Understanding Revelation / Chapter 1 — Rich Kelsey

Half-moon photo taken by Rich Kelsey

Chapter 1 — Seven Seals of the Apocalypse:

The word apocalypse is Greek for the English word revelation. But what does the word revelation mean?

rev·e·la·tion (re˘ vé-la¯ ‘shen) noun

1. a. The act of revealing or disclosing. b. Something revealed, especially a dramatic disclosure of something not previously known or realized.

2. Theology. A manifestation of divine will or truth.

3. Revelation (re˘vé-la¯ ‘shen) Abbr. Rev., Rv. A book of the Bible.

Middle English revelacion, from Old French revelation, from Latin revclâtiô, revclâtiôn-, from revclâtus past participle of revclâre, to reveal.[1] The act of disclosing, uncovering, making known something that is hidden is what revelation means.

The uncovering of hidden prophecy is what the book of Revelation is about. Therefore, one would think that looking into Revelation’s pages would result in people becoming enlightened. Yet reading Revelation for most people leaves them with questions:

Will the plagues be literal, with the oceans turning to blood and the sun scorching men with great heat, or could these illustrations be figurative, having a different meaning entirely? Surely literal fire[2] will not be coming out of the mouths of the two witnesses.[3]

Bible prophecy is always easier to understand when looking back on it rather than forward to it. In this and the following chapters, possible models of Revelation’s plagues will be offered.

Revelation’s Scroll with Seven Seals:

“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.'” (Revelation 5:1-5)

Back when the book of Revelation was written, there were no printing presses; documents, such as mortgage agreements were handwritten on papyrus and rolled up as scrolls. It was the custom in that period to seal the scroll of the mortgaged property so that no one could tamper with the deed. Another scroll would accompany the sealed scroll, and people would refer to it concerning the contents of the sealed scroll. The sealed scroll would only be opened at the time the property was transferred. The new owner would then open and inspect the sealed scroll to make sure everything was in order.

It is very possible that the scroll in Revelation chapter 5 represents the deed to the earth, and whoever holds it has the right to rule. When the last seal is loosed and the scroll is opened, the new owner will take possession of his property. God is shown symbolically sitting on the throne; He has possession of the scroll. Jesus is the one found worthy[4] to take the scroll from the Father’s hand and open it.

When the Apostle John, who wrote Revelation, experienced his vision on the Isle of Patmos, he was told that a mighty lion with stellar ancestry had triumphed! So John probably expected to see some powerful figure take hold of the scroll. This would not be the case. What John saw next was a lamb looking as if it had been slain, clutching an antique scroll as old as the earth itself, with writings upon it within and without, and seven wax seals holding it closed. This feeble lamb tore open the final seal.

Why would the powerful Lion of Judah now have the appearance of a slain sacrificial lamb? Because God has taken the frail things of this world and made them strong; through death, that lamb became more powerful than any lion.

Jesus, taking on the role of a sacrificial lamb,

“purchased men.”[5]

As Jesus Christ begins breaking open each of Revelation’s seven wax seals, a series of events come to pass. The first four seals send four horsemen riding through the earth, bringing in famine and death. The fifth seal sets up the killing machine Satan and his demon host will use upon Christians.

The sixth seal speaks of apostasy.

The following seven trumpet blasts contained in the seventh seal are symbolic of heaven’s battle and intended victory,[6] each blast having an impact on earth. The last three trumpet blasts are called woes. The seventh trumpet, or final woe, contains the bowl[7] judgments. As the final bowl is poured out, the Battle of Armageddon takes place.[8]

Cleaning House:

In the first place, we might ask why something Jesus is doing in heaven would initiate a demonic uprising on earth?

Christ is shown opening Revelation’s mortgage scroll (the deed to the earth). He is reclaiming the domain Adam forfeited to Satan. Jesus is redeeming the earth with all the souls that have faith in his atonement. As the new owner, Christ is opening the deed to make sure everything is in order. But everything is not in order! The whole earth is filled with wickedness, and this shall not stand.

Satan, realizing that time is short, musters all of his forces into action and quickly brings about his final conquest. However, as Jesus loosens the last wax seal of the scroll, Satan is no longer triumphant over mankind, Jesus Christ is. In a last-ditch effort to thwart Christ’s victory, Satan brings the world to the brink of destruction during the Battle of Armageddon, at which time Jesus returns to the Mount of Olives and saves the world:

“On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west forming a very large valley. Half of the mountain will move toward the north, and the other half toward the south. And you will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!” (Zechariah 14:4-5)

Four Horses Bringing In a Brave New World:

What does a horse symbolize? Strength! Battle! The ability to cover large distances! What do horsemen do? They ride. Revelation’s horses have been waiting at the starting gate for a very long time. When they and their riders journey through the earth, they will take the world by storm. These horsemen are most likely illustrations of fallen spirits who have been granted power before the courts of God to influence men and bring pestilence and death upon earth. The deception these fallen angels manifest may also be a sign to the Middle Eastern people that their deliverer/messiah is at hand.

“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9–10)

In the book of Ephesians, Satan and his demon forces are called,

“… the powers of this dark world.” (Ephesians 6:12)

As the devil restrains the light of truth from unbelievers there is little chance of them seeing the light of the gospel.[9]

Authorization From the Heavenly Throne:

Speaking about Revelation’s red horse, it is written,

“Its rider was given power.” (Revelation 6:4)

In the original Greek language which Revelation was written, the passive form of the verb for “given” or “edothé” is used four times in chapter 6:1-8. The subject (i.e., the one who “gave”) is never explicitly stated, but the context clearly implies that authorization came from the heavenly throne, God, the Lamb or both. Therefore, despite how things may look on earth, God’s plan is moving forward to its inevitable conclusion. Revelation’s Seals, Trumpets and Bowl judgments are under God’s direction, not Satan’s.

An example of power being given is recorded in the Bible’s book of Job. Satan pleaded before the courts of God to smite Job and his house and was given power to do so. Fire came down from heaven and destroyed Job’s sheep and also those tending them. The devil also influenced the Sabeans and the Chaldeans to rob Job’s livestock and kill Job’s servants. Satan was even given power to cause a violent wind to destroy Job’s eldest son’s house, killing all those inside.

At the very time Jesus is opening the final seals on earth’s mortgage scroll to inspect the deed, Satan will be allowed to lash out with great vengeance. This planet could suffer massive environmental disasters as a result of these horsemen. It’s possible we could see holy wars in which men could become crazed enough to pollute their enemies’ cities or water supplies with nuclear or biochemical contamination.

Seal One—the First Horse Rides:

“I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” (Revelation 6:1–2)

A white horse: what better color could have been used to depict a conqueror? When this first seal is broken, John hears a clap of thunder; could this signify a sudden conquest?

The words,

“… and he was given a crown”

are noteworthy.

The rider of the white horse

“… held a bow.”

This is symbolic of weaponry and battle. The text also states that this horseman,

“… rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” (Revelation 6:2)

While it’s possible that this white horse and its rider represent military action, and the conquest of nations, it may also be reference to demonic activity. We have fallen angels in the world today; they are already at work influencing men. There are also angels so wicked that God has them bound until the righteous are sealed; then those spirits will be let loose.

Seal Two—the Second Horse Rides:

“When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.” (Revelation 6:3–4)

Apparently, the color red was given to this horse to depict blood. The large sword this horseman receives is a symbolic illustration of the massive force the rider manifests upon earth. What does a sword do? It kills! Men wield weapons of death in this world, therefore, it’s likely that the rider of the red horse has been given power to influence mankind to kill one another, eventually bringing the earth into a state of crisis, and possibly setting the stage for Antichrist’s entrance.

The man of sin may come upon the world scene hiding under a false cloak as a man of peace, a savior: an influential world leader who could very well unite the Islamic and Jewish people for a season.

Seal Three—the Third Horse Rides:

“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine.'” (Revelation 6:5–6)

The color black given to this horse may represent the lack of spiritual enlightenment which mankind faces during this hour. The pair of scales the rider is holding is surely a figurative representation; so, let’s ask the question:

“What might the scales represent?”

The context of Revelation 6:5-6 provides the answer: scales depict a lack of plenty, with grain representing what is being measured out; food will evidently still be available but at a much greater cost.

In order to get a clearer picture of the meaning of this prophecy we need to make some reasonable assumptions:

1. Let’s consider the possibility that the passage in question (Revelation 6:5-6) may not be speaking of literal food, or, labor one would do for an employer.

2. Then, let’s take our analysis one step further and look for a figurative meaning to Revelation 6:5-6.

There is an end-time famine mentioned in scripture which is figurative in nature; and, Revelation 6:5-6 sure looks as though it is referring to that passage:

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.'” (Amos 8:11-12)

If Revelation 6:5-6 is speaking of spiritual famine, then perhaps the wheat, barley, oil, and wine, mentioned in the text could be pointing to things other than literal grain, oil, and wine?[10] For example: there are passages where wine represents[11] Christ’s blood. Other passages depict oil as the anointing[12] of the Holy Spirit. It’s noteworthy that the oil and the wine are not to be touched. Could this be a picture of Christians being protected from spiritual harm; while their daily bread — spiritual food[13] is in short supply?

Seal Four—the Fourth Horse Rides:

“When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” (Revelation 6:7–8)

This spotted, pale gray horse may be symbolic of a lingering death,

“… the wild beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8)

may represent the religious and political systems these horsemen establish. Surely observing Antichrist’s religious ideology will bring mankind into a sick spiritual state.

Some horses go into the north country,[14] which probably represents Turkey. Their influence in Turkey will have worked, for Turkey is one of the nations mentioned in the bible’s book of Ezekiel that comes against Jerusalem in the battle of Armageddon. Christian nations, at that time, may not suffer the effects of these judgments nearly as much as certain Middle Eastern countries, such as Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia, and Libya, because the work of the wicked angels will surely be hindered by God’s people. The promises of divine blessing and the forewarnings of divine cursing as spelled out in Scripture are still in effect throughout the time these horsemen ride.

The Four Horses of Zechariah:

The four horses from Zechariah and the four horses of Revelation are different views of the same type of influences. The dappled horse of Zechariah is similar to the pale horse in Revelation.

“The first chariot had red horses, the second black, the third white, and the fourth dappled—all of them powerful. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, ‘What are these, my lord?’ The angel answered me, ‘These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world. The one with the black horses is going toward the north country, the one with the white horses toward the west, and the one with the dappled horses toward the south.’ When the powerful horses went out, they were straining to go throughout the earth. And he said, ‘Go throughout the earth!’ So they went throughout the earth.” (Zechariah 6:2–7)

The horses of Zechariah chapter 6 had historical fulfillments in the history of Israel, but as mentioned, they are, different views of the same type of influences, because Revelation is not simply quoting Zechariah’s prophecy; it is using imagery and language from Zechariah 6 (and other passages) to produce a new prophecy.

Zechariah 6:8 was a prophecy for national Israel; Revelation 6:7-8 is a prophecy given to Christians at the end of time. Therefore, Revelation’s four horsemen point to something different than those horsemen in Zechariah 6, though there are similarities between the two prophecies.

The picture of Revelation’s colored horses alludes to Zechariah 6:1-8 where four groups of horses patrolled the earth and punished those nations that went too far in oppressing God’s people. God used the nations to chastise Israel but not to destroy her. The natural, political and economic disasters at the time Revelation’s prophecies are fulfilled are Jesus Christ’s punishment of the nations for oppressing his people.

It’s also possible that the trials released by the four horsemen will serve to purge God’s people of idolatry; these judgments may serve a dual purpose of punishing the wicked for persecuting God’s people and also purifying Christians.

The Fifth Seal—Martyrs:

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.” (Revelation 6:9–11)

In this last verse, martyrs throughout history are told to wait a little longer for God’s judgment to be administered upon earth because there are more martyrs yet to come. When Antichrist sets up his killing machine to eliminate those who will not take his mark, it’s possible we will see martyrdom on a major scale. This will be the true test for halfhearted, partially committed men and women who profess Jesus as Savior. It’s inevitable that multitudes will fall from the faith, submitting to the edicts of the man of sin, rather than suffer death.

The Sixth Seal—Apostasy:

“I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earth­quake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” (Revelation 6:12–14)

Notice the language of Revelation 6:14:

“The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up.”

Seeing that the deed to the earth is also a scroll, as recorded in the same book, it would seem that an illustration of a scroll rolling up might point to a change in the deed’s status.

Surely the saying,

“… every mountain and island was removed from its place,” (Revelation 6:14)

is speaking of a change in earth’s dominion.

Let’s look at Revelation 13:6 again, focusing on the stars:

“And the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.” (Revelation 13:6)

Understanding that stars falling in Revelation 6:13 are not literal stars falling, or even what may have looked like stars falling to the Apostle John, does not diminish the significance of the passage. John was given this vision for a reason; it is a warning to those living near the end of time. Therefore, let’s think: What do stars falling have to do with a fig tree being shaken by a might wind, symbolically speaking?

The nation of Israel is described as a fig tree and also an olive tree in scripture. Men are likened unto trees. Jesus cursed a fig tree because there was no fruit on it. Yet it was the right time of the season for fruit, and there were even leaves on the tree, which Christ saw from a distance, showing that fruit should have been there. Men produce fruit out of a good heart. The hearts of the men of Israel were unfruitful, so God cut down the tree.

John the Baptist said,

“The ax is already at the root of the trees.” (Matthew 3:10)

John warned Israel to bring forth fruit. However, John’s words were not heeded. Yet the book of Revelation is written about the future, not what Israel did in the past! While the symbolism remains the same, the time-frame is all wrong. The nation of Israel was cut off. A new branch was grafted into the tree. In the book of Romans, we see that the Gentiles are the new branch.

Could the stars that fall in Revelation be weak-minded Christians who have a poor foundation, and in their day of adversity, when they are shaken, they are shown as stars falling to the earth? The symbolism of stars falling in Revelation 6:13 may very well depict a great falling away of Christians from the faith due to persecution from the Antichrist government.

A Tangent with Judas in It:

Fallen angels, that is, demons, can plant thoughts in people’s minds; they can play on people’s emotions. Demons accomplish their goals by manipulating their unsuspecting hosts like a pup­peteer pulling on strings. Demons work more easily through men and women who are unaware of their existence. Many people are pawns in Satan’s hand, fulfilling his goals while condemning their own souls.  For example: back when Jesus walked the earth, Satan entered Judas and worked in him, plotting to have Jesus killed. What reward did Judas receive for his appointment as Satan’s right-hand man?

“With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.” (Acts 1:18)

Judas was driven to such torment after he betrayed Jesus that he ended his own life by hanging himself. That was just the beginning of sorrows for Judas, for the Scriptures express:

“Woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24)

This miserable, hell-bound Judas was not aware that the devil had entered him and played on his emotions. Judas was doing the devil’s bidding for so long he had taken on Satan’s image. Judas was stealing money from Jesus and lying right to his face. Judas should have known the Lord was aware of his evil schemes, but his heart was hardened; he had forsaken the truth and went about fulfilling his own lusts. In his twisted mind, Judas probably thought he could get away with Christ’s betrayal; however, as Satan was lying in wait to ensnare Jesus through him, it was Judas’ soul he was also entrapping.

Judas justified his actions by believing the temporary reward of money was well worth any potential judgment he might face. Apparently, Judas convinced himself that either God would overlook his transgression or, at the very least, the judgment would not be so bad. Judas’ life is a good representation of men and women who serve Satan today. Peace will be taken from the earth by the manipulation of wicked men through powerful demons bent on doing Satan’s bidding.

Understanding Revelation Index

Christian Articles


[1] (Microsoft Encarta Reference Suite)

[2] “… or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it.” (Jeremiah 4:4)

[3] “If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies.” (Revelation 11:5)

[4] Revelation 5:9

[5] “And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)

[6] “After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.'” (Revelation 19:1)

[7] Revelation 16:2–17

[8] “Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:16)

[9] “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel.” (2 Corinthians 4:4)

[10] “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matthew 24:45)

[11] “Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” (Matthew 26:27-28)

[12] “‘Take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and everything in it; consecrate it and all its furnishings, and it will be holy. … Then dress Aaron in the sacred garments, anoint him and consecrate him so he may serve me as priest. Bring his sons and dress them in tunics. Anoint them just as you anointed their father, so they may serve me as priests. Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue for all generations to come.'” (Exodus 40:9,13-15)

[13] “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God.” (Hebrews 5:14-6:1)

[14] Zechariah 6:8