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6. The Seals

1And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, Come. 2And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon had a bow; and there was given unto him a crown: and he came forth conquering, and to conquer. 3And when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, Come. 4And another horse came forth, a red horse: and to him that sat thereon it was given to take peace from the earth, and that they should slay one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. 5And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, Come. And I saw, and behold, a black horse; and he that sat thereon had a balance in his hand. 6And I heard as it were a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, A measure of wheat for a shilling, and three measures of barley for a shilling; and the oil and the wine hurt thou not. 7And when he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, Come. 8And I saw, and behold, a pale horse: and he that sat upon him, his name was Death; and Hades followed with him. And there was given unto them authority over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with famine, and with death, and by the wild beasts of the earth. 9And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10and they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11And there was given them to each one a white robe; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little time, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled their course. 12And I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the whole moon became as blood; 13and the stars of the heaven fell unto the earth, as a fig tree casteth her unripe figs when she is shaken of a great wind. 14And the heaven was removed as a scroll when it is rolled up; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15And the kings of the earth, and the princes, and the chief captains, and the rich, and the strong, and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains; 16and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 17for the great day of their wrath is come; and who is able to stand?

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12. As Re 6:4, 6-8, the sword, famine, and pestilence, answer to Mt 24:6, 7; Re 6:9, 10, as to martyrdoms, answer to Mt 24:9, 10; so this passage, Re 6:12, 17, answers to Mt 24:29, 30, "the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven; … then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming"; imagery describing the portents of the immediate coming of the day of the Lord; but 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 (Re 7:1-3).

and, lo—So A reads. But B and C omit "lo."

earthquakeGreek, "shaking" of the heavens, the sea, and the dry land; the shaking of these mutable things being the necessary preliminary to the setting up of those things which cannot be shaken. This is one of the catchwords [Wordsworth] connecting the sixth seal with the sixth trumpet (Re 11:13) and the seventh vial (Re 16:17-21); also the seventh seal (Re 8:5).

sackcloth—One kind, made of the "hair" of Cilician goats, was called "cilicium," or Cilician cloth, and was used for tents, &c. Paul, a Cilician, made such tents (Ac 18:3).

moon—A, B, C, and oldest versions read, "the whole moon"; the full moon; not merely the crescent moon.

as blood—(Joe 2:31).

13. stars … fell … as a fig tree casteth her … figs—(Isa 34:4; Na 3:12). The Church shall be then ripe for glorification, the Antichristian world for destruction, which shall be accompanied with mighty phenomena in nature. As to the stars falling to the earth, Scripture describes natural phenomena as they would appear to the spectator, not in the language of scientific accuracy; and yet, while thus adapting itself to ordinary men, it drops hints which show that it anticipates the discoveries of modern science.

14. departedGreek, "was separated from" its place; "was made to depart." Not as Alford, "parted asunder"; for, on the contrary, it was rolled together as a scroll which had been open is rolled up and laid aside. There is no "asunder one from another" here in the Greek, as in Ac 15:39, which Alford copies.

mountain … moved out of … places—(Ps 121:1, Margin; Jer 3:23; 4:24; Na 1:5). This total disruption shall be the precursor of the new earth, just as the pre-Adamic convulsions prepared it for its present occupants.

15. kings … hid themselves—Where was now the spirit of those whom the world has so greatly feared? [Bengel].

great men—statesmen and high civil officers.

rich men … chief captains—The three oldest manuscripts, A, B, C, transpose thus, "chief captains … rich men."

mighty—The three oldest manuscripts, A, B, and C read, "strong" physically (Ps 33:16).

in—literally "into"; ran into, so as to hide themselves in.


16. from the face—(Ps 34:16). On the whole verse, compare Ho 10:8; Lu 23:30.

17. Literally, "the day, the great (day)," which can only mean the last great day. After the Lord has exhausted all His ordinary judgments, the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts, and still sinners are impenitent, the great day of the Lord itself' shall come. Mt 24:6-29 plainly forms a perfect parallelism to the six seals, not only in the events, but also in the order of their occurrence: Mt 24:3, the first seal; Mt 24:6, the second seal; Mt 24:7, the third seal; Mt 24:7, end, the fourth seal; Mt 24:9, the fifth seal, the persecutions and abounding iniquity under which, as well as consequent judgments accompanied with gospel preaching to all nations as a witness, are particularly detailed, Mt 24:9-28; Mt 24:29, the sixth seal.

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