And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and see a black horse…
This vision has been explained in two ways, naturally and spiritually, and either yields a tolerably good signification. Both explanations are consonant with what we gather from the rest of the seals, which is, that much in the time of the Messiah's triumphal progress is not such as we should have expected.
1. We should have expected that the times of the Gospel would have been times of almost universal prosperity. So it had been prophesied (Ezekiel 36:30; Hosea 2:22; Joel 2:19). And we should the rather have expected this, because the preaching of the gospel does much to discourage many vices which occasion distress and ruin in this world, such as intemperance, drunkenness, wastefulness, gambling, immorality, etc. But it has not been so. From the first preaching of the gospel there has been just the same hard struggle for sustenance as there was before. Of course there have been countries in which the poor have not suffered from comparative scarcity, as in newly-planted colonies, but the tendency of things has been always to bring about, sooner or later, the universal struggle for a bare subsistence.
2. But the riding of this horse-rider has been interpreted spiritually to mean this, that in the day of Christ's power there has not been, nor will be, that plentiful supply of the wholesome and nourishing Word of God which we should have expected. The more thoroughly we examine the history of religion, I do not mean of the Church, but of individual religion, the more we shall discover the truth of this. For well nigh 1,500 years the Word of God has been altogether out of the reach of the vast majority of Christians. Till the invention of printing each copy had to be written fully and fairly out. And look also at the comparative fewness of those who if by chance they possessed a copy could read it. But we must not for a moment limit this scarcity of the wholesome nourishing Word to the scarcity of Bibles. The nourishment of the vast body of the Church is through teaching and preaching, and there may be a vast circulation of Bibles, and yet these Bibles unread and their contents undigested.
(M. F. Sadler, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.