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Revelation 6

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

Note, Revelation 5:1. Mede, Fleming, Newton, etc., hold that all these seals are fulfilled, the sixth by the overthrow of Paganism and establishment of Christianity under Constantine's edict, 313 AD But, in the full sense at least, the sixth seal is future, to be realized at the coming again of Christ. The objection to the seals having been finally and exhaustively fulfilled (though particular events may be partial fulfillments typical of the final one), is that, if so, they ought to furnish (as the destruction of Jerusalem, according to Christ's prophecy, does) external evidence of revelation. But they cannot be used for this, as hardly two interpreters of this school agree on what events constitute the fulfillment. Probably, not isolated facts, but classes of events preparing for Christ's coming kingdom, are intended. The first horse marks conquests; the second, third, and fourth horses mark civil wars, scarcity, and mortality. The fifth seal marks even persecutions of Christians overruled to Christ's final triumph. The four living creatures severally cry at the opening of the first four seals, "Come;" which divides the seven, as often, into four and three.

One of the seals. 'Aleph (') A B C, Vulgate, Syriac, read, 'one of the seven seals.'

Noise. A B C read this [ foonee (G5456), or foonei (G5455)] nominative, or dative, not the genitive: 'I heard one from among the four living creatures saying, as (it were) the voice (or, as with the voice) of thunder' ['Aleph (') manuscript: fooneen (G5456)]. The first living creature was like a lion (Revelation 4:7): his voice corresponds to the lion-like boldness with which, in successive revivals, the faithful have testified for Christ, and especially before His coming shall testify. Rather, their earnestness in praying for Christ's coming.

Come and see. So 'Aleph (') B [ ide (G2396)]; but A C, Vulgate, reject it. Alford objects to "Come and see," 'Where was John to come? Separated by the glassy sea from the throne, was he to cross it?' Contrast the expression, Revelation 10:8. It is more probably the cry of the redeemed to the Redeemer "Come," deliver the groaning creature from the bondage of corruption [ erchou (G2064) echoing His erchomia]. Thus Revelation 2:1-29 answers the cry, 'went (literally, came) forth,' corresponding to, "Come." "Come" (Grotius) is the living creature's address to John, calling his earnest attention. "Come" can hardly mean this. Compare the only other places of its occurrence in Revelation (Revelation 22:17) [ elthee (G2064), Revelation 22:20, erchou (G2064)]. If the four living creatures represent the four gospels, "Come" will be their invitation to everyone (for their address is not necessarily to John) to accept Christ's salvation while there is time, as the opening of the seals marks a progressive step toward the end. Judgments are foretold as accompanying the preaching of the Gospel as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:6-14; Revelation 14:6-11, to which the invitation, "Come," is parallel. The opening of the four first seals is followed by judgments preparatory for His coming. At the opening of the fifth, the martyrs above express the same (cf. Zechariah 1:10; Revelation 6:9-10). At the opening of the sixth, the Lord's coming is ushered in with terrors to the ungodly. At the seventh, the consummation is reached (Revelation 11:15).

Verse 2

And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

Christ, whether in person or by His angel, preparatory to His coming again, as appears from Revelation 19:11-12.

Bow - (Psalms 45:4-5.)

Crown, [ stefanos (G4735)] - the wreath of a conqueror: also implied by His white horse, white being the emblem of victory. In Revelation 19:11-12, the last step in His victorious progress: accordingly there He wears many diadems [ diadeemata (G1238); not merely stefanoi (G4735), wreaths], personally attended by the hosts of heaven. Compare Zechariah 1:1-21; Zechariah 6:1-15; especially Revelation 6:10 below, with Zechariah 1:12: cf. the colours of the four horses. The black is not in Zechariah.

And to (that He should) conquer - to gain a lasting victory. All four seals usher in judgments on the earth, as the power which opposes the reign of Himself and His Church. This, rather than conversion, is meant, though, secondarily, the elect will be gathered out through His Word and His judgments.

Verse 3

And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.

And see. Omitted in A B C, Vulgate.

Verse 4

And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

Red - the colour of blood. The colour of each horse answers to the mission of the rider. Compare Matthew 10:34-36. The white horse of the Conqueror is soon followed, through man's perversion of the Gospel, by the red horse of bloodshed: this is overruled to the clearing away of the obstacles to Christ's coming kingdom. The patient ox is the emblem of the second living creature, who, at the opening of this seal, saith, "Come." The saints, amidst judgments on the earth, in patience 'endure to the end.'

That they should kill, [ sfaxoosin (G4969), 'Aleph (') B; but A C, sfaxousin (G4969), indicative future] - 'that they may, as they shall, kill one another.'

Verse 5

And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

And see. So B [ ide (G2396) for blepe]; but A C, Vulgate, omit.

Black - implying sadness and want.

Had - `having.'

A pair of balances - symbol of scarcity: bread being doled out by weight.

Verse 6

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

A voice. So B; but 'Aleph (') A C read, 'as it were a voice.' The voice is heard 'in the midst of the four living creatures' (as Yahweh in the Shechinah cloud manifested His presence between the cherubim); because it is only in connection with His redeemed that God mitigates His judgments on the earth.

A measure - [ choinix (G5518)] While making food scarce, do not make it so much so that a choenix (a day's provision of wheat, variously estimated at two or three pints) shall not be gotten "for a penny" [denarius, eight-and-a-half-pence of British money: probably the day's wages of the labourer]. Famine generally follows the sword. Ordinarily, from 16 to 20 measures were given for a denarius. A spiritual famine may be included (Amos 8:11). The "Come" of this third seal is said by the third of the four living creatures, whose likeness is a man: indicative of human sympathy for the sufferers. God in it tempers judgment with mercy. Compare Matthew 24:7, which foretells the very calamities in these seals: nation rising against nation (the sword), famines, pestilences (Revelation 6:8). and earthquakes (Revelation 6:12).

Three measures of barley for a penny - the cheaper and less nutritious grain, bought by the labourer who could not buy wheat for his family with his day's wages-a denarius-but barley.

See thou hurt not the oil and the wine - luxuries rather than necessaries. The oil and wine were to be spared for refreshment of the sufferers.

Verse 7

And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

And see. Supported by B; omitted by A C, Vulgate. The fourth living creature, "like a flying eagle," introduces this seal: high-soaring intelligence, and judgment, swooping down on the ungodly, as the king of birds on his prey.

Verse 8

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Pale, [ chlooros (G5515)].

Death - personified.

Hell - Hades.

Unto them - Death and Hades. So A 'Aleph (') C; but B, Vulgate, read, 'to him.'

Fourth part of the earth - his portion, as one of the first four seals, being a fourth.

With ... with ... with - IN [ en (G1722)].

Death - pestilence (cf. Ezekiel 14:21, with God's four judgments here-the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts: famine resulting from the sword; pestilence from famine; and beasts multiplying by the consequent depopulation).

With the beasts, [ hupo (G5259)] - by: direct agency. These four seals are marked off from the three last by the four living creatures introducing them with "Come." The calamities indicated are not restricted to one time, but extend through the whole of church history to the coming of Christ, before which last great day of the Lord they shall reach their height. The first seal is the summary-Christ going forth on His white horse (as in Revelation 19:11), conquering, until all enemies are subdued (Psalms 110:1); with a view to which the subsequent judgments accompany the preaching of the Gospel, for a witness to all nations.

Verse 9

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

The three last seals relate to the invisible, as the first four to the visible world; the fifth, to the martyrs who died as believers; the sixth, to those who died, or shall be found at Christ's coming, unbelievers-namely, "the kings ... great men ... bond man ... free man;" the seventh, to the silence in heaven. The scene changes from earth to heaven; so that interpretations which make these three last consecutive to the first four are doubtful.

I saw - in spirit. Souls are not naturally visible.

Under the altar. As the blood of sacrificial victims on the altar was poured at the bottom of the altar, so the souls of those sacrificed for Christ's testimony are symbolically represented under the altar in heaven; for 'the life (animal soul) is in the blood,' and blood is often represented as crying for vengeance (Genesis 4:10). The altar in heaven, antitypical to the altar of sacrifice, is Christ crucified (Hebrews 13:10). As 'the altar sanctifies the gift,' so Christ alone makes our obedience, and even our sacrifice of life for the truth, acceptable to God. The sacrificial altar was not in the sanctuary, but outside; so Christ's literal sacrifice, and the figurative sacrifice of the martyrs, took place, not in the heavenly sanctuary, but outside, here on earth. The only altar in heaven is that antitypical to the temple-altar of incense. The blood of the martyrs cries from the earth under Christ's cross, whereon they may be considered virtually to have been sacrificed: their souls cry from under the altar of incense, which is Christ in heaven, by whom alone the incense of praise is accepted before God. They are under Christ, in His immediate presence; shut up unto Him in joyful expectancy, until He come to raise the sleeping dead. Compare the language, 2Ma 7:36 , as indicating Jewish opinion. 'Our brethren who have now suffered a short pain are dead under God's covenant [ hupo (G5259) diatheekeen (G1242) Theou (G2316)] of everlasting life.'

Testimony which they held - i:e., bore, as committed to them. Compare Revelation 12:17, "have (hold) the testimony of Jesus."

Verse 10

And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

How long? [ Heoos (G2193) pote (G4219)] - 'Until when?' As in the parable, the woman (the Church) cries day and night to the unjust judge for justice against her adversary always oppressing her (cf. Revelation 12:10); so the elect (not only on earth, but under Christ's covering, in His presence in Paradise) cry day and night to God, who will assuredly, in His own time, avenge His and their cause, "though He bear long with them" (Luke 18:1-8). This need not be restricted to particular martyrdoms, but receives partial fulfillments, until the last exhaustive fulfillment before Christ's coming. So as to the other events foretold here. The glory even of those in Paradise shall only be complete when Christ's and the Church's foes are cast out, and the earth become Christ's kingdom at His coming to raise the sleeping, and transfigure he living, saints.

Lord, [ ho (G3588) Despotees (G1203)] - "Master;" implying He has them, their foes, and all creatures, as absolutely at His disposal as a master has his slaves; hence, (Revelation 6:11) "fellow-servants," or fellow-slaves, follows. Holy - `the Holy One.'

Avenge - `exact vengeance for our blood.'

On - `from them.'

That dwell on the earth - the ungodly, of earth, earthy; distinguished from the Church, whose home and heart are even now in heaven.

Verse 11

And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

White robes. So Vulgate; but A B C 'Aleph (') read, 'a white robe was given.'

Every one of them. B omits; A C 'Aleph (') read, 'unto them, unto each;' i:e., unto them severally. Though their joint cry for the riddance of the earth from the ungodly is not yet granted, it will be so in due time; meanwhile, individually they receive the white robe, indicative of light, joy, and triumph over their foes; even as the Captain of their salvation goes forth on a white horse, conquering and to conquer: also of sanctity through Christ. Maimonides says that the Jews arrayed priests, when approved of, in white robes. They are admitted among the blessed, who, as spotless priests, minister unto God and the Lamb.

Should. So 'Aleph (') C; but A B, 'shall rest.'

A little season. So 'Aleph (') A C; but B omits "little." Even if omitted, the "season" is short compared with eternity. Bengel fancifully made a season [ chronos (G5550)] to be 1,111 1/9 years, and a time (Revelation 12:12; Revelation 12:14) [ kairos (G2540)], a fifth of a season - i:e., 222 2/9 years. The only distinction is, a season [ chronos (G5550)] is an aggregate of times. [ Kairos (G2540), a specific time, so of short duration.] As to their rest, cf. Revelation 14:13 [the same anapauomai]; Isaiah 57:2; Daniel 12:13; Septuagint.

Until their ... brethren ... be fulfilled - until their full number shall have been completed. The number of the elect is definite; perhaps to fill up that of the fallen angels. The full blessedness of all the saints shall be simultaneous (1 Thessalonians 4:15; Hebrews 11:40; Hebrews 12:23). The earlier shall not anticipate the later. A C read, 'shall have been accomplished;' B 'Aleph ('), 'shall have accomplished (their course).'

Verse 12

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

As Revelation 6:4; Revelation 6:6-8, the sword, famine, and pestilence, answer to Matthew 24:6-7; Revelation 6:9-10, as to martyrdoms, answer to Matthew 24:9-10: so this passage, Revelation 6:12-17, answers to Matthew 24:29-30, the portents of the immediate coming of the day of the Lord; not the coming itself, until the elect are sealed, and the judgments invoked by the martyrs descend on the earth, the sea, and the trees, (Revelation 7:1-17.)

And, lo. So A; but B C 'Aleph (') omit "lo."

Earthquake - `shaking' of the heavens, the sea, and the dry land: the shaking of these mutable things, the necessary preliminary to setting up those things which cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:26-28). One of the catchwords (Wordsworth) connecting the sixth seal with the sixth trumpet (Revelation 11:13) and the seventh vial (Revelation 16:17-21); also the seventh seal (Revelation 8:5).

Sackcloth - made of the "hair" of Cilician goats: 'cilicium,' or Cilician cloth, used for tents, etc. Paul, a Cilician, made such tents (Acts 18:3).

Moon. 'Aleph (') A B C h, Vulgate, read, 'the whole' or 'full moon:' not merely the crescent.

As blood - (Joel 2:31.)

Verse 13

And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

Stars ... fell ... as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs - (Isaiah 34:4; Nahum 3:12.) The Church shall be then ripe for glorification, the anti-Christian world for destruction; accompanied with mighty phenomena in nature. As to the stars falling to the earth, Scripture describes phenomena as they appear to the spectator, not in scientific language: science itself has often to do the same. Yet, while adapting itself to ordinary men, Scripture drops hints which anticipate modern discoveries.

Verse 14

And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

Departed, [ apechooristhee (G673)] - 'was separated from' its place: 'made to depart.' Not as Alford, 'parted asunder;' on the contrary, it was rolled together as an open scroll is rolled up and laid aside. There is no 'asunder one from another,' as in Acts 15:39.

Mountain ... moved out of their places - (Psalms 121:1, margin; Jeremiah 3:23; Jeremiah 4:24; Nahum 1:5). This disruption shall be the precursor of the new earth, as the preAdamic convulsions prepared it for its present occupants.

Verse 15

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;

Kings ... laid themselves. Where was now the spirit of those whom the world so greatly feared? (Bengel.)

Great men - high officers of state.

Rich men ... chief captains. 'Aleph (') A B C h, Vulgate, 'chief captains ... rich men.'

Mighty, [ dunatoi (G1415)]. 'Aleph (') A B C read [ ischuroi (G2478)], 'strong' physically (Psalms 33:16).

In, [ eis (G1519)] - ran into, so as to hide themselves in.

Dens - `caves.'

Verse 16

And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

From the face - (Psalms 34:16: cf. Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30.)

Verse 17

For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? 'The day, the great (day).' After the Lord has exhausted all His ordinary judgments-the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts, and still sinners are impenitent-the last great day of the Lord itself shall come. Matthew 24:1-51 (note, Revelation 6:12, above) forms a perfect parallelism to the six seals, not only in the events, but the order: Revelation 6:3, the first seal; Revelation 6:6, the second; Revelation 6:7, the third; Revelation 6:8, end, the fourth; Revelation 6:9, the fifth; the persecutions, abounding iniquity, and consequent judgments, accompanied with Gospel-preaching to all nations as a "testimony," are detailed Revelation 6:9-17; Rev. 6:29 , the sixth.

To stand - justified, not condemned, before the Judge. Thus the sixth seal brings us close to the Lord's coming. The ungodly 'tribes of the earth' tremble at the signs of His immediate approach. Before He actually inflicts the blow, "the elect" must be 'gathered' out.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/revelation-6.html. 1871-8.
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