God’s end-time servants will receive the Seal of God – Revelation 7:1-3

REVELATION 7:1-3

1 After this I saw 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.

2 And I saw another angel ascending
from the rising of the sun,
having the seal of the living God;
and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels
to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea
3 saying,

“Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees
until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God
on their foreheads.

SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE

This is the second article on Revelation 7:1-3.

The earth and sea (Rev 7:1) symbolize the people of the world but the trees represent God’s people (Rev 9:4).

The four winds (Rev 7:1), as argued, are another symbol for the seven last plagues, as described in Revelation 16.

Holding back – The “four angels” symbolize God “holding back” (Rev 7:1) the end-time catastrophes. God has always been holding back the forces of destruction. But a time will come when God will release those forces. When that happens, God’s people must be protected by the seal of God. Therefore, God holds the plagues back until His “bond-servants” are sealed (Rev 7:2-3). 

THE SEAL IS ONLY AVAILABLE
IN THE END-TIME.

According to the apostle Paul, people are sealed with the Holy Spirit when they put their faith in Christ. In contrast, for the reasons below, the seal of God in Revelation 7 is something special that only end-time believers will receive to protect them during catastrophic end-time events before Christ returns:

    • The seal is given to people who were already Christians (Rev 7:3).
    • The seal serves as protection against a danger that does not exist in previous ages, namely when the four winds; understood as the seven last plagues.
    • Revelation mentions the seal of God only in the context of the end-time, namely in relation to the great day of God’s wrath (Rev 6:17-7:2) and the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-14:1).

THE SEAL WILL CHANGE PEOPLE.

The purpose of the seal is to protect God’s people when the winds (the seven last plagues) are released (Rev 7:1-3). One possibility is that the seal serves to identify God’s people so that the angels would not pour the plagues out on them (Rev 16:2). But, for the following reasons, the seal of God will actually change God’s people and empower them to remain standing during the seven last plagues:

    • The seal is God’s name (Rev 14:1 – symbolizing His character) put on the forehead (symbolizing the mind). Consequently, the 144000 with the seal of God will have “no lie … in their mouth; they are blameless” (Rev 14:1-5).
    • Spiritually mature – In several places, Revelation indicates that Christ will only return when His people have become spiritually mature. For example:
      • His bride has made herself ready” (Rev 19:7).
      • The number 144000 symbolizes spiritual maturity.
    • New Earth – On the new earth, God’s people will still have “His name … on their foreheads” (Rev 22:4). This cannot symbolize mere identification.
    • Complete – The sealing begins before the time of the sixth seal because that seal contains the signs of Christ’s return. As argued, the sealing is equivalent to the ‘completion’ of “their fellow servants” in the Fifth Seal. This completing is not quantitative but qualitative.
    • Refute accusations – The context of the sealing is the breaking of the seven seals of the book of life. As discussed, the breaking of the seals means that Jesus directs events on earth to refute Satan’s accusations against God’s people by revealing their faithfulness under persecution. In that context, spiritual maturity makes more sense than mere identification.
    • Purpose of the plagues – The “four winds” are interpreted as the seven last plagues and one purpose of the plagues is to show that repentant sinners would rather die than disobey God. This also implies spiritual maturity.

RICK JOYNER CONFIRMS THAT GOD’S END-TIME PEOPLE WILL BE EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. 

The seal of God is well explained 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.

– END OF SUMMARY – 

DETAILED DISCUSSION

THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH (REV 7:1)

The number four in the “four angels,” the “four corners of the earth,” and the “four winds” symbolize that these things are worldwide.

THE SEA, EARTH, AND TREES

All three verses refer to these things.

The earth and sea symbolize the people of the world (e.g. Rev 12:12). The two beasts of Revelation 13 come out of the sea and out of the earth respectively (Rev 13:1, 11). The trees, on the other hand, represent God’s people (Rev 9:4). Therefore, God protects all people of the world by delaying (“holding back” – Rev 7:1) the end-time destructions.

GRANTED TO HARM (REV 7:2)

A comparison of the work of the four angels, as reflected in these three verses (Revelation 7:1-3) supports the identification of the trees as God’s people. The four angels:

      • Hold back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or sea or any tree (Rev 7:1).
      • Were granted to harm the earth and the sea (Rev 7:2).
      • Are instructed not to harm the earth or sea or trees until God’s bond-servants have been sealed.

Both verses 1 and 3 seem to show the four angels holding back disaster and both refer to the three-fold grouping of “earth… sea … trees.” But verse 2 is different. It describes what the four angels are permitted to do, namely, “to harm the earth and the sea.” They, therefore, are not permitted to harm the trees. This supports the proposal that the trees represent God’s people.

THE FOUR WINDS (REV 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 great sea” is explained as “the earth” (Dan 7:17).  This supports the view that the sea and the earth in Rev 7:1 represent the peoples of the world (cf. Rev 12:12). This also shows that the winds 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).

Throughout Scripture, winds are symbols of God’s judgment actions (1 Kings 19:11; Job 1:19; 21:18; 30:15; Psalm 1:4; 147:18; Isa 11:15; 27:8; 32:2; 41:16; Jer 22:22; 49:36-37; 51:1-2; Daniel 2:35; 7:2).

A previous article has concluded that the “winds” of Rev 7:1 are another symbol for the seven last plagues. In brief:

The mark of the beast is the opposite of the seal of God (Rev 13:16-14:1). 

The plagues are poured out on all people with the mark of the beast (Rev 16:2).  This implies that the plagues are poured out as soon as every person on earth has either received the mark of the beast or the seal of God. 

Since the winds are released as soon as God’s people are sealed (Rev 7:1-3), the winds are the same as the plagues of Revelation 16.

RISING OF THE SUN (Rev 7:2)

We know today that if something was approaching from outer space, it would appear to be rising in the east as the earth turns. In the Bible, the rising of the sun (the east) frequently refers to God.  For example:

      • The glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east” (Ezek 43:2).
      • The three wise men saw the star in the east (Mat 2:2,9).
      • The sign of the Son of man will appear in the east (Mat 24:27-30).

The angel, therefore, brings the seal from God.

THE LIVING GOD (Rev 7:2)

The living God” may be a shortened version of the description of God found elsewhere in Revelation: “Him who lives forever and ever” (Rev 4:9-10; 10:6; and 15:7). Alternatively, this phrase may identify God s the source of life. “just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (1 Tim 1:26).

GOD HOLDS DESTRUCTION BACK (REV 7:1)

Revelation 7:1 mentions the winds as the threat. The next two verses do not mention the winds again, but the angels themselves cause “harm.” For that reason, we should not make a sharp distinction between the angels and the winds.

These are not literal angels nor literal winds. The four winds are symbols of worldwide destruction and the four angels symbolize God restraining the forces of destruction because His “bond-servants” are not yet sealed (Rev 7:2-3).

God has always been holding back the forces of destruction. However, in the end-time, God will release the winds to destroy unhindered.

If the winds would be released prematurely, God’s people will be harmed. The final end-time destruction is delayed until all of God’s people are sealed (Rev 7:2-3). When the winds are released, God’s people will be protected by the seal on their foreheads. However, the people of the world will have no protection.

God is doing the restraining. Is He delaying His own judgments or is He preventing the world from self-destructing?  God allows Satan to use this earth as a demonstration of his form of government to show that separation from God—the Source of Life—inevitably leads to death. The Book of Revelation is written, in part, to expose that cosmic conflict. When the day comes that God’s people are sealed, all restraint is drawn away from the wicked.

SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

The Sixth Seal, at the end of chapter 6, has the signs of the return of Christ (Rev 6:15-17). Revelation 7 begins with the sealing of the 144000. The sealing, obviously, must be completed before Christ returns. The first part of Revelation 7, therefore, jumps back to the time before the return of Christ. The sixth seal only continues in Rev 7:9.

In Revelation 7:1-3, the four winds are still being restrained. Once the sealing is completed, the four winds will be released, causing a final, worldwide destruction. A previous article concluded that the four winds are another symbol for the destruction caused by the seven last plagues and that the four winds are included or preceded by the sixth seal. For example, in the sixth seal, “every mountain and island were moved out of their places” (Rev 6:14).

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 Rev 12:6. Then the text goes back in time to the War in Heaven (Rev 12:7-12) to explain why the woman had to flee to the wilderness. The sequence of events continues in Rev 12:14.
    • Babylon receives God’s fierce wrath in the seventh plague at the end of Revelation 16. Revelation 17 and 18 is then an interlude or interruption that explains the origin, nature, and the end of Babylon. The seventh plague continues in Revelation 19. For further discussion, see Chronological Sequence.

The sequence of events, therefore, is as follows:

      1. Angels have been restraining the winds before the seal came down from heaven (Rev 7:1).
      2. Seal of God comes down out of heaven (Rev 7:2).
      3. The servants of God are sealed while angels continue to restrain the winds (Rev 7:3-8).
      4. The winds are released, causing the destruction resulting in the sixth seal (Rev 6:12-14).
      5. Christ returns (Rev 6:15-17)
      6. The innumerable multitude stands before the throne of God (Rev 7:9-).

THE NEW TESTAMENT SEAL

In this section, the question is what the seal of God in Revelation 7 is. In the New Testament, sealing is related to the reception of the Holy Spirit into one’s life:

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” (Eph 1:13, NIV; see also Eph 4:30).

By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:13).

The Holy Spirit is the assurance of salvation—the guarantee of heaven. This sealing takes place when a person comes to Christ and, in the New Testament, it is clearly not limited to the End-time.

God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his” (2 Tim 2:19. NIV).

Sealing was clearly a present reality in Timothy’s day and was the mark of a genuine Christian.

The question, therefore, is whether the seal in Revelation 7 is the same as the NT seal. In other words, is the seal in Revelation 7 simply a symbolic way of saying people are saved?

In that case, the Revelation 7 sealing may be an intensified final proclamation of the gospel with the result that people at the End become genuine believers and are sealed in the New Testament sense.  In this interpretation, sealing is a process that has gone on throughout the Christian era but reaches a final climax at the time of the end.

REV 7 DOES NOT REFER TO THE NEW TESTAMENT SEAL.

It is proposed here that the seal of God in Revelation 7 is something special that only end-time believers will receive and, therefore, is not the same as the seal mentioned that is available throughout the church age. This is indicated by the following:

ALREADY SEALED

The four winds” are held back by “four angels” until “the servants of God” are sealed “on their foreheads” with “the seal of the living God.” In other words, people who were already sealed in the Pauline sense receive the end-time seal. That means that the sealing is an additional work of God, a work of deepening spiritual maturity as the end-time approaches.

EZEKIEL 9

Revelation is parallel to the horrific description of Ezekiel 9:1-7. In both, a mark is made on the foreheads of God’s people, and in both the purpose of the mark is to protect them from the judgment that follows. Revelation 7 symbolizes the judgments as destructive winds. In Ezekiel 9, the destroying angels kill those who are not marked.

In Ezekiel 9 the marking on the forehead is done in acknowledgment of their prior faithfulness. By inference, the same applies to Revelation 7; the “servants of God” are those who are known to Him and who are to be protected in the final crisis.

END-TIME DANGER

The sealing in Revelation 7 is necessitated by the unique danger that comes when the four winds are released. Since this danger is limited to the end-time, the seal is also limited to the end-time.

PROTECTION

The NT seal functions as an identification (2 Tim 2:19). In Revelation 7:1-8, “the four winds” are held back until all God’s people are sealed. “Winds” are symbols of strife and conflict. The seal in Revelation 7, therefore, functions as protection; to shelter God’s people from the tribulations to come. It is not simply an identification.

This is confirmed by Rev 9:4:

They were told not to hurt … only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

POINT IN TIME

The seal comes out of heaven and the sealing begins while winds are being held in check (Rev 7:2) and, therefore, at a specific point in history. Another article proposes that the fifth seal also refers to a point in history, namely the beginning of the Time of the End, and that that is also when the seal of God comes down and the sealing begins. Then the seal would not be available during the previous four seals.

END-TIME CONTEXT

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 (Rev 6:17) and the innumerable multitude who inherits the new heaven and new earth (Rev 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.

In conclusion, Paul wrote that, at conversion, God’s people “were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” The seal in Revelation 7, however, is not the same as the seal Paul wrote about. It is something special that only end-time believers will receive to protect them from the destruction of the seven last plagues.

WINDS WILL NOT HARM GOD’S PEOPLE.

The winds will not harm God’s people. This is indicated by the following:

    • The angels/winds have not been granted to harm God’s people (the trees). (See the discussion of the earth, sea, and trees above.)
    • As stated, the winds are the seven last plagues and the plagues will only fall on people with the mark of the beast (Rev 16:2).

The question is, WHY will the winds not harm God’s people?

    • Does the seal serve to identify God’s people so that the angels will know on which people not to put the seven last plagues?
    • Or, will the seal of God will change God’s people to enable them to endure the destruction caused by the winds?

DOES THE SEAL SERVE TO IDENTIFY GOD’S PEOPLE?

The “winds” are God’s judgments on the wicked. In the first option, the winds cannot be unleashed until it is clear just who the righteous are. Once they are identified by means of His seal, the angels will know who to harm and who not.

Perhaps one of Jesus’ parables has this in mind: When the slaves asked “Do you want us, then, to go and gather them (the tares) up,”  the man said, “No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them” (Matt 13:28-29)

The blood on the doorposts in Exodus 12:21-23 is an example of God’s protection of His people in history. Other examples from Revelation:

They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Rev 9:4)

Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Rev 3:10).

GOD’S PEOPLE WILL BE CHANGED TO ENDURE THE END-TIME CATASTROPHES.

The second option is that the seal of God will change God’s people and empower them to endure the destruction caused by the winds. The following supports this view:

GOD’S NAME ON THE FOREHEAD

The seal is put on the foreheads of the servants of God (Rev 7:3). The forehead symbolizes the mind.  The seal is the name of God (Rev 14:1), and names in Revelation represent character (Rev 17:3, 5). In other words, to put the seal of God on their foreheads is to change how they think; they like God.

Even in the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21:1), “His name will be on their foreheads” (Rev 22:4). This cannot be for identification, for all people will have the seal of God. It must indicate character.

Revelation 14:1-5 describes the nature of the people with “His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads:” “No lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless” (Rev 14:5).

In Revelation, the opposite of the seal of God is the mark of the beast. That mark is received by those who oppose God, His people, and the gospel in the final days of earth’s history (Rev 13:16-17, see also Rev 14:9; 16:2; 19:20 and 20:4). While the seal of God consists of the name or character of God being applied in the lives of end-time believers, the mark of the beast consists of the name and character of the beast being applied to the beast’s end-time followers:

      • Some of them embrace the beast’s character. This is symbolized by the mark on the forehead.
      • Others will simply go along for economic and other benefits. They receive the mark on the hand.

Therefore, both the seal of God and the mark of the beast denote conformity to the character of the respective one that human beings worship (obey) at the End. In the final crisis, everyone on earth will bear the image of either the demonic or the divine.

THEY WILL BE ‘COMPLETED’ (FIFTH SEAL).

Another article argues that the fifth seal refers to a specific point in historical time, namely the beginning of the Time of the End. After that point in time, “their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed” (Rev 6:11). That has been interpreted as qualitative completion; not quantitative.

That article, furthermore, argued that the point in time in the fifth seal is the beginning of the sealing of Rev 7:1-3. Consequently, the completion of “their fellow servants” in the fifth seal is the same as the sealing of Rev 7:1-3. Therefore, the sealing should also be understood qualitatively; namely that God’s people are made complete in character.

THE CORE ISSUE IN THE SEALS IS THAT GOD’S PEOPLE WILL BE TESTED.

As previously argued, the seven seals explain the book of life (See Book of Life and The book which not even God can open.) Breaking the seals explains why the names in the book of life are the right names. They show that God’s decisions as to who should live eternally and who must die, are perfect. The sealing of God’s servants (Rev 7:1-3) is part of that explanation. In that context, the view that the seal is a substantial change to God’s people makes more sense, rather than merely an identification of God’s people.

CHRIST WILL RETURN WHEN HIS BRIDE HAS MADE HERSELF READY.

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

      • 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” (Rev 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” (Rev 14:15).

THE NUMBER 144000 IMPLIES MATURITY.

The special nature of the end-time seal is also indicated by the number of people that will receive it; 144000.  Numbers in Revelation are always interpreted symbolically. 144000 is the full number of God’s people.  It, therefore, is proposed that the number 144000 should be understood qualitatively; rather than quantitatively. For a discussion, see the article on the 144000. It is a symbolic way of saying that these people will be mature Christians and will not give way under persecution.

THE PURPOSE OF THE PLAGUES IS TO REVEAL THE TRUE NATURE OF PEOPLE.

The series of articles on the seven last plagues have concluded that the purpose of the plagues is not to punish but to teach, namely to show that God’s judgment of people is without fault:

      • Firstly, the plagues will show that the people with the mark of the beast, although they profess to be Christians, are hardened beyond repentance.
      • Secondly, the plagues will show that repentant sinners would rather die than disobey God, and, therefore, are worthy of eternal life.

This supports the view that the seal of God is more than mere identification. Rather, the seal is explained by the book “The Call” by Rick Joyner, quoting Jesus speaking:

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.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

The seal of God is only available in the end-time.

The seal of God will actually change God’s people and empower them to remain standing during the seven last plagues.

ARTICLES ON THE SEVEN SEALS

OVERVIEW

REVELATION 4

REVELATION 5

REVELATION 6

    • Seal 1: The white horse is the gospel.
    • Seals 2 to 4: Bloodshed, famine and death
    • Seal 5: Who are the souls under the altar?
    • Seal 6 includes the plagues and concludes with Christ’s return.

REVELATION 7

REVELATION 8

For further reading on Revelation, I recommend Jon Paulien’s commentary. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.

The Seven Seals of Revelation – Verse by verse summary

Introduction

Purpose of this article

This article explains the second main vision of Revelation, namely the seven seals of Revelation 4:1-8:1.

According to this vision, there was a book in heaven which no one was able to open but, through His death, Jesus became “worthy” to open it. The book was sealed with seven seals. Jesus breaks the seals one by one, causing catastrophes on earth. 

Many other interpretations focus on the events when the seals are broken and leave the interpretation of the sealed book fairly vague. In the current commentary, the identification of the book is foundational. The catastrophes caused by breaking the seals of the book can only be properly understood if we know what this book is.

Several detailed articles, that analyze this vision, have been posted on this website (See, List of articles). The current article summarizes these articles; mostly verse-by-verse. Since it is only a summary, it does not provide complete explanations but it does provide links to the articles with detailed discussions.

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the NASB and from the Book of Revelation.

Overview of the text

Revelation 4 and 5

Revelation 4 is a timeless description of worship in God’s throne room. Revelation 5:5 describes a specific event as a specific point in history, namely Christ’s death:

Before that point in time, there was a crisis in heaven, symbolized as a book that nobody is able to read because it is sealed up with seven seals (Rev 5:1-3). This symbolizes that there were things that the heavenly beings did not understand. John’s tears (Rev 5:4) symbolize the sorrow in heaven because these things are not understood. Apparently, this knowledge is of vital importance for the happiness of the universe.

Verse 5 turns that sorrow into joy, for it announces that Jesus has overcome to break the seals. Then Jesus appears as a slain lamb (Rev 5:6). Rev 5:5-6, therefore, describes the Cross. He takes the book (Rev 5:7) and the beings in God’s throne room declare Him worthy to break the seven seals and to open the book (Rev 5:9-10) but He does not do it immediately.

Revelation 6

In this chapter, He breaks the first six seals one-by-one. The first four – the famous horsemen of the apocalypse – bring victory but also cause bloodshed, famine, and death (Rev 6:1-8).

The fifth seal shows the souls of God’s people who have been slain for their testimony. They are under the altar, symbolizing that they have been sacrificed on the altar DURING the first four seals. But this is not the end yet, for they are told to wait, for more must die for their faith (Rev 6:9-11).

The sixth seal (Rev 6:12-17) includes the signs in the heavens and on earth that are associated with the return of Christ. A great earthquake shifts mountains out of their places but the people of the world hide in the mountains because they are even more scared of “the wrath of the Lamb.

Given the signs of Christ’s return and the people hiding in the mountains from “the wrath of the Lamb,” the sixth seal must be very close to the return of Christ. But it is not yet His return, for, at His return, the hiding multitude will all be killed (Rev 19:21).

Revelation 7

This chapter, at first, jumps back in time to describe the sealing of God’s people, which must be complete before the end-time cataclysms of the sixth seal. The four winds of destruction are held back until all God’s people are sealed (Rev 7:1-3). 144000 are sealed; 12000 from each of the tribes of Israel (Rev 7:4-8).

The second part of Revelation 7 describes a multitude “standing before the throne” of God; clothed in the white robes of salvation (Rev 7:9-17). At the end of Revelation 6, the multitude hiding in the mountains asks: “The great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Since the multitude in Revelation 7 is “standing before the throne,” they are the answer to that question.

Revelation 8

When Jesus breaks the final seal and opens the book, there in silence in heaven for half an hour (Rev 8:1).

Questions

This vision raises many questions, for example:

Time before Christ

      • How could there be things in heaven that nobody understands?
      • What do they not understand and why is this information so important?
      • The seven seals represent things that prevent the heavenly beings from understanding. What are the seals?

Christ

    • Why was not even the Son of God not able to open the book before His death (Rev 5:3) and how did His death make Him “worthy” to break the seals (Rev 5:9)?
    • The sixth seal has the signs of the return of Christ. The seals, therefore, are broken in the time between the Cross and His return. Why did Jesus not open the book (explain the contents) immediately after His death made Him worthy to do so (Rev 5:9)?

Breaking the seals

    • By breaking the seals, Jesus causes bloodshed, famine, and death. In other words, He explains the contents of the book through events on earth. Why are bloodshed, famine, and death required to make the heavenly beings understand?
    • When the seventh seal is broken and the contents of the book is fully understood, there is only silence in heaven (Rev 8:1). Why are the heavenly beings not happy, now that they understand everything?

The seal of the Living God

    • In a play on words, while the book is unsealed, “the bond-servants of our God” are sealed with the seal of the living God (Rev 7:3). Why are only 144000 and only Jews sealed?
    • The purpose of the seal of the living God is to protect God’s people when the winds of destruction are released (Rev 7:1-3). This means that this seal is only available in the end time. What are these “winds” and how will the seal protect God’s end-time people?

Christ’s Ascension

Revelation 5 is Christ’s ascension.

As discussed in the article on Revelation 4, that chapter does not describe a point in time but provides a timeless description of heavenly worship. Revelation 5, on the other hand, describes a specific meeting of all the billions of angels to see the Son receive the book that is sealed with seven seals. In Revelation 6, He breaks the seals one by one, causing catastrophes on earth. Therefore, to determine when the Lamb takes the book and to date the catastrophes caused by breaking the seals, we have to date the meeting of Revelation 5. Since this is critical for the interpretation of this entire vision, it is discussed first.

Many put this meeting in the end-time; shortly before Christ’s return. However, for the following reasons, it is proposed here that Revelation 5 describes Jesus’ enthronement immediately after his ascension to heaven. This is justified as follows:

(A) Fits the New Testament.

What we see in Revelation 5 fits exactly with the New Testament’s description of His ascension. According to the New Testament:

After Jesus was slain, raised to life, and caught up to heaven, He was enthroned at the Father’s right hand (e.g., Eph 1:20-22).

Fifty days after His crucifixion on the feast of the Passover and ten days after His ascension, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33).

This is also what we see in Revelation 5:

In verse 5, one of the elders says that the Son has “overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” Then Jesus appears as “a Lamb … as if slain” (Rev 5:6). These verses point to His death. In the next verse, Jesus takes the book (Rev 5:7). Since He receives the book because He overcame, it implies that He receives the book immediately after His death.

The book is in or on the right hand of God (Rev 5:1). The New Testament frequently states that Jesus sat down “at the right hand of God” (e.g. Mark 16:19). Presumably, when He took the book, He also sat down at God’s right hand.

In Revelation 4, “the seven Spirits of God” are “before the throne” (Rev 4:5) but, after the Son appears as a slain lamb, the Spirit is said to be “sent out into all the earth” (Rev 5:6). This corresponds with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

(B) Revelation 3:21

Revelation 3:21 refers to Revelation 5 as something that happened in the prophet’s past. In other words, the meeting of Revelation 5 occurred before the year AD100. To explain:

Revelation 3:21 is one of the verses in Revelation that are found in the climax of one part of the book that serves as an introduction to the next. Rev 3:21 is the climax of the seven letters. At the same time, it outlines the next main section in Revelation 4 to 7. It reads:

He who overcomes,
I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne,
as I also overcame
and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Based on the verb tense, this verse may be divided into the past, present, and future:

Past Tense

The two past tense verbs describe events in John’s past. Both these verbs correspond to Revelation 5:

        • I also overcame” is equivalent to Jesus “has overcome so as to open the book” (Rev 5:5).
        • Sat down with My Father on His throne” aligns to verse 7, where He ascends to His Father’s throne.

Since the past tense verbs align with Revelation 5, and since the past tense indicates that these things happened in John’s past, Revelation 5 describes events in John’s past.

Future Tense

The future tense “I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne” is fulfilled in Revelation 7, where John saw “a great multitude” (Rev 7:9) enjoying the glories of eternal life (Rev 7:15-17).

Present Tense

Since the past tense refers to Rev 5 and the future tense to Rev 7, the present tense “He who overcomes” aligns with Rev 6. The breaking of the seals in Rev 6, therefore, describes events in the prophet’s time and in our time; the time between His death and His return.

Since the events of Rev 5 precede the events of Rev 6, this again confirms that Rev 5 describes events right at the beginning of the church age.

(C) The Synoptic Apocalypse

The synoptic apocalypse aligns the four horsemen with the church age.

The conclusion above is also supported by the Synoptic Apocalypse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21). In it, Jesus divided history into three great parts. Revelation 6 follows this pattern:

Synoptic Apocalypse Revelation 6
General realities of the Christian age (gospel, wars, famines, pestilence); The first four seals
Great persecution toward the end of that era; Fifth seal
Signs associated with His return; Sixth seal.

These parallels indicate that the first four seals describe the church age. Since chapter five precedes the first four seals, Revelation 5 must be an event right at the beginning of the Christian era.

Conclusion

Revelation 5 is the enthronement of the Son after His ascension. For that reason, and because Revelation 6 ends with the signs of Christ’s return (Rev 6:12-17), the seals in Revelation 6 describe the church age; the present-tense overcoming of God’s people.

It also means that Revelation 5 is not an end-time judgment event, as some suppose. This is confirmed by the absence of books being opened, as one finds in other judgment scenes (Dan 7; Rev 20), and the absence of typical judgment language. 

If Revelation 5 is also not the anti-type of the great Old Testament day of judgment. This is confirmed by the absence of the ark of the covenant, judgment language, the Most Holy Place, and by the mention of a male goat.

Remember, this article is only a summary and does not provide complete explanations. Please follow the links provided in the section headings to the detailed discussions. For the detailed discussion of the current section, see Revelation 5.

Revelation 4:1-8

Revelation 4:1

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven

After the letters from Jesus to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 1 to 3.

and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said

Jesus’ voice (Rev 1:10, 13)

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

In Revelation 1, Jesus was standing between “seven golden lampstands,” symbolizing “the seven churches” (Rev 1:12, 20). There, He was on earth. Now, Jesus calls John up into heaven. Chapter 4, therefore, shifts the focus from earth to heaven.

In the view of many people, Rev 4:1 is the rapture of the church. But since Revelation 5 describes Jesus’ enthronement after His ascension, it cannot be the rapture. This is confirmed in Revelation 10, where John personally symbolizes the church, and he is still on earth. It is more likely that Rev 11:12, where the two witnesses are also called to “Come up here,” represents the rapture of the church.

Revelation 4:2

Immediately I was in the Spirit

John did not literally enter heaven and he does not see a real place; he only sees a symbolic representation of the invisible reality in a vision of his mind.

and behold, a throne

The first thing that John sees, is God’s throne. “Throne” is the main word in chapter 4. Everything in this chapter happens in and around the throne. Revelation 4 is a vision of the governing center of the universe, and the throne symbolizes God’s authority.

was standing in heaven

The throne “was standing” before John saw it. This implies that John is now not viewing one specific event but a timeless description of God’s throne room. Further indications of this are:

        • The four living creatures praise God “day and night” (Rev 4:8).
        • Whenever the four living creatures praise God, the 24 elders join them in worship (Rev 4:9).

and One sitting on the throne

This Person is not named but Rev 5:13 and Rev 6:16 distinguish between “Him who sits on the throne” and Jesus Christ. The “One sitting on the throne,” therefore, is God. (Revelation uses the title “God” only for the Father.) Since He sits on the throne, He has the ultimate authority over the universe.

Revelation 4:3

And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance.

There is a vagueness in God’s description. Other throne visions describe Him in human terms. For example, in Ezekiel 1:26-27, the one sitting on the throne, from the waist up, looks like glowing metal and from the waist down like fire.

God’s appearance is vague because He cannot be seen (John 1:18). He “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1Tim 6:16). He has created all things that can be seen. He exists outside space, time, and matter. Therefore, the substance of His Being can never be defined in terms of physical things.

Revelation 4:4

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones;
and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting,
clothed in white garments,
and golden crowns on their heads.

Based on the following, the 24 elders are human representatives of God’s people; not angels:

    • Elder” is a familiar Biblical title for human beings but not for angels.
    • Angels never sit on thrones and never wear crowns of any kind but humans do (Rev 2:10; 3:11; 3:21; 20:4).
    • The number 24 is a doubling of 12 and Revelation associates the number 12 with the people of God (Rev 12:1; 21:9-10).

The 12+12=24 elders symbolize God’s people from both the time of the Old Testament and from the church because Revelation merges the church into Israel. For example:

    • Revelation uses Israel’s capital (Jerusalem) as a symbol for the bride of Christ (Rev 21:2; cf. 19:7; 21:27) and, on it, the names of both the 12 “tribes” and the 12 “apostles” are written (Rev 21:12, 14). 
    • The woman of Revelation 12 first symbolizes the Old Testament people of God but, after Christ ascended to heaven (Rev 12:5), she symbolizes the church (e.g., Rev 12:6).

Jesus, similarly, said to His disciples:

In the new world … you … will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt 19:28).

In other words, Jesus said that the twelve disciples have become the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Revelation 4:5

Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder.

Since these are things that happen in the air in a thunderstorm, and since they here come out of the throne, they represent God’s decisions. The “earthquake” and “great hail,” that are later added to this trio (Rev 8:5; 16:18; 11:19), represent the earthly consequences of God’s decisions.

And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne,
which are the seven Spirits of God

God does not literally have seven Spirits. The number seven is a symbol that is derived from the seven days of the week. As such, the number seven is different from the other numbers in Revelation in the sense that the seven stand in a chronological sequence—the second follows after the first—the third after the second, and so on, with the seventh as the last. The number seven, therefore, should be understood as ‘always’. Consequently, the seven Spirits of God may be interpreted to mean that God’s Spirit is ALWAYS present.

Revelation 4:6-8

6 and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal;

Not a real sea of glass – John is doing his best to describe his vision.

and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures

They represent the angelic portion of God’s kingdom. They are always in close proximity to the throne (Rev 4:6; 5:6; 7:11; 14:3). They seem to be intermediaries between God and the human race, represented by the 24 elders. They are the primary connection between God and creation.

full of eyes in front and behind.
7 The first creature was like a lion,
and the second creature like a calf,
and the third creature had a face like that of a man,
and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.

The throne vision of Ezekiel 1 also has four living creatures with faces like a lion, ox, man, and eagle/vulture that are full of eyes (Ezek 1:5, 10, 18). Also in that vision, the four living creatures are especially close to God.

8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings

The seraphim of Isaiah 6 each has six wings (Isa 6:2) and, just like the four living creatures of Revelation 4, they constantly say, “holy, holy, holy” (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8).

are full of eyes around and within

This is not to be taken literally. Their eyes probably represent omniscience, for God knows everything. Since the number four represents ‘the whole earth’, the four living creatures symbolize knowledge of everything on earth.

Revelation 4:8-11

Revelation 4:8 continued

and day and night they do not cease to say,
“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD,

The first half of Revelation 4 described God’s throne room visually. From this phrase onwards, it describes the sounds of worship in God’s presence.

God is holy because He is the Uncreated Source of all things. All else exists because He exists.

While the four living creatures praise God “day and night,” Satan accuses God’s people “day and night” before God (Rev 12:9); effectively accusing God of unfair judgment. Christ’s victorious death (Rev 12:5; cf. 5:5) made an end to Satan’s accusations (Rev 12:8) but Revelation 4 describes the time before He died. Consequently, the four living creatures, by praising God “day and night,” oppose Satan’s “day and night” accusations.

THE ALMIGHTY

This phrase appears 9 times in Revelation and only once in the New Testament outside Revelation. The Bible never refers to Jesus as “the Almighty” but distinguishes Him from “the Almighty“ (Rev 21:22; cf. 19:15). For a discussion, see The Almighty. 

WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND IS TO COME

This may be related to the “I AM“-title in Exodus 3:14 and another way of saying that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). In Revelation, only the Father:

        • Is called God (e.g., Rev 1:2);
        • Is the Almighty,
        • Sits on the throne,
        • Lives forever (Rev 5:9),
        • Willed all things to exist (Rev 4:11) and
        • Was and is and is to come (e.g., Rev 1:4-5).

The controversy in the church over the nature of Christ raged at least since the fourth century. Very few people seem to know this, but the decisions to adopt the Trinity doctrine, which means that the Son is equally also the Almighty Uncaused Cause of all things, were not taken by Church Councils, but by the Roman Emperors. Constantine, Theodosius, and Justinian were key role-players. As attested by the series of articles on the historical development of the Trinity doctrine, this was the greatest controversy in the church of all time and will continue to rage until Christ returns and may even play a key role in end-time events.

This website proposes that the Son has created all things – even time – and, therefore, always existed. However, God exists outside the time, space, and matter of our universe. In that incomprehensible infinity, God has “begotten” His Son as the beginning of the universe. Only God, therefore, is the Almighty uncaused Cause of all things.  

Revelation 4:9

And when the living creatures give
glory and honor and thanks

The word “when” implies repetitive action and can also be translated as “whenever.” It confirms that this fourth chapter does not describe one specific event, but the general condition in God’s presence.

to Him who sits on the throne

This is the “One sitting on the throne” in verse 2, namely God.

to Him who lives forever and ever

Jesus is “alive forevermore” (Rev 1:18), but only the Father is “Him who lives forever” (Rev 4:9, 10; 15:7). The Father “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim 6:16). As the only begotten Son of God, Jesus derived His eternal nature from the Father. The Father is the Unbegotten Source of all things. For a discussion see, God is the Head of Christ.

Revelation 4:10

the twenty-four elders will fall down
before Him who sits on the throne,
and will worship Him who lives forever and ever,

This verse translates the two key words for worship in Revelation as “fall down” and “worship.” Both words mean to prostrate oneself in obeisance toward a god or an exalted person like a king; similar to how Muslims worship. The modern word “worship” has a different meaning and is usually presented as people standing with hands in the air.

and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying

The twenty-four elders acknowledge that they owe their victory completely to Him.

Revelation 4:11

“Worthy are You, our Lord

Lord (Greek: kurios) means owner, master, or husband. It is an expression of respect, similar to “sir” in English. The New Testament uses it for God (e.g., Matt 5:33), for Jesus Christ (e.g., Matt 20:31), and for the Roman emperor (Acts 25:26).

and our God

The word “God” translates the Greek word theos. This is the word which the Greeks used for the many gods of their pantheon. The New Testament uses theos for:

        • The God of Israel (Gal 4:8),
        • The Father who sent Jesus (John 17:3),
        • Jesus (John 1:1),
        • Satan (2 Cor 4:4) and
        • The gods of the nations (1 Cor 8:5).

The ancients did not distinguish between lower- and upper-case characters. The word “God,” with a capital G, is a more modern invention that functions as a proper name for one specific Being, namely the Almighty. The title theos, therefore, may also be translated as “god.” To retain the original meaning of the current verse, it might have been more appropriate to translate it as “our lord and our god.”

to receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things

For this reason, God is worthy to receive our “glory and honor and power.

and because of Your will they existed,
and were created.”

Behind the act of creation lies His “will.” Were it not for the will of God, the universe would not exist.

What is the Sealed Book?

John saw a book in God’s right hand which is sealed up with seven seals (Rev 5:1). A sealed book symbolizes concealed knowledge. In Rev 6:1 to 8:1, Jesus breaks the seven seals one by one, causing catastrophes on earth. We cannot understand what these events are unless we understand what this book represents.

At first, no one in heaven is found “worthy” to open the book (Rev 5:3). In other words, nobody in heaven is able to explain the things written in the book. John weeps greatly (Rev 5:4). John is now in heaven (Rev 4:1). His great weeping symbolizes the great sorrow among the beings in heaven caused by this inability to understand. Apparently, this knowledge is of vital importance for the happiness of the universe.

But then, Christ’s victory on earth solves this crisis and turns the sorrow into joy: He “has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals” (Rev 5:5).

The book of life is mentioned 6 times in Revelation. As its name also indicates, it contains the names of those who will inherit eternal life. “Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” shall enter the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:2, 27). “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” “This is the second death” (Rev 20:14-15).

The Book of Life

The sealed book is the book of life. This is indicated by the following:

Book of LifeBoth books are written by God: Since God decides who His elect are, He writes the book of life. The sealed book, similarly, is in God’s hand (Rev 5:1), implying that He wrote it.

Both books belong to the slain Lamb: The book of life, for example, is called “the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (Rev 13:8; 21:27). The sealed book, similarly, is received by Jesus after He appeared as “a Lamb … as if slain” (Rev 5:6-7).

Both books are required for redemption: The book of life is opened in the last judgment (Rev 20:12, 15). And Jesus is worthy to open the sealed book because He died to “purchase” people for God (Rev 5:9). This implies that opening this book is also required for the redemption of God’s people.

Both books are opened after Christ’s return: As stated, the book of life will be opened in the final great judgment. When Jesus breaks the seals one by one, the sixth seal contains the signs of His return (Rev 16:12-14; cf. Matt 24:29-30) and the seventh seal is His return.

Both books divide the people of the world permanently between those who will die and those who will live eternally: The last two seals divide people between God’s people, standing before His throne (Rev 7:9), and the people hiding in the mountains (Rev 6:17), to be killed when Christ returns (Rev 19:21).

These parallels between the two books indicate that the sealed book is the book of life. Below, this article argues that Revelation 12 confirms that the sealed book is the book of life. To prepare for that argument, the following is a very brief overview of key aspects from Rev 12:

Overview of Revelation 12

Rev 12:5 describes Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension in a single verse. Rev 12:7-12 describes the war between the angels in heaven. Satan and his angels were driven out of heaven (Rev 12:8-9), making an end to that war. Rev 12:13 explains the time sequence. It indicates that Satan was expelled from heaven immediately after Christ’s death. The following confirms this:

      • Satan’s expulsion (Rev 12:8-9) is mentioned after Christ ascension (Rev 12:5).
      • Michael’s angels overcame Satan “because of the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 12:11).

The nature of the “war in heaven” is implied by the identification of Satan in the context as “the accuser of our brethren” (Rev 12:10). He specifically accuses only God’s elect, giving reasons why they should not be saved. Satan effectively accuses God of unfair judgment. Satan shows that the elect are also sinners and, if he deserves to die, then the elect must also die.

Michael and his angels protect God’s people (Dan 12:1) and defend God’s judgments. The “war in heaven,” therefore, is a dispute between the angels of heaven over whether God’s judgments are always perfect.

This war raged in heaven ever since Adam sinned. Since Jesus had to die to make an end to this war, Michael and his angels were unable to show conclusively that God’s judgments are always perfect.

A single error in God’s judgments would reduce the perfect happiness of the whole universe for all eternity. Therefore, until all understand that His judgments are perfect, God delays Christ’s return and the implementation of His judgments.

Revelation 12 confirms

Revelation 12 confirms that the sealed book is the book of life.

For the following reasons, Revelation 5 and 12 describe the same crisis:

      • The first four verses of both chapters describe the time before Christ and the fifth verse of both chapters refers to Christ’s death. The rest of both chapters describe the time after Christ.
      • Both chapters describe a crisis in heaven that relates to an inability to understand:
        • In Rev 5, a book with seven seals that no one in heaven is able to open causes much sorrow.
        • In Rev 12, a war rages between the angels of heaven because Michael’s angels are unable to conclusively prove that God’s judgments are always perfect.
      • In both chapters, Christ’s death solved the crisis:
        • In Rev 5, Jesus “has overcome” to break the seven seals, turning the sorrow into joy (Rev 5:5).
        • In Rev 12, after Christ’s death, Satan and his angels were driven out of heaven, bringing the war to an end.

The parallels above imply that the sealed book and the “war in heaven” describe the same crisis. Since the war raged in heaven in the time before Christ because nobody was able to refute Satan’s allegations that God judges unfairly, the book was sealed in the time before Christ because of the inability to fully explain God’s judgments. Since the book of life symbolizes God’s judgments, it is the book of life that is sealed.

Consequently:

      1. The seven seals are Satan’s brilliantly presented accusations against the people whom God elected to eternal life.
      2. John’s tears (Rev 5:4) represents the sorrow in heaven for, unless a solution is found, God will never be able to execute His judgments and Satan and evil will exist forever. Therefore, if Jesus did not “overcome” (Rev 5:5), evil would have to exist for all eternity.
      3. To break the seals means to refute Satan’s accusations.
      4. To open the book does not mean to learn WHO is listed in the book, but to understand WHY they and only they are saved.

Demonstrations

Christ resolves the crisis through demonstrations.

Deeds of people

Christ refutes Satan over the church age through the deeds of people.

To break the seals of the book means to remove the things that prevent understanding. This means to refute Satan’s allegations that God judges unfairly.

Christ’s death did not immediately end the dispute. He takes the book after His ascension (Rev 5:7) and He breaks the seals in the time between His death and His return. Sin still reigns on earth today because Satan’s charges of unfair judgments have not yet been completely refuted.

Each time that Jesus breaks a seal, things happen on earth. This symbolizes that He directs events on earth to refute Satan’s criticism of God’s judgments through events on earth, namely through the deeds of people (cf. Rev 20:12; Rom 2:6) “Deeds” include the entire being; his words, deeds, thoughts, desires, and faith.

Redemption has two parts.

Both Rev 5:9-10 and 12:11 explain that the crisis was resolved through a two-part process:

The first part of redemption is through Christ’s death:

      • In Rev 5:9-10, He purchased people with His blood.
      • In Rev 12:11, they overcame the accuser because of the blood of the Lamb.

In the second part of redemption, Jesus will break the seals which mean to refute Satan by directing events on earth to reveal the “deeds” of people, which are “their testimony:

      • In Rev 5:9-10, because He purchased people with His blood, He is worthy to break the seals.
      • In Rev 12:11, they overcame the accuser also because of the word of our brethren’s testimony.

Therefore, both the death of Christ and the testimony of His people are required to defeat Satan. Christ has not yet returned because Satan has not yet been fully refuted by revealing the deeds of people. Jesus died to save people but saving people includes refuting Satan’s objections to the names in the book of life.

What made Him worthy?

What made Him worthy – Death or overcoming?

According to Rev 5:5, Christ is able to break the seals and to open the book because He “has overcome.” In contrast, according to Rev 5:9-10, He is worthy to break the seals because He was “slain” and purchased people with His “blood.” The purpose of this section is to show that these are different ways of saying the same thing because His “blood” refers to how He overcame:

Overcome” means to “be faithful until death” (Rev 2:10) to the will of God.

When the Bible says that people are saved by the blood of the Son, His blood serves as a symbol for His death.

His death was not limited to the moment of His last breath. His death refers to the last hours of His life.

Jesus remained “faithful until death.” His death, understood as His final hours when Satan inflicted the most severe temptations on Him, was His highest and final test but also His greatest victory. That victory reflects how He overcame throughout His entire life, for if He was unfaithful to God at any time during His life, His death would not have been of any value.

In conclusion, when the Bible refers to His blood or to His death, it really refers to the fact that He remained faithful until death. We are not saved by Christ’s literal blood or death, but because He remained “faithful until death.

What changed at His death?

The CrossBefore His death, nobody was able to break the seals (Rev 5:3) but, because of His death, Jesus Christ is declared “worthy” to do it (Rev 5:9). Since His death refers to His final hours in which He overcame Satan’s ultimate temptations, the question is: How did overcoming make Him “worthy” to break the seals (Rev 5:5)?

We should agree that the Son of God was not somehow improved. Neither did God change to become willing to forgive, as church tradition claims. Rather, God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son (John 3:16). Consider what we read in the text. As indicated by the following, His death demonstrated something about Him that was always true but not always known:

    1. He “has overcome” to break the seals (Rev 5:5). This implies that He came to earth to be tested. What changed is that He passed the test, demonstrating His worthiness.
    2. Rev 12:10-11 identifies two weapons by which Satan is defeated, namely “the blood of the Lamb” and the “testimonyof God’s people. Since God’s people demonstrate their faith by “their testimony,” it implies that “the blood of the Lamb” demonstrates the Lamb’s faith.
    3. It was not God who declared the Son “worthy,” but the heavenly beings (Rev 5:9-10), implying that His worthiness was something which they observed.
    4. After Christ’s death, Satan was “thrown down” (Rev 12:8), symbolizing his loss of influence over the angels. In contrast, Jesus “was caught up to God” (Rev 12:5), implying that He was “caught up” also in terms of influence.
    5. The rest of the New Testament supports the concept that Christ’s death was a demonstration (Rom 3:25, 26).

In conclusion, Satan claimed that the Son is unworthy but Christ’s willingness to be tested and the purity of His life demonstrated His eternal character. This confirmed Him to be “worthy” to reveal the contents of the book.

Satan is perhaps the most talented and most beautiful of all of God’s creatures (cf. Ezek 28:12, 17). But he used his talents to glorify himself. Perhaps Satan argued that the Son of God would also use His powers to benefit Himself, given the right circumstances. To be tested, the Son of God became a vulnerable human being. He had enormous powers. He could calm the winds and the waves (Matt 8:26), command “twelve legions of angels” (Matt 26:53), and raise people from death (e.g. John 11:43-44). But when sinful men nailed Him to a wooden pole, He did not use His powers to benefit Himself. In this, He demonstrated God’s character.

Not worthy before His death

Why was the Son not worthy before His death?

But the question remains, why was the Son of God not regarded “worthy” to refute Satan’s accusations before His death?

This can only be due to Satan’s accusations. While Satan accused God’s people, the Son of God defended God’s judgments. Just like Satan, with the enormous talents God gave him, was able to create doubt in the minds of the created universe about the veracity of God’s judgments of sinners, he was also able to create doubt about the truthfulness of the Son’s defense of God’s people.

To defend Himself against Satan’s charges, the only begotten Son of God was willing to subject Himself to a test by becoming a vulnerable human being. He was fully tested and won the victory by remaining “faithful until death.

This refuted Satan’s accusations against Him. Now the universe is convinced that Jesus is “the faithful and true Witness” (Rev 3:14). They trust Him to reveal the truth about God’s judgments.

However, even after the Cross, the book remains sealed. Christ’s death did not immediately refute Satan’s objections to God’s elect. Just like Christ’s life was a demonstration of His eternal character, the lives of God’s people, particularly during the end-time crisis, will demonstrate that God’s people are worthy of salvation. When the seventh seal is broken and all Satan’s arguments have been fully refuted, Christ will return and the elect will be resurrected.

How God rules the universe

The previous discussion assumes that God allows His creatures to question His judgments. Many Christians think of God as a dictator, deciding unilaterally who will be saved and who will go to hell.

This website takes the opposite view, namely that the Almighty God populated the universe with creatures that are truly free, for true love is only possible in freedom. For love to be genuine, it must be freely given. God’s creatures are free to love, but also free to rebel against their Creator without even the fear of punishment. If we obey because we fear punishment, then we are not really free. (God will eventually destroy evil, but only after the created universe agrees that this is the only way of restoring happiness in the universe.) 

Lucifer (meaning light bearer) at first was without sin (Ezek 28:15) but became the proud devil and Satan: “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty” (Ezek. 28:17). For that reason, “unrighteousness was found in you” (Ezek 28:5; cf, Isaiah 14).

When God condemned his behavior, Lucifer criticized God’s judgment. Because of the freedom His creatures have, God has allowed Satan complete freedom to defend himself.

To combat this rebellion with force, BEFORE the intelligent creatures are able to understand that Satan’s allegations are false, will only serve to confirm to them that Satan’s charges are true. Therefore, God provides evidence of the perfect accuracy of His judgments. This is what the seven seals of Revelation are all about.

Consistent with the principle of complete freedom, the One through whom God created all things (Col 1:16-17), works in the weakness of a slain lamb (Rev 5:6). This is how God rules the universe. He is infinitely powerful but exercises that power through self-sacrificial love. For a further discussion, see, Why Satan thought he could win.

Revelation 5

Revelation 5:1

I saw in the right hand
of Him who sat on the throne

This Greek phrase can mean either “in” the right hand or “at” the right hand (or side – of God). If we assume that Jesus, when He took the book (Rev 5:7), also sat down with His Father on His throne (Rev 3:21; 22:1), it is possible to understand the book to be AT the right side of God because the NT frequently states that Jesus sat down “at the right hand of God” (e.g., Rom 8:34).

a book written inside and on the back,
sealed up with seven seals.

Both Revelation 5 and 12 describe a crisis in heaven that relates to a lack of understanding and that was solved by Christ’s death, namely the sealed book in Revelation 5 and the war between the angels in Revelation 12 (Rev 12:7). For that reason, it was concluded that these two chapters describe the same crisis with different symbols.

On the basis of Revelation 12, the crisis in heaven has been identified as a dispute between the angels of heaven over the perfection of God’s judgments. Consequently, the sealed book has been interpreted as the book of God’s judgments (the book of life) and the seals as Satan’s informed accusations against God’s elect. Through these accusations, Satan effectively accuses God of unfair judgment.

God’s judgments are known. “Sealed up,” in this instance, means that, due to Satan’s accusations, even God’s loyal angels are unable to fully refute Satan’s allegations of unfair judgment.

Revelation 5:2

And I saw a strong angel
proclaiming with a loud voice,
“Who is worthy to open the book
and to break its seals?”

Since the book contains God’s judgments, to open the book is to explain God’s judgments; to show that His judgments are perfect. The book is opened by breaking the seals, which means to refute Satan’s accusations against God’s elect. How Christ does that is explained in Revelation 6.

Revelation 5:3

And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth
was able to open the book or to look into it.

The Son of God defended God’s people and God judgments. As part of Satan’s strategy to discredit God’s judgments, Satan was able to create doubt in the minds of the created universe of the truthfulness of the Son’s defense of God’s people and of God’s judgments. In that sense, before His death, not even the Son was not regarded as “worthy” to open the book. 

Revelation 5:4

Then I began to weep greatly
because no one was found worthy
to open the book or to look into it;

John’s weeping symbolizes the great sorrow in God’s creation caused by the inability to conclusively prove the perfection of God’s judgments. For as long as Satan’s objections to God’s judgments remain unrefuted – until all understand that His judgments are perfect, God delays Christ’s return and the implementation of His judgments; both the destruction of evil and the resurrection of God’s elect. For that reason, evil still rules on earth today; 2000 years after Christ died.

Revelation 5:5

and one of the elders said to me,
“Stop weeping;

Since joy now replaces the weeping of verse 4, verse 5 describes a specific point in time. In verse 6, Jesus will appear as a slain lamb. That explains HOW he overcame, namely at the cross as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Revelation 5:5, therefore, can be dated to Christ’s death. Consequently, the remainder of Revelation 5 describes events in heaven immediately AFTER Christ’s ascension. For the same reason, Revelation 5:1-4 and John’s weeping describe the time BEFORE Christ’s death. 

Jesus walks on water

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.”

The word “overcome” is used many times in Revelation (e.g., Rev 2:26). It means to be “faithful until death” (Rev 2:10); to maintain your testimony “even when faced with death” (Rev 12:11). People are not persecuted for their faith, but for their testimony.

Jesus overcame throughout His life. But His highest test and greatest victory were in the hours of His death, for He overcame by remaining “faithful until death” (Rev 2:10). For that reason, His death – understood as the final hours of His life – symbolizes how He overcame throughout His life.

Why did Jesus have to remain “faithful until death” to be able to open the book (explain God’s judgments)? Before His death, the Son of God, due to Satan’s accusations, was not regarded “worthy” by all. But, by remaining faithful to God under the most severe circumstances, He was demonstrated to be “worthy” (Rev 5:9).

Revelation 5:6

And I saw between the throne
(with the four living creatures)
and the elders

This recalls some detail from chapter four. The throne was at the center of that vision, surrounded by the four living creatures and by the 24 elders.

Lamb of Goda Lamb standing, as if slain,

He “has overcome;” not by using His lion-like power (Rev 5:5) but by restraining His power and, like a lamb, by offering up His life

John hears about a lion (Rev 5:5) but when he looks, He sees a lamb. These animals seem like opposites, but reflect two different roles of the same person; Jesus Christ.

having seven horns and seven eyes,
which are the seven Spirits of God,

It is not a literal lamb and not seven literal eyes or horns. Revelation depicts reality by means of symbols. As discussed under Rev 4:5, the number seven symbolizes completion in terms of time. The seven eyes symbolize that, through the working of God’s Spirit, Christ knows everything that happens on the earth.

Horns symbolize authority (Rev 17:10). The seven horns mean that He will ALWAYS reign (Rev 11:15; cf. Matt 28:18).

sent out into all the earth.

Before Jesus appeared in the throne room, “the seven Spirits of God” are “before the throne” (Rev 4:5) but, now they are “sent out into all the earth.” In the context of a slain lamb, this points to the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples (cf. Acts 2:33). 

Revelation 5:7

And He came and took the book
out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

Lambs do not have hands and cannot take books. This shows again that these visions are not to be interpreted literally. John did not literally see literal things.

The book is in the “right hand” of God (Rev 5:1). The Scriptures, elsewhere, frequently states that Jesus sat down “at His right hand” (e.g. Eph 1:20; cf. Rev 3:21). This implies that, when Jesus takes the book in the current verse, He also sits down on God’s throne. 

Christ’s victory did not immediately open the book. The book remains sealed because He, by overcoming, did not refute Satan’s objections against God’s elect.

In the current verse, Jesus receives the book but He does not open it immediately. He breaks the seals one by one in Revelation 6, causing catastrophes on earth. The sixth seal has the signs of His return (Rev 6:12-15). This means that Jesus refutes Satan’s accusations in the time between His death and His return by directing events on earth. Particularly during the end-time crisis, the lives (deeds) of God’s elect will demonstrate that they are worthy of salvation.

Revelation 5:8

When He had taken the book,
the four living creatures
and the twenty-four elders
fell down before the Lamb,

The word translated “fell down” is one of the two main Greek words for worship (the other is proskuneó – see also Rev 4:10; 5:14; 7:11; 11:16; 19:4). This is the ancient form of obeisance—falling down on one’s face (1 Cor 14:25), much as Muslims do still today.

each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints.

The Old Testament also associates prayer with incense (Psa 141:2; cf. Lev 16:12-13). In the temple context, while the priest was offering incense inside the temple, the people outside were in prayer before God (see Luke 1:9-10). Likewise, here, the elders, representatives of humanity, offer incense to God while the church on earth is praying.

Revelation 5:9-10

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are You to take the book
and to break its seals;
for You were slain,
and purchased for God with Your blood

The Cross of ChristChrist’s blood symbolizes His death. His death does not only refer to when He breathed His last but to His final hours when tempter inflicted the most severe torment and temptation possible on Him.

men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

Similar four-fold listings of the people are found throughout Revelation (e.g., Rev 10:11; 14:7; 17:15). The number four represents worldwide extension, for example, in the four corners of the earth (Rev 7:1). These four elements, therefore, sum up all the people in the world.

Is it not wonderful that people from every tribe and tongue will be saved? According to Rev 7:9, an innumerable multitude will be saved. Praise the Lord!

Revelation 5:10

“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God;

A priest is someone who stands between God and the people. God called Israel a kingdom of priests (Exo 19:6). Israel was not called for its own sake, but to be a blessing to the nations (Gen 12:1-3).

The New Testament writers understood the church to be a new Israel, with the twelve disciples becoming the leaders of the twelve tribes (Matt 19:28-30). Israel, therefore, is no longer constituted on the basis of physical descent from Jacob but in relation to the Jewish Messiah Jesus. See the discussion under Rev 4:4 or the article on the 24 elders.

and they will reign upon the earth.”

Note the cause-consequence sequence in this song:

        • PAST: The three verbs “slain … purchased …. made” indicate what has already been accomplished.
        • PRESENT: For that reason, Jesus Christ is now “worthy.”
        • FUTURE: Once He has broken all the seals, “they will reign upon the earth.”

Revelation 5:11

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders;

The throne is in the center, surrounded by a rainbow, the four living creatures, the elders in the next circle, and the larger multitude of angels in the outer ring (Rev 4:3-4).

and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,

The number of angels seems too large to be exactly counted (cf. Heb 12:22; Dan 7:10). In Rev 7:11, the number of the redeemed is also too large to count. This, therefore, is not literally true. It symbolizes that there is a vast multitude of angels around the throne.

Revelation 5:12

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.”

Revelation 5:13-14

13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying,

“To Him who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb,
be blessing and honor and glory and
dominion forever and ever.” 

14 And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

There are five songs of praise in Revelation 4 and 5:

        • The first two are sung to the One sitting on the throne, “for You created all things” (Rev 4:11).
        • The third and fourth hymns are sung in praise to the Lamb, “for You … purchased for God with Your blood men” (Rev 5:9-10).
        • But the final hymn in Rev 5:13, as the climax of the series, is sung to both and by every created being.

Worship Both

Worship both the Father and the Son.

In Rev 5:13, all creation bows down to praise both “Him who sits on the throne” and Jesus. For some, this is evidence that Jesus Christ is equal to His Father. However:

    • The Father is “Him who sits on the throne” and, therefore, the ultimate Ruler.
    • As discussed above under Rev 4:8, according to Revelation, only the Father is Almighty, has essential immortality, and has willed all things to exist (Rev 4:11).
    • Philippians 2:6-11 also explains the worship in heaven after Jesus’ ascension to heaven and, therefore, explains this scene in Revelation 5. That passage indicates that Jesus is worshiped:
      • Because “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9) and
      • To the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).
        For a discussion, see the article on Philippians 2.

God is the Creator, but He created all things through His Son, gave all authority to His Son, and wish that “all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23). However, when God’s end-time people are called to “Fear God, and … worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters” (Rev 14:7), it is a call to worship the Father.

The First Four Seals

The First Seal

The first seal is the gospel.

Rev 6:1 Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals,
and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.”
2 I looked, and behold, a white horse,
and he who sat on it had a bow;
and a crown was given to him,
and he went out conquering and to conquer.

Parthians

In the preterist view, the first seal describes the Parthians, a first-century enemy of the Roman Empire, who rode on white horses. However, the seals symbolize spiritual realities; not literal things such as literal horses. The seals must be interpreted symbolically, as shown below. Furthermore, this horse “went out conquering and to conquer,” which implies it will never stop conquering and portrays events leading all the way up to the second coming. It cannot be limited to the beginning of the church age, as the Parthian interpretation does.

Gospel

For the following reasons, this article proposes that the white horse represents the gospel:

    • in Revelation, the color white always refers to the things of Christ.
    • A diadma crown symbolizes a ruler’s authority but this rider receives a stephanos crown, which is always used for Christ and His people.
    • The rider on the white horse “went out conquering and to conquer.” In the seals, the words for conquering (also translated as “overcome,”) refer to Christ and his people (Rev 3:21 and 5:5).
    • In the Synoptic Apocalypse, (Matt 24), Jesus predicted that the church age will be a period of gospel preaching, war, famine, pestilence, and persecution of His people. We see the same things in the seals, but if the rider on the white horse is not the gospel, then the gospel would be absent in the seals.
    • The other rider on a white horse in the book of Revelation is explicitly Jesus Christ (Rev 19:12).

Antichrist

In the view of probably most interpreters, the rider on the white horse is a counterfeit of Christ. The primary motivation for this interpretation is that all the other horses bring plagues. However, for the following reasons, this view is not supported:

    • When something is a counterfeit, Revelation does not leave us in doubt (cf. Rev 13:11). And there is no direct indication in the text that the rider of the white horse is evil or causes affliction.
    • The white horse will continue conquering until everything is conquered but the Antichrist will be destroyed in the lake of fire (Rev 19:20).

Conclusion

The white horse represents the proclamation of the gospel, beginning with the enthronement of Christ in heaven (Rev 5) and until He returns. That implies that the next three horsemen portray the consequences of gospel preaching.

The Four Horsemen

The four horsemen form a unit that stands in a cause-consequence relationship.

The following indicates that the four horsemen form a unit:

    • All four are represented as horsemen.
    • Seals 2, 3, and 4 symbolize sword, famine, and pestilence. The Old Testament uses these curses as a single expression of judgment. For example, the “four dreadful judgments—sword and famine and wild beasts and plague” (Ezekiel 14).
    • The Synoptic Apocalypse (Matt 24) predicts the nature of the church age. It mentions the same things that we find in the four horsemen—including the gospel—but describes them as different characteristics of the entire church age; rather than as consecutive events.
    • The grammar of the white horse is extremely continuous and ongoing (Rev 6:2), implying that it covers the entire church age.
    • The fourth seal includes the bloodshed and famine of seals 2 and 3.
    • Revelation has seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowl plagues. As discussed elsewhere, the first four of each of these sevens are general and should not be individually interpreted.

Conclusion

Since the four horsemen form a unit, these seals stand in a cause-consequence relationship and must be combined into a single message.

The Red Horse

The second seal: the red horse symbolizes persecution of god’s people.

6:3 When He broke the second seal,
I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.”
4 And another, a red horse, went out;
and to him who sat on it,
it was granted to take peace from the earth,
and that men would slay one another;
and a great sword was given to him.

The second horse is red. Its rider has a sword and causes men to “slay one another.” This may refer to general violence. However, for the following reasons, the slaying in the second seal is likely slaying of God’s people when the gospel is rejected:

    • Since the four horsemen form a unit, the bloodshed of the second must be the consequence of the first, which is the gospel going forth.
    • The Greek word for the rider’s “sword” refers to a smaller weapon used for close-in combat or for sacrifice.
    • The fifth seal shows “the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God” (Rev 6:9). They are UNDER the altar (Rev 6:9; 18:24), which means that they have been sacrificed ON the altar. This makes it evident that the first four seals have resulted in many martyrs.
    • The word translated “slay” is the same Greek word for “slay” as in the fifth seal and it is the primary word used for animal sacrifice in the Greek Old Testament.

As Jesus said:

A time is coming when anyone who kills you
will think he is offering a service to God

(John 16:2, NIV).

The Black Horse

The third seal: The black horse is a famine of the word of God.

Rev 6:5 When He broke the third seal,
I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.”
I looked, and behold, a black horse;
and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.
6 And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying,

“A quart of wheat for a denarius,
and three quarts of barley for a denarius;
and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

Discussion

This rider has a pair of scales in his hand. In times of scarcity, the quantity of things being bought or sold is measured very accurately. For that purpose, you would require a scale. Since this seal focuses on food, the scale indicates a shortage of food – famine conditions.

This is confirmed by the voice in this seal, which sets very high prices for wheat and barley. Based on the quoted prices, it would cost a person his whole day’s wage to buy enough wheat for one day for one person.

For the following reasons, this lack of food can be interpreted symbolically as a famine of the Word of God; a time when the word of God may be hard to find or poorly understood:

      • Since the four horsemen form a unit, this famine must be the consequence of the second seal, namely of the persecution of the people who proclaim the word of God.
      • The third horse is black. The sixth seal implies that black is the opposite of the light of the sun (Rev 6:12). Since the sun symbolizes the gospel (John 3:18-21), the black horse may represent the absence of the gospel.
      • The Bible often uses food in a spiritual sense. For example, Jesus is, “the bread of life.”

The Ashen Horse

The ashen horse symbolizes spiritual death.

6:7 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal,
I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.”
8 I looked, and behold, an ashen horse;
and he who sat on it had the name Death;
and Hades was following with him.
Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth,
to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.

The fourth horse has the color of the appearance of a very sick person; on the verge of death.

The fourth horseman’s name is Death. He is death personified. Hades, which is the dwelling place of the dead, followed after him.  As in human experience, after death comes the grave. This seal personifies Death as an executioner and Hades as an undertaker.

The fourth horse combines and intensifies the second and third seals for it has both the sword of the second seal and the famine of the third but intensifies them with pestilence and the beasts of the earth.

Since the four horsemen form a unit, the death of the fourth seal must be the consequence of the spiritual famine of the previous seal. It is, therefore, interpreted as spiritual death; permanent exclusion from mercy; the frightful consequence for people who have chosen to exclude God from their lives.

Zechariah’s Colored Horses

Zechariah’s colored horses do not explain the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Zechariah’s visions also have colored horses and sound very similar to the four horsemen of Revelation 6. However, Zechariah’s horses serve as scouts and signify God’s awareness of what is happening on earth, compared to the four horsemen of the Apocalypse who actively bring the gospel and then major calamities. Because of these differences, Zechariah’s horses do not help us to explain the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Conclusion:
The First Four Seals

As discussed before, the Synoptic Apocalypse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) divides history into three great parts. Revelation 6 follows this pattern. In this pattern, the first four seals of Revelation 6 describe the church age. The bloodshed, famine, and death of seals 2 to 4 are the consequences of the preaching of God’s word:

        • The white horse, which will never stop conquering, is the gospel.
        • The red horse symbolizes the persecution of God’s people when they proclaim the gospel. For example, William Tyndale was the first to translate the Bible into English and was burnt at the stake.
        • The black horse is a famine for the Word of God that follows when the people who proclaim the word of God are persecuted and killed. During the Dark Ages, Rome burned Bibles along with their owners.
        • And the pale horse is spiritual death; the frightful permanent exclusion from mercy.

The Fifth Seal

6:9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal,
I 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;

10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying,
“How long, O Lord, holy and true,
will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood
on those who dwell on the earth?”

11 And there was given to each of them a white robe;
and they were told that they should 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.

A point in time or a principle?

Is the fifth seal a specific event at a specific point in time or a general principle?

God’s slain people would not cry out for revenge, as they are symbolized to do in the fifth seal. Rather, like Jesus and Stephan, they would say, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34)! This, therefore, is not a literal cry for revenge. Rather, it is similar to Abel’s blood that cried out to God from the ground (Gen 4:10). The crying out, therefore, symbolizes the general principle that God is aware of the injustice to His people and His desire to set things right. It is not something that happens at a specific point in time.

In response to their cry, they receive white robes. The implication is that receiving white robes is also not a specific event, but a general principle. 

The fifth seal, therefore, seems to symbolize the general principle that, during the church age, “they will … kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. … But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matt 24:9-11).

The main message of the seals is that God’s people remain faithful until death:

Before Christ became a human being, He defended God’s elect and God’s judgments, but Satan accused Him of being a false witness. The Son of God then became the vulnerable man Jesus and overcame the most severe temptations to reveal Himself as “the faithful and true Witness” (Rev 3:13; 5:5, 9).

Similarly, Satan accused God’s elect. They must suffer to reveal the true nature of God’s elect; they overcome the accuser because of the word of their testimony, and they do not love their life even when faced with death (Rev 12:11).

This is required for the final judgment, through which God will recreate eternal peace (Rev 21:1). In that judgment, the books will be opened. “The dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds” (Rev 20:12).

The souls under the altar

The fifth seal is often used to support the popular belief that believers go to heaven in a bodiless state when they die. However, below are several reasons why this must not be literally interpreted:

    1. In Old Testament sacrificial rituals, the blood of animals was “poured out” at the base of the altar. The fifth seal converts this ritual into a metaphor: God’s people are symbolically sacrificed ON the altar. They are not literally under a literal altar.
    2. The idea that humans consist of two parts – a physical body and an immaterial soul – comes from Greek philosophy. In the Bible, the soul refers to the entire human being (cf. Gen 2:7; 1 Cor 14:45).
    3. There are two indications in the text that the souls under the altar are dead:
      • They are told to “rest” for a while longer (Rev 6:11). “Rest” refers to death. For example, an angel said to Daniel: “You will enter into rest and rise again … at the end of the age” (Dan 12:13).
      • The same “souls” that are under the altar in the fifth seal “came to life” when Christ returns (Rev 20:2). That means that they are not alive today.
    4. For two reasons, the crying out for revenge is not literal:
      • God’s people would not cry for revenge. While dying, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34)!
      • Similar to Abel’s blood that cried out to God from the ground (Gen 4:10), the cry of the souls symbolizes God’s awareness of the suffering of His people.
    5. The souls under the altar receive white robes, which is confirmation of salvation, “a little while” before Christ returns (Rev 6:11). Therefore it makes no sense to suggest that they, at death, go directly to heaven.

Conclusion

There is much good quality information on the web that explains the Biblical view of the soul. For example, see What Does the Bible Say About the “Immortal Soul”? 

From a human perspective, time elapses between death and resurrection but the faithful dead are in God’s care and with God, time does not exist. From the experience of the dead, they are resurrected immediately on death.

Number completed

God’s people are completed in character; not in number.

Verse 11 reads:

11 And there was given to each of them a white robe;
and they were told that they should 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.

This translation adds the words “number of.” However, there is no such word in the Greek text of this verse. For the following reasons, the phrase “the number of” should not be added:

      • Would a God of love arbitrarily decree that a fixed number of people must suffer before He would interfere?
      • In Revelation 7, we see the people who receive white robes in the fifth seal standing before the throne of God. It is then said that “no one could count” them (Rev 7:9). So, the number is not important.

Elsewhere, Revelation indicates that completed” should be understood qualitatively, namely that God’s people must be completed in character; not in number. For example, in end-time context:

    • His bride has made herself ready” (Rev 19:7-8).
    • The 144000 are sealed on their foreheads (their minds) with the name (the character) of God (Rev 7:3; 14:1).
    • It is said of the 144000: 
      no lie was found in their mouth;
      they are blameless
      ” (Rev 14:4-5).

God’s end-time people will not be perfect in an absolute sense, but they will be completely loyal to God as David apparently was in spite of his many flaws (1 Kings 11:4-6).

The Sixth Seal

I looked when He broke the sixth seal,

and there was a great earthquake;
and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair,
and the whole moon became like blood;
13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth,
as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.
14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up,
and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man
hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains;
16 and they 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;
17 for the great day of their wrath has come,
and who is able to stand?”

This seal divides into two parts:

    • Dramatic natural events (Rev 6:12-14).
    • The reaction of people who live in rebellion against God (Rev 6:15-17)

Literally interpreted, everything in heaven and on earth is destroyed. But we should not interpret these signs symbolically because, even after the stars have fallen on the earth (Rev 6:13), the people still hide in the mountains.

Him who sits on the throne” is the Father. The Lamb is Jesus Christ. He now appears as the loving Ruler of the universe, but for people who have cursed God all their lives, His appearance is pure torment.

Not yet the end

The sixth seal is not yet the end.

The sixth seal seems to be the end of all things. A “great earthquake” moves islands and mountains out of their places and the signs in the sun, moon, and stars are associated with the return of Christ (Matt 24:29). But it is not yet the end, for the hiding multitude will be put to death when Christ returns (Rev 19:18-21). The sixth seal, therefore, describes the situation on earth immediately before the destruction of the lost at His return. (See, The Case for Annihilationism.)

The Day of the Lord

The sixth seal is the day of the Lord.

These signs in the sun, moon, and stars, coupled with the phrase “the great day,” identify the sixth seal as the well-known Old Testament “great and terrible Day of the LORD.” The New Testament converts the Day of the Lord into the Second Coming of Jesus; the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:8).

After the plagues

The sixth seal describes conditions after the plagues.

During the seven last plagues, the people still refuse to repent (Rev 16:9, 11) but in the sixth seal, the people hide in the mountains from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:15-17). This, therefore, must be after the plagues.

The revenge requested in the fifth plague is the judgment on Babylon (compare Rev 6:9-11 to Rev 19:2), which is the seventh plague (Rev 16:19; cf. 16:6). Since the sixth seal is after the plagues, it is a point in time after that revenge.

Before Armageddon

The sixth seal is just before Armageddon.

In the sixth seal, “the great day of their wrath has come” (Rev 6:17). The “great day” is also called Armageddon (Rev 16:14-16). The sixth plague only prepares for the “great day” through the gathering of the kings. Christ’s return, as described in Revelation 19:11-21, is the real Armageddon, for then 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 (Rev 19:19).

Has come” in the phrase “the great day of their wrath has come” (Rev 6:17) means that “the great day” is about to begin (e.g., Rev 14:15). In other words, the sixth seal brings us to just before the slaughter of Armageddon (Rev 19:17-18), at the return of Christ. 

Divides into two groups

The sixth seal divides the people of the world into two groups.

The multitude that hides in the mountains asks, “who is able to stand” (Rev 6:17)?  After an interruption (Rev 7:1-8), the seventh seal continues when Revelation 7 answers that question by describing “a great multitude which no one could count … standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev 7:9). The sixth seal, therefore, divides the world into these two multitudes. As Jesus said:

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, …
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

(Matt 25:31-32).

7:1-3
The Sealing

1 After this I saw 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.

2 And I saw another angel ascending
from the rising of the sun,
having the seal of the living God;
and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels
to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea
3 saying,

“Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees
until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God
on their foreheads.

Where the sealing fits
in the end-time events

In Revelation 7, four angels are instructed to hold back the four winds until God’s people (the 144000) are all sealed on their foreheads with the seal of God. The four winds will be released as soon as they are all sealed (Rev 7:1-3). The question in this article is how this fits into the end-time events as described in Revelation 13 to 16.

Revelation 13:11-18 describes the end-time crisis during which the image of the beast attempts to put the mark of the beast on all people (Rev 13:15-16). Next, Revelation describes the people who have received the seal of God. They are the 144000 (Rev 14:1-5). Since both the mark of the beast and the seal of God are names on foreheads (Rev 13:16-14:3), that end-time persecution will divide the people of the world into these two groups.

Revelation 14 ends with Christ’s return (Rev 14:14-20). Then Revelation 15 jumps back to the time before His return and before the seven last plagues (Rev 16) and refers to God’s people as “those who had been victorious over the beast” (Rev 15:2). Since they are the people who have resisted the efforts to put the mark of the beast on them, they are the same as the 144000. The way in which they are described (Rev 15:2-4) seems to imply that, at the point in history represented by Revelation 15, all of “the bond-servants of our God” have already been sealed (Rev 7:3).

This is confirmed by Revelation 16, where the plagues fall only on the people with the mark of the beast (Rev 16:2). There will be no switching of sides after the plagues began to fall because none of the people with the mark of the beast will repent (Rev 16:9, 11). Furthermore, the seal of God implies that the eternal destiny of those people has been permanently settled. Therefore, none of them will fall away during the plagues.

Revelation 15, therefore, describes a point in history, during the Revelation 13-crisis, when every person will have either the mark of the beast or the seal of God. At that time, there will be no third ‘undecided’ group. Only then the plagues will begin to fall.

Conclusions

(A) God’s people will receive God’s seal (Rev 7:1-8) DURING AND THROUGH the Revelation-13-persecution.
(B) Their sealing will be completed before the plagues begin to fall.
(C)
God’s people receive the seal of God to prepare them for the plagues.
(D) Since the seven last plagues will be released as soon as they are all sealed, the four winds are the same as the seven last plagues.

End-time seal

Only God’s end-time servants will receive His seal.

This is the second article on Revelation 7:1-3.

The earth and sea (Rev 7:1) symbolize the people of the world but the trees represent God’s people (Rev 9:4).

The four winds (Rev 7:1), as argued, are another symbol for the seven last plagues, as described in Revelation 16.

Holding back – The “four angels” symbolize God “holding back” (Rev 7:1) the end-time catastrophes. God has always been holding back the forces of destruction. But a time will come when God will release those forces. When that happens, God’s people must be protected by the seal of God. Therefore, God holds the plagues back until His “bond-servants” are sealed (Rev 7:2-3).

End-time only

The seal is only available in the end-time.

According to the apostle Paul, people are sealed with the Holy Spirit when they put their faith in Christ. In contrast, for the reasons below, the seal of God in Revelation 7 is something special that only end-time believers will receive to protect them during catastrophic end-time events before Christ returns:

    • The seal is given to people who were already Christians (Rev 7:3).
    • The seal serves as protection against a danger that does not exist in previous ages, namely when the four winds; understood as the seven last plagues.
    • Revelation mentions the seal of God only in the context of the end-time, namely in relation to the great day of God’s wrath (Rev 6:17-7:2) and the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-14:1).

The seal will change people.

The purpose of the seal is to protect God’s people when the winds (the seven last plagues) are released (Rev 7:1-3). One possibility is that the seal serves to identify God’s people so that the angels would not pour the plagues out on them (Rev 16:2). But, for the following reasons, the seal of God will actually change God’s people and empower them to remain standing during the seven last plagues:

    • The seal is God’s name (Rev 14:1 – symbolizing His character) put on the forehead (symbolizing the mind). Consequently, the 144000 with the seal of God will have “no lie … in their mouth; they are blameless” (Rev 14:1-5).
    • Spiritually mature – In several places, Revelation indicates that Christ will only return when His people have become spiritually mature. For example:
      • His bride has made herself ready” (Rev 19:7).
      • The number 144000 symbolizes spiritual maturity.
    • New Earth – On the new earth, God’s people will still have “His name … on their foreheads” (Rev 22:4). This cannot symbolize mere identification.
    • Complete – The sealing begins before the time of the sixth seal because that seal contains the signs of Christ’s return. As argued, the sealing is equivalent to the ‘completion’ of “their fellow servants” in the Fifth Seal. This completing is not quantitative but qualitative.
    • Refute accusations – The context of the sealing is the breaking of the seven seals of the book of life. As discussed, the breaking of the seals means that Jesus directs events on earth to refute Satan’s accusations against God’s people by revealing their faithfulness under persecution. In that context, spiritual maturity makes more sense than mere identification.
    • Purpose of the plagues – The “four winds” are interpreted as the seven last plagues and one purpose of the plagues is to show that repentant sinners would rather die than disobey God. This also implies spiritual maturity.

Remember, this article is only a summary and does not provide complete explanations. Please follow the links provided in the section headings to the detailed discussions.

Rick Joyner

Rick Joyner confirms that God’s end-time people will be empowered by the Holy Spirit.  

The seal of God is well explained 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.

The Time of the End

The Fifth Seal

The fifth seal is the point in time when the angel brings the seal of god out of heaven.

The first four seals (Rev 6:1-8) describe the timeless realities of the church age. But the fifth seal (Rev 6:9-11) seems to be a specific point in history when the souls under the altar receive white robes and are told to rest for a little while longer (Rev 6:9-11).

The article on the fifth seal considered this question and proposes that the fifth seal symbolizes a general principle, namely that the persecution of God’s people calls out to God to set things right.

However, Revelation 7:1-4, where an angel brings the seal of the living God out of heaven and 144000 are sealed, is parallel to the fifth seal. For example, both: 

    • Refer to the past, present, and to future;
    • Involve a delay until God’s people are mature;
    • Give a token of salvation to God’s people; and
    • Are followed by massive destruction.

As discussed above, the seal of God is only available in the end-timeThis means that the angel brings the seal down from heaven at a specific point in time. Then the parallels between the sealing and the fifth seal imply that the fifth seal is more than a general principle and also a point in history; the same point in time when the angel brings the seal out of heaven (Rev 7:1-3).

Comes from heaven in the end

(The seal of God comes from heaven in the time of the end.)

Time of the EndThen the question is, what is this point in time? Since the book of Daniel is the foundation on which Revelation rests, we should find this point in history in Daniel. Since, in the fifth seal, God’s people are killed both before and after this point in time, we need to find a similar point in time in Daniel. There is such a point in time in Daniel 12, namely “the time of the end” (Dan 12:4), when the prophecies of Daniel will be understood:

    • Before that time, God’s people will be persecuted for “a time, times, and half a time” and
    • During “the time of the end,” they will “finish shattering the power of the holy people” (Dan 12:7).

For these reasons, it is proposed that the point in history, when the souls under the altar are told to rest a little while longer, and when the angel brings the seal of God out of heaven, is the beginning of “the time of the end.”

The Little Book

The little book of Revelation 10 also comes from heaven in the time of the end.

This conclusion finds support in Revelation 10. In that chapter, an angel brings something else out of heaven at a specific point in time, namely “a little book which was open” (Rev 10:1-2). He gives it to John to eat and tells John to “prophesy again” (Rev 10:9-11). In doing this, John symbolizes the church receiving a special message from heaven.

What makes the prophecy of Revelation 10 particularly relevant to the discussion above is that the little open book is understanding of the book of Daniel (see discussion below). This means that the little book comes down from heaven at the beginning of the time of the end (Dan 12:4). Therefore, both the seal of God and the little book come out of heaven in “the time of the end.

The 144000

The 144000 are not literal but symbolizes the church (Rev 7:4-8)

In Rev 7:1-3, an angel comes down from heaven with “the seal of the living God.” He commands four other angels to hold back the four winds of destruction “until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads” (Rev 7:1-3). Then John heard that 144000 were “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev 7:4).

Symbolizes faithfulness

(The number 144000 is not literal. It symbolizes faithfulness.)

For the following reasons, the 144000 Israelites cannot be interpreted literally:

    • Ten of the twelve tribes have disappeared long ago.
    • This is not a valid list of tribes.
    • 144000 is too exact to be literal.
    • Literally interpreted, they are all men and without sin.

Rather, the number 144000 is symbolic. Revelation is a symbolic book and all numbers in Revelation are symbols. Revelation frequently uses literal things from the Old Testament as symbols and the number 144000 is Old Testament military language converted into a symbol.

As indicated by the following, the number 144000 symbolizes that they will remain faithful until death:

    • As argued. the sealing of “the bond-servants of our God” (Rev 7:3) is equivalent to the ‘completion’ of “their fellow servants” in the fifth seal (6:11) and that is qualitative completion.
    • Revelation 14 describes the 144000 as spiritually mature.

The Church and Israel

(Revelation merges the church into Israel.)

Israel in exileFurthermore, as discussed under Rev 4:4, Revelation merges the church into Israel. For example:

    • The seven churches are promised the things that previously belonged to Israel.
    • The woman of Revelation 12 represents both Israel and the Church.
    • “Those who had been victorious over the beast … sang the song” of both Moses and the Lamb; the main characters in the Old and New Testaments.
    • The New Jerusalem” symbolizes God’s people and has the names of the 12 apostles on its foundations but the names of the 12 tribes its gates.
    • John hears about the 144000 Jews but then sees the innumerable multitude from all nations. Such hear-see combinations, in Revelation, actually are different perspectives OF THE SAME THING.
    • In the seven letters, there are people “who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” In this context, to claim to be a Jew is a claim to be a true Christian.

The entire New Testament

The entire New Testament merges the church into Israel. This is a huge study by itself. The following are a few examples:

    • In Romans 11, Gentiles are grafted into Israel’s olive tree.
    • The study of Romans 9 and 11 concluded that God elected a remnant from Israel to inherit Israel’s promises and covenants, but included believing Gentiles into this chosen remnant.
    • If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29).
    • By choosing twelve disciples and not eleven or thirteen, Jesus signaled His intention to re-shape Israel.

The Great Multitude

(The great multitude that came out of the great tribulation)

Revelation 7:9

After these things I looked, and behold,
a great multitude which no one could count,

It is not literally true that they cannot be counted. This is a way of saying that this is a very large group.

from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues,

Revelation uses such four-fold descriptions of people (e.g., Rev 10:11; 14:6; 17:15) because the number 4 symbolizes worldwide extension.

In contrast, the first 8 verses of Revelation 7 describe the sealing of the 144000 from the 12 tribes of Israel. 

standing before the throne and before the Lamb,

The multitude hiding in the mountains, asked: “Hide us from … Him who sits on the throne … for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev 6:16). Since the Innumerable Multitude stands before the throne, they are the answer to that question. This also implies that this multitude is described as on “the great day of their wrath.

clothed in white robes,
and palm branches were in their hands;

In Revelation, the color white always describes Christ and His people. Since white robes were given to the people who have been martyred “because of the testimony which they had maintained” (Rev 6:9-11), the great multitude includes all who have died for their faith. However, in Revelation, symbolically, all of God’s people die for their faith. In other words, the great multitude includes all of God’s people from all ages.

Revelation 7:10

and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,

In the fifth seal, God’s martyrs cried for revenge also “with a loud voice” (Rev 6:10). Now, they no longer cry for revenge, which implies that the time of the vision is after that judgment has been executed.

“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

While the hiding multitude acknowledges their doom (Rev 6:16), this great multitude acknowledges that they are not the authors of their salvation; they were saved by God and the Lamb.

Revelation 7:11-12

and all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures;

This is similar to the scene in Revelation 5 of a multitude of angels, the 24 elders, and the four living creatures in the heavenly throne room (Rev 5:11).

and they fell on their faces
before the throne and worshiped God saying,
“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

The Greek words translated “fell on their faces” and “worship” have a similar meaning. For is a discussion, see the discussion of Rev 4:10 or 5:8 above, or Worship in God’s presence.

Revelation 7:13-14

Then one of the elders answered, saying to me,
“These who are clothed in the white robes,
who are they,
and where have they come from?”

I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me,
“These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation,

Many translations put “come out” in the past tense (e.g., KJV), but it translates an extremely continuous Greek expression, implying that the multitude is still coming out of the tribulation. In other words, their dwelling in heaven is an eternal reality but not yet visible or experienced.

Tribulation” means oppression and affliction (e.g., Matt 24:9), or simply difficult circumstances (e.g., 2 Cor 8:13). But, in this chapter, it is “the great tribulation” (7:14). It refers to one particular tribulation that the reader already knows about. Given the context, it is the martyrdom of God’s people during the entire church age as emphasized by the fifth seal (Rev 6:9-11).

and they have washed their robes
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

The CrossIt is not literally possible to make clothes white in blood. This is a metaphor: The discussion of the sealed book proposes that Christ’s blood is a symbol for His death. Furthermore, His death does not only refer to His last moment but to His final hours when the tempter inflicted the most severe torment and temptation possible on Him. But the hours of His death were His greatest victory, for He overcame by remaining “faithful until death” (Rev 2:10). Through faith, He subjected Himself to God’s will.

The people with the white robes had to wash their own robes because “God … will render to each person according to his deeds” (Rom 2:6). This is discussed in the next section.

People are judged by their deeds.

White robes are a sign of being right with God (cf. Rev 3:4-5). The people clothed in the white robes had to wash their own robes (Rev 7:14). This principle, that people must work for their salvation, is expressed several times in Revelation (e.g., Rev 3:4-5; 19:7-8; 16:15).

Judged by deeds – This principle consistent with the teaching of the whole Bible that man is judged by his deeds (cf. Rev 20:12). It is sometimes said that Paul taught something different, but he taught the same thing (Rom 2:5-8; 9-13; 8:13).

Works of the law – Sometimes people have difficulty reconciling the principle that man is judged by his deeds with the fact that “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom 3:20). However, these “works of the law” refer to the external ceremonies and rituals of the Mosaic Law and are very different from the “deeds” by which people are judged.

Faith – People also struggle to reconcile judgment of deeds with salvation by faith, but these are two ways of saying the same thing. Firstly, salvation by faith does require a judgment of the person’s faith. Secondly, God sees and judges the entire being. The “deeds” by which people are judged include the character, words, deeds, thoughts, desires, and faith.

Grace – Another objection which people may offer to judgment by deeds is that we are saved by grace. But that is also not a challenge, for people are judged by their deeds but saved by grace. People DO NOT EARN salvation through their deeds. Judgment by deeds determines WHO must be saved. By grace is HOW those people are saved. For a more detailed discussion, see People are not justified by the works of the law but are judged by their deeds.

Revelation 7:15

For this reason,

Because they have washed their robes.

they are before the throne of God;
and they serve Him day and night

“Day and night” means continually.

in His temple;

There is no temple in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:22). There is no physical temple in heaven either. The temple on earth was a symbolic representation of heavenly realities; of how God deals with sin. John’s visions use things from the Old Testament as symbols. The throne of God, which is in His temple (Rev 16:17), is a symbol of God’s presence. This is what Revelation 21:22 confirms: “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

and He who sits on the throne
will spread His tabernacle over them.

Revelation 21:3, depicting the time after the millennium, when God has come down to earth with the New Jerusalem, describes God’s “tabernacle” as where God lives. 

Revelation 7:16-17

They will hunger no longer,
nor thirst anymore;
nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat

In this life, being a believer does not guarantee physical comfort. But, in eternity, things will be different.

for the Lamb in the center of the throne

The Lamb is not “around the throne,” like the elders and the angels (Rev 4:4; 5:11), or “before the throne,” like the great multitude (Rev 7:9, 15); He is “in the center of the throne.”  This confirms that He ascended to the throne of God when He took the sealed book (Rev 5:7). He had been “exalted to the right hand of God” (e.g., Acts 2:33).

will be their shepherd,

That “the Lamb” will be “their shepherd” is a bit ironic, but shows the symbolic nature of Revelation.

and will guide them to springs of the water of life;
and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Revelation 21:4 repeats: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” The sorrow, which the innumerable multitude suffered during the great tribulation, will end.

If this passage was the end of the Book of Revelation, we would not have noticed anything missing. It describes the glorious reward of the eternal life of the redeemed, as explained in more detail in Revelation chapters 21-22.

Who are they?

(Who are the innumerable multitude?)

While the 144000 are exactly numbered, from the tribes of Israel, and on earth (Rev 7:1-3), the great multitude cannot be counted, is from every nation, and before the throne of God, which is in heaven (Rev 11:19).

One way to describe the relationship between the innumerable multitude and the 144000 is as a hear/see combination. In Revelation, in these combinations, the prophet first hears about something, but when he looks, he sees something completely different. For example, John hears about a Lion but then sees a Lamb (Rev 5:5-6). What John first hears and then sees is not exactly the same. In this example, both the lion and the lamb represent Jesus but different aspects of His work. Similarly, John hears the number of the 144000 (Rev 7:4-8) but sees a great multitude that no one can number (Rev 7:9). They are not exactly the same but different perspectives of God’s people.

While the 144000 symbolizes His end-time people, based on the following, the innumerable multitude includes all of God’s people of all time:

The fifth seal divides God’s people into those that have already died and those who still must die. In that seal, those that have already died receive white robes. By implication, the people who must still die will also receive white robes. The innumerable multitude, since they are dressed in white robes, includes both groups. On the other hand, the article on The Sealing shows that the point in time in the fifth seal is when the seal comes down out of heaven. This implies that those in the fifth seal who must still die, are the 144000; God’s end-time people.

The innumerable multitude has come through “the great tribulation” (Rev 7:14). Since both groups of people in the fifth seal are martyred, both came out of “the great tribulation.

When are they?

(At what time are they described?)

After His Return

Does Revelation 7:9-17 describe the time before or after Christ’s return? The following seems to indicate that it describes the time AFTER His Return:

    • They stand before the throne, which is in heaven (Rev 11:19 & 16:17).
    • Revelation 6:17 asks, “who is able to stand” on “the great day of their wrath?” Since the Innumerable Multitude stands before the throne, they are the answer to this question. This implies that the time is “the great day of their wrath,” namely Christ’s return.
    • The palm branches in their hands foreshadow the bliss of eternity.
    • The souls under the altar cried out for revenge. The multitude does not. This implies that they have had their revenge.

Before His Return

However, the New Testament sometimes describes things that are an eternal reality, but not yet visibly realized, as if they already happened (e.g., John 5:24). Revelation, similarly, often depicts God’s people on earth as if they are in heaven (Rev 13:6-7; 14:1-5; 15:2). This may also apply to Revelation 7:9-17.

An important aspect of Revelation 7:9-17 is the verb tenses. Verses 15 to 17, describing what God will do for His people, are in the future tense. For example: “God will wipe every tear.” In contrast, the activities of the great multitude are in the present tense. For example, they “come out of the great tribulation” (Rev 7:14). This implies that Revelation 7:9-17 describes the time BEFORE the return of Christ.

Proposal

Revelation 7:1-8 jumps back in time to describe the sealing of the 144000. It is proposed that verse 9 continues exactly where Revelation 6 left off. In other words, the hiding multitude (Rev 6:15-17) and the great multitude describe the same point in history; immediately BEFORE the return of Christ.

The Seventh Seal

The seventh seal (8:1) is Christ’s return.

When the Lamb broke the seventh seal,
there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

Many commentators assume that the seventh seal includes the seven trumpets (Rev 8-11), but the sixth seal already ends immediately before the return of Christ while the seven trumpets describe an earlier time when people still have time to repent. See the next article for a discussion.

For the following reasons, the seventh seal is the sorrow in heaven when the multitude that hides in the mountains in the sixth seal (Rev 6:15), is put to death at the return of Christ (Rev 19:21):

      • The seventh seal is the last seal of the Book of Life; containing God’s judgments. The seals of the book are Satan’s informed objections to the people whom God chose for eternal life. That nobody is able to open the book symbolizes that the heavenly beings are unable to refute Satan’s objections. When the last (seventh) seal is broken, all barriers to understanding God’s judgments are removed. Then God can make an end to the reign of evil through the return of Christ.
      • As stated, the sixth seal ends immediately before the return of Christ. The seventh seal, therefore, should be the Return of Christ.
      • Other main parts of Revelation, such as the seven trumpets (Rev 8-11) and Rev 12-14, conclude with the return of Christ and describe different aspects of the same period of time.

For these reasons, it is proposed that the silence in heaven of the seventh seal is caused by the immeasurable sorrow in the heart of God and in the hearts of His people at the destruction of billions of people at the return of Christ.

The Seven Trumpets

(Does the seventh seal include the seven trumpets?)

The Book of Revelation may be divided into main parts, including:

      • Seven Seals (ch. 4-7);
      • Seven Trumpets (ch. 8-11); and
      • Seven Wars (ch. 12-14).

Some propose that the seventh seal includes the seven trumpets. Nothing happens when the seventh seal is broken—only silence. For some, this is evidence that the real action of the seventh seal is the seven trumpets. Perhaps in the 13th century, when they divided the Bible into chapters and put the seventh seal in a new chapter with the trumpets, they held this view.

However, for the following reasons, the seventh seal does not include the seven trumpets:

Different Themes

While the seals are about the experience of God’s people, the trumpets are about unbelievers and about what God does to reconcile them back to Him. Therefore, the trumpets cannot be part of the seals.

Ends with Christ’s Return

The seven seals end with the return of Christ.

The sixth seal has the signs associated with the return of Christ (Rev 6:12-17) and continues in Revelation 7 with a description of the “new earth” (Rev 7:15-17). Since the seven trumpets jump back in time to the old earth of sin and sorrow, they cannot be part of the seventh seal.

Jump back in time.

The seventh trumpet is the return of Christ (Rev 11:15). Then the next main part of Revelation (chapters 12-14) jumps back to the time of Christ’s first advent (Rev 12:2, 5). Since that happens in the switch between those two main sections, the same may happen in the switch from the seven seals to the seven trumpets.

Satan’s objections fully refuted

Book of LifeThe seals are Satan’s objections to God’s judgments. When the seventh seal is broken, all of Satan’s accusations have been refuted. Then there would remain no further reason for God to delay the execution of His judgments through the return of Christ.

Recapitulation

Both the seven seals and the seven wars (Rev 12-14) start at the time of Christ and reach to Christ’s second coming. Therefore, it is likely that the trumpets also cover the whole church age.

Daniel the prophetIt is generally accepted that the visions in Daniel build on each other—each providing additional insights with respect to periods covered by previous visions. Since Daniel is the foundation on which Revelation is built, we might also expect recapitulation in the Apocalypse.

Both the seven trumpets (ch 8-11) and the seven wars (ch 12-14) include the “time, times, and a half” (Rev 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:6). Because this is a period of persecution for God’s people (Dan 7:25) and because the seals are about the persecution of God’s people, the seals must also cover this period.

A literal reading

A literal reading contradicts itself.

In the first trumpet, all the green grass is burned up (Rev 8:7) but, in the fifth trumpet, the grass is protected (Rev 9:4). This is an example of the contradictions that would result from a strictly literal and chronological reading of the text.

Not part of 8:2-6

Revelation 8:1 is not part of 8:2-6

Revelation 8:2-6 is the introduction to the trumpets. This passage has a literary structure called a chiasm which means that it forms a self-contained unit. Since verse 1 does not have a place in this chiasm, it implies that Rev 8:1 does not form part of the trumpets

Conclusions

The trumpets are not part of the seventh seal.

The relationship between the seals and trumpets may be explained as follows: The first five seals focus on God’s people. The sixth seal has the signs of Christ’s return and describes:

    • The lost hiding in the mountain (Rev 6:15-17) and
    • The saved standing before God’s throne (Rev 7:8-17).

The silence in the seventh seal reflects the sorrow in heaven when the hiding multitude is destroyed at Christ’s return (Rev 19:21). The seventh seal, therefore, shifts the focus from God’s elect to the lost. The trumpets then jump back in time to explain what God did to turn the lost from their disastrous paths.

People’s deeds refute Satan.

People’s deeds will refute Satan’s criticism of God’s judgments.

Summary of previous conclusions

To an extent, this article summarizes the articles on the seven seals. Previous articles concluded that:

    1. The sealed book in God’s right hand is the Book of Life, containing God’s judgments as to who will receive eternal life.
    2. The seals of the book are Satan’s accusations against those people.
    3. That the book is sealed up so that no one “was able to open the book or to look into it” (Rev 5:3) symbolizes that God’s created intelligent beings are unable to refute Satan’s accusations.
    4. John’s great weeping (Rev 5:4) represents the great sorrow in heaven caused by this “war in heaven” (Rev 12:7).
    5. Christ’s victory on earth brought an end to the sorrow (Rev 5:5) and caused Satan to be banished from heaven (Rev 12:8-9). Christ, on the other hand, was acclaimed trust-“worthy” to refute Satan’s accusations: “Worthy are you to take the book and to break its seals” (5:9).
    6. The CrossChrist’s victory did not immediately bring an end to the crisis. He is still busy breaking the seals today. Christ’s return and the implementation of God’s judgments are delayed until the last seal has been broken and the intelligent beings have the assurance that God’s judgments are perfect.
    7. That Jesus breaks the seals symbolizes that Christ directs events on earth to show that Satan’s objections are deceptive.

Break the seals

(The deeds of people break the seals.)

Various books will be opened in the last judgment (Rev 20:12-13):

    • One of these is the book of life.
    • The other books contain the “deeds” of people by which people will be judged.

Consequently, the “deeds” of people, as recorded in the “books,” are the evidence that will allow God’s intelligent creatures to understand that God’s judgment, as contained in “the book of life,” are perfect. Therefore, when Christ breaks the seals, it symbolizes that He directs events on earth in such a way that the deeds of people will reveal their true natures; what they really are; that which the Creator is already able to see in the hearts of people, and on which He also based His judgments. These “deeds” will confirm that God judges perfectly.

Both the deeds of God’s people and the deeds of Satan’s people are recorded in the books.

The Final Battle

(The world is preparing for the final battle.)

There will again be a battle between Christ and Satan; through their people on earth. Both sides are preparing for this battle:

Generally, God limits Satan with respect to what he is allowed to do against God’s people (e.g. Job 1:12). However, in this final battle, God will allow Satan to use the full force of his demonic powers unrestricted to persecute and deceive.

God’s end-time people, on the other hand, will be equipped with every spiritual power available to them. Symbolized by the seal of the living God (Rev 7:2), they will reach a level of spiritual maturity that was previously perhaps visible in individuals such as Job, but never before in God’s people as a group:

Why God’s people suffer

God does not allow His people to suffer without purpose. God claims certain people as worthy of eternal life. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. By rejecting God’s assessment or judgment of His elect, Satan actually accuses God of unfair judgment. Satan’s goal is to save himself. He wants to show to the universe that God makes mistakes in His judgments. If it can be shown that God’s judgments are faulty, even to the slightest degree, the implications for the creation will be massive. Satan and his angels would have grounds for their claim that they have been judged unfairly.

By choosing death rather than going against God’s laws, they will show that the people listed in the book of life will not surrender His principles. This will justify God’s decision to save them.

The Purpose

(The purpose of the seven last plagues)

The frequent mention in the plagues that the worshipers of the beast do not repent, even when confronted with clear evidence that they are wrong, implies that the purpose of the plagues is to show that the people with the mark of the beast will not repent under any circumstances; that they have become haters of God—solidly confirmed in their ways—irreversibly committed to evil.

Articles on the Seven Seals

OVERVIEW

REVELATION 4

REVELATION 5

REVELATION 6

    • Seal 1: The white horse is the gospel.
    • Seals 2 to 4: Bloodshed, famine and death
    • Seal 5: Who are the souls under the altar?
    • Seal 6 includes the plagues and concludes with Christ’s return.

REVELATION 7

REVELATION 8

For further reading on Revelation, I recommend Jon Paulien’s commentary. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.