Jesus starts breaking the seals. Revelation 6 can be divvied up into three sections: a description of four horses and their riders, martyrs under an alter in the throne room, and people hiding. Although I don’t remember bombing my ACTs and SATs in reading comprehension, it is remarkable how my interpretation of Revelation 6 is so radically different from those of my classmates, the lecturer, and the curriculum.
Do you remember that scene in the 1993 movie Sleepless in Seattle where Meg Ryan’s character is driving in the car on Christmas Eve singing, “horses, horses, horses, horses” while listening to a Jingle Bells/Sleigh Ride mash-up on the radio? She cracks me up. This famous clip came immediately to mind when I read through the opening verses of Revelation 6. As each of the first four seals is opened, John describes a horse (symbolic of travel, freedom, power) and rider, each visibly distinguished by color and what the rider carries.
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!” 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. Revelation 6:1-2
I think this represents humanity at the beginning, fresh from God, when we were simple hunters and gathers inhabiting and developing, or conquering, the earth: a time of purity (color white), a depiction of human intelligence that put us at the top of the food chain (crown and bow) so to speak. This did not align with other interpretations which ranged from the rider being Christ to the rider being the Antichrist. According to the notes, horses and riders are instruments of judgment. I didn’t get that read from this verse. The imagery of the horses and riders felt more like a history of the development of humanity.
When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 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. Revelation 6:3-4
My initial thought when I read this was that in addition to spirituality, Humanity was given free will (power) and an ego. Weakness in human nature caused conflict, the root of that conflict being a desire for earthly abundance over spiritual abundance. Red is the color of the root chakra and is associated with tribal energy. In addition to the wonderful attributes of this chakra, the bonds of blood likely led to the birth of weapons (sword) to attack and defend. The notes say, This rider brings internal strife, civil war, anarchy and international conflict…Decreased loyalty and increased violence emerge as mankind moves toward final judgment. Again, my view lies in sharp contrast to the class view of judgment yet to come.
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. 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!” Revelation 6:5-6
Here we see the desire for earthly abundance evolve from a physical (war) to a fiscal exchange (wealth). There is an increasing imbalance (pair of scales) of resources as the human ego drives power and greed. The notes say, The third horse is black, a menacing image representing the poverty and famine that follow the savage slaughter by the red horse. Black to me represents the absence of light (Holy Spirit) or the shadow side of Humanity.
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 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. Revelation 6:7-8
Imbalance leads to sickness (pale) and death both for humanity and the planet. There were lots of colorful definitions for Hades circulating in class, but I define it simply as an internal or external place of torment. I think the fourth seal is describing the consequences of imbalance. The notes say, If famine did not sufficiently warn earth’s inhabitants of judgment and wrath, worldwide deaths from plague should capture their attention. Jeepers creepers! Where is all this judgment and wrath coming from? What I got is that human nature will get us into trouble; the inability to love thy neighbor results in self inflicted torment.
When the fifth seal was opened, John saw the souls of Christian martyrs under an alter looking to have God avenge them. I thought, “It’s better to be under an alter than on top of one!”
Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been. Revelation 11
In my opinion, this validates that punishment and sacrifice is not necessary. There is plenty of time for everyone to “catch up” by overcoming the obstacles keeping them from spiritual growth. Eventually, everyone will be wearing a white robe of purity, achieving ascension status just as they (the Martyrs) had been. Again, love thy neighbor.
Chapter six wraps up with the opening of the sixth seal. Here we have a laundry list of natural disasters: earthquakes, eclipses, blood moons, comets, wind and waves. Some believe this to be God’s wrath, maybe, maybe not.
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 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 withstand it?” Revelation 6:15-17
What I find significant in this vision is that instead of finding refuge in faith, people go directly into fear mode and blame God. I think this is a commentary on our inability to be brave and take responsibility for our actions. Humans too often have the cowardly impulse to place blame or go into denial. Like The Dust Bowl I discussed last week, sometimes those natural disasters are a result of inappropriate action by humans.
With Christmas right around the corner, we’ll be breaking some seals of our own. Let’s commit to making mercy one of those gifts we give and celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy? I recently learned there are seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy. There’s that number seven again! I looked them up.
Corporal Works of Mercy: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead.
Spiritual Works of Mercy: Counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear wrongs patiently, pray for the living and the dead.
This all sounded very, well, religious to me, so I did what anyone would do in my position; I Googled. Happily, there’s a blog entitled 56 Ways to Be Merciful During the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Here are my top seven:
- Resist sarcasm; it is the antithesis of mercy.
- Pare down possessions: share your things with the needy.
- If you didn’t mean to be a pain in the neck to someone, admit that you were and ask the person to forgive you.
- Hold. Your. Tongue.
- Recall a time you were not given a benefit of a doubt, and extend one to someone else.
- Make a point to smile, greet or make conversation with someone who is not in your everyday circle.
- Make a gratitude journal for your spouse and jot down little things he or she does that you’re grateful for. Bite your tongue and go write in it (or at least read it) the next time you want to criticize in a moment of frustration.
Last year I did keep a gratitude journal (#7) for a short time and presented it to my husband as a gift on Thanksgiving. In hindsight, there were some pretty funny entries. Laughter is the highest vibration. Find your joy this holiday season.
Peace on Earth!