The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Revelation 6

Rev 6:1

Rev 6: Seals 1-6. Triple Fulfilment: (a) First Century; (b) Continuous-Historic (as in "Eureka"); (c) Last Days:

First century
Continuous-historic (as in "Eureka")
Last days
1. Conquest
Christianity's victory over Judaism
Gospel's conquest of Paganism: 96-180
A period of peace; conversion of Israel (in part) immediately before the Lord's return
2. War
The Roman War: 67-70
Civil war and much bloodshed: 180-211
A time of trouble in Israel, such as never was
3. Famine
The Roman War: 67-70
Great distress in Empire through famine: 220-235
A time of trouble in Israel, such as never was
4. Pestilence
The Roman War: 67-70
War and pestilence throughout the Empire: 235-265
) A time of trouble in Israel, such as never was
5. Persecution
Bitter persecution of Christians both in Judea and in the Roman Empire
Diocletian's persecution of Christians: 303-313
Persecution of Jewish(and Gentile) saints just before the return of Christ
6. Destruction
Overthrow of Jerusalem
Constantine emperor; the forces of the Empire now turned in judgment against Paganism: 313-324
The wrath of the Lamb against all human pride and opposition

"Here is the reason John's gospel has no (Olivet) prophecy -- as do the Synoptics. The book of Revelation (and esp Rev 6) is equivalent!" (WRev 77).

Comparison between Revelation Seals and Mt Olivet prophecy:

Revelation Seals
Mount Olivet Prophecy
Rev 6:2: Conquest.
Mat 24:14 (?).
Rev 6:4: War.
Mat 24:6,7: "wars and rumours of wars."
Rev 6:5,6: Famine.
Mat 24:7. "Famines".
Rev 6:8 (RV): Death by the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts.
Mat 24:7: "Pestilence."
Rev 6:11: Persecution. to be afflicted" (RV: "unto tribulation").
Mat 24:9,10: "They shall deliver you up."
Rev 6:11: "A little season."
Mat 24:9: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days."
Rev 6:12: Signs in the sun, moon and stars.
Mat 24:29: Signs in the sun, moon and stars.
Rev 6:13: The fig tree, unripe figs, summer nigh.
Mat 24:32: The fig tree, his branch tender.
Rev 6:14: "Heaven departed as a scroll."
Mat 24:35: "Heaven and earth shall pass away. "
Rev 6:16: "And they shall say to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us."
Luk 23:30: "Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us."
Rev 6:16,17: The wrath of the Lamb... the great day of his wrath.
Luk 21:23: "Wrath upon this people."
Rev 6:17: "Who shall be able to stand?"
Luk 21:36: "Watch... and pray... that ye may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
Rev 7:1: Four angels, four winds of the earth.
Mat 24:31: "He shall send his angels to earth. gather his elect from the four winds."
Rev 7:3: Servants of God sealed in their foreheads.
Luk 21:28: "Lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh."
Rev 7:9,10: "Great multitudes with palms in their hands... Salvation to our God."
Luk 21:9,10: "Great multitudes... branches from the trees (palms, John 12:13)... Hosanna (save now) in the highest."
Rev 7:9: "Stood before the throne and before the Lamb."
Luk 21:36: "Worthy to escape... and to stand before the Son of Man."
Rev 7:14: "The great tribulation."
Mat 24:29: "The tribulation of those days" (and RV, v 9).
Rev 7:16: "They hunger and thirst no more."
Mat 25:37,40: "Hungry... thirsty... the least of these my brethren."
Rev 7:17: "The Lamb in the midst of the throne" (cp v 10).
Mat 25:31: "Then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory."
Rev 8:3: The prayers of the saints.
Luk 21:36: "Pray always that ye may be accounted worthy" (and Luk 18:7).
Rev 8:13, RV: An eagle in mid-heaven.
Mat 24:28: "There will the eagles be gathered together."


"The Seals... are not necessarily to be read as having successive fulfilment. This is in fact suggested by the different order of the same four horses in Zec 6. So far as the first (and third) fulfilments of Rev are concerned, there can be little doubt that the Seals are to be regarded as being fulfilled together, particularly in the period AD 67-70. It is felt necessary to stress this point because the thinking of many on this middle section of Revelation has tended to be dominated by the idea of successive visions with chronologically successive fulfilments. Whilst this approach may yield good results for the CH interpretation the point needs to be emphasized that such a view of the Rev visions is not required by any explicit statement of the prophecy, nor is the idea necessarily implicit in it. The Seals are given in order, one to seven, because from the very nature of the case it would have been impossible to describe them all simultaneously.

"In Zec 12-14 the phrase 'in that day' is repeated fifteen times. It requires only a cursory consideration of these prophecies to realize that this is the prophet's way of introducing a series of 'snapshots' of dramatic happenings, which will take place at the time of the end. But the expositor has yet to be found who would insist that the various segments of these three chapters will find their fulfilment in the chronological order in which they appear. Similarly in Rev there should be no attempt to force the interpretation into the straitjacket of chronological development" (WRev).

First century: Gospel's "conquest" of Judaism (WRev 74): "Bow" (v 2) of Judah (ie, Christ) in Zech 10:4.

"There can be no question that the Gospel's biggest enemy in the very earliest days was not Rome but Jerusalem. The fanatical hatred of entrenched Judaism was a constant source of anxiety and pain to Paul and his fellow apostles. It ranks as the main problem in Acts, Rom, Gal, Eph, Col, 1Th, 1Ti and also John's Gospel. To this list may be added several of the Letters to the Churches in Rev.

"One of the major results of the destruction of Jerusalem was that Judaism ceased to be the powerful obstacle to a successful preaching of the Gospel, which it had been thus far. 'Conquering, and to conquer' -- when the Jewish War began, much headway had already been made by the Truth against recalcitrant Jewry; after the war was concluded, opposition dwindled away, for the chief stronghold -- the temple -- was gone overnight. 'If ye have faith and doubt not ... ye shall say to this mountain (Mount Zion and its temple), Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and it shall be done' (Mat 21:21). It was!

"There can be no objection to interpreting the rider on the white horse as being Christ himself, for what was done by his men was really being done by him; compare: 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?' See also Mat 10:40.

"This suggestion, that the First Seal symbolizes the Gospel's conquest of Judaism, is in harmony with the exposition of the next three Seals... since -- like them -- it constituted a divine judgement on Jewry" (WRev).

(CH) First seal (vv 1,2): Domitian, the persecutor of the ecclesia, was assassinated in the year AD 96 and the way cleared for a change in human affairs. Progress of Christianity (96-183 AD): Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, 2 Antonines, first 3 yrs of Commodus. Peace and prosperity in Rome, but much persecution for Christians (ApEp).

Rev 6:2

Vv 2,3: The rider on the white horse "bent on conquest" -- the victorious Roman march towards Jerusalem in Spring 67. The rider takes peace from the earth (cp Mat 24:6,7) -- the disruption of the pax Romana. "Caesar has obtained for us a profound peace. There are neither wars nor battles" (Epictetus, Discourses 3:13:9).

BOW: "In Hebrew the word for 'law' and the word for 'teacher' are both derived from the verb, which means, 'to fire arrows.' Hence, the bow would appear to the Hebrew mind as a fit symbol for the teacher or instructor. This idea is illustrated by the following: 'They bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words' (Psa 64:3); 'he bade them teach the children of Judah the song of the bow' (2Sa 1:18)" (WRev).

CROWN: The symbol of victory in the Olympic games. A circle of evergreen, offered as a prize of honor and glory to the victor in the public games celebrated in the service of the gods.

Rev 6:3

Vv 3,4: Second seal: "The tumult, rapine and savagery, which filled Palestine from end to end from AD 67 to 70, were more than adequate fulfilment of the divine judgement foretold here. It has been well observed that the phrase: 'that they should slay one another' carries with it a probable implication of civil war -- every man against his fellow. And so in truth it was during those years of madness and misery, as Josephus abundantly testifies. The Jews suffered more from the hands of their own countrymen than they did from the Romans. Vespasian's words when the Roman armies had begun their campaign were: 'If we stay a while we shall have fewer enemies, because they (the Jews) will be consumed in this sedition.' This was said after his commanders had themselves agreed 'the providence of God is on our side, by setting our enemies at variance against one another' (Josephus 4:6:2)" (WRev).

(CH) Second seal: "Commodus rapidly degenerated in character after an attempt was made upon his life in 183. The 'white' of the Roman horse soon became sullied and reddened by excess and bloodshed. Gibbon writes of the reign of Commodus: 'Distinction of every kind soon became criminal. Virtue implied a dangerous superiority of merit; the friendship of the father (Marcus Aurelius) ensured the aversion of the son. The execution of a considerable senator was attended with the death of all who might lament or revenge his fate; and when Commodus had once tasted human blood. He became incapable of pity or remorse.'

"In 193 he was strangled to death, and was succeeded by the virtuous Pertinax, of whom Gibbon records: 'He found a way of condemning his predecessor's memory, by the contrast of his own virtues with the vices of Commodus.' He endeavoured to repair the damage caused by his predecessor, and to restore the peace of the First Seal.

"In this work he was prevented by the Praetorian Guard, who, fearing the suppression of their privileges, power and vices, assassinated the worthy prince. The Guard was the disturbing element of the Empire. Gibbon declares: 'Their licentious fury was the first symptom and cause of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire... Elated by success enervated by luxury, and raised above the level of the subjects, they soon became oppressive to the country, and impatient of just subordination.'

"Again, 'The Praetorian Guard had violated the sanctity of the throne by the atrocious murder of Pertinax; they dishonoured the majesty of it by their subsequent conduct.' They put the Empire up for auction, knocking it down to the highest bidder, one Didius Julianus, a vain old senator, who gained it by paying £200 to each of the Guards.

"Thus, not only was 'peace taken from the earth', but 'they began to kill one another' (Rev 6:4). The Guards had insulted the Empire by daring to offer it up for auction, and this aroused the anger of three Generals commanding various divisions of the Roman Legions: Clodious Albinus, Pescennius Niger, and Septimus Severus. Each marched on Rome to defend its honour.

"The first to reach the capital was Severus, and with his legions, trained in war, he prepared to attack the Praetorian Guard. The latter (the Praetorian Guard) were soldiers in name only, and were not prepared to contest the issue, nor defend the person of Julianus in the face of the skilled determined warriors of Severus.

"To appease the latter (Severus and his warriors) they beheaded Julianus, and pronounced Severus Emperor. Severus subsequently disbanded the Praetorian Guard, replacing it with his own legions.

"Meanwhile, the two other Generals were converging on Rome from different directions. Severus met them each in battle, and successfully disposed of them both. Whilst he was a ruthless and inveterate enemy to his foes, he was a just and firm ruler, and under his control, the last eight years of his reign brought greater peace to the Empire.

"The sufferings of Rome were Divine retribution for the persecutions that had been levelled against the Christians duribg the period of the first Seal. Nobody can harm the people of God, or oppose His Truth with impunity, for precious in the eyes of Yahweh is the death of His saints (Psa 116:15). The distress heaped on Rome during the course of this Seal, avenged the distress that Rome had heaped upon the Christians during the period of the first Seal" (ApEp).

Rev 6:4

LARGE SWORD: "The 'machaira' or dagger. 'A large knife or dirk; a short sword or dagger; but still rather a weapon' (LS). This assassin's sword of dagger symbolized the times; a period of bloodshed, civil wars, wholesale assassinations and murders. The Praetorian Guards who were responsible for the real dignity of the Empire, and who had been stationed near the capital by order of Tiberius, abused the privileges that had been granted them, and made ready use of the assassin's weapon" (ApEp).

However, "megalo machaira" -- not necessarily an assassin's weapon (NRev 48).

Rev 6:5

Vv 5,6: "The black horse of the Third Seal signifies Famine. So also does 'the pair of balances (weigh scales) in his hand.' The voice accompanying the rider's appearance reinforces this impression: 'A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny.' The penny here is, of course, the Roman denarius (whence the d in £.s.d), which in those times carried a much higher value than it does today. A comparable sum in these days would be £3 or more (Mat 20:2).

"The cry indicates famine prices for food, at something like ten to fifteen times the normal prices for those days. Once again the finest commentary on these words is the narrative of Josephus. When a vast number of Jews was shut up by Vespasian's armies inside Jerusalem, there were no fears of shortage of food, such were the stocks stored away in the city But the rival factions of Eleazar the son of the high priest and John of Gischala and Simon the captain of the Idumeans were so bitter in their mutual enmities that they burnt one another's stocks of grain The ensuing famine was one of the horrors of world history. Josephus, although himself a hard-bitten campaigner, accustomed to all kinds of revolting sights and experience, was obviously much distraught by the evidence which came to him in the Roman camp outside Jerusalem of the maniac excesses of the defenders and of the bitter extremes of suffering which they brought upon themselves not only by the unrelenting fierceness of their opposition to the Roman armies, but even more by their mad internecine hatreds. The reader should most certainly consider Lev 26: 24-26, Ezek 4 and the extracts given in chapters 18, 20, and 22 from Josephus' 'Wars of the Jews' " (WRev).

(CH): Third seal, 212-235 AD: "The bloodshed of the second Seal had affected mainly the upper classes of Rome, but the brutality and excesses of the terrible Caracalla caused distress and misery to thouands of Roman citizens of every class, and extended into the provinces as well.

"Caracalla, with his brother Geta, succeeded his father Severus in the year 211. He (Caracalla) was a man of uncontrollable and unnatural passion. Several times, during his father's last illness, he tried to poison him, and he once unsuccessfully endeavoured to raise a mutiny among the troops against his father's government.

"On the death of Severus, the two brothers were established as masters of the world. But rancour and discord soon flared up between them. It was quite evident that both could not reign, and a plan to divide the Empire between them failed. Their mother Julia tried to bring about reconciliation between her sons, but in the midst of the negotiations, some centurions, in the pay of Caracalla, suddenly burst into the conference room, and assassinated his brother Geta.

"Caracalla now blackened the Roman 'horse' by filling the Empire with distress, mourning and woe. He first made his own position sure by conciliating the most powerful elements of his kingdom –- the army. He increased their pay, impoverishing the State finances by his reckless gifts to them.

"The provinces were taxed heavier and heavier to cope with his wild spending. Soon farming became uneconomical.

"It was more profitable not! to sow grain than to have the rapacious tax-gatherers seize that which had cost some labour and money to produce! As indicated by Rev 6:6, the cost of foodstuffs became prohibitive, and the distress of the people became aggravated by famine caused not by failure of crops or lack of rain, but by exorbitant taxation.

"Meanwhile Caracalla's mind was haunted by his assassination of Geta. He tried to rid himself of all remembrance of it by destroying all who had known, or whoever referred to his late brother. Even his mother (Julia) narrowly escaped death from the hands of her son. Gibbon records that: 'under the vague appellation of the friends of Geta, above 20,000 persons of both sexes suffered death... If a senator was accused of being a secret enemy of the government, the Emperor was satisfied with the general proof that he was a man of property and virtue.

"At Alexandria, he directed a general slaughter of the citizens without distinguishing either the number or the crime of the sufferers. Thus the Roman Empire groaned under a tyrant who made the period black with distress and mourning.

"Relief soon came however. In the year 217 Caracalla was assassinated at the instigation of Macrinus, his civil officer, who had reason to fear that the death sentence would soon be passed on him. No one lamented the death of Caracalla, except the army who had benefited from the lavish pay of their master, the tyrant of the Empire. Owing to their influence, he was created a god after his death!

"Fate had placed Macrinus in a lofty position of eminence, but he was too weak to effectively use or retain it. He was unpopular both with the people and with the Army. Realising the necessity of reform, he tried to introduce it into the army, only to find himself with a mutiny on his hands. Bassianus (who assumed the name Antoninus, and later Elagabalus) led the army against Macrinus, and though he was able to raise a force, his courage was not equal to the trial. At the moment of crisis, he lost his nerve and fled from the field of battle. This completed his ruin.

"The Empire continued to be blackened with distress by the effeminate Elagabalus. His main superstition was the worship of the sun, which he pursued with all imaginable excesses. His lavish expenditure of the public finances drained the resources of the Empire, causing distress to weigh heavily upon his subjects.

"His reign was marked by the suppression of all that is good, noble and right, whilst lust and licentiousness were elevated. His vicious practices and sensuous delights disgusted the whole world. 'The wicked are exalted when vile men are high in place.'

"Gibbon records that 'the inflammatory powers of art were summoned to his aid. The confused multitude of women, of wine, of dishes and the studied variety of attitudes and sauces served to revive his languid appetites. New terms and new inventions in these sciences, the only ones cultivated and patronised by this monster in crime, signalised his reign, and transmitted his infamy to succeeding time.'

"One fatal step, and the public disgust manifested towards the Emperor (Elagabalus) flared into open opposition. Elagabalus made this fatal step when he demoted his cousin from the position of Caesar. The army received the news with with fury, and swore to protect Alexander. A rumour of his death inflamed their passions, and they were only appeased by the presence and authority of the youth.

"The jealous Emperor endeavoured to punish the leaders of the mutiny, but only succeeded in provoking the Praetorian Guard still further. On 10th March 222 Elagabalus was massacred by the soldiers, his mutilated corpse was dragged through the streets of Rome, and ignominiously flung into the river Tiber.

"The death of this tyrant relieved the distress of this Seal. Alexander's reign of 13 years was peaceful. Though he was only 17 years of age, he allowed the wisdom of his mother to guide him. "The provinces were relieved from taxes, and the price of provisions and the interest of money was reduced. In the civil administration Of Alexander Severus, wisdom was enforced by power, and the people, sensible of the public felicity, repaid their benefactor with love and gratitude.

"But nevertheless, Alexander came to a violent end. He tried to reform the Army, the cost of which was an oppressive financial burden to the State. The Army resisted the reform, and inflamed by enemies of the youthful prince, encompassed his death" (ApEp).

BLACK: Sym distress, intense depression of mind (cp Job 30:25-31), mourning (Lam 4:8).

Rev 6:6

DO NOT DAMAGE THE OIL AND THE WINE: "But whilst this Seal speaks of wheat and barley at famine prices, it goes on to say, 'see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.' The use of 'hurt not' in Rev 7:3; 9:4 requires here the meaning that there shall be no lack of oil and wine. But in the literal sense there certainly was a lack of these commodities in Jerusalem at the time spoken of. Nor will it do to regard these words as an indication that only the poor would suffer and not the rich, for Josephus makes plain that the rich suffered, if anything, more than the poor, through being suspected of hoarding.

"Scripture suggests a different approach 'Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup (of wine) runneth over.' The Samaritan Saviour poured oil and wine on the wounds of the one he came to save. Thus the words of the Seal indicate that its rigours were not to come upon the elect in Christ in this time of trouble. One need now only mention the familiar fact of the escape of the Christians from beleaguered Jerusalem to indicate the fulfilment. 'Friends of Jesus, they alone to Pella fled.' Here is another parallel with the Olivet prophecy: 'When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies... then let them which be in the midst of her depart out...' (Luke 21: 20,21). 'When ye shall see the abomination of desolation stand in the Holy Place, then let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains' (Mat 24:15,16; cp Job 5:19)" (WRev).

Perhaps a desire for pleasure (Pro 21:17) (NRev 49). Pleasure-pursuit alongside poverty: a description of our own age.

Rev 6:7

Fourth seal: "The figures given by Josephus of those who fell in the struggle against the Romans, and especially in the siege of Jerusalem, appall even the modern reader, accustomed as he is to the violence of the Twentieth Century. Even case-hardened Titus, the Roman general, was aghast and, raising his hands to heaven, called God to witness that it was none of his doing but brought rather upon the Jews by their own fanatic folly: cp Isa 28:17,18 and 5:13,14.

"The finest commentary on the First Century fulfilment of Seals 2, 3, 4 is unquestionably Josephus' 'Wars of the Jews.' The reader is strongly urged to read in connection with the foregoing brief exposition Books V and VI of that masterpiece of ancient literature" (WRev).

(CH) Fourth Seal: Widespread death: 235- 303: "It was a hideous period of death and the grave. Both rulers and people were involved in an epoch of violence, and excess that almost brought about the dissolution of the Empire itself.

"In keeping with the symbol and in consequence of the murder of Alexander Severus (238), there ascended to the throne an obscure Thracian by the name of Maximin. The haughty nobles of Rome viewed with misgivings the elevation to supreme control of one whom their slaves, in their insolence, had denied entrance to their homes.

"Their contempt of his obscure birth produced in Maximin the most violent and ferocious temper. He proceeded to slay with abandon those whom he thought remembered his obscurity. 'Confiscation, exile or simple death were esteemed uncommon instances of his leniency. Some of his unfortunate sufferers he ordered to be sewn up in the hides of slaughtered animals, others to be exposed to wild beasts, others again to be beaten to death with clubs.'

"He confiscated the independent revenue of the towns: stripped the temples of their most valuable offerings, and melted down the statues of gods, heroes, and Emperors, to be coined into money. These impious acts aroused the temper of the multitude; riots, tumults, and massacres followed in sequence, and 'death and the grave' waited upon the populations of the Roman Empire.

"Goaded to desperation, the people at last rose against the tyrant, and whilst he was busily engaged in a frontier war, they proclaimed Gordianus and his son, Emperors. The whole Empire, with the exception of a province in Africa, gave its support to the Gordians, but in waging warfare against this province, the new Emperors lost their lives. If they had been successful, they may have halted the distresses of this time.

"Maximin heard of the rebellion. In a passion of rage, he marched on Rome to expend his wrath against the senate. The senate became paralysed with fear. A descendant of Trajan aroused them from their fatal lethargy, and they appointed two successors to the Gordians namely: Maximus and Balbinus.

"The former (Maximus) was appointed to conduct the war against Maximin, the latter (Balbinus) to superintend the government of Rome. Maximus opposed Maximin at Aquleia, but in Rome itself, civil war broke out between the people and the Praetorian Guard who were secret allies of Miximin. Italy flowed with blood, and life was accounted as no value at all. In the midst of all this violence and confusion, Maximin was assassinated by his own soldiers.

"Death and the grave" continued to follow the fortunes of the Roman Empire. Maximus and Balbinus failed to cooperate together. They were jealous and distrustful of each other, and thus excited the contempt of the people.

"In the same year (238) a troop of desperate assassins invaded the palace, and stripping them of their royal robes, dragged them publicly through the streets of the city, finally leaving their bodies mangled with a thousand wounds, exposed to the insults or the pity of the mob.

"In the space of a few months, six Emperors had thus suffered violent deaths. A third, Gordian, who had been made Caesar, remained. He was proclaimed Emperor at the age of 19, but whilst engaged in war with the Persians, his Praetorian Praefect –- Philip, an Arab by birth, and a robber by profession, was created Emperor by the soldiers, and the unfortunate youth descended into 'hade' by the hand of the murderer.

"Gibbon declares of this terrible period, that the 'animating health and vigour of the Empire were fled.' To use the term of Rev, the Roman 'horse' became pale -– the colour of death.

"But now, in accordance with the prophecy, Rome became afflicted by 'wild beasts of the earth.' Gibbon records: 'The industry of the people was discouraged and exhausted by a long series of oppressions. The discipline of the legions was corrupted by the ambition of the Emperors; the strength of the frontiers was insensibly undermined and the fairest provinces were left exposed to the rapaciousness or ambition of the barbarians.' These barbarians represent the "wild beasts" of the prophecy. From 248-268 they poured over the frontier. Philip, after a reign of five years, had now been deposed by a successful revolution headed by Decius, a senator. A few months later, the Goths poured over the northern border, and in the sack of one city, the blood of 100,000 persons was shed, and even the Roman legions experienced defeat. In this conflict Decius was slain. He was succeeded by Gallus and Hostilianus (251) who by an ignominious treaty in which Rome promised to pay ransom to the Goths, he gained peace for one year.

"The success of the Goths lured others across the borders. Swarms of these 'wild beasts' spread desolation throughout the Empire, advancing almost within sight of Rome itself. Aemilianus, governor of Panonia, succeeded in vanquishing them. Gallus and his son were assassinated, and he (Aemilianus) was proclaimed Emperor, only to reign for four months, when'death and the grave' claimed him by the same method.

"Valerian and his son Gallienus now assumed the purple. It was a time of complete confusion, distress and bloodshed. Along the border the barbarians pressed heavily upon the Empire. The Franks attacked Spain in the West, the Allemani attacked the Northern provinces, whilst the Goths ravaged the coasts of Asia Minor, and the Persians threatened the East.

"Valerian marched to defend the East against the Persians but was defeated and himself captured. His worthless son allowed him to remain a prisoner of war until his death.

"Gallienus reigned eight years, during which "death and hades" continued to follow the fortunes of the Roman Empire. During that time, 19 pretenders to the throne arose, none of whom died a natural death.

"The prophecy required that the Empire should also feel the pangs of hunger. During a period of such bad administration, famine was inevitable. But pestilence also threatened the people. A plague raged furiously between the years 250-265 in every province and city, affecting almost every family of the Roman Empire. At one time, the deaths of 5,000 people daily were recorded in the city of Rome; many towns were entirely depopulated.

"Gibbon calculates that civil and national wars, the tyrannical conduct of the Emperors; together with pestilence and famine, accounted for the death, in a few years, of no less than half of the human race.

:Finally, Gallienus was assassinated, and the following reigns brought a measure of relief to the Empire. The army was restrained and taxation was relieved. Even so , troubles continued. The barbarians continued to threaten the Empire; pretenders to the throne rose up one after the other, and in defending both the throne and the borders, death continued widespread and common.

"Although 'death and the grave' continued to stalk the Roman 'horse,' conditions gradually improved. Indeed, if some measures of relief had not come, the deadly colour of the 'horse' would have been followed by death itself, and the Empire would have descended into hades; the place that had claimed so many of her rulers ans citizens during this terrible period of 68 years" (ApEp).

Rev 6:8

"The colour of the horse is deathly, and this is the character of the rider's work -- he is the Angel of Death, called in Rev 9:11 Abaddon or Apollyon, that is, the Destroyer" (WRev).

Cit Eze 14:21, LXX: "God's judgments on Jerusalem". Cp similar prophecies, all against Israel, in Lev 26:24-26; Jer 14:12; 15:2; 21:7,9; 2Sam 24:13.

SWORD: Gr "rhomphaia": a saber, ie, a long and broad cutlass. A true instrument of war, unlike the machaira, or dagger, of v 4.

PLAGUE: See Lesson, Plague, pestilence, and disease in the Last Days.

WILD BEASTS: Used in Eze 34:24 of Arabs.

Rev 6:9

Vv 9-11: (CH) Fifth seal: Ecclesial tribulation (303- 311: "The Emperor Diocletian ruled with firmness and tolerance during the early portion of his reign. Christianity flourished under conditions of peace such as had not been enjoyed for some time. But this relaxation of external opposition resulted in a sad declention of Christian life and virtue.

"The simple fundamentals were questioned and obscured by fleshly philosophising; loose practices became common; 'lovers of pleasure' dominated ecclesial life. An ecclesiastical historian records: 'The era of its (Christianity's) actual declension must be dated in the pacific part of Diocletian's reign.'

"During the third century, the work of God, in purity and power, had been tending to decay. The connection with philosophers was one of the principal causes. Outward peace and secular advantage completed the corruption. Ecclesiastical discipline became relaxed exceedingly. Bishops and people were in a state of malice. Endless quarrels were fomented among contending parties; and ambition and covetousness had in general gained the ascendancy in the Christian communities. Some there were who mourned in secret, and strove in vain to stop the abounding torrent of evil.

"Among the latter was Novatius. Fifty years before this (5th) Seal in 151, he was elected Bishop of Rome in opposition to Cornelius. An Ecclesial crisis occurred when the latter (Cornelius) fellowshipped those who had renounced Christ and sacrificed to idols in periods of stress (cp Heb 6:4- 8; 10:26; 1Jo 5:16; 2Ti 2:17; Mat 10:33). He was vigorously opposed by Novatius.

"The contention developed into division; the minority, termed by the Revelator 'brethren,' followed Novatius, whilst the majority, 'the fellowservants', followed Cornelius. Further evil practices followed. Cornelius began issuing indulgences to delinquents after baptism, and his influence hastened the declension that was now eating into the Ecclesia.

"Meanwhile, Diocletian had elevated Maximian as joint-ruler over the Empire. They assumed the title of 'Augustus' and appointed two lesser rulers in Galerius and Constantius, who were given the title of 'Caesar.' Galerius determined to stamp out the hated religion of the Christians, and stirred up Diocletian to that end. On 24th February 303, a general edict of persecution was proclaimed.

"Galerius prosecuted this edict with vigour and violence. Death became the punishment of those who attempted to hold secret meetings. Churches were destroyed, books and Bibles burned. 'Persons of liberal birth were declared incapable of holding any honours or employment; slaves were forever deprived the hope of freedom, and the whole body of the people were put out of the protection of the law'.

"The edict was scarcely exhibited to a public view in the most conspicuous place of Nicomedia, before it was torn down by a 'fellowservant, who expressed, at the same time, by the bitterest invectives, his contempt as well as abhorrence of such impious and tyrannical despots. His offence amounted to treason, and was punishable with death. He was roasted over a slow fire, and every refinement of cruelty was exhausted, but without effect, to subdue his patience, or to alter the steady and insulting smile, which in his dying agonies he still preserved on his countenance" (Eur). The Christians were blamed for fires that twice within 15 days broke out in his palace, and the Emperor dedicated himself to extirpating the Christian religion.

"He erected pillars, commemorating his efforts to destroy Christianity, by monuments, which carry the following caption: 'Diocletian Jovian, Maximian Herculaeus, Caesares Augusti, for having extended the Roman Empire in the East and west, and for having extinguished the name of Christians who brought the Republic to ruin.' Again: 'Diocletian, etc, for having adopted Galerius in the east, for having everywhere abolished the superstition of Christ, for having extended the worship of the gods.'

"On May 1st 305, Diocletian abdicated his position, and shortly after Maximian did likewise. Constantius and Galerius now became the Augusti, and the two lesser rulers Maximin and Licinius, were appointed as Caesars. Later Maximian again assumed the purple, and appointed his son Maxentius to power. Maxentius and Constantius (who ruled in the west) were tolerant to Christians. However, in 311, Galerius and Maximian died. The territory of the former was added to that of Maximin, a worthless, cruel, ferocious despot... who then commenced the most violent persecution of all. Even pagans, who witnessed the sufferings of Christians, became disgusted with the profusion of cruelty and bloodshed to which he resorted...

"Finally, this terrible record of cruelty began to prey on the mind of Maximin himself. He suffered the most terrible delusions, and saw in his torments the vengeance of God... He confessed him self vanquished, and died in agony of mind, in the year 313. So ended the most violent enemy of Christianity, during whose reign Christians suffered more terribly than at any other time" (ApEp).

Tabernacle motif: Altar of burnt offering.

THE ALTAR: The law of the altar is given in Exo 20:24,25; Deu 27:5. It could be made of earth or stone, but must not be shaped by human device. Earth and stone speak of human nature but "unhewn stone" relates to human nature shaped by the Divine hand. Christ was the latter. He was of our nature, but manifested Divine characteristics. As the altar, he was Deity in sacrificial manifestation (see Heb 13:10). The altar was first cleansed, and then it made holy those who touched it (Exo 29:37). We touch the Christ altar when we are "brought nigh" by baptism. We are then "in Christ" or the Altar.

THOSE WHO HAD BEEN SLAIN: Those who die "in Christ" are "under the altar", "sleeping with Jesus," "dwelling in the dust." As the blood was poured out of the sacrifices offered upon the altar, so the "souls of them that were slain for the word of God" are here represented as poured out, for the life (or "soul") is the blood –- Lev 17:11. The OT saints of Heb 11, esp vv 39,40. Soul, life = blood in Lev 17:11. Cp figure: 2Ti 4:6; Phi 2:17; Luk 18:6-8.

Rev 6:10

THEY CALLED OUT: "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground" (Gen 4:10).

Rev 6:11

THEIR FELLOW SERVANTS AND BROTHERS: In ct v 9, these are NT martyrs, killed by Jews, who complete the number with their counterparts in OT times (v 9): Luk 21:12,16,17.

FELLOW SERVANTS: The aspects of fellowship: fellow-heirs (Eph 3:6); fellow-soldiers (Phi 2:25); fellow-helpers (3Jo 1:8); fellow-workers (Col 4:11); fellow-servants (Rev 6:11); fellow-prisoners (Rom 16:7); fellow-laborers (Phi 4:3); fellow-citizens (Eph 2:19).

Rev 6:12

The strength of the Biblical evidence for the two-fold application of the Sixth Seal to the destruction of Jerusalem and to the Last Days at the coming of the Lord is exhibited in the following summary of the evidence which has been cited:

Seal Six
AD 70
The Last Days
1. Earthquake
Mat 24:7; Jer 4:24.
Isa 2:19 (= 2Th 1:9); Eze 38:20; Isa 24:20; 30:32; Joel 3:16; Rev16:18; Hab.3:6,7.
2. Sun black as sackcloth, moon as blood
Joel 2:31 (Acts 2: 20); Jer 4:28.
Joel 2:10; 3:15; Mat 24: 29; Is.13:10; Zech 13:4.
3. Stars fell
Dan 8:10.
Isa 343:4.
4. Fig tree
Luke 13:6-9; Mark 11: 14.
Isa 34:4; Mat 24: 32; Hab 3:17.
5. Shaken by a mighty wind
Jer4:10-12; Eze 1:4.
Jer 51:1 (Zech 6: 5).
6. Heaven parted as a scroll (of the Law).
Heb 1:11,12; Isa 51:6.
Isa 34:4; 13:13; Mat 24:35; Rev 20:11.
7. Mountains and islands moved
Rev 16:20; Isa 24:19.
8. Chief captains (chilarchs)
John 18:12.
9. Kings of the earth (the Land)
Rev 16:14.
10. Hid themselves
Isa 2:19 (see Isa 3:1,9).
11. "Fall on us"
Jer 4:29; Hos 10:8; Luk 23:30.
12. The wrath of the Lamb
Rev 11:18.
13. The great day of His wrath
Zeph 1:14,15.
Isa 13:6,13.
14. Who is able to stand?
Mal 3:2; Luk 21:36; Nah 1:6.

Vv 12-17: Many similarities with Jer 4:
A GREAT EARTHQUAKE: Earthquakes accompany awesome manifestations of God: Exo 19:18; Jdg 5:4; Psa 77:18; 114:4; Isa 2:10-22; Jer 4:24; Eze 38:20; Joe 3:16; Amo 9:1,5; Zec 14:4; Rev 6:12; 11:19; 16:18.

"In Scripture a great earthquake may signify the coming in of a new dispensation; eg Heb 12:26. Several prophecies in particular use this figure of an earthquake with regard to God's judgements on Jerusalem. In Psa 18:7 earthquake is the open token of the wrath of God for the rejection of His Son. Isa 2:10-22 is a vigorous pronouncement of divine chastisement of human pride. The basis or primary fulfilment of this prophecy is probably the great earthquake in the reign of Uzziah (Amos 1:1; Zec 14:5). But it would be definitely wrong to Isa 3:1: 'For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water.' Clearly the doom Isa foretells concerns Jerusalem especially. 'For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory' (Isa 3:8). The very next verse speaks of the holy city as Sodom, a vigorous analogy used with force in Rev 11:8. More than this, in various other ways there are marked resemblances here to the Sixth Seal. The catalogue of mighty men corresponds to that in Rev 6:15: 'The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent and ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator' (Isa 3 :2,3); with this cp: 'And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondsman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains' (Rev 6:15). The last words quoted here echo Isa 2:19: 'they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty,' whilst other words of Rev 6: 'every mountain and island were moved out of their places,' have a practical parallel in Isa 2:14: "the day of the Lord is upon all the high mountains and upon all the hills that are lifted up." Since Isa 2 has specific application to Israel, it is reasonable in the light of these correspondences to apply the Sixth Seal also to Israel -- and no more appropriate time than AD 70 can be found" (WRev).

See Lesson, Earthquakes.

THE SUN TURNED BLACK LIKE SACKCLOTH: These are Joel's words, used by Peter at Pentecost thus: "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days... the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come." In this context, the judgements mentioned here must be the destruction of Jerusalem. Allusion also to Isa 50:3: "I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering," the context of which is the rejection of Christ and the consequent "divorcement" (v 1) of Israel.

Vv 12-17 (CH): "The sixth seal: National upheaval (312-324). The epoch of Constantine's triumph, during when the control of the Empire was brought under his sole rule, and Christianity received national approval. This era witnessed an epoch of political triumph for pseudo-Christianity, but of spiritual declension for the Truth as a whole. In an endeavour to make Christianity attractive to pagans, errors which challenged the fundamental teaching of the apostles were superimposed upon the Truth, whilst practises unseemly in saints were freely indulged in.

"After defeating his rivals, Constantine became sole ruler of the Empire in 324. He attributed his last great victory to a vision he had received, of a great cross in the heavens, and so he claimed to march under the authority of the Lord. In the Catholic view of history, he is proclaimed 'The First Christian Emperor', and it is claimed that with his victory Christ's rule on earth was established.

"Paganism was dethroned as the Church of the State, and was replaced by a form of Christianity that had abandoned many of the principles of Christ.

Rev 6:13

A FIG TREE: The fig tree shaken of a mighty wind is an obvious figure of Israel enduring judgement; cp esp Luke 13:6-9; Mark 11:13,14. By itself this detail should settle the interpretation of the Sixth Seal.

Rev 6:14

Cp Mat 24:35: dissolution of Judaism (Heb 1:10-12).

THE SKY RECEDED LIKE A SCROLL: With this cp Heb 1:10-12 "(the heavens) shall perish... they shall wax old as doth a garment... and as a vesture shalt thou roll them up." Here the idea, very probably, is that of the dissolution of Judaism. The very words: "departed as a scroll," suggest the roll of the Law being put away as now fulfilled and finished with.

EVERY MOUNTAIN... REMOVED: Roman legions flattening the approach roads: "[Vespasian] sent both footmen and horsemen to level the road, which was mountainous and rocky" (Wars 3.7.3). Having outlined the mountainous setting of Jotapata, Josephus says that Vespasian decided "to raise a bank against that part of the wall which was practicable" (Wars 3.7.8).

Rev 6:15

"Nothing less than the 2nd advent" (NRev 54).

Vv 15,16: The Jews hid underground in the 67-70 war. "On the following days [the Romans] searched the hiding places, and fell upon those that were underground and in the caverns" (Wars 3.7.36). Cp Christ's words in Luk 23:29,30; Mat 24:1,2,19,34.

Rev 6:16

THEY CALLED TO THE MOUNTAINS AND THE ROCKS, 'FALL ON US...': The words are directly from Hos 10:8, which Jesus on his way to crucifixion applied explicitly to the Day of Wrath in AD 70 (Luke 23:30). "It is interesting further to observe that at the time of the destruction of the city, 'the kings of the earth' (ie of the Land, as in v 4) and other leaders did literally hide themselves in the caves and rocks of the mountains. The leaders of the various factions, when driven from their strongholds, took refuge in secret caverns and limestone chambers beneath the city" (WRev).

HIM WHO SITS ON THE THRONE: Can only be God and His Son: Rev 20:11; 4:2 5:6,7.

The Lamb in Rev: his wrath (Rev 6:16); his blood (Rev 7:14); his book of life (Rev 13:8); his song (Rev 15:3); his marriage (Rev 19:7); his supper (Rev 19:9); and his throne (Rev 22:1).

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