John saw the scroll again, now unsealed and completely open, signifying his call to prophesy once more to peoples and kings –Revelation 10:1-11.
The first six trumpet plagues failed to cause the “inhabitants of the earth” to repent. Instead, they only further hardened their hearts. Something more was needed to complete “the mystery of God.” The narrative now takes a new direction. Rather than another plague, John is commissioned to prophesy to the “nations and kings of the earth.”
The fourth seal released “Death,” followed by “Hades” to gather the dead in its wake – Revelation 6:7-8.
To this point, the “victims” harmed by the first three seal openings have not been identified, although the details from the assigned task of each “rider” provide certain 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.”
The third seal released a rider on a black horse and economic hardship– Revelation 6:5-6.
The “Lamb” opened the third “seal,” and once again, one of the “four living creatures” summoned its rider, this one riding a “black horse” that, apparently, represented economic distress and food shortages. As before, the task of the rider was declared by one of the four “living creatures,” as well as the limitations on its effects (“the oil and the wine do not harm”).
The second rider was sent to “remove peace from the earth” and to cause men to “slay one another” – Revelation 6:3-4.
As with the first rider, the second one was commanded by one of the four “living creatures” to “go forth.” Although each seal is opened by the “Lamb,” the involvement of the “four living creatures” serves to emphasize that heaven remains in firm control over the earthly events represented by each “rider.”
The Lamb opened the first seal, releasing a rider with a “bow” seated on a white horse, setting out to “conquer” – Revelation 6:1-2.
Immediately after his enthronement, the “Lamb” began to open the “seven seals,” starting with the first four. His right to open the scroll is based on his sacrificial death. The Book of Revelation portrays events and processes put into motion by the Death, Resurrection, and Enthronement of Jesus, the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
Upon his arrival before the Throne, immediately the Lamb began to open the seven seals of the sealed scroll.
Often the forces unleashed by the “seven seals” are linked to the horrific calamities many expect to occur before the return of Jesus, and especially so with the first four seal openings, popularly described as the “four horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Supposedly, with His patience exhausted, God plagues rebellious humanity in a last-ditch effort to bring men to repentance.