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Revelation 6:1-8 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

IV. The Seven Seals, Trumpets, and Plagues, with Interludes[a]

Chapter 6[b]

The First Six Seals. [c]Then I watched while the Lamb broke open the first of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures cry out in a voice like thunder, “Come forward.” I looked, and there was a white horse, and its rider had a bow.[d] He was given a crown, and he rode forth victorious to further his victories.

When he broke open the second seal, I heard the second living creature cry out, “Come forward.” [e]Another horse came out, a red one. Its rider was given power to take peace away from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another. And he was given a huge sword.

When he broke open the third seal, I heard the third living creature cry out, “Come forward.” I looked, and there was a black horse,[f] and its rider held a scale in his hand. I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures. It said, “A ration of wheat costs a day’s pay,[g] and three rations of barley cost a day’s pay. But do not damage the olive oil or the wine.”

When he broke open the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature cry out, “Come forward.” I looked, and there was a pale green[h] horse. Its rider was named Death, and Hades accompanied him. They were given authority over a quarter of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and plague, and by means of the beasts of the earth.

When he broke open the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar[i] the souls of those who had been slaughtered because of the witness they bore to the word of God. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, “How long will it be, holy and true master,[j] before you sit in judgment and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” 11 Each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to be patient a little while longer until the number was filled of their fellow servants and brothers who were going to be killed as they had been.

12 [k]Then I watched while he broke open the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; the sun turned as black as dark sackcloth[l] and the whole moon became like blood. 13 The stars in the sky fell to the earth like unripe figs[m] shaken loose from the tree in a strong wind. 14 Then the sky was divided[n] like a torn scroll curling up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place. 15 The kings of the earth, the nobles,[o] the military officers, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid themselves in caves and among mountain crags. 16 They cried out to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 because the great day of their[p] wrath has come and who can withstand it?”

Chapter 7[q]

The 144,000 Sealed. After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth,[r] holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on land or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel come up from the East,[s] holding the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked[t] from every tribe of the Israelites: twelve thousand were marked from the tribe of Judah,[u] twelve thousand from the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand from the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand from the tribe of Asher, twelve thousand from the tribe of Naphtali, twelve thousand from the tribe of Manasseh, twelve thousand from the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand from the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand from the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand from the tribe of Zebulun, twelve thousand from the tribe of Joseph, and twelve thousand were marked from the tribe of Benjamin.

Triumph of the Elect. After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches[v] in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from[w] our God, who is seated on the throne,
    and from the Lamb.”

11 All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, 12 and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
    honor, power, and might
    be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” 14 I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;[x] they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “For this reason they stand before God’s throne
    and worship him day and night in his temple.
    The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will not hunger or thirst anymore,
    nor will the sun or any heat strike them.
17 For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them
    and lead them to springs of life-giving water,[y]
    and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Chapter 8[z]

The Seven Trumpets. When he broke open the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven[aa] for about half an hour.


  1. 6:1–16:21 A series of seven disasters now begins as each seal is broken (Rev 6:1–8:1), followed by a similar series as seven trumpets sound (Rev 8:2–11:19) and as seven angels pour bowls on the earth causing plagues (Rev 15:1–16:21). These gloomy sequences are interrupted by longer or shorter scenes suggesting the triumph of God and his witnesses (e.g., Rev 7; 10; 11; 12; 13; 14).
  2. 6:1–17 This chapter provides a symbolic description of the contents of the sealed scroll. The breaking of the first four seals reveals four riders. The first rider (of a white horse) is a conquering power (Rev 6:1–2), the second (red horse) a symbol of bloody war (Rev 6:3–4), the third (black horse) a symbol of famine (Rev 6:5–6), the fourth (pale green horse) a symbol of Death himself, accompanied by Hades (the netherworld) as his page (Rev 6:7–8). Rev 6:8b summarizes the role of all four riders. The breaking of the fifth seal reveals Christian martyrs in an attitude of sacrifice as blood poured out at the foot of an altar begging God for vindication, which will come only when their quota is filled; but they are given a white robe symbolic of victory (Rev 6:9–11). The breaking of the sixth seal reveals typical apocalyptic signs in the sky and the sheer terror of all people at the imminent divine judgment (Rev 6:12–17).
  3. 6:1–8 The imagery is adapted from Zec 1:8–10; 6:1–8.
  4. 6:2 White horse…bow: this may perhaps allude specifically to the Parthians on the eastern border of the Roman empire. Expert in the use of the bow, they constantly harassed the Romans and won a major victory in A.D. 62; see note on Rev 9:13–21. But the Old Testament imagery typifies the history of oppression of God’s people at all times.
  5. 6:4 Huge sword: this is a symbol of war and violence; cf. Ez 21:14–17.
  6. 6:5 Black horse: this is a symbol of famine, the usual accompaniment of war in antiquity; cf. Lv 26:26; Ez 4:12–13. The scale is a symbol of shortage of food with a corresponding rise in price.
  7. 6:6 A day’s pay: literally, “a denarius,” a Roman silver coin that constitutes a day’s wage in Mt 20:2. Because of the famine, food was rationed and sold at an exorbitant price. A liter of flour was considered a day’s ration in the Greek historians Herodotus and Diogenes Laertius. Barley: food of the poor (Jn 6:9, 13; cf. 2 Kgs 7:1, 16, 18); it was also used to feed animals; cf. 1 Kgs 5:8. Do not damage: the olive and the vine are to be used more sparingly in time of famine.
  8. 6:8 Pale green: symbol of death and decay; cf. Ez 14:21.
  9. 6:9 The altar: this altar corresponds to the altar of holocausts in the temple in Jerusalem; see also Rev 11:1. Because of the witness…word of God: literally, “because of the word of God and the witness they had borne.”
  10. 6:10 Holy and true master: Old Testament usage as well as the context indicates that this is addressed to God rather than to Christ.
  11. 6:12–14 Symbolic rather than literal description of the cosmic upheavals attending the day of the Lord when the martyrs’ prayer for vindication (Rev 6:10) would be answered; cf. Am 8:8–9; Is 34:4; 50:3; Jl 2:10; 3:3–4; Mt 24:4–36; Mk 13:5–37; Lk 21:8–36.
  12. 6:12 Dark sackcloth: for mourning, sackcloth was made from the skin of a black goat.
  13. 6:13 Unripe figs: literally, “summer (or winter) fruit.”
  14. 6:14 Was divided: literally, “was split,” like a broken papyrus roll torn in two, each half then curling up to form a roll on either side.
  15. 6:15 Nobles: literally, “courtiers,” “grandees.” Military officers: literally, “commanders of 1,000 men,” used in Josephus and other Greek authors as the equivalent of the Roman tribunus militum. The listing of various ranks of society represents the universality of terror at the impending doom.
  16. 6:17 Their: this reading is attested in the best manuscripts, but the vast majority read “his” in reference to the wrath of the Lamb in the preceding verse.
  17. 7:1–17 An interlude of two visions precedes the breaking of the seventh seal, just as two more will separate the sixth and seventh trumpets (Rev 10). In the first vision (Rev 7:1–8), the elect receive the seal of the living God as protection against the coming cataclysm; cf. Rev 14:1; Ez 9:4–6; 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30. The second vision (Rev 7:9–17) portrays the faithful Christians before God’s throne to encourage those on earth to persevere to the end, even to death.
  18. 7:1 The four corners of the earth: the earth is seen as a table or rectangular surface.
  19. 7:2 East: literally, “rising of the sun.” The east was considered the source of light and the place of paradise (Gn 2:8). Seal: whatever was marked by the impression of one’s signet ring belonged to that person and was under his protection.
  20. 7:4–9 One hundred and forty-four thousand: the square of twelve (the number of Israel’s tribes) multiplied by a thousand, symbolic of the new Israel (cf. Rev 14:1–5; Gal 6:16; Jas 1:1) that embraces people from every nation, race, people, and tongue (Rev 7:9).
  21. 7:5–8 Judah is placed first because of Christ; cf. “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev 5:5). Dan is omitted because of a later tradition that the antichrist would arise from it.
  22. 7:9 White robes…palm branches: symbols of joy and victory; see note on Rev 3:5.
  23. 7:10 Salvation comes from: literally, “(let) salvation (be ascribed) to.” A similar hymn of praise is found at the fall of the dragon (Rev 12:10) and of Babylon (Rev 19:1).
  24. 7:14 Time of great distress: fierce persecution by the Romans; cf. Introduction.
  25. 7:17 Life-giving water: literally, “the water of life,” God’s grace, which flows from Christ; cf. Rev 21:6; 22:1, 17; Jn 4:10, 14.
  26. 8:1–13 The breaking of the seventh seal produces at first silence and then seven symbolic disasters, each announced by a trumpet blast, of which the first four form a unit as did the first four seals. A minor liturgy (Rev 8:3–5) is enclosed by a vision of seven angels (Rev 8:2, 6). Then follow the first four trumpet blasts, each heralding catastrophes modeled on the plagues of Egypt affecting the traditional prophetic third (cf. Ez 5:12) of the earth, sea, fresh water, and stars (Rev 8:7–12). Finally, there is a vision of an eagle warning of the last three trumpet blasts (Rev 8:13).
  27. 8:1 Silence in heaven: as in Zep 1:7, a prelude to the eschatological woes that are to follow; cf. Introduction.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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