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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
Revelation 6



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Verse 8


‘Behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death.’

Revelation 6:8

There are times when the near presence and the invincible power of death are felt with peculiar solemnity. What St. John saw in apocalyptic vision we see in solemn and often startling reality.

I. The ride of death.

(a) It is long. Death has been with us as long as man has been on the globe.

(b) It is powerful. Death triumphs now over everything and everybody. The sovereign on the throne; the peasant in the cottage must alike come under its power.

II. The fight with death.—Yet for the Christian death has lost its terrors because of the resurrection of the Lord of life. He confers on all that freely and fully acccept Him as their Saviour and Lord a life—

(a) Which is spiritual and therefore real.

(b) Which is holy and therefore noble and blessed.

(c) Which is eternal. What we call death is only the passage into a brighter and ampler life.

III. The final overthrow of death.—That glorious time will come when Jesus Christ shall reign, and when all enemies shall be subdued beneath His feet. And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Verses 9-11


‘And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain.… And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that thy should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.’

Revelation 6:9-11

Our Church, while refusing to give an opinion on matters not revealed in the Bible, leaves a very wide margin for the belief of individual members. All that is stipulated for is that we should honestly believe all that Holy Scripture tells us, and not make anything a matter of faith which, however probable it may be in itself, is not found therein. This leaves us a very wide margin for belief; and such margins should not be narrowed, provided that these two restrictions be observed.

(1) That we believe and accept all that Holy Scripture reveals to us of the state of the blessed dead, which of course means that we hold nothing inconsistent with what is revealed; and

(2) That whatever our private and lawful beliefs beyond this may be, we are not to force them upon others, or make them a cause of difference with others who think differently. This is the old Church rule: In necessary matters, unity; in doubtful and uncertain questions, liberty; in all things, charity.

With regard to the state of the blessed dead, they are blessed, for they are in the presence of the Lord; they are at rest, for their warfare is past and their final happiness secure.

Do we know anything more? I think so.

I. The blessed dead are in an intermediate and imperfect state, waiting for their final consummation and bliss.

II. The blessed dead have at least some knowledge of what goes on on earth.

III. The blessed dead are living the life of intercessory prayer—prayer for all God’s family in heaven and earth, and specially for those who are still in their trial state.

Verse 16


‘The wrath of the Lamb.’

Revelation 6:16

We should not allow the sympathy, the gentleness, the compassion, the loving humanity of Jesus, as we find Him portrayed in the Gospels, to blind us to the fact that there is such a thing, after all, as the ‘wrath of the Lamb.’ ‘The wrath of the Lamb’! The words suggest a somewhat painful line of thought.

God is incapable of change. And such as God was in the times of the older dispensation, such is He now to us who live in the clearer light and fuller privileges of the dispensation of the Spirit.

I. It was unavoidable that the sterner side of the Divine character should be first turned to the human race. Men had to be educated in the knowledge of sin before they could come to understand their true position; before they could appreciate their need of God’s help, as well as the necessity of an entire and perfect submission to God’s will.

II. With regard to the present dispensation—that of Christianity—the process may be said to be reversed. We have the love first and the severity afterwards; or, as perhaps I ought to put it, we have the evidence that the Divine nature—which is full of compassion and tender mercy, which continually invites, persuades, even beseeches, the sinner to approach it in confidence and trust—has yet in it a capability of righteous indignation, in fact of wrath, most formidable to those who persist in refusing compliance with its claims and acceptance of its invitations.

III. There is something in the nature of man himself which corresponds with this twofold aspect of the character of God, and enables us to understand it. I will suppose you to have heard of some frightful crime. Now what is your feeling? It is one of fierce, fiery indignation, which demands the immediate and condign punishment of the offender. There is that in you which will not be quieted—which will not be satisfied—until the criminal has met with his deserts.

—Rev. Prebendary Gordon Calthrop.


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Revelation 6:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, January 19th, 2019
the First Week after Epiphany
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