Welcome to A Revelation of Jesus. This is the sixth of the series on the Seven Seals. We have now laid enough groundwork that we can start to look at what the seals really are, starting with the white horse and its rider, the first one of what is known as the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Just a heads up: the concepts in this video are complicated. If you haven’t watched the previous Seven Seals videos I would strongly recommend that you do so as they provide the scriptural foundation and underlying concepts for what we are going to study in this video. But assuming that you have watched them, let me give just a brief review to refresh your memory.
In video 13 we looked at the Revelation timeline and found that there are actually two parallel timelines. The first describes what is happening in heaven. This began with a picture of Jesus walking among the candlesticks, which symbolizes Jesus’ ministry of intercession for His people. The second timeline describes events happening on earth, beginning with John in exile on the island of Patmos and then continuing with the messages to the Seven Churches in chapters 2 and 3, which prophesied the history of God’s followers through the centuries.
In chapter 4, which we looked at in video 14, the scene shifts from these events on earth back to heaven, with John hearing a voice telling him to “come up here” to see the beginning of a new phase of Jesus’ ministry. We looked at the symbols, the scriptural links, and the chiastic structure of Revelation that all pointed to this scene as being the beginning of the final judgment.
In video 15 we saw that the judgment, just like an earthly court, has two phases: the first investigative phase examines the evidence, not because God needs more information, but in order to assure the angels and other heavenly beings that those who Jesus has identified as His followers are safe to be granted eternal life.
In video 16 we saw that the evidence is found in the sealed book of life. As God the Father held out the book to be opened a strong angel objected, questioning who had the right to break the seals and open the Book.
In video 17 we saw that this angel is Satan. He does not want the book of life to be opened, because if it is not opened the judgment cannot proceed, and no one can be found worthy of eternal life.
But in video 18 Jesus met Satan’s challenge as the self-sacrificing Lamb of God. This drama took place when Jesus returned to heaven after his death and resurrection and is described in more detail in chapter 12, where it is called a war in heaven. Satan’s accusations were overthrown and he was permanently banned from the courts of heaven.
This opened the way for seven seals to be opened and the investigative judgment to proceed.
The opening of the seven seals begins in chapter 6 with what is popularly called the four horsemen of the apocalypse. They are followed by the martyrs under the altar, the distress of the rebellious nations, the sealing of the 144,000, the great multitude, and finally silence in heaven.
There are almost as many explanations of what these mean as there are books about Revelation. As we saw in video 2, most interpreters follow the preterist, historicist, or futurist models. Preterists consider these to be events that occurred in the first and second century Roman empire. They assume that Revelation was written as a symbolic commentary on current events, and could not possibly predict the distant future. But this model has difficulty explaining what are obviously end-time events such as the sealing of the 144,000 and the Great Tribulation.
Historicists consider the seals to be events that happened through the long centuries of history. They look to the model found in Daniel where there are a series of visions, each one outlining the experience of God’s people from the time of the prophet to the time of the end. But applying this model to the seven seals presents serious difficulties because the order of the events in the seals does not align well with the record of history.
Futurists consider the Seven Seals to be events that will take place after the rapture of the church. But this interpretation struggles to explain how the signs in the sun, moon, and stars in the sixth seal, which Jesus clearly associated with the second coming, can be followed by years of additional plagues and events.
I would like to propose that these models of interpretation struggle because they attempt to link the seven seals to events happening on earth. But everything that we have studied so far suggests that these are not earthly events, that instead, they are the investigative stage of the final judgment. The highly symbolic images that are presented do not represent wars, famines, plagues, and persecution. They reveal in symbolic terms the judgment of various categories of people.
This may be a totally new concept, but I would encourage you to keep an open mind as you evaluate the evidence that will be presented in the next couple of videos. Let’s start with the opening of the first seal.
“Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, ‘Come and see.’ And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:1,2).
The first thing that we notice is that “the Lamb opened…the seal”. Jesus in His role as the sacrificial Lamb is integrally involved, showing that chapter 6 is a continuation of chapter 5, where all of the heaven acknowledged that Jesus, the Lamb of God, has the right to break the seals and open the Book of Life.
When Jesus opened the first seal, John “heard one of the living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, ‘come and see” (Revelation 6:1). As each of the first four seals is broken by the Lamb, one of the four living creatures gives an invitation to “come and see”. This passage doesn’t tell us who the living creatures are talking to but in chapters 4 and 5 we saw that the four living creatures were “in the midst of the throne” (Revelation 4:6), surrounded by twenty-four elders and “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousand of thousands” of angels (Revelation 5:11). We could consider these to be the jury in the investigative judgment.
What are they invited to “Come and see”?
“Behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2).
In each of the first four seals, there is a horse of a different color: white, red, black, and pale or green. Each horse has a rider, and each rider has something with him: the first, a bow and crown, the second, a great sword, the third, a pair of scales, and the fourth, Hades. Each rider also has an activity: the first, to conquer, the second, to take peace from the earth, the third, to weigh in the balance, and the fourth, to kill.
We will need to analyze each of the elements in order to gain a full understanding of the seven seals. We have already devoted a whole video to the Lamb who breaks the seals. Next, we need to understand the significance of the four living creatures who announce each scene.
The four living creatures were introduced in chapter 4. “In the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind. And the first living creature was like a lion, and the second living creature was like a calf, and the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. And the four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty, Who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:6-8).
We took an initial look at these creatures clear back in the first introductory video. We saw that they are very similar to the living creatures that Ezekiel saw surrounding God’s throne when God took him in vision to Jerusalem to see the idolatry of Israel’s leaders and to witness the sealing of those who were faithful. In other words, the four living creatures were involved in the investigative judgment of ancient Israel. In Revelation, it is emphasized twice that they are full of eyes, which are also a symbol of judgment.
Ezekiel tells us that “They were cherubim” (Ezekiel 10:20), a class of mighty angels that are mentioned several times in the Old Testament. They were the guardians of the tree of life after Adam and Eve sinned. Two cherubim also stood next to the ark of the covenant in the temple, stretching their wings over the throne of God. These roles along with their continual chant of “Holy holy holy” suggests that they have a particular focus on preserving the holiness of God.
According to Jewish tradition, the faces of these four living creatures were the same as those on the standards, or flags, of the 4 leader tribes of Israel as they camped around the sanctuary in the wilderness. When the children of Israel were delivered from slavery in Egypt and camped in the desert, God directed that “The children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every one by his own standard” (Numbers 1:52). The Levites camped in the middle, around the sanctuary, while the tribes were camped around in four groups of 3 tribes apiece. Each group of 3 tribes had a leader tribe: Judah, Ephraim, Reuben, and Dan.
According to the tradition, the lion was the standard of Judah as they camped on the east side of the sanctuary, the ox or calf was the standard of Ephraim who camped on the west side, the man was the standard of Reuben on the south, and the eagle was the standard of Dan on the north.
As we go into more detail about the tribes and their characteristics it may at first seem irrelevant. We will find, however, that these tribes are crucially important in the judgment because they represent categories of people that will be judged.
The symbolic faces of the four living creatures represent divine characteristics. His omnipotence and sovereignty were symbolized by the lion. His self-sacrificing mercy was symbolized by the calf or ox, one of the main sacrificial animals. His righteousness and godliness were symbolized by man, who was created in the image of God, and His justice and deliverance were symbolized by the eagle.
The divine characteristics symbolized by the faces of the living creatures are related to but not the same as the characteristics of the tribes that camped under their standards. Old Testament history shows that each tribe made choices that shaped their character, not always in good ways. Tribal character traits are outlined in Genesis 49 and Deuteronomy 33, where Jacob and Moses blessed the tribes, with Jacob telling his sons, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days” (Genesis 49:2). This verse shows us that the tribal characteristics are still relevant, even though the literal tribes have long since disappeared.
Tradition tells us that the image of the first living creature, that is, the face of a lion, was on the standard or flag of the tribe of Judah. Judah was the kingly tribe: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah” (Genesis 49:10).
From the tribe of Judah came Christ the Messiah. In Genesis 37 and 44, Judah interceded to save his brothers. He is first on the list of tribes included in the 144,000, even though he was not the oldest of the brothers. Jacob’s blessing, “Judah is a young lion” (Genesis 49:9), and Christ’s title, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5) support the tradition that his standard was a lion. Lions are fearless and victorious in battle. They will characterize the royal tribe of Judah with its line of kings starting with David and Solomon down to Christ, the King of kings.
The first living creature announces the tribe of Judah, but the tribe itself is symbolized by the white horse. “I looked, and behold a white horse” (Revelation 6:1). Horses are used in scripture to symbolize groups or tribes of people. For example, “[God] led [the children of Israel] by the hand of Moses…who led them through the deep, as a horse in the wilderness” (Isaiah 63:11-14)
The book of Zechariah, like Revelation, uses horses as a prominent symbol. The tribe of Judah is specifically declared to be the Lord’s horse: “The Lord of hosts will visit His flock, the house of Judah, and will make them as His royal horse in the battle” (Zechariah 10:3). The color white is a symbol of godliness and purity. In Revelation God sits on a white throne and Christ rides a white horse at His second coming.
When applied to people, white doesn’t equate with perfection but rather forgiveness; the Great Multitude wear “white robes…made white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:13,14).
Horses have riders who direct them; in other words, a horse does the will of its rider. “[John] looked, and behold a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to Him, and He went out conquering and to conquer” (Revelation 6:2).
The rider of the white horse is Christ Himself. The parallels with Revelation 19:11-16 are too marked to be coincidental. There too is a rider with crowns who is also conquering, riding on a white horse. “And His name is called The Word of God…the King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:14-16).
The rider holds in His hand a bow, one of the primary weapons of warfare. Again, Zechariah associates the bow with the tribe of Judah: “The Lord of Hosts will visit His flock, the house of Judah…From him comes the battle bow” “for I have bent Judah, my bow” (Zechariah 10:3,4, 9:13).
Here we see that as Jesus rides into the world “Conquering and to conquer” the strongholds of the enemy, He directs His faithful people to where He wants them to go, and they are His principal weapons.
Of themselves, God’s people can do nothing, but with Jesus in the saddle God’s lions advance His kingdom, making inroads into Satan’s territory. Peter, Paul, and John were white horses, as were John Huss, Martin Luther, and other fearless reformers. But most of the white horses are simple and faithful Christians whose lives and words are consistent witnesses of their relationship with Jesus.
With their faithful words and godly behavior, they have penetrated the enemy’s kingdom and led people who have been in spiritual darkness into the light of the Lord. The apostle Paul described the life and witness of the white horse Christians: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2Corinthians 10:3,4)
When the Book of Life is opened to examine the lives of the white horse believers, the hosts of heaven will agree with Jesus that they should be granted eternal life.
In the next video, we will look at the red, black, and green horses. There are a lot of details and supporting scriptures that I have not included in this video in order to keep from getting bogged down. If you have questions or other ideas please feel free to share them in the comments and I will do my best to answer.
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