Revelation of Jesus Christ Chapter 6 denniscopp Verse 1 I saw that the Lamb had opened one of the seven seals, or the first seal. The interpreters are much divided in expounding what is to be understood …More
Revelation of Jesus Christ Chapter 6

Verse 1

I saw that the Lamb had opened one of the seven seals,
or the first seal. The interpreters are much divided in expounding what is to be understood by the sealed up contents, and in applying them to such and such persecutions, persons, and events, by all which it appears that there is no certainty as to such applications and expositions, even of particular ancient fathers; though at the same time it is both certain and evident that many pretended interpretations, (that is, arbitrary inventions, from the private spirit of heretics) are both false and groundless, contrary to the unexceptionable authority (to use Dr. W.’s words) of the primitive fathers, and inconsistent with the doctrine and belief of the Catholic Church, as I may have occasion to shew that the ridiculous fable is of this number, of so many popes being antichrist, and the beast of the Apocalypse. I shall, for the satisfaction of the Christian reader, as I hinted in the preface of this book, give a short account of those expositions that are not improbable. (Witham)

Verse 2

A white horse,
such as conquerors used to ride upon at a solemn triumph. This is commonly understood of our Saviour, Christ, who, by himself and his apostles, preachers, martyrs, and other saints, triumphed over all the adversaries of his Church. He had a bow in his hand, the doctrine of his gospel, piercing like an arrow the hearts of the hearers; and the crown given him, was a token of the victory of him who went forth conquering, that he might conquer. (Witham) --- He that sitteth on the white horse is Christ, going forth to subdue the world by his gospel. The other horses that follow represent the judgments and punishment, that were to fall on the enemies of Christ and his Church: the red horse signifies war; the black horse famine; and the pale horse (which has death for its rider) plagues or pestilence. (Challoner) --- White horse; viz. Jesus Christ, who came to subdue all nations to the faith. The bow signifies the gospel, and the word of God, those powerful arms, of which St. Paul so often speaks, as being so necessary for all who are engaged in bringing souls to the faith of Christ. The crown marks the sovereign power of Jesus Christ, and the assurance of conquest. (Cornelius; Bossuet; Du Pin)

Verses 3-4

Opened the second seal,
&c. portending wars and shedding of blood, and so he is said to have power to take away peace from the earth. (Witham) --- Another red horse. This red horse signifies the cruel persecutions, which the Roman emperors carried on against the Christian religion. For this end, it is said immediately after, one sat thereon, to take peace from the earth, and kill one another; for this purpose was a great sword given to him. (Andræas; Menochius; Grotius)

Verse 5

The third seal....a black horse.
This is also commonly expounded of wars and persecutions, and particularly of famine, by the scales in the rider’s hand, and by two pounds of wheat being sold for a penny: a great price, considering the value of money at that time. (Witham) --- The black horse represents the public miseries, famines, &c. which, particularly the latter, the Roman empire frequently experienced during the reign of the persecuting emperors. The balance, which the rider is said to hold in his hand, represents the strict manner in which people would measure out whatever they sold during the time of famine. (Andræas; Hamm; Bossuet)

Verses 7-8

The fourth seal....a pale horse,
the rider’s name death. It is also expounded of trials, afflictions, persecutions, and especially of plagues, over four parts of the earth, by which may be denoted the great power and extent of the Roman empire. In the Greek we read, over the fourth part of the earth; which some reconcile, by observing that the Roman empire had dominions under it in all the four parts of the world, east, west, north, and south; and that its dominions might be said to comprehend the fourth part of the world. (Witham) --- By the pale horse, and the rider, death, who sat upon it, followed by hell, are meant that dreadful mortality which ever attends famines, &c. He had power to kill with sword, with famine, &c. All these evils came upon the Roman people, and history has preserved the memory of them, to shew the truth of the prophecy here delivered by St. John. (Grotius; Calmet)

Verse 9

After the opening of the fifth seal, the souls of the martyrs under the altar cried aloud for justice, saying, how long, &c. Out of zeal for God’s honour, and the good of the Church, they pray that the enemies of Christ, and of the Christian faith, may be humbled, and that all may acknowledge and fear the justice of God, by the punishment of his enemies, and the reward of his faithful servants. St. Jerome, by under the altar, understands Christ himself, under whom, as under their head, are all the martyrs. Some who doubted or held that the blessed were not admitted to see God, in heaven before the day of general judgment, have turned this expression, under the altar, or at least the expressions of some of the fathers upon these words, as if they were favourable to their error, which is sufficiently disproved, even by the words that follow, that white robes were given to each of them one, in which they are said to walk with him wherever he goeth. (Chap. iii. 4. and Chap. xiv. 4.) (Witham) --- Under the altar. Christ, as man, is this altar, under which the souls of the martyrs live in heaven: as their bodies are here deposited under our altars. --- Revenge our blood. They ask not this out of hatred to their enemies, but out of zeal for the glory of God, and a desire that the Lord would accelerate the general judgment, and the complete beatitude of all his elect. (Challoner) --- These holy souls, who had been slain for the word of God, do not beg the Almighty to revenge their blood, through any hatred of their enemies, but through the great zeal with which they were animated, to see the justice of God manifested: that by this severity they might be moved to fear him, and be converted to him. Thus in the Scripture we often read of the prophets beseeching the Almighty to fill their enemies with confusion, to humble them, &c. (Perer; Bossuet; Du Pin, &c.) --- And white robes. To console them, they each had given them a white robe, as a mark of their innocence, and as an assurance that on account of it they would in due time receive full measure of beatitude. They should rest yet a little while, most probably to the day of final retribution, when the number of those destined to be their brethren in bliss should be completed. Then they should all together receive full recompense, and their persecutors be covered with confusion. (St. Augustine, serm. xi. de sanctis; Gregory the great, lib. ii. Moral. cap. iv.

Verse 12

At the opening of the sixth seal....a great earthquake, &c. Many think that these dreadful signs, of the sun turning black, &c. are not to happen till the time of antichrist, a little before the end of the world. See Matthew xiv.; Luke xxi.; Isaias xiii. and xxxiv.; Ezechiel xxxiii.; Daniel xii.; &c. Others apply these prodigies to God’s visible chastisements, on the heathen emperors and persecutors of the Christians, before the first Christian emperor Constantine. (Witham) --- And I saw. The sixth seal being opened, St. John sees painted before him the severe and terrible manner in which the Almighty would revenge himself on his enemies. It may refer either to the time of Constantine, when we behold the Christian religion triumphing on the ruins of paganism, and after his death, and that of his sons, the empire of Rome given up a prey to barbarians, Rome itself taken and pillaged, and all the provinces thrown into dreadful disorder and consternation; or it may likewise refer to the day of general judgment, when the Almighty will make sinners drink the wine of his indignation, in presence of all the just; of which dreadful time of vengeance all other particular judgments are only imperfect figures. (Victorin; Ven. Bede; Tichon) --- St. John, in imitation of the ancient prophets, makes use of the earthquake, &c. hyperbolically, to mark more strongly the dreadful and horrible evils with which the Roman empire, and its persecuting emperors, we to be overwhelmed. Rome itself was filled with wars and seditions, both at home and abroad. The emperors were all destroyed by the Almighty in a most singular manner; witness Maxentius, who was thrown headlong into the Tiber; Maximin Jovius, who, under a horrible and incurable disease, owned the hand of the Almighty afflicting him; Maximin Daia, who, being overcome in battle, fled away in disguise, and at last, seized with a strange disease, his bowels were all consumed, he lost his eyes, and died reduced to a mere skeleton. Witness likewise Licinius, who, being engaged with Constantine, was always beaten, and at length strangled. Maximian also, the rival of Constantine, who strangled himself in Marseilles, where he had been confined. (Calmet)

Verse 14

And every mountain.
In the dreadful confusion of the Roman empire, in the time of Constantine, so great was the revolution, that mountains appeared, as it were, moved out of their places; islands shifted from their accustomed situations. We behold at one time seven persons, Maximin Galerius, Maxentius, Severus Cæsar, Maximin, Alexander, Maximin Hercules, and Licinius, all aiming at the empire. The first six perished in nine years, from 305 to 314: Licinius was strangled in 324. All these were enemies of the Christian religion. Constantine, who supported it, remained sole master of the empire. (Calmet)
The Ethical Stipulations continued
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

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"On the 24th day of the 11th month (the month of Shebat), in the 2nd year of Darius, the word of Yahweh was addressed to the prophet Zechariah (son of Berechiah), son of Iddo, as follows, 'I had a vision during the night. There was a man riding a red horse standing among the deep-rooted myrtles; behind him were other horses'red, chestnut and white. I said, 'What are these, my lord?' And the angel who was talking to me said, 'I will show you what they are.' The man standing among the myrtles then replied, 'Those are they whom Yahweh has sent to patrol the world.'" –Zechariah 1:7-10

"Again I raised my eyes, and this is what I saw: four chariots coming out between two mountains and the mountains were mountains of bronze. The first chariot had red horses, the second chariot had black horses, the third chariot had white horses and the fourth chariot had vigorous, piebald horses. I asked the angel who was talking to me, 'What are these, my lord?' The angel replied, 'They are the four winds of heaven now leaving, after attending the Lord of the whole world. The black horses are leaving for the land of the north; the white are following them, and the piebald are leaving for the land of the south.' They came out vigorously, eager to patrol the world. He said to them, 'Go and patrol the world.' And they patrolled the world. He called to me and said, 'Look, the ones going to the land of the north brought my spirit to rest on the land of the north.'"

-Zechariah 6:1-8

Zechariah is one of the three post-exile prophets (along with Haggai and Malachi). He received his prophetic call in the fall of 520BC. Zechariah is given 8 visions in which he prophesies the coming of the Messiah (with detailed prophecy of the last week of Jesus' life), and God's judgment on an unrepentant Jerusalem which will come under siege and be destroyed. The 4 riders and 4 chariots in these verses are God's heavenly agents who patrol the earth and carry out God's commands. We will be reading about 4 riders in Rev. Ch. 6.

We now come to the breaking of the 7 seals of the Book. Six of the seals will be broken in chapter 6 but the 7th seal will not be broken until chapter 8 and is connected to the 7 trumpets. We have discussed how the Book written on both sides and sealed with 7 seals is a testament document of the Lamb who was slain (1st century Roman wills were sealed with 7 seals). It is our inheritance in the New Covenant. It is a Covenant Treaty document of the New Covenant establishing the New Israel- the Catholic, universal, Church. But the establishment of the new is also a fulfillment of the old. The opening of the Book will result in the destruction of apostate Old Covenant Israel. As a matter of fact, I have come to the conclusion that the Book of the New Covenant cannot be opened until Old Covenant Israel is destroyed. It is in the opening of the 7 seals that judgment will fall on apostate Israel for the rejection of the Messiah. But there may also be a connection between the number 7 and the concept of 'oath swearing' in Hebrew. To swear an oath in Hebrew is to "seven oneself." When the children of Israel accepted God's Covenant Treaty at Mt. Sinai they swore an oath to the Covenant. Our word "sacrament" comes from the Latin word for "oath." In celebrating the Sacraments of the Catholic Church we are in effect reaffirming our oath to the New Covenant in Christ. In the stipulations of the Covenant, Covenant obedience yields blessings but Covenant breaking yields curses. The 7 seals could also represent the 7 fold curses of the Covenant that will fall on apostate Old Covenant Israel for rejecting the Messiah and disobedience to the Covenant.




First seal: The rider on the white horse

Rev 6:1-2

Second seal: The rider on the red horse

Rev 6:3

Third seal: The rider on the black horse

Rev 6:5-6

Fourth seal: The rider on the pale (green) horse

Rev 6:7-8

The riders were "given authority over a quarter of the earth, to kill by the sword, by famine, by plague and trough wild beasts" Rev 6:8

Fifth seal: Martyred white robed saints (souls) under the altar

Rev 6:911

Sixth seal: Judgment / de-creation

Rev 6:12-17

Seventh seal: Mission of the seven angels

Rev 8:1-13

In Chapter 6 the Lamb begins to break open the 7 seals. Scholars disagree on what the breaking of the 7 seals represents. Some scholars believe they signify a chronological reading of events that are depicted in historical order. There are two reasons why this interpretation is unlikely:

1. With the seals on the outside edge of the rolled scroll the Book cannot be opened and read until all the seals are broken. It is only with the opening of the 7th seal which results in the blowing of the 7 trumpets, that the Book is actually opened so that it can be read.
2. As the seals are opened and events unfold it is obvious that the events cannot be listed in chronological order. For example, in the 5th seal the Martyrs who are calling for judgment are told to wait but with the opening of the 6th seal judgment comes immediately and yet in chapter 7 verse 3 God commands the angels to withhold judgment until the servants of God are protected. Would the angels bring judgment disobey God?

For these reasons it seems unlikely to me that the 7 seals are a progressive chronology but that it is more likely that they are the major themes of judgment that came upon Old Covenant Israel (Judea) from AD30 with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus to 70AD and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem which was the final and complete end of the Old Covenant Church. This is a 40 year period that corresponds to the establishment of the Sinai Covenant Church and the new generation taking possession of the Promised Land.

Some biblical scholars (like Scott Hahn in The End: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation and R. H. Charles in A Critical and Exegetical commentary on the Revelation of St. John vol. 1 p. 158) point out the close structural relationship between the 6 seals of this chapter and the events of the mini-Apocalypses recorded in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew ch 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). Please see the Chart Synoptic Gospels & Revelation Judgment on Jerusalem for the comparison between judgments Jesus prophesizes on Judea and Jerusalem in the synoptic Gospels and Revelation. Scott Hahn sees the mini Apocalypses in the Synoptic Gospels as the framework or outline for John's maxi-apocalypse in Revelation. He is one of the few Biblical scholars to make the connection that if the Synoptic mini-apocalypses prophesy judgment against Jerusalem (and the majority of scholars agree that the Synoptic mini-apocalypses do this) then the Maxi-Apocalypse of John must do the same thing. Dr. Hahn maintains, and I believe correctly maintains, that is why John's Gospel lacks a mini-apocalypse because God the Holy Spirit would inspire John to write his greater, more complete apocalypse at a later date as God's prophet to bring the Covenant Lawsuit against Old Covenant Israel for rejection of the Messiah.

Revelation 6:1-2 "Then, in my vision, I saw the Lamb break one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures shout in a voice like thunder, 'Come!' Immediately I saw a white horse appear, and its rider was holding a bow, he was given a victor's crown and he went away, to go from victory to victory."

In chapter 1 Christ held 7 stars in His right hand and now He holds the scroll with 7 seals. The key to understanding John's vision is the vision of the prophet Zechariah in Zechariah chapters 1:7-17 and 6:1-8. Zechariah son of Barachiah was called by God in 520BC. He is one of the 3 post Babylonian exile prophets. In mid February 519BC when the exiles had returned to Judah, Zechariah received 8 visions from Yahweh. The 1st and 8th visions concerned horses. Please read the Zechariah passages.

In both passages the prophet asks who are these horses and their riders and he is told that they are God's agents who are sent by Him to patrol the whole earth.
Question: Where have you already read about this same activity of being sent by God over the whole world? Hint: see Rev 5:6.
Answer: They imitate the same action as the Spirit in Rev. 5:6 ("...which are the 7 Spirits that God has sent out over the whole world,.."). These horses and their riders are God's means of controlling history and like the 4 winds are identified with and controlled by angels. See Rev. 7:1 and Psalms 18:10. The number of the riders gives us our key to understanding the symbolism of the horses.

Question: What does the number 4 represent symbolically in Scripture and how does it relate to the vision of the 4 horsemen?
Answer: Biblical symbolism represents the earth and especially the Promised Land as God's 4-cornered altar and, therefore, judgments that fall on the land are represented as a fourfold judgment. The horsemen show us God's plan of controlling and bringing judgment on the disobedient nation of Israel /Judah. Each of the 4 are symbolic representations of the 4 fold judgment that Jesus declared would be the 'beginning of sorrows' in the desolation of Jerusalem in Matt. 24:6-7; Mark 13: 8; Luke 21:10-11, 20 = " wars, famines, pestilence and earthquakes."
The Four Horsemen


Scripture Passage

Symbolic images associated with the riders

1. White Rider

Rev 6:2

Bow, victor's crown

2. Red Rider

Rev 6:3-4


3. Black Rider

Rev 6:5-6


4. Pale (green) Rider

Rev 6:7-8

Called "Death"

In verse 1 John hears one of the 4 living creatures call out "Come!" The angel is not speaking to John but is instead calling forth the 1st of the 4 horsemen. The living creatures standing around the 4 corners of God's altar will call for God's righteous judgments to come and destroy the wicked. Once again John hears and then he sees.
Question: What does he see?
Answer: A white horse with its rider armed for battle, carrying a bow and wearing a crown. Notice that the rider is already victorious; he is wearing the victor's crown. But although he already has victory, he is still conquering (v2).

Question: Who is the White Rider who wears the crown and carries the bow?
Answer: Biblical scholars and commentators do not agree on the identity of the rider of the White horse. Some say he is a prince of angels (the crown), other commentators (especially dispensationalists) identify the rider of the white horse as the Antichrist, but some commentators identify the White Rider as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Catholic scholars and commentators are divided in their opinions. Dr. Scott Hahn does not take a stand on this issue but leans toward the angel theory. Fr. Alfred McBride, author of The Second Coming of Jesus, takes the stand that the White Rider is clearly not Christ (page 54) while the Navarre Catholic commentators believe that He is the conquering Lamb (p.70) in agreement with Pope PiusXII who wrote: "He is Jesus Christ. The inspired evangelist not only saw the devastation brought about by sin, war, hunger and death; he also saw, in the first place, the victory of Christ. It is certainly true that the course the Church takes down through the centuries is a 'via crucis', a way of the cross, but it is also a victory march. It is the Church of Christ, men and women of Christian faith and love, who are always bringing light, redemption and peace to a mankind without hope. 'Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and for ever' (Heb.13:8)." (Address, 15 November, 1946).

In my research I discovered that several of the Church fathers, such as Bishop Irenaeus (m. 202AD) in his book Against Heresies (4:21,3) and Bishop Victorinus of Pettau (m.304AD) in his Commentary of the Apocalypse of John, do identify this first horse and rider with Christ and with the victory of the Gospel which must be preached first before the judgments are given on the earth. See Mark 13:9-10: "Be on your guard: you will be handed over to sanhedrins; you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as evidence to them, since the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations." And Matthew 10:23: "If they persecute you in one town take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another. In truth I tell you, you will not have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes."

After an intensive study of the identity of the White Rider I have found that there are several points about this victorious rider that demonstrate He may be Jesus:
1. He is riding a White Horse. See Rev. 19:11-16 "And now I saw heaven open, and a white horse appear; its rider was called Trustworthy and True; in uprightness He judges and makes war...." The rider in this passage in chapter 19 is clearly Christ the victorious judge. He is called by the same title in Rev. 3:14 in the letter to Laodicea: "..Here is the message of the Amen, the trustworthy, the true witness,..".
2. He carries a Bow. Just as the Zechariah passages are a key to understand Rev. chapter 6, the book of the prophet Habakkuk is also important. In Habakkuk 3:8-9 God coming in judgment is riding on horses against His enemies and is armed with a Bow: "Yahweh, are you enraged with the rivers, are you angry with the sea, that you should mount your chargers, your rescuing chariots: You uncover your bow, and give the string its fill of arrows." In addition to the Habakkuk passage John is also referencing Psalms 45:3-6 one of the great prophecies of the Messiah's victory over His enemies: "Warrior, strap your sword at your side, in your majesty and splendor advance, ride on in the cause of truth, gentleness and uprightness. Stretch the bowstring tight, lending terror to your right hand. Your arrows are sharp, nations lie at your mercy, the king's enemies lose heart. Your divine throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the scepter of your kingship a scepter of justice, you love uprightness and detest evil." A question we might also ask is where did Christ get the Bow? As it is usually the case, the answer begins in Genesis. Read Genesis 8:20-21 and 9:8-17. The answer is that after the flood God made a covenant with Noah. 9:12-13: " 'And this', God said, 'is the sign of the covenant which I now make between myself and you and every living creature with you for all ages to come. I now set my bow in the clouds and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.'" God unstrung His Bow and hung it up "in the Cloud" for all to see. Later, in the 6th century BC when Ezekiel had his vision of the Throne room of God he saw the Bow handing above the Throne (Ezek. 1:26-28 v.28:"The radiance of the encircling light was like the radiance of the Bow in the clouds on rainy days.") and it was there when John was lifted up into the heavenly Throne room in Rev. 4:3 ("...there was a rainbow encircling the throne.") But when Christ the victorious Lamb stepped forward to receive the Book from the right hand of God, He also reached up and took down the Bow, to use it in judgment against His enemies. The Noachide covenant has come to an end. For those who have rejected the knowledge of the truth there is no longer an animal sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of the judgment of God. Hebrews 10:26-31 "If after this we have been given knowledge of the truth, we should deliberately commit any sins, then there is no longer any sacrifice for them. There is left only the dreadful prospect of judgment and of the fiery wrath that is to devour your enemies. Anyone who disregards the Law of Moses is ruthlessly put to death on the word of two witnesses or three; and you may be sure that anyone who tramples on the Son of God, and who treats the blood of the covenant which sanctified Him as if it were not holy, and who insults the Spirit of grace, will be condemned to a far severer punishment. We are all aware who it was that said: Vengeance is mine: I will pay them back. And again: The Lord will vindicate His people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Hebrews 12:25-29 "Make sure that you never refuse to listen when He speaks. If the people who on earth refused to listen to a warning could not escape their punishment, how shall we possibly escape if we turn away from a voice that warns us from heaven? That time His voice made the earth shake, but now He has given us this promise: 'I am going to shake the earth once more and not only the earth but heaven as well.' The words once more indicate the removal of what is shaken, since these are created things, so that which is not shaken remains. We have been given possession of an unshakeable kingdom. Let us therefore be grateful and use our gratitude to worship God in the way that pleases Him, in reverence and fear. For our God is a consuming fire."

The rider is wearing a crown. John's 1st century Christians would have immediately understood that the rider on the white horse was Jesus Christ on the basis of the other points we have mentioned, but the mention of the crown would have left no doubt. This rider is the King of Kings. This is an image of Christ that we know from Revelations. See Rev. 14:14 "Now in my vision I saw a white cloud and sitting on it one like a son of man with a gold crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand." and 19:11-12 "And now I saw heaven open, and a white horse appear, its rider was called Trustworthy and True; in uprightness He judges and makes war. His eyes were flames of fire, and He was crowned with many coronets;.."

4. The final point which may identify the White Rider as Christ is the fact that the rider goes out conquering! Satan/ the Antichrist cannot conquer. He has been conquered by the resurrection of the Lamb. The Greek word for conquering is the very same word in the Greek that was used in Christ's letters to the 7 churches for overcoming or conquering in Rev. 2:7,11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21. Then too, the White Rider is not simply one of 4 riders...He is leading the other riders with His bow and His crown.

There are also a few problems with this interpretation: If we site Rev. 19:11-16 as a proof text that Christ is the White Rider there is the problem that even though both the riders in Rev. 6 and 19 are riding white horses and are wearing 'crowns' two different words are used in Greek for crown and the riders carry different weapons. (a bow in 6:2 and a sword in 19:15).
In Rev. 6:2 the word is stephanos which would be a victor's wreath like Julius Caesar and other Roman generals wore in the victory parades, while the Greek word for crown in Rev. 19:12 is diadema, like a King's crown. It can be argued that at first Christ wears the victor's crown because He is in the act of conquering while in Rev. 19 He is seen as King of Kings in the final battle. St. Victorinus in his commentary, saw the bow of the Holy Spirit delivering the arrows of the gospel across the earth before the other riders are released while in Ch. 19 he sees Christ as leading the victorious army of God in the great battle.

It is possible that the White Rider is Christ the conquering King coming against His enemies in judgment. He has already come to save but now He is coming to bring judgment and to destroy. The terrifying riders who will follow Him are His messengers of wrath and Old Covenant Israel who rejected the Messiah is doomed!

Revelation 6:3-4 "When he broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature shout, 'Come!' And out came another horse, bright red, and its rider was given this duty: to take away peace from the earth and set people killing each other. He was given a huge sword."
Question: What does this red horse and rider symbolize?
Answer: This blood red horse and rider symbolize WAR.

Notice that God does not incite war. Instead He simply orders His angels to take away the conditions of peace. God removes His restraints on man's wickedness. In the Jewish revolt against Rome which began in 66AD the Jews not only fought the Romans but they fought and killed each other savagely. The Jewish historian Josephus recorded that "every city was divided into two armies encamped against one another, and the preservation of the one party was in the destruction of the other; so the day time was spent in the shedding of blood, and the night in fear....It was then common to see cities filled with dead bodies, still lying unburied and those of old men, mixed with infants, all dead, and scattered about together; women also lay amongst them, without any covering for their nakedness; you might then see the whole province full of inexpressible calamities, while dread of still more barbarous practices which were threatened, was everywhere greater than what had been already perpetrated." Josephus, The Jewish War, 2. 18.2.

Revelation 6:5-6 "When he broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature shout, 'Come!' Immediately I saw a black horse appear, and its rider was holding a pair of scales; and I seemed to hear a voice shout from among the four living creatures and say, 'A day's wages (a denarius) for a quart of corn, and a day's wages (a denarius) for three quarts of barley, but do not tamper with the oil or the wine.'"
Question: What does the black horse and rider holding a pair of scales symbolize? Hint: read Ezek 4:10.
Answer: Economic chaos and the rationing of food, which will lead to famine. Josephus (The Jewish War 5.10.2)in his description of the famine before the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD says that parents even killed and ate their children (as was prophesized in Lev. 26:29 and Dt 28:53-57). Despite the curse on the crops, the angel/rider is forbidden to touch the oil or the wine. The oil and wine, both used in the rites of the Church (James 5:14-15; 1Cor 11:25), may indicate that God's messengers of destruction are kept from harming the righteous. Scripture often describes God's blessings upon the righteous in terms of oil and wine (see Psalms 14:15).

Revelation 6:7-8 "When he broke the fourth seal I heard the voice of the fourth living creature shout, 'Come!' Immediately I saw another horse appear, deathly pale, and its rider was called Death, and Hades followed at its heels. They were given authority over a quarter of the earth, to kill by the sword, by famine, by plague and through wild beasts."

This is the last Horseman of judgment who rides a green horse. The word in Greek is chloros, which simply translates as 'green.' It will be used 2 more times in Revelation (8:7 & 9:4) and once in Mark (6:39). Biblical translators usually purposely mistranslate the word as 'pale' on the assumption that since there is no such thing as a green horse, John could not have seen one. I believe this is an erroneous assumption. God can make a horse any color He wants! The green color is important because it is the color of decomposing corpse.
Question: What is the name of this rider and who follows him?
Answer: This 4th rider is Death followed by Hades = the grave. Christ set them loose. He used His key. Rev. 1:18 "I was dead and look'I am alive for ever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades."

Look at the significance of Revelation 6:8 in the context of the covenant curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28: The housemen are given authority to bring 4 plagues upon the land, which is a summary of the all the covenantal curses in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. It also parallels God's list of His four basic categories of curses with which He punishes the wicked and disobedient nations: Ezekiel 5:17 and 14:21 "The Lord Yahweh says this, 'Even if I send my four dreadful scourges on Jerusalem'sword, famine, wild beasts, and plague..." (In the first destruction of Jerusalem in 586BC the curse of the wild beasts replaced the curse of captivity; see Jeremiah 15:2"Yahweh says this: Those for the plague, to the plague; those for the sword, to the sword; those for famine, to famine; those for captivity, to captivity!"). They also are given authority to destroy a quarter (continuing the 4ness of the passage) of the land. The trumpet-judgments (Rev 8:7-12) will take a third of the land and the chalice-judgments will devastate all the rest.

The Blood of the Martyrs Avenged: Revelation 6:9-17
Verses 9-11 "When he broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of all the people who had been killed on account of the Word of God, for witnessing to it. They shouted in a loud voice, 'Holy, true Master, how much longer will you wait before you pass sentence and take vengeance for our death on the inhabitants of the earth?' Each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to be patient a little longer, until the roll was completed of their fellow servants and brothers who were still to be killed as they had been."

The breaking of the fifth seal reveals a vision where the souls of those who had been killed because of their witness for Christ are underneath or around the base of the altar of God (which means the martyrs are very close to God). There is no blood mentioned in the passage, but we can assume that the reader is to think of the image of the blood since the focus is on the martyred saints, and it is the blood of the innocent that cries out to God for justice. God hears the cries of the martyrs in the same way He heard Abel’s blood cry out for justice (Gen 4:10). The imagery in verse 9 is taken from the Old Covenant sacrifices in which the blood of the slain victim was applied to the sides of the altar and streamed down the sides to form a pool of blood around the base (Lev 1:5, 11; 3:3, 8, 13). Leviticus 17:11 tells us that the soul (in Hebrew nephesh) of the flesh is in the blood, and St. Paul uses liturgical imagery similar to Revelation 6:10 when he writes: "As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation"... (2 Tim 4:6). The blood of the animals in the old sacrificial system was poured out of bowls/chalices onto the altar, ran in streams down the side and formed into a pool around the base of the altar so that their life-force was "beneath the altar." In this passage the death of these holy victims has been a most acceptable sacrifice to God.

In the same way that righteous Abel's blood cried out for justice in Genesis 4:10, these martyrs cry out for justice. They cry out 'Holy, true Master, how much longer will you wait before you pass sentence and take vengeance for our death on the inhabitants of the earth?' "How long" is a standard phrase throughout the Bible for invoking God's divine justice for the oppressed and persecuted (see Ps 6:3; 13:1-2; 35:17; 74:10; 79:5; 80:4; 89:46; 90:46; 94:3-4; Hab 1:2; 2:6). The use of the cry here recalls Zechariah 1:12 where, after the Four Horsemen have been send out to patrol the earth, the angel asks God "Yahweh Sabaoth, how long will you wait before taking pity on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, on which you have inflicted your anger for the past seventy years?" In this case the cry is reversed - not pity but wrath. After the Four Horsemen have been sent out on their mission, the martyrs ask how long God will withhold his judgment and keep His vengeance from falling on a Jerusalem that showed no pity.

Then too, the cry "How long" has always been seen by the Church as evidence of the intercession of the Saints and their intense interest in God's family still on earth. Their cry also reminds us of what Jesus said in Luke 18:6-7 after telling the story of the unjust judge: "And the Lord said, 'You notice what the unjust judge has to say?' Now, will not God see justice done to His elect if they keep calling to Him day and night even though He still delays to help them? I promise you, He will see justice done to them and done speedily." St. Thomas Aquinas says "this prayer of the martyrs is nothing other than their desire to obtain resurrection of the body and to share in the inheritance of those who will be saved, and their recognition of God’s justice in punishing evildoers." (Summa Theologiae, III, q.72, a.3, ad1).

Question: In addition to Jesus, how many prophets and saints can you recall who were martyred by the Old Covenant religious authorities in the New Testament?
Answer: John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod Antipas but the priests did nothing to try to stop Herod. Stephen the deacon was martyred by the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. St. Paul, on orders of the Sanhedrin, was sent out to hunt down Christians, and James, Bishop of Jerusalem, was murdered at the command of the high priest Annas.

Jesus accused the authorities of Jerusalem of murdering God's prophets in Luke 13:33 and in Matthew 23:33-36 He rebuked the religious hierarchy saying, "You serpents, brood of vipers, how can you escape being condemned to hell? This is why - look - I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some you will slaughter and crucify, some you will scourge in your synagogues and hunt from town to town; and so you will draw down on yourselves the blood of every upright person that has been shed on earth, from the blood of Abel the holy to the blood of Zechariah son on Barachiah whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. In truth I tell you, it will all recoil on this generation." God's wrath did recoil on Jesus generation in the sending out of the Four Horsemen.

Question: Why can we assume that it is Jerusalem that is the focus of God’s judgment in the martyrdom of the saints? See Lev 1:5; Mt 23:34-37; Lk 13:33.
Answer: It would not be missed by John's 1st century AD audience that if there is blood around the altar of sacrifice that priests must have split the blood!

It is by the authority of the Old Covenant Church that the martyrs have been slain. The altar imagery makes it obvious that it must be the priests of Jerusalem who have spilled the martyr's blood, and as Jesus and the apostles testified, Jerusalem was the place where the prophets of God were murdered. It must therefore be Jerusalem that will receive God's wrathful justice for the death of all the innocent martyrs: "... and so you will draw down on yourselves the blood of every upright person that has been shed on earth, from the blood of Abel the holy to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. In truth I tell you, it will all recoil on this generation" (Jesus in Mat 23:35-36).
The symbolic connection to the death of Abel is also evident. In Genesis Chapter 4 the older son of Adam, Cain, envious that God accepted the sacrifice of his younger brother, killed Abel. God says to Cain in verse 10 "What have you done? Yahweh asked, Listen! Your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground." Abel's blood was crying out like the blood of the saints around the altar. He was murdered by his "older brother" just as the Christian Community in Jerusalem was murdered by their "older brothers," the Jews of Jerusalem (i.e. Stephen in Acts 7 and James Zebedee in Acts 12:2 among many others; see 1 Jn 3:11-12). And so the blood of the holy martyrs cries out in Revelation 6:10 and the saints pray that Christ's prophecy of "the days of vengeance" (Lk 21:22) will be fulfilled.
Question: What is the significance of the robes given to the martyrs? See Ecc 9:8; Is 1:18; Dan 7:2; 11:35; 12:10; Mk 16:5.
Answer: The martyrs are given white robes--white is a sign of righteousness and purity.
The newly baptized were given white robes in the early Church, and some faith communities today follow the same practice.
Question: In answer to their pleas for justice, why does God tell them to be patient for a little while longer? See Gen 15:16.
Answer: The full number of the martyrs has not been completed because the wickedness of their tormentors has not reached its full extent. God gives every opportunity for man to turn away from evil, to renounce sin and to return to fellowship with Him until the time comes that evil has reached its full extent. When that time comes, there is no longer an opportunity for repentance.
Please notice that the presence of the martyrs in heaven supports the Catholic Church's teaching that when we die our souls receive reward or punishment immediately in the particular judgment (judgment of each person) and that we remain as a spirit until the resurrection of the dead when we will receive our glorified bodies.

Revelation 6:12-17 "In my vision He then broke the sixth seal, there was a violent earthquake and the sun went as black as coarse sackcloth; the moon turned red as blood all over, and the stars of the sky fell onto the earth like figs dropping from a fig tree when a high wind sakes it; the sky disappeared like a scroll rolling up and all the mountains and islands were shaken from their places. Then all the kings of the earth, the governors and the commanders, the rich people and the men of influence, the whole population, slaves and citizens, hid in caverns and among the rocks of the mountains. They said to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us away from the One who sits on the throne and from the retribution (wrath) of the Lamb, for the Great Day of His retribution has come, and who can face it?'"

This is a symbol of judgment in Biblical prophecy known as "de-creation." The salvation of God's people is often symbolized in terms of creation imagery: 2Cor 4:6 "It is God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' that has shone into our hearts to enlighten them with the knowledge of God's glory, the glory on the face of Christ." 2Cor 5:17 "So for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone and a new being is there to see." Also see Eph. 2:10; 4:24; Col. 3:10 etc.) In reverse, God's judgments and the outcome of His presence as judge over a sinful, unrepentant world are spoken of in Biblical prophecy as de-creation, the total collapse and the ripping apart of creation. John's vision in the sixth seal even lists the very structures of creation in relation to Israel's day of destruction.

Question: Can you name the 7 parts of creation that John refers to in this passage?
Answer: 1. Earth, 2. Sun, 3. Moon, 4. Stars, 5. Firmament (sky), 6. Land, 7. Man
All these prophetic de-creation images are found in Old Testament prophecy:
1). Earthquakes: Exodus 19:18; Psalm 18:7, 15; 60:2; Isaiah 13:13-14; 24:19-20; Nahum 1:5
2). Eclipse of the sun: Exodus 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15; Amos 8:9; Micah 3:6
3) The moon became like blood: Job 25:5; Isaiah 13:10; 24:23; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31
4) The judgment on the stars (stars are images of government and they also are clocks that show that time has run out: Genesis 1:14; Job 9:7; Ecclesiastics 12:2; Isaiah 13:10; 34:4; Ezekiel 32:8; Daniel 8:10; Joel 2:10; 3:15
5) The wind imagery: in Zechariah's vision the 4 horsemen bring the winds Zechariah 6:5 and are reintroduced in John's vision shaking the fig tree
6) Fig tree is Israel: Matthew 21:19; 24:32-34; Luke 21:29-32
7) The sky vanishing like a Scroll rolled up: Isaiah 34:4; 51:6; Psalm 102:25-26
8) Every mountain and island moved out of their places = the Gentile nations are also effected: Job 9:5-6; 14:18-19; 28:9-11; Isaiah 41:5, 15-16; Ezekiel 38:20; Nahum 1:4-8; Zephaniah 2:11.

Note: Jerusalem is often called "the mountain" in Scripture (Daniel 9:16) and in Zech 8:8 and 14:4 Jerusalem's destruction is portrayed as a burning mountain being cast into the sea. So in effect the saints at the altar are crying out, in faith, for this great mountain to fall down.
In the fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy against Jerusalem in Matthew 24 God will shake even heaven and earth in order to deliver His kingdom over to His new nation: the New Covenant Israel= the Church. Matthew 24:27, 29"...the coming of the Son of Man will be like lightening striking in the east and flashing far into the west. .... Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky and the powers of the heavens will be shaken."

Going back to the list of 7 items of creation, man is the seventh stage of de-creation and within that 7th there are 7 classifications of man which indicates that the destruction will include all classes of men: 1) kings, 2) great men, 3)commanders, 4)rich, 5) strong, 6) slave,
7) free.

Their attempt to flee God's wrath is fruitless. Hiding in caves and among rocks is a sign of being under a curse (Gen. 19:30-38). Joel 3:1-5 was quoted by Peter in his great homily at the second Pentecost: (v.3-4 )"I shall show portents in the sky and on earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the Day comes, that great and terrible Day." Amos also saw this day (8:3) "On that Day –declares the Lord Yahweh'I shall make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I shall turn your festivals into mourning..." Joel, Amos, Peter, and John were not prophesizing the end of the world and the Second Advent of Christ; they were prophesizing the end of the world for Old Covenant Israel in 70AD. The origin for the symbolism of the mountains falling on the fearful is in the prophecy of Hosea against Israel. Jesus cited this text (Hosea 10:6-8) on His way to Calvary in Luke 23:27-30: speaking to the women who were weeping for Him He said: "..weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say: Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed. Then they will begin to say to the mountains: Fall on us! And to the hills: Cover us!" The Christian churches of the 1st century must have understood this message of the coming wrath of the Lamb. In the destruction of Jerusalem and Judea we do not have an account of a single Christian community being wiped out. The Christians all fled out of Jerusalem and Judea before 70AD.

This prophecy of destruction cannot be Rome. The Jews wanted to see Rome destroyed but the Christians did not want Rome's destruction. The Christians wanted Rome's conversion! That is why by God's order Simon Peter established the Church in Rome.
Read Matthew 16:16-19.
Question: Why did Jesus call Simon/Peter "son of Jonah" when he was the son of John (see Gospel of John 21:15)?
Answer: the answer is in the Old Testament story of Jonah the Prophet. At that time, in the 8th century BC, the Assyrians were the world super power. Their capital city was Nineveh. God sent His prophet Jonah to the city of Nineveh to tell the people to repent. They did repent. In the same way, God would sent Simon/Peter to convert the Roman Empire. Incidentally the name 'Jonah' in Hebrew means dove. The dove, to Christians of course, became the symbol of God the Holy Spirit. As Christ's vicar on earth and a baptized believer Peter was indeed a "Son of the Spirit."

Did you notice that the last three items of the seven seals passage match the first four figures?
Question: Can you find the pattern?

First Seal:

White horse

Fifth Seal:

White robes

Second Seal:

Red horse

Sixth Seal:

Moon like blood (red), Sun black (see 7th seal & 3rd horse)

Third Seal:

Black horse

Seventh Seal:

Green grass burned (black)

Fourth Seal:

Green horse