Revelation Chapter Six

A Black Horse

(Rev 6:1) And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

The Textus Receptus, which is the underlying Greek text of the KJV New Testament, states that the Lamb opened one of the seals, agreeing with the Latin Vulgate. The Greek New Testament states the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, agreeing Byzantine Greek manuscripts. 

This beast (living creature—a cherub; see note on Rev 4:6b-8) is one of the four from Rev 4:6. All four living beings, or cherubim, beckon John to “come and see” the events that occur as each of the first four seals is opened, respectively. The phrase, “come and see” forces the context to be the beast calling to John to come and see what is happening.

However, most manuscripts simply have each of the living creatures saying only “come,” which refers to the four horses. That is more in line with the actual context. When each beast calls, “come” one of the horses comes forth. The phrase, “come and see,” is only seen in three manuscripts: The Majority Text, Sinaiticus, and the Textus Receptus.

Since the other three living creatures (cherubim) are given as the second (Rev 6:3), third (Rev 6:5), and fourth (Rev 6:7), it follows that this living creature is the first. The first living creature (cherub) was like a lion (Rev 4:7). The lion symbolizes kingship. The tribe of Judah possessed the scepter (Gen 49:10). Jesus is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5, cf. Gen 49:9). God is the King Eternal (1 Tim 1:17).

The cherubim of Ezekiel each have four faces: man, lion, ox, and eagle. Here in Revelation the four cherubim look like a lion, a calf, a man, and an eagle in flight. We must note here that the Apostle John followed the Septuagint1 rendering of the Hebrew word for an ox. When the Septuagint translators translated the Hebrew into Greek, they used the Greek word for a calf in the place of the Hebrew word for an ox. That makes the four beings in Revelation the exact likeness of Ezekiel’s living beings; they are the same cherubim that Ezekiel (Eze 1:4-10) and Isaiah saw (Isa 6:1-7).

Their faces and appearances represent the attributes of God. The lion is the king of beasts; God is King of all. The ox/calf represents strength; God is omnipotent. The man is intelligent; God is omniscient. The eagle is swift and has piercing sight. God sees into the hearts of men and therefore His judgment is swift and sure.

Some say that since there are four, which is the number of Creation or God’s creative works, the cherubim represent the creation. That is something with which this author agrees. Three is the number of God: Father, Son, and Spirit. Adding one (3+1) denotes that which follows, which is the Trinity’s, or Godhead’s2 works of creation. In the beginning God (3) . . . created the heavens and the earth (+1 creation). Since the four living creatures (KJV—beasts) match earthly, created beings, we see creation in them. Please note that this is not “numerology” which is used by the occult to predict outcomes. It is not “Biblical Numerology” for the same reason. Let us refer to it as Bible Numerics, as some authors refer to the study of the Scriptural numbers, or simply “number in Scripture.” For further information, there are several books concerning numbers in the Scriptures available on the market today.

We observed in Chapter Five, that the scroll with seven seals is likely the title deed to creation. The Father has given the Son power and authority over all things (Mat 11:27, 28:18; Luk 10:22; John 3:35, 5:22-27, 13:3, 17:2; Eph 1:20-22) and this scroll is the testament to that. God the Creator owns all things and this is the Father deeding all things over to the Son. For more information, there is a complete discussion of the seals in Chapter Five.

Jesus Christ opened the first seal. The word translated “one” in the phrase “one of the seals,” is mian from mia (Strong’s 3391), which means “first” or “one.” The second use of the word “one” in this verse is henos from heis (Strong’s 1520). It is the numeral one (1). One of the beasts (or living creatures) spoke and his voice was like thunder. It was a powerful, beaming voice.

Horses in this Chapter

The four horses we see in this chapter are four different colors, white, red, black, and pale. The word rendered pale could be a yellow or yellowish-green color. If we look at modern horse breeds, the palomino comes to mind. They range in color from light tan to cream colored. Many are almost gold in color. One famous golden palomino was Trigger, the horse Roy Rogers rode.

Let us look at the other horses in Old Testament prophecies.

In Zec 1:8, we see a rider on a red horse in a ravine with red, speckled and white horses (KJV) behind him. In the NASB they are red, speckled, and white. YLT: red, bay, and white. ESV: red, sorrel, and white. CLV: red, yellow, and white. And in a several “easy to read versions” we observe red, brown, and white.

The point here is that different translators have rendered the Greek word for specked in various ways. The Hebrew uninflected word is שָׂרֻק, saruq. The word can come from two different Hebrew words, meaning red or speckled (Strongs); Brown-Driver-Briggs say the word can indicate sorrel, reddish, tawny, or bay. Sorrel, also called chestnut, is a light reddish tan; tawny is yellowish-brown; bay is reddish-brown;

The Septuagint renders them fire colored (red), gray, varied or spotted, and white. The word rendered gray is ψαροὶ, psaroi, or starling-like. Starlings usually range in color from spotted dark grey to black. The Septuagint shows us four horses while the English translations only list three.

Consider that what John saw in his vision was not unlike what Zechariah saw in his vision as recorded in the Septuagint. Looking at Septuagint and what we have discovered in the previous paragraphs, it is certainly plausible that the two visions are closely related.

We must also consider Zechariah 6:1-5. In that vision there were teams of horses pulling chariots. There were a team of red horses, a team of black horses, a team of white horses, and a team of dappled, spotted, grisled, bay, grey (depending on the translation) horses.

We could do an analysis of horse colors and place it here, but that is not the objective of our study. One can easily find such an analysis in books and on-line. This author has thoroughly researched horse colors. It is evident, based on that study that the four colors of horses in Revelation chapter six and in Zechariah chapters one and six, are basically identical. Only our different translations of the colors make that seem less likely.

The horses are not necessarily real horses, for the Scriptures often use them as metaphors of greater significance that just horses. We see horses used parabolically, that is, as a parable, for higher truths. We will delve into those truths as we continue.

At the time of the writing of the Revelation, the Apostles used the Septuagint as their Greek translation of the Old Testament. It certainly is reasonable to suggest that John assimilates the visions of Zechariah into vision. The horses in all three visions, two that Zechariah saw, and one John saw, are very similar. The red, white, and black are easily discerned. The pale horse could easily be sorrel, grey, or even a spotted roan, which may easily look yellowish. See for yourself. Look at pictures of the horses using the varied colors in the different translations.

(Rev 6:2) And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

When the Lamb opened the first seal, John saw an event correlated with the seal. There is a rider on a white horse, the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (that is, the Revelation). Each of these horsemen has some tribulation to inflict on the inhabitants of the earth.

What is tribulation? Funk and Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary (my favorite, but it is out of print) defines tribulation as: “n. A condition of affliction and distress; suffering; also that which causes it.” The dictionary gives the etymology thus: [< OF tribulacion < LL tribulatio, onis < L tribulatus, pp. of tribulare to thrash < tribulum threshing floor < tri-, root of terere to rub, grind] (OF=Old French, LL=Late Latin, L=Latin, pp.=past participle).

I give the etymology to show that the word tribulation goes back to hand threshing grain, which goes further back to the act of rubbing and grinding. Threshing was hard, painstaking work. The hands, back, and feet got tired and sore. The process was time consuming. It was not pleasant work, but it was inevitable work. If there was no threshing, there would be no bread. Rubbing and grinding are also indicative of slow painstaking work. If you had to hand rub the chaff and bran from a full field of wheat, your hands would become tired and sore. The task would seem unending. The tribulation that comes upon the world will be exhausting, painstaking and will seem unending. But it must happen. Tribulation connotes a long, wearisome, and unpleasant task, but it is an obligatory task. The silver lining is that tribulation will eventually come to an end heralding Christ’s return, just as threshing, will eventually end and wholesome, life-giving bread will follow. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Thankfully Jesus said those days will be shortened for the sake of the elect (Mat 24:22; Mar 13:20).

We must not mistake the tribulation with wrath. Tribulation is something we all experience at one time of another in our lives. During the time immediately before Christ returns, those of us alive at that time will experience tribulation. That is the tribulation of Satan against the church (Rev 12:17). After the church is gathered back to Christ “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Mat 24:29), the wrath of God will be poured out on those left on earth. Tribulation is from Satan and against the church; wrath is from God and against His enemies (Rev 16:1). Believers alive when Jesus returns will experience tribulation, but not wrath.

White is the color of purity and righteousness. The rider on a white horse appears to be the Christ, but he is not. However, many have mistaken him to be Christ.

Let’s look at another rider on a white horse in Revelation, Who really is the Christ. (Rev 19:11-16) “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. {12} His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. {13} And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. {14} And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. {15} And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. {16} And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” It is very obvious that the Rider in Rev 19:11-16 is Jesus Christ. But the rider in our current verse is not so obviously the Christ. Let us compare the two.

(Rev 6:2–Repeated) And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

The first phrase is almost identical. The latter verse adds the word “heaven opened.” The former verse simply says “And I saw, and behold a white horse…” while the latter verse says “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse…” So both riders sit upon a white horse.

The rider in the former verse received a bow, while the title of the Rider on the second white horse was Faithful and True. The first rider wore a (that is, one) crown. This was not a royal crown but a victor’s wreath (Greek stephanos–a victor’s wreath or crown, not a kingly crown) worn on his head. The second Rider had many crowns. These were royal crowns (Greek diadema–diadem or kingly crown) The first rider went forth conquering and to conquer while the second Rider makes war in righteousness and with righteous judgment.

What is meant by “conquering and to conquer”? This essentially tells us that the rider went out as a conqueror focused on conquest.
That captures the spirit of what we read here. This rider went out to conquer. He was intent on conquest. But he never got the victory. Later, he, himself was conquered by the blood of Christ.

This rider on a white horse in Rev 6:5 is not the true Christ, the King of kings. The true Christ has many crowns indicating that He is the King of kings. The rider on this white horse is just a wannabe. He has a victor’s wreath but did not have the victory. He put this crown on himself (cf. Isa 14:13). He went out as a conqueror set on conquering but did not necessarily conquer. He is Satan or one of Satan’s princes attempting to appear to be the Christ.

Let’s look at a few more comparisons to nail down who this rider really is. We will refer to Satan will as Rider Number One and Jesus as Rider Number Two. Heaven opened and Rider Number Two came from heaven. Rider Number One did not. Rider Number Two has a sharp sword (two edged in Rev 1:16), rider number one has a bow. The two-edged sword is the Word of God, which gives life. The bow is for killing. Jesus wants you to have eternal life. Satan wants to kill you. The armies of heaven mounted on white horses and clothed in white linen follow Rider Number Two. Famine, death, and hell follow Rider Number One.

To reiterate, some teach that this is the Christ. It is not. This is Satan or one of his demons disguised as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14—the word rendered “transformed” there literally means transfigured or disguised). He looks like the Christ the Lamb, but he speaks like a dragon (Rev 13:11). Beware of him; he will kill you if he can!

(Rev 6:3-4) And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. {4} And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

The second beast, or living creature (a cherub), was a like a calf (or an ox in Ezekiel 1:10). The calf or ox represents strength. God is omnipotent or all powerful.

Who has the power to take peace from the earth? Of course, God can do anything, but this is not Him. Who has the power?

(Rev 12:9,12 &17) And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

{12} Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

{17} And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

In his wrath, the red dragon takes peace from the earth. Who is the dragon? He is the serpent, also known as the Devil and Satan. Since we have determined that the rider on the white horse is Satan or one of his minions, and his angels were cast out of Heaven with him, it stands to reason that the rider on the red horse is one of Satan’s fallen angels. We know them as evil spirits, devils, demons, princes, etc.

So these spirits have the power through their leader Satan to influence people to kill one another. Those spirits go out and make war with the angels of God (cf. Dan 10:13; 20) and cause humans to war against one another. That occurs today, right now to individuals (Eph 6:12), but in in this verse, which concerns the end of the age, it will be widespread.

(Rev 6:5-6) And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. {6} And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

The face of the third living creature (cherub) is the face of a man. Man is the ONLY creature created in the image of God and His hosts. Man is the ONLY creature given intelligence (even though it does not seem so—that is because of sin). God is omniscient or all-knowing or all-intelligent.

This rider represents famine. What is famine? The lack of bread (food). What is the bread of life? The word of God. Can a famine cause a lack of the Word of God? Amos 8:11: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:” This famine occurs at the end of the Northern Kingdom, or “My people Israel” (Amos 8:2&3).

I believe this can also apply to eschatology as a type (see appendix 3). The type was the famine of God’s Word shortly before the Assyrians carried off Israel captive. The antitype will occur just before Christ returns—at the end times (2 Thes 2:3).

Thus, one famine of the end times, specifically here in Revelation, is both the lack of the hearing of God’s Word and very real shortages of food or other human needs (potable water, shelter, clothing, security, etc.). This is why a loaf of bread will cost a day’s wages. There will be severe shortages of food. Often, governments fabricate those shortages in order to control people. Some shortages occur because of an agricultural catastrophe. However, it is likely that in the end times fabricated shortages will occur. Today in some countries there are governments that deliberately withhold human needs to control the people. We see that exact scenario at this very moment in countries controlled by dictators.

One thing is clear, however. We are suffering from a severe shortage of the Word of God today in countries where Christianity is illegal. Yet in those countries, Christianity is growing markedly. There is an even more egregious shortage to the Word of God in the West. The West, is where freedom of religion is ubiquitous, there is a self-induced famine of God’s Word because many have forsaken God.

Another cause for the famine of God’s Word is false teachers. There are many who pick and choose certain parts of the Scriptures or improperly exegete Scripture to prove a point. This is Scripture twisting. Those Scripture-twisters lead some astray with that false teaching. There are others who teach a completely alien theology and call it Christianity. An example is the prosperity gospel. False teachers abound today as the Apostle Peter foretold in 2 Pet 2:1.

Who is able to twist God’s word into vanity? Read about the Lord’s temptation in the wilderness (Mat 4:3). Satan twisted the verses of scripture he quoted into a perversion of God’s Word. Is the Word of God heard today? Not as much as it should be. Some churches preach salvation messages to the saved week in and week out. Some church literature refers to a few disjointed verses of Scripture and most of the lesson consists of men’s words. Some church literature does not even use the Bible; it uses other things such as the words of a counselor or motivational speaker/writer. Unfortunately, many churches seem to have turned away from God’s words and do “not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim 4:3-4).

If churches will teach the Word contextually, correctly, and completely, people will attend. That is one of the main reasons to go to church. Why have we gotten away from God’s Word in our churches? It is because of our own lusts and desires to keep God out of our lives. We want to do things our way instead of God’s best way.

Balances show both righteousness and unrighteousness. The law says, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.  (36)  Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Lev 19:35-36). Thus we are required not only to use proper measurements in commerce, but in judgment as well. This is the righteous use of balances.

Some use balances for evil. For example, in Micah 6:11, Yahweh speaks of deceptive weights and wicked scales used to deceive people. The famine is not only about a famine of food, but also a famine of the hearing of God’s words. Thus balances may falsify the weight of food and other human needs and they symbolically denote false doctrines. Thus false doctrines as well as shortages of human needs are in view here.

Another view of balances in the Scriptures in regards to famine is that food is so scarce that it is precious and rare. That is why merchants weight it carefully in the balances. This could also apply to God’s words and the purveyors of those words.

A measure as used here is a choinix or about a quart of grain. That is enough to feed a moderate appetite for about a day. Three quarts of barley will barely feed a small family for a day. A penny in this Scripture is actually a denarius, which was a day’s pay. So it would take a day’s pay for a loaf of bread or three quarts of barley. This is famine.

The use of wheat and barley here are symbolic of famine. As an example, let us say that the minimum USA wage is $7.50 per hour. For an eight hour day, a minimum wage worker would receive about 51 dollars (taking out 15% for taxes). That means enough barley bread to feed a family for one day. There would be nothing left over for shelter, clothing, transportation, etc. To make the example a bit more contextual, consider that a laborer in First Century Israel would work from sunup to sundown, for an average of 12 hours. Using that figure, three quarts of grain would cost $76.50 ($90 minus 15% for taxes).

Why can’t they hurt the oil and wine? The oil is elaion or olive oil. It is symbolic of the Holy Spirit and the anointing of God. Wine is an element of communion. It represents the blood of Christ. We may not have the Body of Christ with us, but we have the Holy Spirit to comfort us and the Blood of Christ still covers us. This famine will not hurt God’s people. The famine may touch everything, but it cannot touch the faith (oil and wine) of God’s people.

It is likely more than coincidence that the Hebrew word elyon means The Supreme, or Most High (God) and the Greek word elaion means olive oil, the supreme of oils, which represents the unction of the Holy Spirit. Both words have a similar pronunciation.

 Again, the great famine of the time of the end, that Great and Terrible Day of Yehovah’s wrath, is a lack of the hearing of the Word of God. However this does not rule out famines of food and other needs.

(Rev 6:7) And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

The fourth living creature (cherub) was like a flying eagle. An eagle flies swiftly and has piercing eyesight. It can see the ground plainly from great heights. God is all seeing. He sees into the heart of men. His sight pierces the soul. (1 Sam 16:7, Luke 16:14) His judgment is swift and sure. As the swift eagle soars and attacks from above, so the judgment of God is from above.

(Rev 6:8) And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Here, we get a composite picture of the other three riders. This rider has a name and his name is Death. He rides a pale horse; pale is a sickly, greenish color similar to rotting gangrenous flesh. Hell, which is Hades (the Greek here is ᾳδης, hades), the grave or place of the dead, follows Death. Hades is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol. There are only two places a soul can go after death (Luke 16:22-23): 1), Heaven, that is the Bosom of Abraham, in the presence of God, or 2), Hades, (Sheol in Hebrew) the place of the dead. Those killed here by the rider named Death go to Hades. It stands to reason that if God’s children3 go to be with Him in Heaven, then those who go to Hades are not God’s children. Since some of the fourth part of earth who die go to Hades, the place of the dead, then those who go to Hades are not God’s children. Thus Hades follows Death to receive the unsaved, or those killed by the rider named Death.

We must distinguish that the fourth part of the earth here does not express or imply the fourth part of mankind, or of the people, or of the living things. Here it simply means territory. The Greek is επι το τεταρτον της γης, epi to tetarton tēs gēs, “over the fourth part (¼)of the earth.” Robertson explains.

Over the fourth part of the earth (epi to tetarton tēs gēs). Partitive genitive gēs after tetarton. Wider authority (exousia) was given to this rider than to the others, though what part of the earth is included in the fourth part is not indicated.

Some commentators write that this fourth part of the earth refers to the Roman Empire or a portion thereof. Others claim this is about a quarter of earth’s population. However, since it does not imply population, that idea is moot.

In the Pentateuch, we read that one third and one fourth are portions that become sacrificial offerings (e.g., Exo 29:40; Lev 23:13; Num 15:5; 28:5). That is important to remember when dealing with these two fractions (¼ and ⅓) in Revelation. That is so because these plagues in Revelation require much sacrifice from their recipients.

In chapter eight we read of many men dying (8:11). In chapter nine we are told that the plagues of the second woe kill one third of mankind (9:18). Unless we know by the context that the earth refers to its population, we should usually understand that it literally means the earth, land, ground, place, the planet, country etc., depending on context.

This does not mean that the church is gone, raptured away. It simply means that God will protect His children: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Rev 3:10) The hour of temptation or testing is the time of the seal judgments. “…lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Mat 28:20). Yet, some of those killed by Death are Christians.

Why is this a composite picture? The first three horsemen mete our war, conquering, and famine. The fourth rider, named Death, will have power over a fourth of the earth making him a conqueror. He kills with the sword, meaning war. He kills with hunger and famine. When it says he kills with death, those deaths were eternal. Those whom he turned away from God die an eternal death in the lake of fire. In addition, he kills with the help of wild beasts. The fourth horseman alone accomplished all that the other three accomplished together plus some. The four horsemen symbolize troublous times before the end.

Who has the power of death? “…him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” (Heb 2:14). Rev 9:11 tells us, “And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.” Here is a look at the underlying Hebrew and Greek words:

Strong’s 3 Abaddon, ab-ad-dohn’; of Hebrew origin (Strong’s 11); a destroying angel:–Abaddon.

Strong’s 11. ‘abaddown, ab-ad-done’; intensive from Strong’s 6; abstract, a perishing; concurrent with Hades:–destruction.

Strong’s 6. ‘abad, aw-bad’; a primary root; properly to wander away, i.e. lose oneself; by implication to perish (causitive, destroy)

Strong’s 623. Apolluon, ap-ol-loo’-ohn; active participle of Strong’s 622; a destroyer (i.e. Satan)

Strong’s 622. apollumi, ap-ol’-loo-mee; from 575 and the base of 3639; to destroy fully (reflexive to perish, or lose), literally or figuratively

Strong’s 3639. olethros, ol’-eth-ros; from a prime ollumi (to destroy; a prolonged form); ruin, i.e. death, punishment

Strong’s 575. apo, apo’; a primary particle; “off,” i.e. away (from something near), in various senses (of place, time, or relation; literal or figurative)

We learned that Abaddon or Apollyon is a destroying angel. Satan is an angel, and he is a destroyer. Dr. Strong himself suggests that Apollyon is Satan, (see Strong’s 623 above). Rev 9:11 says that a star that fell from heaven was given the key to the bottomless pit. Stars can represent angels here in Revelation, both good and evil. Jesus said: “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” (Luke 10:18). The falling star of Rev 9:11 is Satan. Abaddon or Apollyon is Satan. These four horsemen represent the works of Satan, who is called by many names: serpent, dragon, devil, satan, accuser, baal, beelzebub, Guardian Cherub, destroyer, a son of God, son of perdition, tempter, antichrist, Death, and others.

(Rev 6:9) And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

Remember the John is in the future in the spirit, not in the flesh. These are those slain since the time of Christ and not just those slain during the tribulation. They are martyrs. Mat 24:9, Mark 13:9, and Luke 21:12 discuss Christians being delivered up to officials because of their testimony as Christians. A couple of examples: Paul and Silas in prison, Christians fed to the lions, and all the Apostles except Judas executed for their beliefs. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Christians suffered martyrdom over the ages and that is still happening.

Today, there are Christians still martyred because of their faith. It has happened in China; it has happened in some Muslim countries, and it has happened in the former Soviet Union. Could it happen here in the United States? Yes, given the demonization of Christians. According to much of the media, Bible believing Christians are labeled the “evil” Christian Right. After repeating that label again and again, the public begins to believe it. This puts Christians into second class citizen status. This will eventually lead to persecution. I will go as far as to say that unless there is a turnaround in the apostasy in America and the West, the persecution of Christians will happen here in the USA, and indeed, in the West, in the not so distant future. Remember to thank God every time you attend a worship gathering in freedom.

(Rev 6:10) And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

That cry is still valid. I sometimes wonder how long God will suffer His country, the United States to be so sinful and corrupt. (This also applies to any country in the world that has turned away from God and become sinful and corrupt.) The answer is in Psa 103:8: “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” And in 2 Pet 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

How long will God wait? Until all who will come to Christ have done so. Then He will avenge the blood of the souls slain for the Word of God. That is what judgment is all about. There is another reason why these particular souls must wait:

(Rev 6:11) And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

In the Bible, white signifies purity and righteousness. The reason they received white robes is given in Revelation 7:14. The scripture there says that they “have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:14). This is where the accurate phrase, “blood-washed Christian” comes from. These who were slain were born again (or born from above—both are accurate translations) Christians whose sins were washed away by the blood of the Lamb. Their purity and righteousness comes from the Anointed One, Jesus.

The reason they must wait is given; there are other servants who must die before God will avenge the blood of these martyrs. Who are these fellow servants and what is their relationship to the martyrs? The Greek places the fellow servants and brothers together as one: (kai oi sundoulos auton kai oi adelphoi auton—also the fellow slaves of them and the brothers of them). They are fellow servants and brothers of the martyrs.

In order to discover who these fellow servants and brethren are, we need to follow the clue given in this verse. The clue is the fact that they too should die just like the martyrs. Why did the martyrs die? They died because of their testimony or witness of the Word of God. (Rev 6:9)

To find the identity of the fellow slaves, we need to find some who are servants of God, who are brothers of the martyrs killed for their testimony of the Word. Are there any in Revelation who fit all of these requirements? Yes. Note that in the English, the words witness and testimony are synonymous. Testimony comes from a witness. To testify is to witness. In the Greek they are the same word. If we look through Revelation until we come to the next instance of the word witness, we find it in Rev 11:3: “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.” Now, let me say here and now, that there will be many other Christian brethren killed for their testimony and the Word of God. All of these must die before God avenges the martyrs. But the two witnesses will be the last to die for their testimony and for the Word. After their death and resurrection God will avenge all of those martyred for their testimony and the Word (Rev 11:13-15; 18).

To make our case that the two witnesses are included in the “fellowservants and also their brethren” of the martyrs, let us look at the Greek word rendered ‘testimony.’ It is marturian, from martus. Marturian is the object form of marturia, evidence. Let me define the words:

Marturia, (Strong’s 3141) from martus, (Strong’s 3144), evidence (testimony) given.

Martus, (Strong’s 3144), a witness (literally or figuratively); by analysis a “martyr”.

The Greek word for the two witnesses is martusin, the plural of martus. Those who killed for their testimony were witnesses. The same Greek root word describes both the martyrs of Rev 6:9 and the two witnesses of Rev 11:3. All the forms of the root word, martus, mean testimony, witness, or evidence. The words link the two together.

The two witnesses of Rev 11:3 receive the God-given ability or power to prophesy. To prophesy is to speak under divine inspiration. In other words, they speak the mind and counsel of God, that is, His Word. Their testimony is the Word of God.

Is there anything else? Are the two witnesses fellow servants or brothers? A servant of God does the will of God. Both those slain in Rev 6:9 and the two witnesses of Rev 11:3 were servants of God. They both gave service to God because of their testimony and they were all sons of God, making them brethren. All Christians are sons (and daughters) of God (1 John 3:1-2), thus brethren.

The Bible tells us that the two witnesses “are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.” (Rev 11:4) In Zechariah chapter four, the prophet more fully explains the two olive trees. The angel speaking to Zechariah told him that the two olive trees are the “sons of oil.” The KJV says they are the two anointed ones, but the Hebrew is more specific, they are the ben yitshar, sons of oil. Young’s Literal Translation brings this out. Moffat calls them “the sources of the oil of bliss.” They are servants of God and as His servants they are his sons, as are all of God’s servants. Being sons, they are brethren of all of God’s children, including those slain for their testimony. They are also brethren in a more figurative sense. They suffer death for their testimony as were those under the altar in white robes. That relates them as brother martyrs and as fellow servants. That also fulfills God’s requirements to begin to avenge their blood.

It is of interest to note that as soon as the two witnesses ascend into heaven, God’s begins to pour put His wrath. Look at Rev 11:13. At the exact hour the two ascend into heaven, a great earthquake occurs killing seven thousand men on earth. The retribution begins in Rev 11:13, and continues through the three woes, the seven trumps, and the seven vials of God’s wrath. The rapture will occur before God pours His wrath out upon the earth.

The slain under the altar clad in white robes would have to wait until the all of the fellow servants and brethren destined to martyrdom will die, and, I believe, until the two witnesses are slain and resurrected before God avenges their blood. And that is what will literally happen. You can take it to the bank that if God’s Word says it, it is though it has already happened. It will come to pass.

In several countries at the time of this writing in the 21st Century AD, Christians still suffer death by murder for refusing to renounce their faith in Christ and convert to Islam. The method of this killing is beheading, sometimes done slowly with knives. That is not a quick painless death but a slower painful and horrifying death. Islam is Satan’s religion and this is further proof of that. He was a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies (John 8:44).

This is a precursor to the end-times widespread and wholesale killing of Christians. This is a notice to Christians who are alive during this terrible time of Satan’s wrath against Christians (Rev 13:7). Many will suffer this same type of death. Be prepared. God will get you through it. The Holy Spirit will give you comfort and also will tell you what to say to your persecutors (Mark 13:11). This will occur BEFORE the rapture (Mat 24:29).

This tribulation inflicted on Christians will separate out the wheat from the tares (Mat 13:24–30), that is, true Christians from pretenders. True Christians will refuse to worship the beast and many will die a martyr’s death because of their refusal. Pretenders, on pain of death, will quickly renounce their faith and will worship the beast.

(Rev 6:12) 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;

A new subject is begun here, the opening of the sixth seal, which is second to last. The last seal describes terrible judgments. They start here with the sixth seal. This seal tells us of signs in heaven of the coming Advent, which precedes the terrible day of God’s wrath. This verse parallels Joel 2:31, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.” Isa 29:6 tells us “Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.” Both earthquakes and signs in the sun and moon herald in the Great and Terrible Day of the LORD. The thunder and great noise of Isaiah parallel the shout before the rapture of First Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (author’s emphasis).

(Rev 6:13) 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.

The stars of heaven are comparable to the untimely figs of the fig tree. What are untimely figs? The Greek word for untimely, olunthos, actually means unripe or green figs.

The common fig, the ficus carica, generally produces two crops of figs. The first crop, known as early figs (in other words, untimely), produces fruit on the old growth from last season before the leaves begin to grow in the spring. While this crop is somewhat edible, the figs are not hardy. Sometimes a late freeze kills these figs before they are ripe; sometimes the winds of spring time storms blow the crop away, causing the unripe fruit to be cast to the ground before its time. At this stage it is inedible and useless as a crop and stays on the ground and rots.

Growers harvest figs as they fall off the tree, but they do not harvest these green figs; instead, they are left to decay—to disappear. On the other hand, if no calamity happens to the fruit, its harvest occurs when it is mature. This fruit, if it survives, is usually sweeter and tastier that the normal summer crop.

This passage refers to this early crop of figs. Untimely figs are figs that grow out of season and are not always dependable. They easily fall from the tree. When the wind blows them from the tree, it is as though nothing had grown on the tree. The figs disappear from the tree. You might see these figs on the barren branches tonight and tomorrow morning they may be gone4.

There is a relation between the falling stars of heaven and the untimely figs falling from the tree, which are out of season. The stars in this context represent the principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, and the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12), in other words, celestial beings in operation during the times described here.

Also included are the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, and the powerful (Rev 6:15) who follow the beast and support the evil celestial beings. Instead of those humans leaving their positions in timely manner, they leave when forced out of those positions out of season. The fall of the stars of heaven represents that these evil humans and evil celestial beings are all defeated before the return of Christ.

We understand that from the context of this passage as we can see from the last two verses of Chapter 6.

Now, to what is the Scripture referring when it mentions stars? Let’s look at other places where Scripture mentions stars in the Rev. 1:20: “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”

Stars here in Rev 1:20, are angels, who are messengers. The Greek word here is aggelos (pronounced an-gel’-os because the double gamma in Greek is pronounced “ng” in English), meaning angel. In Revelation stars either literal stars or they are symbolic of Jesus (the Bright and Morning Star), or of men or of angels, including Satan who is an angel. God created starts to be signs for seasons, days, and years. These stars represent the messengers of each of the churches. They were godly men that were members of each congregation.

In the book of Daniel, the little horn, symbolic of the antichrist, “waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them” (Dan 8:10). The little horn is actually the leader Antiochus Epiphanes and the stars refer to the priests and Levites in Jerusalem that Antiochus killed. This passage says some of the stars were cast down, meaning some but not all of the priesthood were killed; in our focal passage (Rev 6:13), all the stars are cast down. See 2 Maccabees chapters 6 and 7.

In the Old Testament, the stars of heaven often symbolize the multitudes of the people of Israel. (Gen 26:4; Ex 32:23; Deu 1:10, 10:22, 28:62).

There is one other scriptural point to make concerning these things. Gen 1:14-16: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: {15} And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. {16} And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.”

God made the sun and the moon and the stars to be signs. One of the signs they herald is the return of Jesus. The darkening of the sun and moon and the stars falling are signs that precede the coming of the Son of Man: “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, {25} And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. {26} And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13:24-26)

While stars are sometimes symbolic of people, angels, events, sings, etc. they are also literal stars. There are many more passages where stars are simply the distant suns we see in the night sky than passages where the stars symbolize men or angels. However when we read of stars falling to earth, that is always symbolic of distress, calamity, war, punishment from God, etc.

There are several New Testament passages where stars fall. In one, Rev 12:4, Satan falls to earth taking one third of the stars with him. Some argue that these stars are angels that followed Satan in his rebellion against God. They fell from heaven and down to the earth with him. However, see the comments about this subject on Rev 12:4 in Revelation Chapter Twelve Part I. But again, in our passage, Rev 6:13, these are the literal stars that we see in the night sky.

One of the signs of the Day of the Lord, and the second advent of the Christ is that the stars will fall from heaven: (Mat 24:29-30) 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: {30} 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.

(Mark 13:24-26) But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, {25} And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. {26} And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

Let’s look at some Old Testament passages:

(Isa 13:9-10) Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. {10} For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.

(Ezek 32:7) And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light.

(Joel 2:10) The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:

(Joel 3:14-15) Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. {15} The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.

As you can see, in the Old Testament, the stars darken and in the New Testament they fall. The Greek word for fall is pipto, which can mean to fall in a figurative sense. It can also mean to fail. Some other definitions are (depending on the context), to fall under judgment, to be condemned, to perish, to disappear, and to lose authority.

We know that it is literally impossible and against common sense for stars to fall to the earth. Most stars are many thousands of times larger than the earth and would swallow it up completely and vaporize it instantly. We do not see that type of destruction levied upon the earth in the Scriptures, refuting real stars falling to the earth. Since we cannot have a literal falling of stars to earth (with the exception of meteors—and this passage does not appear to describe a meteor shower), this must be either a figurative event or an idiom.

Idiomatically, when one ascends to heaven, that one’s pride is in view. We see that in the construction of the Tower of Babel as well as the King of Babylon, called Lucifer in the KJV, saying in his heart that he will ascend into heaven. Conversely, when one falls from heaven it is in utter disgrace. See Isa 14:12-15; Dan 8:7-10. Thus the stars falling from heaven fail to give out their light, thus falling from their glory.

The bottom line here is what we said at the beginning. The stars in this context represent the principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places, the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, and the powerful who follow the beast and support the evil celestial beings. God has brought them down by.

(Rev 6:14) And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

Remember that there was an earthquake when the Lamb opened the seal in verse 12. T Isaiah also prophesied this event in Isaiah and Second Peter; it is a well-documented event. Look at 2 Pet 3:10a: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise. . .” Look also at Isa 34:4: “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.

We often see this figurative language in the Scriptures used in conjunction with stars falling to symbolize calamity and the wrath of God. In light of the fact that we see the hosts of heaven, representing kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man (Rev 6:15) being cast down of removed from their offices, we can also state that this also applies to the same men. The empires of men are spread like a scroll across the landscape just like hosts the heavens spread out over the sky like a unrolled scroll.

The earthquake is a very great one. It shakes all the earth, moving mountains and islands. Everyone will know that this global earthquake is from God. It will be that massive. Mountains can symbolize empires, kingdoms, government, kings, nations, mighty men (Isa 2:2, 14; 13:4; 17:13; Rev 17:9), or even high places, which represent pagan altars (Isa 57:7; 65:7; Jer 3:6).

This verse is a continuation of the thought in Rev 6:13, where we see the fall of the principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places, the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, and the powerful who follow the beast and support the evil celestial beings. We can now add empires, kingdoms, and governments, and pagan altars to the list.

(Rev 6:15-16) And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; {16} And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

This verse corroborated that the previous two verses do symbolize the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men. The people mentioned here are not the election. Christ’s elect are prepared for this event, after all, it is foretold right here in this scripture. He who has an ear, let him hear and he who has an eye, let him see.

Those who are not expecting there to be a day of God’s wrath will realize their sins and in terror will seek to hide from God. They want to hide from the face of Jesus, Whom they hated and reviled, Who is on the throne, and Who is now revealed to them in His true nature. They want to find a place where the terrible wrath of the Lamb cannot reach them, yet this is impossible. There is a picture of Him in Rev 19:12: “His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.” To the unsaved this will be a terrifying experience. Even the saved will cower at His appearance just as John did in Rev 1:17 until Christ spoke and comforted him as He will here.

(Rev 6:17) For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

Those symbols written in this chapter apply to principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places, the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful who follow the beast and support the evil celestial beings, add empires, kingdoms, and governments, and pagan altars. They are also indicative of God’s wrath. We see clouds, dust, darkening stars, moon and sun, etc. throughout the Old Testament where they are signs of God’s wrath. That is true here as well.

Those who belong to Christ will withstand His wrath, for He will gather them to Himself before He metes out His wrath on the earth. At this point God has withheld His, but only for short time longer. In the next chapter, verse three, the angels are to wait until God’s servants are sealed. Prophecies’ of this day of wrath has been around for 6000 years. The first such prophecy is in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

This day of wrath is when the seed of woman, Jesus Christ, will bruise the head of the serpent, who is Satan (Rev. 12:9). There are dozens of places throughout the scriptures that prophesy the day of God’s wrath and there is no excuse for not knowing about it. Do not be deceived; understand God’s Word. No one, not woman, man, beast, or even angel, could withstand the wrath of God, Who is all powerful. All who would attempt to so will fall.

Updated 7/26/2019

 

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior? He is going to return to the world soon. Are you ready? When He does if you do not know Him as your Savior, you will join all those who do not know Him in “Outer Darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 22:13-14).

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  1. Septuagint (from ‘septuaginta,’ which is Latin for seventy) is the name given to the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which were translated by 70-72 Hebrew scholars circa 300-200 BC in Alexandria Egypt. This was the version used by the Apostles in the first century AD.
  2. Godhead (KJV: Act 17:29, Rom 1:20, Col 2:9) is the translation of θεῖος, theios, translated Godhead in the KJV, Divinity, Divine Nature, Divine Being, Deity, etc., in other translations.
  3. However, there are scholars claim that Hades has two chambers; one is the Bosom of Abraham, a place of comfort, and the other chamber is where the wicked dead reside until judgment at the Great White Throne.
  4. Information on figs taken from personal experience and Encyclopedia Britannica on-line.
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