Home > Revelation 6: A Preterist Commentary
The Names of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the Seven Seals Revealed!
A Preterist Commentary on Revelation 6: Summary and Highlights
Who are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; what are their names; and what were the seven seals? In the following preterist Bible commentary on Revelation 6 the reader will be exposed to the answers to these questions in addition to compelling evidence that every verse in this chapter came to pass during the infamous Jewish War in the first century. The four horsemen of the apocalypse are the four living creatures.[i] The earthly counterparts of the four living creatures are the four kings that supplied auxiliary troops during the siege of Jerusalem. Therefore the earthly names of the four horsemen of the apocalypse are Antiochus, Agrippa II, Sohemus and Malchus.[ii] The four horsemen did indeed conquer as predicted in Revelation 6:2; “take peace from the earth” according to Revelation 6:4; induce famine as implied in Revelation 6:6; and “kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth” when these four kings supplied auxiliary troops to the Roman legions that besieged Jerusalem in A.D. 70. As a result of this allied assault, Jerusalem was conquered and thousands of Israelites were killed by “sword, famine and plague.” 97,000 Jews were exiled[iii] many of whom were killed in Roman amphitheaters “by sword and wild beasts.”[iv] In A.D. 69, a year before the fall of Jerusalem, an omen of the coming tragedy was seen in the sky–the sun darkened, the moon turned blood red and a star fell in fulfillment of Revelation 6:12-13: “There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to the earth.” The earthquake mentioned in v. 12 hit Jerusalem the year before, in A.D. 68. Amidst the fall of Jerusalem, many people fled to caves under the city or to the mountains and caves of the Dead Sea as predicted in Revelation 6:15: then the people “hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.” The last pocket of resistance held out at the mountain fortress of Masada. Realizing that they could not overcome the Romans, 960 Jews took their lives. In this mass suicide, one can see the eerie fulfillment of Revelation 6:16-17: “They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
The following may seem unbelievable. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical records and is easily verifiable. Sources listed at the end.
The Names of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the Seven Seals Revealed!
Revelation 6 Commentary Intro: The Six Seals do not begin to unfold until the Sixth Trumpet.
This portion of John’s vision describes the opening of six of the seven seals. Though the seals are opened before the seven trumpets are blown, the devastation they wreak actually unfolds after the sixth trumpet. The fact that the six seals describe historical events that were fulfilled after the sounding of the sixth trumpet is similar to the way in which the Bible often describes future events in the present or past tense in order to emphasize its imminence and the immutable certainty with which it will occur. For example, in Matthew 23:38 Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple about forty years before its fulfillment in the present tense: “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate.” Also in Revelation 14:8 an angel predicts and warns of the impending fall of Babylon in the past tense: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great[.]”
As is discussed in Revelation 8: A Preterist Commentary and Revelation 9: A Preterist Commentary–Who is Apollyon?, the first four trumpets describe Vespasian’s campaign against Israel. At the sixth trumpet, Titus takes over control of the Roman military and makes preparations to begin his assault on Jerusalem. At the blowing of this trumpet, the sixth angel is told to release the four angels bound at the Euphrates River. I believe these four angels are the four horsemen of the first four seals. At the sounding of the sixth trumpet, these four harbingers of death are set lose; and by the seventh trumpet, they begin their attack and the historical events predicted in the six seals unfold. Revelation 6 describes what happened.
Revelation 6 Commentary Intro: The Earth is Israel; the Sea is Rome.
Before going further, it is important to define what is meant by earth and sea throughout this apocalyptic vision. Like many ancient people, the Jews believed the world was a disc surrounded by an ocean.[v] In Daniel 7, four beasts are said to arise out of the sea. These four beasts symbolize Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome—all Gentile empires. In line with the apocalyptic symbolism found in the Book of Daniel, the Book of Revelation also uses sea as a metaphor for the Gentile nations. Evidence of this fact can be found in Revelation 17:5. Here the waters or sea are defined as the “peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.” Thus if the sea represents Gentile Rome, what then does the earth represent?
The earth represents Israel, the only part of the world that is not Gentile. This interpretation is not without Biblical precedence. The Greek word for earth is ge. This word is sometimes used to denote to an isolated country or nation.[vi] In fact, the NET Bible translates this term five times as country. In both the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation, Israel is seen as an island amidst a sea of Gentiles. The similar use of symbolism in these two books does not end there, nor is it surprising. As was discussed earlier, both seers receive their information from the same heavenly scroll.
1I 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!” 2I 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.
Revelation 6:1-8 Commentary: The Names of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are Antiochus, Agrippa II, Sohemus and Malchus.
This is the first of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.[vii] These four horsemen are the four living creatures themselves.[viii] As is exemplified in Ezekiel 28:1-19, spirits in heaven can have earthly counterparts. These heavenly beings appear to be represented on earth by the four kings that supplied auxiliary troops during the siege of Jerusalem: Antiochus, Agrippa II, Sohemus and Malchus.[ix] The first rider is responsible for the conquest of Jerusalem.
3When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.
Revelation 6:4 Commentary: The Civil War in Israel and Israel’s War with Rome . . .
Pointing to Rome, the sword (machaira) of the second horseman was the short sword used by Roman infantry.[ixa] This rider is commanded to take peace from the earth. At the death of Nero, the Jewish War came to a halt. Though the Romans had ceased their attack, there was no peace. In Jerusalem a three-way civil war began headed by John, Simon and Eleazar each fighting for control and leadership over Israel. This fighting was interrupted by Titus’ attack on Jerusalem when, after the ascension of Vespasian to the throne, Rome resumed its attack.
5When 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. 6Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barely for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”
Revelation 6:5 Commentary: The Apocalypse etched in the Sky . . .
In Genesis 1:14, “God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs . . .’” Furthermore while discussing the end of the age, Jesus says, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.”[x] This prediction is partially fulfilled in vs. 12-13; however, there is much more to these signs in the sky. Before going further, it is important to realize that though it shall be shown in the remainder of this book that John abundantly refers to the astrological constellations of the night sky, he does not violate Deuteronomy 4:19. Unshakably Christian, John sees the heavenly bodies as signs and symbols, not as deities.
Surprisingly, much of the imagery in the remainder of this book is forever etched in the night sky. The author of Revelation’s use of symbolism in this book is ingenious.[xa] In Revelation 9, the Roman army is described in the image of the constellations visible in the night sky during Passover, when the Romans began their siege of Jerusalem. In describing the Roman army in this way, John offers the intelligent reader hints to the time in which these events will be fulfilled. The only constellation of the zodiac not mentioned in Revelation 9 is seen in v. 5. This horseman is holding the scales of Libra in his hand. The fact that he holds the only constellation not alluded to in Revelation 9 is still more evidence that this horseman, like the other three, does not begin his work until he is finally released in Revelation 9:14.
Revelation 6:6 Commentary: The Famine of v. 6 is caused by the Siege of Jerusalem.
The black color of the horse calls to mind Lamentations 5:10: “Our skin is black as an oven from the scorching heat of famine.”[xi] This horseman will bring famine to Jerusalem in fulfillment of the curse of Leviticus 26:26. The scales in the hand of the rider in v. 5 indicate that the Jews will have to ration out their food, an inevitable consequence of a siege like the one imposed by Titus’ army in A.D. 70. To make matters worse, the people of Jerusalem burned a large part of their own provisions before the arrival of the Roman army.[xii] This resulted in a steep rise in food prices even before the Romans began their siege.
Revelation 6:6 Commentary: “Do Not Damage the Oil and Wine!”
The angel in v. 6 proclaims, “[D]o not damage the oil and wine!” This verse may have found its fulfillment in the actions of the sacrilegious Jewish rebels who under the leadership of John Gischala plundered the oil and wine of the temple:
Accordingly, drawing the sacred wine and oil, which the priests kept for pouring on the burnt offerings, and which was deposited in the inner temple, [John] distributed them among his adherents, who consumed without horror more than a hin in anointing themselves and drinking.[xiii]
7When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8I 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.
Revelation 6:8 Commentary: The Israelites were killed by Sword, Famine and Wild Beasts as predicted in v. 8.
In his history of the Jewish War, Josephus describes the civil war and famine induced by the fourth horseman:
Nor was there any place in the city [of Jerusalem] that had no dead bodies in it, but what was entirely covered with those that were killed either by the famine or the rebellion; and all was full of the dead bodies of such as had perished, either by that sedition or by that famine [emphasis mine].[xiv]
9When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they maintained. 10They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood? 11Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
Revelation 6:9 Commentary: The Altar in the Sky
While gazing up into the heavens, John sees stars connect and events unfold. Guided by God through the constellations, John sees Ara, the altar, barely visible in the southern horizon. The base of the altar is obscured by the earth illustrating the fact that the spirits under this altar are spirits in Sheol, the underworld, awaiting their resurrection to heaven.[xvii]
Revelation 6:9-11 Commentary: The Martyrs under the Altar
The spirits beneath the altar are those of the saints unjustly killed throughout history. Jerusalem was well known for having killed its prophets. Reminding them of this fact, Jesus pointedly declares:
Therefore I am sending you [Jerusalem] prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you all this will come upon this generation.[xviii]
The Jews of that generation were, in fact, punished for these crimes having suffered greatly during the war with Rome. Acts 8:1-3, 12:1-4 and 26:10 record the persecution the early church faced in Jerusalem soon after the death of Jesus. Regarding this persecution, Jesus is recorded to have said, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”[xix] The justice spoken of here will be addressed in detail throughout the remaining pages of John’s Apocalypse.
12I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13and the stars in the sky fell to the earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.[xx] 14The sky receded like a scroll rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
Revelation 6:12-14 Commentary: The Destruction of Heaven and Earth
Before discussing the fulfillment of these heavenly warnings, it is important to address the crux of what is stated here. John is describing the destruction of heaven and earth. Hebrews 12:26 says, “At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain [emphasis mine].” Revelation 6:12-14 records the fulfillment of this verse. The earthquake and the stars falling from the sky are a result of God shaking heaven and earth. Hebrews 12:26 points out that what has been shaken will be removed. Verse 14 records this happening as the sky recedes like a scroll and every mountain and island is removed from its place.[xxi] This may not be the first time that heaven and earth had passed away. Concerning one of these instances, Jeremiah writes:
I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone. I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying. I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away. I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins…[xxii]
In these verses, Jeremiah is describing the destruction of Israel at the hands of the Babylonians in the sixth century B.C. Here, like Revelation 6:14 and Genesis 1:1-2, the land is left formless and barren and the stars fail to shine in the sky. After the Babylonians destroyed the cities of Judea, they left the land so desolate that it resembled the earth before it was created—formless and dark. As will be discussed shortly, the darkening of the heavenly lights is a divine warning that God is going to destroy the land.
Revelation 6:14 Commentary: Mountains Represent Kingdoms in the Bible
In v. 14, John states that every mountain will be removed. As is implied in Daniel 9:16, mountain is a Biblical metaphor for a city or kingdom. This is not the only verse in which this meaning is implied. There are a multitude of examples of this implicit meaning throughout scripture.[xxiii] The removal of these mountains is fulfilled in the war with Rome.
Revelation 6:12-14 Commentary: The Destruction of Israel, the Earth
In A.D. 70 Jerusalem was attacked and conquered under the leadership of the Roman general Titus. After the city was taken, Caesar ordered that the city be demolished. This order was carried out, and Jerusalem was completely destroyed leaving only the western wall and a few towers intact. Concerning the devastation of the city, Josephus writes, “[T]here was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited.”[xxiv] Furthermore, the state of Idumea after the war is described in very much the same way: “[T]here was no sign remaining of those places that had been laid waste, that ever they had had a being.”[xxv] The fate of Jerusalem and Idumea reflects the condition of Israel after the Jewish War. Not only did the Romans destroy the cities, they also dug up the earth and stripped the land of trees in order to raise and transport siege engines. As a result, the land was left barren resembling the earth at its creation—depopulated, without form, void and desolate. Here the reader can appreciate how the land was destroyed in preparation for the new heaven and earth in Revelation 21:1.
Revelation 6:12-14 Commentary: Was the Whole World to be destroyed?
The destruction of heaven and earth is often understood to mean that God is going to destroy the whole world and rebuild a perfect one in its place, this not necessarily the case. The destruction of heaven and earth is not a onetime event. Whenever a nation was subjugated or conquered by another, the Bible often poetically portrays this conquest as the destruction of heaven and earth itself. In Ezekiel 32, the prophet addresses Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, with a warning concerning Egypt’s imminent defeat and subjugation to Babylon which soon came to pass in the sixth century B.C. Concerning the military conquest of Egypt by the nation of Babylon, Ezekiel 32:7-9 states:
When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you; I will bring darkness over your land, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will trouble the hearts of many peoples when I bring about your destruction among the nations, among lands you have not known.
Here the destruction of the heavens portrayed by the darkening of the heavenly lights occurs simultaneously with the destruction of Egypt by the Babylonians in the sixth century B.C. Similar imagery is present in Isaiah 13:9-13 concerning the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C.:
See, the day of the Lord is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. . . . Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the Lord Almighty, in the day of his burning anger [emphasis mine].
As stated above, Hebrews 12:26 indicates that what has been shaken will be removed. The fact that heaven and earth are shaken in Isaiah 13:13 is a clear indication that heaven and earth were destroyed upon the fulfillment of Isaiah 13:9-13 at the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C.
The destruction of heaven and earth is also predicted at the destruction of Edom in Isaiah 34:4-5. This prophecy was fulfilled around the time of the Babylonian conquest of Judah:[xxva]
All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree. My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; see, it descends in judgment on Edom, the people I have totally destroyed.
Notice how similar the heavenly imagery surrounding the destruction of Babylon, Egypt and Edom is to the destruction of heaven and earth at the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 predicted in Revelation 6:12-14. In Revelation 6:12-13, John foresees the shaking of heaven and earth also seen at the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. according to Isaiah 13:13. In Revelation 6:14 the sky recedes like a scroll and the stars of heaven fall to the earth as it had in Isaiah 34:4 at the destruction of Edom in the sixth century B.C. As has been abundantly shown above, whenever a nation was subjugated or conquered by another, the Bible often poetically portrays this conquest as the destruction of heaven and earth itself.
Revelation 6:12 Commentary: The Earthquake of v. 12 that hit Jerusalem in A.D. 68
Having discussed the main point of Revelation 6:12-14, it is now time to address each verse and its literal fulfillment. Upon the opening of the sixth seal there is an earthquake. This earthquake hit Jerusalem in A.D. 68.[xxvi] It is mentioned again in Revelation 16:18 and will be discussed in greater detail there.
Revelation 6:12-13 Commentary: What does it mean when the Sun turns Black, the Moon turns Red and the Stars fall?
Next the sun is darkened, the moon turns blood red and the stars fall from the sky. Whenever these signs appeared in the Old Testament–people died. Looking ahead to verses 15 and 16, it is clear that now is no different.
When both the sun and moon fail to shine, this is a celestial sign that a king is about to be overthrown or killed. Psalm 72:5 says, “He [the king] will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon. . . .” Also in Isaiah 24:21-23, God overthrows the kings of Israel and reigns as king in their place to the embarrassment of both the sun and moon. In these verses, Isaiah, like John in Revelation 6:12, seems to imply that the state of the sun and moon mirror that of those in authority. When both celestial bodies are eclipsed this is an astral omen that a king’s term in office is about to be cut short. Not surprisingly in vs.15, the kings of the earth are shown fleeing for their lives in caves and mountains.
Hebrew prophets were not the only ones to place this interpretation on such an event. Popular support for this perception can be found in the biography of Apollonius of Tyana, a first century Roman seer. Here it is found that an eclipse of the sun was seen by the Roman populace as an omen foreshadowing the subsequent death of Caesar Domitian.[xxvii]
Similarly when the stars fall from the sky, the nobles of this kingdom are also about to be extinguished. The naturalist and historian Pliny the Elder in his book Natural History writes that it was a common belief in first century Rome that each individual had a personal star which appeared at birth and fell at death.[xxviii] This idea originated in the Middle East and eventually made its way to Rome. This notion is strongly implicit in Isaiah 34:4-5. In these verses, the stars fall from heaven followed by the annihilation of the Edomites, whom these stars seem to represent.
Revelation 6:13 Commentary: Stars represent both People and Angels in the Bible.
In Revelation 9:1-2 a falling star possesses a key which he uses to open the Abyss. This star is not a literal star. Interestingly, Jesus Christ, the angel of the Lord mentioned often in the Old Testament, is called the morning star in Revelation 22:16. Furthermore, Satan is said to cast a third of the stars to the earth in Revelation 12:4. These stars are angels. Revelation 9:1-2, 22:16 and 12:4 imply that stars represent angelic beings. The fact that stars represent angels is not unique to Revelation. Stars also represent angelic authorities in Deuteronomy 4:19, Judges 5:20, Job 25:5, Job 38:7, Psalm 148:3, Isaiah 14:12-14, and Daniel 12:3.
The above interpretation is only partially true. Revelation 1:20 indicates that the stars in Christ’s hand are “the angels of the seven churches.” The Book of Revelation was a letter written to the human ministers of seven churches in Asia Minor. In light of this fact are these stars people or angels? I believe that this ambiguity is intentional. I believe that they are both.
Revelation 6:13 Commentary: When the Stars of Heaven fell to the Earth this was an Apocalyptic Symbol of the casting out of “the Spiritual Forces of Evil in the Heavenly Realms” mentioned in Ephesians 6:12.
Ephesians 6:12 reads, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Why are there spiritual forces of evil in heaven? 2 Corinthians 4:4 calls the devil the “god of this age”: “The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers . . .” Satan is called the God or prince of this world or the god of this age in several places throughout the Bible including Ephesians 2:2, John 12:31, John 14:31 and John 16:11. John 12:31 states, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” Satan is ultimately cast out of heaven at Christ’s return recorded in Revelation 12:7-10. The fact that Satan ruled the earth from heaven during the first century explains why heaven was to be destroyed by fire in 2 Peter 3:7-13. See The Link between Satan, “the God of this World,” and the Destruction of Heaven and Earth Fully Explained. The casting of the stars of heaven to earth predicted in Revelation 6:13 and Matthew 24:29 is an apocalyptic symbol of the casting out of “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The Bible depicts heaven as a glorious, idealized reflection of earth and the earth is thus a dark shadow of heaven. Galatians 4:26 states, “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” Hebrews 12:22 says, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.” Notice that Jerusalem is not just a city on earth, there is also a Jerusalem in heaven.
The same can be said about Eden. According to Ezekiel 27:23, Eden is clearly a place on earth: “‘Harran, Kanneh and Eden and merchants of Sheba, Ashur and Kilmad traded with you [the city of Tyre].” However, in Ezekiel 28:1-19 Eden appears to represent both a place in heaven and a city on earth. In these verses, Ezekiel addresses the king of Tyre. In v. 7 Ezekiel predicts the destruction of this coastal city. This prediction came to pass in 573 B.C. when the city was destroyed by the Babylonians. While addressing the king of Tyre, Ezekiel says, “You [the king of Tyre] were in Eden, the garden of God.” Ezekiel then goes on to say that the king of Tyre was “anointed as a guardian cherub [an angel of the presence of God].” Then in v. 17, this cherub, the king of Tyre, was thrown to the earth. The language used in Ezekiel 28 is intentionally meant to be double talk pointing to events in both heaven and earth with the casting out of an angel of the presence of God from heaven, the destruction of Tyre and the death of its king as seemingly concurrent events. Because of the dual fulfillment of Ezekiel 28 in both heaven and earth, it is clear that Eden is more than just a place on earth. Like the new Jerusalem, Eden is also a place in heaven.
Not only does Ezekiel 28:1-9 illustrate the fact that nations on earth have glorious reflections in heaven, these verses are also a textbook example of the fact that events in heaven and earth are linked. Notice that the death of the king of Tyre corresponds with the casting out of a guardian cherub from heaven to earth. Another prominent example in which events in heaven and earth are linked is found in Ezekiel 37:1-14. Here the Jewish exiles in Babylon are pictured as a valley of dry bones. After seeing these dead bodies come to life, Ezekiel is told in v. 12 that the Jews will return to the land of Israel. The implicit message behind this vision is that in the same way that the dead will rise and return to the Israel that is in heaven during the resurrection of the dead, the Jewish exiles will similarly return to their homeland. In this chapter in the Book of Ezekiel, the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon is an earthly mirror or shadow of the resurrection of the dead.
As illustrated in Ezekiel 28 and 37, major events in heaven and earth are linked, at least in a symbolic sense. Thus major actions in heaven and earth are, in some way, mirrored or reflected in both realms. This mysterious link between heaven and earth has given rise to the expression “as above so below” and may be alluded to in the Lord’s Prayer: “On earth as it is in heaven.” Frequently hinted at though never explicitly explained, it is this cosmic law that explains the fact that whenever a new heaven is mentioned in the Bible, there is often also mention of a new earth and vise versa. This Biblical principle explains why Eden and the new Jerusalem are sometimes described in the Bible in such a way as to simultaneously point to both heaven and earth since there is a Jerusalem in heaven that is a glorious reflection of the Jerusalem on earth, while the same can also be said concerning Eden and presumably many other kingdoms on earth. This cosmic law also explains why stars seem to represent both angelic beings and people in Revelation 1:20. Therefore, in light of this cosmic law, the fact that stars representing both angels and humans are cast to the earth in Revelation 6:13 and Matthew 24:29 is an apocalyptic symbol of the expulsion of the forces of evil at the destruction of heaven and earth.
Revelation 6:12-13 Commentary: The Sun Darkened, the Moon turned Red and a Star fell in A.D. 69.
In A.D. 69, the year before the destruction of Jerusalem, a peculiar event was witnessed in the sky:
[E]vil omens occurred. A comet was seen, and the moon, contrary to precedent, appeared to suffer two eclipses, being obscured on the fourth and on the seventh day. Also people saw two suns at once, one in the west weak and pale, and one in the east brilliant and powerful.[xxix]
Cassius Dio, among other things, is describing a lunar eclipse. During a lunar eclipse, the moon is eclipsed by the sun. When this happens the moon will turn a deep red color. Above is an image of a lunar eclipse. Here one can see the literal fulfillment of Revelation 6:12-13: Cassius Dio describes the sun darkening, the moon turning blood red and a star falling from the sky. Though there may be nothing miraculous about what Cassius Dio described in the sky, what might be considered miraculous is what transpired in Jerusalem one year later. John describes the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the subsequent fall of Masada in the next few verses:
15Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?
Revelation 6:15-17 Commentary: As stated in v. 15, the People fled to the Mountains and Caves at the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the fall of Masada in A.D. 74.
After the Romans breached the walls and entered the city, John and Simon, the two remaining leaders of the Jewish revolt, as well as many other survivors fled to the caves under Jerusalem where they were eventually captured by the Romans.[xxx] Here one can see how the kings, generals and people hid in caves as predicted in v. 15.
The remaining Jews who had not fled underground escaped to the mountains and caves of the Dead Sea. The last pocket of resistance held out at the mountain fortress of Masada. Realizing they could not hold out against the Romans, 960 Jews took their lives. In this mass suicide, one can see the eerie fulfillment of vs. 16 and 17 where the men of the land long to die to hide themselves from the wrath of God.
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[i] These four angels are called many things throughout the Bible: They are the four living creatures of Revelation 4, the four seraphs of Isaiah 6, the four cherubim of Ezekiel 10, the four charioteers of Zechariah 6, and the four angels bound at the Euphrates in Revelation 9:14-16.
[ii] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 3.4.2. As is often the case throughout the Bible, events and individuals in heaven have earthly counterparts.
[iii] Ibid., 6.9.3.
[iv] Ibid., 6.9.2.
[v] Maurice H. Farbridge, Studies in Biblical and Semitic Symbolism, rev. ed. (New York: KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1970), 115. See also Robert Henry Charles, “The Revelation of St. John,” in The International Critical Commentary, vol. 1 (Edinburgh and New York: Clark and Scribner’s, 1920), 239, cited in Jacques M. Chevalier, A Postmodern Revelation: Signs of Astrology and the Apocalypse (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), 295.
[vi] Isaiah 1:1-3. In these verses, the people of the earth are told to listen to the coming destruction of Israel. The Israelites are the intended audience here. Isaiah 24-27 describes the invasion of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar; and in several verses, earth is used to refer to Israel.
[viii] These four angels are called many things throughout the Bible: They are the four living creatures of Revelation 4, the four seraphs of Isaiah 6, the four cherubim of Ezekiel 10, the four charioteers of Zechariah 6, and the four angels bound at the Euphrates in Revelation 9:14-16.
[ix] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 3.4.2. However, Wellesley lists potentially up to seven client rulers that united with Titus in A.D. 69. Wellesley, Year of the Four Emperors, 123-124. cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, Ph.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination Volume 2: The Book of Revelation (USA: Xulon Press, 2012), 237.
[ixa] Homer Hailey, The Book of Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, (Las Vegas: Nevada Publications, 2007), 190.
[x] Luke 21:25.
[xa] Preterist scholar David Chilton notes that the four faces of the cherubim in Revelation 4:7 are the “middle signs of the four quarters of the Zodiac.” (David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Dallas, GA: Dominion Press, 2011), 158.) As will become apparent in the rest of this commentary, allusions to the Zodiac are a major theme in the Apocalypse.
[xi] This quote is taken from The New Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition.
[xii] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.1.4.
[xiii] Ibid., 5:13:6 cited in Steve Gregg, ed., Revelation: Four Views a Parallel Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), 110, 112.
[xiv] Ibid., 6.7.2.
[xv] Ibid., 6.9.3.
[xvi] Ibid., 6.9.2.
[xvii] Jacques M. Chevalier, A Postmodern Revelation: Signs of Astrology and the Apocalypse (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), 270.
[xviii] Matthew 23:34-36.
[xix] Luke 18:7, 8.
[xx] The strong wind mentioned here is mentioned again in the first few verses of the next chapter. This wind is the four destructive winds of heaven representing the spiritual army of Revelation 9:16. See Revelation 7: A Preterist Commentary.
[xxii] Jeremiah 4:23-26.
[xxiii] A few examples include Psalms 2:6; Psalms 48:1; Isaiah 66:20; Jeremiah 51:25; Joel 3:17.
[xxiv] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 7.1.1.
[xxv] Ibid., 4.9.7.
[xxva] Charles S. Meek, Christian Hope through Fulfilled Prophecy: Is Your Church Teaching Error about the Last Days and Second Coming?, (Spicewood, TX: Faith Facts Publishing, 2013), 123.
[xxvi] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 4.4.5.
[xxvii] Kenneth S. Guthrie, Gospel of Apollonius of Tyana: His Life and Deeds According to Philostratos (US: Kessinger Publishing’s, 1900), 70. The Bible is not the only sacred book to imply that the darkening of the sun is an omen of the death of a god or king. This symbolism is implicit in many of the sacred texts of the ancient world. Not surprisingly, the ancient Romans along with many other ancient peoples also interpreted this portent in this way.
[xxviii] Pliny the Elder Natural History 2.5.23.
[xxix] Cassius Dio Roman History 65.8. “At the same time this happened, Vespasian who was engaged in warfare with the Jews, learned of the rebellion of Vitellius and of Otho and was deliberating what he should do.” Ibid. While Vespasian was in Israel, Nero died and Galba, Otho and Vitellius struggled against one another to claim the empty throne. Vespasian and many of his supporters were well acquainted with astral fatalism and would have seen this as a clear omen that Vespasian would soon become emperor. As stated earlier, the sun represents a god or king; thus the weak sun in the west would seem to represent Vespasian’s western rivals: Vitellius and Otho. Furthermore, the fact that this sun, representing the current self-proclaimed Caesar, was in the west implies that it is about to set. When the sun sets it appears to descend into the earth. This was seen by the ancients as a sign of the descent of a king or god into the underworld, the land of the dead. The bright sun in the east is Vespasian, the general of the Roman forces in Israel to the east. The falling star might be seen as the death of one of Vespasian’s rivals, perhaps Otho? This interpretation proved correct. Vitellius had been killed, and Vespasian soon became emperor in his place.
[xxx] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.9.4, 7.2.1.
Commentary on Revelation 6: Conclusion
In the above commentary on Revelation 6, the seven seals were revealed and the names of the four horsemen of the apocalypse were shown to be Antiochus, Agrippa II, Sohemus and Malchus.[xxx]