The Seals, 1-17

Rev 6:1 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!”

As we move into the main body of the book of Revelation, we are given, as Bewes points out, a behind the scenes view of history. Chapters 4  and 5 open up a view of what is going on in our world from the perspective of heaven, with God’s throne as the centre.  Around the throne are the people of God, and beyond that the angels, and beyond that again the whole of creation.  At the centre of the universe is the throne of God, who rules over the entire universe.  Chapter 5 shows the sovereignty of God over history.  Through the Lamb, God unfolds and fulfills his redemptive, universal, victorious, purpose for the entire cosmos.  Here, in chapter 6, is a panoramic vista of the whole sweep of history, from the perspective of the Christian church. The focus is not the prediction of specific events, such as the Hundred Years War, the discovery of America, or the formation of the European Union, but the interpretation of principles.

‘The origin of this vision is in Zec 6:1-8. Zechariah sees four horses which are let loose upon the earth to deal out vengeance on Babylon and Egypt and the nations which have oppressed God’s people. “These are going forth to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth.” (Zec 6:5) The horses stand for the four mighty winds which God is about to let loose on the earth with a blast of destruction. John does not keep the details the same; but for him, too, the horses and their riders are the instruments of the avenging judgment of God.’ (DSB)

There are close parallels between Rev 6 and Mt 24 (=Mk 13; Lk 21):-

Warfare – Mt 24:6 Rev 6:2 (seal 1)
Troubles – Mt 24:7-8 Rev 6:3-8 (seals 2,3 & 4)
Suffering church -Mt 24:9-12 Rev 6:9-10 (seal 5)

‘In the light of Mt 24, then, we begin to see the over-all meaning of this scene of the drama. What does the future hold? Conquest and strife, scarcity and death; “but the end is not yet…all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs”… (Mt 24:6,8) The terrifying events of the first four Seals, which those who have to live through them might imagine to be signs of Christ’s return and of the close of the age, (Mt 24:3) are in fact the commonplaces of history. The four horsemen have been riding out over the earth from that day to this, and will continue to do so.’ (Wilcock)

Morris says that ‘the four horsemen must surely be taken together, and they all indicate destruction, horror, terror.’

The Lamb – The Saviour of the world is also the Judge of the world.  In his death, Christ not only saves from sin, but condemns sin.

‘Some years ago, a young man named Vernon Howell, a.k.a. David Koresh, together with over a hundred followers, held police and federal agents at bay outside a heavily armed compound near Waco, Texas. The story had a tragic ending. Koresh believed he was Christ, the Lamb of God and the only one able to open the seven seals and bring about the end of the world. Clearly, the ancient images of Revelation command people’s attention today. Yet they are disturbingly subject to the uses and abuses of the human imagination. To the would-be interpreter, whether scholarly, pastoral or prophetic, these images should carry a warning label: Danger. Handle with care.’ (IVP Commentary)

“Come” – They are not calling John: he has already been called to his vantage-point, Rev 4:1. They are calling the horses and their riders.  Death and destruction, though they do not originate from God, nevertheless are under God’s limiting and providential control.

Rev 6:2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

It is thought by some, on the basis of an apparent link with Rev 19:11-12, that the rider of this white horse is Christ himself, or the Christian message being proclaimed throughout the world (cf. Mk 13:10). ‘White’ often represents purity in the book of Revelation, Rev 1:14; 2:17; 7:14. The rider was given a ‘crown’, and elsewhere it is Christ who is so crowned, Rev 14:14. Moreover, ‘conquest’ is associated with Christ, Rev 3:21 5:5. But these four horses seem to represent the forces of destruction, and so the picture of the victorious Christ would seem out of place here. Accordingly, this first horse would seem to represent conquest generally, the imagery being re-used in Rev 19:11 to refer specifically to Christ’s conquest.

A white horse – The colour here represents military conquest.  In ancient times conquerors frequently rode on white horses.

A bow – ‘In the Old Testament the bow is always the sign of military power. In the final defeat of Babylon her mighty men are taken and their bows-that is, their military power-destroyed. (Jer 51:56) God will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel. (Ho 1:5) God breaks the bow and shatters the spear in sunder and burns the chariots with fire; that is, against him no human military power can stand. (Ps 46:9) The bow, then, would always stand for military power. But there is one particular picture which the Romans and all who dwelt in Asia would at once recognize. The one enemy whom. the Romans feared was the Parthian power. The Parthians dwelt on the far eastern frontiers of the Empire and were the scourge of Rome. In A.D. 62 an unprecedented event had occurred; a Roman army had actually surrendered to Vologeses, the king of the Parthians. The Parthians rode white horses and were the most famous bowmen in the world. A “Parthian shot” still means a final, devastating blow, to which there is no possible answer.’ (DSB)

A crownstephanos, victory wreath (not diadema, royal crown).

A conqueror bent on conquest – or, ‘conquering and to conquer’ indicating present and future conquests respectively.

‘The picture behind this for the first-century readers may have been the powerful Roman legions and their greatest foes-the Parthians who lived east of the Euphrates River, which became the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire. The Parthians had defeated the Roman army twice with their cavalry (the rider on horseback) and their archery (his bow). This had caused much fear of an invasion by the Parthians, so Rome eventually had made a treaty with them.’

‘Throughout history, conquest has led to civil war. For example, after Alexander the Great conquered the world, he died in his early thirties. For the next two hundred years, his generals fought each other in an attempt to gain superiority. The conquests of Alexander led to two centuries of civil war. In addition, Rome was nearly destroyed by a civil war in a.d. 68-69, after the death of Nero. In that one year, there were three contenders to the imperial throne.’

‘Military conquest has been presented as a thing of glamour; but it is always tragedy. When Euripides wished to depict warfare upon the stage, he did not bring on an army with banners. He brought on a bent and bewildered old woman leading by the hand a weeping child who had lost his parents. During the Spanish civil war a journalist told how he suddenly realized what war was. He was in a Spanish city in which the opposing parties were waging guerilla warfare. He saw walking along the pavement a little boy, obviously lost, and bewildered and terrified, dragging along a toy which had lost its wheels. Suddenly there was the crack of a rifle shot; and the little boy pitched on the ground, dead. That is war. First among the tragic terrors of the terrible times John sets the white horse and the man with the bow, the vision of the tragedy of militaristic conquest.’ (DSB)

John is saying ‘that any nation that embarks on a career of conquest unleashes bloodshed and famine and destruction. He is saying that this will be so till the end of time, and, indeed, especially in the last days.’ (Morris)

As far as the UK is concerned, we think in the context of this verse of the Norman Conquest.

Rev 6:3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!”

Rev 6:4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.

Its rider was given power – Note the consistent emphasis on divine sovereignty: God uses calamity to judge wickedness. Whereas the first rider symbolises wars of conquest, the second signifies civil war, or perhaps street conflict with guns and knives, or even the violence of bullying and the agression of impersonal institutions. Between 67 and 37 BC 100,000 men perished in rebellion in Palestine, and in Britain in AD 61, 150,000 died in revolts associated with Queen Boadicea. Such happenings ‘form a sombre background to Revelation.’ (Morris)

Slay sphazo – not the usual word for ‘kill’; this word means to ‘slaughter’ or to ‘butcher’.

To him was given a large sword – But, as Morris observe, he did not kill men with it: they kill one another.

‘In the thirty years before the reign of Herod the Great, 67 to 37 B.C., in Palestine alone no fewer than 100,000 men had perished in abortive revolutions. In A.D. 61 in Britain there had arisen the rebellion connected with the name of Queen Boadicea. The Romans crushed it, Boadicea committed suicide and 150,000 men perished.’ (DSB)

The UK saw civil war in the 17th century.

Rev 6:5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand.

If the first two visions represent conquest and bloodshed, the third suggest economic scarcity and inequality. The pair of scales represents the weighing of food in times of hardship, cf. Ezr 4:9 ff Lev 26:26.  The picture is of famine in a world where there is enough food for all, but not the will to share it fairly.

Rev 6:6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

The point here is that a day’s food for one person would cost a full day’s wages – £50 for a load of bread.

“Do not damage the oil and the wine!” – ‘The necessities of life for the poor will be in short supply, while the luxuries of of the rich will not cease. Starvation for some; luxury for others.  Charles tells of a time when Domitian, in an effort to stimulate the growing of cereals, ordered that no new vineyards be planted in Italy and that half the vineyards in the provinces by destroyed. This provoked such an outcry that the edict was repealed. It is this kind of thing that John has in mind.’ (Morris)

‘There had been desperate famines in the time of Nero which left the luxury of the rich untouched. There was an occasion when a ship arrived in Italy from Alexandria. The starving populace thought it was a cornship, for all the cornships came from Alexandria; and they rioted when they discovered that the cargo was not corn but a special kind of sand from the Nile Delta to spread upon the ground of the arena for a gladiatorial show.’ (DSB)

‘All this adds up to a famine which is not yet a disaster. It is in the nature of a warning. Things are difficult, but the end is not yet.’ (Morris)

These islands have seen famine, perhaps most noticeably the Irish famine.

Rev 6:8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Conquest, bloodshed, famine, and now pestilence, disease, and death as a result of these other disasters.

A pale horseChloros (from which we get the word ‘chlorine’) is yellowish-green.  It is the colour of a corpse.

They were given power – ‘God is supreme and the little church is reminded that even Death and Hades exercise only the power that he gives them.’ (Morris)

It is indicated that a quarter of the population of the world is wiped out, although it is not stated that this is as a result of a single catastrophe. When we consider that everyone must die at some point, it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that fully a quarter of all deaths are unnecessary, having been caused by war and famine.

‘The first group of seal-openings, now completed, describes the condition of the Empire as it revealed itself to the mind of the Seer. He saw a vast world-wide power, outwardly victorious and eager for fresh conquests, yet full of the elements of unrest, danger, and misery; war, scarcity, pestilence, mortality in all its forms, abroad or ready to shew themselves. This series of pictures repeats itself in history, and the militarism and lust of conquest, which it represents both in their attractive and repellent aspects, are among the forces set loose by the hand of Christ to prepare the way for his coming and the final publication of the secrets of the Sealed Book.’ (Swete)

So the four horsemen symbolise various disasters to which our world is prone in every age.  Conquest, civil war, famine, drought, disease and plague were all experienced in John’s day.  There was a conquest of the Romans by the Parthians,  a great famine (in AD 62), pestilence and plague following wars.  The UK has known all these forms of adversity: the Norman conquest, civil war, famine, and plague.  In our own day, similar horrors continue to haunt many parts of the world.  John’s vision is intended to affirm Christ’s sovereignty over such a world as this.  The picture of the horsemen riding out from the scroll that Christ has in his hand conveys, not that these disasters are ‘good’, but that God in Christ has them under sovereign control and bends them to his purposes.  It is he who ‘summons’ them, not by calling them into existence: they are to be found in any case; but by bringing them under control and weaving them into the pattern of God’s purpose.  They are ‘given’ power: it is a deputed power. And the power that has them under control is the power of the stricken Lamb; the power of the cross.  And it was on the cross that God took the very worst evil that men could conceive and turn it to its own defeat.  Every horse of evil and destruction was unleashed on Christ.  At the cross we find corrupt priests, lying witnesses, nationalist mobs, a cowardly governor, the treachery of one disciple and the denial of another. Forsaken by his friends and mocked by his enemies.  And the Lamb of God was able to take all of that and transform it into a work of divine love.  He did not simply defeat the powers of evil: he used those powers as agents of his own victory.

As Caird remarks, if Christ cannot be said to reign over these hard facts of history, he can hardly be said to reign at all.

The fifth seal will speak of God’s people surviving to the end even through martyrdom.  And the sixth will tell of God’s judgement, but with his people coming triumphantly through that judgement.

We should respond with compassion towards a world still ravaged by disaster, with proclamation towards a world that does not yet own the sovereign rule of God, and with insight, to see the world from the perspective of the throne from which God and the Lamb reign.  What a difference it would make to our thoughts, feelings and actions if we were to have God at the centre of our world.  Where is God in your vision of reality?  On the edge, or at the centre?  Stop asking, ‘Do I have room for God in my world?’  Wonder, rather, that God has room for you in his universe.  Not, ‘Where does God fit into my plans,’ but rather, ‘Where do I fit into God’s plans?’  Not, ‘How can we make the gospel relevant to the world?’ but, ‘How can we make the world fit the shape of the gospel?’  (The paragraphs above are based on the spoken ministry of Chris Wright)

Rev 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.

The first four seals all relate to what happens on earth; the fifth seal transports us to heaven. Whatever disaster befalls, God’s love and care for his people never fails.

I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain – The idea of a martyr’s life being a sacrifice to God is found in Phil 2:17 and 2 Tim 4:6.

‘It seems to be a place of privilege, probably also of safety in God’s keeping.’ (Morris)

Aune: ‘The location under the altar symbolizes the nearness of these martyrs to God.’

‘The sacrifice that puts away sin has been offered and there is room only for the altar of incense, which typifies homage and the offering of prayer. The association with it of the souls of the martyrs may be meant to indicate that the martyrs have offered up their lives as a sacrifice to God.’ (Morris)

‘It is theologically significant that here the dead are in some way present in heaven; from the perspective of the OT It is not possible for mortals to go to heaven after their death. Nevertheless, there are several passages in the Pauline letters, and perhaps two in the Fourth Gospel, that suggest that immediately following death believers are ushered into the heavenly presence of God (2 Cor 5:1, 8; Phil 1:23; 1 Thess 3:13 [however, here ἅγιοι may refer to angels rather than to “saints” = deceased Christians]; 4:14; 5:9; cf. John 14:2–3; 17:24).’ (Aune, WBC)

‘The term ψυχή here (and in 20:4) refers to “an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death” (Thayer, Lexicon, 677) or to the “seat and center of life that transcends the earthly” (BAGD, 893).’ (Aune)

The testimony they had maintained – ‘refers not to the testimony they bore to Jesus Christ but rather to the testimony they had received and preserved.’ (Aune)

‘Johns’ words are a reminder that throughout history there has been a persistent hostility towards deeply-committed Christians on the part of those wielding power. It is manifest today as at other periods, and it will be so to the end of time.’ (Morris)

Rev 6:10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

‘Rev 6:10 reads like a dramatization of the rhetorical questions attributed to Jesus in Luke 18:7: “Will not God vindicate [ποιήσῃ τὴν ἐκδίκησιν] his elect who cry to him day and night? Will he long delay over them?”’ (Aune)

They called out in a loud voice – See Gen 4:10; Ps 9:12; Heb 12:24. See also Lk 18:7,8, which is another cry for vengeance, this time on the part of the living. ‘In both passages there is the recognition that the Christian should not pursue personal vengeance. Retribution is a divine prerogative.’ (Morris)

“How long…?” – See Ps 6:3; 79:5; 13:1; 80:4, 10; Zech 1:12; Isa 6:11; Jer 47:6).

“Sovereign Lord” ho Despotes, see Lk 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Pet 2:1; Jude 4. This title was used for a master of slaves, and emphasises God’s power. “Holy and true” modifies this, by stressing God’s righteousness and reliability.

Judge…avenge our blood – ‘There is another prayer for vengeance in Luke 18:7, there from the living (cf. Rom. 12:19). In both passages there is the recognition that the Christian should not pursue personal vengeance. Retribution is a divine prerogative.’ (Morris)

“The inhabitants of the earth” – ‘is a technical term in Revelation. It means not humanity but those who are “at home in the present world order” as opposed to those who hold to the Word and Wtness of God.’ (Wilcock) See Rev 3:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8,14; 17:8.

‘Some think that the prayer of the martyrs here is less Christian than say Stephen’s prayer for his killers (Acts 7:60). But we must see it in the light of John’s interest in the theology of power. It is not a plea against individuals but a call for the reversal of the world’s judgment on God’s people. The cry is intelligible only on the basis that the supreme power in the world is God’s power and that he exercises it in a moral way.’ (Morris)

‘Comfortable people may not like the language of this passage, but oppressed and suffering people who trust God can resonate with the promise of vindication, as in the Old Testament and often throughout history.’ (IVP Bible Background Commentary)

‘They do not thirst for private revenge, but cry for public justice.’ (Wilson)

This prayer receives an answer in Rev 19:2.

Rev 6:11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow-servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

Each of them was given a white robe – Although some think that this refers to their justification, Morris suggests that it is indicative of their victory (cf. v2, where the white horse came to conquer): ‘the martyrs appeared to have been defeated by their enemies. Actually they were given the victory by God.’

Told to wait or ‘rest’ (AV, NRSV, NASB) a little longer – ‘The problem of God’s failure to punish sin here and now was one which exercised the first Christians. They found part of the answer in the cross. The cross does not mean the abolition of judgement. It means that men will be judged by their attitude to the sacrificial love of God shown on Calvary. But the cross shows that God has no truck with evil. Finally it will be totally overthrown. God waits till the number of the martyrs is complete. But then the destruction of evil is certain. It is not a question of “Whether?” but of “When?”‘ (Morris)

‘The martyrs were told to rest a little longer until the full number of the servants of Jesus had been martyred. God is not waiting until a certain number are killed; rather, he is waiting for the appointed time to arrive. He promises, however, that those who suffer and die for their faith will not be forgotten. In fact, they will be rewarded and honored by God. Today, oppressed people may wish for justice immediately, as these martyrs did, but they must be patient. God works according to his own timetable, and he promises to act. No suffering for the sake of God’s kingdom, however, is wasted. God will vindicate his people, but he will do it in his time, not ours.’

We know from 2 Pet 3:9 and elsewhere that the delay in putting all things to rights is not due to reluctance, or weakness, on God’s part.  It is, rather to all for the possibility of repentance on the part of those who would otherwise be destined for condemnation.

Rev 6:12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red,

This scene is very ‘futuristic’ (Bewes). Here is described the break-up of the world order as we know it.

‘John shows how the unleashing of God’s judgement competely shatters what the ancients regarded as the fixed points of an ordered world’ (stars, sky, mountains, islands – Wilson).

We have here, in terms similar to those of Mk 13, (Mt 24 Lk 21) a description of the Parousia. ‘That day will spell the end of the entire universe as we know it, Heb 12:26, the end of the planets and galaxies as well as the end of the human institutions they may symbolise.’ (Wilcock)

‘There are resemblances in this section to the apocalyptic discourse in the Synoptic Gospels. Particularly is this the case with the sixth seal. The importance of this is that when John’s picture of a ruined universe was brought before his readers this was not some strange new teaching. It was “a restatement of beliefs already held on supreme authority. What the faithful Witness at one time had said on earth, he now repeats from heaven.”‘ (Morris, quoting Kiddle)

‘A careful look at the sixth seal is important for understanding the literary structure and episodic sequence of the Revelation. When broken, it brings forth the typical signs of the end: a great earthquake, the blackening of the sun, the ensanguining of the moon, and the falling of the stars of heaven. (compare Mt 24:29) Though the Revelation is but a few chapters old, we are brought to the end of world history. The mighty as well as the lowly of the earth realize that the great day of God’s (and the Lamb’s) wrath has come, and nothing can save them. (Rev 6:14-17) The description of the judgments initiated by the first six seals would no doubt tend to overwhelm John’s audience, so he interrupted the sequence leading to the seventh seal to remind us that the people of God need not despair, for, as the “bond-servants of God,” (Rev 7:3 NASB) they have the promise of heaven.’ (Holman)

Rev 6:13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig-tree when shaken by a strong wind.

The stars…fell to earth – It is probably too literalistic to think of this as a shower of meteorites.  Morris points out that in apocalyptic literature generally, reference is often made to the regularity of the heavenly bodies. The end of the earth is, accordingly, signalled by cosmic irregularities of various kinds.

Rev 6:14 The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

John’s language is evidently phenomenological, rather than literal, for otherwise men would not be in a position to hide, v15.

Rev 6:15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.

John lists seven classes of men. They represent the imperial, military, financial, influential, and communal interests (Bewes).

Rev 6:16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”

The Lamb in Revelation

  1. Wrath of the Lamb, Rev 6:16
  2. Blood of the Lamb, Rev 7:14
  3. Book of life of the Lamb, Rev 13:8
  4. Song of the Lamb, Rev 15:3
  5. Marriage of the Lamb, Rev 19:7
  6. Supper of the Lamb, Rev 19:9
  7. Throne of the Lamb, Rev 22:1

(Pickering, Subjects for Speakers and Students)

They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us…!” – This indicates that the disaster they are about to confront is so dire than any other fate would be preferable. See Hos 10:8.  What sinners dread’ is not death, but the revealed presence of God’ (Swete).

“The wrath of the Lamb!” – ‘Who ever heard of a lamb being angry? What a terrible thought – the gentlest of all God’s creatures angry! It is the wrath of love, the wrath of sacrificial love which, having done the absolute utmost for us and our salvation, tells us as nothing else could the certainty with which evil awaits its doom at the hand of God.’ (Torrance)

But does not the Bible teach that ‘God is love’? (1Jo 4:8) Is not love, therefore, God’s supreme characteristic, to which all others (including his wrath) are subordinated? In other words, is not the doctrine of divine wrath sub-Christian? C.H. Dodd, for example, dismisses the book of Revelation as sub-Christian because its primitive doctrine of God generally and its emphasis on divine wrath in particular, eg Rev 6:16. But we have no right thus to subject the teaching of the apostles to our own prejudices.

‘The NT refs to the wrath give prominence to Christ, Mt 7:23; 2 Thess 1:7; Rev 6:16. It is unmitigated. In the present order of things, judgement is abbreviated, Gen 18:32; Mt 24:22, and divine wrath mixed with blessing, beckoning us to repentance, Rom 2:4. But the wrath to come will not be so limited. It will be what the sin deserves and what the holy jealousy of God requires. See Lk 16:24. This is seen in the experience of Christ himself, Jn 3:16; Rom 8:22. The only limit to wrath will be that defined by equity and justice. ‘Not one soul will be in Hell who does not deserve to be; and no one’s Hell will be darker or deeper than is right’ (Macleod). See also Psa 7:11n.

Rev 6:17 “For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

On God’s anger being specially reserved for the day of wrath, see also Zep 1:14-18; Mt 25:41; Rom 2:5,8; 2 Thess 1:8; Rev 11:18; 19:15.

“Who can stand?” – The assumed answer is, ‘No one’, but chapter 7 will tell of the safety of the righteous, and enduring joy and their rapturous praise.

‘We can see why the scene for these dramatic events was set in such detail. In chapter 6 John is shown the succession of woes which will sweep to and fro across the world throughout the course of history, and which often cause men to wonder whether the forces of evil are not altogether out of control Even the church is not safe from them; so even Christians may be tempted to think that, as despairing Englishmen said in the anarchy of the reign of King Stephen, “God and his angels sleep.” The setting in chapters 4 and 5, therefore, is intended to impress on John’s mind, and through him on ours also, where the true power lies. Not only in the church’s internal affairs (Scene 1) but in the world as a whole, Christ stands at the centre. It is he who is finally in control. God is still on the throne.” (Wilcock)

‘In no place in this section is John trying to terrify the saints. He is using familiar apocalyptic imagery to reassure them, and to give them the certainty that their God is over all. God is bringing his purposes to pass, and he will do so though it means this world order, and indeed this whole mighty universe, pass away.’ (Morris)