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The Revelation to John: Chapter 6

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1Then 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!” b Or “Go!” 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.

3When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature call out, “Come!” b Or “Go!” 4And out came c Or went 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.

5When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature call out, “Come!” b Or “Go!” 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, d Gk a denarius and three quarts of barley for a day's pay, d Gk a denarius but do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”

7When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature call out, “Come!” b Or “Go!” 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.

9When 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; 10they cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” 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 a Gk slaves and of their brothers and sisters, b Gk brothers who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed.

12When 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. 14The sky vanished like a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15Then the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

Notes:

b Or “Go!”

c Or went

d Gk a denarius

a Gk slaves

b Gk brothers

Text Commentary view alone

6.1–17 : The opening of the first six seals

of the scroll, and the enactment of what is written therein.

6.1–8 :Four seals of destruction.

1 :

Come! Addressed successively to each of the four riders (Zech 6.1–8 ) who accomplish God's purposes.

2 :

The white horse symbolizes a conquering power that none can resist (in 19.11–13 the reference is to Christ). The crown given to the rider as he is sent forth suggests a guarantee of victory.

4 :

The red horse symbolizes war and bloodshed. Permitted to take peace from the earth, effectively annulling the “pax Romana,” the self‐congratulatory designation of Roman imperial rule as “the Roman peace.”

5 :

The black horse symbolizes famine, which follows upon war.

6 :

A quart of wheat … three quarts of barley, sold at exorbitant prices because of war and famine. The prohibition against harming the olive oil and the wine (neither olive trees nor grape vines are newly planted each year) suggests that the famine is limited.

8 :

The pale green horse symbolizes pestilence and death. Hades, the Greek god of the underworld; cf. 1.18 . A fourth part indicates wide but not total devastation. Pestilence, Ex 9.3; 2 Sam 24.13; Ezek 5.12 . Wild animals, Ezek 6.17; 29.5; 33.27 .

6.9–8.1 : Three seals of judgment.

6.9–11 : The fifth seal

describes the appeal for divine justice and retribution by the martyrs (v. 10 ), and the heavenly response to their plea (v. 11 ).

9 :

The souls of the martyrs are said to be under the altar because they had been martyred for the sake of Christ ( 2.10; Mt 24.9; Phil 2.17; 2 Tim 4.6 ).

10 :

How long? is a cry for divine vindication uttered by those who have suffered unbearable oppression (e.g., Ps 6.3; 13.2; 90.13; Zech 1.12–16 ). Avenge our blood, God is the one who takes up the cause of those killed for the sake of justice (Ps 78.1–10 [LXX]).

11 :

White robe, see 2.17n.; 3.4–5n.; 7.9n.

6.12–17 : The opening of the sixth seal

unleashes a great earthquake, and its catastrophic effects on the cosmos and on human society are described.

12 :

Black as sackcloth …, Joel 2.30–31 .

13–14 :

The starsfell to the earth …, Isa 34.4; Mk 13.25 .

15–17 :

All classes of society seek to escape from the wrath of God (Isa 2.10,19 ).

16 :

Fall on us, Hos 10.8; Lk 23.30 .

17 :

The great day of their wrath, the time of judgment (Joel 2.11 ).

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