There are so many interpretations given to the book of Revelation that it can make one’s head spin. Instead of trying to figure out how the seals and other elements fit into the ‘last days’ and current events scenarios, I wrote a book focusing on the spiritual truths behind it all. It is called The One Who Overcomes, and the following is an excerpt from it:
Think KINGDOMS. This is a very prominent feature in the book of Revelation: it reveals a display of contrasting kingdoms. Christians too often make the mistake of neglecting to understand the kingdom aspect of their salvation. Salvation has become a very ‘individual’ event, often amounting to no more than a sort of fire insurance against going to hell. Yet the message throughout the gospels is the kingdom. God’s purpose is to prepare His people for His kingdom, although many still love the kingdom of this world.
Watch as the book of Revelation reveals the kingdom of this world FALLING. Watch as the kingdoms of this world…become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev.11:15). A shaking of the wicked is coming. We have much to be thankful for, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28).
First seal. A rider comes forth on a white horse, conquering and to conquer (vs.2). A warrior is holding a bow and gaining victory. In John’s time, the color white was a symbol of military triumph. The crown on the rider symbolizes his political conquest. The picture displays a reality that the strong rule in this world, and that nations are taken by might. In the world system, nations have often fallen prey to unjust rule because they could not resist their foes.
Consider the contrast of Christ’s kingdom. While peoples are conquered by violence in this world, Jesus comes and conquers as a Prince of Peace. He doesn’t need to use any coercion or force. His people are made willing in the day of His power (Psalm 110:3).
The ultimate conquering came at Calvary: Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out (John 12:31). There was victory and triumph at the cross! Satan was defeated, and to this day the gospel has shown its conquering power in the lives of multitudes of sinners.
Since the Lord’s ascension, the gospel has gone forth in the world and turned violent men into lovers of peace. It has changed nations and brought light into the darkened lives of heathen tribes. And Jesus continues to conquer today!
Praise God for the gospel of Jesus Christ! Where would we be if He had not ridden into our lives? And He will return to finally conquer this world, when He comes on a white horse in chapter 19. The Christian who overcomes is the one who allows Jesus to overcome NOW in his or her personal life.
Second seal. A rider on a red horse is granted to take peace away from the earth. Red is the color of blood, and the outcome is violence or war. International strife characterizes the kingdom of this world. Conflicts abound and the world is never at peace. From the earliest times, nations have been at each other’s throats, and through countless wars this rider has continued going forth to this day.
Consider the contrast of Christ’s kingdom. Instead of violence, it contains a tree whose leaves are for the healing of the nations (Rev.22:2). In His kingdom, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free…you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:28). He has purchased men out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev.5:9). They do not war with each other. On the contrary, they reign together (5:10)!
Third seal. A rider on a black horse holds a pair of scales. This seal has often been interpreted as representing famine. Famine has been present on earth throughout history. On earth our supplies are measured, and the scales in the rider’s hand represent this. Prices for wheat and barley are shouted out—showing that nations thrive or suffer according to their economies.
Consider the contrast of Christ’s kingdom. His is a kingdom of joy, and He gives an abundance FREELY to His people:
Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance (Isaiah 55:1-2).
The vision in this seal (like the others) presents the contrast that should cause believers to look forward to God’s coming kingdom, where they shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore (Rev.7:16).
Fourth seal. Death rides on a sickly horse, and Hades follows him. A fourth of the earth is theirs through sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts (vs.8). Of course, death and Hades have been in action since the fall. Death is inevitable in this world, but the kingdom of God is known for eternal LIFE.
Yet God is still at work in this world. Here I would stray from many and offer an optimistic thought: this horse is pale. Jesus, having defeated death, renders it pale and sickly, before finally throwing death and Hades into the lake of fire once and for all (Rev.20:14)! Here they only have authority over a fourth of the earth, which means they have no authority over the remaining 75%. Without taking these figures literally, they could simply represent death’s diminished power, whereas it would have claimed all if salvation had not come to the earth through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Note that for each of these seals, a living creature accompanies the opening, and shouts, “Come and see!” God allows His creatures to be His voice. He speaks through all creation, but especially through the witness of the church. The church is to invite the lost to “Come and see,” to be affected by the miseries and the state of the world so that they might awaken to their need of a Savior.
Fifth seal. In this world there are martyrs for the cause of Christ. The martyrs cry out for their vindication, but they are told they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who would be killed as they were, was completed (vs. 11). While it is clear that there are yet to be more martyrs, there is some encouragement in that we can look forward to the vindication of the saints in the Lord’s kingdom. Even now they are held in honor, symbolized by their white robes (vs.11). It teaches the lesson that suffering for Jesus cannot be in vain.
Sixth seal. This seal follows up the fifth with disaster upon the earth, as if the Lord is greatly moved by the suffering of His martyrs. This is clearly revealed as the great day of His wrath (vs.17). Here is the beginning of the end of the kingdom of this world. The kings of the earth, the commanders, the mighty men, the rich men and others cry out in fear to be hid by the falling rocks and mountains. They were the conquerors, the instigators of conflict, the shakers of economies- and now they shake like jelly before the wrath of the Lamb (vs.16). It will be a time of terror, but it will be a time that the true church of Jesus Christ need not fear. They will be sealed, as appears in the next chapter…