Overview of the Seven Seals

1.  OVERVIEW OF THE TEXT

MAIN DIVISION OF REVELATION

The seven main divisions of the Book of Revelation are the following:

      1. The seven letters in chapters 1 to 3;
      2. The seven seals in chapters 4 to 7 including 8:1;
      3. The seven trumpets in chapters 8 to 11
      4. The seven wars in chapters 12 to 14
      5. The seven plagues in chapters 15 to 19 (*)
      6. The millennium in chapter 20
      7. The new heaven and the new earth in the last two chapters

(*) Babylon receives God’s fierce wrath in the seventh trumpet at the end of Revelation 16 (16:17-19).  Revelation 17, 18 and the first part of Revelation 19 is an interlude that explains the origin, nature and the end of Babylon.  The return of Christ, which is described in the latter half Revelation 19 (19:11-20:3), therefore, chronologically follows immediately after the plagues of Revelation 16.  Or, stated differently, the return of Christ is a continuation of the seven plagues.

REVELATION 4

The first three chapters of Revelation focus on the church on earth, but in 4:1, John is invited into heaven:

Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.

GOD’S THRONE

This shifts the focus away from earth to heaven and away from John’s time to a different time.  In heaven, John is shown God’s throne room.  A throne is a symbol of kingly authority.  God’s throne symbolizes His authority over the universe.  It is mentioned many times in Revelation—in 16 of the 22 chapters.  Revelation 4 described everything relative to the throne:

    • 24 elders sit on 24 thrones around the throne (4:4)
    • Out from the throne come lightning, sounds and thunder (4:5)
    • Before the throne, there was something like a sea of glass (4:6).
    • In the center and around the throne are four living creatures (4:6).

In Revelation, the throne is often used as shorthand to refer to God.  For instance, to stand “before the throne” (7:9) means to stand before God.

24 ELDERS

Revelation 4 also describes 24 elders sitting on 24 thrones around the throne, clothed in white and with golden crowns on their heads (4:4).  Some believe these elders are a special class of angels, but for the following reasons, it is proposed here that they are humans:

      • The title “elder” is never used in the Bible for angels—only for humans.
      • The Bible never says that angels will sit on God’s throne, but humans will (3:21).
      • The elders have stephanos-crowns on their heads, which is used in Revelation as the crown of the overcomer—or the crown of life (9:7; 2:10; 3:11; 12:1; 4:4; 6:2; 12:1; 14:14).
      • The number 24 is derived from the number 12, which is the number of God’s people.  The New Jerusalem has 12 gates with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel written on them (21:12).  It also has 12 foundations with the names of the 12 apostles written on them (21:14).  The number of the sealed is 144000 (7:4), which is equal to 12 x 12 x 1000.

For these reasons, the 24 elders are probably a symbol for the saints from all dispensations.

THE NUMBER SEVEN

Seven lamps—which are the seven Spirits of God—burn before the throne (4:5).  God does not literally have seven Spirits.  The number seven must be interpreted symbolically.  The number seven originates from the seven days of the week.  It is often used (mentioned 56 times) in Revelation as a symbol for “the full period”.  Many of the sevens in Revelation are different from the other numbers in Revelation in the sense that the seven stands in chronological sequence to each other—the second follows after the first—the third after the second, and so forth, with the seventh as the last or end.  The same cannot be said of the other important numbers in Revelation, such as 4, 10 and 12.  The number seven therefore has to do with time and should be understood as completion or perfection of time—the full period.  The seven Spirits of God therefore symbolize that He will always be with us.

LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY

Before the throne is a sea of glass (4:6).  In the center and around the throne are four living creatures; full of eyes in front and behind (4:6-7).  They ceaselessly say:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, Who was and Who is and Who is to come” (4:8).

Jesus is described in detail in Revelation (1:13-18), but God is described rather vaguely in Revelation 4 (4:3).  God created everything and cannot be described in terms of things that can be seen.  God does not exist somewhere in the universe.  The universe exists somewhere within God.  He cannot be seen:

Who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion!” (1Ti 6:16)

For a further discussion, see,  Does Revelation present Jesus as God? 

WORSHIP

One may think that continual worship is boring, but to be in the presence of God is an extremely emotional experience because God is the most emotional Being in the universe.  To be in His presence is the highest joy possible.

When the living creatures give glory to Him who lives forever and ever (4:9), the 24 elders will fall down and will worship Him, saying (4:10):

Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (4:11).

With these words, the living creatures identifies the Father as the ultimate Source of all things. Jesus is not present in this chapter.

REVELATION 5

Specific Event – While Revelation 4 presents a continuous state, Revelation 5 presents a special event in which the whole universe is gathered in God’s throne room to see the Lamb receiving the sealed book.

Sealed book – The first verse says that John saw, in the right hand of God, a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals (5:1).  It is not a real literal book.  A book is a symbol of knowledge and a sealed book is a symbol of hidden knowledge—something that is not understood (Dan 12:4, 9).

Sorrow in heaven At first nobody is “worthy” to open the book (5:2-3), and John began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book (5:4).  John’s tears represent the sorrow of the whole universe.  We see the universal nature of the sorrow when Jesus, by taking the book, converts the sorrow into joy throughout the universe (5:8-14).  The sorrow represents the time before the Cross when no one could open the book. But now it is announced:

Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals” (5:5).

This confirms that the events of Revelation 5 are the consequence of Christ’s sacrifice.

Christ’s authority – John then saw a Lamb, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth standing “in the midst of the throne” (KJV). The Lamb took the book (5:7). Then the 4 living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints (5:8), and sang a new song:

Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (5:9-10)

This makes it clear that the purpose of Revelation 5 is to describe what happened in heaven AFTER Christ’s ascension, namely that He received the sealed scroll.

Then John saw—around the throne—millions and millions of angels (5:11), saying with a loud voice:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (5:12).

Then John heard every created being say:

To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (5:13).

At this point in time, the book is still sealed.  This meeting occurs after the Cross, but the Cross did not open the book. In Revelation 6 the Lamb breaks open the seals one by one.  Each time that He opens a seal in heaven, something happens on earth.

REVELATION 6

The first four seals are brief:

When the Lamb broke the first seal (6:1) John saw a white horse.  He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer (6:2).

When He broke the second seal a red horse went out.  To him who sat on it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. (6:3-4)

When He broke the third seal John saw a black horse.  He who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.  Then John heard voice in the center of the four living creatures announcing high prices for wheat and barley and scarcity of oil and wine, indicating famine. (6:5-6)

When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, John saw an ashen horse.  The name of the rider was Death; and Hades was following with him.  Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, pestilence and by wild beasts.  

The fourth seal, therefore, seems to overlap in meaning with the bloodshed of the second seal and the famine of the third seal (6:7-8).

FIFTH SEAL

The next two seals are much longer and therefore more important.  When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, John saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained (6:9).  They cried out with a loud voice:

How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth” (6:10)?

Souls underneath the altar – In the ancient Jewish temple there were two altars.  The very large altar of burnt offering was outside the temple and the altar of incense was inside.  In the ancient ceremonies the blood of the animals were poured out at the base of the altar of burnt offering (Lev. 4:7; 8:15; 9:9). This here becomes a symbol of God’s slain people, represented as the souls underneath the altar.  This symbol is also used in 16:6 where it is said that the people of the world “poured out” the blood of God’s people.

The souls under the altar cry out for revenge.  Because they are dead, this should not be understood as the request of God’s people.  They will only come to life when Jesus returns (20:4, 5).  This cry of the martyrs should rather be understood as similar to the blood of Abel, symbolically calling to God for revenge (Gen 4:10).

But the souls under the altar were told to wait.  To each of them was given a white robe and they were told:

Rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also” (6:11).

White Robes – The “white robes”—a sign of redemption—given to these dead saints, implies a judgment.  The passive sentence indicates that God gives them these white robes.  In Zechariah’s visions, “Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel” (Zech. 3:3).  This is “the angel of the LORD” (Zech. 3:1) which is a name for Jesus in the Old Testament.  (See the article Son of God for more detail.)  Then the angel said:

Remove the filthy garments from him. … See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes” (Zech. 3:3).

Final persecution – 6:11 also implies a period of persecution, because they have to wait for the completion of their brethren who were to be killed.  It will be a “time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time” (Daniel 12:1).

SIXTH SEAL

The sixth seal is catastrophic.  When He broke the sixth seal there was a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth; the whole moon became like blood; the stars of the sky fell to the earth; the sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places (6:12-14).  But the people of the world were not scared of these natural disasters, for they hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains and said to the mountains and to the rocks:

“Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (6:15-17)

This is the “great day”—the Judgment Day—the return of Christ.  The sixth seal shows the people hiding.  But they will be killed at the return of Christ (14:20 and 19:21).

THE SEALING OF THE 144000

Interlude explains The sixth seal ends with chapter 6.  The seventh and last seal is only broken in 8:1.  Chapter 7 is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals to answer the question in the sixth seal:

“for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (6:17)

We see this structure, namely that something is mentioned briefly, and then the text goes back in time to explain it, often in Revelation.  For instance, the woman’s wilderness period is mentioned briefly in 12:6.  Then the text goes back in time to the War in Heaven (12:7-12) to explain why the woman had to flee to the wilderness.  Another example is mentioned above, namely that Babylon receives God’s fierce wrath in the seventh trumpet at the end of Revelation 16 (16:17-19).  Revelation 17, 18 and the first part of Revelation 19 is then an interlude that explains the origin, nature and end of Babylon.

Sealing of the 144,000 – The first part of the interlude in Revelation 7 is the sealing of the 144,000.  It starts with four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree (7:1).

Daniel saw “the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea and four great beasts were coming up from the sea” (Dan 7:2-3).  The beasts are kingdoms (Dan 7:17).  The sea is explained as “the earth” (Dan 7:17).  The sea and the earth in 7:1 represent therefore the peoples of the world (compare Rev. 12:12).  The winds therefore are things that cause upheaval and conflict among the peoples of the world:

I will bring upon Elam the four winds from the four ends of heaven, and will scatter them to all these winds; and there will be no nation to which the outcasts of Elam will not go” (Jer 49:36).

The four angels holding back the four winds symbolize God holding back worldwide destruction.  God created all and is continually upholding all things.  Should He withdraw His protection and care, total destruction and chaos will be the consequence.

Then another angel ascended from the rising of the sun (the east), having the seal of the living God.  The rising of the sun frequently in the Bible refers to God.  For example, “the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east” (Ezek. 43:2).  The wise men saw the star in the east (Mat 2:2,9) and the sign of the Son of man will appear in the east (Mat 24:27-30).  The angel therefore brings the seal from God. God is called the “living God” because He has life in Himself (John 5:26).  We do not.  The life we have we received from Him.  Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

The angel from the east cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea (7:2):

Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we (the angels) have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads. (7:3)

144000 were sealed from the tribes of Israel (7:3)—12000 from each of the 12 tribes (7:5-8).

INNUMERABLE MULTITUDE

The second part of the interlude is the innumerable multitude.  While the 144000 are on earth, only from Israel, and precisely numbered, this multitude is in heaven, from every nation, and innumerable (7:9).  They stand before the throne and before the Lamb (7:9), apparently the answer to the question of the hiding multitude—“the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  They are clothed in white robes—similar to the white robes that slain saints received in the fifth seal.  As in Revelation 5, all the angels were standing around the throne, worshipping God.  One of the elders explained to John that those clothed in the white robes come out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.   For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple.  They will no longer hunger or thirst or suffer heat; for the Lamb will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes. (7:14-17)

SEVENTH SEAL

Then the seals end with the last seal, which simply reads:

When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (8:1)

2. THE SEALED SCROLL IS THE BOOK OF LIFE.

THE BOOK OF LIFE

In the last judgment, 1000 years after the return of Christ (19:11; 20:7), several books will be opened (20:12). One of these books will be the book of life (20:12).  It contains the names of the saved (Ps. 69:28; Ph. 4:3; Rev 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27).  It indicates who will live and who will die:

Nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it (the new Jerusalem), but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:2, 27).

If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (20:15).”This is the second death, the lake of fire” (20:14).

THE SCROLL IS THE BOOK OF LIFE.

A fundamental concept, which will greatly influence the interpretation of the seals, is that the sealed book which Jesus receives in Revelation 5 is the book of life.  This statement is justified as follows:

    • Both the sealed book and the book of life are about redemption.  God’s Lamb was slain, with two consequences.
      (a) He purchased for God with His blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (5:9).
      (b) He is judged worthy to open the sealed book (5:9).
      The sealed book, therefore, is about redemption; similar to be the book of life, which contains the names of God’s redeemed people (20:15).

    • The full title of the book of life is “the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (13:8; 21:27). The phrase “the Lamb who has been slain” ties it to Revelation 5, where a slain Lamb receives the sealed scrolls (5:6, 9).
    • Both books are opened after the return of Christ:
      • The sealed book will only be opened after “the great day of their wrath” (6:17; 8:1), which is the return of Christ. 
      • The book of life will also only be opened in the final great judgment (20:12)—one thousand years after the return of Christ, which is described in Revelation 19:11 and following.

3. THE SEALS DESCRIBE THE EXPERIENCE OF GOD’S PEOPLE

Another fundamental principle is that the primary concern of the seals is the people of God and their fate in a world that opposes the gospel.  The basis for this statement is that we do not read about non-believers in the seals, except at the return of Christ. God’s people, on the other hand, are constantly in focus:

INTRODUCTION

The key concept in the introduction to the seals in Revelation 4 and 5 is the Lamb (5:8) receiving a sealed book of life (13:8) because He was slain, “and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5:9).  This places the focus on God’s people.

FIRST SEAL

The first seal is the word of God going out conquering and to conquer.  There are some who propose that the first seal signifies deception, and that it really represents the antichrist appearing as an angel of light.  However, there are just too many indications in the text that this seal is the gospel. These include:

      • The color white in Revelation is consistently associated with God and His people (1:14; 2:17; 3:4, 5, 18; 4:4; 6:2, 11; 7:9, 13, 14; 14:14; 19:11, 14; 20:11).
      • The same applies to stephanos-crowns in this seal.  There are two types of crowns in Revelation.  The diadem is the crown of earthly rulers (12:3; 13:1), while stephanos is the crown of the overcomer—or the crown of life (9:7; 2:10; 3:11; 12:1; 4:4; 6:2; 12:1; 14:14).
      • The concept “overcome”.  (The word translated “conquer” is elsewhere translated “overcome”.)   

If we are unable to interpret something by comparing the symbols to each other in Revelation and the rest of the Bible, then we have no basis for interpretation at all.  Then we are all free to simply guess what the text may mean.

Furthermore, the purpose of Revelation is to reveal. For example, the beast from the earth has two horns like a Lamb (13:11), which means that it has a Christian face. But then Revelation reveals that it speak like a dragon (13:11), and the dragon is Satan (12:9). In other words, revelation tells us when something is a deception.

FIFTH SEAL

The focus in the fifth seal is “the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God.” They cry out for justice (6:9).

SEALS TWO TO FOUR

Seals two to four described bloodshed, famine, pestilence and death in general terms that could apply to both believers and non-believers.  But since the first seal is the gospel going out to conquer and the fifth shows God’s servants slain, then seals two to four must depict the experience of God’s people in the world.

THE INTERLUDE

The interlude starts the sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-8) and shows the innumerable multitude, namely those that washed their clothes in the blood of the Lamb (7:14), eventually standing before the throne (7:9).

CONCLUSION

The only place where we see non-believers is when they try to hide from Him on “the great day of their wrath” (6:17), which is the end of current world history.  The seals, therefore, describe the experience of God’s people; how they bring the gospel in power (first seal) but are slaughtered and suffer famine (seals two to five). Nevertheless, the wash their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (7:14) and are sealed (7:3) for God’s eternal kingdom. 

4.  SEAL 7 IS THE LAST JUDGMENT

The seventh trumpet is devoid of action.  In a single verse, it simply says there will be silence for half an hour in heaven (8:1).

Since nothing happens in the seventh seal, and since the seven trumpets follow immediately after the seventh seal, many believe that the seventh seal contains the seven trumpets (8:1‑6). This would mean that that the seven trumpets follow chronologically after the first six seals. However, the sixth seal is already the return of Christ, while the trumpets warn unbelievers of the coming judgment, and, therefore, must precede the return of Christ. For a further discussion, see the article – Does the seventh seal include the seven trumpets?  Another article concludes that the events in Revelation are not given in a strict chronological sequence.

The sixth seal is “the great day of their wrath” (6:17)—the return of Christ.  Furthermore, the interlide before the seventh seal describes the joy of the eternal state (7:15-17; compare 21:4; 21:1). The seventh seal, therefore, must be part of or after the Return of Christ.

With all seven seals broken, the sealed scroll will be fully open.  Since this is the book of life, which will only be opened in the final judgment 1000 years after the return of Christ (20:12), the seventh seal is probably the judgment before the great white throne (20:12).

This is supported by the fact that the Old Testament associates silence with God rising for judgment:

Be silent … before the LORD; for He is aroused from His holy habitation” (Zec 2:13).

The LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him” (Hab 2:20).

He “caused judgment to be heard from heaven; The earth feared and was still when God arose to judgment” (Ps. 76:8-9; See also Zeph. 1:7).

If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life (in the judgment before the great white throne), he was thrown into the lake of fire” (20:15). Then Heaven will fall silent. All the singing, glorifying, and praising ceases in immeasurable sorrow in the heart of God and in the hearts of His people as their loved one disappear for all eternity; never to be seen again. (For more information, see the article on Eternal Life and Eternal Torment.)

5. SEAL 6 IS THE RETURN OF CHRIST.

In the 6th seal (6:12-17) a massive great earthquake moves every mountain and island out of its place.  The sun becomes black, the moon like blood, and the stars fall to the earth. The sky splits apart like a scroll when it is rolled up. But the people of the world are not scared of this violent destruction, for something worse appears.  They hide in the caves and among the rocks, saying to the mountains and to the rocks:

Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (6:16, 17)

DAY OF THE LORD

These signs in the sun, moon and stars, coupled with the phrase “the great day,” unmistakably identify the sixth seal as the well-known “day of the Lord.” It is also called the:

      • Great day of the Lord” (Zeph. 1:14),
      • Day of the LORD’S wrath” (Zeph. 1:18),
      • Great and terrible day of the LORD” (Mal. 4:5) or simply the
      • Great day” (Jude 1:6; Rev 16:14).

Joel describes the signs in the heavenly bodies on this day:

The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood”  (Joel 2:31; Act 2:20; compare Is. 13:10).

Peter adds destruction on earth:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).

Other references explain this day as:

      • Great and very awesome” (Joel 2:11);
      • Darkness and not light” (Amos 5:18, 20); and
      • Destruction from the Almighty” (Joel 1:15; Isa 13:6).

Similar to the sixth seal:

      • The earth will be shaken from its place at the fury of the LORD of hosts in the day of His burning anger” (Isa 13:13);
      • Men will go into caves of the rocks and into holes of the ground before the terror of the LORD” (Isa 2:19) and
      • Joel asks “who can endure” the day of the LORD? (Joel 2:11).

It will be judgment day (Jude 1:6):

      • On that day “Your dealings will return on your own head”, and
      • There will be “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14). 
      • As you have done, it will be done to you (Oba 1:15). 
      • In it, the warrior cries out bitterly (Zeph. 1:14). 
      • It is a day of “fury and burning anger”, when God will exterminate sinners (Isa 13:9; Zeph. 1:18; 2:2). 

This day will come like a thief in the night (1Th 5:2; 2Pe 3:10).

RETURN OF CHRIST

The sixth seal explicitly states that it is “the great day“ of the wrath “of Him who sits on the throne, and … of the Lamb.” This implies that this is the return of Christ, which the New Testament also refers to as “the day of the Lord Jesus” (1Cor. 5:5).

The signs in the sun, moon and stars also indicate that the sixth seal is the return of Christ, for in His explanations of the end of the age, Jesus linked the signs in the sun, moon and stars to His return:

But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.”  (Mat 24:29-31)

ARMAGEDDON

As further evidence that the sixth seal is the return of Christ, note the links between the sixth seal and the last two plagues:

      • In Revelation, the term “great day” is found only in the sixth seal and the sixth plague (16:14-16).
      • In both the sixth seal and the seventh plague we see “a great earthquake” that causes islands and mountains to disappear (16:18). 

The sixth plague is not Armageddon itself; it is only the preparation (gathering the kings) for Armageddon. The real war is therefore in the final plague. The sixth seaI, therefore, is the seventh and final plague, where we also find the “great earthquake.” But, as argued before, the seventh plague concludes with the return of Christ in Revelation 19:11, as indicated by the following:

(A) Chapters 17 and 18 interrupt the flow of events to provide some background information. Then Revelation 19 continues where Revelation 16 left off (compare 16:19 to 19:2).

(B) While the sixth plague is the gathering together of the kings of the whole world for the war of the great day of God, at the return of Christ (19:11-21) the kings of the earth and their armies are gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.

(C) Furthermore, in the sixth plague they are gathered for “the great day” (16:14), while the return of Christ is “the great day” (6:17).

In summary, the sixth seal is the seventh plague and the seventh plague concludes with the return of Christ. Therefore, the sixth seal is the return of Christ. This means that the sixth seal is Armageddon, where the kings and armies of the world gather together to war against the Son of Man at His return.

On that day all “kings, … commanders, … mighty men and … and … all men” will be killed (19:18, 21; compare 14:19, 20), while “those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus” “came to life” (20:4). (In Revelation’s symbolic language, all of God’s people have been martyred.)

THE SIXTH SEAL IS THE SEPARATION
HE WILL SEPARATE THEM FROM ONE ANOTHER

The kings, great men, rich, chiefs of thousands, mighty, servants, and freemen who hide in the rocks of the mountains from the presence of “Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,” asks “who is able to stand?”  Revelation 7 provides the answer:

Behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (7:9).

This makes a distinction between two multitudes.

Revelation 6 ends with the sixth seal and the seventh seal is only in Revelation 8. It, therefore, may seem as if the entire Revelation 7 is an interlude but the description of the innumerable multitude before the throne actually is a continuation of and part of the 6th seal. The interlude consists only of 7:1-8, describing the sealing of the 144,000.  (As interludes in Revelation always do, 7:1-8 jumps back in time to before the sixth seal, to provide background information.)

The sixth seal, therefore, is the the separation of the lost—hiding from the presence of God—and the saved—standing in joy before God, which Jesus Himself described:

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious THRONE.  All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Mat 25:31-32).

6.  SEAL 5 IS THE SEALING

In the fifth seal (6:9-11), John saw God’s slain souls underneath the altar, crying out:

How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?

But they are told to wait.  Each of them is given a white robe and they are told that to “rest for a little while longer.” They are told to wait until “until the number of their fellow servants … who were to be killed … would be completed also” (6:11). 

Compare this to the sealing as described after the sixth seal (7:1-8), where John first saw four angels at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth, sea or trees. Then another angel ascends from the east (the rising of the sun), having the seal of the living God and cry out to the four angels:

Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads” (7:3).

This is followed by the sealing of the 144,000 (7:4).  It is proposed here that the sealing of the 144000 (7:1-4) is the same as the fifth seal, justified as follows:

Both precede the sixth seal. 

The sealing must precede the sixth seal because the sixth seal is the return of Christ (6:16-17), and sealing after the return of Christ does not make sense.  A separate article shows that the events in Revelation are not given in a strict chronological sequence. 7:1-8 is one of the interruptions of the sequential flow of events that jump back in time to explain the history.

By referring to the past, present, and to the future, both refer to a certain point in human history:

Seal 5 refers to:

        • The past – Some of God’s people have been martyred,
        • The present  – White robes are given to the souls under the altar after and
        • The future – The number of their brethren must be completed.

The sealing also refers to:

        • The past – Four angels have been restraining the winds;
        • The present – The seal of God is brought from the east; and to
        • The future – They will continue to restrain the winds until all of God’s servants are sealed.

Both involve a delay until something happens to God’s people. 

    • Fifth seal – The slain souls are asked to “rest a little while longer.
    • Sealing – The release of the winds is delayed until the sealing is completed (7:1-3).

Both complete the number of the saints.

    • Fifth seal – The Greek text does not contain the word “number” but the verb plêrôthôsin which means “filled, completed, made full.”  The NASB adds “the number” (6:11). 
    • The sealing – completes the number of the saints (7:3-4).

In both, a token of salvation is given to the saints.

    • Fifth seal – the white robe in 6:11.  
    • The sealing – the seal in 7:3.

Both are followed by massive destruction

    • The fifth seal is followed by the 6th seal when a great earthquake displaces all mountains and islands. 
    • The sealing is followed by the winds that “harm” the earth and sea and trees.

Both are followed by the plagues of Revelation 16. 

This requires a slightly more involved logic, and therefore discussed in the next two sections.

7. THE PLAGUES ARE PART OF THE SIXTH SEAL.

JUDGMENT DELAYED

In the fifth seal, the slain souls ask:

How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (6:10)

They were told to:

Rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also” (6:11).

JUDGMENT EXECUTED

They asked for judgment on their murderers, but that was delayed.  In 19:2, a great multitude praises God:

For He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and HE HAS AVENGED THE BLOOD OF HIS BOND-SERVANTS ON HER.

Her” refers to Babylon (18:21). She is the one that kills God’s people—also in the fifth seal:

In her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of ALL who have been slain on the earth” (18:24).

All main concepts from the fifth seal are found in 19:2:

      • Judge,
      • Avenge, and
      • The slain fellow-servants.

Revelation 19:2, therefore, praises God that He has executed the judgment requested in the fifth seal. Since 19:2 is the continuation of the seventh plague (compare to 16:19), 19:2 refers to the judgment on Babylon during the seventh plague.

CONCLUSIONS

The “judging and avenging” requested by God’s saints in the fifth seal are therefore delayed until the plagues. This is confirmed by the following statement in the plagues:

They poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” (Rev 16:6)

This means that the fifth seal precedes the plagues. Furthermore, the plagues precede fall shortly BEFORE the return of Christ. (His return is only described as from 19:11.) The sequence, therefore, is:

Fifth seal – Seven Plagues – Return of Christ

Since the sixth seal is already the return of Christ, as discussed above it means that the plagues are part of the sixth seal.

SUMMARY

In the fifth seal, the slain souls ask God to judge the people who killed them, but they were told to “rest for a little while longer” (6:11). In 19:2 a great multitude praises God because He has judged “the great harlot” and because “He has avenged the blood of his bond-servants on her.” This refers to the judgment of Babylon in the seventh plague; shortly BEFORE the return of Christ. The judgment requested by God’s saints in the fifth seal, therefore, are delayed until the plagues. This means that the plagues follow AFTER the fifth seal. Since the sixth seal is already the return of Christ, it means that the plagues are part of the sixth seal.

8. GOD’S PEOPLE ARE SEALED
THROUGH PERSECUTION
TO PREPARE THEM FOR THE PLAGUES.

PURPOSE

The 144000 are mentioned in two places in Revelation; chapters 7 and 14. this section compares these two sections to determine for WHAT purpose God’s people are sealed. The answer to that question will also indicate WHEN the sealing will come to an end.

Revelation 13 describes the persecution of the people that do NOT have the mark of the beast. In contrast, Revelation 16 describes the seven last plagues (15:1) on the people that DO have the mark of the beast.  Logically, the plagues follow AFTER the persecution. The sequence is:

Persecution – Plagues

The question then is, at what point does the sealing end:

      • Before the persecution begins or
      • Before the seven last plagues begin?

Stated in different words, are God’s people sealed:

      • To prepare them for the persecution or
      • To prepare them for the plagues?

WHEN THE PLAGUES BEGIN,
THE NUMBER OF THE “VICTORIOUS” PEOPLE IS COMPLETE.

This section begins the discussion by considering the seven last plagues. The introduction to the seven plagues mentions things in the following sequence:

      • The seven angels with the seven plagues (15:1);
      • Those who had been victorious over the beast (15:2-4);
      • Seven angels receive the seven plagues in the temple (15:5-7);
      • Access to the temple is blocked (15:8); and
      • Plagues poured out on those with the mark of the beast (16:1-2). 

This contrasts two groups of people, namely the people:

      • Who had been victorious over the beast (15:2-4) and those
      • With the mark of the beast (16:1-2).

These, therefore, are the two camps into which the world will be divided when the plagues start to fall.  At that time, there will be no third “undecided” group. 

The following confirms that the number of the “victorious” people is complete when the plagues begin to fall:

      • They are mentioned BEFORE the plagues are poured out.
      • The absence of any repentance in the plagues (16:9, 11, 21). This means that nobody will be saved during the plagues.
      • The closure of the temple prior to the plagues (15:8) also implies that there will be no repentance during the plagues because the temple is where people go to for forgiveness (Hebr. 10:10, 19).  The closing of the temple implies the end of salvation.

THE SEALING IS COMPLETE BEFORE THE PLAGUES BEGIN.

This section will relate the conclusions from the plagues in the previous section to the 144000 in Revelation 14. To do that, this section argues that the victorious people in the plagues (15:2) are the same as the 144000:

Firstly, Revelation contrasts both these groups with the people with the mark of the beast:

As discussed above, the introduction to the plagues contrasts:
 – The victorious people with
 – The people with the mark of the beast.

Revelation 13:16-14:1 is a small unit of text that is, unfortunately, due to the contrast it sets, divided by a chapter division. These verses contrast:
– the people that have the mark of the beast with
– the 144000.
(These texts contrast the two groups by mentioning them together and by describing both the mark of the beast and the seal of God as names that are applied to foreheads.)

Secondly, since the victorious people are “victorious over the beast” (15:2), it means that they take part in the war over the mark of the beast that is described in Revelation 13 and 14. However, Revelation 13 and 14 symbolize the overcomers as the 144000 sealed with the seal of God (14:1).

Since the “victorious” people are the same as the 144000 and since the number of the “victorious” people is complete before the plagues start to fall, it follows that the number of the 144000 is complete before the plagues start to fall. In other words, the sealing process, as described in 7:1-8, is complete before the plagues start to fall.

THE 144,000 ARE SEALED
– THROUGH THE PERSECUTION OF REVELATION 13
– TO PREPARE THEM FOR THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES.

But then the question is, is the sealing completed before the persecution of Revelation 13 begins or only at the end of that persecution?

Revelation 13:16-14:1 indicates that the persecution will divide the world into three classes of people:

      • People with the mark of the beast on the forehead (13:16) –
        The forehead implies the mind.  To have the mark of the beast on the forehead is to think like the beast; to agree with it. 
      • People with the mark of the beast on the right hand (notice the “or” in 13:16) –
        To have the mark of the beast on the right hand—but not on the forehead—means that such people do what the law requires of them even though they know it is wrong. This includes nominal Christians that will become intimidated and that will be shaken out of the camp of God’s people by this period of intense persecution. 
      • People with the seal of God on the forehead (7:3; 14:1) – the 144000.
        To have the seal of God on the forehead is to think like God; to have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). 

No group is mentioned with the seal of God only on the hand because God does not force people through intimidation to do His will.

All three groups may profess to be Christians.  People that profess to be Christians, but whose lives do not conform to their confession, will be tested by the fire of persecution and fail. They will be shaken out of the camp of God’s true people, leaving the 144000 standing alone for God on earth.  By submitting to the laws of society, in contravention to the revealed will of God, they receive the mark of the beast.

Since the persecution divides the world into these groups, the conclusion is that God’s people are sealed during the persecution period; not before the persecution period.  This is confirmed by the fact that the 144000 are described as completed (14:1-5) immediately AFTER the statement that all people will be given the mark of the beast (13:16). 

THE WHOLE WORLD IS DIVIDED INTO TWO GROUPS
THROUGH THE END-TIME PERSECUTION
BEFORE THE PLAGUES BEGIN TO FALL.

By way of summary, while the 144000 are described in 14:1 AFTER the persecution activities of the beast, in 15:2 they are mentioned BEFORE the plagues fall. This implies that their number is complete at the end of the persecution; before the plagues begin. Stated in different words, nobody will be saved during the seven last plagues. This means that God’s people are sealed (receive the seal of God) through the Revelation 13 persecution period to prepare them for the plagues. The plagues are delayed until the sealing is complete.  During the plagues, they will have to “stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame” (16:15).

Revelation also indicates that the mark of the beast is given to people during this same persecution period (13:16). Furthermore, during the plagues, the number of people with the mark of the beast will not change:

      • The plagues in Revelation 16 target the people with the mark of the beast (16:2), but none repent (16:9, 11, and 21). 
      • By implication, none of the people with the seal of God will fall away.

In other words, the marking of the beast’s followers is also completed before the plagues start to fall. 

Therefore, to include all people. it would be correct to say that the plagues are delayed until the whole world is divided into these two groups.  In other words, both the sealing of God’s people and the marking of the beast’s followers conclude before the plagues start to fall. 

During the intense conflict of the Revelation 13 persecution, people will be forced by laws of government, by the threat of the death penalty (13:15) and economic sanctions (13:17) to conform to religion practices and beliefs that is contrary to the revealed will of God (20:4).  At the same time, God’s message will be preached with exceptional clarity and power (14:6)—to provide all intelligent human beings with sufficient evidence on which to base their decisions.  In this way, every person will be forced to make a decision, and their decisions will show what really is in their hearts.

People will believe what they WANT to believe (Romans 7). The miracles of the land beast (13:13) will provide sufficient evidence for those who WANT to believe the false gospel.  The powerful proclamation of the gospel (14:6) will provide sufficient evidence for those that want to believe in the Creator God.

The mark of the beast and the seal of God are applied by angels (7:3), and will therefore be INVISIBLE to humans, but to enable persecution of God’s people, there must also be a visible sign that distinguishes the people with the seal of God from the people with the mark of the beast.

The beginning of the plagues, therefore, presents the point in human history when all people in the world either have the mark of the beast or the seal of God.  This is a critical point in human history.  The four angels were told to hold back the winds until all of God’s servants are sealed on their foreheads (7:1-3); now they can release the winds—which are the plagues (see above).  The souls under the altar were told to wait for their revenge until their brethren are completed (6:11).  Now they can have their revenge—which is also the plagues (see above).

When all people are marked, we should not expect things to suddenly change. Things will remain as before, except for the addition of increasingly horrible catastrophes that threaten life and property, but the people of the world have survived many catastrophes and they will think that they always will survive.  The persecution of God’s people will therefore continue during the plagues.  See the discussion of the Seven Last Plagues.

Since there is no changing of sides during the plagues, both the mark and the seal indicate that the eternal destination of the person is sealed.  The mark and the seal are therefore similar in the sense that both indicate that the eternal destination of the person is fixed.

APPLICATION TO THE SEALING IN 7:1-8

These conclusions help us to interpret the sealing in the seven seals (7:1-8) and may be compared as follows:

REVELATION 13-16
God’s people are sealed through persecution. Once they are sealed, the plagues begin to fall.
SEALING 7:1-8
The winds are held back (delayed) until God’s bond-servants—the 144000—are sealed.

144,000 – The sealing of the 144000 indicate that these describe the same events.

Winds – In both, something follows after the sealing, namely the “winds” (7:1) and the seven last plagues. The “winds,” therefore, are another symbol for the seven last plagues. 

Delay – The delay is explicit in (7:3) but not clear in Revelation 13-16. Nevertheless, since the “winds” are the seven last plagues, the implication is that God delays the plagues because His people are not ready. As discussed in the Purpose of the Plagues, the plagues serve a very important purpose, and God’s people need to be prepared.

Persecution – In the fifth seal, the slain souls ask for judgment but they are told to rest a little while longer “until the number of their fellow servants … who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also” (6:11). This indicates further persecution. Both the fifth seal and 13:16-14:1 have an end-time context:

  • The fifth precedes the sixth, which is the Return of Christ.
  • The persecution in Revelation 13 is also followed by the Return of Christ (14:14).

For this reason, the persecution implied by the fifth seal is the persecution by the image of the beast (13:15-17).

The fifth seal refers to God’s people who have been killed for their faith. But this should be read as all of God’s people.  One has to get used to the generalizations in Revelation. In it, all God’s people are killed (cf. 20:4). 

Time perspective – By describing some events as in the past, others as present and still others as future, Revelation describes events from a certain time perspective. We see that also in:

  • The fifth seal, when the souls are told to rest a while longer (6:11), and in the
  • Sealing, when the angels are told to hold back the winds until all God’s people are sealed (7:3).

I propose that the time perspective in all chapters of Revelation is the same, namely when the angel, in the end-time, brings understanding in the prophecies of the book of Daniel from heaven (10:1; cf. Daniel. 12:9).   

White robes – The white robes that are given to “who had been slain because of the word of God” (6:9-11) are equivalent to “the seal of the living God” which the 144,000 receive (7:1-8).

The 144,000 are the full number of those who receive white robes.

10. 144000 LITERAL JEWS

Many people understand the 144000 as a literal group of 144000 Jews.  The following are some of the objections to this view:

It simply does not make any Biblical sense to say that God will select exactly 12000 from each of 12 physical tribes.  It is inconsistent with the freedom in God’s kingdom to argue that precisely 12000 people would be selected from each tribe.

The 12 tribes disappeared a long time ago.  The ten northern tribes disappeared when Assyria conquered and carried them away into the Assyrian Empire. This was eight centuries before Christ (2 Kings 17:5-23).

This is also not the right list.  It differs from every other list of the tribes in the Bible.  The list of the tribes in Revelation 7 lists Judah first because Christ is the “Lion … from the tribe of Judah” (5:5).  Dan and Ephraim are excluded from this list because of their sin (Gen 49:17; Judges 18:27-31; Hosea 4:17; 8:11).

If the 144000 Israelites are interpreted literally, then their description in Revelation 14 must also be literal.  There it says they have not been defiled with women, which would imply that all of them are men.  It also says they have never “no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless” (14:5), but all men are sinners.

SYMBOL FOR ALL BELIEVERS

The following argues that the Israel mentioned in Prophecy is a symbol for all believers:

A: Revelation 1:20 uses a Jewish symbol, the lampstands—as a symbol for the Church.

B: The pure woman in Revelation 12 represents both Israel and the Church (cf. 12:5, 17).  

C: This same pure woman is later presented as the New Jerusalem:

It is the bride, the wife of the Lamb” (21:9). It has 12 foundations on which the names of the 12 apostles are written (21:14) and 12 gates, on which the names of the 12 tribes are written (21:12).  This, by itself, is sufficient proof that Revelation does not distinguish between Israel and the Church.

D: Many texts from the New Testament can be quoted:

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.  (Rom 2:28-29)

… For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; … it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.  (Rom 9:6-8)

And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.  (Gal 3:29)

For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.  And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.  (Gal 6:15-16)

Jesus’s twelve disciples, that became the twelve apostles—the first church fathers—were all Jews.  To one of them, Jesus said “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church” (Mat 16:18).  To the 12 Jewish disciples Jesus also said that they will sit on 12 thrones to judge the 12 tribes of Israel (Mat 19:28).  The first leaders of the Church were all Jews and the Church leaders will judge Israel.  It is therefore not feasible to distinguish between Israel and the Church.

This is a critical subject for the study of Revelation.  There is no point in reading this article further if one disagrees with the view expressed here.  Rather read the article on the identity of “Israel in Prophecy”, based on Romans 9 – 11.

11. THE SEAL OF GOD IS SOMETHING SPECIAL THAT END TIME BELIEVERS WILL RECEIVE

END-TIME

For the following reasons, the seal of God in Revelation must be limited to the end time:

(A) The seal of God in Revelation is only mentioned in the context of the end-time events:

In Revelation 7, the seal is mentioned between the great day of God’s wrath (6:17) and the innumerable multitude who inherits the new heaven and new earth (7:9, 14-17).

In Revelation 14, the 144000 sealed servants of God are described after the end-time persecution to put the mark of the beast on all people, which implies that people receive the seal of God as they withstand the test of the mark of the beast.

(B) The seal is not available in all ages because an angel brings it from God at a specific point in history (7:2). 

One of the consequences of the conclusion that the completion of “the number of their fellow servants,” as envisaged by the fifth seal, is the sealing in 7:1-8, is that that completion begins when the angel brings the seal from God. That means that the seal is not available during the previous four seals.  Six seals are described between the heavenly meeting in Revelation 5, which is Jesus’s enthronement at His ascension (3:21), and the angel bringing the seal from God.  This implies that the seal arrives a significant time after Jesus’s ascension.

THE SPECIAL NATURE OF THE SEAL

Since the seal of God in Revelation must be limited to the end time, it is not the same as the seal mentioned earlier in the New Testament (Eph. 1:13, 14; 4:30; 2 Tim 2:19) which is available throughout the church age. It must be something more than what God’s people received in earlier times, as indicated by the following:

EQUIVALENT TO THE WHITE ROBE

Another consequence of the conclusion that the fifth seal is related to the sealing in 7:1-8, is that the seal of God is equivalent to the white robe of the fifth seal.  Both are symbols of acceptance into God’s eternal kingdom.  The difference is that the white robes are received by God’s resting (dead) saints (cf. Daniel 12:13) while the seal of God is received by living saints.

ON FOREHEADS

The seal is put on their foreheads (7:3). That says something about how they think—their minds.  The seal is God’s name (14:1), and names in Revelation represent character (17:3, 5).  They think like God.

THE NUMBER 144000

The special nature of the end-time seal is also indicated by the number of people that will receive it—namely 144000.  The NASB adds the words “the number of,” implying that a certain number must be completed.  That would be consistent with the statement that exactly 144000 will receive the seal of God.  But numbers in Revelation are always interpreted symbolically:

      • Two is the number of the gospel (e.g. 12:17 or the two witnesses).
      • Four indicates “the whole earth” (everywhere, e.g. 7:1; 10:11; 14:6).
      • Seven indicates ‘the full period’ (always) – For instance, Revelation says God has seven Spirits (4:5; 5:6), but that should be understood symbolically, namely as that the His Spirit will ALWAYS be with us. 
      • Twelve is the number of God’s people. There were, for example, 12 tribes and 12 apostles. 

144000 is equal to 12 x 12 x 1000—the full number of God’s people.  It is a symbolic way of saying that these people will be mature Christians who will not withdraw under persecution. It, therefore, is proposed that the number 144000 should be understood qualitatively; rather than quantitatively, as is also indicated by how they are described in Revelation 14:

      • Free “from women” (religious deceptions);
      • Following the Lamb where-ever He may lead them;
      • First fruits to God and to the Lamb; and
      • Always speaking the truth and never sin (14:4, 5).

To be sealed, therefore, means to be spiritually mature—to love God with you whole heart, your neighbor like yourself and even to love you enemies.  The extraordinary description of the sealed saints set them apart from their brethren in earlier ages

HIS BRIDE HAS MADE HERSELF READY 

Another way to show the extraorinary character of the 144000 is the indications that Christ will only return when His people have reached a certain level of maturity:

    • His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (19:7:8).
    • Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth (God’s people) is ripe” (14:15).

This is consistent with the message in the book “The Call” by Rick Joyner, quoting Jesus:

The last-day church will not be greater than Paul’s generation, even if she does greater works.  All that is done is done by My grace.  However, I will make more of My grace and power available to the last-day church, because she must accomplish more than the church in any age has yet accomplished.

Last-day believers will walk in all the power that I demonstrated, and more, because they will be the final representatives of all who have gone before them.  The church will demonstrate My nature and My ways as they have never been demonstrated before by men.  It is because I am giving you more grace, and to whom much is given much will be required.

12.  FIRST FOUR SEALS

FIRST SEAL

The first seal (6:2) contains the words “white”, “overcoming” and “stephanos” (crown).  It is argued above that these words in Revelation are always associated with the gospel.  The first seal is therefore the gospel going out to the world.

THIRD SEAL

To measure out food with a scale, as in the third seal, implies famine.  For instance Ezekiel prophesied that, during the siege of Jerusalem, the people “will eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and drink water by measure and in horror” (Ezek. 4:16; also Lev. 26:26).

SEALS TWO TO FOUR

Seals two to four are very cryptic—sword, famine, pestilence, death—which could refer to either believers or non-believers.  Another article argues as follows:

Revelation has seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowl plagues. The first four of each of these series of seven are general and should not be individually interpreted.

The context, therefore, must interpret these seals:

If the first seal is the gospel and the fifth shows God’s servants slain, then the first four seals must represent the experience of God’s people in the world.  These four seals, therefore, reflect Jesus’s summary of church history—war, famine, pestilence and persecution, then the end will come (Matt. 14:14).

SECOND SEAL

The primary meaning of Greek word translated “slay” in the second seal means to butcher.  This is not the normal Greek word for “kill”.  This word is also used for the death of Jesus (5:6, 9, 12; 13:8) and in the fifth seal for the killing of God’s people (6:9; 18:24). This supports the argument that the second seal refer to the slaying of God’s people.

COVENANT CURSES

The striking parallels between the language of the first four seals of 6:1-8 and the covenant curses, together with Zech. 1:12-15, strongly suggest that these seals are based on the Hebrew Bible covenantal curses.  These curses are the penalties sent by God on His people because of their unfaithfulness to the covenant.  They are referred to as “war, famine, pestilence and wild beasts” (Lev 26:21-26; Deut. 32:23-25).  These “four severe judgments” (Ezek. 14:21) or “four kinds of doom” (Jer. 15:3) were intended to wake God’s people from their apostate condition and bring them back to God. The first four seals symbolize God’s judgments on the church unfaithful to the gospel (6:1-8).

The first four seals represent the period during which the angels restrained the winds before the arrival of the seal of God.  It is also the period of during which the saints—which John sees at the beginning of the fifth seal—are killed..

13.  THE SEALS BEGIN AT THE CROSS

While Revelation 4 describes a continuous state, Revelation 5 describes a specific event, namely the meeting of all of God’s intelligent creatures to see Jesus ascending God’s throne to receive the sealed book from God.  It is a special and critically important heavenly meeting.  The millions and millions of angels looking on (5:11) and the interest of “every created thing” (5:12) emphasizes the intense importance of this meeting.

AFTER HIS ASCENSION,
JESUS WAS SEATED AT GOD’S RIGHT HAND.

The New Testament mentions frequently that Jesus was glorified at the Father’s right hand at His ascension to heaven:

“When He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,  (Eph. 1:20-22; see also Acts 2:32-36; Rom. 8:34; Hebr.  8:1; Acts 5:30-31; Phil 2:6-11; Col 3:1; Hebr. 1:3; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Pet 3:21-22).

THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS POURED OUT AFTER JESUS WAS GLORIFIED.

Jesus’s glorification is further linked to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a few days after His ascension:

The Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).

Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear” (Acts 2:33).

REVELATION 5 DESCRIBES JESUS’ ASCENSION TO THE THRONE OF GOD.

It is proposed that this event—when Jesus was exalted or glorified at His father’s right hand at His ascension after the Cross—is the event described by Revelation 5.  This is justified as follows:

The New Testament says that Jesus was glorifies at the Father’s right hand when He ascended to heaven.  That is exactly what happens to Jesus in Revelation 5.  The NASB reads that the scroll is in the Father’s right hand (5:1), but the first meaning of the word translated “in” (epi) is “over, upon or on” (Strong G1909).  The book is therefore on God’s right hand—the place at which Jesus is to be glorified.  When He occupies that position He also takes the book.  Further, Jesus is glorified in Revelation 5.  He is—along with God—praised by “every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them” (5:13).

In Revelation 5, Jesus sits down on the throne, for He appears “in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts” (5:6 KJV).  The four living beings are “in the center and around the throne” (4:6).  Jesus therefore appears at the center of the throne.  Also in 7:17, which is a later scene of God’s throne room, Jesus is “in the center of the throne”.

The conclusion of one section of Revelation often contains a key to understand the next section.  In the conclusion of the last of the seven letters Jesus said “I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (3:21).

Jesus receives the sealed book because He overcame (5:5) and He is described as a slain lamb (5:6).  It is therefore logical that He received the book immediately after He overcame by being slain.  This is perhaps the strongest evidence.

In 4:5, “the seven Spirits of God” are represented as “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne”.  But when the Lamb appears on the throne “the seven Spirits of God” are said to have been “sent out into all the earth” (5:6).  This links the outpouring of the Spirit to the event in Revelation 5.

To summarize, the New Testament indicates that, after Jesus was sacrificed on the cross and after His ascension, He was glorified at His Father’s right hand, and that this was followed by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.  In Revelation 5, Jesus appears on God throne—at His Father’s right hand—as a slain lamb, receives a book because He overcame, is glorified by the whole universe, and with the Holy Spirit sent into the entire world.  This fits exactly with what the New Testament says happened at His ascension.  To take Revelation 5 and apply it to the end time—as many people do—seems to be an injustice.

4.1 IS NOT THE RAPTURE.

We cannot possibly agree with the interpretation that 4:1 is the rapture.  In addition to the arguments above that Revelation 5 represents Jesus’s enthronement, the following are some further reasons:

The interpretation of 4:1, where John is called “Come up here” as the rapture of the Church, rests on very slender evidence.  It is much more likely that 11:12, where the two witnesses are also called “Come up here” represents the rapture of the church.  The purpose of John ascension to heaven in 4:1 is not to rescue the church from tribulation.  It is explicitly stated that the purpose is to show John “what must take place after these things” (4:1)

In 10:1 John sees an angel coming down from heaven.  He therefore is again on earth.  If he (John) represents the church—which he does when he receives the little book and the further instructions (10:8-9)—the church necessarily remains on earth with him.

See also the article on the rapture in the discussion of the seven plagues: Revelation 16:15 and the Rapture.

JUDGMENT BEFORE CHRIST RETURNS

Many understand Revelation 5 as the judgment prior to Christ’s return to the earth, as in Daniel 7. However:

    • No books are opened in Revelation 5, as is done in Daniel 7:16.  Jesus is praised for taking the book, but He does not open it in Revelation 5.  The books are only opened in 20:12.
    • We find no typical judgment language (judge, avenge) in Revelation 5.  Such language we only find in the second half of Revelation (except for the fifth seal—but this is only a request for judgment).
    • If Revelation 5 was the judgment before Christ’s return, then Revelation 6 must have been His return.  In contrast, the first five seals represent the history of the Church.

14.  THE INNUMERABLE MULTITUDE

ALL SAINTS

The innumerable multitude is clothed in white robes (7:9). These are the clothes that the slain saints received (6:11). Since these saints die during the second, third and fourth seals—in other words, ever since the Cross—the innumerable multitude includes the resurrected saints of all ages.

THE 144000 AND THE INNUMERABLE MULTITUDE

While the 144000 are on earth, only from Israel, and precisely numbered, the multitude is before God’s throne in heaven, from every nation, and innumerable (7:9). But this does NOT mean that they are two completely different groups. In a number of instances, John hears about one thing, but when he looks, he sees something else, but the two things are different perspectives of the same thing:

      • In 5:5, John hears about a Lion that overcame but when he looks, he sees a Lamb as if slain (5:6).  Both the lion and the lamb are symbols for Jesus—representing two different phases of His work.  He was a lamb when He was slaughtered, but as the “Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (5:5) “to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Gen. 49:10).
      • In 17:1, John hears about a woman sitting on many waters but when he looks, he sees her sitting on a seven-headed beast (17:3).  The water is explained as the peoples of the world (17:15). The beast represents those same people organized into the kingdoms of the world (see the article on The Seven-Headed Beasts of Revelation).
      • Later, an angel says to John that He will show him the other woman in Revelation—the bride of the Lamb (21:9) but then John sees a city—the New Jerusalem—descending from heaven (21:10).  A city is a collection of people; not just a collection of buildings. The New Jerusalem is the collection of God’s people, just like Babylon is also both a city and a woman, representing the enemy of God’s people.

Similarly, in Revelation 7, John does not see the 144000—he only hears about them, but when he looks, he sees the innumerable multitude from every nation. This implies that the 144000 and the multitude are related. They are not the same, just like the lamb and the lion represent two perspectives on Christ and the water and the beast represent two perspectives on the people of the world, the 144000 and the innumerable multitude are two perspectives on God’s people. The 144000 represents God’s people on earth during the end-time conflict.  The innumerable multitude represents God’s people of all ages.

PALM BRANCHES

The palm branches in the hands of the innumerable multitude imply that this event was symbolized by the feast of tabernacles on the 15th day of the seventh month.

On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month … you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days … ‘Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.  … ‘You shall live in booths for seven days.” (Lev 23:39-42)

This feast followed immediately after Yom Kippur—the great judgment day—on the tenth day of the same month.  The event portrayed by Revelation 7, therefore, is the real event—the wonderful new world—after the great judgment day. The feast of tabernacles pointed forward to this day.

GREAT TRIBULATION

One of the elders said to John that the innumerable multitude came out of the “great tribulation” (7:14).  When Jesus explained the last events, He said:

There will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.  Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” (Mat 24:21-22).

The angel in Daniel also referred to the last events when he said:

There will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time” (Dan 12:1).

This “great tribulation” is not the persecution of God’s people.  It refers to the end-time catastrophic events, symbolized in Revelation by the plagues and the sixth seal.  However, in the context of the seals, the “great tribulation” in 7:14 seems to be the first 5 seals, during which God’s people were slaughtered.

RESURRECTED SAINTS

As argued, 7:1-8 jumps back in time to describe the sealing of the 144000. The description of the innumerable multitude than continues the chronological sequence of events after the Return of Christ in the sixth seal. Since the innumerable multitude include all sainst of all time, it includes both the resurrected saints and those living when Christ returns.  The latter group will never die.

15.  WHY?

Up to now the emphasis has been on the question “what”.  The seals and their sequence were explained.  But perhaps the more important question is “why”.  Why was there much sorrow in heaven before the Cross?  Why is there a sealed book—representing hidden information—in heaven?  Who does not understand what?  If the Cross made Him “worthy” to open the sealed book, why will the book only be opened after the “great day of their wrath” (6:17)?  Why did He not open the book immediately?  Jesus is said to be worthy to open the book because he was slain and purchased people for God (5:9).  Why was Jesus not “worthy” before the cross?  How did the Cross make Him worthy?  These questions will now be addressed.

16.  WHAT WILL OPEN THE BOOK?

At Christ’s return, all non-believers will be put to death (19:11-21) while Satan will be locked up in a prison (20:1, 2, 7).  One thousand years later non-believers will be raised to life (20:5) and Satan will be released from his prison (20:7).  Under his leadership they will attempt to capture the New Jerusalem, but “fire came down from heaven and devoured them” (20:9-10).   Then follows the final judgment before the great white throne (20:11-13), through which God will recreate eternal peace and joy in His universe, as represented by the last two chapters of Revelation.

In this last judgment, a number of books are opened (20:12), similar to the judgment scene in Daniel 7:10.  These books contain the deeds of people (20:12)—the history of the world from God’s perspective.  One special book that will be opened in the last judgment is the book of life (20:12), which has been identified above as the seven-sealed book.  The sealed book cannot be opened today and will not be open at the Return of Christ—because the events surrounding His return only breaks the sixth seal (6:17)—one seal remains.  The book will only be opened in this last great judgment (20:12).  God wants to make an end to sin as soon as possible.  The fact that He has not done so yet shows that He is waiting for something.  He already has had to allow sin to continue for 2000 years after the Cross.  Revelation reveals that He is waiting for the book of life to be opened—until then the last judgment is delayed.

The seals are not the contents of the book but prevent the book from being opened.  The breaking of the seals allows the book to be read.  Each time a seal is broken, something happens.  What is the relationship between the breaking of the seal and the events that follow?  It is proposed that the breaking of the seals is the events that follow.  In other words–the book of life is opened by the seal-events.  Consequently, the seal-events must happen before God can conclude His last judgment.

So, what are the seal-events?  Breaking the first seal is the gospel going forth.  Breaking the next three seals is the sacrifice of God’s people as they live and preach the cross.  Breaking the fifth seal is the giving of white robes to the saints that have already been slain at that point in history, but the fifth seal continues until their brethren are completed—which is the same as to be sealed—which means to become spiritually mature (see above).  As discussed above, during this sealing period God shakes nominal Christians out from amongst His people through a terrible period of persecution.  The plagues are delayed until this is done—until God’s people are completed and sealed.

But two seals remain.

The sixth seal—the plagues

Judgment Day breaks the sixth seal.  As presented by the sixth seal, Judgment Day is not a single event, but a period of time—because it includes the plagues.  During the plagues there is worldwide devastation, with massive loss of life (see discussion of the sixth trumpet), but with no repentance (16:9, 11, 21).  This divides the world between those that hide from Him (6:17) and those that stand before Him (7:9).  At the end of the plagues—at the Return of Christ—all people of the world are put to death (6:17; 19:21), but God’s people receive their eternal reward (7:9-17; compare with 20:4).

The plagues are delayed until God’s people are completed and sealed.  It is therefore concluded above that they are sealed in preparation for the plagues.  What happens during the plagues is therefore really important to the opening of the book.

The plagues (the sixth seal) are discussed in rather abstract terms in the seals.  To really understand the plagues, Revelation 15 and 16 must be studied.

As argued in the discussion of the plagues, the plagues is a test.  It is not arbitrary torment.  The plagues have a very important purpose, namely to verify God’s judgments.  The frequent mention of God’s righteousness in the plagues—and nowhere else in Revelation—is one indication there-of (15:3, 4; 16:5, 7; 19:2).  The frequent mention that they repent not (16:9, 11, 21)—as if the purpose of the plagues is to see if they would, indicates that the plagues is a test for non-believers.  The fact that God’s people are sealed in preparation for the plagues indicates that the plagues are also a test for God’s people.  It has been argued above that God will have a group of believers on earth in the end time that will receive something special from God.  Why would this be required unless they must somehow be tested?

On the one hand, God’s judgment of the lost is proven right because the followers of the beast refuse to repent, even when confronted with clear evidence that they are wrong—they can see that the plagues do not fall on that hated minority (16:2, 10) that tormented them so much (11:10) by proclaiming the unwanted gospel (14:6).  They can see that the plagues only fall on the followers of the beast and realize without a doubt that this minority is God’s real people, but they will not repent (16:9, 11, 21).  To the contrary, they prepare to war against God (16:14-16), and the way they war against God is by warring against His people, similar to what God said to Saul—later Paul—when he persecuted God’s people:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Act 9:4)

The plagues are intended to confirm that the people with the mark of the beast have become haters of God, and they will never change.  The plagues are designed to confirm the rightness of God’s judgment—that He has no other option that to allow them to die a second and final time (20:14; 21:8).  These events will show that they are solidly confirmed in their ways—unable to change.  In the last judgment everybody will be judged according to their deeds as recorded in the books (20:12), and the plagues will provide this information for these books.

The plagues also confirm the rightness of God’s judgment of His people.  Only people with the mark of the beast suffer the plagues (malignant sores, all waters became blood, etc. Revelation 16).  The people with the seal of God are protected from the plagues, but not from persecution.  In the period prior to the plagues they are killed and prevented from buying and selling (13:15, 17).  This logically continues during the plagues, and also intensifies when supernatural forces (spirits of demons—16:14) perform miracles to convince the kings of the world to combine forces.

Notice the warning to God’s people—put in brackets by the NASB—given during the sixth plague:

 (16:13) And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; (16:14) for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (16:15) (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”)  (16:16)  And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.

Verse 14 announces the arrival of the spirits of demons to gather the kings.  Verse 15 is the message to God’s people during the gathering of the kings.  Verse 16 describes the kings gathered.  This confirms that God’s people are on earth at this time and pressurized by the most intense persecution to renounce God.  In this context God warns His people to keep their clothes—their “righteous acts” (19:8).  This will be their test.

The conclusion is this—the behavior of God’s people under temptation and persecution will justify God’s decision to save them.  Their behavior will not save them—Revelation 5 makes it clear they are saved by the Cross (5:9):

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9).

However, they remain firm when subjected to intense persecution of the sixth plague.  They are scared and fully aware of their sins.  But they really want to believe in the God of the Bible and are willing to suffer all possible loss for Him.  This will justify God’s decision to save them.  This will also be written in the books of judgment.  This is the information that will be required for the book of life to be opened in the final judgment.

The sealing and completion of God’s people is not the final purpose of the seals.  The sealing is only a means to an end.  The real purpose of the seals is to test God’s people during the plagues.  This is what is recorded in the books (20:12).  This is why the last judgment is delayed—this is why God did not make an end to sin immediately after He redeemed His people through the Cross—God’s people must be proven as evidence for all intelligent beings in the universe—for all eternity.

Before the test nominal Christians are removed from the camps of the saints by the persecution of the land beast—in order that the distinction between God’s people and the world will clear to all observers.  Once God’s people have been marked by the angels (7:3), the on-looking universe can witness their behavior under intense persecution, when the world threatens to take everything away from them—also their lives.

To use the words of Rick Joyner in “The Call”;

By choosing death rather than to go against God’s laws they will reveal the glory of God in such a way that it would be a witness to every power and authority, created or yet to be created, for all of eternity.  During this battle the glory of the cross would be revealed, and the wisdom of God would be known in a special way.  Jesus could have judged the world after His resurrection, but the course of the world was allowed to continue so that His righteous ones could be proven and the power of what He did on the cross would be seen in mankind.

The book of life therefore cannot be read until God’s judgments are verified.  On the basis of our deeds we are all lost.   Even the best of us serve God faithfully only for a fraction of time, and with a fraction of our energy.  Our best deeds are like filthy rags.  God’s people do not deserve to live.  There are many non-believers that are better people than some of God’s people.  The big question is therefore why God saves some people.  The answer to this question will be recorded in the books of judgment, and will allow the book of life to be opened.

But one seal remains.

The seventh seal—The Millennium

No event is recorded at the breaking of the seventh seal—simply silence in heaven for half an hour.  The seventh seal is beyond the Return of Christ because the sixth seal includes His Return.  But the seventh seal must precede the Last Judgment at the end of the Millennium because the book is opened in the Last Judgment.  The seventh seal must therefore be during the Millennium, which follows after the Return of Christ (20:4).

At the return of Christ, all non-believers are put to death (19:21).  But Satan will not be killed.  He is bound in the abyss (20:1-2).  At the end of the Millennium, something strange happens—all the lost dead are raised to life (20:5) and Satan is released from His prison (20:7).  With the wicked resurrected, Satan immediately stirs the vast multitude with rebellion. He deceives the numberless crowd (20:3) and convinces them that God intends to do them harm.  Together they surround the holy city (20:9)—apparently in an effort to conquer or defeat the holy city.  But fire from heaven devours them (20:9)

Because this is immediately followed by the Last Judgment, it is proposed that these events at the end of the Millennium break the seventh seal that finally opens the book.  But why is this war required?  It is proposed that it has the same purpose as the plagues—to verify God’s judgments.  Before this conflict, His people had 1000 years to investigate the causes and consequences of everything that happened (20:4), but then God allows the last demonstration of the nature of evil.  After this evidence has recorded in the books, the book of life—containing the names of the saved—can also be opened (20:12).  The opening of the book is a symbolic way of saying there is no longer the slightest doubt about the rightness of God’s judgment as to who should be saved.

At this one and only time in earth’s existence, all members of the human race are alive, immediately followed by the judgment seat of God (20:11).  Paul also refers to a time when every person will be alive and stand before the judgment seat of God:

… we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.”  (Rom 14:11)

Every tongue shall only give praise to God if every person understands.  Every person’s life is presented from the open books. The wicked see their deeds just as God saw their deeds. Each person beholds the spiritual influences of good and evil upon his or her life. They see the choices they made.  He who sees the hearts and reads the motives reveals sin to them with unvarnished clarity. The wicked know why they are condemned. All justification for sin is expelled in the light of God’s love.  With every motive fully exposed, sin is seen as nothing more than love for self. The wicked now know what the love of Jesus is, why he died on Calvary and why they cannot be saved. Every knee bows before Jesus with deepest emotion. The wicked admit Jesus is fair and just.  The background text, quoted by Paul in Rom 14:11, continues:

“They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’ … all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. (Isa 45:24)

The books unquestionably prove that God granted the power of choice to each person. Each member of the human family will know that his eternal reward was his choice. Those inside the New Jerusalem know they are there because they chose Jesus as their Savior. Those outside the city know they are there because they chose to reject the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  God knows everything about everything, but He does not manipulate the will of his creatures. The power of choice was freely bestowed upon all His children!

Even though the wicked admit the justice and love of God, they cannot change.  God has done everything He could to save them.  Nothing remains that God can do for them:

but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy. (2Ch 36:16)

It’s a grand and terrible moment. This will be extremely painful for the believers, for after a thousand years they will again see people they dearly love, and they would see how these people they love continue in their rejection of God.  But this revelation is necessary to provide information to safeguard the future universe from the risk of evil developing a second time.

17.   THE PRINCIPLE—LOVE REQUIRED UNDERSTANDING

Satan accuses God of bad judgment.

Revelation 12 helps to explain why God’s judgments must be verified.  Revelation 12 describes a war between the angels of heaven (12:7), but Satan and his angels “were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven” (12:8).  This war is particularly relevant to Revelation 5 because the meeting in Revelation 5 is the consequence of the victory in the war in heaven.  This statement is justified as follows:

The events in Revelation 12 are not given in chronological sequence.  That is clear from the repeat of the wilderness period in verses 6 and 14.  The war in heaven (12:7-12) is concluded after the Cross (see 12:13) but prior to the wilderness period of verses 14 and 6 (see 12:13-14).  The war in heaven is therefore concluded between the Cross in verse 5 and the wilderness in verse 6, which implies that the Cross caused the victory in the heavenly war.  Both the heavenly meeting in Revelation 5 and Satan’s expulsion from heaven therefore was the consequence of the Cross (5:5, 9).  This is also implies by the reference to the blood of the Lamb in both sections (5:6, 9; 12:11).

The seals and Revelation 12 should therefore be read together.  Revelation 12 helps us to understand why God’s judgments need to be verified because, in the context of the war in heaven Satan—the leader of the rebellion amongst the angels (12:7)—is called the “accuser of our brethren” (12:10).  We also see him elsewhere in this role (Job 1:8-10; Zech. 3:1-2).  He accuses God’s people.  Perhaps he attempts to justify his own sin by pointing to the sins of God’s people.  He argues that God’s people should also suffer the punishment of the second death (20:14; 21:8).  Perhaps he argues that no sinner can be saved.

But irrespective of the line of his arguments, Satan is not really concerned with us.  His war is against Jesus, against God and against His kingdom.  He uses us as a weapon against Jesus.  By accusing God’s people he effectively accuses God of poor judgment.

If we remember that many of the mighty angels have been swayed by Satan’s arguments, we realize that his arguments must be very convincing, and even loyal angels would be uncertain about the veracity of God’s judgments.  The book of life indicates who will live (21:27) and who will die (20:15).  It, therefore, contains God’s judgments.  The time when no one was able to open the book (5:3) refers to when Satan still was in heaven.  In less symbolic language—Satan’s accusations against God’s people (12:10) made it impossible to understand why the saved are saved, which means that Satan’s accusations are the book’s seals.  It is his accusations that are broken when the seals are broken.  Revelation 12 also tells us how they are broken:

… they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. (12:11)

This is a summary of the seals.  This is how Satan’s accusations are broken, and God’s judgment proven as unfailing.

Doubt may bring separation.

Unless God’s intelligent creatures have complete trust in His judgment, there will always be a nagging doubt—should God not have saved my son?  Why did God save my mother but not my father?  My father was a good man.  Why is he not here?  Unless such questions are completely answered beyond all doubt they may become the seedbed from which evil can again arise, because evil results from separation from God.  We are created to exist in a very close relationship with God.  He continually gives us everything we need, and we continually honor Him because we love Him.  If there is even the slightest nagging doubt in His judgments, that doubt may bring separation between God and creature, again resulting in the decay and sin we see around us today.  Praise God that we have the hope to, one day, live is a perfect world, where nobody wants to be wealthier or stronger or more influential or more important than anybody else and where we work together in complete harmony to create things beyond imagination. It was physically possible for God to make an end to sin a long time ago, but He wants to end the current evil in such a way that evil (rebellion) will never again arise.

God wants to be loved.

God delays the Last Judgment until His judgments are understood because He wants His creatures to understand.  This stems from the fact that God wants to be loved.  We cannot love God unless we understand Him.  Therefore God reveals Himself to His creation.  In particular, in the current context, God reveals His judgments.

That is also why God has not made an end to sin immediately when it first started in heaven.  He did not take Satan away when he first sinned because the universe would not have understood.  Satan was Lucifer—which means light bearer.  His work was to explain God to the universe, but he became self-centered.  He started to look at his own beauty and wisdom, and desired the praise of God’s creatures (Ezek. 28:13-17).  This sin developed over a long, long time, and Satan was careful to conceal his real motives under a cloak of concern for God’s kingdom.  The universe did not understand what he was doing.  If God at that stage ended his existence, the universe would not have understood why God did it, and understanding is dear to God.  He is the most emotional being in the universe.  He wants to be loved—and therefore to be understood.  He wants us to see things His way.  He therefore had to allow Satan to continue so that the universe could perceive Satan’s real motives, and the consequences of rebellion.  God had to allow sin to develop.

2.  THE JUDGMENT IS MADE BY PEOPLE.

The fact that the book of life is sealed does not mean that God lacks information—it is His created beings that lack information.  God knows and understands all things.  The contents of the book are not hidden from Him.  Revelation 5:3 makes it clear that it is His creatures that do not understand.

In the judgment scene in Daniel 7 a number of thrones are set up (Daniel 7:9), indicating that it is not only God that judges.  Also in 20:4 John saw a number of thrones and “they that sat on them”.  He does not specify who sit on the thrones, but only say “judgment was given to them”.  Because “they” sit on thrones, they are not being judged, but they are the judges.  The point again is that it is not only God that judges.  Jesus once said to His disciples:

Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Mat 19:28)

And Paul wrote:

Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?  Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? (1Co 6:2-3)

Here it is clear that people do the judging and the books are consequently opened for their benefit.  Since the 24 elders—representatives of saved mankind (see above)—are presented as sitting on thrones (4:4), they are probably the judges.  God is the presiding Officer, and He makes the final announcement of the judgment (20:12), but the judgment is made by people.

3.WHAT MADE JESUS WORTHY?

Revelation 5 first mentions the sealed book at (epi—see above) God’s right hand (5:1), and then asks the question:

Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals? (5:2)

And the answer was given:

And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; (5:3)

John’s tears represent the sorrow of the whole universe.  We see the universal nature of the sorrow when Jesus, by taking the book, converts the sorrow to joy throughout the universe (5:8-14).  The sorrow represents the time before the Cross, when no one could open the book—when God’s grace to sinners could not be explained due to Satan’s constant and convincing accusations.  Most angels trusted God, even they could not fully justify God’s grace to sinners.  Many angels believed Satan, and there was sorrow in heaven due to the inability to prove the reliability of God’s judgmentsparticularly why the saved are saved if all are guilty and deserve death.

But then the announcement is made:

Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals. (5:5)

Jesus then appears as slain Lamb on the throne of God (5:6) and takes the book (5:7).  Then they sang a new song in heaven, saying:

“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.  “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”  (Rev 5:9-10)

Many would explain the opening the book by saying it is simply a symbolic way of saying they are saved, but “they” in 5:9 have been saved in the past while the book will only be opened in the future.  Opening the book must be related to redemption, but it is not the same as redemption.  The redemption of the past made Jesus worthy to open the book in the present.

But the question remains, why could Christ not open the book before the cross?  What happened at the Cross that made Him worthy?

Many explain His death as pacifying the wrath of an angry God.  This is a horribly incorrect view.  This is how the heathen view their gods.  His blood did not soften the wrath of God.  The opposite is true—Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:36).  God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16).  God is not angry so that He must be pacified.  It is not God that must be changed—it is the people that must be changed.  The purpose of everything that God does with respect to the current sin crisis is to reconcile the universe (whether on earth or in heaven) back to Him:

For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Col 1:19-20)

Jesus purchased people “for God” by His blood (5:9).  God dearly loves His creation and wants to save it.  He does not desire for any to perish.

Others think that His physical blood has some magical power.  God’s universe is not mysterious and inexplicable.  God’s kingdom is a kingdom of evidence based trust.  His dealings with men and angels are the library of His wisdom that will be studied for all eternity.

While 5:9 says that Jesus may open the book because he was slain, 5:5 indicates that He may open the book because He overcame.  He therefore overcame by being slain, and He became worthy by overcoming.  The word “overcome” is used in each of the seven letters to the seven churches.  In that context it means to resist the temptation to sin—to overcome evil.  Jesus was tested, and He resisted temptation even unto death.  The tempter was allowed to tempt Him thoroughly, but Jesus never sinned.  The most severe temptation possible was inflicted on Jesus when God withdrew from Him in the hours before His death.  Jesus could evaporate the universe by a single thought, but He overcame by reflecting God’s love by subjecting Himself to a cruel death on the Cross for beings that do not deserve to live.  His redemption is the demonstration of God’s love—of what God is like.  The cross is the greatest love that the creation will ever know.  As the pinnacle of His revelation of God His death became a symbol of how He overcame throughout His life.  Thus the symbol “Lamb” (5:6) is used to show how Jesus overcame.

But why was Jesus not counted worthy to open the book before He overcame.  Why was He only worthy after He overcame?  What made the difference?  It would not be fair to propose that Jesus was somehow improved by becoming a man and a dying a sacrificial death.  He did not become more loving or gracious or better informed through the cross—no, the Cross is a demonstration of what God always was like.  Neither would it be fair to propose that God simply declared Jesus worthy as a result of the cross.   God does not speak at all in Revelation 5.  It is not God that declares Jesus worthy, but the elders and the four living beings (5:5, 8, 9).

There are many texts in the Bible that explains the consequences of the Cross, but very little is said about how the Cross achieve it.  It seems as if this topic is reserved for study one day in the perfect new world.  There is a general principle that disobedience brings death, and obedience brings life, and the cross is the greatest sacrifice that ever was made.  It is also the greatest love that the creation will ever know.  But we need to be patient.  Very little about how the cross made Jesus worthy seem to be revealed.

20.   The Call

The following quotes from “The Call” by Rick Joyner seem to agree with the above interpretation of the seals:

Satan has boasted since the cross that Jesus could redeem men but could not change them.  During the times of the greatest darkness and evil that are about to come, His people will stand as a testimony for all time that He not only redeemed His people from sin, but He also removed sin from themThrough them, He will remove sin from the whole earth.  He will now display to the whole creation the power of His new creation.  He did not come just to forgive sin, but to save mankind from sin, and He is returning for a people who are without stain from the world.  This will come to pass in the most difficult of times.  Page 78 The time when I stand up and bring My judgments to the earth has only been delayed so that My brethren could prove their love for Me by standing for truth at any cost. Page 171

Note a number of important concepts in this quote:

    • “Satan has boasted”.  This indicates his role as accuser.  Satan use arguments to convince others to join him.
    • “Jesus could redeem men”.  This implies that, before the Cross, Satan boasted that Jesus could not redeem men.  This is consistent with the sealed book of life.  Nobody can be redeemed as long as the book of life remains sealed.
    • “The times of the greatest darkness and evil” refers to the great tribulation—the crisis in the latter part of Revelation 13, but perhaps more specifically to the plagues.
    • His people will stand as a testimony for all time”.  Two principles are contained in this statement:
      • Firstly, at least one purpose of the end time crisis is to test His people.  This will stand as a “testimony”.  Later in the paragraph it is called a “display to the whole creation”.
      • Secondly, God’s kingdom is based on evidence.  God is not a Dictator.  He wants His creatures to understand.
    • “He also removed sin from them”—“a people who are without stain from the world”.  The quote says that God will “change” His people.  This is implied in the seals by the “completion” and sealing of God’s people.  As argued above, God’s end time people will receive something special.  Note that we do not have to remove our sins—Jesus will remove sin from His people.  It is not something we can do for ourselves.
    • Through them, He will remove sin from the whole earth”.  The end time testing of God’s people has a purpose—a very great purpose, namely to make a complete end to sin on earth.  God will remove sin from the earth through the last judgment.
    • The time when I stand up” refers to Daniel 12:1, which refers to the great tribulation, which are the plagues.
    • The plagues are “delayed so that My brethren could prove their love for Me by standing for truth at any cost”.  Delay is found in the fifth seal and the sealing.  In both the seals and in Joyner the delay is to give time to God’s people to be prepared for the plagues.

This consistency between Revelation and “The Call” supports Rick Joyner’s claim that the visions in this book are divinely inspired.  The books The Quest and The Call are recommended.

The statements quoted from The Call seem to be a good summary of the seals.  Directly and indirectly they refer to;

    • Satan’s role as accuser—boasting that Jesus could change men.
    • The time before the Cross, when nobody was able to open the book;
    • The delay;
    • The sealing and completion of God’s people;
    • The times of the greatest darkness and evil—the great tribulation—the plagues;
    • The testing of God’s people;
    • The books of judgment—testimony—God’s kingdom is based on evidence;
    • The final judgment—removal of sin from the earth;

This is a frightening concept—that our victory over sin is critical for God to recreate peace on earth.  But this is what we must strive for.  We must allow God to work in us to remove sin from us.  Jesus already bought us with His blood, and we are safe in Him, but before He can make an end to sin there must be a group of saints that will be tested and really overcome—but not for their own benefit.  They will prove that they are willing to sacrifice everything they have for what they believe.  They chose to do God’s will—being all the while thoroughly aware of their sinful nature which they must overcome by His power.  Through their behavior on earth, in the time of the greatest persecution, when all security on earth is taken away from them, even their own lives, they will stand as evidence of what God by His Spirit has done in them.  This is the final evidence for God to make an end to sin.

By choosing death rather than to go against God’s laws they will reveal the glory of God in such a way that it would be a witness to every power and authority, created or yet to be created, for all of eternity.  During this battle the glory of the cross would be revealed, and the wisdom of God would be known in a special way.  Jesus could have judged the world after His resurrection, but the course of the world was allowed to continue so that His righteous ones could be proven and the power of what He did on the cross would be seen in mankind.  The Call

TO: General Table of Contents

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