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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Revelation 6

Verses 1-17

Revelation 6:2

The motto of the Moravian Church is ' Vicit Agnus noster, eum sequamur '. ('Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him.')

Revelation 6:8

Death appears mounted on a horse, not on a throne; he arrives, he passes by.

C. G. Rossetti.

Dr. John Brown, in the second series of Horae Subsecivae, describes a sermon by Dr. Chalmers on the reign of death, and on death as a tremendous necessity. Towards the end, 'in a few plain sentences, he stated the truth as to sin entering, and death by sin, and death passing upon all. Then he took fire once more, and enforced, with redoubled energy and richness, the freeness, the simplicity, the security, the sufficiency of the great method of justification. How astonished and impressed we all were! He was at the full thunder of his power; the whole man was in an agony of earnestness.... And when he sat down, after warning each one of us to remember who it was, and what it was, that followed death on his pale horse, and how alone we could escape we all sunk back into our seats.'

Revelation 6:8

Compare Shelley's vivid description in the tenth canto of The Revolt of Islam, XVIII. f.

References. VI. 8. E. A. Askew, The Service of Perfect Freedom, p. 109. Expositor (5th Series), vol. x. p. 121.

Revelation 6:9 f

After quoting Lacretelle's description of a bloody riot in May, 1750 'Some of the rioters were hanged on the following days' Carlyle proceeds: 'O ye poor naked wretches! and this then is your inarticulate cry to heaven, as of a dumb tortured animal, crying from uttermost depths of pain and debasement? Do these azure skies, like a dead crystalline vault, only reverberate the echo of it on you? Respond to it only by "hanging on the following days"? not so: not for ever! Ye are heard in Heaven. Also the answer will come in a horror of great darkness, and shakings of the world, and a cup of trembling which all the nations shall drink.'

French Revolution, bk. I. II.

That general opinion, that the world grows near its end, hath possessed all ages past as nearly as ours. I am afraid that the souls that now depart cannot escape that lingering expostulation of the saints under the altar, Quousque Domini (How long, O Lord)? and groan in the expectation of the great jubilee.

Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici.

References. VI. 9. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 251. VI. 9-11. C. Gotch, Sermons, p. 265.

Revelation 6:10-11

Here it is plain that the departed have the power of prayer. The souls under the altar 'cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord?' It appears, further, that they retain a consciousness of their former life on earth, for they say, 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?' It appears, too, from this passage that the souls of the departed are capable of receiving knowledge, for 'it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season'. It appears, too, from this passage that they are, while in Paradise, capable of receiving additional comfort and glory, for it says, 'white robes were given to every one of them'.

I. The thought of the life of the souls in Paradise may help to reconcile us to bear the loss which their departure must in many ways bring upon us. For when we think even of the little that we know of their perfect and increasing happiness we would not wish them back again. Their life above is, as the Apostle tells us, 'far, far better' than our life here below. It is true 'we know in part' only, as the Apostle says, what the joys of that blessed life in Paradise must be; but we know enough to make us thankful for those 'who depart hence in the Lord'. At present when we read the book of nature, or even the book of Revelation, we are but as persons reading in a book with crumpled, or missing, leaves; there is much which we desire to fill in, 'we only know in part'; but hereafter, there above, we shall 'know even as we have been known'; there we shall see, as it were, all the disordered leaves of our present knowledge arranged in perfect order, in the one volume of God's most perfect will, bound with the bond of His eternal love:

Nel suo profondo vidi che s'interna,

Legato con amore in un volume,

Cio che per l'universo si squaderna.

Dante, Paradiso, C. XXXIII. 85.

II. At present, it is true, we only see 'in part,' but if we look with the eye of faith on the wonders with which God has surrounded us in this world, and remember that they are His handiwork, then we shall be able to read the book of nature in the spirit of Christ's parables, and learn something of the ways of God. Every springtime shows us a resurrection after the apparent death of winter the trees and flowers were 'not dead, but sleeping'. It is a constant miracle of wonder and delight to me to watch through the early days of spring the still, dark, and dead-like stems of the trees in our orchards. It seems so unlikely that the dark, dull stem should ever be the channel for a life of beauty and of self-production. Inch after inch, as the eye rises from the ground, there seems no hope of any future glory, and yet, when the appointed time has come, we see the miracle of its organic life performed, and blossom after blossom is unfolded, and then the full fruit is formed. To all the life-power is conveyed, undisturbed by the separate perfection of each. Each bud, and blossom, and fruit receives its due allotment through the living organism; there is no forgetfulness and no confusion. Millions, and millions of millions, at last receive the beauty and the fruitfulness of which in the days of its early growth there was no sign or hope. So, if we could see above the myriad stars, we might behold the souls in Paradise clothed with a beauty and a glory of which the life on earth could give us no true conception, but which is theirs, quite naturally, according to the supernatural laws by which God will perfect the beauty and the fruitfulness of the branches of the True Vine.

Bishop Edward King, The Love and Wisdom of God, pp. 332-334.

References. VI. 16. Bishop Lightfoot, Cambridge Sermons, p. 193. T. F. Crosse, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 238. J. Keble, Sermons for Advent to Christmas Eve, p. 175. H. Bushnell, Christ and His Salvation, p. 314. Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 339; ibid. (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 404. VII. 4. H. H. Henson, Godly Union and Concord, p. 144.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 6". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/revelation-6.html. 1910.