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the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 6

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verse 1

Instead of reading the scroll, it seems each time a seal is opened a part of its message is portrayed. One of the four beasts spoke with a voice like thunder and said "Come." It is doubtful the words "and see" belong here. John is watching and the first rider is bid to come.

Verse 2

The rider on the white horse must be Christ. White is used to symbolize purity and holiness, especially in this book. In Rev_19:11-16 , a rider on a white horse is clearly identified as Christ. He was described as a conqueror in 5:5 and is most logically the conqueror here. In fact, the entire book sets the Lamb up as one who has conquered or is conquering. ( Rev_2:26-27 ; Rev_3:21 ; Rev_11:15 ; Rev_12:11 ; Rev_17:14 ) The bow was used for hunting or war. It seems likely we see here a weapon used by Christ against his enemies, perhaps even his word. ( Psa_45:5 ; Eph_6:17 ; Heb_4:12 ) He is given a victory crown. It is not easy to believe God would give one to anyone other than Jesus.

Verses 3-4

At the opening of the second seal, a red horse came forth. Its rider was empowered to take peace from the earth. He carried a short sword, like the one used by Roman soldiers. The word for "kill" is the same as the one translated "slain" in Rev_5:6 ; Rev_6:9 , and may therefore indicate the terrible bloody persecution which followed the preaching of the gospel. ( 2Ti_3:12 ; Mat_10:34-39 )

Verses 5-6

The black horse would seem to represent mourning. ( Jer_4:28 ) Food is sold by weight, with enough wheat for one man for one day selling for a day's wages. ( Mat_20:2 ) He could buy three times as much barley for the same price and thus be able to feed his family, but what of life's other necessities? The fact that oil and wine are not to be hurt may suggest God placed limitations on a famine. However, Hendricksen says no famine existed since a man evidently could get all the wheat he wanted if he had the money. In that case, the oil and wine would represent luxuries which would not stop flowing. The rest of Revelation seems to bear out deprivation especially for those who followed Christ.

Verses 7-8

The word describing the fourth horse's color is usually translated "green." ( Mar_6:39 ; Rev_8:7 ; Rev_9:4 ) It would thus describe someone who is sick or dead. Its rider is death and Hades follows to claim the disembodied spirits. Their power was limited, which indicates Christ is still in control. However, they are allowed to work in a fourth of earth, which indicates this terrible event falls on Christian and non-Christian alike. The sword here is the longer twoedged sword used by most nations in war, so we believe war is its meaning. This is followed by hunger, death by plague and beasts eating up the weakened people remaining. Such a pattern often accompanies war.

Verses 9-11

Man is a living soul. ( Gen_2:7 ; 1Co_15:44-45 ) Man also has a spiritual soul which will not die. ( Mat_10:28 ) McCord indicates the word "destroy" is elsewhere translated "lost." ( Mat_10:6 ; Luk_15:32 ; Luk_19:10 )

Since life is in the blood and the blood of sacrificed animals was poured out at the base of the altar ( Lev_17:11 ; Lev_4:7 ), we conclude the souls here mentioned are the lives offered in sacrifice to the Lord. The word "slain" here is the same as was used in Rev_5:6 . Their blood does not cry out for revenge but the wrath of justice. ( Gen_4:10 ) They had been sacrificed because the faithful kept God's word and testified as to its truthfulness. How reassuring to know their sacrifice did not go unnoticed in heaven. Their enemies may have thought they won by sending them to their deaths, but they are actually given white robes of purity and assured of ultimate victory. They must wait for a "little time" until those who served with them and others who would be martyred should join them. This "little time" is the same wording as is used by Jesus in Joh_7:33 ; Joh_12:35 . It seems to this writer that this time of waiting for God's avenging judgment would come when God destroyed the persecutors.

Verse 12

The language of this verse is very similar to prophetic descriptions of God's judgment against Babylon and the opening of the doors to the kingdom, which also meant the bringing to a close the Jewish system. ( Isa_13:1 ; Isa_13:10-13 ; Joe_2:28-32 ; Act_2:16-21 ) Here is the prophetic language describing the Lord's vengeance upon the persecutors.

Verses 13-14

As a further description of the terrible nature of these events, John sees the stars falling from heaven like winter figs being blown off the trees during a high wind. The heavens being rolled up like a scroll would be familiar language to early Christians. ( Isa_34:4 ) Mountains seem so permanent, yet they and islands are moved from their normal place. Someone's world is coming crashing down around them.

Verses 15-17

Every class of wicked men will run to hide from the Lamb on his throne. This includes rulers, nobles, military leaders, rich, slaves, and freemen. Since similar language is used to describe other national calamities, it seems very possible that this is a description of God's judgment against a great persecuting nation, or Rome. ( Hos_10:7-8 ; Isa_2:19 ; Mat_24:29-34 ; Luk_23:30 ) The question of verse 17 comes when God is about to destroy a people. ( Nah_1:1 ; Nah_1:6 )

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Revelation 6". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/revelation-6.html. 2014.
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