Chapter 6 of Revelation: Seals, Creatures, and Horses

CloudsAnd when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be
alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation
will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will
be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These
are but the beginning of the birth pains (Mark 13:7-8).

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

What exactly does judgment look like?

The images of the four horsemen of the apocalypses in Revelations 6 are as vivid as any in scripture (and likely taken from Zechariah 1:8). The allusion here is to the Olivet Discourse when Jesus stood on the Mount of Olives before entering Jerusalem for the last time and prophesied the destruction of the city (Mark 13; Matt 24; Luke 21). The prophecy was quickly fulfilled as Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army in AD 70—within that generation (Mark 13:30).

If you think that the four horsemen are a horrible judgment, take a look at the blessing and curses listed in Deuteronomy 28—stipulations for the Mosaic covenant. There we read: And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God (Deut 28:2). The voice of the Lord, in this case, is articulated in the Mosaic covenant. Later we read: But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you (Deut 28:15). And, of course, Deuteronomy 28 lists more curses than blessings.

The blessings and curses are attention grabbers. The expected response is: exactly what commandments, Lord, did you have in mind? (Remember: when scripture talks about the future, the purpose is to inform the present).

The clue to this question in Revelations 6 arises in the opening of the fifth seal. The martyrs of the faith ask: how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? (Rev 6:10) What is the response? The martyrs are told to: rest a little longer (Rev 6:11). In other words—the message to the seven churches is: be patient under persecution and remember who you serve. So the four living creatures may be saying: come, but not yet!

The Olivet Discourse underscores this point in the next verses: But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations (Mark 13:9-10).

While looking out for the fearsome horsemen, we are to be about our father’s business (Luke


1. Do you have questions from last week? Did any important events happen in your life this week? Do you have any thoughts that you would like to share?
2. What is the basic subject of chapter 6? a. What was judgment like under the Mosaic covenant? (Deuteronomy 28)
b. What does judgment look like in the Olivet Discourse? (Mark 13; Matthew 24; Luke 21)
c. What must happen before judgment? How are we to wait? How are we to respond?
3. Who are the four horsemen? What do they represent? (Zechariah 1:8)
4. What is special about the fifth seal?
a. What do the martyrs ask? (v. 10)
b. What is the response? (v. 11)
5. What is the allusion in the opening of the sixth seal? (Hint look at the references to the moon and what comes after in Mark 13; Matthew 24; and Luke 21

Chapter 6 of Revelation: Seals, Creatures, and Horses

Also see:

Chapter 7 of Revelation: Heavenly Worship 

Chapter 5 of Revelation: Harp and Bowl

Chapter 1: Alpha and Omega 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

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