Friday, May 18, 2012

Revelation Bible Study Lesson 21 - Revelation 6:9-17

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?" Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale; the sky vanished like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the generals and the rich and the strong, and every one, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand before it?" (RSV)

Fifth Seal

What does opening the fifth seal reveal about the past and the future of believers?
   

Persecution

The fifth seal is a reminder that many people throughout the ages have suffered because of their stand for God. It isn’t just Christians who have been martyred, but it is also the Old Testament saints who died rather than compromise the Word of God. It is also a warning to all who seek to follow Jesus that many more Christians will be added to this select group of faithful saints during the last days before Jesus comes to rule in person.

Since persecution will increase, how should we go about spreading the Gospel?
  

Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. When you are arrested, don't worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel. (Matt 10:16-23 NLT)

These passages suggest something that some modern day American Christians seem to forget in our luxury. We need to be shrewd when we bring the Word to others. Some feel that we should simply stand up in the market place, start proclaiming the Gospel, and let the chips fall where they may. I doubt that anyone who believes this has actually tried to proclaim the Word in a Muslim country. Because we can do this in the U. S., some have the attitude that our brothers and sisters in other places should be bolder. Since we haven’t faced real persecution, we can philosophize easily. The truth is that we shouldn’t bring upon ourselves unnecessary trouble by flaunting what we know whether here or overseas.

I was once in a Bible study at work. People knew about it, but we couldn’t advertise it without losing the privilege of using a meeting room at lunch. We were “innocent” by finding out what company policy was, but we were “shrewd” by not demanding what some may have considered our “rights” to equal access to meeting rooms for non-business use.

There may also be times when we make mistakes and have to answer for our actions. I think there is a big difference between persecution and getting into trouble because we’ve done something stupid or even illegal. We can’t call it persecution unless we have had to make a choice between obedience to God and obedience to the establishment. There are too many Christians claiming persecution in the workplace when the truth is that they are not doing their job but using work time to “witness.” God doesn’t get glory when we patiently suffer for doing something wrong, only when we are doing something correctly (1 Peter 2:20).

When true persecution occurs, we don’t have to worry because the Holy Spirit will provide our defense. We must realize, however, that the defense will probably provoke people to anger rather than let us escape unharmed (Acts 7:54-60). We will not always be able to avoid persecution because we are commanded to carry the Gospel to all people.

Note also, that it isn’t just the establishment, but our families who are closest to us who are also likely to cause trouble. These are the people that we want to see come to the Lord most of all and at the same time pose the greatest risk to us because we trust them.

Instead of saying that we should not speak to persecutors, Jesus tells us that we should avoid becoming martyrs and flee the persecution. This accomplishes two things. It keeps us available to speak the message, and it spreads the message over greater areas than we would have normally gone. Martyrdom is something to expect, not to seek.

Vengeance

What is the proper attitude we should have when persecuted?
  

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. "But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:17-21NASB)

These verses outline the proper attitude to have as a Christian. We are to rest on the promise that the Lord knows what He is doing and that all we are to do is to leave the destruction of the unjust up to Him. In the meantime, we are to feed and give drink to our enemies. If we do not share the Gospel with them and they reject it, they will not be able to escape the destruction that will come upon them.

Why should we be careful when we cry out to God for vengeance?
   

In Ps 94, David calls out to the Lord to judge the earth. In verse three, he asks how long God will allow the wicked to enjoy their seeming dominance. Many claim that God doesn’t exist based on the evidence of the wicked and the appearance that they are getting away with it. But David has a different attitude, the same as those who have been martyred. He is asking the question “how long,” not requesting it to occur in our way or timing.

He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge— the Lord—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath. (Ps 94:10-11 ESV)

We need to remember who God is, the One who made us, who knows our very thoughts, and also controls nations. We need to be very careful what we are asking and what our motives are. When we cry out for vengeance, He knows exactly why – whether it because we are feeling hurt or because we see the true injustice in the world. We know that He never forsakes us and there will be a time when He will exercise His judgment (Ps 94:14-15). Until that time comes we need to be careful about our attitude and action.

When should we get involved with making sure justice happens?
  

Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers? Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. (Ps 94:16-17 NIV).

If we cry for justice, there may be times the Lord uses us to help in His judgment such as becoming involved in wars. There is the very real possibility that we will die just as the wicked. However if we survive, it is only because of the Lord’s help. This verse doesn’t guarantee an escape from harm but the acknowledgement that survival is the Lord’s will and decision. In such a time, we can slip and anxiety can easily overcome us if we don’t lean upon the Lord (Ps 94:18-19). When we are the subjects of injustice, we need to learn that the Lord will repay; we must always wait upon Him and His direction. It is seldom, if ever that the Lord uses the same person as the victim, judge, jury, and executioner.

Read Deut 32:1-43. Pay careful attention to verses 21, and 36-37. What are some of the things you learned about God’s vengeance from this passage?
   

In Deut 32:34-43 it is very clear that the Lord will avenge. He has set a time; He has sealed it up, and He will release His anger and wrath upon the earth. The Lord allows injustice to occur and uses it to bring His people back to Himself. When we put our trust in things other than God, He will methodically remove each of those things from our lives until we have nothing left except Him.
In verse 36 He is speaking of a future when they don’t turn back and are all gone. He will then turn to those who have come against His servants and lift His hand against them. Does this mean that only when all the believers have been either martyred or raptured that the Lord will take His vengeance? That is an interesting thought. I’ll leave it to you to ponder that possibility.
In verse 37, God ask them where their god is, the rock in which they take refuge. In Rev 6:15 the people hide themselves in caves and ask the rocks to hide them. Don’t miss the irony in this.

They have made Me jealous with what is not God; They have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. (Deut 32:21 NASU)

This is God’s promise to the Gentiles. Way back there He provided for us and will use us to make Israel jealous with the hope of bringing them back to Himself. Maybe Israel will realize this after the rapture occurs and there are no believers left.

Summarize what you have learned about vengeance.
   

The principal is this. It is all right to call out to the Lord when we have been wronged and to ask for His vengeance. However, it can’t be for personal gain, but because the actions are unjust not only to ourselves but to others also. This is not speaking of asking for personal vengeance.
Also, things can happen to us that we deserve and there isn’t any room for us to ask for vengeance because of these things (1 Peter 4:15-16). We are also to praise God for any time we suffer because we are Christians. In the Revelation passage, it is clear that these people were killed simply because they held on to their faith in Christ. In heaven, their personal motives are removed and they can clearly call on the Lord for vengeance. We can’t call out for vengeance as long as we have anything other than the glory of God in mind. If self is in it, then we need to examine and wait. We need to remember that any persecutor who dies because of God’s wrath or vengeance without coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus will be eternally lost. That is why we should follow the Scripture in Rom 12:17-21 and wait.

However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. (1 Tim 1:16 NKJV)

We need to wait until the number has been completed. Who knows, maybe some of those who are the vilest persecutors will become Christians. If we ever doubt that someone could come to Christ, we only need to look at Paul and his testimony about himself. He was a murder and persecutor of the Church, but Jesus took him and turned him into one of the greatest evangelist of all time. Perhaps this ties back to Deut 32:36. When the Lord sees that there are none of His chosen left (either current believers or those He knows will come to Him), then He will feel free to take vengeance upon the world.

For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. (1 Thess 5:9 NLT)

He will not allow His people to face the wrath that He is about to place upon the earth. To get a better understanding of His wrath, consider that He will allow His people to be martyred, but He will not let them face His wrath. Since Christians suffer much throughout the world today, this can only mean that we really don’t have a good concept about how horrible His wrath is. Whether the passage in Revelation describes the past, present or future, it doesn’t matter. As long as there are Christians on the earth, there will be martyrs.

Sixth Seal

What do you think is the cause of these end-times disasters that are described in the sixth seal?
   

This description of what will occur is a point of conjecture among all of the end-times experts. Many of the people who have recently written on the end-times look at the terrible capability for destruction of our nuclear age and believe that this describes exactly what will happen as a result of global nuclear war. The earth will shake, the fallout will obscure the sun, and the moon and the stars will not be seen. The picture of a mushroom cloud rapidly expanding could be the description of the sky receding like a scroll. The stars falling could be the many warheads of missiles re-entering the atmosphere. One thing that this cause doesn’t account for is that the mountains and islands will be removed. Another thing that this doesn’t account for is the fact that people will recognize that this is the wrath of the Lamp being poured out and that they will want to hide from Him. The Lord may well use our own devices to bring about His will. Certainly that is His pattern in the past.

This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him …  I will go before you and will level the mountains … so that you may know that I am the Lord … who summons you by name. For the sake of Jacob my servant … though you do not acknowledge me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God … so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me … I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things. (Isa 45:1-7 NIV)

This is a fascinating passage that reveals much insight into our Lord and also the symbolism that may be in Revelation. God says that He will level the mountains before Cyrus. To my knowledge, there wasn’t any mountain-leveling going on when Cyrus conquered Israel. I don’t think the mountains and islands being moved in Revelation are only symbolic as used in Isaiah. In Revelation, they are accompanied by many other physical disasters, which leads me to believe that there is a catastrophic change occurring.

What did you learn from Isaiah 45:1-7 about God that sheds light on the sixth seal in Revelation?
  

 It is clear that God used Cyrus to punish Israel; God summoned Cyrus, even though he didn’t acknowledge God. As the Antichrist works his evil in the world, as these wars depicted by the black horse become a reality, they are all summoned by God. It isn’t because God has lost control or is unable to stop the disasters. On the contrary, our Lord owns up to the fact that the disasters are from Him. In the case of Cyrus, He used the prophet Isaiah to make it clear to Israel and to Cyrus that this was what was happening. It is likely that in the end-times, whether it is by nuclear war or by natural disasters, the knowledge of the end will be so well known that when it comes, even the rebellious will recognize it for what it is.
After Mt. Saint Helens blew up, I think many people may have revised their idea of what the end-times scenario may be. Never in modern time has the eruption of a mountain been so well reported. The affect of that eruption could just as easily explain what John saw. Perhaps several dormant volcanoes around the world will erupt as a result of the great earthquake. The fact that the Bible says a great earthquake occurred leads credibility to the idea that this is entirely the Lord’s work and He doesn’t need to use our destructive forces. The sovereignty of God is forgotten when people think that all of the destruction must be accounted for in mankind’s destructive abilities.

Read Isaiah 13:1-13. What is another possible cause for the destruction on the earth?
  

In this passage, the holy ones, the saints, and angels gather together to carry out the war of the Lord (Isa 13:3). He gathers them from all countries and from the ends of heaven. He calls them the weapons of His wrath (Isa 13:5). The reaction of the unsaved is terror; they simply do not know what to do (Isa 13:7-8). In many passages like this one, shaking of the earth and heavens is mentioned. The book of Revelation is not the origin of this idea, it is simply agreeing with the rest of the Bible when it reports how the end will occur.

For the Lord's indignation is against all the nations, And His wrath against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to slaughter. So their slain will be thrown out, And their corpses will give off their stench, And the mountains will be drenched with their blood. And all the host of heaven will wear away, And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll; All their hosts will also wither away As a leaf withers from the vine, Or as one withers from the fig tree. (Isa 34:2-4 NASB)

What are three things found in these verses that parallel Revelation?
  

Again this shows that the descriptions of what will occur have been given to us long before John saw it. In Revelation we will see the armies of the nations gather together to do battle against God but He will triumph. The phenomena in the skies is very similar to the descriptions in Revelation. The reference to the figs is in both.

How might the reference to shriveled figs or falling figs be symbolic?
  

The fig tree has sometimes been used to symbolize Israel. In Mark 11:12-14, Jesus approached a fig tree without any fruit on it and cursed it. When He returned it had dried up from its roots (Mark 11:20). Many explain the cursing and withering of the fig tree as a sign from Jesus because He came to the nation of Israel and found no fruit. The curse is that there will not be a harvest of souls that He desired from the nation. It is possible that the falling shriveled figs in Isaiah and in Revelation refer to those who in the end do not accept the Lord. If so, then they will be as numerous as the stars.

What choices will unbelievers make in the end-times regarding salvation?
  

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. (Isa 51:6 KJV)

Think about material things that we count on being in place day after day vanishing. I could look out my window at work and see the Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier. On the way home I could see the Cascade Mountains and Mount Baker. Yet these mountains that seem so stable are going to wear out. Why do we put such importance on our material things that wear out even before our life does? This verse ends on the truly enduring things, God and His salvation and righteousness. The longer we wait for these things to come, the more people are tested until only unbelievers will be left, those who have placed all their trust in temporal things. They will then try to find permanence in the rocks as they are falling. They will have made their decision. It is the wrong decision but it is the one they have made and it will be eternal.

Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust from before the terror of the Lord, and from the glory of his majesty. The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the pride of men shall be humbled; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. (Isa 2:10-11 RSV)
And men shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the glory of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth. (Isa 2:19 RSV)

What we see in the book of Revelation is what the Lord promised to do exactly as described long ago. Unbelievers will be brought to the place where they will have to hide to escape the splendor of the Lord. Hiding from God is nothing new. Adam and Eve started it all trying to hide from God as soon as there was sin in the world (Gen 3:8). They wanted to escape from the Lord because their sin was exposed by His presence. It is the desire of the natural man, the sinful part of us, to flee from Him who exposes our true nature.

Is it possible without going further in the book of Revelation to determine if the rapture has take place after the sixth seal is opened? Explain why or why not.
  

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt 24:29-31 KJV)

Jesus described the same events for the end as we find in Rev 6:12-13. He also gives us some more clues as to the timing of these events. He says that this occurs immediately after the tribulation in those days. He says that all the nations and people will see Him coming and will mourn. Since believers will rejoice, it is the unsaved who will mourn. He will gather His elect (believers) from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. This is a subtle clue; He isn’t saying that He will take them from the earth. It is very possible that they have already died or been raptured. If my theory is correct, His wrath won’t be revealed while there are any believers on the earth.

My theory may not be correct because other Scripture indicates that all unbelievers will be killed in God’s wrath leaving living believers to repopulate the earth in the Millennium. However there is also the possibility that He doesn’t kill all unbelievers and leaves some to enter the Millennium. I’ll probably revise this theory two or three times before the end of the Book of Revelation as we study the last seal.

Summary

Summarize what you have learned from Revelation 6.
  

This chapter looks more and more like a preview of coming attractions. At this point it appears that the overall view is a time of peace, but under a dictator. Following the peace will be a time of war, followed by economic disaster and then famine and disease. At this time, Christians will be persecuted more than any other time in history. The last scene is when the Lord brings His wrath upon the world and unbelievers. From here on out we will be getting more details of the events but may have to come back and revise this summary.

The one overwhelming fact of this chapter remains God’s sovereignty and control of all events. It doesn’t matter what kind of trials or troubles we are facing, we have to acknowledge that our Lord is in control. Are you facing illness, economic or natural disaster, enemies, war, demons or anything else in creation? Does it seem like there is no way out? Remember that Jesus is our God and He is in control. We may join the martyrs in heaven sooner than we thought or even want to, but His timing is perfect. This is to bring us peace regardless of our situation!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 20 - Revelation 6:1-8

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, "Come!" Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.

 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, "A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!"

When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. (NIV) 

The First Six Seals


What does that fact that Jesus opens the seals reveal to us?

Each of the first four seals explicitly states that the Lamb opens the seals. For the last three seals it only says He. By that time we know it is the Lamb that opens the seals. The importance of repeating who opens the seals is that we must recognize that God is in control. These things are not happening because of Satan’s power. They are not happening from man’s will. They occur because Jesus wills it.

We are again faced with a question of timing. When do you think these first six seals are being opened in chapter six?

Some people don’t like to consider the book of Revelation in a sequential manner and with good reason. There are some parts that flash back in time to give a perspective of the past. There are others that race ahead to give an overview of the future. Therefore, some see the first six seals representing the course of history of the world while others see them representing the future. At first glance, we really don’t know if we should be looking back in time to see if this started after John wrote it down or if it is referring to events that are in our future. On the other hand, it could represent both the past and the future in the same way we saw churches of today, church history in general, and churches of John’s time in the first three chapters.

What might lead you to believe that these seals represent history since John wrote this?
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. (Mark 13:7-8 NASU)

To some degree, the first six seals represent the continuing cycles of life that Jesus referred to and can be seen repeated throughout history. We can see cycles of peace, war, famine, and reoccurring earthquakes. We need to remember that the end is still to come. In the fourth seal, we will see that a fourth of the mankind will be killed. This has come close to happening only once in history since the flood. But the end didn’t come at that time. Jesus didn’t tell us when the end would come but went on to tell of the persecutions that would occur before the end.

And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. (Mark 13:10 NKJV)

One thing that must occur before the end is that the Gospel must be preached to all nations. This is one reason I expect that the end could come very soon. There has been no other generation in which this has come closer than it has today. If the passages we have studied in Revelation had said that the Gospel had already been preached to all nations before the seals were opened, then we wouldn’t have any doubt that the seals are opened at the very end of the age.

How do these first six seals show a preview of future events?

The first six seals may also represent a preview of the tribulation. As we read casually through them, we see a time of peace under a strong ruler. This time of peace is ended with one who makes war, followed by great economic trouble. As can be expected, famine and disease follow the war and economic trouble. Persecution of the saints is also promised. Lastly we see the culmination of the ages as the Lord brings destruction on the earth, part of which includes a huge earthquake. Rev 16:18 also mentions an earthquake that is worse than any other in history. This makes the preview theory more plausible and if it is true, then we can look upon the events of the seventh seal to expand upon this outline. If not, then we must look at the remaining seal as a continuation of what has already happened.
One way or another, the first six seals represent a time on earth of immense problems. It is possible that these events occur so that the stage will be set for people to accept the leadership of the Antichrist or occur because he takes control.

Four Seals - Four Horses


What is the significance of four horses of different colors? Where else in Scripture do we find this?

In a vision during the night, I saw a man sitting on a red horse that was standing among some myrtle trees in a small valley. Behind him were riders on red, brown, and white horses. I asked the angel who was talking with me, "My lord, what do these horses mean?" "I will show you," the angel replied. The rider standing among the myrtle trees then explained, "They are the ones the Lord has sent out to patrol the earth." (Zech 1:8-10 NLT)
The first chariot was pulled by red horses, the second by black horses, the third by white horses, and the fourth by powerful dappled-gray horses. "And what are these, my lord?" I asked the angel who was talking with me. The angel replied, "These are the four spirits of heaven who stand before the Lord of all the earth. They are going out to do his work." (Zech 6:2-5 NLT)
These are each references to four horses or teams of various colors. The connection is not that the colors mean anything special, but that the groupings of four are used to represent an action initiated by the Lord to go out into the entire world. In the first case, the action is a survey to determine the condition of the world. The second is sending God’s Spirit. Drawing from these two examples, the use of four horses of different colors in Revelation 6 is a confirmation that the events depicted will befall mankind including all the world and not isolated parts. They are going at God’s command to do His will. If there is any significance to the colors, we will have to draw that from the passage as we study it.

First Seal - White Horse


What do you believe the white horse symbolizes?

There are very few references to a white horse in Scripture. One is Rev 19:11, 14. The rider in this case is clearly described as Jesus and He is coming as a conquering King. His conquest will be quick and final. The others are in Zechariah above, none of which represent a conquering king. However, in extra-biblical symbolism, a white horse has been the symbol of a conqueror. This would be the most likely symbol.
What do you believe the bow which the rider has symbolizes?

They lay hold on bow and spear, they are cruel and have no mercy, the sound of them is like the roaring sea; they ride upon horses, set in array as a man for battle, against you, O daughter of Zion!" We have heard the report of it, our hands fall helpless; anguish has taken hold of us, pain as of a woman in travail. Go not forth into the field, nor walk on the road; for the enemy has a sword, terror is on every side. (Jer 6:23-25 RSV)

The bow has also been a symbol of warfare as in this case where the enemy is coming armed to attack Zion. I think the description of fear in this passage is appropriate to describe what will occur when the first horse and his rider is sent to the earth. As in Jeremiah, there isn’t any attempt to fight back. This is the image that I see in Rev 6:1-2. There is no mention made of fighting, but the rider is equipped so that others do nothing other than cave in to his control.
The rider is given a crown rather than winning it. What does this mean?
What is revealed by the phrase, “bent on conquest” used in the NIV translation?

This indicates that he receives the leadership without a fight. The phrase bent on conquest indicates that this person is not a beneficial leader. His motive is conquest itself, not establishing peace.

  You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob! Through you we push down our foes; through your name we  tread down those who rise up against us. For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever. (Ps 44:4-8 ESV)
The Psalmist expressed the thoughts of a conqueror who did so at the bidding and guidance of the Lord. Rather than being bent on conquest, he recognized that the Sovereign Lord decrees any victory and he gives God the glory. Even though the white horse is sent from the Lord – signifying that it is His will that the rider is victorious, his attitude doesn’t honor the Lord.

Even though He is bent on conquest, this rider appears to usher in a time of peace because the next rider is given the power to take peace away from the earth.

Why or why not do you think that this rider is Jesus and His conquest over sin?

Some suggest that the rider of this horse represents Jesus in His victorious conquest over sin or His enemies. They base this entirely on the fact that he is riding a white horse as in Rev 19:11. He is given a crown, but it simply doesn’t fit Jesus because he has an attitude that is bent on conquest. Another problem with this view is that it doesn’t fit the context. All the other seals are times of problems, a period when difficulties are set up and people are judged and even killed. We also know that when Jesus came the first time to conquer sin, it was humbly, on a donkey. We know that He will come in the air to take the church. We haven’t established when this will occur. He will come to restore His kingdom but not before the wars and famine.
Everyone who comes in the name of peace or justice is not peaceful or just. It is easy to be deceived by outward appearances of lofty language and demonstrations of power.
And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many.” (Matt 24:4-5 NASB)
These are the words Jesus spoke in answer to the disciple who asked Him when the end of the age would come. It is possible that the first rider represents all the false christs, the ones whose motives are personal power and who use religion as a basis for power.
Why or why not do you think that this rider is the Antichrist?

And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: (Dan 9:27a KJV)
The week is commonly recognized as a period of seven years. This first rider appears to bring peace even if it is out of fear. This rider has the qualities of the Antichrist. He is bent on conquest.
This probably represents the beginning of the tribulation when the Antichrist takes control in a peaceful manner but with evidence of great power. If so, then chapter six is a quick overview of the rest of the book. There are many places in the book of Revelation that flash back in time, giving us a different perspective of the events of the end times as well as things that have happened even in our own past.

Second Seal - Fiery Red Horse


From the context of this passage, it is apparent that the red horse and rider symbolize war. I read one book that said a red horse represents war and quoted Zech 6:1-8 to back it up. Apparently the author was familiar with Rev 6 but not Zech 6. In the Zechariah passage, the red horses represents the Holy Spirit sent into the world but not in a specific direction, as were the other horses. This points out the need to be careful about applying symbols inappropriately once they have been found and identified. As discussed before, there are very few references to red horses.
What does the color red represent in the Bible?

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isa 1:18 NIV)

Red by itself symbolizes many things including sin. There are also times when it is associated with God’s vengeance.
Who is this who comes from Edom, With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, This One who is majestic in His apparel, Marching in the greatness of His strength? "It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save." Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press? "I have trodden the wine trough alone, And from the peoples there was no man with Me. I also trod them in My anger And trampled them in My wrath; And their lifeblood is sprinkled on My garments, And I stained all My raiment. "For the day of vengeance was in My heart, And My year of redemption has come. "I looked, and there was no one to help, And I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; So My own arm brought salvation to Me, And My wrath upheld Me. "I trod down the peoples in My anger And made them drunk in My wrath, And I poured out their lifeblood on the earth." (Isa 63:1-6 NASU)
This is an interesting picture of God. Even when the Lord is bringing about His vengeance, He is robed in splendor. Many have criticized our God because of the way He has eliminated sinful nations in the Old Testament, yet He is able to do this and retain His splendor. It is because of His great righteousness and His motivation is to save, not destroy. We can also see that when this vengeance takes place, God is alone. At the end of time, there will not be any nation standing for what is right. In the past, God has used other nations to discipline those that needed it, but not now. Finally, there is this curious mixture of both vengeance and redemption. Clearly, our final redemption can’t be completed until God’s vengeance has been completed in order to remove sin.
How do we see the affects of this rider’s ability to make men kill each other – not including the obvious wars? What are some causes of this?

This last rider has power over peace and to make people slay each other. As we look at the way the U.S. is going, this phrase about making men slay each other makes more sense than ever before. Think about the number of times we hear in news that someone has walked into an office, school, restaurant, or other public place and has opened fire, killing many. It is increasing in our country despite the campaigns to stop bullying.

What makes people slay each other with such little regard for another’s life? Sin, of course is the ultimate reason. However, the ever-increasing glorification of solving problems with violence in movies and video games contribute to this. Abortion even contributes because at the heart of it is the degradation of human life. The media and proponents of “women’s rights” promote this concept over and over. Any person who believes it is OK to have an abortion for any reason has degraded human life in his own eyes. Deep down, people do know that an unborn baby is a person. If it’s OK to kill them, the only difference between killing the baby and any other person who inconveniences your life is a matter of what is “socially acceptable.” Perhaps in the future, the Supreme Court will change the laws against murder so that it will be legal to kill others if you can prove that they potentially have an adverse affect on your life style. It will become justified homicide, just like self-defense. Hitler managed to do this.
What does the sword usually symbolize in the Bible?

Whoever this person is or whatever his methods, he has the ability to cause people to kill each other. This is the reason it is primarily thought that this horse and rider represent war. The large sword indicates the ease with which he slays people. The sword is also metaphor of constant strife and suffering through violence and war (2 Sam 12:10).
Then Abner called to Joab and said, "Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that it will be bitter in the latter end? How long will it be then until you tell the people to return from pursuing their brethren?" (2 Sam 2:26 NKJV) 
Is this rider the Antichrist? Compare him to the king in Dan 8:23-25 and Dan 9:27.

"At the end of their rule, when their sin is at its height, a fierce king, a master of intrigue, will rise to power. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause a shocking amount of destruction and succeed in everything he does. He will destroy powerful leaders and devastate the holy people. He will be a master of deception and will become arrogant; he will destroy many without warning. He will even take on the Prince of princes in battle, but he will be broken, though not by human power. (Dan 8:23-25 NLT)

The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him. (Dan 9:27 NLT)
In this description of the Antichrist from Daniel, it is evident that his power will be supernatural. This seems to fit the brief description of the second rider and his ability to get people to kill each other and the devastation that will come upon the world. The most striking comparison to the Antichrist is that after the time of peace that the first rider established, peace will be taken away. It then appears that the rider of the first and second horses could be the same person – the Antichrist.

Third Seal - Black Horse


With the last two horses, we have gained the most insight for what the horse, rider, and other objects in the scene represented directly from the verses in which they appeared. Again, this will be the case with the black horse. Looking at how scales are used in the Bible only reveals that they are used as tools to measure things.
What is the meaning of symbols revealed when the third seal is opened?

So again, by simply reading the passage we see can discern that the balances are being used to weigh out basic food stuff. The price is exorbitant. Yet the implication is that the price of wine and oil is left alone. These are the areas where people who have written end-times books have a hay day. They can extrapolate for hours on the economy and trends and all sorts of things. These are fine, but the irony of this situation shouldn’t be missed. Food will be scarce, but it will be easy to get drunk and try to escape reality with alcohol. It reminds me of Prov 31:6-7:
Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more. (RSV)
Oil will be plentiful and is needed to keep our modern war machines operating and running. It will be a strange time of terrible injustice as the rich have what they want and the poor will only be able to get drunk. Perhaps it isn’t all that strange since this is the situation in Russia for the last eighty years if not even longer. The common people have always had a plentiful supply of vodka while the elite (even under communism) have no problems. In the mean time, they manage to maintain an armed force with awesome destructive powers. However, if the scope of the first two seals is maintained, this condition will engulf the whole earth.
Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:34-36 NASB)
When we are stressed by the cares of making a living in times of great inflation, or when many are out of work, the temptation is to escape. It is as if Jesus is saying that a sign of the times will be great numbers of people turning to alcohol and other drugs as never before. Many studies have shown that kids are turning to alcohol and drugs at an earlier age every year. These kids may not get any more money than to buy their lunch, but they have an almost unlimited access to booze and drugs.

Fourth Seal - Pale Horse


What are the ways in which the earth will be afflicted as the fourth rider is released? How do these already show up today reflecting what may happen in the end-times?

In the fourth seal we see the affects of the first three seals multiplied. The wars cause economic problems and famine. In turn these problems cause plagues. If you study the famines and disease in the Sudan, you will find that they are not caused by natural disasters. They are caused by the war that went on for years. The war has been very one sided and an attempt by the government to eradicate Christianity. They purposefully restricted aid in order to kill as many as possible. The only way to get aid is to reject Christ and accept the Muslim faith. If this is how governments behave now, how much more will these tactics be used when these seals are opened?
To add to this, the Lord increases the problem by allowing wild animals to kill more than they do now. Most animals naturally do not attack people. They usually have to be provoked. Perhaps this will result because of an increase of diseases like rabies or maybe the Lord will remove that natural restriction that now inhibits them. Another possibility is that the Lord will produce more animals like the killer bees, which have steadily increased and moved across many parts of the world. In the last few years, we’ve seen bands of monkeys attacking people when they run out of forest areas. The same thing has been happening with herds of elephants.
Another possibility has reared its ugly head in the last few years. Perhaps some genetically engineered animals have gotten out of control or had some unexpected side effects. We could also see plagues started from genetically altered viruses and bacteria.
How many people will die as a result and how does this compare with past plagues and wars?

With the different methods of death, the problem on the earth will have increased to the point where a fourth of the population will die. Not even in WW1 or WW2 did this many people die. When the black plague swept through Europe in the 14th century, the population was reduced dramatically. It is estimated that 30 to 60% of the population died. But that only affected a small portion of the world. The total world population was reduced from 450 to a possible low of 350 million people, about 22%.

As of March 12, 2012, the world population exceeded seven billion people. If a quarter of the people of the world were to die today, that would be over 1.75 billion people. Most of them would face an eternity without Christ.

While the plague may have killed nearly a quarter of earth’s population, this rider can’t be associated with that event because the events of the previous two seals didn’t occur and the following ones did not come afterward. It is evident by now that this death being released on the earth isn’t just history repeating itself or a recap of our past, but part of the end times.

What does the personification of Death and Hades reveal?

The use of the terms Death and Hades lets us know that the power given to them is more than the removal of life. Since Hades is following death, my conclusion is that this is a description of the death of unbelievers and their ultimate destruction in hell.
The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. (Rev 20:5 ESV)
And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. (Rev 20:13 ESV)
These verses link the death of unbelievers to Hades. The first resurrection is for believers. Hades does not hold them captive for a thousand years. Paul makes it clear that when a believer dies, he does not go to a place of unconsciousness, but to be with Jesus (Phil 1:21-25).
In contrast, Job 18:5-21, describes the death of the wicked, the person that does not know God. Look at just a few of these verses to get flavor for the whole text.
The lamp of the wicked is snuffed out; the flame of his fire stops burning. (Job 18:5 NIV)
He is torn from the security of his tent and marched off to the king of terrors. Fire resides in his tent; burning sulfur is scattered over his dwelling. (Job 18:14-15NIV)
Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man; such is the place of one who knows not God. (Job 18:21NIV)

The last verse is a good definition of those who are evil. It isn’t just the fact that they have done something deserving of punishment (we are all in this category), but they don’t know God.

Later the other virgins also came, saying, “Lord, lord, open up for us.” But he answered, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.” Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. (Matt 25:11-13 NASU)
How true are the words of Jesus. The door will be closed for those who don’t know God. Their dwelling will not be with God, but eternal torment.

What is the only way to know God?

All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. (Matt 11:27 NKJV)
There is only one way to know God. You have to know Jesus. Jesus isn’t going to reveal the Father to anyone who denies that Jesus is who He said He is (God) and who rejects His sacrificial death on the cross for his sins. It’s just as the bumper sticker says, “No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know peace.”
If you can’t say, “I know Jesus and He knows me,” then by all means, make the effort to get to know Him now. Once the lamp is snuffed out, it will be too late.
Will Christian be raptured and escape these events of the end-times?

Whether Christians will be caught up to heaven before or after these events start, still hasn’t been made clear. One thing is clear and that is people will still be coming to Christ after these events. This will be made evident later in the book. What is abundantly clear is that God is in control and permits these things to happen. Whether we are facing global cataclysmic events as depicted here, national disasters, or personal disasters, we can face them with the confidence that our loving heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus (our Friend) know exactly what is happening to us. We don’t need to fear these things. He will either take us out of the storm or enable us to ride out the storm. Either way He gets the glory.
Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2 Cor 1:2-4 KJV)