The first four seals; four
Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992
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Chapters 6 & 7
A Bible Study
"With regard to the seven-sealed scroll in Revelation, only after all seven seals are broken can the scroll be opened. It is not possible to break a seal and open part of the scroll, and then break another seal and open more of the scroll. It is all or nothing. All seven seals must be broken before any of the scroll can be opened. And only as the scroll is opened can the trumpets be sounded. The seventh seal, when broken, is itself the seven trumpet judgments; and similarely, the seventh trumpet, when blown, is itself the seven bowl judgments. The seals, trumpets, and bowls of Revelation do not run concurrently (side by side), they run consecutively (one after the other). That fact is critical to an understanding of the chronolology of Revelation. It is the spine of the Book. Without it, Revelation, which is intended to reveal things which 'must shortly come to pass' becomes an unintelligible 'hodgepodge' of dislocated parts." 
The Seals are the ultimate result of man's rebellion against God. The purpose of the breaking of the Seals is to liberate earth from (1) the rule of sinful flesh and (2) the hellish works of darkness. The Lamb begins to unseal The Scroll; i.e., to unleash the processes of judgment and deliverance which will eventuate in the restoration of Earth's rule under the Son of Man. (This is Jesus' title as the Second Adam, the divinely appointed "representative Man," God incarnated as "the Son of Man," in order to restore and secure for redeemed mankind what we could never obtain by our own hand or merit.) 
Rev 6:1-2 - And I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, "Come." And I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him; and he went out conquering, and to conquer.This may be the most controversial verse in Revelation. Whenever there are survey questions asked about Revelation, one of the most obvious questions to ask is, "Who is the rider on the white horse of Chapter 6?" He isn't the Lone Ranger, because he isn't wearing a mask or carrying a gun. He isn't Don Quixote either, although there's plenty of weird critters in Revelation to deal with. "Who is that crowned man?," we well may ask as he goes galloping off conquering we're not told what. Basically, there seem to be two schools of thought as to who he is, and the respective proponents are equally sure they are right. There is one thing both will readily agree on, though - both cannot be right. This is what a proponent of one view has to say:
"Some say this is the Antichrist - a metamorphic character who can appear 'good.' But there's no hint here for that from the context of the verse. White usually is associated with God both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. The same description is given Christ in Chapter 19 that is given here. I think that what this is representing is the initial going out into the world of the work of Christ in terms of the beginning of expansion of the Church, the proclamation of the gospel under the directive power of Christ in His ascension. The rider on the white horse has a bow. The image of the bow is a frequent image especially in the Old Testament and especially in the Psalms of the power of God to penetrate and conquer with His programs for the earth. But most significant is the fact the rider is given a crown. The giving of a crown in the New Testament is consistently related to the ascension of Christ and His coronation. This therefore marks the beginning of the establishment of His kingdom - empowering the Church to go into the four corners of the world to build His Kingdom. So the breaking of the first seal represents the moving out into the world in the name of Christ, representing Him. These are those who are bearing witness to Christ." But it cannot be said that Seals 2-4 represent persecution of the Church. A careful reading of the opening verses of Matthew 24 reveals that they parallel the six seals of Revelation 6. What does Christ say as He answers the question of His disciples about the "end of the world?"
And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many.(Matt. 24:4-5) = parallels = "THE FIRST SEAL is the white horse and rider. He is understood to represent false prophets personified in the Antichrist who conquers by deception (Rev. 6:1-2)." Rev 6:3-8 - And when He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come." And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men should slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. And when He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come." And I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard as it were a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine." And when He broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come." And I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. And authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.When the second seal is broken, mankind experiences the fruit of their selfishness, which begets strife and then war. Peace is taken away by that selfishness. In the breaking of these seals, God is simply letting the fruit of what man births out of his own nature be experienced by him till he is filled with its rottenness. Man can then either cry out for deliverance or smother in his own decay. Man makes his own choice. 
"And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom."(Matt. 24:6-7a) = parallels = "THE SECOND SEAL is the red horse and rider. He is given a sword and has power to conquer through war. (Rev. 6:3-4)." 
"And there shall be famines" (Matt. 24:7b) = parallels = "THE THIRD SEAL is the the black horse and rider. He is given a scale to measure the food supply. He will bring famine (Rev. 6:5-6)." 
"And pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows." (Matt. 24:7c-8) = parallels = "THE FOURTH SEAL is the pale horse and rider. He represents death and pestilince. He kills with sword, hunger and beasts of the earth (Rev. 6:7-8)." 
"Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake." (Matt. 24:9) = parallels = "THE FIFTH SEAL reveals a faithful remnant who are martyred "for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held (Rev. 6:9-11)." 
"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," (Matt. 24:29)= parallels = "THE SIXTH SEAL reveals cosmic disturbance: 'And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind' (Rev 6:12-13)" 
Rev 6:9-11 - And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also. The Church is an army. These are overcomers. If we are not willing to die for Christ, we will not successfully live for Christ. With this proper mindset we will be better prepared to remain "faithful and true." The first and second century Christians' normal expectation of death was by martyrdom rather than sickness, accident or old age. Life expectancy was short. All the apostles except possibly John were martyred. Here the martyrs are pleading for vindication so the people of earth could see what they were bearing witness to. A person was a martyr because he bore witness - he was not a witness because he was a martyr. They were slain because of the Word of God and their testimony. (Note Rev. 12:11) This fifth Seal initiates the Great Tribulation. (Matt. 24:15ff) Are we bearing witness the way those first and second century Christians did?
Rev 6:12-17 - And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. And the sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?"Note the mention of "a great earthquake." It is the earthquake that sets forth the visitation of God's wrath. There are recurrent mentions of God's wrath throughout Revelation related to these earthquakes. Note: Matt. 24:30; Rev 8:5; 11:13-19; 15:1-8; 16:18-19. The visitations of God's wrath in Revelation speaks of the Day of the Lord, which is introduced by the "great earthquake." (Note also Joel 2:1ff; Isa.13:6ff; Acts 2:19-20; 2 Peter 3:10-13) Paul the apostle says we are saved from the wrath of God (1 Thess. 5:9) - not from the difficulties of men, or the emergence of the Antichrist. God's wrath is the day of the Lord - holy, righteous, just - the judgment of God on the earth and those who dwell on it. Not on the Church - we will be with Him. But the day will come when the cup of man's iniquity will be full and God will pour it out - but not on His Bride - we are not appointed to His wrath. Note how the description of what John saw after the breaking of the 6th Seal parallels other descriptions in the Bible of what preceeds the day of the Lord: Matt. 24:29; Mark 13:24-25; Isa. 13:9-11; Amos. 5:20; Zeph. 1:15; Acts 2:20. When the seventh seal is opened (Rev. 8:1) the day of the Lord will commence - that is what the Scroll is all about. 
Rev 7:1-4 - After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind should blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads." And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel."John procedes to name the twelve tribes of Israel, but with certain differences from other parts of the Bible where they are listed. There is no tribe of Dan listed here nor is the tribe of Ephraim, and some commentators have said it was because they were the most idolatrous of the tribes - wickedly so. Levi is added, though it was to have no inheritance in Israel, and so is the tribe of Joseph - which previously was represented through his sons Ephraim and Manasseh (thus being given a double portion). The usual order of the tribes is changed here also. But in any case there is no reason for saying that these tribes represent anyone else than Israel (Note what Paul says in Romans 9-11). The listing that John hears confirms God's commitment not to violate His longstanding covenant with Israel that He will deal with them until His purpose of full restoration is accomplished. (Compare God's promise of Phil. 1:6 to the Church.) The closer to the endtimes we come the more apparent it is that there is something remarkable taking place in God's working out the fulfillment of His plan that will never be completely clear to anyone till it is completed. The most important verse in this passage (though usually treated only secondarily by commentators) is verse: 3, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads."Evidently this group is not part of those who are raptured (cf. Rev. 7:9-17) but are known by God to be His own (even though they might not at this point know that - note Rev. 9:4; 14:1-5 & Eze. 9:4-6). These "144,00" (undoubtedly a symbolic number) have been sealed to live through the day of the Lord as God will not leave Himself without a witness on the earth. These are the "firstfruits" among more from Israel who will be saved at the end of the "70th week of Daniel." It is as if a "baton" were passed from the raptured Church to the 144,000. 
Rev 7:9-17 - After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen." And one of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?" And I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes."The key verse in this passage of course is verse 14, "...these are the ones who come out of the great tribulation..." This is the Church that is being referred to, as it went through the "great tribulation" which began with Matt. 24:15 (cf. the breaking of the 5th seal) and continued till just before what Jesus states in Matt. 24:29 (when the rapture of the Church takes place). The Church's arrival before the throne of God results in the worship that John observes above.
 R. C. Sproul - Ligonier Ministries
 Jack Hayford - Living Way Ministries
 Marvin J Rosenthal - Zion's Hope
 Marvin J Rosenthal - Zion's Fire/March-April 1999 - p. 6
 Marvin J Rosenthal - Zion's Fire/May-June 1998 - p.7