- Christogenea Internet Radio
There are three methods of interpreting prophecy which are prevalent among Church commentators today, which are usually labeled as historicism, preterism and futurism. The preterist view generally upholds some variation of the belief that all Biblical prophecy was fulfilled by 70 AD with the destruction of Herod’s temple in Jerusalem. This view fails miserably not only here in the Revelation, but also in the words of the Old Testament prophets, and especially in Daniel and Obadiah. The futurist view generally upholds the belief that prophecy has more or less been put on hold for some period far into the future, when the descriptions of world events found in the Revelation and other prophets will play out like some sort of Hollywood science fiction movie. This view also fails miserably when it is compared to the actual words of the Revelation and the prophets. While we will not offer a detailed refutation of these views here and now, we have already endeavored to do that in the past, and here we would assert that the content of this commentary on the Revelation, when it is completed, will in itself provide a sufficient refutation of all opposing views.
The method of interpretation which we espouse is the historicist view of prophecy, which upholds an understanding that the words of both the prophets and the Revelation would gradually be fulfilled over time, and are still being fulfilled in the present day. It can be established that the prophet Jonah is the earliest of our Biblical prophets after David and Solomon, whose prophecies are recorded in his own separate book. Now it has now been approximately 2,850 years since the prophecy of Jonah was recorded, 2,530 years since Daniel, at least 2,450 years since Malachi, perhaps 1,924 years since John published the Revelation, and all of the other books of the Biblical prophets were recorded somewhere in between Jonah and Malachi. Therefore when examining the prophets, we would assert that the sensible method of interpretation is to estimate the historical context of each particular prophecy, and the circumstances in which the prophecy was written, and once the background history is understood, as well as the history of the subjects of the prophecy, then when the words of the prophecy are interpreted it may be determined both whether and when that prophecy was fulfilled. Very often, the background history is recorded in Scripture, and the fulfillment is much easier to determine. But after the Revelation there is no later Scripture, so a thorough understanding of secular history is necessary if one is to understand the fulfillment of any of its prophecies.
One obvious and immediate reason to espouse the historicist view of the Revelation is found in Revelation chapter 4, which is where John’s description of this vision in chapter 6 had begun, John was told “Come up here, and I shall show to you the things which are necessary to happen.” With that, we should understand that John was going to be shown an indication of some future events. In the interim chapters, 4 and 5, John was shown an elaborate vision of the throne of God and its surroundings, and the Lamb was introduced. There it was made apparent that only the Lamb, which represents Yahweh God incarnate as Yahshua Christ, could reveal “the things which are necessary to happen”, which were then represented as having been written in a scroll having seven seals. So now, in Revelation chapters 6 through 8, the Lamb is represented as having opened each of those seals, one at a time, and when each one is opened John is shown a vision of things which would happen upon the earth. So we would conclude with an assertion that these things which John saw as each of the seals were open had begun to unfold as he had received his vision in 96 AD, and that as each seal is opened, the associated prophecies represent events which would continue to unfold as world history progressed from that time. There are some exceptions where certain portions of the prophecies explain certain events from the past, so that the future events and the nature of those taking part in them would be more clearly understood.
Our historicist view of prophecy is not novel. In fact, we would assert that it was the view held by the earliest Christians, in spite of some of the other heresies they had adopted. One significant example is found in the works of Irenaeus, a bishop of Lugdunum (which is now Lyons in France), which reveals the insight of this man into the Revelation, and it was remarkable for his time. Irenaeus died around 202 AD, and it is generally believed that he wrote his treatise titled Against Heresies around 180 AD. This is only about 84 years after the Revelation was put into writing by the apostle John.
So the following citation from the works of Irenaeus is from The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. The chapter heading seems to be the work of the editors. In the chapter heading, which merely describes the contents of the chapter, it is apparent that Irenaeus had not only upheld a correct view of the prophecies of Daniel and John, at least for his own time, but he was also addressing the heresies of the Gnostics. The Gnostics believed that God the Father was a different God as the God of the Creation, and that Christ is neither of those Gods. They called their perceived creator god the demiurge, a word which they had borrowed from Plato. Their demiurge was subordinate to God the Father, whom they perceived as the Supreme Being. Later Gnostics, in the centuries after Irenaeus, actually developed a view of the demiurge as an evil being rather than a beneficent one. That is beyond the scope of our purpose here, however it was necessary to have some background as to what Irenaeus was addressing. We will not get so far as his refutation of the Gnostics, however now we shall present our citation, so that we may see the method of interpretation of prophecy which was employed by Irenaeus, the following is from a portion of Book 5, chapter 26 of his book titled Against Heresies:
Chapter XXVI.—John and Daniel Have Predicted the Dissolution and Desolation of the Roman Empire, Which Shall Precede the End of the World and the Eternal Kingdom of Christ. The Gnostics are Refuted, Those Tools of Satan, Who Invent Another Father Different from the Creator.
In a still clearer light has John, in the Apocalypse, indicated to the Lord’s disciples what shall happen in the last times [we shall discuss this phrase briefly below - WRF], and concerning the ten kings who shall then arise, among whom the empire which now rules [the earth] shall be partitioned. He teaches us what the ten horns shall be which were seen by Daniel, telling us that thus it had been said to him: ‘And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, who have received no kingdom as yet, but shall receive power as if kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and give their strength and power to the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, because He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings.’ It is manifest, therefore, that of these [potentates], he who is to come shall slay three, and subject the remainder to his power, and that he shall be himself the eighth among them. And they shall lay Babylon waste, and burn her with fire, and shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the Church to flight. After that they shall be destroyed by the coming of our Lord. For that the kingdom must be divided, and thus come to ruin, the Lord [declares when He] says: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand….’ Daniel also says particularly, that the end of the fourth kingdom consists in the toes of the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar, upon which came the stone cut out without hands; and as he does himself say: ‘The feet were indeed the one part iron, the other part clay, until the stone was cut out without hands, and struck the image upon the iron and clay feet, and dashed them into pieces, even to the end.’ Then afterwards, when interpreting this, he says: ‘And as thou sawest the feet and the toes, partly indeed of clay, and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided, and there shall be in it a root of iron, as thou sawest iron mixed with baked clay. And the toes were indeed the one part iron, but the other part clay.’ The ten toes, therefore, are these ten kings, among whom the kingdom shall be partitioned, of whom some indeed shall be strong and active, or energetic; others, again, shall be sluggish and useless, and shall not agree; as also Daniel says: ‘Some part of the kingdom shall be strong, and part shall be broken from it. As thou sawest the iron mixed with the baked clay, there shall be minglings among the human race, but no cohesion one with the other, just as iron cannot be welded on to pottery ware.’
Here Irenaeus opened his chapter with a reference to the “last times”. This statement does not support futurism. The apostles themselves had professed that they were already in the “last days”, which is found in Hebrews chapter 1 where Paul had professed that God “2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…” and then in chapter 2 of the first epistle of John where he wrote “18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” This is an apparent Hebraism, as we read in Genesis chapter 49: “1 And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.” There, the phrase “the last days”, as it is often translated in the King James Version, contains the Hebrew word achariyth, Strong's Hebrew Lexicon # 319, and it is defined by Strong to mean “the last or end, hence the future; also posterity”. So the phrase which may literally be interpreted as last days often should be translated as future, in our modern language, and it is evident that reading Jacob’s words to his sons it also should have been translated in that very manner in that passage of Genesis.
Now, while not all of what Irenaeus had written is perfect, there are a few things plainly evident in his writing which are quite important, about which he had been correct. The first is that he saw in both Daniel and the Revelation that there would be a historical fulfillment of prophecy, and that is exactly what traditional Christian Identity, as it was first defined by Howard Rand, Bertrand Comparet, Wesley Swift, and those who followed them, had also seen. This is also the view of prophecy that the Reformers had held, and none of this is anything like the preterist or futurist contrivances of the medieval Jewish Jesuits to which most mainstream sects cling today. Those methods were contrived in the early years of the Reformation, in order to protect and defend the Roman Catholic Church from the accusations of the Reformers who understood it to be the beast of Revelation chapter 13. Endeavoring to defend the Church, they sought to distract men and also to discredit the historicist method of interpreting prophecy.
Another important aspect of Irenaeus' interpretation of Daniel is that from Daniel chapter 2 he fully understood that Rome was destined to fail because of “minglings among the human race”, and that Rome had indeed done that same thing in the centuries before its fall. This is apparently his interpretation of Daniel 2:43 where the King James Version reads “And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men [enosh]: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.” Today, we in the Christian Identity faith also interpret that passage in the same manner, and developed our understanding independently of Irenaeus. The mainstream denominational sects do not make such an interpretation of that passage of Daniel, and today they even encourage such race-mixing in opposition to the Word of God.
The pattern of empires seems always to repeat itself. First, multiple races of people come to live under a single government, by one means or another, and then the race-mixing, or the “minglings among the human race” as Irenaeus had been translated to say, always follows soon after. For that reason comes the wrath of God, as Daniel chapter 2 makes clear in its prophecy of the fall of Rome. Today, we are also besieged by that very thing, and therefore the fall of this modern world order is also imminent. But the first recorded event of such miscegenation is in Genesis chapter 6, where the apparently fallen angels had begun to take the daughters of the sons of Adam for wives, and for that nearly the entire race of Adam was destroyed in the flood. Then, in reference to the time of His coming, Christ had said that it would be “as it was in the days of Noah”, so it is little wonder that Irenaeus believed that the kingdom of God would be established following the fall of Rome, as he must have also understood those words of Christ in the same manner in which we understand them. So in several aspects, our Christian Identity interpretation of prophecy, and the historicist method by which we interpret the prophecy, agrees with at least one of the most significant early Christian writers.
There are some differences. While Irenaeus saw the fifth kingdom of Daniel as the body of Christians in the world (where he referred to the assembly, which is properly the body of Christian people, and not to the church in the later Roman Catholic sense), he was only correct in part. Irenaeus did explain that according to the prophecy in Daniel those people of the fifth kingdom would be identified as one stone cut out from a much greater mountain, and that it would be they who were both responsible for the fall of Rome, and who would replace Rome after its fall. That prophecy was fulfilled in the Germanic tribes which had destroyed Rome and who had come to world hegemony from the time of the Holy Roman Empire, and especially during the later period of the Reformation. Of course, Irenaeus could not have foreseen those things even though Daniel had been given that vision. But further discussion of this would best be reserved for the appropriate places in the forthcoming verses and chapters of the Revelation.
Now to return to the Revelation, here in chapter 6 we see the vision of the famous Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as they are popularly called. It is evident that these four horsemen represent four stages in the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. It can be argued that this vision of the four horsemen may mean something different, however that argument becomes far less plausible once we examine and interpret the context supplied by the content of the several chapters of the Revelation which follow this chapter. We would insist that the interpretations of the symbols employed and of the events of which the Revelation prophecies must be understood within the context of the Revelation itself, and cannot honestly be removed from their context and interpreted independently.
But it is also evident that many of the elements apparent in the characterization of these four horsemen also accurately describe the development and demise of the imperialist empires of more recent times, and even of the now-declining American empire. This is because history repeats itself, so the pattern of empires repeats itself, and that is because men never fail to ignore the lessons which may be learned from history. At the core of all of the events of history is a repetition of the patterns found in the book of Judges. The children of Israel thrive and grow, and rather than pushing other races aside they attempt to assimilate them, whereafter they are led to sin by them, and the aliens come to rule over the children of Israel. When they repent, the aliens are removed, in one way or another, and the children of Israel are granted peace by Yahweh their God. When they do not repent, aliens appear once again and the children of Israel are destroyed and scattered, and even enslaved.
If we would only learn from history, we would stop repeating its mistakes. However men are easily swayed by the empty promises of the wicked and short-sighted, and therefore the wicked among men consistently prevail. The parable of the trees of the forest found in Judges chapter 9 is appropriate in this light. None of the noble trees wanted to rule over the others, as they all enjoyed the endeavors for which they were best suited, the production of one sort of fruit or another. So they permitted the bramble, which produces nothing and which is good for nothing but kindling fires, to rule over them. Even the bramble itself was portrayed as having known this. So it is with men throughout history. In the end, men can only be justly ruled by God, and that is the ultimate and most important vision of the Revelation.
Now, as we had explained at the beginning of our commentary for Revelation chapter 4, we have finally reached that portion of the Revelation which begins to prophecy of future events which would happen upon the earth. But they are future to John’s time and not necessarily to our own. These events, reflected in the seven seals which the Lamb is about to open, are descriptive of “the things which are necessary to happen”, as John was informed when this vision began, which is recorded at the beginning of chapter 4. That is certainly also how we shall see their fulfillment in history, as Irenaeus also had seen them and understood what they forbode even before they were completely fulfilled.
VI 1 Then I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder: “Come! [א has ‘Come and see!’]”
Here in this verse, the King James Version follows the copies of the Majority Text handed down from Andreas of Caesareia, which want the word for “seven”. Four times in this chapter where a living creature beckons John to “Come!”, the Codex Sinaiticus has the words “Come and see!”
In this portion of John’s vision, as each of the first four seals are opened, one of the four living creatures around the throne of Yahweh invites John to come and see what would happen. So while the opening of the seals represents a gradual opening of the scroll, that situation is not realistic in regard to an actual scroll, and here the opening of each seal actually represents the transmission of a vision of some future event which is then seen by John, and, as is the purpose of the Revelation, a description of the vision is transmitted by Yahshua Christ to all Christians through John. So now John relates what he saw in the first of these visions:
2 And I saw, and behold! A white horse, and he sitting upon it having a bow, and a crown has been given to him and he went out conquering and that he may conquer [א has “and he conquered].
We may view the White Horse as symbolizing the expansion of Rome. Yahweh God having prophesied of the Roman empire as early as the days of Daniel, the crown on the White Horse was bestowed by God, whether for better or for worse. As Paul of Tarsus wrote in the opening verse of Romans chapter 13, “Since there is no authority except from Yahweh, then those who are, by Yahweh are they appointed.” We must also understand that in the Roman perspective, once the empire was brought beyond the shores of Italy, its growth was for the promotion of good and not merely for conquest. The various Greek city-states were constantly calling on Rome to settle their disputes, which resulted in wars with the Macedonians and the subjection of all the Greeks to Rome.
Most commentators date the Roman Empire to begin with the era of the Caesars, either with the short-lived dictatorship of Julius Caesar or the monarchical system which was implemented under Octavian, who was then called Augustus Caesar. This view is skewed and demonstrates a poor understanding of systems of government. The term empire is properly applied to a government which rules over more than one nation of people. From The American Heritage College Dictionary, Third Edition: “empire...1.a. A political unit comprising a number of territories or nations and ruled by a single supreme authority....” So technically, the Alban colony from which Rome had eventually emerged was already an empire with the joining of the Trojan refugees under Aeneas to the people of Latium, four hundred years before Rome was founded, and therefore Rome was always an empire, and never properly a nation. Livy describes a tradition that Rome was actually founded by Mars, the Latin god of war, perhaps revealing the perceived reason for the creation of the city in the first place, as a vehicle for conquest.
Early in its history, the young city had accepted all sorts of political and other refugees from various of the Greek states, and therefore it may certainly be viewed as the New York of antiquity. For this reason we see the class division of Patrician and Plebeian in the oldest accounts of the Roman republic. But by any measure, Rome certainly became an empire by the end of third century BC, by which time it had conquered and subjected all of the other tribes of the Italian Peninsula, the Etruscans, Sabines, Samnites and the Greek states of southern Italy and Sicily. Yet even this process of conquering its neighbors began almost as soon as the city is said to have been founded. In the first fifty years of its existence, there was a war with the Sabines, and the cities Fidenae and Veiens became subject to Rome, and colonized by Romans, in that period. By the end of the second century BC Rome ruled all of Greece, Asia Minor, Sardinia, parts of Spain, and the formerly Phoenician areas of North Africa. As late as the first century BC, there was the Social war in Italy, between Rome and the Italian nations (91-88 BC), and there was Serorius' revolt in Spain (83-72 BC), but these were not civil wars, rather they were revolts by already conquered nations against the Roman dominion.
The Caesars, Julius and Augustus, did not found an empire. They subjected an already existing empire to themselves as emperors. To establish his dictatorship, Julius Caesar fought a civil war against Pompey which lasted nearly five years. While further expansion occurred in later periods of Roman history, such as the conquests of Dacia, Nabataea, Armenia and Mesopotamia under Trajan, Rome's very founding marked the beginning of the White Horse period, and the time when Rome became an empire, whether the supreme ruling authority was a senate, a dictatorship or a monarchy. But since the empire did not reach its peak until the time of Trajan, who ruled Rome until about 117 AD, we may reckon the period of the White Horse to at least that time.
3 And when He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying “Come! [Again, א has ‘Come and see!’]” 4 And [א has ‘And I saw, and behold!’] there went out another, a red horse, and to him sitting upon it, it has been given to him [A wants “to him”] to take peace from the earth and that they slay one another, and a great sword has been given to him.
According to Liddell & Scott, the Greek word πυρρός is “flame-coloured, yellowish-red: of persons with red hair… generally red, tawny…” Our text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א) and Ephraemi Syri (C), where instead, the Codex Alexandrinus (A) and the Majority Text have πυρός, which is the common Greek word for wheat.
The Romans of the early Republican period often appointed a temporary dictator in times of war, who, once the threat had passed, would voluntarily revert power to the senate which represented the republican government. Eclipsing the period of the Republic, the first actual self-appointed dictator to rule Rome was Sulla. This evidently marks the transition from the White Horse period to the Red Horse period, because the years following Sulla were filled with civil wars. While the White Horse period was represented by a rider carrying a bow, a weapon signifying conquest from a distance, the rider of the Red horse period carries only a sword, a weapon which can only signify the conquest of those who are nearby.
The first great and actual Civil War in Rome was between supporters of Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Gaius Marius and took place from 88 to 87 BC. This was followed by another from 82 to 81 BC, between the same parties. Sulla, who was victorious on both occasions, became the self-appointed dictator of Rome, which had not seen a dictator since the end of the Punic Wars. However Sulla took this opportunity to institute reforms, and then he quite surprisingly relinquished his power voluntarily, restoring the Republic and retiring peacefully. However not long afterwards, Rome suffered another series of great civil wars.
There was the rebellion of Lepidus against the Senate in 77 BC, and then the Catiline Conspiracy of 63 to 62 BC. Following that there was the protracted civil war between Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompey from 49 to 45 BC – where over half of the empire was the battleground, from Spain to Egypt. Then there was the Post-Caesarian civil war between the Senate army led by Cicero and Octavian (the later Augustus) and the forces of Antony and Lepidus in 44 BC, and then the so-called Liberators' civil war to avenge the murder of Caesar, between Antony and Octavian (who were now allies of the Second Triumvirate) and the forces of Marcus Brutus and Gaius Longinus in 42 BC. Then there was a revolt in Sicily led by the son of Pompey against the Second Triumvirate, which lasted from 44-36 BC. Then there was the the civil war of Lucius Antonius and Fulvia Antonia, the brother of Marc Antony, against Octavian in 41 to 40 BC. Finally, there was the last and most famous civil war between Octavian and Agrippa in the west, and Mark Antony and Cleopatra in the east, which ended at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, and which officially ended the Roman Republic in a monarchy established by the victorious Octavian. This was the Red Horse period of the Roman Empire, where peace was taken from the earth and the citizens of the empire killed one another.
5 And when He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying “Come! [Again, א has ‘Come and see!’]” And I saw, and behold! A black horse, and he sitting upon it having a scale in his hand.
The Greek word ζυγός is literally “anything which joins two bodies”, according to Liddell & Scott, and is used to describe a yoke, which may also bear an implication of slavery, or it was also used to describe a scale, “the beam of the balance” of which the scale consists, as Liddell & Scott also explain. While slavery to the government may be one implication here, a scale is more likely the primary intention reflected in the context, since measures of commodities are discussed next in this description of the black horse:
6 And I heard like a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying “A quart of wheat for a denarion and three quarts of barley for a denarion, and you should not deal unrighteously with the olive oil and the wine!”
The Greek word σῖτος is “corn, grain”, comprehending either wheat, which is specifically πυρός, or barley, which is specifically κριθή. The English word corn originally referred to grain in general, and not specifically to maize as it does in the United States. Here σῖτος is translated as wheat, since barley is mentioned explicitly a little later in this verse.
The Greek word δηνάριον I have left untranslated throughout the Christogenea New Testament, where the King James Version usually translates the word as penny. It is evident from the parable of the vineyard workers recorded in Matthew chapter 20 that in the time of Christ a denarius was considered a fair day’s wage for a laborer. Today a penny is practically worthless. At the very end of Appendix A in the Loeb Classical Library edition of The Gallic War by Julius Caesar, translated by H. J. Edwards and first published in 1917, the following comment is found, which speaks of the pay scale of Caesar’s soldiers around 50 BC and it says: “Before Caesar's time the scale of pay was 120 denarii (1,200 asses, about £4) a year; he increased it to 225 denarii (about £7 10s.).” Even if the wages for a soldier or common laborer were fifty percent higher than 225 denarii a year by the time of the writing of the Revelation, by this measurement it is evident that a man would have to work all day for either a quart of wheat or three quarts of barley.
The Greek word for quart here is χοῖνιξ, where the King James Version has measure. Liddell & Scott define the word as “a dry measure, [equal to] four κοτύλαι [a Greek measure] or two sextarii [a Latin measure], about a quart English”. Some dictionaries state that it was actually a little less than an English quart, and closer to the volume of a liter. Citing Herodotus, Liddell & Scott further state that “the choenix of corn [or grain] was one man's daily allowance”, so we see that the black horse is a bearer of hardship, as a man’s labors would only feed himself, yet most men also need to provide for a family.
With the period which begins at the monarchy of Augustus, there was a relative peace brought to the empire which lasted for approximately 200 years. Relative, because no major wars were fought inside the empire between Roman citizens, although there were some power struggles in Rome. All external threats to the empire were generally contained. There was some of the typical strife resulting from conquest and pressure at the frontiers which had always pestered the administration, such as the subjugation of Britain, and then the threat of the Picts in Roman Britain, for which Hadrian's Wall was built, the wars that were fought in Germany east of the Rhine and north of the Danube, which even under Augustus, Rome had tried and failed to subdue, or the rebellion in Judaea which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem, and the later Kitos War and Bar Kokhba rebellion against the Romans, by the Judaeans in Egypt and elsewhere. Yet while there were problems on these frontiers, the main portion of the Empire saw a relatively prolonged peace. Perhaps these wars are indicative of the persistence of the Red Horse, as these periods overlap one another to some degree. But the relative peace and prosperity of the period referred to as the Pax Romana is more evident when it is compared to the tumultuous centuries leading up to and including the beginning of the empire, and what events were to come upon it from the late 2nd century.
But with success also comes decadence, and therefore we see in the words of Paul of Tarsus that the Romans had become a morally corrupt people. In the opening chapter of his epistle to the Romans, Paul had chastised Romans in general for idolatry, and more grievously for Sodomy among both its men and its women. These words were fully substantiated by the historian Tacitus, who also inferred in the Germania that in the Rome of his time, immorality was considered fashionable or “up-to-date”. Just as significantly, even from before the reign of Augustus, Rome had a tolerance for the idolatrous religions of the nations which were being subjected to the empire. Then from the time of Augustus, the compulsory worship of the emperor himself slowly began to be instituted, and came to the full with Caligula, Nero, and especially Domitian, who is said by the historian Suetonius to have adopted the title “Lord and God”, commanding his subjects to address him in that manner as a test of loyalty (Lives of the Caesars, Book 8: Domitian 13). For three centuries, Christians were persecuted, usually at the instigation of the Jews who most often remained a privileged class in spite of their rebellions. Usury, prostitution, the circuses and other vices were popular and prevalent throughout the empire, and the Jews grew quite comfortable in pagan Rome as they incited those persecutions of the Christians.
The rider on the Black Horse carries a scale, which signifies judgement. The decline and fall of Rome is a complex issue. Coin clipping and the debasement of the currency were a plague in the centuries leading up to its fall, and the over-supply of money in any economy leads to price inflation, as we also see here in America today. The warnings concerning the prices of grain, and the oil and the wine, signify a period of both price inflation and food shortages. As Rome required the hire of larger armies to maintain control of the provinces, as the bureaucracy increased, and as the currency became debased, food prices climbed. This is exactly the same process which we have also seen occurring in imperial America over most of the past hundred years.
The rider on the Black Horse has no crown and no weapons. That he had no weapons seems to denote the period of peace which was ushered in by the reign of Augustus, and also the fact that Rome had ceased to expand as an empire from the time of Trajan. That he had no crown means that the rulers of this period were not true scepter-bearers, who are those of the line of Zarah-Judah from which the first Caesars evidently had come. It can indeed be demonstrated that the Romans, meaning the original descendants of the first Trojan colonizers of Alba Longa who later founded the city of Rome, descended from the Zarah and Darda of Old Testament Scriptures (See Classical Records of Trojan-Roman-Judah at Christogenea.org). But the later rulers, after the passing of Nero, were a long line of military generals who sought for and gained power either through treachery, through politics, or through usurpation of the previous emperor. While some of these men were noble, such as Vespasian, many were not. Many more of these rulers were debased psychopaths.
It may be estimated that this period of the Black Horse began to fade in the reign of Caracalla, who had granted citizenship freely to all of the freemen – including many of the former slaves - of the empire, primarily because the government could then expect an increase of tax revenue. The Roman historian Dio Cassius had later described the financial motive for this policy in Book 78 of his History of Rome. Citizenship, which was often bought in earlier periods, as it is evident even in the Book of Acts in the Bible (Acts 2:28), became very cheap from this time – around 212 AD. Having been granted citizenship also gave one the right of connubium, which was the right to marry a Roman citizen. Caracalla also further debased the currency, and increased the pay of the legions, and imposed oppressive taxes throughout the provinces. There were many other evil emperors, but Caracalla stood out among them. Gibbon, the famous author of a popular history of the fall of Rome, called him “the common enemy of mankind”. Importantly, Caracalla also fought a battle with the Alamanni which did not end decisively, except that he bribed the Germanic invaders with a large sum to make peace. This is the same tactic that later emperors used against the Goths, and it failed them miserably. This, we may reckon, is a marked point in the early stages of the transition from the Black Horse period to the Green Horse period, which represents sickness and decay, and now the empire is too slothful and too decadent to ever recover.
7 And when He opened the fourth seal, I heard a voice [C and the traditional MT manuscripts want “a voice”; the text follows P24, א, A and the manuscripts of the MT from Andreas of Caesareia] from the fourth living creature saying “Come! [Once again, א has ‘Come and see!’]” 8 And I saw, and behold! A green horse, and he sitting upon it, his name is Death, and Hades follows after [א and the traditional MT manuscripts want “after”; the text follows A, C and the manuscripts of the MT from Andreas of Caesareia] him, and authority over the fourth part of the earth has been given to them to kill by the sword and with famine and with death and by the beasts of the earth.
Where we read “his name is Death”, the Codex Alexandrinus (A) has “his name is Immortal”, having the negated form, ἀθάνατος, which is without death or immortal, rather than θάνατος, or death. We would attribute that difference to a scribal error. As for the Green Horse, while the King James Version popularly translates the word as pale, which is admittedly more poetic, the Greek word χλωρός, according to Liddell & Scott, is “greenish-yellow… pale-green, light-green, green, grassy…” and also “generally, pale, pallid, bleached…” and “yellow, pallid, of persons affected by the plague…” This is also the Greek word from which we have our English words such as chlorine, chlorella and chlorophyll, among others. But even today, green is a color which is often used to represent sickness and decay.
There have always been plagues among men, and throughout its entire history, Rome was no exception. At least a dozen major plagues were recorded before the birth of Christ by ancient Roman historians, which had affected all or portions of the empire and sometimes killed many tens of thousands of people. Between the time of Nero and 500 AD, which is just after Rome’s fall, as many as forty-two significant plagues are recorded, 17 of them in the 5th century AD. In the 6th century AD there were another two dozen or so plagues, in only a hundred years. Of course, not all of these had affected Rome itself, but they all must have contributed in some degree to its decline. So the increased frequency of plagues during the 5th and 6th centuries certainly seems to reflect the characteristics of the Green Horse. (Source: Database of Pestilence in the Roman Empire, Kyle Harper, posted at kyleharper.net on August 24th, 2017.)
However since in Daniel we read that the empire represented by the fourth kingdom would fall due to race-mixing, as even Irenaeus had interpreted it, then this period of decay must also have been marked by that phenomenon, and the beginning of that may be estimated to have been from the time of the elevation of all free subjects to Roman citizenship under Caracalla. The sickness and decay of the empire under the burdens of race-mixing, vice, and political corruption as well as the increasing numbers of plagues finally begin its decline, where it ultimately succumbed to Germanic invaders from the third through the fifth centuries AD. Shortly after Caracalla, there was a fifty-year crisis in which there were prolonged periods of virtual anarchy, from about 235-284 AD, a time which the empire barely survived. In the description of the Green Horse, the disease which finally kills the empire is now terminal, and it is only a matter of time before its death.
But the rider on the Green Horse also carried a sword. By 263 AD the Goths had invaded Roman Asia, and among the many cities they had pillaged, or even destroyed, were Pergamos, Ephesus and Smyrna. By this time the Goths also invaded the Balkan peninsula, and by 270 AD they forced the Roman emperor Aurelian to abandon the province of Dacia, which the Goths had then inhabited. Aurelian had fought wars against the Alemanni, Goths, Vandals and other Germanic tribes, and while he was often victorious, they were some of the last of Rome’s victories. In 330 AD Constantine had granted the Vandals lands in the province of Pannonia, which was much closer to Italy than Dacia. From the rule of the emperor Valens in the 4th century, Germanic tribes began to completely overwhelm the Empire.
9 And when He opened the fifth seal, I saw beneath the altar the souls of those [א and the manuscripts of the MT from Andreas of Caesareia insert “men”] who had been slain on account of the Word of Yahweh and on account of [A wants “on account of”] the testimony which they had. 10 And they cried out with a great voice, saying “How long, Holy and True Master, do You not judge and exact vengeance for our blood from those dwelling upon the earth?”
The word for souls here is ψυχή, which in many other contexts we often interpret as life, referring to the life of a man as he lives, in contradistinction to the spirit of a man which continues to live after the death of the body. But here in this verse, this does not lead us to believe that the spirits of the deceased were not reconciled to God. Rather, John is only seeing a vision which represents the fallen of the children of Yahweh as having been pleading to Yahweh to exact the vengeance which He had long ago promised to exact upon His enemies. Next there is a promise that they would indeed be avenged:
11 And there had been given to each of them a white robe and spoken to them that they should rest for a little while [literally “rest until a short time”] until they should be satisfied, and their fellow-servants and their brethren who are also going to be killed like them.
In the King James Version, the latter portion of verse 11 says: “… until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” With that, we may expect the verb for fulfill, πληρόω, to appear in the third person singular, where it is in the third person plural, as it is interpreted in a manner in which the subject is the singular phrase “a little while”. Rather, since πληρόω means to fill full of a thing in the sense of satisfying or satiating something or someone, and the verb appears in the third person plural, we interpret the subject of the verb to be those who had been given white robes, that their prayers will be satisfied once all of the children of God who were destined to die in those same persecutions had come to their fate.
The Greek word order also suggests that our rendering is correct, as the phrase which we translate as “until they should be satisfied” immediately follows the phrase translated “for a little while”, as we also have it here. The King James Version moves it to the end of the verse. Finally, the King James Version adds a conjunction of its own where it has “their fellowservants and also their brethren”, presumably to help indicate that fellowservants and brethren are two different entities. However there is only one conjunction, so the word also does not belong. Both nouns, fellowservants and brethren, being accompanied with a definite article, the nouns themselves are not indefinite. Although our translation is plainly literal, we would interpret them as a parallelism, both nouns referring to the same people, i.e. “their fellowservants who are also their brethren”.
As a further complication, the Codex Sinaiticus (א) and the Majority Text have the verb πληρόω in an active voice rather than the passive, but we would still not be compelled to change the translation. Our text follows the Codices Alexandrinus (A) and Ephraemi Syri (C).
These departed souls adorned with white robes are mentioned again in Revelation chapter 7, as the innumerable multitude described in verses 9 through 17. These visions are indeed related, and it may upset certain heretics today who imagine themselves to be among the number of the 144,000, but these things must be read, accepted and interpreted in the context in which they appear, and not by any private interpretation. The saints who are given white robes are not from among the 144,000 of the children of Israel who were sealed in chapter 7, but rather, those who were sealed are those Israelites who were Christians and who were destined to survive the fall of Rome, while those who are given white robes are those who had died in the persecutions of Christians in Rome, so having been killed in the tribulation upon early Christians, here they are depicted as offering prayers which express the desire for Yahweh to avenge them.
This also connects these visions to the fall of Rome, as these souls under the altar had been “slain on account of the Word of Yahweh and on account of the testimony which they had,” a description which connects them directly to the Christian martyrs of the Roman persecutions which occurred during the first few centuries after Christ. So the martyrs of Christ were depicted here as crying out for vengeance upon Rome, and here the fall of Rome is being prophesied.
12 And I saw when He opened the sixth seal, and [A inserts “behold!”] there happened a great earthquake and the sun became black as a sackcloth of hair and the whole [the King James Version wants “whole”, following the manuscripts from Andreas of Caesareia] moon became as blood 13 and the stars of heaven fell to [א has “upon”] the earth, as a fig tree being shaken by a great wind casts its unripened figs, 14 and the heaven departed as a scroll being rolled and every mountain and island [א has “hill”] had been moved from their places.
Rather than “stars of heaven”, the Codex Alexandrinus has “stars of God”, which we interpret in either case as the children of Israel. While many of the tribes of the Roman empire were descended from the ancient Israelites, there were many which were not. However the Germanic tribes invading the empire had also descended from the ancient Israelites, and specifically from the Israelites of the Assyrian captivity. In Judges 5:20 we see a similar allegory, where the prophetess Deborah had celebrated the victory of the children of Israel over the Canaanites and said of them that “They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera.”
Later in verse 13, the phrase “unripened figs”, where the King James Version has “untimely figs”, is translated from the Greek word ὄλυνθος, which is “a winter-fig which seldom ripens”, according to Liddell & Scott.
15 And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders [οἱ χιλίαρχοι, chiliarchs, or Roman tribunes] and the wealthy men and the powerful men and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks [τὰς πέτρας, rock ledges or cliffs] of the mountains, 16 and they say to the mountains and to the rocks: “Fall upon us!”, and “Hide us from the face of Him sitting upon the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 because the great day of Their [A and the MT have “His”; the text follows א and C, noting the subjects in verse 16] wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Prophesying the siege and fall of Samaria, the capital of ancient Israel, we read in Hosea chapter 10: “5 The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it. 6 It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel. 7 As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water. 8 The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.” The lesson seems to be that men, in their worldly glory, are caught up in their sin and their arrogance. But once judgment comes upon them for their sin, and they are exposed to danger, they would rather not have existed at all. This too is a part of the pattern of empires.
The earthquake represents the final calamity to fall upon the empire, the disturbances which caused its end. The changes in the sun and the moon represent the passing of the government and its bureaucracy. The stars of heaven which fall upon the earth, or the empire, represent the children of Israel, for which we may also refer to the promises to Abraham, for example, in Genesis chapter 22 we read where Yahweh had told Abraham: “17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies” In Daniel chapter 8, which we shall survey in relation to latter chapters of the Revelation, the stars and host of heaven are once again referred to in an allegory representing the children of Israel.
The stars here are that same “stone cut out of the mountain without hands” from Daniel chapter 2, those Germanic tribes of the children of Israel that overran and destroyed the empire not only in Italy, but also in Britain, Gaul and Iberia, in Dacia and Pannonia, in Anatolia, and even in Africa. The heavens which departed represent the Germanic tribes of the north and east who suddenly were able to migrate in large enough numbers to the south and west and invaded the empire on all fronts. Every island and mountain were moved from their place in the great Germanic migrations of the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The Germanic tribes were used by Yahweh to judge the old Roman empire, and the fear of the decadent leaders of the empire is reflected in verses 15 through 17. Yet we must remember, that many of the people of Rome, like the Germanic invaders, were also Hebrews and Israelites, although they very likely had a higher Japhethite and Canaanite admixture among them.
With the anarchy of the 3rd century, the city of Rome began to lose its luster, and with Constantine in the early 4th century the capital was moved eastward to Byzantium. In 364 AD the empire was divided east and west, and this represents the beginning of the dissolution of the ten toes: the splitting of the original provinces of the empire as it existed under Augustus Caesar. The eastern portion would last another thousand years, however the west fell quickly. At first the western empire attempted to buy off the Goths with a large sum of gold. Rome was then sacked by the Goths under Alaric in 410 AD. When they still would not go away, a Gothic chieftain was made the emperor. The Huns also had a significant role in the fall of Rome, even beyond the invasions of Rome under Attila in the 4th century. While any connection of the Huns to medieval Hungary is now disputed, in the history of the 6th century recorded by the notable Byzantine historian Procopius the Huns still had their home on the Danube River west of the Black Sea, near to modern Hungary, and they continued to be a formidable threat to Rome as well as a sometimes ally. The Byzantines had employed Huns as mercenaries in their wars against other Germanic tribes, and they were especially requested for that role by the noted Byzantine general Belisarius, whom Procopius served as secretary in the wars against the Vandals in Africa and in Italy against the Goths . Yet the Huns often made war against the Byzantines. This is long after the supposed retreat of the Huns to Asia following the death of Attila, which is a myth. The Huns maintained a presence in Central Europe for centuries after the death of Attila, as Procopius records. Through his work as a secretary to Belisarius, Procopius was intimately familiar with Huns, Goths and Vandals.
The bribes from the Romans were not enough for the Goths, who really wanted the fertile soil of Italy and the treasures of the empire for themselves, and so finally in 476 AD they took it. Rome could no longer defend itself first, because the empire was completely corrupt and decadent, but more importantly, as Daniel 2:43 attests, because there was little unity among the citizenry, which was now made up of people of diverse and mixed races. It can be told from Daniel chapter 7 that upon the dissolution of the toes, from one of them would arise ten horns, and an eleventh which would subdue three kings. This describes Justinian, the eleventh emperor of the eastern empire, during whose reign the Vandal King Gelimer and the Gothic kings Witiges and Totila were defeated in Carthage and in Italy. During the wars of this period, much of Italy was laid bare, and the city of Rome was practically deserted for a long period of time. This, it can be ascertained, is the wounding of the head in another vision – that of the beast of Revelation chapter 13. By then, the empire is dead, but the beast and the dragon which gives its power to the beast still live to rise again – as the Roman Catholic Church.
But here at the end of Revelation chapter 6, while the pattern of the empire has been described in prophecy, a pattern which Rome had certainly followed in history, and while the decline and fall of Rome is inevitable, Rome has not fallen yet. That will not happen until we reach Revelation chapter 8. This concludes our commentary on Revelation chapter 6. Perhaps when we return, we shall pause for a more thorough exhibition of the synthesis of its prophecies with those of Daniel.