The previous chapter mentioned that the prophecy scroll had seven seals which no one could open; at the end, only the Lamb who was slain could open it. Now the first four seals are being opened.
People might think that the “prophecy scroll” was like a book that was being narrated, but it was actually like a movie. Therefore, we know that the scroll was just a figure of speech. Revelation uses a lot of metaphorical language, a scroll is not necessary a scroll, a horse might not be really a horse, and an eagle might not really be an eagle either, we have to find out what it truly represents.
Many Bible commentaries or preachers will explain this passage literally, as the majority of western scholars would. In fact, their ways of explaining it will make us more confused. Thus, first, we have to forget what we have heard in the past, and start anew by carefully studying the passage itself, finding similar passages in the Bible and using scripture to explain scripture in order to avoid making the same mistake.
Before explaining these visions, we need to know the following:
( 一) 這是關於全地上的事，並非小地區的事件。｢從全地上奪去太平。」｢殺害全地上四分之一的人。」
(1) These events affect the whole earth, no just part of it. “ Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth .”“ They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill…”
( 二) 騎在馬上的，不是真有其人，｢名字叫作死」，明顯不是指一個人。第八節的代名詞，前面是｢他｣，後面變為｢他們｣，從單數變成複數，既不是一個人，根本也不是描寫人。
(2) The rider on the horse is not a real person, “Its rider was named Death”; obviously this does not refer to a person. In verse 8 the pronoun used is “him” and latter it becomes “they”, it changes from singular to plural, clearly is not a person or a description of a person.
( 叁) 當我們印證撒迦利亞書第六章先知所見的異象，就是以經解經的方式來解釋這一段話，是最穩妥的解經方式。那裡的四色馬清楚說明是代表｢天之四風｣，乃是告訴我們，將有四股強風臨到地上。風可以解釋為風氣、趨勢、潮流、風暴。兩處的異象，雖然好像有些不同的地方，第四匹馬的顏色不明朗；先知所見的馬有馬車，乃是因為語言、文字與時代不同，先知的眼光重點有異。
(3) When we compare these verses with the vision which the prophet saw in the book of Zechariah, chapter 6, we are using scripture to explain scripture and that is the safest way to interpret the Bible. There, it clearly says that these four colored horses are “the four winds of heaven”; they are four powerful winds that will be coming upon the earth. Winds can be interpreted as tendencies, trends, phenomena, or tempest. If the two visions are different in some places it is because of the language, the writing and the eras were different. For example, the color of the fourth horse is unclear and the prophet saw the horses with chariots. The prophet’s focus was different.
Many people cannot distinguish clearly between the different kinds of visions in Revelation. The events described in the seven seals, the seven trumpets and the seven bowls are completely different.
We have to keep in mind that the first group “the seven seals” uncovers the events that will occur before the seven years of the great tribulation, it describes the beginning of the disasters; the events that happened between the 18th century and the 21st century . The scroll was sealed; the seal had to be opened so the people would know about the things that will take place before the end.
The second group “the seven trumpets”. Trumpets were used in ancient times to gather the people, or to assemble the soldiers to go to war. The seven trumpets describe the circumstances of wars and the styles of fighting used during the 20th and the 21st century.
The third group “the seven bowls”. “Seven cups” is a better translation. The disasters of the seven cups describe the horrific pollution in the whole earth. Not only pollution of the environment but also contamination through radiation; furthermore, there will be the propagation of evil tendencies and pollution of people’s minds. All these will reach alarming levels. Everything that was prophesied will take place during the last 7 years of the great tribulation.
The strong trends described in the “seven seals” are very obvious and easy to distinguish; and as we compare them to the present circumstances, we know that we have already entered into the final stages of the end times. We need to remember that the Lord does not want to keep us from knowing what is about to happen; but actually, He hopes that we can understand the prophecy. Therefore, though there are many parts that are hard to understand, the Holy Spirit will guide us and help us to understand it. God is letting us see the different signs that are about to happen so we prepare ourselves to meet Him face to face.
THE TRENDS OF DEMOCRACY
1 我看見羔羊揭開七印中第一印的時候，就听見四活物中一個聲音如雷說：你來！2 我就觀看，見有一匹白馬，騎在馬上的拿著弓，並有冠冕賜給他。他便出來，勝了又要勝。
1 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
A white horse; white is a color that people love and respect. This is the color that is often used to describe Christ; but the one riding on the white horse is not Christ; so, many people say that it is the Antichrist, a false Christ. But, we have to remember that this prophecy is not about a certain person, but about “FOUR TRENDS”. In chapter 19 there is a description of Christ riding on a white horse, but these two passages are significantly different.
基督穿的是濺了血( 原文是浴血，用了受浸的浸字) 的衣服，不是濺了敵人的血，是浴了自己大量的血。頭上戴的冠冕是 diadema 皇冠。
What Christ was dressed in was a robe dipped in blood (like when you get dipped in water during baptism by immersion). Christ’s robe was not splashed with blood from the enemy; He was immersed in His own blood. And the crown that He was wearing was a “ diadema ” which is a royal crown.
In this passage, the rider of the white horse held a bow without an arrow, indicating that he had won a victory and that he kept on winning. But, it was not a bloodshed battle because he basically did not have any weapons. The bow is just a symbolic weapon; it cannot be used as a weapon of war.
The horse and the rider did not bring about any disasters or hardships, just a general mood of the last days. It is a trend of the last three hundred years, which is the democratic political system.
｢有冠冕賜給他｣。冠冕原文是 stepfanos ，是優勝者的冠冕，是得勝比賽者的冠冕，不是具有王權的冠冕。他｢勝了又要勝｣，到底指的是甚麽爭戰？看現在民主國競選公職時就知道了，每一次的競選活動就是一場戰爭。
“He was given a crown.” The original text says “ stephanos ”, the crown of a winner. It is the crown given to someone who wins in a race; not the crown of a king. “He rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” What kind of battle is he fighting? When you look at democratic candidates running for public office you will know that every election campaign is a war.
The democratic regime began to appear during the 18th century. Before that time, not one country had a democratic political system. The United States introduced this political system 200 years ago, later on other nations followed, and so it became a new trend. The leaders of democratic countries often need to win to get elected. Every few years an enormous amount of money is put into campaign funds to keep on winning the elections, therefore it is a “conqueror bent on conquest.”
The fight for the democratic regime does not involve bloodshed, so he does not carry an arrow, only a bow. The first seal to be opened is the wind of democracy blowing from the 18th century all the way to the end times.
TREND OF BRUTAL MASSACRES
3 揭開第二印的時候，我聽見第二個活物說：你來！4 就另有一匹馬出來，是紅的，有權柄給了那騎馬的，可以從地上奪去太平，使人彼此相殺，又有一把大刀賜給他。
3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.
The 19th century marks the start of the Communist regime. The Communist disregard human rights and use cruel bloody ways to rule the country, they also use secret police to maintain political power. They not only murder people, but they encourage people to denounce each other , betray each other, and kill each other. This wind of massacres has spread all over the world. Even those who are not promoters of the Communist regime use this as a magic potion to rule over a country. Many dictators use it, like Hitler , Mussolini, and others. This trend of killing each other will continue through the end of times.
The prophet Zechariah saw a white horse and a black horse going towards the north. In other words, the trends of democracy and financial trading happened mostly in the Northern Hemisphere. As for the fourth horse, the trend of the threat of death goes towards the South. Therefore, famine, epidemics, wild beasts, and violent calamities, are numerous in the Southern part of the world, in Africa, in the Southern Hemisphere, in the backward regions of the world that is where it is more severe. Only the red horse did not mention a specific direction it was going, which indicates that this event would happen everywhere in the world.
Violence is prevalent in the whole world. Television programs, movies, advertisements, they are all full of violence. People’s temperaments have become more violent. They use killing and fights to settle disputes.
Entering the 21st century, violent terrorist activities have appeared; from now on, everyone is a target. Wars are not in specific regions of the world anymore, a bomb could explode any time , anywhere; a crazy gunman could start shooting at random all of a sudden. Places that we thought were safe in the past require people to go through security checks. Everyone is affected by these violent trends. 金融貿易之風FINANCIAL AND COMMERCIAL TRENDS
5 揭開第叁印的時候，我聽見第叁個活物說：你來！我就觀看，見有一匹黑馬，騎在馬上的手裡拿著天平。6 我聽見在四活物中，似乎有聲音說：一錢銀子買一升麥子，一錢銀子買叁升大麥，油和酒不可蹧蹋。
5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”
At first glance, it seems that it is speaking about a famine, the lack of food. Actually, food is being sold, and there is a lot of oil and wine “do not damage the oil and the wine.” Oil and wine are definitely not the most important things during a famine. “ Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand.” It doesn’t say that there is a shortage. A scale was a “ balance”used in the market places in ancient times . That kind of scale used the principle of the balance.
Two pounds of wheat, six pounds of barley, does not refer to weight or volume because the word “pound” does not exist in the original text. Actually, it seems more likely to be saying a day’s wages buys two shares of wheat and a day’s wages buys six shares of barley. Like modern times stock market, how much money is a stock of sugar, how much for a stock of gasoline, these are all new forms of investments and trades.
In the 20th century, the countries of the world value economic development. The stock market developed first in Europe, now all the countries of the world are striving to follow their example. Wall Street is the financial model of the world. The way to look at a country nowadays is to see the growth rate of its economy. With this in mind, people value money more than integrity or the quality of life. They betray their own country, their friends; they sell their soul, their own body, all for money. They do not care what people think of them, as long as they can earn money, they could care less if others live or die.
This new method of trade is different from the traditional way of doing business, often people only deal with numbers, there is no transaction of merchandise; therefore, when it says here two pounds of wheat, 6 pounds of barley, the word “pounds” it is not the conventional measurement of volume or capacity. Very likely it is speaking of a bubble economy, an opportunistic way of trading.
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Lord, people of the world are eating and drinking and enjoying themselves as if there was no tomorrow. When Jesus returns will He find people who are faithful to Him ? Will He find people who will pray without being discouraged? Will a utilitarian society be able to distinguish what is of value? A society dominated by the economy; the one who can make money for his company or the one who is wealthy, that is the person who is esteemed. On the other hand, those who can help solve the problems of society, social workers, charity organizations; they have to beg people for money in order to survive. This is the general mood of the end times.
Many financial crises arise when people start pursuing new ways to get wealthy. Do not damage the oil and the wine. Especially petroleum and alcohol, which are things that the society needs in order to make progress; those are resources that everyone values. The problem is that such progress must pay a price, which is energy consumption that not only leads to energy shortage but also environmental pollution, destruction of nature.
7 揭開第四印的時候，我聽見第四個活物說：你來！8 我就觀看，見有一匹灰色馬，騎在馬上的名字叫作死，陰府也隨著他。有權柄賜給他們，可以用刀劍、饑荒、瘟疫、野獸、殺害地上四分之一的人。
7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him . They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
The people in the 19th century thought that by relying on their own wisdom and knowledge of science and technology, they could build a great society that could progress into a Utopian ideal new world. Education of the masses makes peaceful coexistence, scientific invention makes perfect living conditions, and medical advances can cure any diseases, new farming techniques could solve the food shortage problem. Who would have thought that all this progress of science and technology would bring the destruction of mankind? The conduct and deeds of human beings has brought the threat of death into this world. People are destroying themselves with the own means.
到廿世紀，死亡陰影已經天天籠罩著人類。先是打仗，廿世紀開始發生了世界大戰，所以趕快成立了聯合國。但一點沒有作用，幾十年後發生了第二次大戰，於是再增加聯合國的權力，結果同樣到處打仗，到處大批人民死亡。而且武器越來越厲害，大家都想擁有核子武器。只要有幾百個核彈，就可以毀滅世界。但越來越多國家擁有核武，數目超過幾萬顆，所以最後世界被毀滅不是因為洪水，不是因為另一個冰河期，乃是被烈火熔化( 彼後3:12) 。新約寫成之時，沒有人會明白，這麽大的世界，怎麽可能會被烈火所熔化？
Since the 20th century, the shadow of death has been lurking among every human being. First there was war; starting in the 20th century there was a great world war, so the United Nations had to be promptly established. But that did not help much , a few decades later World War II broke out; as a result more authority was assigned to the United Nations. In the end, there were wars everywhere and large numbers of people died. Furthermore, the weapons were more and more powerful; everyone wanted to have nuclear weapons. It only takes a few hundred nuclear weapons to destroy the entire world. Yet there are more and more countries with nuclear weapons, there are tens of thousands nuclear bombs. Eventually, the destruction of the world will not be by floods or another ice age but by fire and the elements will melt in the heat (2 Peter 3:12). When the New Testament was written, no one could understand how this huge world could be destroyed entirely by blazing fire.
Then there is famine. Scientific new technology and mass production still cannot help the great amount of people who are dying of starvation. Some people waste things every day, they are throwing away the good things that God gives us. On the other hand, many people go hungry every day. New scientific farming methods, chemical fertilizers and genetic modifications bring other types of disaster, which are epidemics and diseases. When the people see produce grown by new farming methods, they may look very pretty, but they are actually poison which can make you sick and die.
Nowadays, incurable diseases are everywhere, cancer, AIDS, bird flu, mad cow disease, SARS. There is no cure for these diseases. We are very thankful if we can control the disease. At the end, the majority of the patients die; very often there is a shortage of hospital beds, even building new hospitals is not enough. If there is a vacancy in the hospital it is because a patient died.
Wars in the 20th century killed more than one hundred million people, add to that natural disasters, famine, diseases, epidemics, murders, and terrorist attacks. In total, the number of people who actually died was an astronomical figure. Here it says “ a fourth of the earth”. We have to understand that many of the numbers in Revelation are representative and symbolic. Comparing carefully, there is a difference between the death of “a third” of the population and “a fourth” of the population. We have to remember these numbers are symbolic.
When the number of people who died is “one third”, it means that the entire population of a certain region died. Like the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, almost everyone died, that is “one third”; suicide bomb attacks are also in certain locations, the number of dead is “one third” as well.
“One fourth” means that a large amount of people died all over the world, not just in one region. Like people who die from AIDS are all over the world, that is what “one fourth”means .
Today many people live under the shadow of death. When a husband and a wife travel to a certain destination or are sent on a business trip, they prefer to take different flights so as to avoid dying together in case there is an accident. The shadow of death is everywhere. This is the fourth trend of the last days.