We now observe the opening of the first four seals on the scroll given to the Lamb. The frame of reference through which we observe is vital to how the next few chapters are interpreted. The seven letters described what was happening to the churches on earth. In this drama, the scene has now changed to heaven and the audience is given a peek into how heaven is responding. What John wants to see (and therefore wants his audience to see) is the contents of the scroll (which we have preliminarily identified as the book of life). The opening of the seals and the events described by them are of secondary concern – they are simply what has happened or must happen on the way to the revealing of the content of the scroll.
In my reading of various commentaries and notes on this passage, I observed that interpretations are all over the map. For example, the white horse and rider (the first seal) has been interpreted as from Jesus to the Antichrist and everything in-between. What is found in the outline and discussion that I provide is what I believe makes the most sense given the context of Revelation and the possible Old Testament allusions that are incorporated.
What is most important is not the details, but the overall impression that the audience receives. For the first four seals, the four horsemen, it is that of Jesus and his gospel of peace coming to the earth and the judgment that is an inevitable part of either receiving it or rejecting it. It also portrays God’s mercy in suspending, at least for a period, the full consequences of rejecting him. On the other hand, those who have accepted Jesus and his gospel have nothing to fear, not even from Death and Hades, because Jesus holds its keys.