Revelation 6:1-17 Part 8

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?”



Israel was beloved of God and called His “vine”, removed from Egypt and planted in heaven and earth (the new “Eden” of God), and sank its roots deeply into the land – but it did not bear good fruit.


19) … know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that you have forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in you, says the Lord GOD of hosts.

20) For of old time I have broken your yoke, and burst thy bands; and you said, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree you wandered, playing the harlot.

21) Yet I had planted you a noble vine, wholly a right seed:  how then are you turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?   (Jeremiah 2)


But that’s how our God saw her; He named her His “noble vine”.  She was “planted” as His vineyard.  That’s what she was to Him; so that’s what she was… a vine – to bear clusters of noble fruit unto the Lord God.

God had also called Israel His “green olive tree”.   That’s the way He saw her; that’s what she was!  Listen in Jeremiah 11:


15) What has my beloved to do in my house, seeing she has wrought lewdness with many; and the holy flesh is passed from you.  When you do evil, then you rejoice!

16) Yahveh called your name “a green olive-tree”, fair with goodly fruit.  With the noise of a great tumult he has kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.

17) For Yahveh of Hosts, who planted you, has pronounced evil against you, because of the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have wrought for themselves in provoking me ….


He named her, and that’s how God saw her!  She was God’s “green olive tree”.  A noble vine, and a green olive tree… to be saved – not to be injured unjustly by the “beginning of travails” and the ultimate siege of Jerusalem.

Our Lord Jesus used an analogy which is similar to God’s noble vine and His green olive tree, didn’t He?  It’s in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter thirteen.  In the Kingdom parable (dark saying) called the “zizanium in the field”, Israel was a planted wheat field.  And before the field germinated and produced, it was “oversowed” with zizanium (a bitter weed) (oversowed) in the middle of the night by evil ones (enemies).

When the field started to produce, it was discovered that the weed was growing amidst the wheat.  Upon being apprised of the disastrous growth of the bitter weed, the owner ordered that all of it should be allowed to continue, since destroying it now would (unjustly) injure some of the wheat!

But when it was full-grown, the zizanium could be culled and bundled and burned in the fire without injury to the wheat!

You see, our God is the same… yesterday, today and tomorrow.  And He is always faithful and just – faithful to all His promises.  The vine is always “the vine”; and the green olive tree is always His “green olive tree”.  They are part and parcel of His holy temple in the heaven.  We know that they are in His likeness, for Moses was to inscribe that vine and that tree on holy furniture and implements in the tabernacle!

The “noble vine” and “the green olive tree” is Israel – planted as God’s “heaven and earth”.  And when she played the harlot, and when she sacrificed her sons, and when she bowed the knee to baal, just how did that reflect upon the throne-room of God?  How was God’s throne “pictured” by her lewdness?

But His elect remnant were preserved and “saved” from the burning wrath of the Lamb of God, as He had promised.

A generation – thirty to forty years – is the time period after the crucifixion of Jesus that was required to locate, and then move, a significant number of the remaining root and stalk of the vine and the tree into the nations – those who had not knelt before judaism’s idols.  And that having been done, His promise to Israel was discharged and brought to reality.  He had promised to save Israel – His “noble vine” and His “green olive tree”.  And He did.

In the midst of the birth-pangs; in the midst of the burning of the zizanium; in the midst of the dawning of a new day; in the midst of the beginnings of a new heavens and a new earth, God’s saving mercy toward Israel, as promised, was accomplished; and the New Jerusalem was filled up with His vine and His green olive tree.  And attached to that root and stalk would be many from the nations.  Judgment and deliverance!  Justice and mercy.

You see, all of this comes from that little innocuous statement (seemingly innocuous) in verse six of our text: “do not unjustly injure the olive tree and the vine”.  That command was a voice from the midst of the throne.  It was the voice of our Savior and our God, for Israel was “planted” in the likeness of the throne-room in the heaven.  “My green olive tree” is not to be injured; My “vine”… “My noble vine, is not to be injured.”

Even as the booming voice of the cherub caused the black horse and its rider to stride forth to the “travail” of Israel, the order is given for deliverance of His people… no injury to His elect people.  For He had promised; He had covenanted.  And His covenant stands forever.  He would not forsake what He had planted.  He would save Israel; He would “return” to Jerusalem.  After all, the temple that “looked like” the heaven was on Mount Zion that “looked like” the creation.  And because of the blood of the Christ, it would be “better”.  The new Mount Zion would be over all the mountains in all the nations; and the new temple would be over them all.  The Lamb of God having been slain, the covenant would be renewed and expanded; there would be a new temple on a new mountain in a new city; and it would be better than the old one.

Following on the heels of war and fighting and slaughter with the sword is the third rider – this one on a black horse; and he’s holding a scale in his hand.

Let’s go to the prophetic Word to see why this rider is holding the scale.  Ezekiel chapter four:


9)    Take also unto you wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make bread thereof; according to the number of the days that you shall lie upon your side, even three hundred and ninety days, shall you eat thereof.

10) And your food which you shall eat shall be by weight, twenty shekels a day: from time to time shall you eat it.

11) And you shall drink water by measure, the sixth part of a hin: from time to time shall thou drink.

12) And you shall eat it as barley cakes, and you shall bake it in their sight with dung that comes out of man.

13) And Yahveh said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their bread unclean, among the nations whither I will drive them.

14) Then said I, Ah Lord Yahveh! behold, my soul hath not been polluted; for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dies of itself, or is torn of beasts; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth.

15) Then he said unto me, See, I have given you cow's dung for man's dung, and thou shall prepare your bread thereon.

16) Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem: and they shall eat bread by weight, and with fearfulness; and they shall drink water by measure, and in dismay:

17) that they may want bread and water, and be dismayed one with another, and pine away in their iniquity.


The prophet was commanded by God to lie down on his side for many days, famished and lifeless due to the tiny amounts of food and water, as a witness to God’s coming judgment of Israel and Jerusalem.

The scale held by the rider of the black horse is the means of measurement, in which the starving inhabitants of Jerusalem would be forced to weigh their food carefully, for there would be little for anyone to eat.  Therefore the scale is the prophesied economic calamity.

Instead of translating the word “chaenix”, I’ve just given it to you transliterated.  For there’s really not a translation.  It’s just a small amount (maybe something approximating a quart) weighed out on a scale.

The inhabitants of all of Israel would be paying exorbitant amounts of money for a very small portion of corn, and exorbitant amounts for very small portions of grain (barley).  It’s perhaps a thousand times less than what the same amount of money would buy in times of plenty.

This economic hardship, which steadily progressed to “no food at all”, was led out by the King of Kings on the white horse, accompanied by the rider on the red horse with the “great sword”, and also accompanied by the rider on the pale horse bringing death by the sword and drought and famine and plagues and scavengers.  We’ll get to that in a few minutes.

Now, in order to gain an accurate and horrifying picture of how the Revelation to John and the Gospels and the letters of the apostles and the prophets foresaw the events of Israel’s last days, it’s a good thing to read Josephus’ written eyewitness history of Titus’ siege of Jerusalem.  I have a copy (somewhere) if anyone wishes to do that (although it’s very difficult to read).

But with regard to the famine brought upon this nation (and particularly the city of Jerusalem) from the judgment seat of God, let me read for you just one entry from book two of Josephus’ history of the last days:


“As the famine grew worse, the frenzy of the insurgents kept pace with it; and every day both these horrors burned more fiercely.  For, since nowhere was grain to be seen, men would break into houses; and if they found some they mistreated the occupants for having denied their possession of it; if they found none, they tortured them as if they had concealed it more carefully.  Proof whether they had food or not was provided by the physical appearance of the wretches; those still in good condition were deemed to be well provided with food, while those who were wasting away were passed over, for it seemed pointless to kill persons who would soon die of starvation.  Many secretly bartered their possessions for a single measure of wheat if they happened to be rich, barley if they were poor.  Then they shut themselves up in the darkest corners of their houses; in the extremity of hunger some even ate their grain underground, while others baked it, guided by necessity and fear.  Nowhere was a table laid – the food was snatched half-cooked from the fire and torn into pieces.”


I received some flak for reading so much of the more “lurid” portions of the prophecies regarding these things, so I’ve read a relatively “benign” quote here from Josephus.  Even so, his words are quite pointed.   But needless to say, his eye-witness account gets much more vivid as the savage nature of the famine and plagues and pestilence are described.

How God’s “noble vine” and His “green olive tree” were preserved from unjust harm during all of this isn’t described for us by Josephus.  It’s safe to say only that they were.

Perhaps by the time that the worst of it all was upon them, our Lord’s apostles, deacons and elders of the Church had found them all and removed them into the nations to be cared for in the Churches.  For the Scripture indicates that all of them were found and saved … to the last one.

It’s important to point out too (and we should do so right here), that God’s remnant refugees in the nations were subjected to incredible distress after they were moved abroad and re-settled; they were pursued by Judaists; and they were brutally ruled by Rome; but they were not included in the execution of the harlot, you see.  There’s a big difference between being executed by the Christ as a harlot (on the one hand), and suffering in the Name of Christ and for His sake (on the other hand).  Suffer they did (at the hands of the brutal world power, and at the hands of pursuing judaists)!  But they were not immersed in the fiery wrath of the Lamb.

But, economically speaking, the curse of God on idolatry and harlotry and lawlessness devours productivity in every area of life, doesn’t it?  The more lewd and idolatrous the lifestyle, the more unproductive the society.  The ungodly culture (as is evidenced by Israel and Jerusalem) perishes through starvation, disease and oppression (we read all about that last week in the prophecy of Moses from Deuteronomy chapter twenty-eight).

But this is how our Lord controls and punishes the wicked.  In order to stop them from exercising their ungodly dominion over His creation, the amoral and profane are rendered impotent to do no more than to spend all their effort in just “surviving”.  And in the long run that’s the history of each and every culture that turns away from the Word of God.  That’s also true of families as well.

All the earth now is ruled by the King of Kings, our Lord Jesus Christ.  He rules it with a rod of iron… His holy Law-Word.  And He won’t allow any pagan people to rule His earth.  He alone rules it.

And He won’t put up with a people turning from His Word.  For, as with Israel, He will cause the land to vomit them out.  Listen to the Words of God through the prophet Isaiah, chapter twenty-four:


1)    Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty, and makes it waste, and turns it upside down, and scatters abroad the inhabitants thereof.

2)    And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.

3)    The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.

4)    The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.

5)    The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, and broken the everlasting covenant.

6)    Therefore has the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.

7)    The new wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merryhearted do sigh.

8)    The mirth of tabrets ceases, the noise of them that rejoice ends, the joy of the harp ceases.

9)    They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.

10) The city of confusion is broken down: every house is shut up, that no man may come in.

11) There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone.

12) In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction.


This is the warning to Israel about the famine and plagues and pestilence to come – all together causing economic disaster – for abandoning God’s Law-Word. 

And it is even more true under the reign of the King in this new and better covenant.  He will not long be merciful to those who defile the earth – an earth that is His inheritance.

Examples that we can see and read about are everywhere… nations whose populations live in abject poverty, famine and deadly diseases, and lacking the basics of a productive, civilized society.  All their time and effort is expended in just surviving!

A story was just made available this past week about an entire al qaida training camp that was completely wiped out by bubonic plague!  Another story had a reporter asking a high-ranking Chinese communist leader what his most important task is when he gets up every morning.  His answer was quite startling.  He said that China’s most critical problem was trying to put an additional million Chinese per week into the work force!  The nation is being crushed under its own weight, because the teeming millions in the hinterlands of this vast nation, are starving under an ungodly, and therefore unproductive, economic system.  I’m sure you can cite many other examples as you glance around the globe.  But the more profane and idolatrous a people are, the more they will suffer famine, pestilence, disease and the sword.

But you see, God is completely faithful to His Word.  As He told Isaiah (the prophet having written it… and being found in chapter two of his prophecy:


2)    And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

3)    And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

4)    And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people:  and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.


Our Lord came “out of Zion” – “out of Jerusalem” to judge among the nations with His “rod of iron”.  It is a great mountain over all the mountains and hills of the world.  And obedient and faithful peoples – nations, states, ethnic groups, families – peoples all over the earth who submit to the King and His Law-word will have economic freedom, and freedom from famine and pestilence and plagues and sword.  But, on the other hand (as I said), He will not long be merciful to those who defile the earth with their abominable idolatries, for it is His inheritance.  The earth and all of its nations is His.

You ask about His “noble vine” and His “green olive tree”?  As John writes, truly there is great stress for them when He causes the land to spew out the defilers; but He will not allow unjust harm to come to them.

Surely there is pain and hardship and even death to some of His people, as there was to the prophets and the apostles and the deacons and elders of His Church.  And those rescued from Israel suffered greatly in the reign of terror from Rome all through the nations.  And they were made to suffer at the hands of judaists.

And the same is true all through history.  When a decadent and lawless people is ejected from the land, many of His people do suffer.  But the “noble vine” and the “green olive tree” flourish in the love of Christ.  And those killed by the wicked are given crowns and white robes; and they are caused to sit with the King on His throne until the whole earth receives its redemption from evil and death and hades.

Every people – every culture – every nation that departs from God’s Word will suffer the consequences.  The crowned Rider on the white horse has His covenant bow in His hand.  And there is no escape from His judgment.  But His mercy endures forever toward those who overcome.

Finally, the fourth seal is loosed.


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.


At the thundering voice of the fourth cherub at the throne, the pale horse comes striding forth, following the King!  And it’s important for you to see that it is the already crowned Rider of the white horse that is leading; the others are following to the travail!  The rider of the pale horse is being led, and he is doing what the King requires!  He is doing what the King prophesied!  He is fulfilling prophecy!  He is submissive to the covenant which the King is holding in His hand!  I’ll put some more flesh on that later.

Here “the death”, and “the hades” are personified.  The gender is not neuter; it is masculine; so the references are not to “it”, but to “him”… and to “they”.   And the articles are in the Greek text; and it is important that they be translated.  For, without the translation of the articles (the death; the hades), it could be assumed or insinuated that they exist in and of themselves.

But such is not the case.  With the article translated, it is revealed that these “entities” are in God’s creation, and they exist because of God; they have to do with God’s creation; they are God’s creation; they “function” all within God’s creation, and they do what God created them to do.  And the King of Kings brings them forth at the loosing of the seal by the Lamb of God.

In addition, it must be seen that “the death” and “the hades” are brought forth, in this case, for (covenantal) catastrophic and calamitous death, which has been prophesied from Moses and the prophets from the beginning.  It is an event the likes of which have never before been; and it is an event the likes of which will never be again.

With regard to Jesus’ authority over all things in the heavens and on the earth, remember His words to the apostle in chapter one:


17) And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead; and He placed His right hand on me saying “don’t be afraid.  I Am the First and the Last and the Living, and I became dead and LO, I am living into the ages of the ages, and I have the keys of death and hades.


Jesus Christ, having risen from death and hades incarnate, has overcome them and is victorious over them as was prophesied!  A Man – God-Man – has overcome.  And they are His servants, following Him out to the travail of Israel, and to the cataclysmic inundation of Israel in the wrath of the Lamb.

“The hades” (the grave – the place of the dead) is following “the death” closely (that’s the sense of the text); and the two are loosed by the Lamb on the throne in order to accomplish the Lamb’s wrath on the harlot nation.

Remember God’s perspective on that which He has made.  The “earth” is Israel; and the “sea” is the roaring billows of pagan mankind in the nations – all of them consigned to demonic infestation.  And here in John’s text, we find that “the death” is given authority (by the King) to kill one fourth of the population of “the earth” during the travail.  The “fourth”, of course, relating to created mankind, as all of the “fours” of the prophetic Word do.

Following the King on the white horse, and following the riders with the great sword and the scale bringing killing and famine and pestilence and wild beasts of the field, “the death” and “the hades” are called forth to the slaughter with the four plagues upon the four corners of the earth.

The keys of death and hades belong to Jesus Christ; and He looses them to bring the warned covenantal sanctions in Leviticus twenty-six and Deuteronomy twenty-eight should Israel not obey.  And these four judgments are also the perfect fullness of the prophecy of Ezekiel, where God says:  “My four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plagues, to cut off man and beast from it!” (Ezekiel 14:21 and 5:17).

Perhaps one of the more significant obstacles to a right exegesis of the text of the Revelation is a refusal of preachers and commentators to see that these judgments are coming forth directly from the Throne of our Lord.  And that the agents of the killing and the horrific famines and plagues are none other than those who serve and glorify God at His throne.  And that it is somehow “beneath” God’s Son – the Lamb of God – to carry out such vicious and vengeful retribution.

And that refusal to accept our Lord’s covenantal vengeance is in light of all the warnings and all the prophecies; and in the light of our Lord’s instruction of His disciples – even telling them that it would come in this generation!

It was absolutely crucial that believers in all the Churches throughout the nations believe our Lord, for they all received word of what was happening in Israel.

And it’s also crucial that Christians in every generation understand these things.  We have to have the unshakable confidence and steadfastness in the King and His Word, that all events in His history originate from His throne.  And we can rejoice with the Psalmist when he said, “Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. (Ps 46:8)

When fighting and killing and famine and pestilence and plague come upon ungodliness, it comes directly from the Throne of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who rules His creation and His Kingdom!

The Christian’s attitude toward God’s judgments upon wicked nations is the same as that of the four throne-creatures, who joyfully call out to God’s messengers of judgment: “COME”.  And we, in our prayers in the Name of Jesus, are to plead with our God to have vengeance on the ungodly, and manifest His righteousness in all the nations of the earth.

And faced with all of these awesome revelations of His wrath upon disobedient peoples, what is to be our response?  “Come, Lord Jesus; come quickly”, and subdue all Your enemies.