Shown above is a chronological timeline of the events in Revelation, simply as the book describes. This is what we’ll be using as our map.
When most people think of the End Times, or Armageddon, they usually think of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. What most people don’t understand is that the ‘horsemen’ are only the first four signs of many. Even a cursory reading of the Bible makes it apparent that the Lord is very fond of the number 7. It is a vital part of the earliest chapter, where the Lord creates the 7 day week. For that reason, it should be no surprise that the events of the apocalypse occur in sevens. There are three specific sets of sevens mentioned in Revelation… Seals, Trumpets and Vials (in that order). The Four Horsemen are the first four Seals, but are only a small part of the chain of events, as we will see.
Seal 1 – The White Horse
We only have one verse describing the first seal, as is the case with nearly all of them.
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. (Rev. 6:2)
Most people assume this is the Antichrist, but he isn’t mentioned until chapter 11 of Revelation. And that clearly is after the Seals. However, the crown shows that this does represent a person. A king, dictator or leader of some sort.
The other clue that we are given is the bow. The obvious inference is to war or conflict, which might certainly be true here, but it also has another meaning…
For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. (Psalms 10:2)
Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words: That they may shoot in secret at the perfect: suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not. They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them? They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded. So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: all that see them shall flee away. (Psalms 64:3-8)
Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies: But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow. For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images. (Psalms 78:56-58)
And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:3)
Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me…. They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt. (Hosea 7:13, 16)
We see a pattern of ‘deceitful bows’ shooting arrows of lies. That is precisely what the rider of the first horse does. He gains a position of power and starts a campaign of lies against the Lord. This is also what Christ warns us of in the first part of the Olivet Discourse.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (Matthew 24:4-5)
Of course, the obvious question is who is this person? But before we determine who this is, we need to keep reading.
Seal 2 – The Red Horse
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. (Rev. 6:4)
Here we see another rider that follows the first, which went out conquering (or gaining supporters). The obvious result of someone or something in the process of conquering is that there will be a struggle and wars breaking out. This, of course, ties in directly with the Olivet Discourse wherein Christ said:
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matt. 24:6-8)
So the second seal is more or less an extension of the first, except it focuses on the action involved in gaining a following and defeating opponents.
Seal 3 – The Black Horse
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. 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. (Rev. 6:5-6)
This is an interesting vision. Many students of End Times explain that this symbolizes famine, which was also referred to in the Olivet Discourse verses quoted above. And while that is likely true for many areas, there is another aspect in play here that isn’t obvious until you put it in modern perspective.
First of all, a measure of wheat or three measures of barley are biblical terms for a day’s food rations. Barley doesn’t have nearly as much nutritional value as wheat, so three times as much is required to equal the same meal.
Also, a penny is the amount used to describe a day’s wages. This was shown in the parable Jesus told about the vineyard owner who hired workers throughout the day, promising all of them a penny, regardless of how long they worked.
So, a day’s wages is needed to buy a day’s worth of food. Or, if you carried it out for a week or two, it means you would spend your paycheck just on food (not to mention your weekly or monthly essentials). Today we call this living paycheck to paycheck. Essentially, the Third Seal shows that a vast majority of the affected population would be living this way. It’s easy to see with the economic meltdown in Greece and other countries how this is already happening. And our politicians and economists are threatening this could become the norm in the United States in the near future.
And there is one other element in this image that often goes overlooked. In almost every case in the bible where balances are mentioned, it is in reference to the honesty of the merchant, or lack thereof.
He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress. (Hosea 12:7)
Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? (Amos 8:5)
Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights? (Micah 6:11)
From this we might infer that the Black Horse signifies an economic situation where merchants on the grand scale (no pun intended) are profiteering at the expense of the common man. Does this ring a bell with anyone?
Seal 4 – The Pale Horse
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 plague, and with the beasts of the earth. (Rev. 6:8)
Finally, the last symbol of the beginning of sorrows. Here is where a common misinterpretation is made. Many tribulation scholars claim that this says that a quarter of the earth’s population will be killed at this point. That is not what the verse says. Rather, it says that the entity symbolized by this horse will have power (or control) over a quarter of the earth TO KILL. Meaning that one empire will likely be comprised of about 25% of the earth’s population, and that group will go about killing others.
Also, notice that this organization kills “with sword”. If this is taken literally, as it could very well be, think of a group that tends to kill their victims with swords, even in modern times, and things will start to make sense. I’ll give you a little help. That group is called Islam.
Now, go back to the beginning, with Islam in mind.
The rider of the White Horse could very well be President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. Not very hard to imagine since he personally believes that he will play a pivotal role in ushering in the End Time events (as seen from a muslim viewpoint). He certainly fits the role of liar since he has flatly denied the Holocaust, and makes official preposterous statements such as proclaiming there are no homosexuals in all of Iran.
Then consider the Red Horse and think of the Arab Spring/Summer that is occurring right now. Islam is quickly taking over many biblical regions through lies, force and intimidation by theocratic governments and Hamas and al-qaeda, as well.
We’ve already shown that the Black Horse is economic hardship. There are reports in newspapers every day of economic concerns involving certain individuals or corporations making huge profits while Joe Sixpack is struggling to get by. In the United States, the price of everyday goods has gone up dramatically in recent years. Most of that inflation is caused by higher energy costs… specifically oil. It’s no secret who controls the cost of that. OPEC is entirely muslim-controlled and has leveraged oil prices to their benefit while raising the cost of everything for westerners… including their daily meals.
The Pale Horse, which is Islam, will soon control a quarter of the earth’s population. We’re getting near that point already, since the muslim world population is around 23%. The coalition of Islamic nations claims to represent ‘a religion of peace’ but news reports every day are filled with stories of honor killings of girls who make the mistake of being seen with non-muslims, former muslims being persecuted and killed for leaving their religion, women being lashed for allegedly blaspheming Muhammed (even tho there is generally no evidence supporting the claim), and of course large-scale terrorist plots against ‘infidels’.
I’d say we’re currently in the middle of the Beginning of Sorrows. Somewhere around Seal Three, just gaining momentum, with Seal Four about to be broken any day.
Seal 5 – Heavenly Martyrs
Moving along from the Four Horsemen of the first four Seals, we next look at the 5th Seal. It’s short, but has a unique significance.
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: 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? 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. (Revelation 6:9-11)
What makes this significant is the combination of two things. First of all, it is made clear that the souls are martyred christians. And second, we are shown that they are told to ‘rest’ until all christians destined for martyrdom are slain.
In other words, contrary to what most people believe and what most churches teach, when you die, you aren’t immediately spirited off to Heaven where you hang out with your long-dead relatives. Scripture states in several verses that when you die you ‘go to sleep’ and wait for Christ’s second coming, at which point all the ‘dead in Christ will rise and be transformed’. That’s the main point made in connection with the Rapture.
Seal 6 – The ‘Action’ Begins
This one is significant in that there is now tangible action going on.
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. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. (Revelation 6:12-14)
Clearly we’re encountering some things that will absolutely not go unnoticed. What appears to be a solar eclipse along with a lunar eclipse. A great earthquake that moves every mountain and island. Stars of heaven falling to earth like figs being shaken off a tree. That’s pretty serious. And looking at the next couple of verses, you might say ‘serious’ is an understatement.
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; 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: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6:15-17)
This is where bible interpretation gets tricky, and this section of Revelation throws a lot of people off. Many bible scholars see the last part and automatically say “hey, that’s the Wrath of God. That means everything that happens from here on out is God’s Wrath!” Wrongo.
What it actually states is that basically every person on the planet will be thinking (and of course, screaming) “oh no! This is it! It’s Judgement Day! We’re all totally screwed!” By the way, that is a reference to the Terminator movie series. But we’ll get back to that in a bit so as not to get off track here.
Read the verses of Revelation again, and you’ll see that it doesn’t say that the Lord says it is the Wrath of God. It says that people will be assuming that. To see where the Lord first mentions His wrath, we go to chapter 11 at the 7th Trumpet…
And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. (Revelation 11:18)
The next reference is after the description of the Antichrist and False Prophet’s rain of terror of chapter 13, and the decription of Christ’s return of chapter 14, at the beginning of chapter 15…
And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God. (Revelation 15:1)
And the Lord’s command to pour out His wrath in the next chapter…
And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth. (Revelation 16:1)
Make no mistake, the Wrath of God is not involved in any of the Seals. In fact, nothing supernatural happens during any of the Seals or Trumpets, which come next. (That is if you don’t include the sealing of the 144,000, and the actions of the Two Witnesses and the False Prophet, which I classify a bit differently.)
So back to the 6th Seal. We’re not done yet.
We just saw that an ‘stars fall from heaven’ and there is an earthquake of epic proportion. Do you think the two are related? I do!
Reading on in chapter 7, we next see an angel comes along with the Seal of God and immediately goes about sealing the foreheads of 144,000 jews, all from different tribes of Israel. There is much speculation to who or what these ‘144k are, but we read in chapter 14 that these are indeed human males. The point is made quite clearly here…
These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. (Revelation 14:4)
After they are sealed, we are told of a great multitude in heaven coming out of great tribulation.
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; (Revelation 7:9)
This concludes the 6th Seal, but it makes more sense if we move on to the 7th Seal and add that in to the action.
Seal 7 – Transition to the Trumpets
Let’s assume this starts immediately (like, within a split second) after the 6th Seal.
And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. (Revelation 8:1-2)
Essentially, the 7th Seal denotes a half hour lapse after the 6th Seal, then the Trumpets begin. In other words, Seals 6 and 7, are nearly simultaneous, with the Trumpets beginning 30 minutes later. And they begin in a big way. Go to the Trumpets section to continue.