In this chapter, 6 of the 7 seals will be opened. In each case, the lamb breaks the seal and then one of the beasts yells at John to come and see.
V 1-2 When the first seal was broken, a white horse appeared. Its rider carried a bow and wore a crown. He rode out to conquer. (Conquest)
V 3-4 With the second seal, a red horse appeared. Its rider was given a sword to take peace from the earth and cause war and slaughter everywhere. (War)
V 5-6 The third seal brings a black horse whose rider carries a pair of scales. And then one of the beasts yells out what sounds to me like a grocery shopping list – wheat bread, olive oil, and wine. WTF? (Famine)
V 7-8 The fourth seal revealed a pale horse whose rider was Death, will Hell (or Hades) close behind. He was given permission to kill one quarter of the earth with famine, disease, swords, and wild beasts. (Death)
Recognize these guys?
V 9-11 Not a horse this time – when the fifth seal was broken, all the souls of those who had been martyred for being faithful to god could be seen hiding under the altar. They were angry and crying out for vengeance. But they were just given white robes and told to be patient; the slaughter wasn’t finished yet and more would be joining them.
V 12-17 The sixth seal ushers in a myriad of supernatural phenomena – first an earthquake, then the sun turns black, the moon becomes blood-red, and the stars fall from the sky. Then the sky rolled up like a scroll and the mountains and islands all moved. (Hey, I’m just the messenger.) Everyone in the world is scared and hides in caves (well, wouldn’t you?), from god and from the wrath of the lamb, for who can survive that? (V 16 is taken from Hosea 10:8.)
This is some kind of interlude before we get to the last seal.
V 1-8 First some really bad science (well, no worse than in the last chapter). Angels stand at the 4 corners of the (flat) earth, holding back the 4 winds to prevent them from causing harm to the earth.
Another angel shows up to tell them to hold the winds back a little longer, until the seal of god has been placed on all god’s servants to keep them from harm. And then 144,000 (12,000 from each of the Tribes of Israel) lucky lottery winners are so marked. How did they get lucky? I guess the rest of us will be going to hell. (See you there!)
V 9-17 A great crowd of people from all over the world stand “in front of the throne and before the Lamb”.
Apparently JW’s believe that these are the Witnesses who are not lucky enough to get into the club of 144,000, and who supposedly will remain on earth. But that doesn’t make sense, since the throne and the lamb are obviously in heaven. Anyway, these people wave palms and praise god.
Then all the angels, elders, and 4 beasts join in with more praise-songs (I’m finding them a little repetitive and tiresome already). We are told that they have ‘come out of’ the Great Tribulation (the NLT interprets/explains this as ‘died’). That’s another new concept to me – it refers to the suffering at the end times, as explained by Jesus during his talk (discourse) on the subject in Matthew 24. So if people manage to survive it, or if they’re destined for heaven but died during the Tribulation, (I’m not quite clear which it is, or maybe both/either?), their clothes will be made white by being washed in the blood of the lamb (??). And then they will be rewarded by going to heaven where they can serve and praise god continually (again, I’ll pass, thanks); and in return they will never be hungry or sun-burnt, and they will find living waters, and god will wipe away their tears. V 16 and 17 are stolen from Isaiah (49:10 and 25: 8). This section provides lots of source material for poems and song lyrics.
I heard this song by Kenny Chesney (a huge country music star if you’re not familiar) with the lyrics ‘her momma wants to know am I washed in the blood or just in the water…’.
I didn’t understand that line, but an internet search yields the following explanation –
“Washed in the blood, means to have your sins forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When he died on the cross, he acted as the Lamb of God, to be killed like the Passover Lamb of the Jews in the Old Testament. He made payment for mankind’s sins once and for all, so that all who believe in him might have free forgiveness of their sins. To be washed in water means just natural bathing which cleans only the outside but not the heart. Or it could mean being water baptized but not having a deep understanding of what it means to be saved.”
So there you have it, from an apologist. I really like most of Chesney’s songs, but this one creeped me out and turned me off him a bit.
Need another example? Here’s Carrie Underwood. (I already gave up on her after Jesus Take the Wheel.)