Verse 1. And after these things - What follows is a preparation for the seventh seal, which is the weightiest of all. It is connected with the sixth by the particle and; whereas what is added, verse 9, stands free and unconnected. I saw four angels - Probably evil ones. They have their employ with the four first trumpets, as have other evil angels with the three last; namely, the angel of the abyss, the four bound in the Euphrates, and Satan himself. These four angels would willingly have brought on all the calamities that follow without delay. But they were restrained till the servants of God were sealed, and till the seven angels were ready to sound: even as the angel of the abyss was not let loose, nor the angels in the Euphrates unbound, neither Satan cast to the earth, till the fifth, sixth, and seventh angels severally sounded. Standing on the four corners of the earth - East, west, south, north. In this order proceed the four first trumpets. Holding the four winds - Which else might have softened the fiery heat, under the first, second, and third trumpet. That the wind should not blow upon the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree - It seems, that these expressions betoken the several quarters of the world; that the earth signifies that to the east of Patmos, Asia, which was nearest to St. John, and where the trumpet of the first angel had its accomplishment. Europe swims in the sea over against this; and is accordingly termed by the prophets, "the islands." The third part, Afric, seems to be meant, chap. viii, 7, 8, 10, by "the streams of water," or "the trees," which grow plentifully by them.
Verse 2. And I saw another (a good) angel ascending from the east - The plagues begin in the east; so does the sealing. Having the seal of the only living and true God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels - Who were hasting to execute their charge. To whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea - First, and afterwards "the trees."
Verse 3. Hurt not the earth, till we - Other angels were joined in commission with him. Have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads - Secured the servants of God of the twelve tribes from the impending calamities; whereby they shall be as clearly distinguished from the rest, as if they were visibly marked on their foreheads.
Verse 4. Of the children of Israel - To these will afterwards be joined a multitude out of all nations. But it may be observed, this is not the number of all the Israelites who are saved from Abraham or Moses to the end of all things; but only of those who were secured from the plagues which were then ready to fall on the earth. It seems as if this book had, in many places, a special view to the people of Israel.
Verse 5. Judah is mentioned first, in respect of the kingdom, and of the Messiah sprung therefrom.
Verse 7. After the Levitical ceremonies were abolished, Levi was again on a level with his brethren.
8. Of the tribe of Joseph - Or Ephraim; perhaps not mentioned by name, as having been, with Daniel, the most idolatrous of all the tribes. It is farther observable of Daniel, that it was very early reduced to a single family; which family itself seems to have been cut off in war, before the time of Ezra; for in the Chronicles, where the posterity of the patriarchs is recited, Dan. is wholly omitted.
Verse 9. A great multitude - Of those who had happily finished their course. Such multitudes are afterwards described, and still higher degrees of glory which they attain after a sharp fight and magnificent victory, chap. xiv, 1; xv, 2; xix, 1; xx, 4. There is an inconceivable variety in the degrees of reward in the other world. Let not any slothful one say, "If I get to heaven at all, I will be content:" such an one may let heaven go altogether. In worldly things, men are ambitious to get as high as they can. Christians have a far more noble ambition. The difference between the very highest and the lowest state in the world is nothing to the smallest difference between the degrees of glory. But who has time to think of this? Who is at all concerned about it? Standing before the throne - In the full vision of God. And palms in their hands - Tokens of joy and victory.
Verse 10. Salvation to our God - Who hath saved us from all evil into all the happiness of heaven. The salvation for which they praise God is described, verse 15; that for which they praise the Lamb, verse 14; and both, in the sixteenth and seventeenth verses. ver. 16, 17
Verse 11. And all the angels stood - In waiting. Round about the throne, and the elders and the four living creatures - That is, the living creatures, next the throne; the elders, round these; and the angels, round them both. And they fell on their faces - So do the elders, once only, chap. xi, 16. The heavenly ceremonial has its fixed order and measure.
Verse 12. Amen - With this word all the angels confirm the words of the "great multitude;" but they likewise carry the praise much higher. The blessing, and the glory, and the wisdom, and the thanksgiving, and the honour, and the power, and the strength, be unto our God for ever and ever - Before the Lamb began to open the seven seals, a sevenfold hymn of praise was brought him by many angels, chap. v, 12. Now he is upon opening the last seal, and the seven angels are going to receive seven trumpets, in order to make the kingdoms of the world subject to God. All the angels give sevenfold praise to God.
Verse 13. And one of the elders - What stands, verses 13-17, ver. 13-17 might have immediately followed the tenth verse; but that the praise of the angels, which was at the same time with that of the "great multitude," came in between. Answered - He answered St. John's desire to know, not any words that he spoke.
Verse 14. My Lord - Or, my master; a common term of respect. So Zechariah, likewise, bespeaks the angel, Zech. i, 9; iv, 4; vi, 4. Thou knowest - That is, I know not; but thou dost. These are they - Not martyrs; for these are not such a multitude as no man can number. But as all the angels appear here, so do all the souls of the righteous who had lived from the beginning of the world. Who come - He does not say, who did come; but, who come now also: to whom, likewise, pertain all who will come hereafter. Out of great affliction - Of various kinds, wisely and graciously allotted by God to all his children. And have washed their robes - From all guilt. And made them white - In all holiness. By the blood of the Lamb - Which not only cleanses, but adorns us also.
Verse 15. Therefore - Because they came out of great affliction, and have washed their robes in his blood. Are they before the throne - It seems, even nearer than the angels. And serve him day and night - Speaking after the manner of men; that is, continually. In his temple - Which is in heaven. And he shall have his tentover them - Shall spread his glory over them as a covering.
Verse 16. Neither shall the sunlight on them - For God is there their sun. Nor any painful heat, or inclemency of seasons.
Verse 17. For the Lamb will feed them - With eternal peace and joy; so that they shall hunger no more. And will lead them to livingfountains of water - The comforts of the Holy Ghost; so that they shall thirst no more. Neither shall they suffer or grieve any more; for God "will wipe away all tears from their eyes."