Revelation 6:1-17 Part 4


1)    And I watched when the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals; and I heard one of the four creatures speaking as thunderous sound: “COME”!

2)    And, LO!  A white horse.  And the One sitting upon it holding a bow, a crown having been given to Him.  And He did come out overcoming and that He may overcome.

3)    And when He did open the second seal, I heard the second creature speaking: “COME”!

4)    And another did come out, a red horse; and to the one sitting upon it having been given to take the peace from the earth, so that one might slaughter the other, a great sword having been given to him.

5)    And when He did open the third seal, I heard the third creature speaking: “COME”!  And, LO!  A black horse, and the one sitting upon it holding a scale in his hand.

6)    And I heard as it were a sound in midst of the four creatures, saying “a chaenix of corn for a denarious, and three chaenixes of barley for a denarious; and do not unjustly injure the olive tree and the vine”.

7)    And when He opened the fourth seal I heard a sound from the fourth creature speaking: “COME”!

8)    And, LO!  A pale horse.  And the one sitting upon it named “the death”, and “the hades” was following him closely; and authority was given them over a fourth of the earth to kill with sword, with famine, with plague, and by the beasts of the earth.

9)    And when He did open the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the lives of those who had been slaughtered because of the Word of God and because of the testimony that they were holding.

10) And in a great sound they did cry out, saying “until when, holy and worthy Master, are You not judging and avenging our blood from those dwelling on the earth?

11) And a white priestly garment was given to each one, and it was spoken to them that they should rest themselves yet a little time until also their fellow-servants and brothers who are about to be killed even as they should be fulfilled.

12) And when He did open the sixth seal a great shaking did occur, and the sun became as black as sackcloth hair, and the entire moon became as blood,

13) And the stars of heaven did fall into the earth as a fig tree casts her winter figs upon being shaken by a great wind,

14) And the heaven was swept aside as a scroll being rolled up, and all the mountains and islands were moved out of their places.

15) And the kings of the earth and the great men and the princes and the chiliarchs and the wealthy and the powerful and every slave and free did conceal themselves into the caverns and into the clefts of the mountains

16) and saying to the mountains and the rocks, “fall upon us and conceal us from the Presence of the One sitting upon the throne and the wrath of the Lamb,

17) because the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?”


Because of the level of difficulty in pulling everything together in some understandable form, we’ve spent quite a bit of additional time on the language of God in the prophetic Word.  I think that this is one of the most important things for us to come to grips with.  And I just want to follow up with a few other comments about it.

The frustrating labor involved here for all of us isn’t work designed to provoke speculative interpretation and additional “applicatory” narrative.  The Revelation itself IS application.  So we’re just not into those things here.  The language of God is what it is; and it is what it is in its own right.  It is its own interpretation; and it is its own application.  And we just need to know what it says, rather than trying to “decode” it.  It’s not revealed in code.  And it’s not written in code.

When reading or hearing these Scriptures, we shouldn’t be seeing the words and phrases as “windows” into some “more-real” world as if there is a reality here that’s hidden from us as creatures.  It is, in-and-of-itself, the real world.  Therefore, when there are things shown to John, that which is shown is referring to itself.  It is not referring to something else – something else that’s hidden or mysterious.

And the language we’re hearing isn’t “mimetic”.  In other words, God isn’t “imitating” something prior to His Own language in the text of Scripture; nor is He “representing” something prior.  Rather, He has created the facts and representations and references to which we are required to attend!

There is nothing prior to God’s understanding and/or His language.  It is the original language.  Therefore we have to deal with it as is, and make the connections that God has revealed.  Those connections have to do with that which has been prophesied and that which is shown to John as now happening (as he sees and hears it), and is about to happen!

As said previously, this is how God sees His creation and His history – in His Own words.  It’s His perception, and it is all original; there is nothing prior; and there is nothing “hidden”.  And we either have to learn the language and recognize and acknowledge the connections; or we have to come to terms with the inability to make the connections, as we read in the text what He has said, what He has done and what He is about to do.

And when on those occasions we do come to terms with our inability to make the connections, then we have to admit that it is our inability, and not blame God for having some kind of an agenda which includes “hiding” stuff from His people in mysterious and difficult language!

You see, the Revelation is explication; the Revelation is application; the Revelation itself, the word itself, means “that which is revealed”; the Revelation is the filling up of that which has been prophesied.  So, therefore, should there be fault, the fault is ours when we can’t see it.

Now I want to remind you again of a few more things about Jesus’ answer to His disciples in the apostle Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 24.  His disciples had asked Him when these things would be, and what was the sign of His Parousia, and what was the sign of the consummation of the age.  And here’s Jesus’ answer:


4)    … see, lest someone deceive you,

5)    for many shall come upon My Name saying, ‘I am christ’, and they shall deceive many.

6)    But you are about to hear battles (fighting) and reports of battles; see, lest you be terrified; for it is necessary to occur.  But, it is not yet the end,

7)    For there shall be raised up a nation against a nation, a kingdom against a kingdom; and there shall be famines and earthquakes (shakings) from place to place,

8)    And all these ‘beginning of travails’.

9)    Then they shall deliver you, and you shall be the ones detested by all the nations because of My Name.

10) And then many shall be entrapped, and they shall deliver one another and kill one another;

11) And many false prophets shall be raised up, and they shall deceive many;

12) And because of the lawlessness to be multiplied, the love of many shall be caused to expire.

13) But the one persevering to completion (end) this one shall be saved (rescued).

14) And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the habitable world in a testimony to all the nations, and then shall come the end.


A world dominion and culture which was Greek was being replaced by that which was Roman!  And a fifth – the Christian culture – would clash with everything that came before it!

A clashing of cultures was a clashing of nations and kingdoms!  The world looked like it was on the verge of disintegration; and it was terrifying!  (All of that is described to Daniel in the later chapters of his prophecy.)  There was fighting and battles and killing and warfare almost everywhere as Rome sought to retain and expand its dominion.

And Jesus says that, in addition to that, there will be famines and earthquakes – shaking!  God was about to shake heaven and earth to remove the things that were and to alter the state of the entire known world.  Cities died and mountains fell as the cosmos was subjected to terminal interruption.  The consummation of the age was near in the Parousia of the King of Kings!  Don’t be terrified, He said, for it is necessary to occur; for the time is near!

The writer of Hebrews refers to these very things in the twelfth chapter of his letter to Hebrew Christians dispersed all through the nations:  “See that you not disobey Him that speaks.  For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, then much more we – if we turn away from Him Who does so from heaven; Whose voice then shook the earth (referring to Sinai).  But now He has promised, saying, ‘yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.’  And this “yet once more” signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.  Wherefore we receiving a Kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.”

Now, just so we might better understand the context being “this generation,” let me read for you a few of the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning bloodshed, famine, pestilence and shaking… judgments of God leading up to and including the siege and destruction of Israel and Jerusalem and the temple.  I’ll limit myself, for now, to the prophecy of Ezekiel whose vision is identical to that of St. John in the Revelation.

Ezekiel five.  Listen.  This is God foretelling what Israel and Jerusalem will suffer as a result of her sin, which He reveals fully before this passage:


“A third part of you shall die with the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of you; and a third part shall fall by the sword found about you; and I will scatter a third part into all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them….  Moreover I will make you waste, and a reproach among the nations that are round about you, in the sight of all that pass by.  So it shall be a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an astonishment unto the nations that are round about you, when I shall execute judgments in you in anger and in fury and in furious rebukes.  I the Lord have spoken it….  So will I send upon you famine and evil beasts, and they shall bereave you; and pestilence and blood shall pass through you; and I will bring the sword upon you.  I the Lord have spoken it.”  (5:12-17)


“He that is far off shall die of the pestilence; and he that is near shall fall by the sword; and he that remains and is besieged shall die by the famine; thus will I accomplish My fury upon them.” (6:12)


“The sword is without, and the pestilence and the famine within; he that is in the field shall die with the sword; and he that is in the city, famine and pestilence shall devour him.” (7:15)


“For thus saith the Lord God; How much more when I send My four severe judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the wild beast, and pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?” (12:21)


And as we read this sixth chapter of the Revelation of St. John, we must, indeed, recognize those four sets of judgments clearly written against that great harlot Israel, and its city – Jerusalem.  And they are the same four sets of judgments found in Leviticus twenty-six where Moses describes each one as a complete “seven”!  We won’t take the time to read that right now, since we read it last week; but they are the same four!

But lastly, remaining in the prophecy of Ezekiel, here are the same things from chapter thirty-eight:


“For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath have I spoken; surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; so that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men upon the face of the earth, shall shake at My presence (Parousia), and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord God; every man’s sword shall be against his brother.  And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.  Thus will I magnify Myself, and sanctify Myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord.” (38:19-23)


These things must be, says Jesus (verse six of Matthew 24).  “It is necessary for them to occur!”  Why?  To bring judgment upon idolatry and harlotry, and fill up the sin of the great harlot.  To fulfill the Word of God through the prophets.  To consummate the age.  To alter the state of heaven and earth – and the Church.  So that the nations “shall know that I Am the Lord.”

Please note that the prophecy specifically says that all these things will be brought to pass in order that God be known in the eyes of many nations!  And that did take place in the establishment of Christ’s Church in all the habitable world– and it is still taking place as we meet here on the first day of the week!

And there are four judgments that are the “beginning of travails”, but they are not yet the end.  Four!  And they don’t happen in sequence (remember, we said that the judgments we see here in Revelation six are not sequential); but they are happening all at the same time, brought about at the loosing of the first seal, and they are continual; they are severe; they are deadly; they are horrific; and they are just the beginning of the birth pangs!   The new birth, the birth of the daughter of Zion, is to happen at the end!

And that brings us directly to the text here in chapter six, for there are four horses of various colors that are the four winds of the earth, called forth by the four cherubim of the throne of God; and they are the four judgments initiated by the loosing of the first seal – each of the judgments a complete seven (a perfect judgment bringing perfect justice).

 And, one more time, they are not to be seen as sequential judgments upon Israel (one doesn’t end and another begin), but are to be seen in totality.  Each is to be seen as complete in and of itself; and the four are to be seen as one complete judgment.  It is a “four” judgment upon God’s “heaven and earth” Israel, and it comes from the throne of God as the fullness of a “seven”.

That means that the whole of God’s prophetic Word of warning from Moses to Zechariah is filled up in the misery and travail of Israel, as the “daughter of Zion” is about to be birthed in the dawning of a “new heavens and a new earth”.

As John watches and listens, the first four seals are loosed by the Lamb of God.  And, as a whole, they are, and they do constitute, the four “beginning of travails” (as Jesus warned His disciples).

Like the four successive (but closely connected) swarms of locusts in Joel chapter one; like the four riders on different colored horses in Zechariah chapter one, and the four chariots drawn by as many different colored horses in Zechariah chapter six, these four sore judgments from Yahveh move forth at the command of the four living creatures of the throne to execute the will of Him Who declared the scribes and pharisees as hypocrites and serpents and offspring of vipers, assuring them that all these things would come upon “this generation” (Matt. 23:33, 36).

Just as the messages to the seven Churches were “seven”, so the scroll in the hand of the Lamb of God is “seven”.  And as He looses the first four, with each of them John hears a throne creature say, in a thunderous voice, “COME”!

This is NOT, as some commentators explain, (not) spoken to John as a directive to come and see.  In an effort to downplay the action taking place in the heaven, there are those who actually subvert the clear language of the text to make it seem as if the creatures are speaking to John rather than to the horsemen and their horses!

Each of the living throne-creatures calls forth one of the four horsemen and one of the four colored horses.  These four cherubim are the four corners of the throne, and they are the four corners of the earth, and the four corners (directions) of Israel, and the four corners of the temple… for all these things were made in the “likeness” of the throne-room!  And they (the throne-creatures), in thunderous voices, call forth God’s four righteous judgments upon Israel for its idolatry and harlotry!

It’s very interesting to note, right here, that the Churches of the first century, before the “end-of-the-age” Parousia of the Lord, were being taught by the apostles to do the same as these throne creatures!  The four living creatures were calling forth the judgment of God.  “COME”, they said! 

At the end of Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth, for example, he says, “if any man loves not our Lord Jesus, let him be cursed (anathema)!   COME, Lord!” (that statement by the apostle is in the likeness of the throne creatures).  And there is some evidence from the history of those early Churches that many worship services were ended that way!  And the Revelation to John itself ends that way:  “Amen… COME, Lord Jesus!

That, of course, was the historical context of the first century Church!  It is NOT the context of our Lord’s Church after His Parousia.  In the post-Parousia Church of Jesus Christ, we may (and should) pray for God’s judgment upon His enemies along with our prayers for the extension of the Kingdom and for the salvation of men and women and children of every tongue and nation.  That should be our heart’s desire, for it is the purpose of our Lord that peoples everywhere should acknowledge Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It is the stated purpose of God that He should be known among all the nations!

But when we pray for His judgment, we are never to assume that we are, or could be, the executors of that judgment.  It is HIS judgment, and His alone.  Vengeance belongs to Him.  We, on the other hand, are ambassadors of Christ who carry the Sword of Christ which is His Word.  We are soldiers of the cross and the resurrection – not the purveyors of death.  We preach the Gospel of God which is concerning His Son; we do not send people into hades!  Should we set ourselves up as executors of God’s righteous vengeance, then we usurp the authority that our Lord has retained only for Himself. (That would not be a good thing, as we all know.)

So, although (as the seven messages that Jesus sent to the Churches indicate) although there were some in the seven Churches in unbelief, there were many more in great dread of what was to occur at Jesus’ Parousia.  At the same time, among many there was great anticipation of the dawning of a new covenant and a new day, as taught by the apostles.  And they were praying “marana tha” – COME, Lord!

When the first living throne-creature calls out “COME!” in a command that was as thunder, and that came from the midst of the throne of God, John sees a white horse in full stride!  And that which had been “sealed” six hundred years previously, as recorded by the prophet Daniel, is now “loosed” at this specific point in time as the Lamb of God looses that first seal.  And the Rider of that white horse initiates the four judgments that are described by our Lord as the “beginning of travails”.

As you have expected, there are a number of things here in the second verse that need to be addressed while, at the same time, retaining the more comprehensive perspective that’s presented (that is, the “beginning of travails” in God’s covenant nation).

And I guess this is as good a time as any to probe the mind of our Lord in His Word, and to inquire into the existence of horses; and, further, multi-colored horses, in the prophetic Word and in the Revelation.

And, remember, we said earlier that we either have to learn the language and recognize and acknowledge the connections; or we have to come to terms with the inability to make the connections, as we read in the text what He has said, what He has done and what He is about to do.  And we may not be able to do that to anybody’s satisfaction with regard to the horses.  However, there are many things that we can say.

The first of which is the fact that there are creatures inhabiting God’s creation at the creative will of God, and, in some ways, they are in the “likeness” of that which is in the heaven.  Their “kinds” are many… as there are many kinds of creatures in the heaven.

In the great “fourness” of God’s creation, there is an incredible “threeness” – also in the likeness of the threeness of God’s throne-room.  For example, as humankind does, all the animal creatures are to exist in a created state of male/female/offspring!  That “threeness” is the state of creation existence that is made in the likeness of the heaven, and therefore that is the state of creation existence that is commanded by God in His Word.  And any deviation from that is, well, deviant!

Horses, and varieties of horses, were conceived in the mind of God before the creation and before the inscription of the covenantal Word.  That’s why they were created.  And the reason for the statement that I made earlier, that the language that we’re reading and hearing in the text isn’t “mimetic”, is that God isn’t “imitating” something here that’s already in the creation (i.e. horses).  Horses exist in the creation because they are in the likeness of that which is in the heaven!   Horses were conceived in the mind of God, and they have a very explicit role in His history (as we can see in the text); therefore they are created!

All through the Scripture, horses are creatures of war and judgment and destruction.  They carry horsemen who have swords and bows; they pull chariots; they strike fear into the hearts of those who are the subjects of overthrow and subjugation and carnage.  In large numbers the rushing of horses and chariots raise massive clouds of dust, and they leave nothing behind but ruination and wreckage.  I won’t read any of the many Scripture instances of these things… you can read them for yourselves.

But God has many fearsome horses and chariots in the heaven.  And one has only to read of Elisha in 2nd Kings chapter six as the king of Syria was out to capture him.  Many horses and chariots of the Syrian army surrounded the city of Dothan, on a mountain upon which the prophet was staying.  Here’s what happened, beginning at verse fifteen:


15) And when the servant of the man of God (Elisha) was risen early, and gone forth, behold, a host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master!  What shall we do?

16) And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

17) And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man (Elisha’s servant); and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.


As we have already read of the horses and chariots shown to the prophet Habakkuk, and the horses resting under the shade of the myrtle tree in Zechariah chapter one, and the horses and chariots in preparation between the brass mountains in Zechariah chapter six, we then only have to read from John’s Revelation, chapter nineteen, of our Lord’s horses and chariots of judgment and redemption.  Listen carefully, and we’ll get good insight into the horses of the heaven here in our text:


11) And I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He doth judge and make war.

12) And his eyes are a flame of fire, and upon his head are many diadems; and he hath a name written which no one knoweth but He himself.

13) And he is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

14) And the armies which are in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure.

15) And out of His mouth proceeds a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treads the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty.

16) And He hath on His garment and on His thigh a name written, KINGS OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.


I’d love to go there right away and spend the next six months translating that and preaching it, but… we’ll have to wait.

As we conclude this morning, let me just say that there’s not much that I can do with the “colors” of the horses, other than the obvious “white horse” and the armies of white horses.  There’s not much… but there are some things.

And first is, of course, the varieties.  The different colors of the horses contrast with the horse upon which sits the King of Kings.  And it’s once again obvious that the first Rider in our text is, indeed, our Lord.  He is the Leader, and all others follow; He is the King; and the horse which He rides is the white one.  And all others are NOT white!  They are contrasted from the one upon which He rides.

Secondly, in the Zechariah chapter one passage, no black horse appears to the prophet; where in chapter six a grizzled (or pale) horse appears that wasn’t seen in chapter one.  And in chapter one there are two red horses; and in chapter six there are at least two of each color drawing the chariots: red, black, white and grizzled (or pale).  Then here in our text we have one of each color, and no chariots in evidence.  We’ll have some comments later about the lack of chariots in this text; but as much time as I’ve put into finding some prophesied significance to these colors, other than the contrast already mentioned, I find none… only the normal colors of horses that God has created.

Perhaps the contrast between the white one upon which our Lord rides and all the other normally colored horses is the reason.  And since I can’t find one, I refuse to speculate.  Maybe the Lord will open my eyes so that I can see in a similar way in which He opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant.  For now, we have to come to terms with the inability to make the connections should there be any.

Next time, the opening of the first seal; the emergence of the white horse and its Rider; the description of the Rider, and what He is doing and is going to do.  The horses and their riders that follow their Leader are those that bring forth the four sore judgments that our Lord described as the “beginning of travails” in His Mount Olive discourse.  Lord willing, we’ll get to those in subsequent weeks.