Previously: Beasts with horns
In Revelation chapter 6, the Lamb begins opening the seals on the scroll. This post already summarizes the first six seals. But why is it that the first six seals must describe the rise and decline of the Roman Empire?
We assume that the first seal, at least, is an event close to John’s time because John introduces the book by saying, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants what must happen very soon.” The Greek for “very soon” means “quickly, at once, without delay.” I believe the events of the vision began to be fulfilled without delay after the time John saw the vision, just based on the fact that this is what the Scriptures say. God was perfectly able to say something else if He meant something else. This is also why I am a young earth creationist, because the history described in the first chapters of Genesis is most straightforwardly understood to mean creation in the recent past. In order to make it mean something else, the lingusitic gymnastics have to start.
Thus historicists believe the first seal indicates an event very close to John’s time. They also believe the first four seals are linked together in meaning and time, because the symbol of the horse and horseman is used for all four. The first seal, the white horse, has a rider with a bow, who was given a crown, who rode out to conquer, and who did conquer.
So let us look at the symbols of the white horse and horseman: these are fairly easy. The Scriptures equate the color white with righteousness, bows and crowns mean military might and ruling authority, and conquering means territorial and political gain or expansion.
And when we look at the events following the giving of Revelation, we learn that the wicked Domitian was assassinated, perhaps even in the very year the Revelation was given, but certainly no later than the following year, for the Christian persecution began in 95 ad and Domitian was assassinated in 96 ad. John was on Patmos in the first place because of the persecution. The emperor following Domitian was Nerva, who did all he could to repair the wrongs which Domitian had done.
Trajan followed Nerva, who had such a reputation for righteousness that when a new emperor was approved by the Senate, they charged him to “reign virtuously as Trajan.” Under Trajan the provinces of Dacia (Romania), Parthia (Persia), and Mesopotamia (Babylonia) were added, and the Empire attained its greatest extent.
Hadrian followed Trajan, who forgave all offenses, and whose motto was, “I have been made emperor for the benefit of mankind and not for my own good.” Antoninus Pius followed Hadrian, whose surname identifies his character. Marcus Aurelius followed Antoninus, who was the last of the “Five Good Emperors,” and whose philosophy in his book, Meditations, approaches Christian virtue, rare in the classical world. This period of righteous rule and the Pax Romana (Peace of Rome) lasted from 96 ad to 180 ad. Thus the first seal, the white horse of righteousness, with a rider exercising military might and ruling authority, who went out to conquer, and who did in fact increase politically and territorially, was fulfilled from 96 ad to 180 ad.
To be continued …
Update: continued in Revelation 6, the red horseman