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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - REVELATION 6
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    CHAPTER 6

    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).
    - crown--Greek, "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.
    - had--Greek, "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.
    - Hell--Hades personified.
    - unto them--Death 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 beasts--Greek, "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."

    10. How long--Greek, "Until when?" As in the parable the woman (symbol of the Church) cries day and night to the unjust judge for justice against her adversary who is always oppressing her (compare below, Re 12:10); so the elect (not only on earth, but under Christ's covering, and in His presence in Paradise) cry day and night to God, who will assuredly, in His own time, avenge His and their cause, "though He bear long with them." These passages need not be restricted to some particular martyrdoms, but have been, and are receiving, and shall receive partial fulfilments, until their last exhaustive fulfilment before Christ's coming. So as to the other events foretold here. The glory even of those in Paradise will only be complete when Christ's and the Church's foes are cast out, and the earth will become Christ's kingdom at His coming to raise the sleeping saints%%

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