After so many disturbing images from the breaking of the seals, John was now swept up in a rapturous time of praise and thanksgiving, as the mighty multitude, the elders, all the angels, and the four living creatures exalted God, singing,
It is the final act of the sixth scroll, just as the sixth day of Creation had a final, climactic act of bringing forth humankind and blessing all that lived across the face of the earth. Imagine the two scenes side-by-side:
The specificity of the number 144,000 intrigues our modern minds, and features fundamentally for at least one modern day group, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Is this number literal or symbolic? Why go through each tribe? What is being revealed, exactly?
The next round of misfortune was to be released only after God’s seal of protection was applied to all of God’s own.
Now, two thousand years later, scholars have much to say on the meaning of this sixth seal.
So far, everything John saw concerned a single planet. The four horsemen traversed the globe, and the martyrs called out for God’s judgment of those living on earth. But now the entire cosmos seems to be coming unglued, and the imagery, as fantastic as it is, was vividly familiar to John’s audience.
The martyrs were invited to refresh themselves during this intermission between their deaths and the coming of the end of time, when all will be judged and justice will be brought forth.
Before John’s surely horrified eyes, a ghastly figure appeared as the fourth living creature called forth the specter of Death. The horse was pallid with the sickly hue of plague, and the ominous dark shadows of Hades settled around Death’s form, resting above its steed.
What John saw he beheld with dread. The world of antiquity was no stranger to famine. In fact, not long after the Gospel had broken through the barrier of race and religion, the subject of a severe famine comes up in the Book of Acts.
Reading about the second seal gives more context to the first seal, the first horse, and the first rider. If they are part of a set, then how does the first rider fit in?