1, 2. “And when the Lamb had opened one of the seven seals, I saw, and heard one of the four living creatures saying, Come and see. And, lo, a white horse, and He who sat upon him had a bow.” ] The first seal being opened, he says that he saw a white horse, and a crowned horseman having a bow. For this was at first done by Himself. For after the Lord ascended into heaven and opened all things, He sent the Holy Spirit, whose words the preachers sent forth as arrows reaching to the human heart, that they might overcome unbelief. And the crown on the head is promised to the preachers by the Holy Spirit. The other three horses very plainly signify the wars, famines, and pestilences announced by our Lord in the Gospel. And thus he says that one of the four living creatures said (because all four are one), “Come and see.” “Come” is said to him that is invited to faith; “see” is said to him who saw not. Therefore the white horse is the word of preaching with the Holy Spirit sent into the world. For the Lord says, “This Gospel shall be preached p. 351 throughout the whole world for a testimony to all nations, and then shall come the end.” 2276
3, 4. “And when He had opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red, and to him that sat upon him was given a great sword.”] The red horse, and he that sat upon him, having a sword, signify the coming wars, as we read in the Gospel: “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be great earthquakes in divers places.” 2277 This is the ruddy horse.
5. “And when He had opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, Come and see. And, lo, a black horse; and he who sat upon it had a balance in his hand.”] The black horse signifies famine, for the Lord says, “There shall be famines in divers places;” but the word is specially extended to the times of Antichrist, when there shall be a great famine, and when all shall be injured. Moreover, the balance in the hand is the examining scales, wherein He might show forth the merits of every individual. He then says:—
6. “Hurt not the wine and the oil.”] That is, strike not the spiritual man with thy inflictions. This is the black horse.
7, 8. “And when He had opened the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living creature saying, Come and see. And, lo, a pale horse; and he who sat upon him was named Death.”] For the pale horse and he who sat upon him bore the name of Death. These same things also the Lord had promised among the rest of the coming destructions—great pestilences and deaths; since, moreover, he says:—
“And hell followed him.”] That is, it was waiting for the devouring of many unrighteous souls. This is the pale horse.
9. “And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain.”] He relates that he saw under the altar of God, that is, under the earth, the souls of them that were slain. For both heaven and earth are called Gods altar, as saith the law, commanding in the symbolical form of the truth two altars to be made,—a golden one within, and a brazen one without. But we perceive that the golden altar is thus called heaven, by the testimony that our Lord bears to it; for He says, “When thou bringest thy gift to the altar” (assuredly our gifts are the prayers which we offer), “and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar.” 2278 Assuredly prayers ascend to heaven. Therefore heaven is understood to be the golden altar which was within; for the priests also were accustomed to enter once in the year—as they who had the anointing—to the golden altar, the Holy Spirit signifying that Christ should do this once for all. As the golden altar is acknowledged to be heaven, so also by the brazen altar is understood the earth, under which is the Hades,—a region withdrawn from punishments and fires, and a place of repose for the saints, wherein indeed the righteous are seen and heard by the wicked, but they cannot be carried across to them. He who sees all things would have us to know that these saints, therefore—that is, the souls of the slain—are asking for vengeance for their blood, that is, of their body, from those that dwell upon the earth; but because in the last time, moreover, the reward of the saints will be perpetual, and the condemnation of the wicked shall come, it was told them to wait. And for a solace to their body, there were given unto each of them white robes. They received, says he, white robes, that is, the gift of the Holy Spirit.
12. “And I saw, when he had opened the sixth seal, there was a great earthquake.”] In the sixth seal, then, was a great earthquake: this is that very last persecution.
“And the sun became black as sackcloth of hair.”] The sun becomes as sackcloth; that is, the brightness of doctrine will be obscured by unbelievers.
“And the entire moon became as blood.”] By the moon of blood is set forth the Church of the saints as pouring out her blood for Christ.
13. “And the stars fell to the earth.”] The falling of the stars are the faithful who are troubled for Christs sake.
“Even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs.”] The fig-tree, when shaken, loses its untimely figs—when men are separated from the Church by persecution.
14. “And the heaven withdrew as a scroll that is rolled up.”] For the heaven to be rolled away, that is, that the Church shall be taken away.
“And every mountain and the islands were moved from their places.”] Mountains and islands removed from their places intimate that in the last persecution all men departed from their places; that is, that the good will be removed, seeking to avoid the persecution.
Matt. xxiv. 14351:2277
Luke 21:10, 11351:2278
Matt. 5:23, 24