Here begins the first of three major judgment series, the Seal Judgments. In this chapter, each of the seven scrolls are sealed inside the next one; the first has to be unsealed and read before the next one can be accessed. Not only do individual judgment scrolls overlap, but all three major judgment series, the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls also are telescoping in their relationship, proclaiming different aspects of major prophetic events spanning from the writing of Revelation to the return of Yeshua, which occurs as the 7th one of each series is unleashed.
This writing style is common in Semitic literature where a general overview is given and then revisited with a slightly different focus. Ezekiel 1:16 comes to mind: “The appearance of the wheels and their workmanship was like sparkling beryl, and all four of them had the same form, their appearance and workmanship being as if one wheel were within another.” Seals 1-5 have been broken and the events on the 1st five scrolls are now history.
1 Then I saw when the Lamb broke [Yeshua is completely in control] one of the seven seals [An outer scroll, with another one inside, a third inside of that, etc.], and I heard one of the four living creatures [contrast with the four beasts of Dan 7] saying as with a voice of thunder [words uttered with God’s authority are thunderous, Job 37:4, 5], “Come.”
2 I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown [Strong’s G4735 στέφανος stephanos, meaning a wreath or encircling garland for the head; a crown or reward. They were worn by, among others, Olympic game winners] was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer [the high point of the Roman Empire occurred just after the completion of the writing of Revelation by John during the reign of Trajan in the late 90′s, In 116 A.D., the Roman Empire was at its greatest territorial extent. From that point on, it began slowly to lose territory and influence. So John very accurately describes the Rider on the White horse in victorious terms].
3, 4 When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse , went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. [the next phase of the Roman Empire, the era of bloody conflict. There was almost incessant bloodshed and civil war lasting from 193-284 A.D. During this period there were 32 different Emperors.]
5 When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black [symbolic of death & disease] horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. [device for measuring goods by weight]
6 And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius , and three quarts of barley for a denarius;[a small silver coin, the main coin of the Roman Empire until about 250-275 AD, around the first years of Diocletian. A quart of wheat is about the amount needed to sustain one person for a day; likewise “three quarts of barley” could also sustain a single person, but it is inferior in taste and nutrition] and do not damage the oil and the wine.” [“don’t touch the good stuff”, or probably more accurately, the economic bottom is going to drop out and very few are going to be able to enjoy the good life; it will be out of reach, “undamageable”; the decline of the Roman Empire in third and fourth centuries; the onset of famine]
7, 8 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.”I looked, and behold, an ashen [Strong’s G5515 χλωρός chlōros horse, literally “green”; green is the color of Islam]; and he who sat on it had the name Death [Islam loves death and has killed tens of millions during its 1400 years of existence]; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth [Islam afflicts about 1/4th of the earth], to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth [Islam employs many weapons to force submission to it].
9, 10 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; [millions have died for their faith in Yeshua under the Catholic Church, the Communists, Islam and other systems in the last two Millennia] and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. [these are saints throughout the OT & NT, not just so-called “Tribulation” saints; otherwise God would be unjust to somehow value their blood more worthy of mention and avenging. On the other hand, tribulation has been ongoing since Stephen, the first martyr]
Although there is not an exact, one-to-one relationship between the Seals in Revelation Chapter 6, the Trumpets in Chapters 8-11 and the Bowls in Chapter 16, they do overlap and cover many of the same historical events of the last 1900 years since John wrote. Seal No. 6’s earthquake and eclipses (in verse 12 below) correspond with Trumpet No. 6’s earthquake in 11:13 and the well-known description of “the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light” in Mt. 24:29, just before Yeshua returns.
His impending return is seen in Seal No. 6’s “for the great day of their wrath has come” and stated explicitly in Trumpet No. 7’s “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” The Bowl of Wrath No. 7 angel likewise declares “ It is done” with the shaking of a great earthquake, as in the other accounts of Yeshua’s appearance.
12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake [same occurs at the 6th Trumpet, just before Yeshua returns at the blast of the 7th Trumpet; this seal has not been broken yet]; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood [same as reported by Matthew just as Yeshua appears in the sky, Mt 24:29];
13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth [same as reported by Matthew as Yeshua is returning, Mt 24:29, “The stars will fall from the sky”], as a fig tree [Matthew also referred to the fig tree relative to the return of Yeshua, Mt 24:32] casts its unripe figs [many are caught unaware and unprepared, Mt 24:42] when shaken by a great wind.
14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up [to reveal Yeshua “coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory”, Mt 24:30], and every mountain and island were moved out of their places [also occurs during the 7th Bowl of Wrath, Rev 16:20].
15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains [because Rev 16:21 tells us that with Bowl of Wrath No. 7 “huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail”];
16, 17 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb [this ties the 6th Seal to the return of Yeshua in Bowl No. 7 where it is proclaimed “It is done”, and the 7th Trumpet which states “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ”]; for the great day [the Day of the Lord, the return of Yeshua to judge] of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”