Bible Commentaries
Revelation 6

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-17


Section Fifth

Earth-picture of the Seven Seals. Their opening. (Ch. 6)

General.—The course of the world in its totality—considered with reference to its predominantly external and predominantly internal phases. Sublime picture of the Four Riders. The cry, as with a voice of thunder, Come and see! Come and see that Christ, upon the white horse, precedes the three dark riders, that He has dominion over them, and that He has brought them into His service, into the service of His Kingdom. Come and see: the bright fundamental thought of world-history, so dark in respect of its predominant visible aspect. The four Horses, or world-history a course, in eternal onward motion. Each horse has its rider, i. e., its idea; its conduct and tendency, regulated by that idea; its goal and purpose. The main tendency of all, however, is regulated and defined by the tendency of Christ. The group of four Riders may be classified under two heads, viz., Christ or personal Victory, contrasted with impersonal War, the desolator of personal life. For as Christ constitutes the three dark Riders His followers and presses them into His service, so the second Rider may regard the third and fourth as his esquires, War being attended by Dearth, in the first place, and secondly by Pestilence.

1. History of the world in its predominantly human aspect. First Seal. Christ, as the Logos, also the dynamic Force, the fundamental and leading Power of worldly history—a Power victorious in holy suffering. The great Victor in all the wars of worldly history—(1) He has conquered, (2) He is conquering, (3) He will conquer.—Second Seal. War. Its dark side or abnormity. Its light side in the train of Christ. Comp. the author’s pamphlet: Vom Krieg und vom Sieg.Third Seal. Dearth. Terrestrial sufferings. Social sufferings. Wealth and poverty. Usury and pauperism. Care of the poor. Socialistic projects. Infinite increase of pauperism through the luxury of those that are at ease; infinite decrease of it through the plainness and simplicity of Christian sentiment and classical culture.—Fourth Seal. Death. Circumstances of mortality. Pestilences. Poisons. Wild beasts. Suicides. Lust and cruelty in their reciprocal action. Death of children. Offerings to Moloch. Macrobiotic counter-agencies.—2. History of the world in its predominantly spiritual aspect. Fifth Seal. The Martyr-history of the Kingdom, as the kernel of the history of the world: the suffering Christ. The martyrs, beginning with Abel. In respect of human wickedness, slain on the field of the curse, without the sacred camp, on the Place of a Skull; in respect of the Divine counsel, sacrificed on God’s altar, buried beneath the altar. Connection of all martyr-sufferings with the holy sacrifice and expiatory sufferings of Christ in the centre. All martyr-sufferings for the sake of God’s Word (or for the sake of truth, in the heathen world), cleansed from sin, purified and perfected through the sufferings of Christ. The blood of the heavenly-minded, shed by the earthly-minded, animated by the spirit of intercession, and yet a real historic impulse after justice, demanding recompense. Old Testament martyrologies (Matthew 23:0). Apostolic martyrologies. Old-Catholic martyrologies. Mediæval Protestant martyrologies. Evangelic martyrologies. The grand history of spiritual martyrdoms. Even John and all like-minded with him, though they died a natural death, are true martyrs. True martyrdom, faithfulness in confession, enduring unto death. Witness as confession. There are none save persecuted confessions—no persecuting ones. Christianity itself a confession. Consolation concerning all martyr suffering, and pacification of all martyrs. Pacification in view of the whole matter: a. The great company of sufferers; b. The Divine counsel concerning the completion of their number; c. Rest in patience and in the hope of perfect retribution; d. The white robes beyond this life, glistening ever clearer in historic lustre even in this present world. The memory of martyrs is revived even through the canonization of their murderers. The terrors of the Inquisition are, from the fact of their becoming more and more an object of detestation to mankind, also a precursory rehabilitation of the slain.—Sixth Seal. The triumphant Christ. Symbolic presages of the Coming of Christ, spiritual and cosmical: the great earthquake. Darkening of the sun and moon (Matthew 24:0). The sun of the spiritual life veils itself in black; the moon of the natural life becomes as red as blood. The stars of Heaven fall, i. e., our old cosmical system is dissolved. The old Heaven and the old earth-phase (mountains, islands) vanish in the process of metamorphosis. Dissolution of the old social order of things: the kings, etc., are afraid (Revelation 6:15). The Coming of the Lord to judgment; a coming to the terror of all the earthly-minded (Revelation 6:16). The great Day of Wrath (see Zeph.). Its convulsing effect. The great Day of Wrath also, however, the great Day of final Redemption. The Seventh Seal, yet to be opened, the envelope of all those Trumpets calling to conflict and repentance which, as judgments of God, complement and transrupt the course of the world.

Special.—[Revelation 6:2.] Attributes of the First Rider, or the individual traits in His appearance.—[Revelation 6:4.] Symbolic traits of the Second Rider; [Revelation 6:5] of the third; [Revelation 6:8] the fourth.—[Revelation 6:4]. War as a Divine ordinance; to him it was given to take peace from the earth. To him a great sword was given.—[Revelation 6:5.] Famine or Dearth on earth, a distressful state with which the celestial ones are acquainted (Revelation 6:6), which they modify, limit, and direct.—[Revelation 6:8.] Death as a judgment; as a judgment transformed into a blessing. The Death of Christ, the death of Death.—Hades also in the service of Christ.—[Revelation 6:9-11.] The souls of the martyrs: they are all in existence still, and visible to the eye of the Seer.—How their faithfulness to the Word of God and their witness of Jesus were imputed to them as a crime.—Their common character.—As the avengement of blood contains a germ of righteous retribution, so the judgment of God is a great and holy analogue of unholy avengement of blood.—White robes: a favorite image of John; a favorite adornment of the Church.—Wait a little while. Sadness and peace in the consolatory assurance that the sufferers for Christ’s sake constitute a great company.—The anxious question of the weak human heart as to how God the All-Ruler, in His holiness which hates evil and in His truth whereby He is the Covenant-God of the pious, can suffer His children, servants, and witnesses to be slain by His enemies—suffer them to be slain for His name’s sake, and even make them wait so long for His retribution.—The heavenly answer to this question.—[Revelation 6:17.] The Day of Wrath, in relation to its appearances in the Scriptures (or as predicted) and in the history of the world (or as presaged).—The Day of Wrath in its effects.

Starke: The Rider on the white horse is Christ; this is clearly manifest from Revelation 19:11-16. A white horse was held in particular esteem by the heathen; when the kings of Persia wished to sacrifice to the sun, they offered up a white horse to that luminary. It gave prestige to generals to ride before their armies on white horses; victors used white horses in celebrating their triumphs, and the Romans had their triumphal chariots drawn by white horses.—Red is a sign of war; hence the Persians and Lacedemonians wore red garments when they went to war.—The color of the horse in Revelation 6:5 is indicative of hunger, which makes people look black and parched (Lamentations 4:2; Lamentations 4:7-8).—A balance in his hand. Such as spices were weighed with. Indicative of want is the fact that provisions are not measured, as usual, by the bushel, but weighed by the scale (Leviticus 26:26); not the greatest want and famine are indicated, however, for where it is necessary to weigh out grain, there is, indeed, scarcity, but not yet famine.—Χλωρός, pale, sallow, betokens the pale yellow hue of dry and withering herbs and leaves of trees; thus Constantius was called Chlorus, on account of his paleness. Because Death is commonly called pale, and makes men of a clayey hue, yea, turns them to clay, this figure of a pale horse is most appropriate.—On the Fifth Seal. Quesnel: The saints pray for the second Coming of Christ just as patriarchs and righteous men of old sighed for His first Coming (Psalms 14:7; Luke 10:24).—The expressions relative to the occurrences under this Sixth Seal are taken from Isaiah 2:19-21; Isaiah 13:9-10; Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 34:2; Isaiah 34:4; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 3:15-16; Matthew 24:29; Luke 21:25.

The exposition of the Seals is placed by Starke on the Church-historical platform, and the alternative is discussed as to whether the first five Seals are already fulfilled, or whether the fulfillment of all the Seals is still future. Starke gives the grounds for (and therefore, relatively against) each hypothesis.

Graeber, Versuch einer historischen Erklärung, etc. (see p. 73): First Seal. A white, shining horse, and he that sat upon it had a bow, and there was given unto him a crown [Kranz=wreath], and he went forth conquering, and that he might (or should) conquer. This first image exhibits to our view not a pagan, but a Christian Victory—to this effect is the superscription which we must give to this picture. The Rider is himself first described, and then his work is set forth. His work is victory. He went forth conquering and to conquer, i.e., he went from one victory to another. His victory was a triumphal procession through the world. How sublime and how comfortable is it that the first thing revealed to us concerning the government and dominion of Christ on earth, is His victory. His first procedure is victory, and He goes from one victory to another, and ends with victory! According to this, all that He does is victory. He cannot do otherwise than triumph. Fortune changes not under His government, as it does in the wars of earthly kings, nor are His victories purchased at great expense, like those of earthly sovereigns, but He conquers always—absolutely. Whoso in these wars will not suffer himself to be gained over to Christ’s side as His friend, is judged as His foe. Every one is conquered—these to enjoy everlasting felicity, those to suffer the penalty of eternal damnation.—The bow (Psalms 7:12-13). He is armed, not with the sword, but with the bow, because the short sword puts the combatant in great danger of being wounded himself, whilst the bow, on the other hand, strikes from afar. (What relation does the “sword in His mouth” bear to the “bow in His hand ?” The sword is, assuredly, His word; the bow, doubtless, is the operation of His Spirit, in its awakening as well as its judging power.)

Pollock, [The Course of Time]. Der Lauf der Zeit, ein Gedicht in zehn Gesängen, übersetzt von Hey. Hamburg, Perthes, 1830. On the Sixth Seal. An attempt to depict the cosmical crisis. [”Meantime the earth gave symptoms of her end; and all the scenery above proclaimed that the great last catastrophe was near. The sun at rising staggered and fell back, etc.”] (The idea that in decaying cosmical nature extremes constantly become more sharply prominent, is suggested, but not worked out with sufficient clearness. According to Scripture, moreover, the cosmical convulsion is first perceptible in earthly life.)

Van Oosterzee, De Oorlogsbode (the messenger of war): Tijdpreek in Augustus 1870, ’s Gravenhage. On Revelation 6:1-8. The theme: De Oorlog en zijne ellenden, beschouwd in het licht der christelijke Heilsopenbaring. “Op de tweede vraag, wie hem beschikt, dezen rustverstoorder, antwoordt onze tekst veelbeteekenend, dat hem deze macht is gegeven.

On the seven Seals, and particularly the four Riders, there is a variety of special literature. See Lilienthal, Archivarius, p. 822. See Introduction, p. 74.—L. Hofacker, Ueber das weisse Pferd, etc. Tubingen, 1830.—Cunningham, Dissertation on the Seals, etc. London.

[From M. Henry: Revelation 6:16. The wrath of the Lamb. Though Christ be a Lamb, yet He can be angry, even to wrath, and the wrath of the Lamb is exceeding dreadful; for if the Redeemer, that appeases the wrath of God, Himself be our wrathful enemy, (“through our rejection of His atonement,”) where shall we have a friend to plead for us? They perish without remedy, who perish by the wrath of the Redeemer.

Revelation 6:17. As men have their day of opportunity, and their seasons of grace, so God has His day of righteous wrath; and when that day comes, the most stout-hearted sinners will not be able to stand before Him.—From Bonar: Revelation 6:10. How long? These words occur frequently in Scripture, and are spoken in various ways: 1. As from man to man; 2. As from man to God; 3. As from God to man. Passing by the first mode of their usage—comp. Job 8:2; Job 19:2; Psalms 4:2; Psalms 62:3—we come to the other two. 1. The Words as from man to God; comp. Psalms 6:3; Psalms 13:1; Psalms 35:17; Psalms 74:10; Psalms 79:5; Psalms 89:46; Psalms 90:13; Psalms 94:3-4; Habakkuk 1:2; Revelation 6:10. In these passages they are the language, (1) Of complaint. Not murmuring or fretting, but what the Psalmist calls “complaining,” an expression of weariness under burdens. (2) Submission. (3) Inquiry. (4) Expectation. 2. The words as from God to man; comp. Exodus 10:3; Exodus 16:28; Joshua 18:3; 1 Kings 18:21; Psalms 82:2; Proverbs 1:22; Proverbs 6:9; Jeremiah 4:14. Taking up these words of God as spoken to different classes, we would dwell on the following points: (1). Long-suffering. It is this that is expressed in the passage in Jeremiah. (2.) Expostulation. How long halt ye between two opinions ? (3) Entreaty. God beseeches man. (4) Earnestness. (5) Sorrow. (6) Upbraiding. (7) Warning.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 6". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.