Fourth Seal

Rider - Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash
 - The fourth seal released “Death,” followed by “Hades” to gather the dead in its wake – Revelation 6:7-8. - [
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash].

To this point in the vision, the “victims” harmed by the openings of the first three seals 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” or “judgments.”
  • (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.
In verse 7, “livid” translates the Greek adjective chlōros, a green, pale green, or yellowish-green shade of color. The “rider” was named “Death,” while “Hades” followed him, presumably on foot, to collect the dead.  Hades” was a term used in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible to translate the term Sheol, the shadowy abode of the dead.

In Revelation, “Death” and “Hades” are the cosmic enemies of God destined for 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.
Jesus has the “keys” of “Death and Hades” - 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).

The Risen Christ identified himself to the church at Smyrna as the “first and the last, he who became dead and lived.”  He was aware of their “tribulation and destitution,” therefore, the church had no reason to fear anything it might suffer, including death. Followers of the “Lamb” were free to be “faithful until death” because Jesus held the “keys of Death and Hades.”  The faithful saint who overcame “in nowise would be injured by the second death” - (Revelation 2:8-11).

Graveyard - Photo by Einar Storsul on Unsplash
Photo by Einar Storsul on Unsplash

At the “Great White Throne of Judgment,” all the dead will 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” will receive life, but anyone whose name is not found in it will be cast into the “lake of fire,” the “second death.” In the end, even “death and Hades” are thrown into it - (
Revelation 20:11-15).

The image of the fourth “rider” carrying “death” means that death is still a reality between the exaltation of the “Lamb” and his final victory at the end of the age. However, death and all that goes with it are now under his authority, and serve his redemptive purposes. As the next seal opening will demonstrate - the “fifth seal” - this is especially true for the deaths of his martyrs.

The fourth “rider” cannot symbolize a judgment of death on any specific group of the unrighteous. All men and women, both the righteous and the unrighteous, remain subject to death until the arrival of the “New Jerusalem.” In Revelation, what matters is not escaping 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 wherever he goes,” even into death, this will mean vindication. But for the rebellious “inhabitants of the earth,” it will mean the penalty of the “second death.”


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