The Six Seals
The afflicted Church has been reminded in Revelation 4 f. that God is over all, and that the future is committed to the Lamb. Now (Revelation 6 - Revelation 8:1) she is shown that future, unrolling to its appointed end, i.e. the judgment of the enemies of God and the triumph of those who 'overcome.' The Lamb opens the seven seals. Apparently we are to understand that, as each seal is opened, a portion of that which is written in the book is revealed pictorially. Revelation 7 contains an episode between seals six and seven.
The first six seals. The key to this vision is the prophecy of Christ in Matthew 24:3-31. In that prophecy, Matthew 24:4-14 foretell the signs preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew 24:15-28 the destruction of Jerusalem, and Matthew 24:29-31 the signs which will precede the coming of Christ. There is the same threefold division in this c., but in place of the destruction of Jerusalem is the appeal of the martyrs to God, while the whole looks forward to the coming of Christ.
St. John had, doubtless, thought long on the prophecy recorded for us in Matthew 24. It was a natural effect of his memory that the vision should follow the lines of that prophecy; and, at the same time, our Lord saw fit to make further use of the thoughts already implanted in the Apostle's mind. The working of the same prophecy appears in the visions of the trumpets and the bowls.
1-8. Four riders are summoned, each by the word 'come' (RV omits 'and see'); cp. Zechariah 6:1., where the horses stand for the four winds, symbolising the divine judgments (Revelation 6:1).
The white horse and the crown of the first rider are symbols of victory, and for the bow cp. Psalms 45:4. The victorious progress of the gospel is perhaps represented (cp. Matthew 24:14), or, as many think, Christ: cp. Revelation 19:11; (Revelation 6:2).
The second and third riders represent war and famine respectively (Revelation 6:3-5). A 'penny' (cp. Matthew 18:28; RM) was the wages of a labourer for a day's work (cp. Matthew 20:2.); the 'measure' contained two pints. Judgment is tempered with mercy, for the wheat and the barley are not to be wholly destroyed, and the oil and the wine are to be uninjured (Revelation 6:6).
Then Death and Hell (RV 'Hades,' i.e. the 'underworld' of the dead) come to claim a fourth part, i.e. not the whole, of the ungodly, by God's four judgments of sword, famine, death (i.e. pestilence), and wild beasts: cp. Ezekiel 14:21; (Revelation 6:8).
9-11. The opening of the fifth seal reveals that the death of the martyrs is not unregarded by God. As they sacrificed their lives, they are represented as having been offered on a heavenly altar, at the foot of which their blood (or 'souls,' or 'lives': cp. Leviticus 17:11) has been poured out: cp. Exodus 29:12; (Revelation 6:9). Their blood is said to call out upon God, as Abel's did (cp. Genesis 4:10), and as every crime does, for punishment (Revelation 6:10). God is not unheeding, but the final judgment must wait till the number of the martyrs is fulfilled. Meanwhile these, having overcome (cp. Revelation 3:4.), are given robes of victory (Revelation 6:11).
10. Lord] RV 'Master.'
12-17. opening of the sixth seal the day of the wrath of God and of the Lamb is impending. The description is founded on the words of Christ: cp. Matthew 24:29. The prophets had expressed the awfulness of the 'day of the Lord,' by associating it with terrible catastrophes, and these are heaped together in this passage to create a picture of fear and ruin. The details are not to be literally understood: cp. Isaiah 2:10.; Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 50:3; Jeremiah 4:24; Amos 8:9; Nahum 1:5. Haggai 2:6. Luke 23:30; Hebrews 12:26.
The picture seems to be, as it were, foreshortened to the Apostle, so that he is not able to see the length of the interval which separates the Fall of Jerusalem from the conquest of the empire by Christianity, nor of the interval which separates that conquest from the Day of Judgment. So throughout the book, yet see the 'thousand years' of Revelation 20.
17. His] RV 'their.'
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Revelation 6". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany