Revelation of John 6

CHAPTER VI.

What followed on the opening of the seven seals. The opening

of the first seal; the white horse, 1, 2.

The opening of the second seal; the red horse, 3, 4.

The opening of the third seal; the black horse and the famine,

5, 6.

The opening of the fourth seal; the pale horse, 7, 8.

The opening of the fifth seal; the souls of men under the

altar, 9-11.

The opening of the sixth seal; the earthquake, the darkening

of the sun and moon, and falling of the stars, 12-14.

The terrible consternation of the kings and great men of the

earth, 15-17.

NOTES ON CHAP. VI.

Verse 1. When the Lamb opened one of the seals] It is worthy of

remark that the opening of the seals is not merely a declaration

of what God will do, but is the exhibition of a purpose then

accomplished; for whenever the seal is opened, the sentence

appears to be executed. It is supposed that, from Re 6:1-11:19,

the calamities which should fall on the enemies of Christianity,

and particularly the Jews, are pointed out under various images,

as well as the preservation of the Christians under those

calamities.

One of the four beasts] Probably that with the face of a lion.

See Re 4:7.

Come and see.] Attend to what is about to be exhibited. It is

very likely that all was exhibited before his eyes as in a scene,

and he saw every act represented which was to take place, and all

the persons and things which were to be the chief actors.

Verse 2. A white horse] Supposed to represent the Gospel system,

and pointing out its excellence, swiftness, and purity.

He that sat on him] Supposed to represent Jesus Christ.

A bow] The preaching of the Gospel, darting conviction into

the hearts of sinners.

A crown] The emblem of the kingdom which Christ is to establish

on earth.

Conquering, and to conquer.] Overcoming and confounding the Jews

first, and then the Gentiles; spreading more and more the doctrine

and influence of the cross over the face of the earth.

Verse 3. The second beast] That which had the face of an ox.

Verse 4. Another horse-red] The emblem of war; perhaps also of

severe persecution, and the martyrdom of the saints.

Him that sat thereon] Same say, Christ; others, Vespasian;

others, the Roman armies; others, Artabanus, king of the

Parthians, &c., &c.

Take peace from the earth] To deprive Judea of all tranquillity.

They should kill one another] This was literally the case with

the Jews, while besieged by the Romans.

A great sword.] Great influence and success, producing terrible

carnage.

Verse 5. The third beast] That which had the face of a man.

A black horse] The emblem of famine. Some think that which took

place under Claudius. See Mt 24:7; the same which was predicted

by Agabus, Ac 11:28.

A pair of balances] To show that the scarcity would be such,

that every person must be put under an allowance.

Verse 6. A measure of wheat for a penny] The chaenix here

mentioned was a measure of dry things; and although the capacity

is not exactly known, yet it is generally agreed that it contained

as much as one man could consume in a day; and a penny, the Roman

denarius, was the ordinary pay of a labourer. So it appears that

in this scarcity each might be able to obtain a bare subsistence

by his daily labour; but a man could not, in such cases, provide

for a family.

Three measures of barley] This seems to have been the proportion

of value between the wheat and the barley. Barley was allowed to

afford a poor aliment, and was given to the Roman soldiers instead

of wheat, by way of punishment.

Hurt not the oil and the wine.] Be sparing of these: use them

not as delicacies, but for necessity; because neither the vines

nor the olives will be productive.

Verse 7. The fourth beast] That which had the face of an eagle.

Verse 8. A pale horse] The symbol of death. Pallida mors, pale

death, was a very usual poetic epithet; of this symbol there can

be no doubt, because it is immediately said, His name that sat on

him was DEATH.

And hell followed with him] The grave, or state of the dead,

received the slain. This is a very elegant prosopopaeia, or

personification.

Over the fourth part of the earth] One fourth of mankind was to

feel the desolating effects of this seal.

To kill with sword] WAR; with hunger-FAMINE; with

death-PESTILENCE; and with the beasts of the earth-lions,

tigers, hyaenas, &c., which would multiply in consequence of the

devastations occasioned by war, famine, and pestilence.

Verse 9. The fifth seal] There is no animal nor any other being

to introduce this seal, nor does there appear to be any new event

predicted; but the whole is intended to comfort the followers of

God under their persecutions, and to encourage them to bear up

under their distresses.

I saw under the altar] A symbolical vision was exhibited, in

which he saw an altar; and under it the souls of those who had

been slain for the word of God-martyred for their attachment to

Christianity, are represented as being newly slain as victims to

idolatry and superstition. The altar is upon earth, not in heaven.

Verse 10. And they cried with a loud voice] That is, their

blood, like that of Abel, cried for vengeance; for we are not

to suppose that there was any thing like a vindictive spirit in

those happy and holy souls who had shed their blood for the

testimony of Jesus. We sometimes say Blood cries for blood; that

is, in the order of Divine justice, every murderer, and every

murdering persecutor, shall be punished.

O Lord] οδεσποτης Sovereign Lord, supreme Ruler; one having

and exercising unlimited and uncontrolled authority.

Holy] In thy own nature, hating iniquity;

And true] In all thy promises and threatenings;

Dost thou not judge] The persecutors;

And avenge our blood] Inflict signal punishment;

On them that dwell on the earth?] Probably meaning the

persecuting Jews; they dwelt επιτηςγης, upon that land, a form

of speech by which Judea is often signified in the New Testament.

Verse 11. White robes] The emblems of purity, innocence, and

triumph.

They should rest yet for a little season] This is a declaration

that, when the cup of the iniquity of the Jews should be full,

they should then be punished in a mass. They were determined to

proceed farther, and God permits them so to do; reserving the

fulness of their punishment till they had filled up the measure

of their iniquity. If this book was written before the destruction

of Jerusalem, as is most likely, then this destruction is that

which was to fall upon the Jews; and the little time or season

was that which elapsed between their martyrdom, or the date of

this book, and the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans,

under Vespasian and his son Titus, about A.D. 70. What follows may

refer to the destruction of the heathen Roman empire.

Verse 12. The sixth seal] This seal also is opened and

introduced by Jesus Christ alone.

A great earthquake] A most stupendous change in the civil and

religious constitution of the world. If it refer to Constantine

the Great, the change that was made by his conversion to

Christianity might be very properly represented under the emblem

of an earthquake, and the other symbols mentioned in this and the

following verses.

The sun-the ancient pagan government of the Roman empire, was

totally darkened; and, like a black hair sackcloth, was degraded

and humbled to the dust.

The moon-the ecclesiastical state of the same empire, became as

blood-was totally ruined, their sacred rites abrogated, their

priests and religious institutions desecrated, their altars cast

down, their temples destroyed, or turned into places for Christian

worship.

Verse 13. The stars of heaven] The gods and goddesses,

demi-gods, and deified heroes, of their poetical and mythological

heaven, were prostrated indiscriminately, and lay as useless as

the figs or fruit of a tree shaken down before ripe by a

tempestuous wind.

Verse 14. And the heaven departed as a scroll] The whole system

of pagan and idolatrous worship, with all its spiritual, secular,

and superstitious influence, was blasted, shrivelled up, and

rendered null and void, as a parchment scroll when exposed to the

action of a strong fire.

And every mountain] All the props, supports, and dependencies of

the empire, whether regal allies, tributary kings, dependent

colonies, or mercenary troops, were all moved out of their places,

so as to stand no longer in the same relation to that empire, and

its worship, support, and maintenance, as they formerly did.

And island] The heathen temples, with their precincts and

enclosures, cut off from the common people, and into which none

could come but the privileged, may be here represented by islands,

for the same reasons.

Verse 15. The kings of the earth, &c.] All the secular powers

who had endeavoured to support the pagan worship by authority,

influence, riches, political wisdom, and military skill; with

every bondman-all slaves, who were in life and limb addicted to

their masters or owners.

And every freeman] Those who had been manumitted, commonly

called freedmen, and who were attached, through gratitude, to the

families of their liberators. All hid themselves-were astonished

at the total overthrow of the heathen empire, and the revolution

which had then taken place.

Verse 16. Said to the mountains and rocks] Expressions which

denote the strongest perturbation and alarm. They preferred any

kind of death to that which they apprehended from this most awful

revolution.

From the face of him that sitteth on the throne] They now saw

that all these terrible judgments came from the Almighty; and that

Christ, the author of Christianity, was now judging, condemning,

and destroying them for their cruel persecutions of his followers.

Verse 17. For the great day of his wrath] The decisive and

manifest time in which he will execute judgment on the oppressors

of his people.

Who shall be able to stand?] No might can prevail against the

might of God. All these things may literally apply to the final

destruction of Jerusalem, and to the revolution which took place

in the Roman empire under Constantine the Great. Some apply them

to the day of judgment; but they do not seem to have that awful

event in view. These two events were the greatest that have ever

taken place in the world, from the flood to the eighteenth century

of the Christian era; and may well justify the strong figurative

language used above.

Through I do not pretend to say that my remarks on this chapter

point out its true signification, yet I find others have applied

it in the same way. Dr. Dodd observes that the fall of Babylon,

Idumea, Judah, Egypt, and Jerusalem, has been described by the

prophets in language equally pompous, figurative, and strong. See

Isa 13:10; 34:4, concerning

Babylon and Idumea; Jer 4:23, 24, concerning

Judah; Eze 32:7, concerning

Egypt; Joe 2:10, 31, concerning

Jerusalem; and our Lord himself, Mt 24:29, concerning the same

city. "Now," says he, "it is certain that the fall of any of these

cities or kingdoms was not of greater concern or consequence to

the world, nor more deserving to be described in pompous figures,

than the fall of the pagan Roman empire, when the great lights of

the heathen world, the sun, moon, and stars, the powers civil and

ecclesiastical, were all eclipsed and obscured, the heathen

emperors and Caesars were slain, the heathen priests and augurs

were extirpated, the heathen officers and magistrates were

removed, the temples were demolished, and their revenues were

devoted to better uses. It is customary with the prophets, after

they have described a thing in the most symbolical and figurative

manner, to represent the same again in plainer language; and the

same method is observed here, Re 6:15-17:

And the kings of the earth, &c. That is, Maximin, Galerius,

Maxentius, Licinius, &c., with all their adherents and followers,

were so routed and dispersed that they hid themselves in dens,

&c.; expressions used to denote the utmost terror and confusion.

This is, therefore, a triumph of Christ over his heathen enemies,

and a triumph after a severe persecution; so that the time and all

the circumstances, as well as the series and order of the

prophecy, agree perfectly with this interpretation. Galerius,

Maximin, and Licinius, made even a public confession of their

guilt, recalled their decrees and edicts against the Christians,

and acknowledged the just judgments of God and of Christ in their

own destruction." See Newton, Lowman, &c., and Dr. Dodd on this

chapter, with the works of several more recent authors.

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