In this series of articles, I am going to approach a subject that has a considerable amount of controversy attached to it. This has to do with the 6th chapter of the Book of Revelation and the unfolding of the 6 Seals of Judgment. The traditional view, for the most part, has been that the Seal Judgements, the Trumpet Judgments, and the Bowl (or Vial) Judgments are all opened and fulfilled within the seven years of the Apocalypse (Daniel’s 70th Week). I will propose an alternative view which I believe makes a lot of sense, yet, I don’t believe that it contradicts what we find in the holy scriptures. It does, however, put a long-held traditional view in question. For what it is worth, I am not the first to propose this view. There are Bible prophecy scholars, much more learned than I, who have come to the same conclusions. Now, let’s proceed.
In previous writings, I have taken the time to go through chapters 4 and 5 of the Book of Revelation to point out some important facts that I believe are sometimes missed. I won’t take the time to go through these again here but will just refer you to the original articles. I will however suggest in this writing that, although not all the chapters of the Book or Revelation are necessarily chronological in their unfolding of prophecy, chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7 should be read as a continuing narrative. The Apostle John, was given the visions of the Apocalypse at about the age of 90-95 or so. This was decades after the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. The beloved Apostle was taken back in time for the scene he witnessed in the Throne Room of God in chapters 4 and 5 before he was taken ahead into the future to see what was yet to come.
The timing of the opening of the Seals determines how Revelation makes sense.
Here are some important points as we begin to dig into this subject:
The Seals are really part of the Church Age—not just since the turn of the millennium in 2000, but since Jesus ascended and subsequently the Church being formed. The first Seals are a unit: There are four horsemen and it appears the four Living Creatures which are positioned around the Throne of God are in one way or another connected to the actions of these four horsemen. Distinct from Seals 5, 6, and 7, but yet together, they complete or represent a fullness or a completion of time, age, phase, or judgment.
A question that is often asked is: “Are the judgments “telescopic”? It seems they are. The 7th Seal opens the Trumpet Judgments, which in turn open the Bowl Judgments.
Another question that is not often asked, but should be: “To which time, era or age, do the Seal Judgments belong? Do they belong to the first half of the seven years of the Day of the Lord only? Or, could they belong to the period of time we know as the Church Age? There are really only these two options. Answering this question correctly will, in one way or another, completely alter our view and the timing of events in the Book of Revelation. Our concern should be for the “truth”, not for who has been, or who will be right. We need the Truth. It is important for us to understand because as we approach the time of Christ’s coming, only a proper understanding of the Seals and their timing will yield the valuable insights to the stage-setting events which may already be taking place in the earth and in the heavens.
As I read the prophetic Scriptures it is clear that the “Signs in the Heavens” come before the Day of the LORD—including the Blood Moons, Solar Eclipses, increasing number and frequency of major earthquakes and volcano eruptions, cosmic signs, etc. It is important for us to be aware of how things unfold because as we approach the time of Christ’s second coming, only a proper understanding of the Seals will yield valuable insights to the stage-setting events which may be taking place in the earth and in the heavens. With the special Blood Moons of 2014-2015 having gone by, the first of two major eclipses of the sun over America as well as the great Revelation 12 sign having come to fulfillment late in 2017, and many other notable cosmic markers, we are being warned that the Sixth Seal event is very, very near its fulfillment. The passage from the Book of Acts below (which is a direct quote from Joel 2:30-31 in the Old Testament) makes a point of saying “before the great and awesome Day of the LORD…”
“I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. Acts 2:19-20 (emphasis mine)
Although a large percentage of prophecy experts put the opening of the Sixth Seal near the middle of Daniel’s 70 weeks (midpoint of the Day of the LORD), there is a growing number of students of prophecy who recognize an abundance of scriptural evidence pointing to the Sixth Seal as being an event which in actuality signals the end of the Church Age. Understanding this fact brings a new clarity of understanding in light of the many warning signs going off in our day. The signs are telling us that the Sixth Seal is near to being unsealed and unleashed.
Today we have many prophecy teachers who see no significance in the heavenly signs we have been seeing in the last few years, saying that they have little, if any, significance in relation to Bible prophecy because they cannot seem to fit them into their personal eschatology. If we try to find truth from a fallacy that we have been building on, we will likely find more fallacies. The opposite is of course also true. There is a failure to recognize that these events do not set dates, but they are merely indicators of a season. The season they are signaling is the imminent return of our Messiah. These heavenly signs are harbingers sent from God to warn the world of what is about to unfold.
Sequence and Content
The First Rider has a crown, a bow, and rides on a white horse. Is this Jesus? Is this the Holy Spirit? Is it the Antichrist coming with his peace treaty? No, on all three counts.
The Second Rider has a great sword, is given power to take peace from the earth, and to cause men to brutally kill one another. (If the Antichrist comes bringing peace with the first Seal and breaks it with the second Seal, we have an eschalogical problem).
The Third Rider rides on a black horse and carries a pair of balances (or yoke as further study shows), bringing great bondage through economic woes that enslave people and bring great financial woes and starvation.
The Fourth Rider rides a Pale Green horse and the name of the one sitting on the horse is called “Death” and has Hell following him.
It is noteworthy that only the first Rider has a crown, but power and authority is given to the riders as a group over ¼ of the earth. Does this mean ¼ each or does it mean 1⁄4 collectively? Could it be that these supernatural beings or phantoms, as they appear to be, are being overseen by the Four Living Creatures before the Throne, as they ensure that all things unfold as they should including each stage that needs to be set? Are these four horsemen “generals” sent out, or allowed to roam the earth but ultimately limited and controlled by the Lord of Hosts? These horses appear to have a connection to the horses in Zechariah 6.
Where Do We Begin?
Are there other Scriptures that we might consider in order to better understand the Seals? Yes; Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13, and Zechariah 6:1-6. There is a remarkable similarity between the progress of Revelation, chapter 6, as a whole and the description given by Jesus about the end of the age in Matthew 24:4-31. In both passages the order is (1) war; Matthew 24:6-7, Revelation 6:3-4; (2) famine; Matthew 24:6-7, Revelation 6:5-6; (3) death: Matthew 24:7-9, Revelation 6:7-8; (4) martyrdom: Matthew 24:9-10, Revelation 6:9-11; (5) darkened sun and moon and stars falling; Matthew 24:29, Revelation 6:12-14; (6) time of divine judgment; Matthew 24:32-25:26, Revelation 6:15-17.
It appears that Seals 1-5 have been opened throughout the Church Age—when Jesus said there would be wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, He accurately described the Church Age. As we continue this study, we will see evidence that this is in fact what has been happening for the entire 2,000 years since Jesus ascended to His Throne at the right hand of the Father—right up to today’s current events in today’s world.
Similar Does Not Mean the Same
This is a true statement, but if something is the same, there will be similarities. So, should we just ignore the similarities and focus only on exactness? Note: It is necessary that any interpretation we come to when studying the Book of Revelation, our “theories” must be based upon a study of the entire Word of God and involving the question as to whether prophecy should be interpreted with the same degree of literalness as the rest of Scripture. Revelation has an abundance of signs and symbols, but was intended to be interpreted with much greater literalness than most have exercised. If this is done, we find a stunning revelation of the end of the age and it is corroborated by other prophetic passages of Scripture.
Prophecies were fulfilled literally at Jesus’ first coming. They will also be fulfilled literally at His second coming. Famed Christian theologian John Walvoord put it in these words:
“…the picture before us, in word, is God’s revelation of the dramatic and terrible judgment which will climax the present age. This constitutes a warning to those who are living carelessly in unbelief to beware lest the age engulf them. The prophecy of the end of the age is a spur to Christians to snatch souls as brands from the burning and thus prepare them for the coming of the LORD.”
Most Bible scholars see the events coming through the bias that the opening of the Seals must be during Daniel’s 70th week. Even the great theologian, Dwight Pentecost, saw it that way. This bias forces one to explain Matthew 24 in a way that it can have nothing to do with the Church Age.
Jesus Himself referred to events that are part of the “beginning of sorrows” or birth pangs, but then made the distinction “but the end is not yet.” We must see it that way as well. What do we base our argument on to prove that the Rapture happens at Revelation 4:1? There is no legitimate argument to back this position. We must care more for consistency with Scripture than consistency with “a position.”
A Few Comments Before Taking a Deeper Dive into the Four Horsemen
There are many opinions about the identity of the White Horse Rider of Seal #1. We will look into the significance of this particular Rider in more detail as we take the upcoming “deeper dive”, but for now, we must recognize that Matthew predicts many false messiahs. We’re dealing with an extended period of time. There have been a great many false “christs” and “messiahs”, and this is continuing today. Millions have been deceived. The Apostles spoke of the spirit of antichrist already being in the world during their lifetimes in the first century!
Look at the Church of Pergamos. There is a warning to repent so as to avoid being judged. Same with the Church of Thyatira. Revelation 2:23 says:
“… all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.”
It sounds like the Church Age. The Seals bring judgment but still somewhat scaled back because it is still mingled with God’s grace. Also see Matthew 7:15 and Matthew 24:11. Matthew 24:23-28 speaks again about “false christs” and “false prophets”, but right in the middle of this passage, verse 27 says “for as the lightning comes…(rapture?), 1 Corinthians 15:52: “in the twinkling of an eye.” Interesting…
How is it that the Antichrist comes to power? It will come to pass after a long history of accepting false christs and false teachers. People are being deceived all over the world. Soon will come the “Great Delusion.” I have in my files a long historical list of false messiahs beginning with characters proclaiming themselves right after the ascension of Jesus.
The Seals are warnings and reproofs throughout the Church Age to convince the world of sin, righteousness, and the coming judgment at the end of the age.
The Seals are themselves the beginning of sorrows and birth pangs culminating in a stampede of apocalyptic warnings of the impending Apocalypse itself. We are today experiencing the beginning of this “stampede.” This is the first time in the last 2,000 years that all of the signs and warnings Jesus foretold are happening all at the same time. After His warnings to the disciples of the wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and false christs and prophets, it was Jesus Himself who said, “All these things are the beginning of sorrows.”
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse do not represent humans, but rather powerful spirits. To us, if we were to be able to see them, they would probably appear as phantoms. A curious example of this might be a short video captured by many of the world’s major news outlet cameras while filming the Tahrir Square riots in Cairo, Egypt in February of 2011. As the cameras panned the massive crowd of rioters, a strange green horse and rider appeared to ride right in the middle of the crowd. The rider and his horse appeared as a very visible translucent green phantom as they rode through the crowd and then up into the air over the people before disappearing into thin air. There is still a YouTube video clearly showing the incident for the last 5 or 6 seconds of the 85 second video clip. Was it human? Definitely not. It appeared very much like a spirit entity briefly becoming visible to the naked human eye.
The Apocalypse is the Apostle John’s unveiling of the future from the perspective of his day forward. It would make little sense to look at these things looking forward from our modern day perspective. These things were to happen “after.”
It appears these powerful spirit riders are given permission to wreak havoc and carry out judgments upon the earth. All are of course under strict God-controlled boundaries. When did the four Horsemen begin their designated work? They began in the first century, right after Jesus ascended to the Throne of God and the Church was instituted on the Day of Pentecost.
–Continued in Part Two–