Fourth Seal

The fourth seal releases “Death,” and “Hades” follows gathering the dead in its wake – Revelation 6:7-8

Old Tombstones - Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
The “victims” harmed by the first three seal openings have not been identified, although details from the tasks assigned to each “
rider” provide clues. Nothing has been said about the enemies of the “Lamb,” or about judgments against the “inhabitants of the earth.” Moreover, the actions of the “four riders” are never labeled “plagues,” “wrath,” or “judgments” - [Old Tombstones - Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash].

And while the “Lamb” opens each seal, the task assigned to each rider is given by one of the four living creatures with instructions that include limitations on how much harm each rider may inflict.

In the case of the “third seal,” the voice of the “living creature” was heard coming “from the midst of the throne,” confirming the divine source behind the commands issued to the four riders.
  • (Revelation 6:7) – “And when he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature, saying: Go! And I saw, and behold, a livid horse, and he that was sitting on it had for a name Death, and Hades was following with him.

DEATH AND HADES

In verse 7, “livid” translates the Greek adjective chlōros, a green, pale green, or yellowish-green shade of color. The “rider” is named “Death,” and “Hades” follows him, presumably on foot as it collects the dead.

Hades” was a term used in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible for Sheol, the shadowy abode of the dead.

In Revelation, “Death” and “Hades” are the cosmic enemies of God doomed to consignment to the “Lake of Fire.” However, in the interim, because of his own death and resurrection, they are under the authority of the “Lamb” and serve his purposes:
  • (Revelation 1:17-18) – “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead, and he laid his right hand upon me, saying: Do not fear! I am the First and the Last, and the Living One, and I became dead; and behold, living am I unto the ages of ages, and have the keys of Death and of Hades.

Thus, Jesus has absolute sovereignty over both deathly “realms,” precisely because he “became dead” and now lives forevermore. He is the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead,” and therefore, “the ruler of the kings of the earth” - (Revelation 1:5-6).

To the church at Smyrna, the Risen Christ identifies himself as the “first and the last, he who became dead and lived.”  He is aware of their “tribulation and destitution,” therefore, the church has no reason to fear anything that it might suffer, including death.

Followers of the “Lamb” are free to be “faithful until death” because Jesus possesses the “keys of Death and Hades,” and therefore, the faithful saint who overcomes will “in nowise would be injured by the second death” - (Revelation 2:8-11).

SECOND DEATH

At the “Great White Throne of Judgment,” all the dead receive judgment (“the sea gave up the dead, and death and hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each one was judged according to their works”). Everyone whose name is found in the Lamb’s “book of life” receives life, but anyone whose name is not found in it will receive the “second death.” And in the final analysis, even “death and hades” are thrown into the “lake of fire” - (Revelation 20:11-15).

Volcanic Eruption Iceland - Photo by ruedi häberli on Unsplash
[Photo by ruedi häberli on Unsplash]

The image of the fourth “
rider” carrying “death” means that death is still a reality between the exaltation of the “Lamb” and the arrival of “New Jerusalem.” But death is now under his authority and serves his redemptive purposes. As the next seal opening will demonstrate, this is especially true for the deaths of his saints.

The fourth “rider” does not symbolize the judgment of death on any specific group of the unrighteous. All men, both the righteous and the unrighteous, remain subject to death until the end of the present age. What matters is not escape from death, but whether one’s “name is written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

For overcoming saints, “death” is not the final answer. All men must appear before the “Throne” for judgment. For those who “follow the Lamb” even into death, that will mean their vindication. In contrast, on the “day of the wrath of the Lamb,” the rebellious “inhabitants of the earth” will pay the ultimate penalty, the “second death.”



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