is not forced to attack – it chooses to. It does what comes naturally.  But the tribesman is using that intention to do good.  All the wars that have ever been fought can be traced back to mankind’s failure to live and act as we should.  They are attributed to our evil.  And yet, even our evil is under God’s control, and he uses it for his good.  

The first horseman is bent on warfare.







Day 3

Chapter 6

7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ 8 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 quarter of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.


The second horseman called forth by the second beast is on a fiery red horse, and he is given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other.

This horseman is given power to make people turn against each other. He is the bringer of rebellion and revolution and uprising.  He is the one who encourages brother to rise up against brother, and sister against sister, and children against parents [Mark 13:12].


The third seal and the black horseman is all about famine, but a famine where the rich are still able to get what they need.  The oil and wine were luxury items and they are not going to be affected. The necessities of life, wheat and barley, will be in short supply. In the OT to eat bread by weight was a phrase used to describe food shortages and famine. Hence the scales. So, there is going to be a great divide between the rich and the poor, and don’t we see that today!  The west generally never goes without food and water, while people in the two thirds world die by the thousand and tens of thousands in times of famine.


The fourth horse and rider, the pale horse, which probably is better translated “sickly pale” are called onto the scene.  This is the only rider who is named – “Death” with “Hades” following on close behind. The result of warfare and famine and people turning against each other is that there will be a great death rate, and Hades will collect the dead.  There is nothing to say that this will be a single event – and if we take this as the history of mankind from the death and resurrection of Christ until the second coming then it is clear that this is describing the ongoing results of all the other things that are going on under the influence of evil. And this rider brings with him sword, famine, plague and wild beasts.  All these things have been going on for ever. Back in AD 61, about the time John wrote, Queen Boadicea of Britain led an uprising against the Romans and in the end she committed suicide and 150,000 men perished. In more recent times the civil war in the Sudan has killed more than 2 million people since 1993.  Those statistics can be repeated a hundred times over. 

Plague and disease has taken hundreds of millions. In 2010 there were 34 million people living with aids in our world, and at the present covid has killed over 5 million people in our world. 

We live in the times of the four horsemen right now. We are just blessed in the west because we suffer so very little, but it’s only in the west that anyone could ever think that these times are yet to happen in the future; that the Great Tribulation is yet to arrive.  It is here.  We are living in the last days right now, it’s just that the effects are varied from place to place and time to time. 

These things should concern us but not cause anxiety. Our God has his hand on all that is going on. Nothing can come up on God’s people that he is not overseeing. What is more, God will use even the worst of things for good [Romans 8:28]



Heavenly Father, I often don’t understand your way of bringing good out of evil but help me to completely trust you. Amen




Day 4

Chapter 6

9 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. 10 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?’ 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters,[c] were killed just as they had been.

In the midst of all this terrible suffering Christians suffer along with everyone else and many have died. It’s a picture that tells us that God’s people who have died for their faith reign in heaven with God.  

In Old Testament times an animal’s soul was thought to reside in the blood, s when it was sacrificed its blood was poured out at the base of the altar as a sacrificial offering.  So here the picture seems to be that the life blood of the martyrs has been poured out as an offering and sacrifice to God.

The death of a Christian for his or her faith looks like a tragedy and a disaster to us – an extravagant waste of life, but when a life is given for God, it is a treasured and valued sacrifice. Psalm 106:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”  [Psalm 106: 15]

These saints under the altar are shown as being under God’s protection.  Remember, it’s a vision.  I don’t think that all the martyrs for Jesus are physically kept cramped up under some huge altar in heaven. They rule with Jesus, and they call out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood.”  [Revelation 6: 10]. This is a cry for Justice from the God who is described as Holy and true. They are confused and bewildered by the fact that God seems to be taking his time to set things right, which we can empathise with. But God gives them a white robe, a symbol of purity and joy and celebration and tells them to wait until history takes its course – until the full number of those who will be killed for their faith has been reached.

It’s all in God’s hands. In another place in the Bible we’re told that God is holding off judgment because he is mercifully allowing people time to repent. 

As we live in our world where so often evil seems to win out, where good people are often downtrodden, where there is famine and warfare and plague and violence, we ask “Where is God in all this?  What is going on?” The answer of Revelation is that the evil in the world is the result of the evil one and those who do his bidding, including the great majority of mankind. Yet he has been defeated by Jesus on the cross. God is in control and he will use everything for his own ends. He is on the throne; he has sent his son the lamb to shed his blood for our rescue; he hears our prayers which are a fragrant perfume in heaven; he limits the evil that is abroad; he keeps our souls safe even though physically we may die; and there will be a day of reckoning.  God has his reasons for not destroying evil just yet, but he will do just that when the time is ripe. We need to patiently hang in there.



Lord God, you call us to patiently endure. By your Holy Spirit give me such a confidence in you that patient endurance becomes a joy. Amen




Day 5

Chapter 6

12 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, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig-tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us[d] from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their[e] wrath has come, and who can withstand it?’


In this passage the last day has come, the great day of reckoning. There is the great apocalyptic description with the sun turning black. Will that actually happen? Maybe. Will the stars fall to earth? Anything is possible with God, but throughout the Bible such language is used to describe things such as foreign invasions [Is 24-30; Ezek. 38-39] and the death of Jesus [Acts 2:14-21]: the mountains did not melt and the stars did not fall. It is a picture of the whole physical world in turmoil, and the undoing of all the laws of nature that we rely on. The Day of the Lord will be a terrifying day, and especially for those who are not his. 

Verse 15 and following show us the mighty of the earth, those who arrogantly stand against God and his people, cringing in terror. They would rather die than face the God of all justice [v16]. I once witnessed a woman dressing down a young man for his awful behaviour and her anger was righteous. He had no defence. It was withering! He deserved everything that was said but I pitied him. To his credit he took it all because he deserved it! Imagine standing before the God of all power and majesty unforgiven! Imagine the shame of ignoring the fact that this God had sacrificed his son for your rescue! “The great and terrible day of their wrath has come.”

There will be no one confidently standing before God on that last day and claiming, “I did it my way”.  Even the bravest and most confident will cringe in terror at the awful justice of our God. 

Many people, even many Christians, have a problem with the concept of a wrathful God. They explain his wrath away as an Old Testament idea that, with the coming of Jesus, is done away with because we now know that God is love. However, you cannot have love without righteous anger. When those you love are wrongfully hurt, anger at the injustice and pain caused is a good and right thing!  God would not be loving if he merely swept wrongdoing under the carpet. He would not be just if he forgave wrongdoing without any consequences. There would be a public outcry of one of our judges, for instance, purported to forgive a convicted criminal and free that person from all consequences of their actions. Only at the cross do we see how that dilemma, how God can both love and carry out justice, is resolved. 

Salvation is all about God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, has freed us form the consequences of our sin, free to serve him without fear and in great joy. 



God of all mankind, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thank you for all you’ve done to free me from the consequences of my sin and filling my heart with all joy in serving you. Amen  

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