An Introduction to Revelation Chapter 6

September 6, 2015 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos

An Introduction to Revelation Chapter 6 Revelation 6:1-8   Last night, during the Saturday evening service, I intended to teach on the four seals that are found in Revelation chapter 6. For my title, I used The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But before going into the details of the four seals or the four horses and their riders, I gave an introduction first to Revelation 6, thinking that after doing so, I would still have much time to finish my topic. Well, it took me about an hour for the introduction and so obviously, I was not able to go into the details of four seals. So I decided to stop and inform the group last night that I would continue next week, the Lord willing.   And so today, I have decided to change my title, and do as I did last night, which is focus only on the introduction. This is going to be very technical to some of you but I hope that you will continue to bear with me because I believe that it is important that you understand what I am about to say so that you will know where I will be coming from when I start to explain the predictive portions of this book.   I also believe this introduction will greatly benefit you and make your understanding of the Book of Revelation which is full of symbols, numbers, etc., easier.   So let me begin with three important questions that must be answered before the events of chapter 6 can be understood:  
  1. The first question: What would be the best approach in interpreting chapter 6?
There are four main approaches to interpreting the book of Revelation: the preterist, historicist, idealist, and futurist approaches.
  1. The preterist approach. The name preterist is a combination of the two Latin words praeter (past) and ire (to go) meaning that which belongs to the According to this view, everything recorded in the Book of Revelation was fulfilled in the first century at the time John wrote this book. Preterists essentially teach that all the end-times prophecies of the New Testament were fulfilled in AD 70 when the Romans attacked and destroyed Jerusalem.
There are two types of preterists: the full preterists and the partial preterists. The full preterists (or hyper-preterists) are usually liberal theologians who reject the inspiration of the book of Revelation and regard it simply as a human writing which is at the same level as any other non-inspired apocryphal or apocalyptic writings of that period. They deny the future prophetic quality of the book of Revelation. They teach that Christ’s second coming, the tribulation, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment have already happened. Jesus’s physical return to earth was a “spiritual” return, not a physical one. The “new heavens and new earth” is only a description of the world under the New Covenant.   On the other hand, “partial preterists” take a more moderate approach and consider full preterists to be guilty of heresy. Partial preterists believe that the prophecies in Daniel, Matthew 24, and Revelation (with the exception of the last two or three chapters) have already been fulfilled during the first century AD. According to partial preterism, there is no rapture, and passages describing the tribulation and the Antichrist are actually referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the Roman emperor Titus. Partial preterists do believe in the return of Christ to earth and a future resurrection and judgment, but they do not teach a literal millennial kingdom or that Israel as a nation has a place in God’s future plan.
  1. The historicist approach. This approach views the book of Revelation, especially the visions in 4:1-20:6, as a panorama of successive historical events from apostolic times to the return of Christ. Proponents of this view often find correspondence between Revelation and events in their own day. Here are some examples:
  • Joachim of Fiore, who died in 1202, considered the beast coming up out of the sea (13:1) to be Islam, which had been wounded by the Crusades. For him, Babylon was worldly Rome, and he identified some of the seven heads of the beast (17:3, 9–10) with rulers of his day.
  • The Reformers of the sixteenth century, like Martin Luther and John Calvin, identified the pope and papacy as the Antichrist.
  • Still others regard the Apocalypse as a calendar of events that begins with the time of John on the island of Patmos in 96. They assign the seven seals and six trumpets to the early church and the Middle Ages, understand Revelation 10 and 11 as the time of the Reformation, and apply the message of the seventh trumpet to the true church. The two beasts in chapter 13 are the pope and papal power, the seven plagues are fulfilled in the French Revolution and modern upheavals, and the destruction of Babylon is the fall of the papacy.
This approach does not enjoy much favor today largely because of the lack of consensus as to the historical identification it entails.
  1. The idealist approach. Idealists view the book of Revelation as symbolic pictures of timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil that continues throughout the church age. In this view, the book contains no actual historical events or predictive prophecy.
According to this view, “John on the island of Patmos received not a vision of end time events but ideals that encourage believers in the spiritual conflict they face. The idealist views the book of Revelation not as a history of events that have occurred in the past or prophecy that will happen in the future. Idealists stress the principles in this book applies to all Christians of all generations to comfort them and motivate them to endure to the end.
  1. The futurist The futurists hold that everything in the Revelation from chapter 4 to 22 will be fulfilled just before, during, and after Jesus’ return to this earth, and that those chapters literally and symbolically depict actual people and events yet to appear on the world scene.
Unfortunately, some of the older futurists have wrongly taught that the letters to the seven churches represent the successive ages of church history that lead up to the rapture of the church in 4:1 (symbolized by the transport of John that follows the heavenly summons, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this”). An example of the scheme developed from this view:  
  • The church at Ephesus refers to church that has lost its first love at the end of the apostolic age.
  • The church at Smyrna refers to the suffering church during the great persecutions in the second and third centuries.
  • The church at Pergamum refers to the compromising church during the reign of Emperor Constantine when Christianity was favored.
  • The church at Thyatira refers to the heretical church during the Middle Ages or Dark Ages.
  • The church at Sardis refers to the revived church during the Reformation period of the 16th
  • The church at Philadelphia refers to the true church in the professing church.
  • The church at Laodicea refers to the apostate church before the return of Christ.
  Many futurists such as Robert Thomas, John MacArthur, Wayne Grudem, and John Piper do not hold to this interpretation of Revelation chapters 2 and 3. They rightly interpret chapters 1-3 in a way that is relevant to the churches John wrote to in that period. But they also teach that the remaining chapters containing the seals, trumpets, and bowls refer to events still in the future and that the beasts of chs. 13 and 17 are identified with the future Antichrist, who will appear at the last moment in world history and will be defeated by Christ when He comes again to judge the world and to establish His earthly millennial kingdom and eventually, the eternal state.   As I have said before, my view is the futurist view and these are my reasons for holding it:  
  1. I agree with John MacArthur who wrote, “Only this view does justice to Revelation’s claim to be prophecy and interprets the entire book by the consistent grammatical-historical method used for the rest of Scripture.”
  1. I also think that the futurist view supports the main divisions of the book, which is stated in Rev 1:19, “Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.”
  After the prologue (1:1-8), John relates his vision of “those that are,” which we read about in chs. 1-3. This section shows Christ as the glorious Son of Man evaluating and exhorting the seven churches in Asia Minor during a time of intense persecution and suffering.   The next major section contains “those that are to take place after this” (chs. 4-22). It contains visions that will take place in connection with the Second Coming of Christ. This section begins with chapters 4 and 5 where John receives a vision of God on His throne in heaven and of the victorious Lamb, who alone is worthy to open the scroll and to execute God’s future purposes for history. The chapters that follow present to us what will transpire under the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls leading to the final victory of Christ.   That was my long answer to the first question, What would be the best approach in interpreting chapter 6 till the end of Revelation? The short answer to that question is this. The best approach in interpreting Revelation chapters 6 to 22 is the futurist approach.  
  1. The second question: What is the relationship of the Seven Seals to the Rapture of the church?
  For your information, the rapture of the church “refers to the belief that either before, or simultaneously with, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to earth, believers who have died will be raised and believers who are still alive and remain shall be caught up together with them (the resurrected dead believers) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (Wikipedia).   The rapture is described primarily in 1Th 4:13–18 and 1Co 15:50–54. In 1Th 4:16-17 we read, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”   Let’s go back to the question: What is the relationship of the Seven Seals of Revelation 6 with the rapture of the church?   Since neither the Rapture nor the church is mentioned in Revelation 6-18, there have been three views regarding the relationship of the Tribulation with the rapture of the church:  
  1. Pre-Tribulation Rapture teaches that the Rapture of the church takes place before the events beginning in chapter 4 and thus precedes the Tribulation. One of their basis is Rev 3:10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.
  2. Mid-Tribulation Rapture teaches that the Rapture of the church takes place between 6:11 and 6:12. This is the between the beginning of the birth pangs and the Great Tribulation of 6:12. For the first 3 and ½ years there will be peace but when the anti-Christ sets himself up as god in the temple then the Great Tribulation begins. Before this time the saints will be raptured.
  3. Post-Tribulation Rapture teaches that the Rapture of the church takes place after the Tribulation.
  My view is post-tribulation. This view is contrary to the view of John MacArthur who is pretrib, but the same to that of John Piper and Wayne Grudem who are posttrib. However, I will not be dogmatic about this view nor will I impose it on you. Please don’t send me a long email and leave the church just because your view is different from mine. But I will ask you to be like the Bereans of Act 17:11 who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Check Scripture to find out whether the things that I share with you are Biblical or not. Take what is biblical and reject what is not. As they say, “Don't throw away the baby with the bathwater.” The fact that different good teachers have varied opinions regarding the end times should remind all of us to be humble and to be open to other views contrary to ours.  
  1. The third question: What is the relationship of the events of Revelation to Christ's sermon on the end times?
  The events enumerated in Revelation 6 and the tribulation events found in Jesus’ Olivet discourse (Mt 24-25; Mk 13; Lk 21), are strikingly similar. In His teaching Jesus divided the tribulation into two periods, the “beginning of birth pangs” (Mt 24:8) and the “Great Tribulation” (Mt 24:21).   The first four seals cover the period Jesus described as “the beginning of birth pangs” (Mt 24:8). As terrible as those four judgments are, they are but the preliminary outpouring of God’s final wrath in the last three seals.  
Revelation 6:1-8 Matthew 24:4-8 Mark 13:6-8 Luke 21:8-11
The first four seals (“The four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”) (24:8) All these are but the beginning of the birth pains (13:8) These are but the beginning of the birth pains. (21:9) “…these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”
(6:1-2) The first seal introduces a white horse with its rider which represent false peace. (24:5) For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.   (13:6) Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he! ’ and they will lead many astray.   (21:8) For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he! ’ and, ‘The time is at hand! ’ Do not go after them
(6:3-4) The second seal introduces a red horse and its rider which represent worldwide war. (24:6-7a) And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…   (13:7-8a) And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.   (21:9-10a) And when you hear of wars and tumults… 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…
(6:5-6) The third seal introduces the black horse and its rider which signifies famine.   (24:7b) and there will be famines (13:8c) …there will be famines.   (21:11b) …and in various places famines…
(6:7-8) The fourth seal introduces the pale horse and its rider Death followed by Hades. A fourth of the earth’s population die by war, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts. (24:7c) “…and earthquakes in various places.”  (13:8b) There will be earthquakes in various places;   (21:11a,c) There will be great earthquakes, … and pestilences

Your assignment.

I hope that you find this introduction to be a great help in preparing yourself to study the book of Revelation, especially this portion that pertains to future events. Please read Rev 6:1-8 and the parallel passages that I mentioned to you from Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. This will prepare you well for our study next week of the seven seals. If you read those sections prayerfully and with an open heart, you may be surprised to find that the book of Revelation is not that difficult to understand after all.