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11They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed.

12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and there came a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.

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11. white robes—The three oldest manuscripts, A, B, C, read, "A white robe was given."

every one of—One oldest manuscript, B, omits this. A and C read, "unto them, unto each," that is, unto them severally. Though their joint cry for the riddance of the earth from the ungodly is not yet granted, it is intimated that it will be so in due time; meanwhile, individually they receive the white robe, indicative of light, joy, and triumphant victory over their foes; even as the Captain of their salvation goes forth on a white horse conquering and to conquer; also of purity and sanctity through Christ. Maimonides says that the Jews used to array priests, when approved of, in white robes; thus the sense is, they are admitted among the blessed ones, who, as spotless priests, minister unto God and the Lamb.

should—So C reads. But A and B, "shall rest."

a little season—One oldest manuscript, B, omits "little." A and C support it. Even if it be omitted, is it to be inferred that the "season" is short as compared with eternity? Bengel fancifully made a season (Greek, "chronus," the word here used) to be one thousand one hundred and eleven one-ninth years, and a time (Re 12:12, 14, Greek, "kairos") to be a fifth of a season, that is, two hundred and twenty-two two-ninths years. The only distinction in the Greek is, a season (Greek, "chronus") is a sort of aggregate of times. Greek, "kairos," a specific time, and so of short duration. As to their rest, compare Re 14:13 (the same Greek, "anapauomai"); Isa 57:2; Da 12:13.

until their … brethren … be fulfilled—in number. Until their full number shall have been completed. The number of the elect is definitely fixed: perhaps to fill up that of the fallen angels. But this is mere conjecture. The full blessedness and glory of all the saints shall be simultaneous. The earlier shall not anticipate the later saints. A and C read, "shall have been accomplished"; B and Aleph read, "shall have accomplished (their course)."

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.