Recapping events up to this point, remember that Constantine represents Seal One. By the 1100s his endeavors and great influence resulted in many European nations becoming "Christianized". (As a side note, the narrator of the T.V. show referred to Constantine as the "13th Apostle!" They meant that in a positive sense. I see it a little differently but perhaps it was an inadvertently-appropriate title, since it is the "13th" chapter of Revelation which describes the anti-Christ and the False Prophet.)
Then, the Second Seal signified Mohammad and his sword-slashing sweep throughout the Middle East, developing the largest empire ever in that region. At first it seemed there would be no stopping him.
Thus, that which began with only two individuals, Constantine and Mohammad, finally erupted
into the greatest European - Middle Eastern conflict of all times, which history calls the Crusades.
The word "crusade" comes from the Latin word "crux", meaning cross. The "Christianized",
European nations joined forces and carried a cross and marched toward the Holy Land to take it
back from the Muslims, feeling it was rightfully theirs. The Muslims defended their hold on the
"land" (especially the "Holy Land", Israel) and the battles went on for at least two centuries!
There are recorded at least four Crusades and some historians write of a fifth Crusade. The loss
of life was large as a result of these conflicts, the Land shifting hands, back and forth, the
Moslems finally winning out. Surely God was not the force behind the European Crusaders.
After all, wouldn't one expect the "Christian" Crusaders to have won if God was back of it?
Clearly, these Crusaders, like Constantine, although coming in the name of Christ, were really just
demonstrating the pride they had for the Land, which they believed to be their inheritance.
THE BLACK PLAGUE
Another death-causing phenomena was happening at the same time as the Crusades. It was called
"The Black Plague". History reveals that in the 1300s a form of Bubonic Plague called the Black
Death destroyed a fourth of the population of Europe...The Crusaders carried the disease to
Europe. From 1334 to 1351, it swept over Russia, Germany, Italy, France, England, Norway,
China, India and Persia.
Now with the death resulting from the Crusades and the Bubonic Plague in mind, look again at the above Scripture describing the Fourth Seal. The death was to be caused by (1), the "sword" (the Crusades) and (2), with hunger and the beasts --- the Plague and poverty. The "beasts" probably refers to disease-carrying animals.
Isn't it interesting that history reveals specifically that "one-fourth" of the population of Europe
was destroyed. Now look at verse seven of the fourth Seal and observe that power would be
given over the 'fourth' part of the earth! I believe this is a prophecy fulfillment right before our
This completes my comments on The Four Horsemen. To summarize briefly:
1. The White Horse------------The 'Conquering' Constantine
2. The Red Horse---------------The 'Swordsman' Mohammad
3. The Black Horse-------------Scarcity (The Dark Ages)
4. The Pale Horse--------------Widespread Death (Black Plague)
Now, recall my analogy of the drive from San Francisco to Atlanta to that of long-range
prophecy. I said my instructions would include highlight references such as certain cities you
would pass through. Reaching these points would assure you that you were still "on the right
path". That's what I think the prophetic highlights of the Historical Four Horsemen are. They
were main highlights. Chief attractions. Unmistakeable, historical points easy to identity. Once
seen, you can't miss knowing and saying, "Hey, I'm on the right path. This is exactly what the
Travel Guide said would occur. Let's stay on this road." Now, let us do that in our prophecy
journey by moving on to the next main event.
THE FIFTH SEAL: The Cry of the Martyrs
9 "And when He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"
11 And white robes were given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should
rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren,
who would be killed as they were, was completed."
This passage represents an obvious breakaway from the type of "highlights" revealed by the first four Seals. Here we get a glimpse of the saints of God of all ages who have given their lives for the cause of defending the God of Holy Scriptures. This would include Old and New Testament times, both patriarchal followers of God and Christians from Jesus' day until now. It is a specific reference to those who, come what may, were willing to give their lives to insure the testimony of Jesus and adherence to Godly principles would continue to go forth.
Looking again at the Scripture, these saints seem to be crying out to receive their immortal bodies. They are told to be patient for there are yet others to join them for the same reason as theirs: martyrdom. In our prophetic and historic 'voyage' through time we have passed the Dark Ages, therefore we can assume the next prophecy coming up after the final horseman would be at some point later than about 1,400 or 1,500 A.D. So, the Fifth Seal here must be predicting there will be many other saints to come who would be martyred in defense of the Gospel. That would include those from 1,500 A.D. up to this present hour, as well as those who will be martyred in the final spiritual conflicts yet to come, especially those in the last half of the "Tribulation".
So, the Fifth Seal here represents a different kind of drama than we saw in the four horsemen.
This is sort of an interlude. It is very important prophecy but there is little reference here to
indicate exactly where we are on our journey. It's a broad statement from God though, to let us
know He is accumulating a people for Himself in heaven. It reveals that we can be confident the
souls of saved men and women go immediately to be with the Lord after physical death. There's
no getting around this straight-forward interpretation as we study the above three verses. (There
are heresies taught in "Christian" cults which say a person merely goes to the grave when he/she
dies, there remaining totally dead--meaning the spirit of the person does not leave the body to go
be with the Lord in heaven. This cannot be so according to Revelation 6:9-11.)
THE SIXTH SEAL: Disturbances on Earth coming from Above
12 "And I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.
13 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late (some mss. say untimely or unripe) figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.
14 And the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled together, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.
15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains,
16 and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"
I believe the above six verses describe conditions which bring us, prophetically, to the modern era. The reader may at first think this is too long a jump from the Dark Ages but actually we'll see it provides just the right pieces of the puzzle to fill up yet another section of the overall portrait we're trying to assemble. Remember, Biblical prophecy comes in clumps. It always has. God provided just enough information to "keep us on the main road". The same was true in the Old Testament times.
In the first four Seals we saw key political, religious, and social situations, which were symbolized by Constantine, (representing the Roman Empire and perverted Christianity), Mohammad (representing Europe's chief opponent-force, Islam), followed by the massive death wave caused by unbelievable poverty conditions --- the Black Plague and the Dark Ages. And then we saw the Fifth Seal, an interlude, which gave us a preview of more death, specifically referring to martyred saints of God. Obviously God foreknew (and foretold us) that these were the most outstanding features signifying a sin-laden world not submitted to the Lord. (No wonder Jesus instructed the disciples to pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.")
Before going on, please re-read verses 12 - 17 very carefully because we now enter into a new phase in our long-range prophetic journey. As I said earlier, seeing the Sixth Seal as descriptive of 'our day' was the understanding which broke open the book of Revelation for me. I saw this Seal as descriptive of World War One. Let me show you why.
In the Sixth Seal, I suppose John had seen in a vision things very much like what you and I see on film today. Now imagine yourself in John's place, never having seen anything modern as you and I know it --- i.e., airplanes, cars, explosives of enormous magnitude, etc. Then all of a sudden, in a vision, you see things exactly as we do today. Next you are instructed to write about what you saw. The catch was that John had to do it using his first-century understanding. What a task! Of course, the Holy Spirit foresaw our day with John's limitations in mind. Thus, the Spirit used John's faculties to form a permanent, symbolic, prophetic-word picture.
Now, let's disect the vision. In verse 12, John refers to the "sun" and the "moon"; in verse 13 he talks about the "stars"; and in verse 14 he mentions the "sky". In interpreting this, it is important to observe that whatever he saw in the sky it caused the earth below to shake like an earthquake (see verse 12). If you knew only this much, in light of 20th century technology, what would you conclude John is trying to tell you? I can think of nothing other than awesome explosives.
John said the sun "became as black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood". I suspect John had at some time held sackcloth up and looked at the sun through it. This would, of course, cause the sun to become darkened, or "blackened". Black smoke rising from a blast causes a similar filtration of the sun's rays. Also, the moon is reddened when the sky is full of debris and smoke from large-scale explosives. Does this not logically explain what John describes?
Note in verse 13, "the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late (or untimely) figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind". What were those stars? Were they real stars? Or did John call them stars simply because they fell from the sky? It doesn't make sense to assume real stars were meant because a single actual star striking the earth would totally annihilate this entire planet!
John had obviously seen "shooting stars" and meteors just as you and I have, so that was his only frame of reference when contemplating something falling from the sky. The latter part of the verse adds further insight: He said the "stars" were as "a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind". Now have you ever seen figs (or any fruit) fall from a tree when a "mighty wind" blows? I have. They don't fall straight down. When a wind blows strong enough to dislodge figs, they are carried horizontally a certain distance before they hit the ground. Also consider that a fig has kind of a little "tail" on it, not greatly unlike the "tail" of the type of bombs which were dropped from aircraft during WW1. When bombs are dropped from an aircraft they also don't fall straight down. They are carried horizontally a certain distance due to the momentum given them by the flight-speed of the airplane.
Now look at verse 14. It says, "the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled together,..." Have you ever seen the type of scroll John is talking about? In those days, writing wasn't put on sheets of paper as you and I use. It was done on a continuous roll which occupied less space in it's rolled-up state. To read it, you merely pull it out and then it rolls back together (as John described) when you are finished with it. When a bomb goes off, the rising smoke from the blast doesn't simply go straight up! It rolls as it rises. I believe John's first-century knowledge of how a rolled-up scroll works was the best analogy he had at that time. Good job, John! I like it.
Now, if the above analysis is correct, we should expect John would eventually mention the effect
the "figs" would produce when they fell. Notice the words in the last part of verse 14: "and every
mountain and island was moved out of its place". The bombs of WW1 would indeed move the
"mountains" and the "islands" out of their places. The violent shaking which occurs during
massive attacks would cause anyone to believe all the earth (i.e., the "mountains and islands")
must surely be coming apart at the seams. (I work at a Veteran's Clinic, consequently am exposed
to hundreds of WW1 veterans. They have indeed confirmed to me their experiences of the mighty
shaking caused by heavy artillary during World War I.)
Verses 15, 16 and 17 explain the response of certain types of people to the devastation of WW1. The "kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, ..."; in short, everyone felt surely the world was coming to an end. Note their mind-set as John describes it in verse 16. They were saying to the "mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!"
We must remember, although there have always been wars resulting in terrific loss of life, never had there been anything unleashed such as began with the first world war. No wonder the leaders of the nations and the wealthy businessmen THOUGHT the "Wrath of the Lamb" had come. But in spite of the devastation caused by WW1, the "wrath of the Lamb" had not, in fact, come. It was the people living under the conditions at the time who were saying, "...the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"
There is a very important point here. We must look very carefully at WHO was saying the wrath of the Lamb had come. It was not announced by any heavenly representative but merely by those living under the terrible, prevailing conditions of that era. This is a very important distinction! But those people did not have the knowledge, nor right, to make such a declaration.
Only God's representatives make the proclamation of when God's Wrath comes. In our study, we
shall see that the real wrath doesn't come until a later time. What the "great men" and the "rich
men" witnessed were the results of man's sinfulness and incompatibilities in a world out of Godly
order. In fact, this will always be the case until Jesus comes to establish His Kingdom on the
earth. God's wrath is a distinct set of out-pourings of His judgment towards wicked mankind and
doesn't come until we get to chapter 15. Today's conditions, as awful as they may seem at times,
are not God's Wrath. Now, back to the discussion of the Sixth Seal.
Just to summarize, in case you are unaware of the severity of WW1, there were at least 8,500,000 deaths in WW1 and probably many more never accounted for. There were 37,000,000 casualties and the total destruction was incomparable up to that time in history. History records that the Home Front in Europe came under intense bombing and shelling in areas of military operations. The war destroyed the industrial and community lives of many cities, towns, and villages in these areas. It closed or destroyed schools, factories, roads, and railroads. In many countries, people had to depend on food supplied by their governments. Invading troops tried to change the lives of the people in the areas occupied.
I believe it was in these devastated areas where the "great men" and the "rich men" and all the others John named, were crying out that the "wrath of the Lamb" had come. But it had not!
Reader, are you beginning to see just how ludicrous it is to assume that God provided virtually no revelation concerning the history of the past 2,000 years as the Futurists say? Prophecy was given to God's people to alarm us of what's coming. I believe it's happening all around us all the time. It's somewhat like the Gospel message itself --- you must first believe it before getting the fuller image created by it inside you. "God help us to believe, prophecy-wise, so that we can see what you have already said in Your word."