THE PROPHETIC SEALS AND PLAGUES OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION
When studying the prophecies concerning the prophetic seals and plagues of the Book of Revelation, it is good to keep the following in mind:
KEYS TO UNDERSTANDING
There are several keys that will help us understand the prophetic seals and plagues of the Book of Revelation. One of these keys is in the first chapter of Revelation:
"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God [the Father] gave him, to show his servants things which must shortly come to pass . . ." (Rev.1:1 Para.).
Notice that this book was written so that the Father's servants can understand what he and Jesus Christ are planning to do concerning the end of human rule on earth. Because it is probable that humanity is living in the time just before Christ's return, it is extremely important for the servants of God to understand the message that Christ sent them through John.
To The Seven Churches
"I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What you see, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia; to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea" (Rev.1:10-11 KJV).
Through the power of the holy spirit, the apostle John was projected far into the future, to a time just before the return of Jesus Christ. The information given to him was to be sent to seven churches that were in Asia, but why was he supposed to give the message only to seven of the churches in Asia?
One reason seems to be that these seven churches were centers of mail distribution and on a mail route that began and ended with the first and last churches mentioned (Ephesus and Laodicea), which indicates a prophetic progression of events with a beginning and ending point. It is also interesting that, in the end of the age, the Laodicean church seems to receive the severest persecution of all the seven churches and their persecution ends just before Christ's return.
The number seven is used in the Bible to symbolize a division of time, spiritual perfection, completeness, finality, and bringing to an end. Within the messages to these seven churches we see all of these symbolic meanings. Depicted in these seven churches are attitudes and behaviors that cause people to lose their salvation if they do not change them prior to the first resurrection.
THE FIRST FIVE CHAPTERS
It seems logical to assume that the chronological order of presentation in the first five chapters reveals important information that will help unlock the understanding of the first five seals. This is because the first five chapters contain background information concerning the inner-workings of God's government as it relates to his elect children. These chapters also reveal the basic attitudes and behaviors that existed in the church during John's time. These same attitudes and behaviors have existed in varying degrees throughout the centuries since John's time and will exist in the very end of the age.
It is only after this background information is given and after the churches have received their warnings from Jesus Christ that he opens the first seal.
THE FIRST FIVE SEALS
The first five seals contain a number of events and conditions that threaten the health, welfare, and safety of the earth's population, including God's elect. Many of the prophecies contained in the Old Testament seem to indicate that, in the end of the age, the entire population of the earth will receive the wrath of God because of their rebellion against him. The descendants of the Patriarchs, Abraham, and Israel are specifically targeted to receive most of God's wrath.
As we study the first five seals, it will become apparent that all the conditions announced and/or caused by the opening of these seals have a continuation of fulfillment from their initiation to a time near the return of Christ.
It can be proven that the elect are to understand these prophecies (Dan.12:9-10; Rev.1:1). Moreover, some of these things should begin to happen very soon; therefore, it behooves us to discover the major meaning of the first five seals of this book.
Matthew 24:1-13 Paraphrased
In Matthew 24:1-13, we are given an overview of the first five seals of the Book of Revelation and the conditions that will prevail right up to the end of the age when Jesus Christ returns to collect the Father's first-born children at the first resurrection.
"And Jesus went out of the temple: and his disciples came to show him the buildings of the temple. But Jesus said to them, Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone on a stone which shall not be thrown down" (vs.1-2).
After being at the temple and meeting his disciples, he began to speak of the things that would happen after his death by foretelling the destruction of the temple complex, which would take place in about 40 years.
"And as he was sitting on the Mount of Olives the disciples came to him privately, and asked, Tell us when shall these things come to pass? And what will be the sign of your coming, and the end of the age?" (v3).
The disciples wanted to know three things: When the temple would be destroyed, when Jesus would restore national Israel to prominence, and when the current phase of humanity would end:
"Jesus answered them and said, See that no one mislead you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ. And they will mislead many" (vs.4-5).
Before the advent of Jesus and his ministry, there had been a number of people that came describing themselves as the savior of humanity and of national Israel. Jesus was, in essence, telling them that they could expect to see more false Christ's that would deceive people in the future.
"But you will begin to hear of wars, and rumors of wars, but see that you are not troubled. For these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will be raised against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, plagues, and earthquakes in many places. But these are the beginning of sorrows" (vs.6-8).
We must remember that Jesus gave this prophecy during one of those rare periods in human history when there was relative peace throughout the world, which is why he places these statements in the future tense.
These things are just the beginning of a period of sorrow upon the earth and probably have been going on for a long time. It is therefore logical to assume that, because these same things are contained in the second, third, and fourth seals, what Christ said to his disciples was also meant to be understood by future generations of his followers who would live after he opened these three seals containing these same events.
"Then they will deliver you up to affliction and will kill you; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And many will be offended, and they will deliver up one another, and will hate one another" (vs.9-10). See also Mk.13:9.
Verses 9-10 clearly refer to the events contained in the fifth seal. In these verses we see a clear reference to the martyrdom of the servants of God because they hold the testimony of Jesus Christ. And some of those called to partake in the first resurrection will be viewed as betraying the faith.
"And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness shall have been multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. But the one that endures to the end, that one will be saved" (vs.11-13).
Verses 11-13 show a progressive prophecy that continues past John's time and into the very end of the age, ending at the first resurrection. Again, Christ warns of the rise of people who will teach a false religious system of worship that is in opposition to that of his Father's. Because of the increasing wickedness in the world, many will fail in their calling to salvation; only those who continue to be faithful will be saved.
THE FOUR HORSEMEN
There are four major points to keep in mind as we study the first four seals that are opened before Christ's return:
THE RIDER OF THE WHITE HORSE
The first of the four horsemen is probably the most important to the elect of God because he is the only rider that specifically pertains to them and their relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ:
"And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures, like a sound of thunder, saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse! and the one sitting on it had a bow. And a crown was given to him, and he went out overcoming, and that he might overcome" (Rev.6:1-2 Para.).
It is Christ who opens the first seal of the scroll that contains the events that will lead to his return and the end of human rule on earth. This is important to the elect because it demonstrates that Jesus Christ is the one who orchestrates all of the events that will take place during the end of the age.
We are not told who the first rider is, why he has a bow, why he is given a crown, or what he is to conquer. In order to gain any understanding into who this mysterious rider is and what his responsibilities are, it is imperative to use logical deduction predicated on the meanings of Greek words used in this prophecy, along with scriptural analogies and historical information.
The White Horse
The color white is frequently symbolic of purity and righteousness. Christ, his angelic host, and the elect are often pictured as being clothed in white. When Christ returns to conquer the earth, he and his vast army will be clothed in white and riding upon white horses:
"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war" (Rev.19:11 KJV).
"And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean" (Rev.19:14 KJV). See Dan.7:9; 12:10; Matt.28:1-3; Mk.9:1-3; Rev.3:4-5; 19:8.
Some feel that the color white is symbolic of Satan's religious deception; however, this is highly unlikely because the color white is never mentioned in the same context with false religion or evil spirits.
THE BOW AND THE CROWN
Because the rider of the white horse is given a bow and a crown, understanding the symbolic meaning of these two items sheds light on what the rider's mission is and how it is to be accomplished.
Although there are many scriptures that speak of God's wrath and Judgement being as arrows aimed against the wicked of the world and against rebellious Israel, there are also references that show God using arrows shot from a bow to take corrective measures against his elect children in order to awaken them to their sinful condition and their need for repentance.
In a prophecy concerning the end of the age, the Creator God says that he will punish his people for their rebellion and send his arrows upon them:
"For a fire has been kindled in my anger, and it burns to the lowest Sheol, and consumes the earth and its produce; and sets fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap evils upon them, I will use my arrows on them. I will send on them exhaustion by famine, and desolation by burning heat, and bitter destruction . . ." (Deut.32:22-24 Para.).
Job laments that God and his truths cause him great distress when there is disharmony between himself and God:
"For the arrows of the Almighty are within me; their fury is drinking my spirit; the terrors of God are set against me" (Job 6:4 Para.).
As he reflects upon his errors in judgment and behavior before God, King David asks God to have mercy on him when he errs. He speaks of God's truths as arrows that strike deep within his inner being and cause mental agony and sorrow:
"O Lord do not rebuke me in your wrath, and do not chasten me in your fury. For your arrows sink in me, and your hand presses heavily upon me" (Psa.38:1-2 Para.).
Jeremiah speaks of God's punishment upon his children because of their rebellion and lack of love and zeal toward him. Jeremiah says that God's arrows pierce deep into the very being of the rebellious, and he speaks of the love with which God receives those who repent of their wickedness and want to have a harmonious relationship with him:
"He has deflected my ways, and has torn me to pieces; he made me desolate. He has bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow. He has caused the sons of the quiver to enter into my inward parts" (Lam.3:11-13 Para.).
"It is by the kindness of the Lord that we are not destroyed, for his mercies will never fail" (Lam.3:22 Para.).
Cause No Harm
Although the rider of the white horse has a bow, which is a weapon used for killing, there is no indication that his bow is used for this purpose. This is important, because neither of the next two prophecies associated with this rider indicate that he is sent to harm people, unlike the riders of the red, black, and pale-green horses. The lack of any evidence that this rider is sent to harm people is an indication that he is sent for a far different purpose from the other three riders.
The English word crown used in Revelation 6:2 is from the Greek word stephanos, which normally refers to the laurel wreath that is placed upon the head of someone who is victorious in an athletic event.
It is interesting that the Greek word diedema, which normally denotes a crown of authority or rulership, was not used to describe the headdress given to the rider of the white horse. It is also interesting that none of the other horsemen wear a crown.
Because this rider bears the victorious crown of an athlete, it seems logical that the crown is symbolic of one or more of the following: Meeting a challenge and being victorious; one who, in some way, has the responsibility for the event in which the crown is given as a prize; one who is responsible for keeping the crown safe, and/or has the authority to present a crown to those who are victorious.
The last phrase in Revelation 6:2, which is translated into English as 'overcoming', 'that he might overcome', and 'conquering' and 'to conquer' (KJV) is an interpretation of the Greek word nikao, which can mean to 'conquer', 'overcome', 'prevail', or 'obtain victory'. There is no inference in this text that the rider of the white horse goes forth to make war or cause harm. Because this rider is given a stepanos (laurel wreath) instead of a diedema (crown of authority) it seems that the word nikao is a continuance of the thought of victory, as in an athletic event or some other type of situation in which one must win in order to be given the victor's crown.
The apostle Paul often spoke of the process of overcoming as analogous to a foot race, wherein there are only winners and losers. In speaking of his ministry of the gospel and how those who were called to partake of it should strive to control their lives in order to obtain an eternal reward, he says the following:
"Do you not know that those running in a stadium indeed all run, but only one receives the prize? So run in such a way that you may obtain the prize" (1.Cor.9:24 Para.). See also Gal.2:2-5; Phil.2:16; 3:14; Heb.12:1.
There are many scriptures that speak of the elect of God being given a crown of life (Jms.1:12; Rev.2:10) and rulership (Dan.7:27; Rev.2:26-27) as a reward for their overcoming the flesh and living a righteous life before the Father. There are also many warnings about losing one's rewards (one's crown) through neglect and/or sin. Therefore, it is likely that the crown of the first rider has something to do with Jesus Christ, the first victor over the flesh. This crown is probably also associated with the elect of God in their process of overcoming in order to obtain the crown of life.
It is important to point out that Christ is the one whom the Father has authorized to care for his earthly sons and to reward those who overcome the flesh with the crown of life. See Jn.6:33-40; 10:27-30; 17:2.
The Process of Overcoming
If the rider of the white horse has anything to do with or is in support of the overcoming process concerning the elect of God, it is important to discuss a major obstacle in this process. There are many aspects to the process of overcoming, such as overcoming the pulls of the flesh and the world, as well as wrong attitudes and behaviors. During this overcoming process, there is a major danger of which one must continually be aware, in order to remain uncompromised in one's effort to be victorious over evil. This danger has to do with falling prey to religious deception and being led away from the truth of God and his ways. Jesus says the following about this danger:
"Jesus answered them and said, See that no one mislead you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ. And they will mislead many" (Matt.24:4-5 Para.).
"And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness shall have been multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. But the one that endures to the end, that one will be saved" (Matt.24:11-13 Para.). See also Jer.29:8-9; Eph.5:6; Col.2:8; 2.Thes.2:7-8.
Although it seems clear that the rider of the white horse does not come to destroy or cause harm, there is a great and powerful spirit being that does come to destroy humanity, and especially the elect of God:
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, walks about as a roaring lion seeking those he may destroy" (1.Pet.5:8 Para.).
Being keenly aware of religious deception is extremely important to one who is seeking to worship the true God.
Satanic deception has been occurring for centuries. Many have said that Jesus is the Christ, but they do not preach what he taught; they preach a gospel of disobedience to the laws of God. A good example of this are the multitudes of quasi-Christians who profess to follow Christ, but do not obey the laws, precepts, and principles that he taught.
Satan is the Great Deceiver and there is no doubt that his activities are on the increase. He does not want any to believe the truth of God or to understand God's plan for humanity. It is also clear that this powerful evil spirit has already been deceiving most of the world religiously, philosophically, and politically:
"And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, that deceives the whole world" (Rev.12:9 KJV).
It is also apparent that Satan has a vast following of people comprised of organized churches and ministers through whom he deceives many people:
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works" (2.Cor.11:13-15 KJV).
Judgement Upon the Elect of God
The rider of the white horse has a bow with which to shoot arrows, which are symbolic of the discipline process God uses to help his children grow toward spiritual maturity. Moreover, the crown that this rider wears is symbolic of one who is victorious in some sort of contest or endeavor. Therefore, it seems highly likely that one of the responsibilities of this rider has to do with the elect of God in their effort to grow into spiritual maturity and gain salvation.
Peter says Judgement must begin with those who have been called to repentance during the gospel age of salvation. Why? It is because they, above all other people on earth, have been called first to become sons of the Father's new creation and have been allowed to know and understand the plan and purpose that he has for humanity. Therefore, the Father holds them accountable for this awesome opportunity and responsibility:
"Because the time has come to begin the judgement from the house of God, and if first begins with us, what will be the end of the ones disobeying the gospel of God?" (1.Pet.4:17 Para.).
The Righteous and Ancient Israel
The scriptures clearly show that the Creator God (the God who became Jesus Christ) always warned his people before any major punishment of the wicked. We see such warning given to and through Noah, Abraham, Lot, and Moses. God constantly reprimanded ancient Israel (God's chosen people) for their evil ways and encouraged them to repent so that he could bless them.
The scriptures clearly show that, when Israel rebelled against God, he would warn them of an impending punishment if they did not repent. When they continued to rebel, he would send armies to kill them, conquerors to place them into captivity, sickness to come upon them, and many other types of punishment. Why did he do this? He did this to get their attention and to show them the consequences of breaking their covenant with him.
The Creator God reprimanded and punished his chosen people of ancient Israel; therefore, why should we think it strange or out of place that the Father would have his Son do the same kind of things in regard to his spiritual sons (the elect) who are promised far greater rewards than those under the first covenant with ancient Israel?
The Purging of Wheat
"I indeed baptize you with water to repentance: but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the holy spirit and fire. Whose winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his threshing floor, and gather his wheat into the barn; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt.3:11-12 Para.).
Here, John refers to three kinds of baptism—water, holy spirit, and fire—and the separating of wheat from the chaff. The baptism with fire indicates severe trial and testing. The separation of the wheat from the chaff refers to the righteous being given access to the Kingdom of God and the wicked having their existence terminated forever—death by fire. See Matt.13:19-30; Isa.28:24-29.
Because wheat is symbolic of the elect of God and John records that Christ will cleans the wheat of impurities, one might ask how are the elect of God purged of impurity?
Although there is only one way that a person can have their sins washed away and forgiven by God the Father (i.e., through the blood of Christ), there are a number of ways that a person becomes aware that they need to make a change in their attitude and/or behavior. The following are ways in which a person becomes aware that they need to change:
Being made aware of one's need to change through God's direct intervention is spoken of in the scriptures as the trial by fire and is the least desirable way to become aware of one's need for change.
It is through the process of growing toward spiritual maturity that the elect are purged of impurity and made fit for the Father's spiritual Family and Kingdom. How easily one proceeds through this process is largely dependent on one's attitude and willingness to grow spiritually.
Purified and Made White
"And he said, Go your way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (Dan.12:9-10 KJV). See also Dan.11:35.
Although the wise (the Elect of God) who live during the end of the age will be able to understand prophecies concerning the end of the age, there are also very serious warnings of trials and tests that will come upon them prior to their receiving salvation and entering into the Father's spiritual Family and Kingdom.
Hebrews 12:5-10 Paraphrased
"And you have forgotten the exhortation which he speaks to you as with sons, My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor faint while being corrected by him. For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines, and whips every son whom he receives. If you endure discipline, God is dealing with you as with sons; for who is the son whom the father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all are to participate in, then you are bastards, and not true sons" (vs.5-8).
The writer to the Hebrews shows that the Father is very concerned that his children mature into spiritual adults. The Father is committed to a process whereby this may be accomplished. But why would Paul use the word 'bastards' to describe those who are not disciplined? In Paul's time, only first-born sons were entitled to an inheritance from their father; therefore, an illegitimate son (one not truly called to be a son) could not receive an inheritance, nor could the legitimate son if he refused correction:
"Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh as correctors, and we respected them, shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits, and we shall live? For they truly disciplined us for a few days according to the things seeming good to them, but he for our profit, in order for us to partake of his holiness" (vs.9-10).
"I, as many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. Be zealous then, and repent" (Rev.3:19 Para.).
From the beginning of humanity to the advent of Christ, the Patriarchs and all others whom the Father chose to participate in the first resurrection were corrected, tried, and tested by the Creator God (the God who became Jesus Christ) through the experiences of life as they progressed toward spiritual maturity. It is also clear that those of the early church were also corrected, tried, and tested by Jesus Christ (the head of the church). All who follow God's way in the end of the age will also go through this same growth process in order to receive the crown of life.
THE WARNINGS TO THE CHURCHES
God never punishes his people without first giving them ample warning and an opportunity to repent. Those called to repentance and salvation during the gospel age of salvation, above all others, have no excuse for not understanding what the Father expects of them; therefore, extremely serious warnings and corrective measures are used in order to bring about their repentance.
The following are some of the things that Jesus said he will cause to come upon the elect of God who stray from God the Father's way of life and refuse to repent, perform the task they have been called to do, and grow toward spiritual maturity:
Remember that the first verse of the Book of Revelation speaks of things that will have their fulfillment shortly after the revelation is given. It is obvious that most of what was revealed did not happen during John's life or during the centuries that have passed since then. However, some of these things were partly fulfilled as noted in the messages to the seven churches.
It is also evident from what is said about the churches of Philadelphia and Laodicea that they are symbolic of two literal groups of the elect of God that will exist in the very end of the age, just prior to the return of Christ. Because of the specific information given concerning the seven churches, it becomes clear that the messages to the seven churches contain both literal and prophetic information that applied to John's day and still applies to those who will live during the end of the age.
It is clear from what Jesus Christ says in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 that he is going to cause severe trials to come upon the elect of God who have the attitudes and behaviors that he details in the messages to the seven churches. Therefore, it seems that the first rider is sent out to the elect of God to encourage them to take seriously the calling and opportunity that they have been given to participate in the first resurrection. And if necessary, this rider is authorized to encourage the elect with trials and persecution.
Who is the rider of the white horse? Perhaps, he is the spirit-being who has the responsibility to oversee the vast host of angelic beings that have been assigned to minister to the elect of God and carry out the instructions of Jesus Christ concerning them and their spiritual growth. See Heb.1:13-14.
The Next Three Horsemen
Although the events and conditions that will be brought about by the next three horseman have always occurred to one degree or another throughout human history, it is clear that there is something different about these events and conditions as they pertain to the end of the age.
The prophet Ezekiel was a captive in Babylon approximately 127 years after the ten-tribe house of Israel had been taken into captivity by the Assyrians and was being scattered throughout world. Two of the more important prophecies that he recorded (Ezk.5:1-17; 14:1-23) concern the whole of national Israel from that time through the end of the age, and they speak of some of the events that are caused by the riders of the red, black, and pale-green horses.
Although the general context and theme of Ezekiel 14:1-11 is about repentance and forgiveness, which seem to be a part of the first rider's mission, verses 12-23 show many of the events caused by the next three horsemen. Therefore, it would be helpful to read Ezekiel, chapters 5 and 14 as background information for this study.
THE RED HORSE AND ITS RIDER
"And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, Come and see. And another horse that was red went out. And it was given to the one sitting on it to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another. And a great sword was given to him" (Rev.6:3-4 KJV).
The Red Horse
The Greek word used to describe the color of the red horse is 'puresso', which means fiery red or flame-colored. Puresso fits well with the task of this horse's rider, because fire is often symbolic of God's wrath, his warring angels, death, and destruction.
The second horsemen is given the responsibility to remove peace from the earth, which means the rider's mission is to cause war, whether civil, national, or international. It is apparent that the rider and the red horse represent violent conflict and war between people that results in massive death.
The rider of the red horse seems to be a powerful angelic being who has the power and authority to influence and/or exert control over economic, political, racial, ethnic and other relationships among humans in order to bring about conflict and war among the earth's population.
Conflict and War
When Jesus was asked by his disciples when the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed and what the sign of his coming to rule and the end of the age would be, he answered:
"And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. . ." (Matt.24:6-7 KJV).
To the casual reader, Jesus' prediction of wars, rumors of wars, and the other things he mentions would not necessarily seem so extraordinary or out of place in the human experience. Throughout human history there has been very little true peace on earth. Wars and rumors of wars are the norm, not the exception in the human experience.
So, what makes these events different from the normal course of events that can be expected in the human experience? The answer is that, after Jesus revealed to John things that were to come to pass before his return, he began to intervene in human affairs by opening the first four seals and sending forth the four horsemen to begin the process of preparing the earth's population and the elect of God for his return. Remember that all of the horrible things recorded in Matthew 24:1-8 were only the beginning of sorrows.
The Rider's Sword
The Greek word used to describe the sword given to the rider of the red horse is macharia, which is the short battle sword used by a soldier. The curious thing is that this sword is described by the Greek word megas, which means 'exceedingly great'. This is no ordinary sword; it is a sword that has the potential of causing great harm and it is wielded by a spirit-being that already has the authority to remove peace from the earth and bring about the conditions of continual conflict and war among the earth's population.
Because the rider already has the authority to cause humans to kill each other in armed conflict, the great sword must have some other meaning. There is an extreme possibility that this rider also has the authority to inflict death upon the unrepentant of the elect, ending their physical life and any hope of salvation. If this is one of the meanings of the rider’s sword, death from this sword would indeed be greater than could be inflicted by an ordinary sword, because the result would be the second death, which is eternal. See Rev.21:8.
Jesus Came to Bring Conflict
Although Jesus Christ is a god of peace like God the Father, Christ is also a god of war (Isa.41:1-5; Psa.58; Heb.12:6-7; Rev.3:19). Contrary to what many believe, when the Creator God came to earth as the Messiah, he did not come to make this world a better place in which to live under its present leadership:
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Matt.10:34-35 Para.).
The sword noted in Matthew 10 is symbolic of spiritual division and separation, and it is God the Father's word and truth concerning the reason for all of humanity's ills and God's solution to remove these ills through his good news message. It is this truth that cuts deep into the heart of each individual and causes a division and a separation between those who believe the Father's truth and those who do not. This sword is not the same one that the rider of the red horse bears. See Eph.6:17; Heb.4:12-13.
Although the rider of the red horse is sent by Jesus Christ to plague humanity with conflict and war in preparation for his coming rule, it appears that Satan is allowed to use these same tools to establish his political and religious rule, which will result in untold misery and torment to all those who oppose him.
THE BLACK HORSE AND ITS RIDER
"And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, Come and see, and I saw, and behold, a black horse, and one sitting on it had a balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and do not harm the oil and the wine" (Rev. 6:5-6 Para.).
The Black Horse
The color black and shades of black are symbolic of the approach of foreboding, mourning, terror, impending death, or punishment. See 1.Kgs.18:45; Job 3:5; Isa.50:1-3; Jer.4:28; Lam.4:8; Jude 13; Rev.6:12.
The rider of the black horse seems to have three tasks and/or responsibilities. He is the keeper of a set of balances, he controls the price of wheat and barley, and he is instructed not to harm oil and wine.
The Greek word zugos is translated into the English word balance, which can mean 'a set of balance scales' or a 'yoke', as in figuratively being under the yoke of another or yoked to something.
Some feel that the word zugos indicates the scarcity of food and its careful distribution. However, there is another explanation that seems to have at least as much or even more validity.
The balance could very well be applied to the elect of God and those who are to be called to salvation during the gospel age, because balances are used throughout the Bible to depict the process of being judged as a righteous or unrighteous person, and surely the end of the age is one of the greatest periods of judgement to come upon those whom the Father has called to salvation. Even the symbolic use of the word zugos in Matthew 11:29-30 seems to indicate that being under the yoke of Christ comes with the certainty that one will be weighed and judged in the balance of God's law.
The apostle Peter says that those who are of the Sovereign Father's earthly family are in the process of being evaluated as to their compliance to the gospel:
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (1.Pet.4:17 KJV). See also Ezk.9:1-11.
Below are a few of the many references to being weighed in God's balances:
"Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know my integrity" (Job 31:6 KJV).
"All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weighs the spirit" (Pro.16:2 KJV).
"A just weight and balance are the Lord's: all the weights of his bag are his work" (Pro.16:11 KJV). See also Isa.26:7.
"You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting" (Dan.5:27 KJV).
The Wheat and Barley
"A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny" (Rev.6:5-6 KJV).
The word measure is translated from the Greek word choenix, which means a dry measure equal to about a quart. The word penny is translated from the Greek word denarii, and when this prophecy was given to John, it seems that a denarii was still the amount of a full day's pay for common labor. Therefore, the indication is that the cost of basic foods is very expensive during the fulfillment of this prophecy.
There is little doubt that, while this rider fulfills his task, some people will suffer a scarcity of food and perhaps die of famine. Although this scarcity of food is the result of the direct intervention into human affairs by Jesus Christ, there are many other reasons that can cause these conditions.
The historical record shows that, even in times of abundant harvest and food surplus, there are always places where conditions of famine exist. Aside from natural causes, such as adverse weather conditions, insect infestation, and plant disease, the primary reasons for famine are politics, religion, and warfare.
The Book of Revelation indicates that there will be an abundance of food from now through the end of the age when the final trumpet plagues are poured out on the Beast system. One major cause of famine in the end-time will be the control of the world's natural resources, economies, and monetary systems by the alliance of nations called the Beast.
In the context of the Beast system, it is easy to see how the price and distribution of ordinary food commodities could be manipulated in order to maintain control over people. See Rev.18:6-16.
Evil Religious Systems
When one analyzes the various religions of the world with an open mind, it becomes clear that many are major contributors to famine, disease, and unnecessary death on earth. The success of any religion lies in its ability to control the minds of its subjects. The Book of Revelation tells us that, in the end of this age, an evil religious system will control the minds of the majority of humanity. This satanic mind-control will be devastating to the inhabitants of the earth, both mentally and physically.
One of India's major religions teaches that people's spirits are reincarnated. And this reincarnation can be in the human or animal form, such as a dog, a rat, an insect, or a cow. Reincarnation is seen as a process of reaching a state of perfection; therefore, all animal life must be respected. Because this religion teaches that all animals and insects including those that destroy the food supply and spread disease must not be killed, this religion directly contributes to the mental and physical devastation of those who practice it.
Many people are starving to death in the nation of India, despite the fact that India has some of the most fertile land in the world. This is a sad commentary on its religious practices. Each of the approximately two hundred million 'sacred' cows consume enough resources to feed many people. If the people of India would stop feeding these cows and start using them as food, India's food supply would be increased to the point that they would have enough surplus food to supply one billion, four hundred million people—more than one fourth of the world’s entire population!
It should be obvious to any logical person that religion is a major cause of lack of food in India.
Warfare is expensive. Any nation that is waging war must spend a large part of its wealth and food supplies on the military; therefore, warfare contributes to a lack of food. Warfare not only destroys productive land and the people who work it but also dramatically reduces available equipment, money, and other resources that are necessary to sustain food production.
Ancient and Modern Israel
In Leviticus 26:26 and Ezekiel 4:16, there are parallel prophecies to Revelation 6:6 that also speak of selling bread by weight. These two prophecies concern the shortage of food and the selling of it by weight as a punishment for Israel's breaking of their covenant with God and rebellion against him. The prophecies of Leviticus 26:1-46 seem to have contemporary, ongoing, and end of the age applications, but the prophecies of Ezekiel 4:1-17 are clearly for the end of the age.
The Wine and the Oil
The instruction to keep from harming the oil and the wine makes little sense in the context of crop damage. Why not spare apples or some other food item? It seems that the rider is forbidden to damage these two food items because they need to be available in sufficient quantities for a specific purpose or they are symbolic of something that has a prophetic, physical, or spiritual meaning.
Perhaps this instruction to the rider hints at a similar protection as the one provided to the olive groves and vineyards around Jerusalem during the Roman siege of 66-70 A.D., or perhaps, the instruction has to do with the protection of the end-time temple and its worship services, which use oil and wine in the sacrifices. The protection of these items might also have to do with the feasts of oil and wine mentioned in the temple scroll.
Nevertheless, a likely explanation that has to do with the biblical symbolism of oil and wine concerns the elect of God. Wine is sometimes symbolic of blood, and oil is sometimes symbolic of God's holy spirit. If these refer to the blood (life) of the elect and their oil (their spiritual power), the instruction to the rider would make sense; in that, the rider would be prohibited from interfering with the work of the elect in the end of the age.
THE PALE-GREEN HORSE AND RIDER
"And when he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold, a pale green horse, and the name of the one sitting on it was Death; and Hades followed after him. And authority was given to them over the fourth of the earth to kill with sword, and with famine, and with death, and by the wild beasts of the earth" (Rev.6:7-8 Para.). See also Ezk.14:21.
The pale-green horse whose rider is named Death causes death through starvation and violence; therefore, the pale horse seems to be symbolic of violent, slow death.
As a result of the second and third seals, perhaps millions will have already died, and the final horseman whose name is Death has the authority over one fourth of the earth to kill people with sword, famine, and wild beasts.
The Rider's Name
Notice that this rider has the same name as the messenger of death who killed the first born of Egypt and is mentioned in a number of scriptures as God's destroying angel. See Ex.12:23; 1.Chron.21:12; Job 15:20-22; 1.Cor.10:10.
The text is unclear as to whether Death's sphere of influence encompasses one fourth of the earth's population or one fourth of the earth's geographical area. Whichever is his sphere of influence, the number of people that will be killed by Death might be in the billions.
This rider carries a different type of sword from the second rider. His sword is called rhomphaia in Greek, which means 'a spear' or a 'two-edged sword with which to pierce'. It is important to note that, unlike the rider of the red horse who caused people to kill themselves in conflict, Death himself uses this sword to kill people. It seems that this sword is symbolic of his authorization to take life at his discretion in order to carry out his assignment.
Death has control of all of the various things that cause famine to occur on earth. Moreover, he has the power to influence nature or conditions of wild beasts in order to cause them to attack and kill humans.
The End Result
From what is said about the rider Death, he is not sent to encourage people to repent of their sins; he is probably sent to reduce the population of the descendants of Abraham (Arabs and Israelites) in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ. Death's sole purpose is to kill people.
World events clearly show that we are in the end of the age and that the "Four Horsemen" have been riding and causing destruction throughout much of the earth for centuries and will continue to ride in the end of the age.
When studying the Book of Revelation, one can see that the Four Horsemen are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the plagues and destruction that will come upon the earth because of people's refusal to obey the true God.
THE FIFTH SEAL
The fifth seal seems to be opened at a point in time when there is a major change in the direction and intensity of the work of the Four Horsemen and the intervention of Jesus Christ into human affairs. Although understanding the meaning of the fifth seal is not too difficult, there are some foundational things about the human creation that are important to know prior to analyzing this seal.
The Physical Life Force
"For the life of the flesh is in the blood: . . .Therefore I said to the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood,. . . For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof . . ." (Lev.17:11-14 KJV).
Today, we understand that the heart circulates the blood throughout the body and sustains the physical body.
Body and Spirit
The Bible describes two major events that take place at the death of a human being. These events are extremely important to the final outcome of the individual's future existence.
"Then the dust shall return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it" (Ecc.12:7 Para.). See Gen.3:19 and our study paper concerning the state of the dead.
Revelation 6:9-11 Paraphrased
"And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those having been slain for the word of God, and for the witness which they had" (v9).
Here, John sees a representation of righteous individuals who have been martyred for their obedience to God and his way of life. The phrase word of God (Greek: 'logos theos') is sometimes used to describe the Creator God who became Jesus Christ as well as the proclamations and literal words of God. The text is unclear as to which is meant. However, because both meanings are, in essence, representative of God, this phrase does not change the context, basic concepts, or thoughts in verse 9.
Beginning with righteous Abel and continuing throughout human history, the righteous have been persecuted and murdered for their belief, practice, and witness of God and the truth of God.
The Spirits Cry Out
"And they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, holy and true Master, do you not judge and take vengeance for our blood, upon those dwelling upon the earth?" (v10).
Here, we see the lives of the righteous dead whose spirits have been returned to the Father from their earthly bodies. Although the spirits under the altar are unconscious, and unaware of anything happening on earth or anywhere else, they symbolically cry out for justice to be done and for God to avenge their deaths upon the wicked. See also Gen.4:10; Heb.11:4.
"And there was given to each one a white robe. And it was said to them that they should rest yet a little while, until it came to pass that their fellow-servants and brothers who were about to be killed as they were, had been killed" (v11).
Each of these righteous individuals who has been martyred throughout the centuries is symbolically given a white garment to show that each has obtained a position and reward in the Family and Kingdom of God. However, they are to rest a little while longer because another phase of God's plan is about to commence that will cause more of the elect to be martyred. But what could cause another major martyrdom of the elect of God?
When we review what Jesus said to his disciples about the end of the age, it becomes clear that the later martyrdom spoken of in the fifth seal is to occur at the very end of the age, and it probably will begin about four years before the return of Jesus Christ. This martyrdom will be brought about by the preaching of the true gospel message:
"And they shall deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake" (Matt.24:9 KJV). See also Mk.13:9,13; Lk.21:12-16; Jn.16:2.
"And I saw thrones and they that sat upon them. And judgement was given to them, and the lives of the ones having been beheaded because of the witness of Jesus, and because of the word of God, and who had not worshiped the Beast nor its image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and in their hand. . ." (Rev.20:4 Para.).
THE SIXTH SEAL
"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places" (Rev.6:12-14 KJV).
The sixth seal portrays the violent collapse of the old order of things and seems to follow the general order in which the earth was made fit for humanity's habitation (i.e., the earth, sun, moon, stars, sky, land and sea).
"And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who will be able to stand?" (Rev.6:15-17 KJV).
At this time, many of those who have heard the gospel message proclaimed will come to realize that what they have heard about the wrath of God being poured out upon those who refuse to repent is absolutely true and that their days are numbered. Therefore, in great terror and apprehension, they will try to hide from the punishment that they know is imminent.
Between the Sixth and Seventh Seals
"And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, or on the sea, or on any tree" (Rev.7:1 KJV).
Here, we see four angelic beings holding back the four winds. In this verse, the English word winds is translated from the Greek word anemos, which does not define winds as such; rather, it refers to the four cardinal points from which the winds blow, not necessarily the physical wind itself. It is highly possible that the four winds described as 'anemos' are in fact the four spirit-beings of Zechariah 6:5 who are described as the winds of heaven.
"And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea" (Rev.7:2 KJV).
Here, we see another spirit-being coming from the East, which is traditionally the direction from which divine manifestations come (Isa.41:1-2; Ezk.43:2-3; Mal.4:1-2). This spirit-being instructs the four other powerful spirit-beings to forestall their mission to destroy the earth, the sea, and the unrepentant wicked of earth's population. Moreover, this spirit-being has the seal of the living God with which he and those who are with him are to seal the servants of God as noted in verse 3:
"Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads" (Rev.7:3 KJV).
It is interesting that it is mentioned two times that these four beings hold back the four winds from harming the earth, sea, and trees (trees are often symbolic of people), and that the earth, sea, and the trees are mentioned a total of three times (Rev.7:1,3).
The number two is often used in the Bible to symbolize division, difference, or separation, and the number three is often symbolic of divine fulfillment, perfection, or completeness. The symbolic meanings of these two numbers fit very well in the prophetic order of the process for the destruction of the earth, the sea, and the wicked people of the earth.
The Great Sealing
"And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed a hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel" (Rev.7:4 KJV).
There are two distinct groups of people sealed: a group of 144,000 individuals drawn from among the tribes of Israel and those who come out of the great tribulation. These people are to be protected from the destruction that will come upon the world after the release of the four winds.
"After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindred, and people, and languages, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;. . . And one of the elders said to me, What are these who are arrayed in white robes? and where did they come from? And I said to him, Sir, you know. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev.7:9, 13-14 KJV Para.).
The 'great multitude' will be drawn from among all the other peoples of the earth who will come through great trials and will be found worthy to be granted salvation. They will have repented of their sins and will have been found worthy to participate in the first resurrection and at the return of Christ, they will be changed into spirit-beings.
With the sealing of the servants of God, it is highly likely that the gospel age of salvation will have ended, and the full fury of God's wrath will be poured out upon the earth and will not cease until Christ and his army of spirit-beings conquer the Beast power and the earth.
The Angel With the Inkhorn and Seal
The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of the end of the age in which he saw the abominations that the houses of Israel and Judah and their civil and religious leaders were committing in the sight of God. In this same vision, he also saw the sealing of the elect in Jerusalem against the wrath of God:
"Then he said to me, Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them" (Ezk.8:17-18 KJV).
God's patience toward national Israel will come to an end and he will no longer sit quietly by while they commit their abominations and idolatry before him. He will punish them without mercy for their rebellion and wickedness.
Ezekiel 9:1-11 KJV
"He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city [Jerusalem] to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lies toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar" (vs.1-2).
Here we see the avenging army of Jesus Christ being gathered to begin to a great slaughter among humanity. Notice that, among these six men, there is one man who has a writer's inkhorn.
In the following verses, Jesus Christ calls to the one with the inkhorn and instructs him to go to those in Jerusalem and mark the servants of God who are heart-broken because of the evil that they see. From the description of what the one with the inkhorn does and who he is to mark, it is highly likely that he is the same one spoken of in Revelation 7:2-3:
"And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; And the LORD said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof" (vs.3-4).
The other five who are standing by are told to follow the one with the inkhorn and begin the slaughter among the inhabitants of Jerusalem who have not been marked for survival by the one with the inkhorn.
"Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house. And he said to them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain: go you forth. And they went forth, and slew in the city" (vs.6-7).
"And it came to pass, while they were slaying them, and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord God! will you destroy all the residue of Israel in your pouring out of your fury upon Jerusalem? Then said he to me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perverseness: for they say, The Lord has forsaken the earth, and the Lord sees not. And as for me also, mine eye will not spare, neither will I have pity, but I will recompense their way upon their head" (vs.8-10).
The question that Ezekiel asked and the answer that he received tell us that, although the inhabitants of Jerusalem are the primary focus of these angels of death, the rest of the house of Israel and Judah who are scattered among the nations will also be slaughtered by these death angels. It is also clear that this slaughter upon the House of Israel and Judah will not stop until all those who are to be killed are killed.
From the point in time when the one with the inkhorn who is clothed in white linen reports, "I have done as you have commanded me" (v.11), the servants of God will be separated from the rest of humanity. God's servants will be protected from his wrath as it is poured out upon the earth, sea, and the wicked, which must be done in order to complete the preparation of the earth for the invasion of Christ and his army of spirit-beings.
THE SEVENTH SEAL AND THE SEVEN TRUMPETS
The opening of the seventh seal begins the seven trumpet plagues that lead up to the first resurrection, the wrath of God, the return of Christ with his saints to conquer the earth, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth
THE SEVENTH SEAL
"And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour" (Rev.8:1 KJV).
We are not told why there is silence in heaven for about one half hour after Jesus Christ opens the seventh seal that contains seven supernatural punishments which will be sent upon the earth and its inhabitants. If we assume that this half hour is in the context of the prophetic day for a year using the sacred lunar calendar (Num.14:34; Ezk.4:6), there would be about 7½ earth days of silence in heaven, according to Revelation 8:1.
The Eight Angels
"And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand" (Rev.8:2-4 KJV).
Here, we see each of the seven angels standing before God given a trumpet to blow. While they are waiting to blow their trumpets, another angel comes forth and stands at the altar and is given incense and the prayers of the saints, which he offers to God on the altar. Remember that the temple worship system under the first agreement with national Israel was a shadow of heavenly things.
This scene is reminiscent of the high priest in the earthly temple offering incense to God, and it seems to be connected to the thanksgiving of the saints and their request to the Father that he send his Son to rule the earth (Matt.6:9-13). Also see Psa.141:1-2; 1.Pet.3:12; Rev.5:8.
"And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightning, and an earthquake" (Rev.8:5 KJV).
After presenting the incense and the prayers to God, the angel reaches down and fills his censer with the fire from the altar. Normally, the censer was used to present something that smelled sweet to God. It was also used as an act of worship and supplication for God's mercy and/or intercession on behalf of his people. Here, we see the censer is symbolic of judgment (fire is symbolic of a purification agent and punishment).
Notice that Ezekiel's vision in chapter 10 parallels what John saw concerning the angel and the fire from the altar in Revelation 8:5:
"Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubim there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne. And he spoke to the man clothed with linen, and said, Go in between the wheels, even under the cherub, and fill your hand with coals of fire from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city. And he went in my sight. Now the cherubim stood on the right side of the house, when the man went in; and the cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD'S glory. And the sound of the cherubim's wings was heard even to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God when he speaks. And it came to pass, that when he had commanded the man clothed with linen, saying, Take fire from between the wheels, from between the cherubim; then he went in, and stood beside the wheels. And one cherub stretched forth his hand from between the cherubim to the fire that was between the cherubim, and took thereof, and put it into the hands of him that was clothed with linen: who took it, and went out" (Ezk.10:1-7 KJV).
The city referred to in Ezekiel's vision is Jerusalem (Ezk.9:8-9), which will receive the wrath of God as symbolized by the fire from the altar.
After filling the censer, the angel of Revelation 8:5 will cast it to the earth. As this literal fire of God or the energy that it represents enters the earth from the spirit dimension, there will be a tremendous earthquake along with thunder and lightening as the physical dimension is torn apart prior to the sounding of the first trumpet. See Gen.19:16-25.
The Seven Angels Prepare
"And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound" (Rev.8:6 KJV).
The seven angels prepare to blow their trumpets to announce and send forth seven specific plagues that will devastate the earth and terrify its population. All this must be done in preparation for the first and second return of Jesus Christ. See our studies concerning Christ's return to gather the elect and his return to conquer the earth.
The First Angel Sounds
With the blowing of the first trumpet, comes a plague upon the earth that is taken directly from the altar in heaven. But why is this plague taken from the altar? Remember that the fifth seal symbolically shows the martyred saints crying out for God to avenge their deaths. The taking of the plague from the altar seems to indicate that God is honoring this request by sending forth the first of the next fourteen plagues that are to be poured out upon the earth and its inhabitants:
"The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mixed with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of the trees were burnt up, and all the green grass was burnt up" (Rev.8:7 Para.).
Here, we see hail and fire mixed with blood raining upon the earth. This is reminiscent of the hail and fire that was poured out on the Egyptians for their refusal to release the Israelites. See Ex.9:22-26. The ancient Israelites were spared from the plague of hail and fire, just as God's chosen will be spared from the coming hail, fire, and blood (Rev.7:3-4, 9, 13-14).
In this first plague, a third of all the grass and trees will be burned up. A fire this size will cause tremendous problems in the atmosphere and will shroud the earth in a cloud of smoke and ash. The blood that comes along with the hail and fire is both literal and symbolic. It is literal in that it is real blood that will cause disease and other problems as it rots upon the earth, and it is symbolic because it pictures the wrath of God and vengeance for the blood of the saints. See Isa.28:1-8; Ezk.13:9-16; 14:19; 16:38.
The Second Angel Sounds
"And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed" (Rev.8:8-9 KJV).
Here, we see a large flaming object piercing through the atmosphere and crashing into the sea. Whether this flaming object is an angel or the manifestation of his power, a third of the sea where it enters will become literal blood, a third of the life in the sea will die, and a third of the ships will be destroyed. It also seems very likely that the impact of this large object will cause gigantic tidal waves that will cause massive destruction to coastal cities in that area.
The Third Angel Sounds
"And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of water; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter" (Rev.8:10-11 KJV).
In this punishment, there is a parallel to the plague upon the Egyptians in Exodus 15:22-25. This star (angel) named wormwood (i.e., bitterness) fulfills God's prophetic promise in Deuteronomy 29:18-20 and Jeremiah 9:13-16 to punish Israel for their rebellion against him and the breaking of the covenant that they had with him. This star (angel) poisons a third of the available drinking water at its source, killing a great number of people. See Ex.7;17-25, Psa.78:44; 105:29.
The Fourth Angel Sounds
"And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise" (Rev.8:12 KJV).
When the fourth angel sounds, a third of the solar, lunar, and stellar radiation will cease to fall upon the earth. Besides causing great terror among the earth's population, a one-third reduction in radiation upon the earth will have an adverse impact upon the earth's temperature and weather, which will cause havoc with agriculture and food production. See Amos 8:9.
The Three Woes
"And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitors of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!" (Rev.8:13 KJV).
These next three punishments are going to be extremely severe, which is indicated by their being called woes (i.e., sever pain, agony, and physical or mental distress). The sounding of the last three trumpets in this series of punishments will bring about exceptionally devastating events and conditions as each is poured out upon the earth. Remember that the number three is often symbolic of divine fulfillment, perfection, or completeness, and these three woes complete this phase of God's wrath toward the earth and its inhabitants.
The Fifth Angel Sounds
Revelation 9:1-21 KJV
"And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven to the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit" (vs.1-2 ).
The fifth angel blasts his trumpet and a star (angel) falls from heaven to earth with the keys and authority to unlock the abyss. Note that this punishment of humanity does not come from God's dimension of time and space, rather, it comes from beneath the earth. As soon as the angel opens up the abyss, thick smoke issues out and obscures the sun causing darkness in that area of the world.
Out of this smoke comes a swarm of strange creatures (see verses 7-10), which have the powerful sting of a scorpion. Notice that they are not to destroy the vegetation of the earth, but their task is to harm all the people who do not have God's protection.
"And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads" (vs.3-4).
Joel graphically describes these events that precede the day of the Lord:
"Blow the trumpet; sound the alarm on Zion, God's sacred hill. Tremble, people of Judah! The day of the Lord is coming soon. It will be a dark and gloomy day, a black and cloudy day. The great army of locusts advance like darkness spreading over the mountains. There has never been anything like it, and there never will be again" (Joel 2:1-2 GNB).
"And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army; for his camp is very great; for he is strong that executes his word; for the day of the Lord is great; and very terrible; and who can abide it?" (Joel 2:11 GNB). See also Joel 2:3; 11; Rev.9:11.
They Should Torment Them
"And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he strikes a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and will not find it; and will desire to die, and death will flee from them . . .. And they had tails like to scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months" (Rev.9:5-10).
The sting of these creatures will be so severe that a person would rather die than endure the agonizing pain inflected by these creatures.
"And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew language is Abaddon, but in the Greek language has his name Apollyon" (v11).
We are not told if the angel who released these creatures is the one who controls them; however, we are told that the one who directs their movements is Abaddon or Apollyon (The Destroyer). Thus, he could very well be the same destroying angel of the Exodus.
The Sixth Angel Sounds
"One woe is past; and, behold, there come two woes more hereafter. And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God. Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates" (vs.12-14).
With the completion of the first woe, the sixth angel blows his trumpet to release the four angels being held at the Euphrates River, which is the eastern border of the land promised to ancient Israel. This also shows destruction coming from the East, but this time a third of humanity will be killed.
"And the number of the army of the horsemen were two hundred thousand thousand: and I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like to serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt" (vs.16-19).
Notice what takes place in verse 16. This verse tells us that God is going to use this great army of two hundred million strange looking creatures to kill a third of mankind.
"And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts" (vs.20-21).
Even after two-thirds of humanity has been killed by the fifth and sixth punishments, those who are left still will not believe that it is the Creator God (Jesus Christ) who is torturing and killing them with these supernatural beings; therefore, they will refuse to repent and worship the true God.
The Mystery of God is Finished
Just before the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, another powerful angel will announce that there will be no more delay and that the mystery of God has come to an end.
"And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, And swore by him that lives for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he will begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he has declared to his servants the prophets" (Rev.10:5-7 KJV).
Here, we see an angel announcing the end of one phase of God's plan for humanity and the beginning of another. The great mystery he refers to is the plan and purpose of God for creating humanity. It is now time for the next phase in which all of humanity past, present, and future will be given an opportunity to understand this great plan. They also will be given an opportunity to decide whether or not they want to take part in it.
Just before the seventh angel blows the seventh trumpet to announce the third woe, there is a major event that must take place prior to the initiation of these final punishments. Although it is clear that the third woe and the seventh angel who is to blow the seventh trumpet are bound together in their prophetic fulfillment, the first resurrection must take place before the initiation of these final punishments.
THE FIRST RESURRECTION
At the end of the sixth punishment and the second woe, as the seventh angel begins sounding his trumpet which announces the last seven punishments for all of humanity, the first resurrection will occur:
"And they heard a great voice from heaven saying to them, Come up here. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven" (Rev.11:12-13 KJV).
Revelation chapter 11 concerns the ministry of the Two Witnesses in the last 3½ years before the first resurrection. Verses 12-13 concern what happens at the resurrection of the two witnesses. This is the time spoken of by Jesus and the apostle Paul in Matthew 24:23-51 and 1.Thessalonians 4:16-17, when Christ sends his angels to collect the elect of God of all ages and remove them from the earth in preparation for his return as the conquering King. See our study papers concerning the various resurrections and the coming of the Messiah.
Only Sinners Left on Earth
The important point to remember here is that, after the first resurrection occurs, there will be no human on the face of the earth with the spirit of God. The elect of God will be with Christ before the throne of God on the Sea of Glass (Rev.15:2-4) waiting to return with him as kings and priests to conquer and rule the earth.
Once this event happens, the sixth punishment, which is the second woe will be finished. After the second woe is completed, it will be time for the seventh angel to announce the seventh punishment, which is the third woe. The seventh punishment contains the last seven plagues, which are the most horrible and destructive events that will be poured out on humanity through the wrath of God.
The Seventh Angel Sounds
Revelation 11:15-19 KJV
"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he will reign for ever and ever" (v15)
This angel will announce the end of human rule on earth and the imminent invasion of the earth by Jesus Christ, the heavenly hosts, and the elect of God who will become kings and priests in the Family and Kingdom of God.
"And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshiped God, Saying, We give you thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which are, and was, and are to come; because you have taken to you your great power, and have reigned. And the nations were angry, and your wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that you should give reward to your servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear your name, small and great: and should destroy them which destroy the earth" (vs.16-18).
Again, we see that the announcement will be made that Jesus Christ is the ruler of the earth. After this announcement, the only thing that will remain to be done is for him to take physical possession of the earth and its inhabitants.
"And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightning, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail" (v19).
As the temple of God in heaven is opened, there will be great atmospheric disturbances around the earth that are accompanied by earthquakes and hail storms. See also Rev.15:5.
THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES
The seven last plagues that are to be poured out upon the earth are the most horrible, terrifying, and destructive things that will have ever come upon the earth and humanity.
This is the time spoken of by Jesus:
"For then will be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever will be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened" (Matt.24:21-22 KJV).
Jesus says that all of humanity will not be destroyed because of God's promises to the patriarchs and the elect concerning their inheritance, descendants, rulership, and his future plans for the rest of humanity.
Revelation 15:1, 5-8 KJV
"And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God" (v1).
As a part of the wrath of God and in preparation for the invasion of the earth by Jesus Christ and his vast army, there will be seven last plagues poured out upon the earth. Remember that the nations of the earth will have already been devastated by the preceding punishments that were announced by the angels with the trumpets. But, there will be seven more messengers who will bring even more destruction upon the earth and those who are left alive:
"And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened: And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles. And one of the four beasts gave to the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man [i.e., no one] was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled" (vs.5-8).
God's Anger Poured Out
Revelation 16:1-21 KJV
"And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth" (v1).
The First Plague
"And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshiped his image" (v2).
This seems to be a special punishment that is specifically designed for those who have received the mark of the Beast system and worship the image of its leader. These who are to be punished are the servants of this evil political and spiritual system who still refuse to repent and worship the true God after being given the opportunity to repent during the preceding plagues.
The Second Plague
"And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea" (v3).
The effect of all life in the sea dying will be devastating. Without its cleansing effect on the air we breath, all human and animal life on earth would eventually die.
The Third Plague
"And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, You are righteous, O Lord, which are, and was, and will be, because you have judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink; for they are worthy" (vs.4-6).
As was done during the plague upon Egypt, we see that the source of the rivers will again be turned into blood. However, this time it is not only the rivers but the source of all water that will be turned to blood. This plague has the potential to destroy all human, animal, and plant life on the earth.
A Righteous Judgment
"And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments" (v7).
Why are God's judgments righteous? They are true and righteous because the penalty for sin is death (Rom.6:23) and after the first resurrection, there will only be sinful people left on the planet who are all worthy of death.
The Fourth Plague
"And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which has power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory" (vs.8-9).
The prophet Isaiah also speaks of a time when the moon and sun will radiate a tremendous amount of heat upon the earth. It is hard to imagine heat of this magnitude striking the earth and the damage that it will cause:
"Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD binds up the breach of his people, and heals the stroke of their wound. Behold, the name of the LORD comes from far, burning with his anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire: And his breath, as an overflowing stream, will reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there will be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err" (Isa.30:26-28 KJV).
A sevenfold increase in the sun's radiation would immediately ignite all the forests and grasslands and begin to combust and/or vaporize all materials on the earth's surface with a flash point under 600 degrees Fahrenheit, and it would turn the earth into an inferno.
The Fifth Plague
"And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain. And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds" (vs.10-11).
Amazingly, there will still be people alive on the planet after the fourth plague; therefore, we can assume that the fourth plague will not last long. The fifth plague is specifically tailored for the geographical area wherein the nations comprising the Beast system are located. See Ex.10:21-23.
Notice that those who sit in darkness are in great pain. Most likely some of this pain is partly due to mental anguish, most of this pain comes from injuries sustained in the previous four plagues and, specifically, the plague of sores with which they are still being afflicted. Nevertheless, they will continue to blaspheme God and refuse to turn away from the things that have caused God to punish them.
The Sixth Plague
"And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared" (v12).
The Euphrates River will be dried up to allow a vast army from the East to cross over it.
"And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (vs.13-14).
Not only are the evil spirits who lead the nations to the east of the Euphrates River going to gather their forces to fight Jesus Christ as he returns to earth with his army but also they will gather a great military force from among all nations and assemble them in a place called Armageddon to fight Christ:
"And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon" (v16).
The Seventh Plague
"And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightning; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give to her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found" (vs.17-20).
Here, we see great atmospheric disturbances and the greatest earthquake in human history shakes the entire earth causing massive destruction on a worldwide scale.
God will remember the evil political, governmental, and religious system of Babylon that caused so much pain, suffering, and agony to humanity. And he will begin the final process whereby he will totally eliminate it and the evil spirits who rule it from the earth.
"And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great" (v21).
This plague contains hailstones that weigh approximately 120 pounds. It is obvious that most things hit by them will be destroyed. Once this final plague is finished, the entire earth will be in shambles; its land will lie ruined, its cities will be destroyed, and its people will be demoralized and living in terror, wondering what horror the next day will bring. Yet, they still will not acknowledge the true God and his Son Jesus Christ and repent of their evil ways; instead, they will curse God for punishing them.
Christ Returns to Conquer
This final plague will lead to the return of Jesus Christ as conquering King and the final destruction of the Babylonian Beast system.
"A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with the nations; he will plead with all flesh; he will give those who are wicked to the sword, says the Lord. This says the Lord of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the farthest parts of the earth. And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth; they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be refuse upon the ground" (Jer.25:31-33 KJV)
Notice that God has a score to settle with all nations:
"Scream in terror, for the Lord's time has come, the time for the Almighty to crush you. Your arms lie paralyzed with fear; the strongest hearts melt, and are afraid. Fear grips you with terrible pangs, like those of a woman in labor. You look at one another, helpless, as the flames of the burning city reflect upon your pallid faces. For see, the day of the Lord is coming, the terrible day of his wrath and fierce anger. The land shall be destroyed, and all the sinners with it. The heavens will be black above them. No light will shine from stars or sun or moon. And I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sin; I will crush the arrogance of the proud man and the haughtiness of the rich. Few will live when I have finished my work. Men will be as scarce as gold—of greater value than the gold of Ophir. For I will shake the heavens in my wrath and fierce anger, and the earth will move from its place in the skies" (Isa.13:6-13 LBP).
During the seven last plagues, anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved from these terrible plagues, just as ancient Israel was protected from most of the plagues of Egypt:
"Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved; even in Jerusalem some will escape, just as the Lord has promised, for he has chosen some to survive" (Joel 2:32 LBP).
THE INVASION BEGINS
Revelation 19:11-16 KJV
"And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon it was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns;. . . and he was clothed with a garment that had been dipped in blood: and his name was called The Word of God" (vs.11-13).
In this vision, John sees Jesus Christ in battle dress, ready to invade the earth and make war with the nations who have not heeded the warning to repent of their wickedness.
"And the armies that were in heaven followed upon white horses, dressed in fine linen, white and pure. And out of his mouth goes forth a sharp sword, that with it he might smite the nations: and he will shepherd them with an iron rod: and he treads the winepress of the anger of God Almighty. And he has on his garment and on his right thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (vs.14-16).
With the return of Jesus Christ as King of kings and
Lord of lords, a whole new era of peace and prosperity will emerge. From the
death and destruction caused by the wrath of God on an evil and corrupt world
will come a people who will have the opportunity to live in a great time of
peace and prosperity.
By B.L. Cocherell
File b2w9 7/07