The book of Revelation contains a prophetic word that will be fulfilled in the latter times. God told Daniel that the meaning of the prophecies he received were not revealed to him because the time of their fulfillment had not come yet. "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end" (Daniel 12:4). Then in 12:8-9, Daniel says, "Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, ‘My Lord, what shall be the end of these things?' And he said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.'" Now the time has come to accomplish the prophecy, so God chose the prophet John to open and bring understanding to the prophecy: "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand" (Revelation 22:10).
The author and sole source of the book of Revelation is the Lord Jesus Christ, as is said in its first verse, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place." And as Matthew 24:35 says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." I emphasize what the book begins by saying, that this revelation is "to show His servants things which must shortly take place" (Revelation 1:1). The time has arrived. "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near" (vss. 1:3, 22:6-7). Dear reader, you can be blessed as you read, hear, and keep the word that God sows in your heart.
Revelation 1:19 summarizes the whole book. The "things which will take place after this" are those to happen in the future, after the "things which are" (those which were happening in John's time). The prophetic eye unites the events in the time of the Roman Empire with the "things which will take place after this" (Luke 23:27-31). The first three chapters of Revelation cover the "things which are." Then chapter 4 begins saying "Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this." From that point on, all descriptions are of the future.
The seven churches that were in Asia at the time of John (at the end of the first century) are represented by seven golden lampstands, placed around the Lord Jesus, when He visited John on the island of Patmos (vss. 1:11-13, 20). Jesus was not in heaven; He was manifesting Himself to John on the earth. Chapters 2 and 3 describe the state the churches were at that time, so Jesus warns them to keep the word of God in order to be part of the victorious church (the one that will be caught up to heaven), "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more" (vss. 3:10-12). "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (vs. 3:21). "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
The rapture of the church will take place between the end of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4. The churches in chapters 2 and 3 were on the earth, some of them struggling in sin and disobedience. On the other hand, John sees the church in chapter 4, represented by the 24 elders, in full victory before the throne of God. This is the church that will be taken away from the earth into the presence of God. "Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads" (vss. 4:2-4). "The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created'" (vss. 4:10-11).
Let us notice the details in the description of these 24 elders:
Considering all these characteristics, we may say that the 24 elders are persons, not angels, nor any other creatures. There is no scriptural evidence that the angels are redeemed by the blood of Christ. The fact that these elders are seated before the throne of God before the opening of the seals is evidence that they will not go through the Great Tribulation and are guarded in a secure place. The phrase "and is to come" (vs. 4:8) signifies that at this time in the vision of John, Jesus had not yet come to the earth in His second visible coming. This place of glory before the throne of God was the promise for those who overcome in this world: "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (vs. 3:21). Therefore, the 24 elders represent the victorious church that will be taken away in the rapture. To these true believers Jesus says, "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth" (vs. 3:10).
Chapter 5 presents a scroll, with seven seals, in the hands of God the Father. Jesus is the only one worthy to open this scroll. The events that will happen at the moment the first seal is opened (chapter 6) mark the beginning of the seven-year period of the Great Tribulation, the most difficult era over the whole earth since the foundation of the world. Therefore, dear reader, be prepared, that you may be one of those chosen by God to be kept from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. God seeks worshipers in spirit and truth, not those that only comply with rules or religious rites.
Although the whole world will be greatly affected by the events of the Great Tribulation, Israel and the nations around it will feel the strongest impact of the judgments. The colors of the four horses in chapter 6 represent different strategies or events that will happen during the seven years. The four riders are the same person, and represent the Antichrist. The prophet Daniel describes the strategies of the Antichrist in this way: "And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise (the Antichrist), having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; he shall destroy fearfully, and shall prosper and thrive; he shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. Through his cunning he shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes (Christ); but he shall be broken without human means" (Daniel 8:23-25).
The first white horse (Revelation 6:1-2) represents a period of 3½ years of peace (see Daniel 9:27, 1 Thessalonians 5:3). In this time, the Antichrist will prepare to conquer the whole world; that is why he comes with a bow (without arrows) and a "crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer." The bow without arrows represents preparation for war in a "secretive" way.
The second fiery red horse (vss. 6:3-4) of the second seal means the blood of wars; that is why there is given to him a great sword. "It was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another." "For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!' then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape" (1 Thessalonians 5:3, see also Daniel 11:21-24). The second seal opens the really great tribulation over the entire world. From this time (the last 3½ years), the world will be filled with the greatest suffering and tribulation ever experienced, since the beginning of time.
The third seal (vss. 6:5-6) brings a black horse and the rider Antichrist with a pair of scales in his hand to measure the food. The black color means death by hunger (Lamentations 4:8-9, 5:10). This scarcity of food is produced by the previous wars and the establishment of the 666 mark. This mark will be imposed at the middle of the seven years. "He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666" (vss. 13:16-18).
The fourth seal (vss. 6:7-8) brings a pale (yellow) horse. "And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth." The pale color means death by all types of plagues and infirmities (see Jeremiah 15:3, Ezekiel 5:17). This will be the last time of suffering and tribulation on the earth.
After the opening of the fifth seal (vss. 6:9-11), a picture is shown of those believers who were slain for their testimony of Christ. They are in rest, in a place in heaven, waiting for their resurrection at the second coming of the Lord.
In the time of the sixth seal (vss. 6:12-17), some strange events will occur in nature: the earth is shaken with a great earthquake, the sun becomes black, the moon becomes like blood, every mountain and island moves out of its place, and other fearsome things. The sky is rolled up as a scroll, announcing the second coming of the Lord—and who will be able to stand?