by John Lowe
First Seal: the White Horse and Its Rider
The Book of Revelation
By: Tom Lowe Date: 8-26-15
Lesson: III.B.1: First Seal: the White Horse and Its Rider (Revelation 6:1-2)
Revelation 6:1-2 (KJV)
1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.
2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
Introduction to Chapter 6
This is the first of three seven-part judgments. Chapters 6-16 form the core of Revelation. Chapters 1-5 are introductory, and chapters 17-22 conclude the book of Revelation; chapters 6-16 describe the seal judgments (chapter 6), the trumpet judgments (chapters 8-9), and the bowl (vial) judgments (chapters 15-16), with interludes between them. In chapter 5, a scroll with seven seals had been handed to Christ, who is the only one worthy to break the seals and open the scroll, setting into motion the events leading up to the end of the world (5:1-5). In chapter 6, the scroll is opened as each seal is broken. The scroll is not completely opened until the seventh seal is broken (8:1). The contents of the scroll reveal mankind’s depravity and portray God’s authority over the events of human history. Let me say here that these judgments are future; they have not been fulfilled as yet. “The day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:2) has not yet come upon the earth, but it is drawing near. Up to the present our God’s throne has not been one of judgment but of grace.
Each of the judgments (seals, trumpets, bowls) consist of seven parts; the first four judgments involve natural disasters on the earth, and the last three are cosmic disasters. There are three views about how to understand this series of judgments—seals, trumpets, bowls:
• Recapitulation View. According to this view, the three sets of judgments repeat each other (are cyclical); they presented three ways of viewing the same judgments. Because the trumpets and the bowls have the same order, many have concluded that the three sets are repetitive. In addition, in all three sets, the first four of the seven judgments are very similar, as are the last three of each set of seven. Exact repetition, however, occurs only in the trumpets and bowels.
• Consecutive View. This view maintains that judgments will follow in the order described in Revelation: first the seals, then the trumpets, then the bowls—in other words, Revelation is describing 21 separate events. For that reason, chapters 6-16 in Revelation would be chronological.
• Progressive Intensification View. The key to this view is understanding the results of the judgments. The seals destroy one-fourth of the earth; the trumpets destroy one-third; the bowls affect everything. The picture seems to be one of progressive intensity, with each of these sets of judgments ending in the same place—that is, the end of history.
These views are helpful as you consider and study the book of Revelation. While many will feel very strongly about one view or another, only God knows the truth. He left much of Revelation unclear to His people for a reason, perhaps so we’ll study it and be watchful and morally alert. One truth is sure; as God prepares to end history and usher in His kingdom, He will bring judgments. Christ as the Lion-Lamb, who holds the title deed to the earth by right of creation and redemption, is about to take over. Chapters four and five are scenes in Heaven. Believers have been raptured and have received their crowns or reward: “The twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their CROWNS before the throne . . .” (Revelation 4:10). The giving of the crowns belongs to that period after the Rapture of the church: “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
In this chapter, four men on horses appear when the first four seals are open; these are commonly known as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse.” John describes these four horsemen as introducing God’s judgment on the world. The first rides a white horse; the second, a bright red horse; the third, a black horse; the fourth, a pale horse. Each one has a mission related to the Lord’s breaking of the first four seals of judgment (Revelation 6:1-8). This series of judgments will affect one-fourth of the world (6:8); in other words, these are not judgments of the entire earth, but are partial.
These horses represent God’s judgment of people’s sin and rebellion. God is directing human history—even using His enemies to accomplish His purposes. The four horses provide a foretaste of the final judgments yet to come. Some viewed this chapter as a parallel to Jesus’ words about the end times (see Matthew 24:4-8; Mark 13:5-13; Luke 21:8-19). The imagery of colored horses and their riders comes from Zechariah 1:8-17; 6:1-8. In Zechariah, the colors of the horses have no special significance; in Revelation, the colors of the horses do have symbolic meaning, as described below. In Zechariah, the horses and riders went out to patrol the earth; in Revelation, they set out to bring disaster.
Someone may ask the question, “Why does Christ break the scroll’s seals and permit such devastation?” Today’s readers of Revelation must remember that this message was first for the persecuted early Christians. In breaking these seals, Christ does not send disaster because the mechanism for evil already exists in the hearts of sinful humanity. Rather, Christ breaking the seals demonstrates His lordship over history—even the evil that occurs in history is under His control. While evil people and evil systems appeared to dominate, Christ unfolds a future in which He will triumph over every enemy. “They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14). The Lamb shall overcome them: partly through the faithfulness of His people, who will not love their lives to the death, but freely lay them down for Him; nor can anything separate them from the love of Christ, or prevail upon them to desert Him. For the first-century believers who were facing persecution, Revelation revealed that Christ had seen their suffering and controlled human events. Thus, they could put their trust in Him and stand up for their faith in times of difficulty.
The events leading up to the Kingdom Age. The church age ends with the spewing out of the visible assembly and the gathering of all born-again saints from out of the world. The saints who have died will be raised, and together the raised saints and the living saints will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:1). The position of the Lord Jesus today is walking in the midst of the churches. He is the Chief Shepherd, the Overseer of the church. And in this dispensation, the Chief Shepherd guides the sheep, leads the sheep, and seals the sheep through the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost. Oftentimes this age is referred to as the dispensation of the Holy Ghost.
The Rapture takes place near the end of the third chapter of Revelation. Immediately after the Rapture (Revelation 4:1-3) we see the four and twenty elders clothed in white raiment, wearing crowns of gold. These four and twenty elders around the throne signify the redeemed in Heaven. They represent the Church, caught up out of the earth into Heaven to be with the Lord. Therefore, in chapter 4 of Revelation, the Rapture has already taken place, and the redeemed are already in Heaven. Later, in chapter 19, verses 11-14, John sees the redeemed coming out of Heaven, following Christ who is riding on a beautiful white horse. The saints are also riding white horses. Since these facts are clearly set before us, in what part of Revelation can the Rapture be placed except between the close of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4? Chapter 3 closes one series of events, chapter 4 opens a new series of events. Therefore, we look for the fulfillment of the words in John 14:3 and the words in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, between chapters 3 and 4 of Revelation. Unless we admit this fact, an intelligent understanding of the book of Revelation is impossible. It is a Biblical fact that the Church is not on the earth during the judgments; the “time of Jacob’s trouble,” the Great Tribulation.
According to Scripture, comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:13), the Church will not enter nor go through any part—not one day or 1 hour—of the Tribulation period. Any minister who teaches that the church will go through any of the Tribulation periods is not rightly dividing the Word.
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