People speak of Revelation 6 as a terrifying chapter, with the angels opening seven seals to reveal what is to come. Yet the chapter may also be cause for great hope for Christians.
The first seal reveals a conqueror on a white horse. As a young Christian, I was told by many that this is the Antichrist whom Paul mentions in the Thessalonian letters. But I have come to the conclusion that this is, in fact, Jesus Christ who rides forth to conquer. This is because of the unfolding of the Apocalypse, and because in Chapter 19 the rider on the white horse appears again, and is identified as one who is called Faithful, True, and the Word of God. These titles can only be Jesus Christ.
But how can Jesus' conquest be accompanied by war, death, disease, and disaster? Are Christians being encouraged to be the carriers of these things, as Muslims are encouraged to wage violent jihad in the Qur'an? In fact, this is no exhortation to violence, but a reminder that history, with all of its vicissitudes, is guided by our loving God and Savior. This becomes all the more clear as we look at where the passage leads.
The fifth seal reveals the martyrs of Christ. The sixth reveals a great earthquake and exlipse, and terror among all men. But after this, John sees 144,000 servants of God from the twelve tribes of Israel, and after them, an innumerable multitude of the redeemed from every people, tongue, and nation. Since, as the book of Acts tells us, the Gospel started in Jerusalem, then spread to Judaea and Samaria, and thence to the ends of the earth, this is a picture of the progress of the Gospel in the earth.
Yes, the world is a frightening and scary place, and history can be terrifying. But through it all, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus, who gave his life for us and conquered death on our behalf, and he is spreading redemption among us. The hopes and ambitions of sinful men are overthrown in the vicissitudes of history, but Christ is also at work bringing many sons to glory.
Hence, the counsel of God in Revelation is not terror or despair, but faith and hope.