New Defender's Study Bible Notes
6:1 one of the seals. The Lamb had received the title deed to the earth, but now the seals must be broken and the full writing disclosed to the world, with the usurper driven out of His inheritance. As each successive seal is broken, the Lord will unleash successive great judgments on the earth, with the ultimate end of purging the earth of its age-long domination by Satan.
6:2 he that sat on him. Many futurist commentators take the rider on the white horse to be the Antichrist, who they say is seeking to imitate Christ, who is certainly the conquering Rider on the white horse in Revelation 19:11. This interpretation seems inappropriate. The coming Antichrist is not a “false Christ,” pretending to be Christ, but is the ultimate Antichrist, openly opposing Christ and seeking to destroy all Christian believers and everything for which Christ stands. The Antichrist, or Beast, will receive his power and authority from Satan (Revelation 11:7; 13:7), not Christ.
The proper interpretation is to view Christ as the rider; remember also that each judgment of the seven seals is sent forth by Christ, not Satan. Furthermore, it is eminently fitting that the conquering Christ should be seen as riding forth both at the beginning of His cleansing judgments on the earth, and then again at their climactic completion (Revelation 6:2; 19:11). Throughout the events of Revelation 6 through 19, as the successive seal judgments are sent forth, He is gradually “conquering” and is destined finally “to conquer” completely.
6:5 balances in his hand. The black horse speaks of worldwide famine. This will be the period of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:3-6), who will proclaim on the earth that these plagues are being sent by God from heaven. In particular they will proclaim a worldwide drought for the three and one-half years of their testimony, and this will soon lead to worldwide famine, more severe than any of the great famines of history.
6:6 penny. This voice from heaven is apparently one of ironic commentary on the earthly situation. The “penny” is the denarius, which represented a day’s wage for a laborer. That is, as the famine progresses, the cost of the necessary commodities of life will rise excessively, probably leading to widespread starvation. The “oil and wine,” however, as luxuries of little food value, will still be plentiful, as indulgences of the rich. In fact, “oil” may refer prophetically to petroleum, even though this substance was not known in the New Testament period. The Middle Eastern supplies of oil will indeed be vital to the establishment of Antichrist’s world empire.
6:8 pale horse. The “pale” horse is actually “green” (Greek chloros), the same word used for “green grass” in Revelation 8:7. This also may be divine irony; green is normally associated with life, but the green horse is now overridden by Death.
6:8 Hell. The Lord Jesus Christ now has the keys to Death and Hell (or hades), according to His assertion in Revelation 1:18, so it is clear that this fourth horseman, like the others, is unleashed by Him to judge the earth. Those who yield to the killing sword of the second horseman and the starvation brought by the third will be overtaken by Death, and Hades will swallow up their souls. There will be also many other causes of “death” (e.g., pestilence, suicide), so that a quarter of the world’s population will die in the first year or two of the seven-year period of tribulation. This will amount to at least a billion people!
6:8 beasts. The word for “beasts” here is theerion, meaning “wild beasts.” It is quite different from zoon, the word translated beasts in Revelation 4. It could suggest a proliferation of venomous snakes during this period. However, it is the same word used for “beast” in describing the coming Antichrist and his false prophet (Revelation 13:2,11), so could well refer to the fierce persecutions that will be carried out during this time by various regional dictators, all of whom will eventually yield their power to the Satan-possessed Beast, the most wicked and ruthless of all (Revelation 13:7; 17:13). See also Ezekiel 14:21; Revelation 20:13.
6:9 under the altar the souls. Like the blood of the sacrifices under the ancient altar in the tabernacle (Leviticus 4:18), the souls of those new believers slain in these early years of the tribulation are seen as under the altar in the heavenly tabernacle (Hebrews 9:2-9).
6:9 slain for the word of God. Even though all believers will have been removed from the earth before the unleashing of these divine judgments on earth, there will still be an abundance of silent witness. Remaining on earth will be Bibles, Christian literature, Christian films and tapes, etc., as well as the eternal witness in creation and conscience, plus the testimony of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:3-7), and the 144,000 sealed Israelites (Revelation 7:1-8). “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).
6:11 white robes. These “robes” for the “souls” of the slain tribulation saints are not the same as the “fine linen” garments for the resurrected saints comprising the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:8,14). The tribulation saints will not be resurrected until the beginning of the millennial age (see notes on Revelation 20:4). The wearing of these robes, however, does indicate that even souls in paradise have some form of pre-resurrection bodily “house which is from heaven” (see notes on II Corinthians 5:1).
6:12 as blood. While the inhabitants of the earth are still suffering under the famines, plagues, and violence of the earlier seal judgments, a great physical cataclysm will suddenly strike. For the first time in history—at least since the upheavals of the great flood—a global earthquake will convulse the earth, accompanied by tremendous volcanic eruptions, spewing vast quantities of dust particles into the upper atmosphere, turning the appearance of the sun into darkness and the moon blood-red. Note also that several Old Testament prophecies of the coming “day of the Lord” apparently predict the same catastrophe (e.g., Joel 2:30-31; Zephaniah 1:15; Isaiah 13:9-10). Very little is known about the triggering causes of earthquakes, but they are associated with great rock faults and tectonic instabilities. Somehow, perhaps occasioned in part by the worldwide droughts and falling water levels resulting from the earlier judgments, this global network of faults will coalesce into one gigantic “shaking” of the whole earth. The Greek word for “earthquake” is seismos, which literally means “shaking” (in this connection, note Isaiah 13:13; 2:19-21; Haggai 2:6).
6:13 stars of heaven fell. The Greek word for “star” (aster) can mean any object in the heavens, including planets, asteroids and meteorites. Planetary scientists have long been concerned with the possibility that a swarm of asteroids or giant meteorites would collide with the earth in its orbit, and that seems to be what John describes here. Perhaps this also is part of the trigger which unleashes the great earthquake. Isaiah says that when this happens, “the host of heaven shall be dissolved,” and that “the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light” (Isaiah 34:4; 13:10), evidently blotted out by the same volcanic dust cloud that darkens the sun.
6:14 departed as a scroll. This strange phenomenon (also predicted in Isaiah 34:4) may also relate to the moving cloud of volcanic dust as it is rapidly carried across the sky, but an alternate possibility is that the global earthquake will cause the entire crust of the earth to shift, causing “every mountain and island” to be “moved out of their places” and the sky itself to appear to those on the earth’s surface to be “departing.”
6:15 kings of the earth. Contrast the attitude of “the kings of the earth” to God and His Christ just a short while before these judgments begin (Psalm 2:2).
6:15 hid themselves. See Isaiah 2:19.
6:16 wrath of the Lamb. By this time, the people on earth will begin to realize that the great judgments are from God and the Lamb. God’s witnesses will have been proclaiming this fact, and this may even have been “the testimony” of the martyrs (Revelation 6:9) which led to their being put to death. It may even be possible that orbiting satellites will have transmitted scenes to earth showing the great assemblage high in the atmospheric heavens and the events taking place there at the throne of the Lamb.
6:17 day of his wrath. The “great day of His wrath” constitutes the initial phase of “the day of the Lord” prophesied in many of the Old Testament Scriptures (e.g., Isaiah 13:9-13; Joel 1:15; Amos 5:18).