(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 Dispensation of Judgment has now begun. Naturally, we ask ourselves, whether this period will cover seven years exactly, or begin prior to Daniel’s 70th week. E.W. Bullinger is of the opinion that the seal judgments will cover about 40 years, embracing the whole of the sunteleia and telos, down to the second coming of Christ. The sunteleia is the consummation, or meeting point, of the ages, which may be denominated as an “overlapping.” The telos is the last half of the 70th week, or Great Tribulation–also known as “Jacob’s Trouble” (Jer. 30: 7).
It is a common practice of expositors to view the seal judgments as pertaining to the 70th week alone. We believe that, in substance, this is correct. However, I draw the reader’s attention to the fact, that the six seals are correlative to the predictions of Christ’s Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13). That our Lord’s own account of the sunteleia embraces a period longer than the first half of the 70th week, is on all hands generally conceded. Therefore, we hold that the sunteleia outlined by Christ will develop into the 70th week of Daniel. The full development will be found in the first four seals, whose fulfillment will issue in the telos, or last-half of the week (covered by the fifth and sixth seals). This view, if accepted, leads us to believe that the seal-judgments will officially begin at the commencement of Daniel’s 70th week.
Of course, if there is an absolute parallel between the predictions of Matthew 24: 4-14 and the first four seals (which take the prophecy up to the middle of the 70th week) then the Dispensation of Judgment will begin sooner than most people think. It could actually start at any time.
When Christ opens this first seal, John hears the noise of thunder. This can bode nothing but ill for those who live upon the earth in sin and unbelief. At this point in the vision, a new Dispensation begins; though, as I stated in my last study, there will be an overlapping of law and grace during the entire 70th week–just as there was during our Lord’s earthly ministry. It is of the greatest importance to understand that the Book of Revelation contains the re-taking up of where God left off at the close of the 69th week, when Christ was crucified. The Day of Pentecost began a new Dispensation of Grace, in which judgment, which logically should have followed the murder of God’s only Son, was withheld, and grace extended– first to the nation, and then to the whole guilty world.
Since the start of this Dispensation, the Lord has been dealing with individuals, and not nations. Hence we see not yet all things put under Him (Hebrews 2: 8). Until this Dispensation concludes, God is deliberately withholding His judgments. But when the Lamb begins to break the seals, the period of grace will have ended. Of course, salvation will still be possible during the tribulation. But it will no longer be according to the Gospel of the Grace of God, which was preached after Pentecost. Rather, it will be according to that Gospel of the Kingdom which was first preached by Christ, the twelve apostles and the seventy, the proclamation of which ended on the Cross, when Christ was “cut off, having nothing” (Daniel 9: 26). This Gospel will be republished toward the close of this age (see Matthew 24: 14). Which fact helps explain why the doctrines of Pauline grace are entirely absent from the Book of Revelation.
(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.”
That this rider on the white horse must and can only represent the personal Antichrist on his headlong career of destruction, must be conceded by all. Here is where our Lord’s Olivet Discourse offers us a essential key to interpreting John’s visions. Giving a prophetic account of the sunteleia, or consummation of the age (not the actual end, or telos, which begins in verse 15), He says: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24: 5). Hence the first sign of the sunteleia will be the rise of false Christs and Messiahs.
The world is now beginning to witness the entrance onto the political stage of Messianic figures. Christ told us that this would come to pass, and His predictions are being fulfilled as we write. These Messianic personages, of which we have seen a few already, will probably multiply as the age progresses, and as many world leaders battle for ultimate world supremacy, even dominion over the new world empire which must soon arise. What we see in the first seal, however, is the culmination or perfection of these false Messiahs. The many who say “I am Christ” will in time be succeeded by one, to whom the dominion of the empire will be given. It is this person we see on the white horse, as he rides forth to bring the remaining nations that have not yet come under his domain, into subjection.
The Lord’s Olivet Discourse is a true launching-pad for any interpretation of the seal judgments. But as we study Scripture, and especially the Old Testament prophets, we sometimes come across verses which seem to fit another passage perfectly, as if their very design were to elucidate some obscure truth. The key to unlocking the verse above which speaks of the white horse rider may be found in Jeremiah 27: 5-8. Hearken closely, as we quote it in full.
“I have made the earth, the man and beast that are upon the ground, by my great power, and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant: and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.” (Italics mine).
Keep these verses in mind as we continue. For they afford us the very key to unlocking the meaning of the seal judgments. Here, in Revelation 6: 2, the rider on the white horse is given a crown. The Greek word is stephanos, which means a triumphal crown. This signifies that earthly dominion will be bestowed to him. As we’ll find later, this dominion will be worldwide.
Antichrist is given this crown for a purpose: that he may go forth to conquer. As I wrote in my article Nebuchadnezzar and The Typology of Antichrist, king Nebuchadnzzar was a type of Paul’s “man of sin” (2 Thess. 2: 3), the culmination of individualistic evil, who shall arise at the end of this age and gain worldwide power over all earthly governments. When we come to discuss the second, third, and fourth seals, we’ll see how this first seal is connected with a true and ultimate fulfillment Jeremiah 27: 5-8. Also, mark well that this “white horse rider” will be on the scene unto the very time of Christ’s coming in glory. As a main instigator of the earthly scenes which follow, he is inextricably related to the following seal judgments; although, as we learn from inspired Apostle John, all decrees come from the throne of God.
Antichrist rides a white horse, for he is a counterfeit Messiah. The real Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord, will appear at the close of the tribulation on a white horse (see Revelation 19). Before that time, at least seven years previous to the Lord’s second coming, there will appear a pseudo-Messiah, who will be the Antichrist. His origin and power are not from above, but from beneath. Whereas he’ll hold forth a “Messianic hope,” it will not be the hope offered by Jesus Christ. Christ offers us deliverance from this present evil world, release from the bondage and guilt of sin, as well as the promise of everlasting life. Antichrist will offer freedom from the dominion of Jesus Christ, as his precursors do today. He will facilitate sinful man’s rebellion against God’s righteous government, and will stand at the head of those Gentile nations which shall say: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Psalm 2: 3). Already we see this happening throughout the world. As false Messiahs arise, each promises humanity a greater liberty to sin. But this license (for that is what it truly is) will soon backfire, resulting in a more rigorous subjection of the nations of the world to “the one” who shall receive the crown.