Title : “The Lamb opens the Six Seals”
Summary : Revelation Ch. 4 &5 :
· A vision of the One worshipped ( 4:1-6a)
· A vision of the worshippers gathered around the throne in heaven ( 4:6b-11)
· A vision of the 7 seals. A Question: Who is worthy to open the seven seals? (5:1-5)
· Christ the Lamb is worthy to open the seven seals. (5: 6-14)
In the midst of heaven’s worship (Rev. 4 & 5) John saw a scroll in the right hand of the LORD Almighty. A strong angel asked in a loud voice : “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” No one came forward, and John became so desperate to have the contents of these seals unveiled that he had wept at the prospect of there being no one worthy to unseal the contents – that was until the Lion of Judah, the root of David, the Lamb who has conquered was declared as being worthy to open the seals . He is now seen in the process of breaking them open in Ch. 6. The question now follows: What does all this mean?
Observations at face value show us that the first 4 seals (6:1-18) deal with judgments on the earth .
The next two seals (6:9-17) deal with things in the heavens.
The 7th seal stands apart from the rest. It is held back until 8:1 and we shall see that it ushers in the next series of visions – the 7 trumpets, which shall be followed by the vision of the 7 bowls.
The scroll contains God’s purposes in the world – from beginning to end. History is not just a haphazard connection of random events ! History is known to God and directed by God. We know this because the purpose of the Revelation to John is “to show the things that must soon take place.” (1:1; 4:1). Please note that God holds the history of the world in His right hand. That is very assuring thing to know, particularly against the background of the content that is now revealed to John and to us.
The opening of the six seals ( 6:1-8)
[6:1] Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!”  And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer. The stage is set.
The Lamb opens the first of the seven seals, and the voice of one of the four living creatures says with a voice like thunder, “COME!”. John sees a rider on a white horse- a conqueror figure. In 19:11-16 we find the rider on the white horse who is actually named “the Word of God” and the “King of kings and Lord of lords”. So we see here the Lord Jesus Christ Himself riding out as a conquering King (see also 5:5). He precedes the following 3 riders who bear bad news of war and of lack of food and of diseases. These things must happen, and we are assured that He is ahead and in control of them.
Now this is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ conquering in the midst of what we have known during these last 2000 – wars and famine and death. We see it in the daily newspapers. We read reports of fighting, terrorism, genocides, inflation and financial collapse, of famine and of epidemics. This is the world we live in. However, it is also in the midst of these years that the gospel is forcefully advancing, conquering and to conquer. In all these things our Lord is more than a conqueror (Rom.8:37). He rides ahead! He is in charge of this sad world’s destiny.
 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!”  And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword. The Lamb opens the second seal and the second creature before the throne says: “COME!” … and the second rider on a bright red horse is permitted to take away peace in the world, so that people should slay one another…”! If God takes away peace from the world, all He does is to hand over people to themselves . He does not restrain them. He allows their evil natures to take their logical course. This explains as to why in the history of mankind we have seen such terrible outbursts of wars, civil unrest, ethnic cleansings etc.
Men at the mercy of themselves are capable of unspeakable evil. That is why the prayer of 1 Timothy 2:1-2 is so important : “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Pray that God may restrain evil in our day!
 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand.  And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!” The Lamb opens the third seal and the third living creature says, “COME!”. John now sees a rider on a black horse with a pair of scales in his hand. They are clearly out of balance as the prices quoted are exorbitant. This is a time of distress caused by famine and scarcity- of economic troubles and biting inflation such as was known in the great depression of the 1930’s- such as was known in recent years in Zimbabwe, when inflation was rampant and food shelves were empty.
A denarius was the daily income of a working man in those days. With it he could buy 1 litre of wheat -enough to feed himself, but not his family. Alternatively one could buy three litres of barley- merely enough to exist! Luxuries such as oil and wine on which the rich feed, appear to be available (at a price) even in the hardest of times! We see here that even inflation and shortage is a means by which the LORD speaks to the citizens of this world!
 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!”  And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. The Lamb opens the fourth seal and the fourth living creature says, “COME!”. Now John sees a rider on a pale horse . This rider is given free reign to “cull” 25 percent of the world’s people – whether by a gun in the street, a land mine or a roadside bomb in a battlefield, or by means of a plane, train or road crash or a ferry disaster at sea, or through a 1918 flu epidemic, or through a modern AIDS pandemic. This rider is licensed to kill, keeping the daily newspaper headlines supplied!
SUMMARY: I trust that you get the picture. The four seals and the four horses and the four riders reveal what we see in our world. With awe we note that the things that we normally attribute to Satan are in fact things permitted by God ( see Job 1).
All these judgments are of a temporary nature and precede and prefigure that great judgment which is still to come!
Thank God that the gospel rides ahead, inviting all those who are afflicted and weary and battered by the sin of man to flee to Christ. These hardships and sufferings should cause us to ask questions about the true meaning and purpose of life. These temporary judgments of Christ often drive people into the arms of salvation. They are a part of God’s plan “ to bring all things to an end and to reconcile all things together under Christ, whether things in heaven or things on earth” (Col 1:20). If they do not happen the end will not come…
 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain (lit. martyrs- witnesses) for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.  They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. With the breaking of the fifth seal an entirely different scene unfolds. John sees under an altar in heaven the souls (disembodied spirits) of those who had died for the sake of the gospel. They were crying out to God in a loud voice : “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long…?”. Like John, they were impatient for Christ to bring history to a conclusion. Note the following facts about these martyrs:
1. They were alive - they are proof that there is life after death.
2. They were under the altar - According to the book of Leviticus the blood of slaughtered animals was to be poured out at the base of the altar. These martyrs were sacrificed because of the testimony they bore to Jesus. They were murdered by God-less, God- hating evil men, and their blood cries out from the earth, waiting to be avenged (Gen. 4:10; Deut. 21:1-9). Even though their death on earth was terrible, they are received in heaven with honour, and they have not died in vain. Their blood is not wasted. They are eagerly waiting for God to bring final justice to the earth. This is what we are all ultimately longing for, and today we are being reminded that this is what will happen.
3. There is as yet an incompleteness about them. They are also crying out because they are longing to be clothed with their resurrection bodies which will transform them to be like His glorious body ( Phil 3:21), serving Him in the new creation which will be free from all evil and injustice. In the meantime, while waiting, they are given a white robe to wear. This is an assurance by which they are reminded that they are clothed and resting in Christ’s perfect righteousness. They were told to rest a little longer, until earthly history is complete and until the complete number of martyrs has come in. This is what we learn from the 5th seal. In heaven , in a special place we find our Christian martyrs, but they are alive, and they are heard by God and they are comforted - and soon they will be clothed with their resurrection bodies! No Christian in the service of God shall die in vain and unnoticed!
 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood,  and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.  The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.  Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains,  calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,  for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” The opening of the 6th seal sets in motion the awesome events that accompany the end of the age. It introduces the day of judgment – the day of the wrath of the Lamb (v.16).
This day is often spoken about in the Bible.
Two things will happen:
1. There will be a shaking of the entire universe as we know it. (vv. 12-14). We have seen these things in ‘mini formats‘ in terms of strange signs in the sky, earthquakes, volcanoes etc. but this will surpass anything the world has seen thus far. This will be universally awesome and cataclysmic. Do you think of that day?
2. The ungodly among the human race will be thoroughly shaken up: (vv. 15-17) Everyone is implied here: kings, great ones, generals, the rich, the powerful, slave and free - everyone! Since the second coming holds no terror for the Christian, only the God haters and atheists and agnostics and those apathetic to God will cry for the mountains to fall on them to hide them from the face of Him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.
The 7th Chapter of Revelation will deal with the position of the Christian in the great tribulation.
This then is the revelation of the 6 seals. It is the revelation of the history of the world. It is not a pretty picture, and we wonder why John would have wept. But we are looking ahead, aren’t we? We are longing for this sin infested world to be wrapped up and for the new heavens and the new earth to appear, a new world in which Jesus shall reign in His righteousness and where we who love Him shall be truly free and eternally happy. Amen