“And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” (Revelation 6:7-8).
Verse 8 makes it clear that these riders and horses are personifications. Each personifies events and conditions that will take place in the seven year period of the Tribulation. The white horse representation will take place during the first three and one-half years. The other three personifications transpire during the last three and one-half years of the Tribulation.
In Matthew 24:7, Jesus says pestilences will be associated with the last three riders. Pestilences are described as a usually fatal, epidemic disease, especially bubonic plague.
As people are airlifted from one ravaged region of the earth to another, these plagues are only hours away from any nation. Disease and plagues have never been destroyed. AIDS is worldwide. Mad cow disease is taking its toll on the North American economy. The beasts of the earth are major carriers of plagues and disease. Fleas and mosquitoes are known carriers of many plagues. Rats are notorious for the diseases and the filth they carry. This may explain why the Philistines made images of mice as an offering for their trespass, which led to their plague. We are now hearing of the deadly Bird Flu epidemic, which may threaten the world. Each day’s news report informs us of a new and horrific disease.
The fourth part of the earth is destroyed as this final rider comes through. If these plagues are worldwide, millions will die in every nation.
“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” (Revelation 6:9-11).
The fifth seal is set apart from the others. In it, John is shown those who were martyred for their testimony and witness. This is in keeping with the order given by the Lord in Matthew 24:9, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.”
This prophecy has nothing to do with the church of this dispensation. These that are martyred are Jews who will be killed because of their faith and hope. They will be martyred in that period which takes place under the seals.
The prayer for judgment on one’s enemies is not appropriate in this dispensation. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19).
However, under the Law and in that which is to follow, calls for judgment on Israel’s enemies are right and acceptable. (See Psalms 74:9-10; 79:5-6; 89:46; 94:3-4.) “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention” (Habakkuk 1:2-3).
These events will transpire following the Rapture of the church. Many Jews will repent and accept Jesus as their resurrected Messiah. There will be a reorientation to the truth and they will realize that Jesus was their Messiah. Isaiah 53 will become a reality to the remnant.
They will realize their own blindness and rejection of Christ at His first advent. “…we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised… we esteemed him not…he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows… he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him… the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. …for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (Isaiah 53:3-8).
Isaiah wrote this prophecy some seven hundred years before Christ was ever born. It speaks of Israel’s rejection of their Messiah at His first coming and their realization and repentance. “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10). It is not speaking of individual Jews who are saved during this church dispensation.
The martyred are seen in the imagery of being under the altar. They have given themselves a living sacrifice for the Lord Jesus Christ. These are given white robes and told to wait a while longer until others give their lives as they have. The purpose of this vision was not for the dead, but for the living. This is a promise of their resurrection.
This view of the altar, with souls under it, should not be taken literally. We need not think of beheaded souls piling up under an altar in heaven or on earth. Souls are not beheaded. “Souls” are used for “bodies” here. It is bodies that will be martyred for Christ. Thus “bodies” are used for “souls.” The altar typifies the sacrifice which these made.
This imagery is called a metonymy and is a figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another, of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated. Hebrews 13:10 is one example of this, “We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.”
The altar of which these believers were privileged to eat was not the literal altar, but was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The altar is used for the sacrifice. Likewise, in Revelation 6:9, the sacrifice of the martyrs is used for the altar. The vision was not for the sake of the dead, but to comfort the living. The imagery is clear. The resurrection of all the Tribulation martyrs will transpire at the same time.
The parable in Luke 18:1-8 should be read in connection with this seal. “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8). Israel is the widow, and the adversary is the Antichrist who persecutes the (woman) remnant. God is about to avenge her of her adversary.
Psalms 79:1-5 fits the scene on earth during the days of these martyrs, “O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled; they have laid Jerusalem on heaps. The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth. Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them. We are become a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us. How long, Lord? wilt thou be angry for ever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire?”
“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 unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth 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. 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 sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:12-17).
This sixth seal takes us to the end of the Tribulation and the events which accompany the Second Advent of Christ. Therefore, in these six seals you have been given a general overview of the entire seven years. The description of the actual details of the return of Christ is reserved until chapter 19.
Pastor Ken Blue was born in Boswell, Ark. In 1955 he accepted Christ as his Savior. He and his wife Joyce were married in 1955. They have 5 children. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Bible College in 1969 and started the Open Door Baptist Church in Lynnwood, Wa. where he pastored for 39 years. Because of health issues (ALS) he was forced to resign as pastor. It is his desire to continue to be used of God to help pastors and believers through this ministry.