SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- The lamb (who we were introduced to in Revelation 5, and who represents Jesus) breaks six of the seven seals, one at a time. Each results in an event or time period happening. These events fall into three categories:
- The four horsemen of the apocalypse. Yes, this is where that saying comes from. The horse and riders correspond to events or time periods characterized by conquest, war, plague, and death. They may or may not represent God’s direct action on earth; or they could even represent the activities of humanity.
- Martyrs. Those who have been killed for the word of God appear in heaven, calling out to God for judgment on their persecutors.
- General catastrophe. Some think these events represent God’s judgment on the people of the earth, while others think this is the fulfillment of the destruction of the temple (as predicted in Matthew 24), and others feel this represents political upheaval.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- Due to the nature of the writing in this chapter (and many to follow in Revelation), several different interpretations are plausible. Some of the more popular views on their timing is that these are events that have happened in the past, events that will be fulfilled in the future, they have been in the process of being fulfilled for a long time, or that they're not actual events at all, but instead symbolic of spiritual realities.
- Although this strange vision is confusing and makes you wonder, the assurance we have is that God (who is love) is in control, knows what he is doing, and holds the future in his hands.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- In verse 9 we read about people who had been killed because they refused to deny their testimony and faith in Jesus. That may sound like something from the past, but Christians are still being killed today for their faith. In fact, thousands of Christians around the world are killed every year for their faith in countries like Indonesia, China, Nigeria, and Rwanda. If you are a follower of Jesus, these are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Take some time to pray for them -- that God will strengthen and comfort them as they face persecution and possibly martyrdom.