Revelation 6

Revelation 6

Jesus and Human History

The scroll is God’s covenant with his people to give them the Kingdom and Salvation. Jesus is the only one found worthy to open the scroll by openings its seven seals.

What we see in the coming chapters is not so much information to be placed on a timeline specifically for people to pinpoint specific times in history as it is to show us that Jesus is the one in charge of implementing his covenant with his people, judging humanity and bringing his Kingdom and he does it when it’s time for each part.

The point becomes clear. Jesus is in charge of human history.

Chapter 6 covers one vision that includes Jesus’ opening 6 seals. The opening of the seventh seal is a different vision, so we will study it differently and in another talk.

John, being a good student of his bible (OT), is not making things up.

First, he is writing what he is being given by Jesus.

Second, Jesus is giving John information prophetically given in the text of Scripture already.

“Many complex elements flow together to form the panorama which the prophet now describes.


The conviction that judgments will precede the coming of the kingdom of God is rooted in the teaching of the OT prophets concerning the day of the Lord (see e.g. Is. 13, 34; Je. 4–7; Ezk. 7, 25; Am. 5:18–27; Zp. 1–3).


John has elaborated and schematized them in a unique manner, but the division of the Messianic woes into several sets of sevens may well be inspired by the doom prophecy of Lv. 26, where it is stated four times, ‘I will punish you for your sins seven times over’ (18, 21, 24, 28).


The discourse on the end times in the gospels (Mt. 24; Mk. 13, Lk. 21) contains the seven judgments enumerated in Rev. 6, but the form of the opening four judgments reflects the vision of four chariots and horses in Zechariah (cf. Zc. 1:7–17), adapted by John to convey his message.


Note that while the opening of the seals brings judgments, these are but the precursors of the final kingdom of God (seen in the opening of the seventh seal [parenthesis mine]).”[1]

What do we see in this passage about the specifics of Jesus being in charge of human history and how can we take counsel, encouragement and instruction as we march toward the mission’s completion?

1. The first seal 6:1-2

Jesus is in charge of Kings

“Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed:”

(Isaiah 45:1 ESV)

The command ‘Come!’ is directed to the rider who appears at the opening of the seal (the same is true in vs 3, 5, 7).


Many interpreters regard the conquering horseman as Christ and link the passage with the vision of the returning Lord in 19:11–12.


The only element in common in the two pictures, however, is the white horse, a symbol of victory.


Others hold that the rider represents the triumph of the gospel, and cite Mk. 13:10. (2 Thes. 2:7-12 is also interpreted in this light.)


Nevertheless, in view of the evident similarity of the four horsemen, it seems more natural to interpret all four as symbolizing judgments.


This rider appears to signify an overwhelmingly powerful military force.[2]

2. The second seal 6:3-4

Jesus is in charge of the invading armies of the earth and evil men who pervert peace to advance his purposes and the Gospel (Habakkuk)

By the end of Habakkuk, the prophet is a changed man. He has learned to wait and trust in the LORD who will work out all things to his praise and their good. The righteous will live by faith and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

The rider on the fiery red horse also denotes a warring power.


If it is to be asked how he differs from the first, the language suggests that the first rider represents an army invading other countries; the second a general confusion of strife, including hostilities between countries, and perhaps even civil war (… to make men slay each other). Note the double reference to war in Mk. 13:7–8 and parallels.[3]

3. The third seal 6:5-6

Jesus is in charge of the earth’s production and the economic realities of nations and men

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.” (Joel 2:25 ESV)

The rider on a black horse denotes famine.


The balance in his hand suggests scarcity of food; the prices quoted are prohibitive.


The niv rightly paraphrases the term denarius as ‘a day’s wages’ (cf. Mt. 20:1–2).


A quart of wheat would suffice for a man’s daily ration, leaving nothing, however, for his family.


Three quarts of barley would go further, but it would still remain a bare subsistence allowance.


 On the other hand, do not damage the oil and wine reflects a concern to give priority to such for those who could afford them.[4]

4. The fourth seal 6:7-8

Jesus executes judgment for the rebellion of man through death (Genesis 2:17; Romans 3:23)

The fourth rider is named Death, but it is likely that it represents a special kind of death, namely pestilence.


Ezekiel tells of God’s four sore acts of judgment: sword, famine, evil beasts and pestilence (Ezk. 14:21), and the Greek translation renders the last by the term death (possibly John does the same in 2:23, and certainly in 18:8).


That Hades was following close behind is a reminder that death does not end life’s story; judgment awaits sinners (cf. Heb. 9:27–28).[5]

5. The fifth seal 6:9-11

Jesus does not waste the death of the saint but rather has ordained that some bear witness to the cross through their faithfulness to the Gospel

The souls of the martyrs were under the altar because they had been, as it were, ‘sacrificed’ (cf. Phil. 2:17; 2 Tim. 4:6).


The thought was beloved by the Jews. Rabbi Akiba taught: ‘He who is buried in the land of Israel is as if he were buried beneath the altar, for the whole land of Israel is appropriated for the altar; he who is buried beneath the altar is as if he were buried beneath the throne of glory.’ In the light of 12:17 the testimony the martyrs had maintained is the testimony of Jesus (see also 1:2 and 19:10).



10–11 The white robe given to them is likely to be a representation of their justification through Christ in face of their condemnation by the world, and so a sign and pledge of the glory which is to be theirs in the ‘first resurrection’ (20:4–6).


This vision of the martyrs is viewed as an integral part of the judgments of the Lord, for the prayer for justice (10) is answered, and the end thereby hastened.[6]



6. The sixth seal 6:12-17

All of creation trembles at the coming of its Creator King because he comes to judge and rule and save his people

The description of the cosmic signs at the end of the age is drawn from a number of OT passages that speak of the day of the Lord


(1. for a great earthquake as a sign of the end, cf. Ezk. 38:19–20;


2. for the sun turning black like sackcloth and the moon blood red see Is. 13:10; Ezk. 32:7–8; Joel 2:10; 3:15;


3. for the falling stars and the rolling up of the sky like a scroll see Is. 34:4;


4. for the hiding in the rocks see Is. 2:10;


5. and for prayer to the mountains see Ho. 10:8).


These ‘signs’ are indications not that the end is drawing near but that it has arrived (so v 17, the great day of their wrath has come).


They (the signs) originally were pictorial expressions of the terror of the universe before the majesty of the Creator as he steps forth in judgment and deliverance (see especially Hab. 3:6–11), and so served to magnify the awesomeness of the Lord in his theophany.


15–17 These verses give a sevenfold classification of humankind, ranging from the kings of the earth to every slave and every free man (in other words, everyone who has not worshiped the Lamb).


Their cry in vs 16–17 is a counterpart to that of the martyrs beneath the altar. The last day reveals the identity of him who has ultimate authority over the universe and the irresistible judgment of the Lamb; but the end of their exercise of authority and judgment is the triumph of the kingdom of grace and glory (see 21:1–22:5).[7]


How do we take counsel from Jesus’ rule of human history?

1. We will not be shaken by the changing of kings nor of the removal of kings

A. We don’t get distracted politically

B. We remember there is only one King of kings, Jesus

2. We don’t worship peace and we don’t get sidetracked from the mission if peace is taken, we keep steady and preach the Gospel

A. We have tasted this and had to adjust in our work among our UPG

B. If we loose peace here, we stay on mission

3. We don’t let economic difficulties rob us of Gospel work

A. We invest in Gospel not amenities

B. We live as lean a life as possible so that we are not shaken by economic difficulties

1. Avoid too much

2. Avoid debt

3. Be content with less

4. Use all of what you have been given

5. Take care of God’s creation as a steward

4. We use death as an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel

A. God does not delight in the death of the wicked, but the death of the wicked is just

and Jesus paid the penalty for all who would believe to turn death into life

5. The death of the saint does not deter the mission, but it must spur the mission on

A. God has an appointed number of martyrs. There may be some among us.

B. We don’t run from dying for the Gospel; We don’t run to dying for the Gospel; We just do

Gospel work and trust Jesus’ works and his providential direction of the mission.

6. We worship in joy because the conquering King is our King and he loves us and will never judge us for our sin, he did that on the cross

cf. compare

[1] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Re 6:1–8:5.

[2] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Re 6:1–2.

[3] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Re 6:3–4.

niv New International Version

cf. compare

[4] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Re 6:5–6.

cf. compare

[5] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Re 6:7–8.

cf. compare

[6] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Re 6:9–11.

cf. compare

[7] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Re 6:9–11.

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