SERIES OF SEVEN
In Revelation 5, Jesus receives a scroll sealed with seven seals. In Revelation 6 to 8, He opens the seals one by one. Each seal results in dramatic events on earth.
In Revelation 8 to 11 seven angels blow seven trumpets, each with dramatic consequences on earth.
And then in Revelation 15 to 16, seven angels pour seven bowls with the seven last plagues out on earth, with disastrous consequences.
This article proposes that the first four of each of these series of seven are general and non-specific. In other words, they are highly figurative, and should NOT BE INDIVIDUALLY INTERPRETED. But the last three in each series are specific and individually interpreted.
This approach is justified as follows:
Firstly, in Revelation, the number four symbolizes the entire earth:
“I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth” (7:1).
This is also seen in the fact that FOUR WORDS are often used to describe the population of the world, where one word would have been sufficient:
Tribe and tongue and people and nation (5:9)
Nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues (7:9)
Peoples and nations and tongues and kings (10:11)
Peoples and tribes and tongues and nations (11:9)
Tribe and people and tongue and nation (13:7)
Nation and tribe and tongue and people (14:6)
Peoples and nations and tongues and kings (17:15)
ELEMENTS OF THE WORLD
Secondly, the first four trumpets respectively attack the earth, sea, waters and heavenly bodies (8:7-12), while Revelation describes the creation as composed of those four components:
“Worship him who made the heavens,
the earth, the sea and the springs of water” (14:7).
The first four trumpets are therefore simply an attack on man’s total environment.
The first four plagues target the same four components of man’s environment, namely the earth, sea, waters and sun, and are therefore interpreted merely as various plagues that will fall on the entire earth.
Thirdly, the average length of the description of the last three of a series is ten times longer than the first four:
– The first four seals cover 8 of the 35 verses of the seals (6:1-8:1)
– The first four trumpets cover 6 of the 63 verses of the trumpets (8:2-11:18)
– The first four plagues cover 8 of the 84 verses of the plagues (16:1-19:21)
Some interpreters spend more time on the first four of a series than on the last three. For the reasons above, it would be wrong to spend too much time on the interpretation of the first four of any series.
Lastly, the fourth seal seems like a composite of the previous:
The first horse went out conquering and to conquer (v2). The rider of the second horse has a great sword. It was given to him to takes peace from the earth; that men would slay one another; (v4). The third horse brings famine. The name of the fourth horse is Death, killing and it with the sword and with famine.
The first four seals, trumpets and plagues are therefore understood as worldwide and general. They are regarded as ‘highly figurative’, by which is meant that not each object or event should be separately interpreted:
The first four seals are various persecutions of God’s people.
The first four trumpets are plagues on the unrepentant world, in order to bring them to repentance.
Similarly, the first four plagues are various plagues that fall on the people with the mark of the beast.
But the fifth, sixth and seventh seals, trumpets and plagues prophesy very specific historical events. They are also symbolic, but here most symbols should be individually interpreted.
In each of the sevens, we find an interlude between the sixth and the seventh. These interludes provide background information that explains the last three of the series. These interludes therefore also explain the entire series:
The interlude in the seals reveals God’s people, indicating that the seals are about God’s people.
The interlude in the trumpets reveals the proclamation of the gospel to a fallen world.
The interlude in the plagues (16:15) is more difficult to find but discussed below.