6 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!”
2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!”
4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.
5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand.
6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”
7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!”
8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.
10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”
11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red,
13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.
14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.
16 They called to the mountains and the 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 their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
Only one person is authorized to open the heavenly scroll, and the victorious Lamb now breaks each of its seals, one by one. The living creatures take turns inviting John to look at four horsemen who are released at the unfastening of the first four seals. The prophet Zechariah likewise saw riders on colored horses who were sent forth into the earth (Zech. 1:8–11). The color of each horse symbolizes the reality it represents: white for victory, red for blood, black for famine, and pale (gray) for death. While the scroll itself represents the broader destiny of humanity, the seals appear to represent a specific historical period, from the ascension of Jesus to the fall of Jerusalem (a.d. 30–70). This is suggested by the close correlation between the first six seals and Jesus’ prediction of events to be fulfilled within a generation (see “False Christs”). By opening the first seal, Jesus precipitates the apocalyptic situation prophesied in the Synoptics and whose fulfillment is now seen in Revelation. The “birth pains” have indeed begun (Matt. 24:8).
SEAL Jasper seal bearing the inscription “Amos the Scribe” (seventh century b.c.).
8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
Around the clock the living creatures lift up worship to the One who sits on the throne. Their expression of exaltation echoes the triasagion—holy, holy, holy—proclaimed by the seraphim in Isaiah 6:1. The use of this liturgical formula must have been common in the early church because Clement, in his letter to the Corinthians (c. a.d. 95), encourages them to cry out to God using the same words (1 Clem. 34:6). “Lord God Almighty” is declared by Amos (Amos 4:13 lxx) to be the name of the Creator of the natural world. While Almighty (pantokratōr; see comments on Rev. 1:8) suggests God’s activity in creation, it speaks primarily of his supremacy over all things. Added is his unique name in Revelation: “who is, and who was, and who is to come” (cf. 1:4, 8), which in effect declares that he “lives forever and ever” (4:9). The living creatures begin the euphony of worship around the throne by celebrating God as the eternal One of all time.