The Lord will fulfill His Word. Whether of judgment or salvation, every promise will come to pass. Chapter 6 of Revelation is a continuation of the vision started in chapter 4. It is Christ breaking the seals of the scroll and bringing about the Lord’s divine will. Although there is difficulty in understanding apocalyptic vision, we are not left without a guide. All the pictures seen in the book are found in Scripture. The beginning of this particular chapter is tightly paralleled with Christ’s teaching to his disciples in the Olivet discourse in Matthew 24, in combination with the vision found in Zechariah 6.
The Four Horsemen
When Christ breaks the first seal a white horse appears. He is crowned and goes forth to conquer. Of all the horsemen, this is the most debated. Is it Christ, the Antichrist, or something else? Because of the tight parallel to Matthew and Zechariah, it is best to see all of these horsemen as judgments. In other words, these are false “Christs” and false religions going throughout the world. The second seal brings forth a red horse, which brings about war. The third brings famine, and the fourth, death. These judgments are nothing new. These same four judgments can be seen throughout the Scriptures and have been promised to come upon those who turn from the Lord (Ezekiel 14:21-13; Leviticus 26:22-25).
The Believer’s Comfort
While false teachers, war, famine, plague, and death are typically assigned to the work of the enemy, this chapter makes it clear that it is ultimately Christ who is bringing about these things. When the nations are shaken, economies are collapsing, rumors of war are circulating, we too can rest assured that these things that come about are a result of sovereign movements in the heavens. This is a great comfort for the believer. Christ is in control—even of martyrdom. The fifth seal reveals martyrs under the altar. They are at rest, clothed in white, and crying out to the Lord, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” They recognize the character of God and the fact that His justice still tarries.
The Day of the Lord
The cry of His people finally splits open the sky as the Day of the Lord arrives. The earth quakes, the sun darkens, the moon changes, stars fall, and mountains and islands are moved. This entire section is referencing multiple Old Testament passages concerning the Day of the Lord (Joel 2:31; Is. 34:4; Nahum 1:5-6; Hosea 10:8). The overall message is that His Word is fulfilled and there is no escape. All men will be brought into judgment, whether great or small. All will be exposed: “The great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
– Such realities as are expressed in this chapter are difficult to speak about and think about—but this is the reality. Judgment must come and the old must be done away with if the new is to come. His Word must be fulfilled. If such thoughts are fearful, look to the cross, and find your hope and security in Christ. For He did not hide in the rocks but stood in the place of judgment for sinful men. The earth quaked that day, the sun refused to give its light, and the creation shuttered as God’s judgment fell upon Him. Take refuge in Him, for He will cover all who come to Him in repentance and faith.