Note. - The seven seals present a view of the purity of faith in the first, or apostolic, age, and then the corruption of the faith as apostasy increased from age to age.
1. And I saw when the Lamb opened the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.
2. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
Note. -Archdeacon Woodhouse (Church of England) wrote: "The commencement of the time occupied by this seal, may be dated from our Saviour's ascension, when He gave His final commission to the disciples and the heavenly proclamation to the world." White is the symbol of purity; and the white horse, with his rider, denotes the purity and power of the primitive church as it went forth conquering and to conquer.
3. And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.
4. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.
Note.-- The apostle Paul had warned of this: "I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." Acts 20:29,30.
The prophecy of the seven seals is following the course of that great body of the church which fell away from the purity of the faith. We must remember that all along there was a scattered remnant of true believers holding to the primitive faith. But ecclesiastical history deals with the great body that compromised with the world. At last they gained civil power; "a great sword" was given them. An emperor, Constantine, professed conversion. Conflict and discord were the history of the times, as religionists appealed to the civil power to interfere in religious controversies.
5. And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
6. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
Note.-- An English layman and Bible student, William Cunninghame (Church of England), wrote: "The black color of the horse, the yoke [balance] with which his rider was armed, the proclamation from the midst of the living creatures, that a chaenix of wheat should be sold for a penny, and three chaenices of barley for a penny, and the command not to hurt the oil and wine, unite in pointing out to us a period when the grossest darkness and ignorance should overspread the visible church; when a burthensome yoke of rites and ceremonies, and likewise of unscriptural articles of faith, should be imposed upon the necks and consciences of men; when there should be a great want and a famine of the preaching of the true gospel in the church: but when, notwithstanding this complicated train of evils, the consolations of the Spirit, his enlightening influences compared to oil, and his gladdening and comforting influences likened to wine, should not be withheld from those who, in the midst of surrounding darkness and superstition, truly set their hearts to seek God. This prophecy was accomplished in the rise and prevalence of the papal power."
7. And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.
8. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Note.-- Here the description fits the Dark Ages of papal supremacy, when millions were slain by religious persecution.
"That the Church of Rome has shed more innocent blood than any other institution that has ever existed among mankind, will be questioned by no Protestant who has a competent knowledge of history," says Lecky. "It is impossible to form a complete conception of the multitude of her victims, and it is quite certain that no powers of imagination can adequately realize their sufferings."
"The Christian religion, which had begun its benign progress in white array, and under the guidance of apostolical teachers, is now not only so changed in color and appearance as to be scarcely discernible as the same, but is under the direction of deadly and infernal agents, who delight to destroy in her all that remains of primitive purity.... Ignorance became blind submission, and priestcraft advanced into civil tyranny. Thus, under the fourth seal, 'the mystery of iniquity' was completed. It was then that the harsh usurpation, which we call the papal tyranny, was extended over the lives and consciences of Christians. To profess religion in its purity became a crime. Bloody tribunals were erected, and severe and deathly laws enacted against those who departed from the standard of doctrine established by the corrupt rulers. Armies were raised to enforce obedience to their orders; and entire nations of Christians, under the imputed name of heretics, were subjugated, or extirpated by the sword."-- "Annotations on the Apocalypse," J.C. Woodhouse, D.D., pp. 140-142.
9. And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and of the testimony which they held:
10. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
11. And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
Note.-- In the prophecy of Daniel 7:25 we saw that the allotted period of papal supremacy was to be 1,260 years. But Christ, in speaking to His disciples of the persecutions of this time, said, "For the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." Matt. 24:22. So it came to pass. The Reformation arose, and with the opening of the Holy Scriptures a new view of religious liberty and freedom of worship slowly began to obtain. The persecuting power was broken. The despised martyrs who had given their lives for the truth were honored in history as heroes of faith. This changed view is symbolized by the white robes given unto them. And now, as the persecuting power of the great apostasy is arrested and the latter days are come, the scene of the prophecy changes. The next seal brings, not a description of another stage of church history, but ushers in the signs of the end of the world.
NOTE: See entire chapter 12 of Daniel and 12:7 shows that another time of persecution is ahead of us. It will be like the type in history, only literal days. Jesus said, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven:" Matthew 24:21,29,30.
12. And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
13. And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
14. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
15. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bond man, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
16. And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
17. For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
Note.-- In the historical type, the first event noted in the prophecy under this seal was the great Lisbon earthquake, which occurred Nov. 1, 1755; the second, the darkening of the sun and moon, May 19, 1780; the third, the falling of the stars, or the great meteoric shower of Nov. 13, 1833. Next the prophet was shown the opening of the heavens as the powers of heaven are shaken and Christ comes in majesty and glory to end the long reign of sin. Then earthly pride and pomp and ecclesiastical intolerance and persecuting power will be abased, and falsehood and error will seek in vain to hide from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne. That day hastens on.
"Then, O my Lord, prepare