Six Seals Broken
We say of a good man “His word is as good as his deed.” Of God, we must say, “His word is the same as His deed.” When God says something has come to pass, He has but one way of working--by uttering His word. “He spake and it was done: He commanded, and it stood fast.” Thus, He created the heavens and the earth and everything in them. In that manner, He has ruled all the ages and caused all times and customs to serve His purpose, even the wicked who are in rebellion against Him. When we become wiser, we shall understand although we cannot always see that it is so now.
Jesus Christ is called “the Word of God” by John, the apostle. (John 1:1-4). Also, John tells us in the Revelation that He was called by this name when He led forth the armies of heaven to battle. (19:13). Why is He so called? Anyone who reads His life on earth will learn the will of God precisely as he would learn by a careful study of the rest of Bible, only even more plainly. In fact, the Old Testament was not clearly understood by the Jews, even though they studied it most carefully, until Jesus came and lived on the earth among them. Then, those who believe in Jesus understood with wonderful clearness while those who did not believe on Him became blinder than ever and simply could not understand the Bible.
Jesus Christ lived out God’s will and became a more perfect revelation than the will as written out. In the highest sense, Jesus is God’s Word according to God’s will. Daniel sealed a certain book of prophecy at God’s command. Remember that Jesus Christ is coming back to earth to live out the prophecy contained in His apocalypse which names the book, “The Revelation.” When Jesus takes the book from His Father’s hand instead of reading out the words of that book, He is represented by John as living out that book. Since Christ chose this method, shouldn’t we do the same when we read God’s Book—live out the words immediately in perfect obedience?
The Lamb, Jesus Christ, opened the first seal and saw His Father’s will. As expected, John represents Him as living out that will at once. In a voice of thunder, one of the four “living beings” cry, “COME!” (1) As the representative of some part of animal life on earth (for instance, humanity, the Living Being with a human face), this living being did not command Jesus Christ. Rather, he utters the cry of all he represents on earth, including those who are praying most urgently for Christ to come to earth and redeem it and them.
The living Word of God rides forth on a White Horse. The “horse” represents power and conquest whereas “white” indicates righteousness and victory. A “bow” means battle and a “crown,” victory and rule. Here is illustrated the living word of God going forth in judgment and in a righteous, victorious saving power.
The prophet Isaiah says, “When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world shall learn righteousness.” In John’s vision, he sees that as long as these judgments are going forward, some will take warning from them and repent by turning to God. Therefore, He goes forth “conquering and to conquer.”
Christ, like His Father, is God with the Father. He is not confined to one place. Though He has gone forth in judgment as the Word of God, John sees Him in heaven breaking the second seal. Another Living Being cries, “COME!”
Those animal creatures below the human family know nothing about the saving
judgments of Jesus Christ. The cruelties humans have suffered on earth cause them to cry out for Christ to come. One of those cruelties is depicted in God saying that the blood of Abel cried to Him, making the avenging of Abel’s murder a necessity in God’s justice. This “COME” is a cry for Christ to avenge wrongs.
WAR stalks forth—red with blood and with a great sword. Peace is removed from the earth. We are reminded of Christ’s own words of warning as to what would be a sign of His coming to set up His kingdom on the earth: “Ye shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars: see that ye (Christ’s own disciples) be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” The earth had often been disturbed by wars. When these times come, people will say, “It never was so perfectly dreadful in all the history of the world.”
Next, come horsemen representing Famine and Pestilence, constant results of wars. One horse is black for famine, and the other pale, a greenish-pale death color. Jesus told His disciples when this time came, “There shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places” (Matthew 24:7). Soon we shall read of some of these earthquakes.
Precisely, what is this vision of the breaking of the seals intended to teach us? I believe it represents the time as having come for Christ to judge the earth. The White Horse teaches us that His judgments will be tempered with mercy and forgiveness for all who will repent under His judgments. Therefore, the White Horseman goes forth before the others are allowed to begin their deadly destruction. The lessons of the other horses are plain in v. 8: “These were given authority over one fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword (red horse), with hunger (black horse) and with death,” or pestilence (pale or livid horse). Also, we are told that others will be killed by “the beasts of the earth.” What a perfectly appalling destruction of life!
Famine and pestilence always follow in the wake of great wars. During such times of war, those who conduct themselves like wild beasts will always be present. In conclusion, these scourges are really reducible to one—war—in awful intensity and enormous extent.(2)
What is this “fourth part of the earth” which is to be visited by these scourges? John is looking down from the heavens upon the earth. Naturally speaking, he could see but one hemisphere. He mentions the Euphrates river twice (9:14, 16:12), Armageddon, or the hill of Megiddo in Palestine (Esdraelon), Jerusalem, and “the sea,” which would naturally be the one he knew the most about—the Mediterranean. Accordingly, we have traced a map of the eastern hemisphere and divided it into quarters. The northwestern quarter includes all the places John mentions, the heart of which is the Mediterranean Sea situated in the center of the ancient Roman Empire. The Roman Empire which existed in John’s day is enclosed in the red lines. In examining the map, study first the map of the hemisphere which is on the right hand of the larger map. The latter is an enlargement of the Roman Empire to which has been added the modern names of countries.
We need not say too explicitly whether John saw all the hemisphere or whether the great wars visit every portion of this quarter of the earth. At least, we may be sure the prophecies of John relate to this portion of the world and to no other. By consulting this map occasionally, you will understand John better.
In breaking the fifth seal, we see the most urgent demand for judgment—the cry of martyrs. The four Living beings have uttered their cry for Christ to come in saving or avenging power. Now the cry comes from martyrs represented as souls (their bodies have been killed) under the altar of God. These martyrs are not simply good, dead people, but those who have been sacrificed and killed because they have remained true to God.
The blood of a sacrifice ran off under the altar or around its base in a gutter. Likewise, here the martyrs are represented where their blood ran. They cry as Abel’s blood cried from the ground for vengeance. Not that the martyrs cried for vengeance, for their spirit would be one of forgiveness like Jesus when He prayed, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do” or like Stephen when he prayed, “Lay not this sin to their charge.” The justice of God cries from their souls under the altar, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”
The martyrs are each given a white robe. They are told that more martyrs must yet suffer and then God’s judgment will fall on those who slew the martyrs. This partial fulfillment is in Revelation16:6.
When John saw the sixth seal broken and the sixth portion of the book unrolled, then a terrible earthquake came with such frightful scenes following. The sun became dark brown and the moon, blood red. Meteors shot through the sky and fell to the earth in vast number. Then, it appeared as though the whole sky doubled up and rolled away. Our imagination cannot fathom such a scene until it takes place. Then, we will understand the description. Such a terrible earthquake occurs that “every mountain and island moved out of their places,” and everybody fled in terror, seeking some place of safety. The martyr scene discloses the urgent demand for immediate judgment. When the sixth seal is broken, we have a picture of the terrible results which will take place under that judgment of Christ. From the kings to the slaves, wicked men will be so frightened that they will call to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne (God) and from the wrath of the Lamb (Jesus Christ): For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
2. This chapter has not been written to suit the striking events of the Great War of the autumn of 1914, for it was written in August 1913. Since then, we have added the Map for the sake of clearness. In fact, this entire book was written through chapter 21 before November 1913 although some portions of these chapters have been revised since.