Breaking of the Seals

Bible Book: Revelation  6 : 1-17
Subject: Judgment; Seven Seals
Series: Revelation

If there is one thing almost all people have in common it is that we love a good story. Any kind of story. Historical narratives, humorous stories, science fiction, mystery, made for TV sob stories. If there is one thing I am sure of it is that cave men - and women - sat around in their caves telling tales of excitement, mystery, and humor. Then in the off season they would do the re-runs! My grandfather had a slight speech impediment and he spoke with a very distinct southern drawl. Even when he had reached an advanced age he always had company because family, friends and neighbors loved to sit and listen to his stories. He was a practical joker and his timing was so nearly perfect that people could not believe he was pulling their leg until he had sprung the joke on them. He never embarrassed others well. He had rather make himself the brunt of a joke than embarrass someone else. The exception to that was a few egotists he really stung, but often that individual was not as aware of it as others were. He told stories about haunted houses, woods, and cemeteries, as well as hunting stories, fishing stories, and - well, he had a lot of stories about folks who were involved in a popular industry during Prohibition. He used his humor at times to encourage. Once when I was visiting with him while on break from seminary, we walked out into his front yard where I saw that a right of way had been cleared for a power line and for the first time I could stand in his yard and look off into the distance and see his church, The Turkey Creek Baptist Church. I asked, "Granddaddy, how do you like your new pastor?" His response was immediate and honest, "I’ll tell you son, there ain’t too much to him." Immediately, he added, "But don’t tell him I said so. I’ve been bragging on him to his face." No, he was not being hypocritical. He was trying to encourage the young man, believing that if he would "brag" on certain points he would be motivated to improve them. I have often used that to encourage pastors not to take what people say about them too seriously. We loved to sit and listen to his stories. Before radio, TV, and movies people often entertained each other by telling stories.

For many weeks in 2004 people across the country were going to see a new and very controversial movie, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Critics charged Mel Gibson with being anti-Semitic. Some even went so far as to charge that he even believed that people are sinners! Millions, however, saw it and were blessed. One man saw the movie and went to the police station and turned himself in. He had committed a murder.

The first of September (2004) the movie came out on DVD and VHS tape. I picked up one of the 4.1 million copies that sold that first day. This is amazing. To some people, this is the greatest movie they can imagine. Others have their favorites. John F. Kennedy said that his favorite movie was THE GUNS OF NAVARONE. I have categories, and all of them but the comedy include John Wayne. He was my father’s favorite as well.

My interest in a good story does not stop with movies and television programs. I love to read. I have read all the Gilbert Morris books I can find. He does a great job of telling a Christian story. My favorite writer was the late Louis L’Amour, who wrote about one hundred western books plus many others, including THE WALKING DRUM, SITKA, AND THE LAST OF THE BREED. When he was sent to Europe during the Second World War an officer heard his name and asked if he was the western writer. The officer said, "the general talks about your books all the time." The general was Eisenhower. L’Amour was just beginning at the time.

He said that he simply thought of himself as a story teller. What is your favorite story? Your favorite mystery? Well, I want to tell you that there is one that will surpass all the books and all the movies. That mystery is found in the Book of Revelation. Many people have spent a lifetime studying this book, seeking the key to unlocking the mystery.

I will not answer all your questions, as I have emphasized before. My purpose is not to explain all the mysteries but to seek the blessing promised in 1:3. We will do little more that skim the surface, but we will be blessed if we spend time in this book.

In Revelation, chapter four we were prepared to see the scroll of chapter five. The One seated on the throne is holding a scroll, which was covered with writing within and without. It had seven seals, seven being the perfect number. This scroll, which may have been the title of deed to all God created, is absolutely secure. No one in heaven, on earth, or under the earth was worthy to open the scroll. Then Jesus took the scroll and all living ones in heaven acknowledged that the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, was worthy. He was worthy because He was the Agent of creation, and because He poured out His blood on the Cross to redeem people to God the Father. The four living ones say "Amen." The four and twenty elders bow down and worship Him. He is worthy!


"Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, ""Come!"" I looked, and there was a white horse. The horseman on it had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he went out as a victor to conquer."

I have always envied those interpreters of Revelation who have all the answers. Well, that is a bit of an overstatement. In fact they scare me to death! There is something about a person with all the answers that should alert us to the possibility that they may not know as much as they think they do. When we come to this passage we see many various interpretations and many of them speak with an assumed authority. Over the past century, we have had a number self-proclaimed prophets who have predicted the end of the world, the Rapture, the Tribulation, and all things associated with it. World War I was the war to end all wars. The world would end in 1919, according to Judge Rutherford. World War II would surely usher in the final stage of human history. Israel returned to the land of Abraham in 1948 - there would be but one generation left - or was it 1963. Then there were the others: the world would end in the seventies, then the eighties. Desert Storm brought on a series of new predictions. After all, Desert Storm was a war against Babylon. Armageddon was staring us in the face. The one thing all those confused prophets of the past has had in common was that they were all wrong. That is, they were wrong if they set a date before today!

When we come to the first six seals we will not find common ground. THE NEW COMMENTARY ON THE WHOLE BIBLE will illustrate my point:

"The rider is seated on a white horse. Some commentators (Walvoord, Swete, Caird, Bruce) argue that this rider is the Antichrist or some other evil force, primarily because the three other horses depict evil powers at work. But other commentators (Alford, Ladd) insist that the rider on the white horse represents Christ (cf. 19:11-16) who brings the saving power of the gospel. The white horse represents conquest, militarism. "White" suggests victory. Perhaps this picture of the horseman is taken from a Parthian cavalryman, the most dreaded enemy of the Roman empire. Roman warriors of that time did not use the bow, which was the favorite weapon of the Parthians. The rider is depicted as having a crown, the garland or wreath of a conqueror, on his head. he went forth conquering, and to conquer—He is pictured as one gaining a lasting victory. The first four seals are judgments on the earth against the power that opposes the kingdom of God" [NCWB, emphasis added].

John MacArthur says that the white horse represents an unparalleled time of world peace - a false peace that is to be short lived. In addition to everything else, various commentators speak with authority about the color of this horse. White suggests victory. White stands for peace. White represents righteousness.

So what do we know for sure? Look at the Scripture: "The horseman on it had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he went out as a victor to conquer." There is a horseman. Some have pointed out the fact that he had a bow but no mention is made of arrows. One would not go into battle with a bow and no arrows. Yet, "he went out as a victor to conquer." Either the arrows are not just mentioned or the conquest has been completed and there is peace, but peace only for a time.

The stage may well be set for one to assume anticipate this today. Our first response is to watch and pray. In the fifties, sixties, and seventies it seemed that Communism was set to take over the world, and give us their version of peace, a false peace that promised peace and delivered war, that promised blessings and delivered misery, that promised justice and delivered injustice. Then the wall came tumbling down, and then the Iron Curtain ran into American tanks on the sands of Kuwait and Iraq, and many thought there was hope for peace. America was the lone super power, which did not set well with Communist China, whose leaders helped finance political campaigns and walked off with enough of our technology to put them well ahead of their schedule. However, with all the trade with China you would thing that shrewd diplomats should be able to keep the peace.

Then came nine/eleven, the other date that will live in infamy. As you may remember, I was at Glorieta for the meeting of the board of trustees for LifeWay Christian Resources when the terrorists attacked. I was one of the few who had driven to Glorieta, and believer me, after all flights were grounded I was happy to have my own car there. Since that time we have gone to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are still engaged in the war against terrorism, and may well be engaged in this war until the Lord returns. Who knows what visions of conquests lurk in the dark recesses of some Muslim leader’s mind? Are we witnessing some things right now that should alert us to the possibility that the prophecies we are looking at may be about to be revealed? Watch. And pray.


"When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ""Come!"" Then another horse went out, a fiery red one, and its horseman was empowered to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. And a large sword was given to him."

The second seal is broken and the second living creature calls John’s attention to another horse, this one is a fiery red. The blood-red color speaks of war, of a holocaust that is spread throughout the world (Matt. 24:7). God grants to this horseman the power to throw the whole planet into war, a horrible world-wide war that defies description. Yet that is not the end. This is just the beginning, the birth pangs of God’s wrath that will be poured out on the earth.

"People will slaughter one another." Whether this means anarchy or a complete breakdown in law and order we are not told, but people will be slaughtering one another. Murder will be common place. If our liberal media has its way and the role of Christianity in America may be usurped by Islam. Let them explain freedom of the press then! We have no idea what might follow, should Islam take over in America. The "religion of peace" has shed a lot of blood. Look at the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the attack on the USS Cole, nine/eleven, constant suicide bombings in Israel, and now attacks in Russia, Spain, England, France, and Lebanon. When two Russian air planes crash within minutes of each other, where do the authorities look? Surely, they suspected the Baptists, or the Pentecostals! In reality, they did not have to look very far. The Muslim group behind the carnage was quick to take credit for it. On the morning of September 1, 2004, radical Muslims took over a school on the Russian border and they held four to eight hundred hostages. They threatened to kill fifty children for every terrorist the Russians killed. On September 2, 2004, about two hundred people were killed and they still held hostages. And how did the American media play this? Chechen rebels! Over and over, they are Chechen rebels. Never do they report that they are Muslim extremists. And that is exactly what they are, Islamic fundamentalists who slaughter other people in the name of a "religion of peace."

Young Muslims went on a rampage in France that still defies belief, and how does the media in America report it? Youths threw fire bombs. Youths killed people. Youths injured policemen. Youths took the burned thousands of automobiles. Those people were Muslims! A cruise ship was attacked and how does the media handle it? A ship was attacked by pirates. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard the word pirate! They were Muslim extremists! How do you think the media will manage the news when the events revealed in Revelation begin to take place?

These prophecies may well find their fulfillment during the Great Tribulation, but what we are seeing now should let us know that some of these radical groups will slaughter Christians and Jews whenever they have an opportunity. They will also kill others who get in their way, including other Muslims. A reporter covering the suicide bombings on two busses in southern Israel asked an officer if the attack was in retaliation for Israel’s attack on Palestinian leaders. The officer laughed - I am sure in disgust at the ignorance of the reporter - and said, "They kill us because we are Jews. They don’t have to have any other reason."

My old friend, Anis Shorrosh has said that as a child his goal in life was to get big enough to start killing Jews, whom he blamed for killing his father. Anis says that when he stands on a street in Jerusalem and sees a Jew and loves him, it is a miracle from God.


"When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ And I looked, and there was a black horse. The horseman on it had a balance scale in his hand. Then I heard something like a voice among the four living creatures say, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius——but do not harm the olive oil and the wine."

The white horse represented conquest (and the false peace which was short-lived). The red horse represented war and a bloody slaughter. The black horse represents famine, often the byproduct of war. A day’s salary would hardly cover the price of one day’s food. People could not expect more than staples. Professor E. L. Douglas used to tell his Bible students at Mississippi College about things he had witnessed during the Second World War. Oh, yes, Baptist colleges actually had a Bible Department before they discovered religion! Make that the Religion Department! Professor Douglas told us about seeing people eating grub worms and snails in dumps. He told us about going to a Maharajah’s home and looking around and seeing beggars on the grounds. They he looked out and saw a well guarded airplane and pilot on stand-by. If the Japanese reached a certain point the Maharajah would board the plane and fly to safety - leaving the hungry beggars to whatever fate the Japanese had in store for them. Brother Douglas went over and looked at the plane and its cargo. It was loaded with money, jewels, and precious stones. He would be able to live in luxury wherever he went. He would also be leaving behind the starving masses.


"When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ And I looked, and there was a pale green horse. The horseman on it was named Death, and Hades was following after him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill by the sword, by famine, by plague, and by the wild animals of the earth."

The fourth horse is interesting. It is a pale green horse. Actually, the Greek word is the word from which we get the word "chlorophyll." The pale, ashen green color is characteristic of the decomposition of a corpse. This seems appropriate, considering the fact that the horseman on it was named Death and Hades (the place of the departed dead). Authority was given him to slay twenty-five percent of the world’s population by sword, by famine, by plague, and by wild animals.

If this is what is planned for the Tribulation, I thank my Lord that I belong to Him and I will not be going through this. You say this is unfair? You say that a loving God would never allow this? Do you remember when God told Samuel to tell Saul to wipe out all the Amalakites. That seems so unfair, does it not? Do you realize these people had had almost a thousand years to clear out of the land God had given to Abraham? When Moses led the Children of Israel into the Wilderness, who showed up to try to keep them from returning to the Land of Promise? We know why the inhabitants of the land prepared their defenses and maintained a watch. Do you think they did not know why the Israelites were moving through the Wilderness? Rahab said they knew when the Children of Israel left Israel, how they escaped from the Egyptians, and why they left.


"When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those slaughtered because of God’s word and the testimony they had. They cried out with a loud voice: ‘O Lord, holy and true, how long until You judge and avenge our blood from those who live on the earth?’ So a white robe was given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little while longer until the number of their fellow slaves and their brothers, who were going to be killed just as they had been, would be completed."

Even in judgment and slaughter God never takes His eyes off His people. The LEFT BEHIND series by LeHaye and Jenkins depicts the plight of those who were left behind, but came to believe in Jesus during the Tribulation. The world of the Tribulation was not a friendly one in that series. As we read this we are reminded of their source.

We also know that during any time of suffering or persecution, the Lord has often left His children in that environment rather than removing them from it. During the days of the Soviet Union, when Christians were being killed or sent to Siberia for their faith there were a lot of believes in the West who just wanted to help them escape. God wanted a witness in the Soviet Union then, and He had a powerful witness there. Today, the Gospel is being spread at a phenomenal rate in Communist China. According to one report, there are more Christians today in house churches in China than there are Communists. We cannot imagine what believers are going through in Islamic countries today. Can you not imagine what it will be like in the days when this prophecy is being fulfilled?

VI. THE SIXTH SEAL, 6:12-17.

"Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?"

We are seeing a snowball effect as the wrath poured out on the world is gaining momentum. With the opening of the sixth seal we see a violent earthquake like none the world has ever known. There is a strong possibility that at the beginning of the Flood, when the waters above the earth were poured out on the earth and the caverns of the deep gave up their water, that there were earth quakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and incredible tidal waves associated with it. Here it seems that there is an earthquake that effects all the fissures on the earth. This is an awesome earthquake, like no other the world has ever seen. Note some of the phenomenal things which are associated with the earthquakes.

1) The sun turned black from, probably from volcanic ash. At the time of the Flood, according to Creation scientists, volcanic eruptions around the world may well have blown enough volcanic ash into the air to block out the light of the sun. In which case, temperatures would have plunged to as low as one hundred degrees below zero, possibly more. Earth quakes and tidal waves would have been synchronized with the extreme drop in temperature and hurricane force winds to flash-freeze even giant mammoths. Explorers have found them in ice banks with green grass between their teeth and in their stomachs. This is incredible, and that which is depicted here defies the imagination.

2) The entire moon became like blood, possibly the effect of trying to see the moon through the volcanic ash. Bobby Ware was a young boy when he was riding his bike down a street in Greenville, Mississippi one night when he looked up and saw that there was a full moon - and the moon had a reddish tint to it. He had heard that at the end of the world the "moon would turn to blood," and he thought, "This is it! It’s happening now!" While looking up he ran into a utility pole and thought for a minute that his time had come. He would never forget the fear. This will be a time of fear and agony.

3) The stars of heaven fell to the earth, possibly in a shower of meteors or asteroids.

4) The sky separated like a scroll being rolled up. Whatever this means, the sky as we know it will disappear or be altered beyond anything we can imagine.

5) Every mountain and island was moved from its place. This may accompany continental plate shifts. It may also be similar to what happened during the time of the Flood. Many believe the earth was relatively smooth until the earthquakes hit and volcanoes erupted. There is evidence that some mountain peaks were once the ocean floor. Fossilized remains of ocean life are found in the soil high in the Rockies.

6) "Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?"


There was a time when one’s position on the Study of Last Things (Eschatology) was a test of fellowship. A number of years ago I spoke with a fellow pastor as we were leaving a pastor’s conference. We talked for a few minutes about my study in Romans, which was later expanded and included in The Bible Notebook, a verse by verse commentary on various books of the Bible. I invited him to stop by my house to see what I had written. I pointed out that I was expanding an earlier outline with brief notes on Romans. I had expanded the study and developed it into a commentary on the doctrinal section of Romans (Chapters 1-8). This pastor flipped on past what I had been working on and stopped at a passage or two, read what I had there and as clearly as anything I had ever witnessed along that line, dismissed me as a serious student of the Word. I did not say what he wanted me to say about the return of the Lord and end-times events. I had not even reached the passage for which he was looking.

My friend was a die-hard Pre-millennialist and had no time for anyone who did not hold that position, and hold it as vehemently as he. Several years later this same man was addressing a group of pastors and at one point he stopped and called out the names of great Southern Baptist leaders of an earlier era who were faithful to the Word of God: George W. Truett, L. R. Scarborough, W. T. Connors, A. T. Robertson - every one of them Post-millennialists! And pastors all over the auditorium said, - you guessed it - they said, "Amen!"

Well, it just so happens that I hold to a Pre-Millennial return of our Lord. I did not arrive at that positions lightly. My father-in-the ministry, M. C. Waldrup, was an outstanding preacher, a Superintendent of Missions for Riverside Baptist Association in northwest Mississippi for many years. I heard R. G. Lee, Billy Graham, and M. C. Waldrup every Sunday for some time, and M. C. Waldrup fed me more than Dr. Lee (my all time favorite preacher) and Billy Graham. He preached on the Second Coming, and held the return of the Lord out to us a blessed hope, but he never explained to us the three basic positions with regards to the return of the Lord and end-time events.

When I arrived at Mississippi College I wanted all the Bible classes I could get. Every teacher I had, and I had a major in Bible along with a major in Sociology, was an A-millennialist as far as I could tell. Many years later I read in the Mississippi BAPTIST RECORD that Dr. E. R. Pinson had celebrated his ninety-second birthday. He had been a favorite professor of mine and he had been a friend of M. C. Waldrup. For some reason, I was one of the few students Dr. Pinson ever joked with in class or out as far as I knew at the time. I was in seminary when my brother James took a class under Dr. Pinson and when he called the role and came to James’ name he stopped and asked, "Mr. Sanders, are you related to Johnny Sanders?" James, thinking he had just moved to the inside track, sat up a little straighter and said, "Yes sir. He’s my brother." Dr. Pinson never changed his expression - and had not changed it in twenty-five years. He simply said, "I feel sorry for you."

You would have to know Dr. Pinson to fully appreciate that. I had followed his ministry after he retired and knew he spoke at conferences and served churches as interim pastor. At ninety-two he had accepted a Sunday School class and he was teaching the Book of Revelation. He said, "Johnny, last Sunday for the first time in my life I stood in front of a class and said, "I am a pre-millennialist." I was amazed. I had come to that position many years earlier but I was amazed that a ninety-two year old man could change his mind and share it with others. The Lord had revealed that position to Him.

It was the Lord who revealed the truth to me. When I was young I had heard that Dr. Howard Spell had told his students that the was a pro-millennialist - "however the Lord works it out I am for it." I spend a lot of time talking with people like Dr. Wayne Ward and Dr. Leo Eddleman about this subject. I read a lot of preachers and listened to them for a number of years. The two most popular preachers of the day, Dr. R. G. Lee and Dr. W. A. Criswell were pre-millennialists, as were many others. At the same time, I was determined that I would get my theology from the Bible, not from some well known preacher. The more I studied the Bible the more convinced I became that the pre-millennial position was scriptural.

There are many approaches to Revelation, and I am aware of a number of them, especially the three basic positions. My purpose in this series, however, is to simply skim the surface for that which has an obvious application for us today, and to note a future fulfillment which will encourage us to go a little deeper. Dr. Eddleman once told me, "I subscribe to an historical pre-millennial return of the Lord, if you do not force me to subscribe to a literal thousand year reign." To him, the thousand years might well mean a literal thousand years, but if it symbolized an extended, pre-determined period of time which the Lord allowed to accomplish His purpose that would not destroy his confidence in the Lord’s revealed plan. Dr. Eddleman added, "There is a lot in the Bible about the return of the Lord which we may not fully understand, but we can understand what He wants to be doing until He does return." If some preachers has adopted his position over the years they may not have caused a rupture in the church over the Rapture of the Church.

As we look at Chapter Six, we see the Lord open the first six of the seven seals on the scroll He took from the One seated on the throne in Chapter 5. One question needs to be considered as we look at Chapter Six and see the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Rood of David, begin opening the seven seals, six of which are described in this chapter. Are we looking at things that had already taken place, or things that would to take place in the future - meaning after that time.

As the first six seals are broken in Chapter Six, we are privileged to see some unusual and spectacular scenes. The question is, are we seeing things that had already taken place, things that would take place following that time, but before the Rapture of the church, or things that will take place during the Great Tribulation? If these things had taken place before this revelation, of what benefit would the revelation be to those suffering saints who were going through a severe persecution that was already producing many martyrs?

If these things happened between the beginning of the Second Century and the Twenty First Century, what is the application to us today? It is possible that the words, "after this" could denote any time after the revelation was received, but in this case we must consider the possibility that we are looking at something that is still in the future, possibly during the Great Tribulation? If that is the case, what is the advantage to us today? The advantage to the believer is both real and great! This will become more and more obvious as we continue in the Revelation.


Revelation has been called a tract for hard times. We are promised a blessing if we read this book, or if we hear it read. When we read the Revelation we should be reminded that no matter how bad things get here in this world, God is seated on the throne of eternity, and He is the only One Who has ever been seated there. He is the sovereign God of eternity. He is in control. His Son is revealing to us the fact that He knows where we are and he knows what His people are going through at all times. We are promised the victory because our Lord has been victorious. We can sing VICTORY IN JESUS with assurance of - victory in Jesus!

There is something else that concerns me. Countless people will drive by churches all over America today without giving any thought to their accountability to God. Little do they realize that they already have an appointment at the judgment bar of God. I know some people are thinking that they will have to stand before God and give an account of their sins: lying, cheating, immorality, covetousness, and even murder. But let me tell you what is scary. That is for an unconverted sinner to stand before God be confronted with refusal to repent. What more shocking sin could there be that for the creature to look his Creator in the face and say, "I don’t want you," or, "I don’t have time for you." If you have never placed your trust in Jesus, let me urge you to believe in Him, trust Him, profess Him, confess Him - to day, while there is time.