In Revelation 1-5 John addressed the seven churches of Asia Minor according to their contemporary situation (chs. 2-3) and presented them with the encouraging vision of Christ’s endurance and reward (chs. 4-5). The climax of that vision occurred when Christ approached the One seated on the throne and took the scroll that had God’s plan for the unfolding of the age written on both sides. John said that the scroll was sealed with seven seals (Rev 5:1).
John described the breaking of those seals in Revelation 6-8. He described the Lamb, Jesus Christ, as One unrolling the scroll, progressively revealing the judgments that would ensue. That Jesus was unfolding the scroll—and the scroll described judgement in accord with expectations established in the Old Testament—showed Jesus’ supremacy in the overarching narrative of Scripture.
(1) In Rev 6:1-8 John described four horsemen issuing judgement upon the earth, echoing Zech 6:1-8. One night during the reign of Darius, king of Persia, the Lord gave Zechariah a series of eight visions describing the day He would judge Israel’s enemies and save Jerusalem (Zech 1:7-6:15). In the final vision, Zechariah saw four chariots begin pulled by red, black, white, and spotted horses. These horses represented four spirits that went out to present themselves to the Lord (Zech 6:1-8). In John’s vision, as the scroll was unrolled and the seals were broken, horses went out carrying figures that would execute judgement on earth. The horses in John’s vision were first, the white horse of a conqueror, second, the red hose of the one taking peace from the earth, third, the black horse of the one harming agriculture, and fourth, the pale green horse of the one causing death upon the earth.
(2) In Rev 6:10, John heard the cries of the martyred saints, echoing the Angel of the Lord’s cry for justice in Zech 1:12. During Zechariah’s first vision the Angel of the Lord cried out, saying, “How long, LORD of Hosts, will You withhold mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah that You have been angry with these 70 years?” (Zech 1:12). The Lord said that He was angry with Israel’s enemies and promised that he would restore Jerusalem’s fortunes (Zech 1:14-17). At the opening of the fifth seal, John heard the cry of the martyrs that asked God how long until He would avenge their blood (Rev 6:10). A white robe was given to each of them and they were told that God would show His wrath upon their enemies once the full number of their fellow martyrs had finished testifying of Jesus (Rev 6:11).
(3) In Rev 6:12-14, John described the judgements of the sixth seal in language the prophets also used to portray judgement. In Isaiah 13, the prophet announced the Lord’s judgement upon Babylon. Isaiah said that the stars would cease to give their light and the sun would be darkened (Isa 13:10). The earth would quake and the heavens would tremble at the time of God’s wrath against His enemies (Isa 13:13). Isaiah said that when the Lord judges the nations, the stars would dissolve, and the skies would be rolled up (Isa 34:4). Ezekiel prophesied that on the day the Lord judged Pharaoh, the heavens would be darkened, hiding the sun and the moon (Ezek 32:7-9). Joel announced that on the Day of the Lord, the sun, moon, and stars would be darkened (Joel 2:10-11). When John saw the Lamb open the sixth seal, there was a violent earthquake, the sun was darkened, stars fell to the earth, the sky was rolled up, and the earth shook (Rev 6:12-14).
(4) In Rev 6:15, John saw people hiding in caves to escape God’s judgement just as Isaiah prophesied would happen in the last days. Isaiah proclaimed that on the Day of the Lord, people should hide in the rocks to escape the wrath of God (Isa 2:10, 19-21). When cataclysm erupted at the breaking of the sixth seal, John saw people hiding in rocks and caves to escape the wrath of God and of the Lamb because no one was able to stand Their judgement.
(5) In Rev 7:9, John saw a great multitude from all nations gathered to praise God, echoing Old Testament expectations that many nations would know the Lord. In Gen 12:1-3, the Lord promised to make Abraham into a great nation and through him to bless all peoples of the earth. The Lord chose Israel out of all nations so that through His covenant with them, all nations would know of the Lord’s greatness (Exod 19:5-6; Deut 4:1-8). The psalmists cried out for the nations to seek the Lord (Pss 67:1-5; 96:10, 13; 98:2). In Daniel’s vision of the four beasts and the Ancient of Days, he saw one like a son of man ruling over all nations (Dan 7:14). Between the sixth and seventh seals, John saw a vast multitude of all nations gathered to worship and proclaim, “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:10).
(6) In Rev 7:17, one of the elders told John that the Lamb would shepherd those who remained faithful unto death, echoing shepherd imagery of the Old Testament. After the Lord told Moses that he would not be allowed to lead Israel into the Promised Land, Moses asked the Lord to appoint a leader over His people so that they would not be like sheep without a shepherd (Num 27:15-17; Matt 9:36//Mark 6:34). David described the Lord as his Shepherd in Psalm 23. When David was anointed king over Israel, the people proclaimed that the Lord had established David as their shepherd (2 Sam 5:2). Ezekiel expressed God’s anger with Israel’s shepherds for not feeding and caring for His people, stating that God would shepherd them Himself (Ezekiel 34). The elder speaking to John stated that the martyrs would no longer hunger or be harmed by the sun because the Lamb would shepherd them to springs of living water (Rev 7:17).
(7) In Rev 8:7-8, when the first and second angels blew their trumpets, John saw cataclysm on earth that reflected the plagues upon Egypt prior to the exodus. In the first plague, Moses struck the Nile River with his rod and the water became blood (Exod 7:17, 19). In the seventh plague, the Lord sent hail and a great storm upon the earth such that the hail destroyed both man and beast in the fields of Egypt (Exod 9:23-34). At the first trumpet blast, John saw hail and fire, mixed with blood, hurled to the earth (Rev 8:7), and when the second angel blew its trumpet, a fiery mountain was thrown to the earth and a third of the sea became blood (Rev 8:8).