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5Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6 Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. 8When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9They sing a new song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God

saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;

10

you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,

and they will reign on earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12singing with full voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,

“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might

forever and ever!”

14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

 

The Seven Seals

 6

Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures call out, as with a voice of thunder, “Come!” 2I looked, and there was a white horse! Its rider had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering and to conquer.

3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature call out, “Come!” 4And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another; and he was given a great sword.

5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature call out, “Come!” I looked, and there was a black horse! Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand, 6and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s pay, and three quarts of barley for a day’s pay, but do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”

7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature call out, “Come!” 8I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth.

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given;


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5. one ofGreek, "one from among." The "elder" meant is, according to some (in Lyra), Matthew. With this accords the description here given of Christ, "the Lion, which is (so the Greek) of the tribe of Juda, the root of David"; the royal, David-descended, lion-aspect of Christ being that prominent in Matthew, whence the lion among the fourfold cherubim is commonly assigned to him. Gerhard in Bengel thought Jacob to be meant, being, doubtless, one of those who rose with Christ and ascended to heaven (Mt 27:52, 53). The elders in heaven round God's throne know better than John, still in the flesh, the far-reaching power of Christ.

Root of David—(Isa 11:1, 10). Not merely "a sucker come up from David's ancient root" (as Alford limits it), but also including the idea of His being Himself the root and origin of David: compare these two truths brought together, Mt 22:42-45. Hence He is called not merely Son of David, but also David. He is at once "the branch" of David, and "the root" of David, David's Son and David's Lord, the Lamb slain and therefore the Lion of Juda: about to reign over Israel, and thence over the whole earth.

prevailedGreek, "conquered": absolutely, as elsewhere (Re 3:21): gained the victory: His past victory over all the powers of darkness entitles Him now to open the book.

to open—that is, so as to open. One oldest manuscript, B, reads, "He that openeth," that is, whose office it is to open, but the weight of oldest authorities is with English Version reading, namely, A, Vulgate, Coptic, and Origen.

6. I beheld, and, lo—One oldest manuscript, A, omits "and, lo." Another, B, Cyprian, &c., support, "and, lo," but omit, "and I beheld."

in the midst of the throne—that is, not on the throne (compare Re 5:7), but in the midst of the company (Re 4:4) which was "round about the throne."

LambGreek, "arnion"; always found in Revelation exclusively, except in Joh 21:15 alone: it expresses endearment, namely, the endearing relation in which Christ now stands to us, as the consequence of His previous relation as the sacrificial Lamb. So also our relation to Him: He the precious Lamb, we His dear lambs, one with Him. Bengel thinks there is in Greek, "arnion," the idea of taking the lead of the flock. Another object of the form Greek, "arnion," the Lamb, is to put Him in the more marked contrast to Greek, "therion," the Beast. Elsewhere Greek, "amnos," is found, applying to Him as the paschal, sacrificial Lamb (Isa 53:7, Septuagint; Joh 1:29, 36; Ac 8:32; 1Pe 1:19).

as it had been slain—bearing marks of His past death wounds. He was standing, though bearing the marks of one slain. In the midst of heavenly glory Christ crucified is still the prominent object.

seven horns—that is, perfect might, "seven" symbolizing perfection; "horns," might, in contrast to the horns of the Antichristian world powers, Re 17:3; &c.; Da 7:7, 20; 8:3.

seven eyes … the seven Spirits … sent forth—So one oldest manuscript, A. But B reads, "being sent forth." As the seven lamps before the throne represent the Spirit of God immanent in the Godhead, so the seven eyes of the Lamb represent the same sevenfold Spirit profluent from the incarnate Redeemer in His world-wide energy. The Greek for "sent forth," apostellomena, or else apestalmenoi, is akin to the term "apostle," reminding us of the Spirit-impelled labors of Christ's apostles and minister throughout the world: if the present tense be read, as seems best, the idea will be that of those labors continually going on unto the end. "Eyes" symbolize His all-watchful and wise providence for His Church, and against her foes.

7. The book lay on the open hand of Him that sat on the throne for any to take who was found worthy [Alford]. The Lamb takes it from the Father in token of formal investiture into His universal and everlasting dominion as Son of man. This introductory vision thus presents before us, in summary, the consummation to which all the events in the seals, trumpets, and vials converge, namely, the setting up of Christ's kingdom visibly. Prophecy ever hurries to the grand crisis or end, and dwells on intermediate events only in their typical relation to, and representation of, the end.

8. had takenGreek, "took."

fell down before the Lamb—who shares worship and the throne with the Father.

harps—Two oldest manuscripts, A, B, Syriac and Coptic read, "a harp": a kind of guitar, played with the hand or a quill.

vials—"bowls" [Tregelles]; censers.

odoursGreek, "incense."

prayers of saints—as the angel offers their prayers (Re 8:3) with incense (compare Ps 141:2). This gives not the least sanction to Rome's dogma of our praying to saints. Though they be employed by God in some way unknown to us to present our prayers (nothing is said of their interceding for us), yet we are told to pray only to Him (Re 19:10; 22:8, 9). Their own employment is praise (whence they all have harps): ours is prayer.

9. sungGreek, "sing": it is their blessed occupation continually. The theme of redemption is ever new, ever suggesting fresh thoughts of praise, embodied in the "new song."

us to God—So manuscript B, Coptic, Vulgate, and Cyprian. But A omits "us": and Aleph reads instead, "to our God."

out of—the present election-church gathered out of the world, as distinguished from the peoples gathered to Christ as the subjects, not of an election, but of a general and world-wide conversion of all nations.

kindred … tongue … people … nation—The number four marks world-wide extension: the four quarters of the world. For "kindred," translate as Greek, "tribe." This term and "people" are usually restricted to Israel: "tongue and nation" to the Gentiles (Re 7:9; 11:9; 13:7, the oldest reading; Re 14:6). Thus there is here marked the election-Church gathered from Jews and Gentiles. In Re 10:11, for "tribes," we find among the four terms "kings"; in Re 17:15, "multitudes."

10. made us—A, B, Aleph, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic read, "them." The Hebrew construction of the third person for the first, has a graphic relation to the redeemed, and also has a more modest sound than us, priests [Bengel].

unto our God—So B and Aleph read. But A omits the clause.

kings—So B reads. But A, Aleph, Vulgate, Coptic, and Cyprian, read, "A kingdom." Aleph reads also "a priesthood" for priests. They who cast their crowns before the throne, do not call themselves kings in the sight of the great King (Re 4:10, 11); though their priestly access has such dignity that their reigning on earth cannot exceed it. So in Re 20:6 they are not called "kings" [Bengel].

we shall reign on the earth—This is a new feature added to Re 1:6. Aleph, Vulgate, and Coptic read, "They shall reign." A and B read, "They reign." Alford takes this reading and explains it of the Church EVEN NOW, in Christ her Head, reigning on the earth: "all things are being put under her feet, as under His; her kingly office and rank are asserted, even in the midst of persecution." But even if we read (I think the weightiest authority is against it), "They reign," still it is the prophetical present for the future: the seer being transported into the future when the full number of the redeemed (represented by the four living creatures) shall be complete and the visible kingdom begins. The saints do spiritually reign now; but certainly not as they shall when the prince of this world shall be bound (see on Re 20:2-6). So far from reigning on the earth now, they are "made as the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things." In Re 11:15, 18, the locality and time of the kingdom are marked. Kelly translates, "reign over the earth" (Greek, "epi tees gees"), which is justified by the Greek (Septuagint, Jud 9:8; Mt 2:22). The elders, though ruling over the earth, shall not necessarily (according to this passage) remain on the earth. But English Version is justified by Re 3:10. "The elders were meek, but the flock of the meek independently is much larger" [Bengel].

11. I beheld—the angels: who form the outer circle, while the Church, the object of redemption, forms the inner circle nearest the throne. The heavenly hosts ranged around gaze with intense love and adoration at this crowning manifestation of God's love, wisdom, and power.

ten thousand times ten thousandGreek, "myriads of myriads."

12. to receive powerGreek, "the power." The remaining six (the whole being seven, the number for perfection and completeness) are all, as well as "power," ranged under the one Greek article, to mark that they form one complete aggregate belonging to God and His co-equal, the Lamb. Compare Re 7:12, where each of all seven has the article.

riches—both spiritual and earthly.

blessing—ascribed praise: the will on the creature's part, though unaccompanied by the power, to return blessing for blessing conferred [Alford].

13. The universal chorus of creation, including the outermost circles as well as the inner (of saints and angels), winds up the doxology. The full accomplishment of this is to be when Christ takes His great power and reigns visibly.

every creature—"all His works in all places of His dominion" (Ps 103:22).

under the earth—the departed spirits in Hades.

such as are—So B and Vulgate. But A omits this.

in the seaGreek, "upon the sea": the sea animals which are regarded as being on the surface [Alford].

all that are in them—So Vulgate reads. A omits "all (things)" here (Greek, "panta"), and reads, "I heard all (Greek, "pantas") saying": implying the harmonious concert of all in the four quarters of the universe.

Blessing, &c.—Greek, "the blessing, the honor, and the glory, and the might to the ages of the ages." The fourfold ascription indicates world-wide universality.

14. said—So A, Vulgate, and Syriac read. But B and Coptic read, "(I heard) saying."

Amen—So A reads. But B reads, "the (accustomed) Amen." As in Re 4:11, the four and twenty elders asserted God's worthiness to receive the glory, as having created all things, so here the four living creatures ratify by their "Amen" the whole creation's ascription of the glory to Him.

four and twenty—omitted in the oldest manuscripts: Vulgate supports it.

him that liveth for ever and ever—omitted in all the manuscripts: inserted by commentators from Re 4:9. But there, where the thanksgiving is expressed, the words are appropriate; but here less so, as their worship is that of silent prostration. "Worshipped" (namely, God and the Lamb). So in Re 11:1, "worship" is used absolutely.

Re 6:1-17. The Opening of the First Six of the Seven Seals.

Compare Note, see on Re 5:1. Many (Mede, Fleming, Newton, &c.) hold that all these seals have been fulfilled, the sixth having been so by the overthrow of paganism and establishment of Christianity under Constantine's edict, A.D. 312. There can, however, be no doubt that at least the sixth seal is future, and is to be at the coming again of Christ. The great objection to supposing the seals to be finally and exhaustively fulfilled (though, probably, particular events may be partial fulfilments typical of the final and fullest one), is that, if so, they ought to furnish (as the destruction of Jerusalem, according to Christ's prophecy, does) a strong external evidence of Revelation. But it is clear they cannot be used for this, as hardly any two interpreters of this school are agreed on what events constitute the fulfilment of each seal. Probably not isolated facts, but classes of events preparing the way for Christ's coming kingdom, are intended by the opening of the seals. The four living creatures severally cry at the opening of the first four seals, "Come," which fact marks the division of the seven, as often occurs in this sacred number, into four and three.

1. one of the seals—The oldest manuscripts, A, B, C, Vulgate, and Syriac read, "one of the seven seals."

noise—The three oldest manuscripts read this in the nominative or dative, not the genitive, as English Version, "I heard one from among the four living creatures saying, as (it were) the voice (or, 'as with the voice') of thunder." The first living creature was like a lion (Re 4:7): his voice is in consonance. Implying the lion-like boldness with which, in the successive great revivals, the faithful have testified for Christ, and especially a little before His coming shall testify. Or, rather, their earnestness in praying for Christ's coming.

Come and see—One oldest manuscript, B, has "And see." But A, C, and Vulgate reject it. Alford rightly objects to English Version reading: "Whither was John to come? Separated as he was by the glassy sea from the throne, was he to cross it?" Contrast the form of expression, Re 10:8. It is much more likely to be the cry of the redeemed to the Redeemer, "Come" and deliver the groaning creature from the bondage of corruption. Thus, Re 6:2 is an answer to the cry, went (literally, "came") forth corresponding to "Come." "Come," says Grotius, is the living creature's address to John, calling his earnest attention. But it seems hard to see how "Come" by itself can mean this. Compare the only other places in Revelation where it is used, Re 4:1; 22:17. If the four living creatures represent the four Gospels, the "Come" will be their invitation to everyone (for it is not written that they addressed John) to accept Christ's salvation while there is time, as the opening of the seals marks a progressive step towards the end (compare Re 22:17). Judgments are foretold as accompanying the preaching of the Gospel as a witness to all nations (Re 14:6-11; Mt 24:6-14). Thus the invitation, "Come," here, is aptly parallel to Mt 24:14. The opening of the first four seals is followed by judgments preparatory for His coming. At the opening of the fifth seal, the martyrs above express the same (Re 6:9, 10; compare Zec 1:10). At the opening of the sixth seal, the Lord's coming is ushered in with terrors to the ungodly. At the seventh, the consummation is fully attained (Re 11:15).

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

bow—(Ps 45:4, 5).

crownGreek, "stephanos," the garland or wreath of a conqueror, which is also implied by His white horse, white being the emblem of victory. In Re 19:11, 12 the last step in His victorious progress is represented; accordingly there He wears many diadems (Greek, "diademata"; not merely Greek, "stephanoi," "crowns" or "wreaths"), and is personally attended by the hosts of heaven. Compare Zec 1:7-17; 6:1-8; especially Re 6:10 below, with Zec 1:12; also compare the colors of the four horses.

and to conquer—that is, so as 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 the work of conversion and conviction, is primarily meant, though doubtless, secondarily, the elect will be gathered out through His word and His judgments.

3. and see—omitted in the three oldest manuscripts, A, B, C, and Vulgate.

4. red—the color of blood. The color of the horse in each case answers to the mission of the rider. Compare Mt 10:24-36, "Think not I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword." The white horse of Christ's bloodless victories is soon followed, through man's perversion of the Gospel, by the red horse of bloodshed; but 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—The Greek is indicative future, "that they may, as they also shall, kill one another."

5. Come and see—The two oldest manuscripts, A, C, and Vulgate omit "and see." B retains the words.

black—implying sadness and want.

hadGreek, "having."

a pair of balances—the symbol of scarcity of provisions, the bread being doled out by weight.

6. a voice—Two oldest manuscripts, A, C, read, "as it were a voice." B reads as English Version. The voice is heard "in the midst of the four living creatures" (as Jehovah in the Shekinah-cloud manifested His presence between the cherubim); because it is only for the sake of, and in connection with, His redeemed, that God mitigates His judgments on the earth.

A measure—"A chœnix." While making food scarce, do not make it so much so that a chœnix (about a day's provision of wheat, variously estimated at two or three pints) shall not be obtainable "for a penny" (denarius, eight and a half pence of our money, probably the day's wages of a laborer). Famine generally follows the sword. Ordinarily, from sixteen to twenty measures were given for a denarius. The sword, famine, noisome beasts, and the pestilence, are God's four judgments on the earth. A spiritual famine, too, may be included in the judgment. The "Come," in the case of this third seal, is said by the third of the four living creatures, whose likeness is a man indicative of sympathy and human compassion for the sufferers. God in it tempers judgment with mercy. Compare Mt 24:7, which indicates the very calamities foretold in these seals, nation rising against nation (the sword), famines, pestilences (Re 6:8), and earthquakes (Re 6:12).

three measures of barley for a penny—the cheaper and less nutritious grain, bought by the laborer who could not buy enough wheat for his family with his day's wages, a denarius, and, therefore, buys barley.

see thou hurt not the oil, and the wine—the luxuries of life, rather than necessaries; the oil and wine were to be spared for the refreshment of the sufferers.

7. and see—supported by B; omitted by A, C, and Vulgate. The fourth living creature, who was "like a flying eagle," introduces this seal; implying high-soaring intelligence, and judgment descending from on high fatally on the ungodly, as the king of birds on his prey.

8. pale—"livid" [Alford].

Death—personified.

HellHades personified.

unto themDeath and Hades. So A, C read. But B and Vulgate read, "to him."

fourth part of the earth—answering to the first four seals; his portion as one of the four, being a fourth part.

death—pestilence; compare Eze 14:21 with the four judgments here, the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts; the famine the consequence of the sword; pestilence, that of famine; and beasts multiplying by the consequent depopulation.

with the beastsGreek, "by"; more 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 period of Church history to the coming of Christ, before which last great and terrible day of the Lord they shall reach highest aggravation. The first seal is the summary, Christ going forth conquering till all enemies are subdued under Him, with a view to which the judgments subsequently specified accompany the preaching of the Gospel for a witness to all nations.

9. The three last seals relate to the invisible, as the first four to the visible world; the fifth, to the martyrs who have died as believers; the sixth, to those who have died, or who shall be found at Christ's coming, unbelievers, namely, "the kings … great men … bondman … freeman"; 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 seals, are very doubtful.

I saw—in spirit. For souls are not naturally visible.

under the altar—As the blood of sacrificial victims slain on the altar was poured at the bottom of the altar, so the souls of those sacrificed for Christ's testimony are symbolically represented as under the altar, in heaven; for the life or animal soul is in the blood, and blood is often represented as crying for vengeance (Ge 4:10). The altar in heaven, antitypical to the altar of sacrifice, is Christ crucified. As it is the altar that sanctifies the gift, so it is Christ alone who 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 eager expectancy until He shall come to raise the sleeping dead. Compare the language of 2 Maccabees 7:36 as indicating Jewish opinion on the subject. Our brethren who have now suffered a short pain are dead under (Greek) God's covenant of everlasting life.

testimony which they held—that is, which they bore, as committed to them to bear. Compare Re 12:17, "Have (same Greek as here) the testimony of Jesus."




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