The Revelation: signs of our times
Late in the first century AD the apostle John received a vision, which he introduced as follows:
The Revelation was given by God to Christ, who gave it to John via an angel. It shows Christ's servants the future using a mixture of symbols and literal statements. The Revelation is the most comprehensive and detailed prophecy in the Bible. It covers events from John's time through the return of Christ, then into the kingdom of God and into the distant future. When we look at Jesus' prophecy as recorded in Matthew 24 we will see many similarities to Revelation.
In the Revelation the "Lamb" symbolizes Christ. The Lamb is shown opening seven seals on a symbolic scroll or book of the future. As each seal is opened, the scroll is unrolled a little more and we see more of the future revealed. The seals help organize the events prophesied in Revelation in sequential order. The first six describe events leading to the return of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God, which occur during the seventh seal.
Revelation chapter six opens the first four seals by telling of the famous "four horsemen of the apocalypse." Apocalypse is the Greek word for "revelation." The horsemen are not literal flesh-and-blood horsemen. Rather, they are symbolic. The first, riding a white horse, is generally understood to symbolize the spread of religions that misrepresent God. As these religions spread around the world they are pictured as "conquering" or deceiving:
The second horseman brings violence and death to the earth. He symbolically brings war, terrorism, crime and strife (civil, racial, political, and religious):
The third horseman symbolically brings famine. Essential foods such as grains are shown to be in short supply and costly, causing famine in various parts of the world. Meanwhile other non-basic foods - oil and wine - continue to be available:
Finally the fourth horseman, with his rider, brings death by disease as well as by war, strife and famine:
Note that the four horsemen are not sent by God or by Christ. The horsemen are not executing Divine will or intention; rather, they only illustrate conditions on the earth brought about by man and nature. As each horseman is "added" conditions worsen. And with the addition of the fourth, who brings an extra measure of violence, famine and disease, conditions worsen to a point where one fourth the earth's population will die.
Upon the opening of the fifth seal a different type of event takes place: a martyrdom:
The opening of the sixth seal suddenly brings the most amazing, surprising, world-awakening events in all of prophecy. These events are the milestone - the sign - that confirms the coming of the Kingdom of God in a way the whole world can neither ignore nor deny. All activity stops while mankind stares in amazed wonder:
Could this really happen? What could cause the sun and moon to dim? What could cause a great meteor shower at the same time, and make the stars in the night sky seem to disappear? Even now clouds of dust in space prevent astronomers from viewing regions of the night sky. And it is dust or small particles shooting from space into our atmosphere that gives us most meteors. This is speculation, but it may be that a cloud of dust in space flows into our solar system, including between the earth and the sun. This could explain the simultaneous meteor shower, the darkening the sun and moon to a deep red "sunset" color, and the blocking of our view of the stars.
Regarding the rest of the prophecy: why do the people who see these events say "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne"? Why do they think the events have anything to do with God or Christ, and why are they afraid? They suddenly believe in God because they see, apparently literally, a symbol or sign of Christ in the sky. We'll see this in Jesus' prophecy also. And they are afraid for several reasons. They ignored the message that God is real and would intervene in human affairs. And they will have only recently, in the fifth seal's martyrdom, "shot the messengers" who brought that message.
In Jesus' prophecy we will see many parallels to the prophecies we've seen in Revelation: religions, wars, famines, disease epidemics, a martyrdom, and heavenly signs. We'll also gain insight as to when and why the heavenly signs occur.
other pages, in random order: