Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” 2 I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
The seven seal judgments are the beginning of the wrath of God being poured out upon the earth during the tribulation period. Jesus broke the first seal, and one of the living creatures told John to come and see what it meant. John saw a white horse with a being riding on it and having a bow, signifying war. He went out conquering and to conquer, signified by the crown of victory on his head. Though the antichrist will feign peace with Israel during the first half of the final seven year tribulation period, the world will not be a pleasant place. As Matthew 24:4-8 indicates, the birth pangs of earthquakes, wars, and famines will only get worse with time. 2 Timothy 3:13 also points out that deceivers and those being deceived will also get worse with time. While it is true that many will get rich from the antichrist’s economy (Revelation 18:11-20), the reality is that it will be a fear-driven existence (Revelation 13:4), worship before the antichrist will be required (Revelation 13:12, 15), and right away the antichrist will subdue three kings (Daniel 7:24). He is a war-hungry person who craves power and worship, and no real peace can exist under such a ruler, particularly for those who refuse to worship him. Things will be so bad that human trafficking will be a key driver of the economy (Revelation 18:13). This will not just be a slave trade but a brokering of children for prostitution and other means of ill-gotten gain (Joel 3:3). The tribulation time will not be a great time to be on the earth, and this is another reason why it is a blessed hope to know that believers will be raptured before it comes (Titus 2:13, Revelation 3:10, John 14:1-3, 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Zephaniah 2:3).
3 When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” 4 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.
Jesus broke the second seal, and the second creature told John to come and see what it meant. This time a red horse went out, and it was granted to its rider to take peace from the earth. A great sword was given to him, signifying that men would kill one another. That war, the first seal, would lead to the death of many and the loss of peace, the second seal, makes sense. Wars and rumors of wars are the birth pangs leading up to the tribulation period, but once these seals are opened, things go to another level entirely.
5 When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 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; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”
Jesus broke the third seal, and the third creature told John to come and see what it meant. John saw a black horse, and its rider held a pair of scales in his hand. John heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures speaking of how much it would cost for basic foodstuffs such as wheat, barley, oil, and wine. A denarius was approximately a day’s wage during Jesus’ time on earth (Matthew 20:2), so the idea that a quart of wheat or three quarts of barley would cost a day’s wage speaks of a severe famine throughout the world. That it would cost a person his entire earnings for the day to just feed himself for that day is remarkable and indicative of the widespread hunger and food shortages that will occur with the third seal judgment. Oil and wine are also seen in verse 6 as being precious and irreplaceable, inferring that growing crops will be difficult given the devastation from the wars. Things that used to be plentiful, such as olives and grapes, will become hard to come by and viewed as luxuries.
7 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” 8 I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.
Jesus broke the fourth seal, and the fourth creature told John to come and see what it meant. This time the horse was gray like ash, and the rider who sat upon it had the name “Death.” Hades, also signifying death and the grave, was following along with him. They were appointed to kill off a fourth of the world’s population through the effects of war, famine, disease, and through wild beasts. That wild beasts were seen killing people in substantial amounts signifies that their habitats and food supplies were being compromised and that they were forced into confrontation with people. The world was undergoing great devastation from the wars, and twenty-five percent of the world was wiped out.
9 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; 10 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.
Jesus broke the fifth seal, and John saw underneath the altar in the throne room of God the souls of those who were slain because of their testimony for the Lord and because they held true to His Word. These martyrs for Christ cried out loudly to the Lamb pleading with Him to avenge their blood from those who hated Him and them on the earth. Knowing that Jesus is faithful and true as well as holy and just, they knew that eventually their blood would be avenged. Yet they prayed for it to come soon. Each of them was given a white robe and told that they should rest a little longer until the full martyrdom during the tribulation had been completed. This was seen as being complete in Revelation 7:9-17, for then heaven is flooded with believers who come out of the tribulation. The white robes signify that they belong to Christ and have been washed clean by His blood. The judgments of God were occurring even as they prayed, and time was short for the antichrist to do his will on earth. Soon, the final seven years would be up, and the antichrist would be killed (Revelation 19:20). At that point, all who would be martyred during the tribulation would have been killed, and they could all come together with other believers for the marriage supper of the Lamb, all clothed in white (Revelation 19:5-8). Their blood will have been avenged by Jesus Himself (Revelation 19:2), and they take part in the first resurrection and rule with Christ as His priests for a thousand years (Revelation 19:4-6). Eternal life is theirs (Revelation 7:15-17).
12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 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; 16 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; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
John looked when Christ broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun turned black (Amos 5:18-20), and the moon looked like blood (see also Isaiah 13:10). This would fit the description of what would happen if earthquakes rearranged the earth’s plates and caused volcanic eruptions on a grand scale. The stars would be blocked from sight and the atmosphere would be compromised and polluted with a quake so large that every mountain and island was moved out of their places. Then again, this could be a major astronomical event or a purely supernatural event in which the stars literally fall from the sky and darkness comes upon the earth (see also Matthew 24:29-30, Mark 13:24-26, Acts 2:19-21, Joel 2:31). The sky is also said to be split apart, perhaps signifying that the atmosphere is compromised. It could also contribute to the intense heat that comes later (Revelation 16:9). Every mountain and island were moved, and an earthquake later will cause all the islands to be gone and all mountains to be leveled (Revelation 16:20, Isaiah 24:19-20). Regardless of the precise mechanics of this event, the devastation, shock, and destruction will be so great that men everywhere, from the rich and kings to the slave and free man, will hide in caves and in the rocks of mountains wishing that they could be hidden from the presence of God on the throne and from the Lamb (see Isaiah 2:10-11, 19-22). They will recognize that a supernatural judgment has come, and they will understand that in the day of the wrath of God no man can stand. Rather than calling out, repenting, and begging for mercy, most will try to hide and run from Jesus. Even their fear of Him doesn’t make them want to turn from sin, a great indictment on the nature of man (Revelation 9:20-21; 16:9-10, 21). Some, however, do repent (Revelation 7:9-14, 11:13), and while they will likely perish in the tribulation, they will have eternal life in heaven.