I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living
creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.” And I looked,
and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to
him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. (Revelation 6:1–2).
we look into the first seal, it is necessary that we understand what a seal is.
The scroll held by the Glorified Christ was sealed with seven seals even though
John saw that it was “written inside and on the back”. What is unusual about
this description is that a scroll was usually written on one side and wound up
so that the writing could not be seen unless the scroll was opened. On the other
hand, if the scroll were actually a book of leaves bound together, the writing
would logically be on both sides of the pages.
seals on the scroll seems somewhat problematic. If the scroll was indeed a paged
book, then it may be that the book was in seven sections with each section
sealed with a wax seal. For a scroll to be sealed, it would seem that the seals
would have to be at the opening edge of the scroll. How would one seal
successive portions of the scroll as all seven seals would have to be broken to
open the scroll? Albert Barnes suggests a solution to the problem.
is not stated in what manner the seals were attached to the volume, but it is
clear that they were so attached that each seal closed one part of the volume,
and that when one was broken and the portion which that was designed to fasten
was unrolled, a second would be come to, which it would be necessary to break in
order to read the next portion. The outer seal would indeed bind the whole; but
when that was broken it would not give access to the whole volume unless each
successive seal were broken. . . . All that is necessary to be supposed is, that
the seven seals were put successively upon the margin of the volume as it was
rolled up, so that each opening would extend only as far as the next seal.
word scroll in Greek is bib-lee-on meaning a small book and could be understood to be a book
with pages or a scroll. Reliable versions of the Bible translate the word as
either book or scroll. For the purpose of the Revelation, the scroll or the book
is in the hand of the Glorified Christ and only He can open it and show us the
breaking the wax and opening the seal, Christ gives us a succession of views of
the contents of the scroll. The scroll does not contain the entire Book of
Revelation. What is revealed with the opening of the seven seals is contained in
chapters 6 through 11 comprising the visions of the seven seals and the seven
trumpets. The remainder of the Book of Revelation is a number of visions John
saw after the opening of the scroll. What is important at this juncture is to
understand what the seven seals represent.
Church Historic Interpretation
was told in Revelation 1:19 to “Write the things which you have seen, and the
things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” It makes
sense that the contents under the seals are things that have been seen, things
which are, and things which will take place after this. This indicator gives
credibility to the church-historic interpretation of the Book of Revelation.
my opinion, any form of millennialism does not qualify as those forms all
concern supposed future events signaling the end of time and the dawn of a
millennial reign of Christ on earth. The church-historic interpretation conforms
to what the Glorified Christ told John as it deals with the church in all three
time-frames: that which John has seen; that which is, and that which is to come.
we noted in an earlier lecture, both the Adventists and the Church of God
Reformation movements followed church-historic interpretations of the
Revelation. In these interpretations, the history of the Christian church is
divided into seven church ages as suggested by the letters to the seven churches
of Asia, the seven seals, and so forth. In our lectures, we discounted the seven
letters to the churches of Asia as representing seven church ages because we saw
that the conditions depicted in those letters can be applicable to any church at
any time in history. Those conditions do not depict the over-all condition of
the church-at-large in each of those ages and would not be consistent with
actual church history. In fact, it is not correct to identify all of those
entities as “the church”, the body of Christ, but more properly as
backslidden or apostate remnants that apostatized out of the Church. It may be a
moot point, but a more accurate description of the interpretation is the
kingdom-historic interpretation rather than church-historic. With this
interpretation we can follow the kingdom of God under the leadership of the
Glorified Christ through history. In so doing, we will see the true church and
the forms of apostasy that fall away from it along with their consequences.
Church of God Reformation Movement in its church-historic interpretation
contends that there has always been a true church of God throughout the gospel
dispensation. This is allowable and necessary under a kingdom-historic
interpretation because of the visions we have seen in chapters 4 and 5. The
redeemed of all ages along with the traits of grace appear in their succeeding
generations throughout history—not just at one time in history. When we looked
at the letters to the churches of Asia, we saw that even in the most apostate of
conditions, some of the redeemed were still present and had grace to live for
Christ in spite of those conditions.
are some consistencies between the opening of the seals and the letters to the
churches. They are not one-and-the-same; that is, the first seal is not the
Church of Ephesus. While each of the letters may correspond in some way to each
of the seals, the situations and the purposes of the messages are different
although overlapping to some degree.
the first four seals, the church is represented by horses. The colors of the
horses represent the spiritual state of a dominant body that professes to be the
church. Some features of the first four letters are seen in the corresponding
horses. As we saw from the letters to the churches, conditions progressively
deteriorate as we progress through the letters. Such deterioration has been
recorded in church history.
the fifth seal, the true church is depicted as souls under the altar.
the sixth seal, the true church is depicted as the 144,000—not to be
understood as a literal number.
the seventh seal, the true church is represented first by half an hour of
silence and then as seven angels to whom were given seven trumpets. The seventh
seal continues with those angels breaking the silence with blasts from their
I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living
creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.”
saying one of the seals the obvious meaning is the first seal as the rest of the
seals are called second, third, etc.
is an immediate correlation between this first seal and the first of the living
creatures mentioned in chapter 4. The first creature mentioned was the lion and
we learned that the attribute represented under this symbol is grace to reign
over sin. As we look into this seal, we will also take note that there is some
degree of correlation between this seal and the letter to the church at Ephesus.
first creature, the grace to reign over sin, speaks up with
a voice like thunder. The living creatures relative to the next three seals
also speak, but they do not speak like thunder, which suggests to us that some
type of quality has been lost after the first seal. We have seen, or heard,
thunders several times so far in the Revelation. This is the voice of God
speaking with His divine authority. This grace to reign over sin announces
something that has never before been possible in the human realm which is the
real deliverance from the power and bondage of sin.
John looks to what the living creature shows him, he sees a white horse. White
is the symbol of purity and holiness. It is fitting that the grace to reign over
sin shows us the purity and holiness brought into human lives through the
atonement in Christ. The horse symbolizes the church built by Christ.
Clarke suggests that the white horse is “Supposed to represent the Gospel
system, and pointing out its excellence, swiftness, and purity.”
G. Smith in The Revelation Explained writes: “This symbol is a faithful
representation of the early triumphs of Christianity in its aggressive conflict
with the huge systems of error with which it had to contend.”
Henry says of this horse and its rider, “The Lord Jesus appears riding on a
white horse. White horses are generally refused in war, because they make the
rider a mark for the enemy; but our Lord Redeemer was sure of the victory and a
glorious triumph, and he rides on the white horse of a pure but despised gospel,
with great swiftness through the world.”
McCuthcheon writes in her book The Symbols Speak, “Since the author’s
subject is religion and the chronological placement of the first-seal vision is
at Christ’s first advent, we immediately direct our thinking to our Lord who
introduced to the world the mighty, aggressive religion of pure Christianity.
The symbol drawn from militant life is not a new metaphor. Paul also speaks of
soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:2–3). Christ established a militant
church with power to conquer all her foes. New Testament Christians marched
boldly to war against sin under the banner of the cross.”
same white horse and rider symbolism appears later in Revelation chapter 19
after the marriage supper of the Lamb in which it is clearly seen that the horse
is the church.
rider on the white horse of the first seal is not described other than he has a
bow and he is given a crown. This rider is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the head
of His church and uses His church in the battle against sin and error as any
cavalry soldier uses his horse in battle. While the church participates in the
battle, it is only the vehicle used by its head to go out conquering and to
conquer. As important as the horse, the church, is to the battle, it is not what
is used to conquer; instead, it is the weapon the rider holds in his hand: a
normally think of a bow used in combat as something that shoots arrows. Psalm
45:4–5 gives us some insight to this bow.
in Your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility, and righteousness;
And Your right hand shall teach You awesome things. Your arrows are sharp in the
heart of the King’s enemies; The peoples fall under You.
bow in His right hand shoots arrows, but those arrows are not literal arrows,
they are the teaching of awesome things that penetrate the heart of the King’s
that around the throne of the kingdom was a rainbow (Revelation 4:3). Matthew
Henry comments on this rainbow:
rainbow was the seal and token of the covenant of the providence that God made
with Noah and his posterity with him, and is a fit emblem of that covenant of
promise that God has made with Christ as the head of the church, and all his
people in him, which covenant is as the waters of Noah unto God, an everlasting
covenant, ordered in all things and sure.
under the first seal, this bow is nothing less than the gospel.
may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great
Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you
complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing
in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. (Hebrews
also see in this seal that Christ is given a crown. We know He is the king in
the Kingdom of God. Matthew Henry speaks of the relationship of those who
receive the gospel with Christ: “A crown was given him, importing that all who
receive the gospel must receive Christ as a king, and must be his loyal and
relationship also is seen in the Glorified Christ’s revelation of Himself to
the church at Ephesus. He holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks in
the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. Jesus as the head of His church
holds that church in His right hand. It is His weapon; not a weapon of
destruction, but a weapon of deliverance for all who will turn to Him repenting
of sin and placing their faith in Him. You will recall that the church at
Ephesus had a passion for the truth. In their case, they tested those that
professed to be apostles but were not. Christ commended this church for its
perseverance and patience in pursuing the battle for truth.
the symbol of the white horse in the first seal, we see a picture of the early
church beginning on the Day of Pentecost in the beauty of holiness and under the
leadership of its Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. We see its earliest history in
the book of Acts, first overcoming the resistance of a Jewish nation that
rejected its Messiah, and then, particularly in the mission trips of the Apostle
Paul, spreading the gospel across Asia Minor and into southeastern Europe. What
we do not read in the book of Acts we find in history as the church spread the
gospel across North Africa, the Middle East, India, and all the way to the
beauty of holiness, reigning over sin, and under the leadership of Christ, the
infant church from the Day of Pentecost through the fourth century accomplished
what seemed impossible. In this seal, we see the church fulfilling the words of
Christ in the Mount Olivet Discourse, Mark 13:10 “And the gospel must first be
preached to all the nations.”
for the Seals
advocates of the church-historic interpretation of the Revelation assign church
ages to the seals as well as to the letters to the Churches of Asia. The purpose
of the seals is not to pinpoint certain times in history. Some assign dates to
the first seal, such as 33 a.d. to 270 a.d., which may or may not be accurate
depending on personal points of view. The seals, rather than assigning dates to
the history of the church, serve more to reveal different reactions to the
message of the gospel and the progress of the church as it moves through
history. We do find some parallels
between the letters to the churches and the seals, but equating them is all too
do adhere to the church historic interpretation of the Book of Revelation, but
we are not fascinated with dates or attempts to show that the Revelation
identifies any particular group or movement as its object. Jesus built His
church, the biblical church of God, and charged it with the work of the kingdom
of God. The Book of Revelation is that story.
Smith, F. G., The Revelation
Explained, Faith Publishing
House: Guthrie, OK, 1973,
 McCutcheon, Lillie, The Symbols Speak, Lillie McCutcheon: Newton Falls, OH, 1964, pg. 32.