The purpose of this article is to explain the second vision in the Book of Revelation, namely of the sealed book (Revelation 4:1-8:1).
In that vision, there was a crisis in heaven symbolized by a book that nobody was able to open or read because it was sealed up with seven seals. Not even Christ could open the book (Rev 5:1-3).
A book symbolizes knowledge and a sealed book symbolizes concealed knowledge; things that are not understood. In other words, there are or were things that the beings in heaven do not understand.
What are these things and why do they not understand? Why did God not explain (open the book)?
This causes John “to weep greatly” (Rev 5:4).
This symbolizes the sorrow in heaven because these things are not understood.
However, through His death, Jesus became “worthy” to open the book (Rev 5:5, 9).
To open or read a book means to explain; to make this knowledge available. Before Christ died, there was no solution in sight. There was no way to enable the heavenly beings to understand.
Why was Jesus not able to open the book before He died and how did His death make Him “worthy” to open the book?
In chapter 6, Jesus breaks the first six seals one by one. Each time that He breaks a seal in heaven, something happens on earth. Breaking the first seal brings victory (Rev 6:1) but the next three bring death (Rev 6:3-8), culminating in the fifth seal where God’s slain people cry for revenge (Rev 6:9-11).
The seals are the things that prevent understanding. Breaking the seals means removing these barriers to understanding. Somehow, the suffering of God’s people enables the heavenly beings to understand.
The sixth seal brings the signs of Christ’s Return (Rev 6:12-14) and “the great day of their wrath” (Rev 6:17), indicating that this is Christ’s Return and the Day of Judgment. Only AFTER that “great day” will Jesus break the final seal (Rev 8:1).
Christ’s death, therefore, did NOT enable the heavens to understand immediately, but His death made Him “worthy” to explain these things OVER THE CHURCH AGE. By implication, Christ’s return is delayed until they understand.
The sealing of the 144000 Jews (Rev 7:1-8) interrupts the sequence of the seals to explain that “the four winds” (the end-time crisis) are delayed until ALL of God’s people are sealed with the seal of the living God (Rev 7:1-3).
The things written in this “book,” therefore, will be revealed THROUGH the end-time crisis, but since God’s people are not ready for that crisis, God delays the end-time crisis UNTIL His people are ready.
What is the seal of God? Why are only 144000 people sealed, and why are only Jews sealed?
These concepts are not merely nice to know. This vision reveals the true significance of Christ’s death and it explains why evil still reigns on earth 2000 years after His death. This is “solid food” (Heb 5:14; 1 Cor 3:2).
The average Christian is not even aware of these questions. These are not questions that preachers normally ask. The reader must expect unexpected answers.
Some interpretations attempt to interpret the events that result from breaking the seals without identifying the sealed book. In this commentary, the identification of the book is foundational. We will only understand the catastrophes caused by breaking the seals when we understand what this book is.
This article is a summary of a series of detailed articles (See, List of articles). Links to the detailed articles are provided below.
Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations are from the NASB.
This article is divided as follows:
Overview of the text
- The conquering white horse (6:1-2) is the gospel.
- The four horses symbolize one thing that consists of parts.
- Red horse (6:3-4) – Persecution of God’s people
- Black horse (6:5-6) – Famine for the word of God
- Pale horse (6:7-8) – Spiritual death
- Fifth seal (6:9-11) – Souls under the altar cry for revenge
- Sixth seal (6:12-17) – Christ’s return
OVERVIEW OF THE TEXT
This article first provides an overview of all four chapters (4:1-8:1), listing several questions. There-after, it proposes answers.
The vision begins in Revelation 4 with a description of God’s throne room. It does not describe a specific event or a specific point in time. It describes:
- A throne and One sitting on the throne (Rev 4:2-3),
- 24 elders sitting on 24 thrones around the throne (Rev 4:4),
- The seven Spirits of God “burning before the throne” (Rev 4:5), and
- Four living creatures; “full of eyes in front and behind” (Rev 4:6-8).
The elders and the living beings continually “worship Him who lives forever and ever,” saying:
“For You created all things, and
because of Your will they existed,
and were created” (Rev 4:8-11).
Jesus is NOT present in the throne room in this chapter.
THE 24 ELDERS
For reasons such as the following, the 24 elders are human beings; not angels:
- “Elder” is a familiar Biblical title for humans 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 equal to 12+12 and 12 is a symbol for God’s people. For example, on the New Jerusalem are written the names of the 12 tribes of Israel as well as the names of the 12 apostles (Rev 21:12, 14).
The full articles are available at:
CRISIS IN HEAVEN (5:1-6)
Revelation 5 begins by describing a crisis in heaven, symbolized by a book that nobody was “worthy” to open or read because it was sealed up with seven seals (Rev 5:1-3). Since a sealed book symbolizes concealed knowledge, and since this book is in heaven, it means that there were things that the elders and the four living beings were unable to understand.
This causes John to weep greatly (Rev 5:4). Since John is now in heaven (Rev 4:1), his great weeping symbolizes the sorrow among the beings in heaven because they do not understand. Apparently, this knowledge is of vital importance for the happiness of the universe.
But Revelation 5:5 turns that sorrow into joy, for it announces that Jesus “has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” Jesus now appears as a slain lamb (Rev 5:6). In other words, His death enabled Him to open the book. The crisis of the book that nobody was able to open (Rev 5:1-4), therefore, describes the time BEFORE CHRIST’S DEATH.
CHRIST ENTHRONED (5:7-14)
After Jesus takes the book (Rev 5:7), the beings in God’s throne room declare Him worthy to break the seven seals and to open the book (Rev 5:9-10). Then the “myriads of myriads” of “angels around the throne,” together with “the living creatures and the elders,” praise “the Lamb.” Lastly, “every created thing” praises both “Him who sits on the throne, and … the Lamb” (Rev 5:11-14).
Jesus does not open the book immediately. In Revelation 6, He breaks the seals one by one, resulting in catastrophes on earth. Therefore, to know WHEN these things happen, we need to know WHEN the Lamb receives the book.
Some put the meeting in Revelation 5 in the end-time; shortly before Christ returns. However, for the following reasons, Revelation 5:7-14 describes Jesus’ enthronement immediately after His ascension to heaven:
- It fits the New Testament’s description of Christ’s enthronement.
- Revelation 3:21 refers to Revelation 5 as something that happened BEFORE John received the prophecy in about 95 AD.
To explain in more detail:
(A) FITS CHRIST’S ENTHRONEMENT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
According to the New Testament:
After Jesus was slain, raised to life, and caught up in heaven, He was enthroned at the Father’s right hand (e.g., Eph 1:20-22).
Jesus was crucified on the feast of the Passover. Fifty days later, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out (Acts 2:33).
This is what we see in Revelation 5:
1) Jesus appears as “a Lamb … as if slain” (Rev 5:6). This points to His death.
2) Then Jesus takes the book (Rev 5:7). Since He receives the book BECAUSE He overcame (Rev 5:5), we understand that He took the book IMMEDIATELY after His ascension to heaven.
3) The book is in God’s right hand (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 takes the book, He also sits down at God’s right hand.
4) 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 seems to indicate that the Holy Spirit was already poured out by then.
(B) REVELATION 3:21
“I also overcame and
sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev 3:21)
Both verbs in this statement describe things that happened in 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” corresponds with Revelation 5:7, where He ascends to His Father’s throne.
Since these two verbs are in the past tense, they describe things that happened in the time BEFORE John received the prophecy. And since these things are also happen in Revelation 5, that chapter describes events BEFORE John received these visions somewhere around 95 AD.
- Revelation 5:7-14 describes Jesus’ enthronement after His resurrection and ascension.
- Jesus BEGAN breaking the seals immediately AFTER HIS ASCENSION to heaven.
- Since the sixth seal contains the signs of Christ’s return (Rev 6:12-17; cf. Matt 24:29-30), the first five seals describe the church age.
- The book is today still not fully open, meaning that the heavenly beings still do not understand all these things.
- Christ will only return once they understand.
A very important question is this: Why did He not open the book completely (i.e., explain the contents) immediately after His death made Him “worthy” to do it (Rev 5:9)? Put differently: Why has Christ not returned yet?
The full article is available at: Revelation 5 is Christ’s enthronement.
BREAKING THE SEALS (6:1 TO 8:1)
FIRST FOUR SEALS (6:1-8)
The first four seals – the famous horsemen of the apocalypse – bring victory but also bloodshed, famine, and death (Rev 6:1-8).
Since the first four seals are all symbolized as horses, they form a unit, meaning that they symbolize one thing consisting of four parts.
Since the seals are the things that prevent understanding, and since breaking the seals causes bloodshed, famine, and death, we can say that Jesus removes those barriers to understanding through catastrophic events on earth.
FIFTH SEAL (6:9-11)
The fifth seal (Rev 6:9-11) shows the souls of God’s people who have been slain for their testimony. They are under the altar and cry out:
“How long, O Lord, holy and true,
will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood?“
In Old Testament sacrificial rituals, the blood of animals was “poured out” at the base of the altar (e.g., ). The fifth seal converts this ritual into a metaphor: God’s people are symbolically sacrificed ON the altar. They are not under a literal altar.
Since the fifth seal shows us God’s slain people, the bloodshed of the previous seals is the killing of God’s people. The following supports this conclusion:
As discussed below, the white horse of the first seal symbolizes the gospel. Since the first four seals form a unit, the killing in seals 2 to 4 should be the consequence of the gospel.
Put in different words, the first seal in the gospel. The fifth seal shows God’s people slain for their faith. Given this context, what could the killing in the intermediate seals be other that the killing of God’s people?
The souls under the altar cry out for revenge, but this is not the end yet, for they are told to wait, for more must die for their faith (Rev 6:9-11). This fifth seal, therefore, describes a specific point in time in history. Before that point in history, many have died but, after that point in history, many more must die.
SIXTH SEAL (6:12-17)
As already stated, the sixth seal has signs of Christ’s return; signs in the sun, moon, and stars (Rev 6:12-14; cf. Matt 24:29-30). It is the Day of Judgment; “the great day of their wrath” (Rev 6:17). Although a great earthquake shifts mountains out of their places, the people hide in the mountains because they are more scared of “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev 6:16) than of this great earthquake.
QUESTION: Where are God’s people at this time?
THE SEALING OF THE 144000 (7:1-3)
Chapter seven begins by interrupting the sequence of seals. In a play on words, while the book is being unsealed, “the bond-servants of our God” are sealed with “the seal of the living God” (Rev 7:3).
The sealing of God’s people (Rev 7:1-3) must be completed before the Day of Judgment as described in the sixth seal. The sealing, therefore, describes something that happens BEFORE the sixth seal.
“The four winds” of destruction (by implication, the sixth seal) are held back until ALL of God’s people are sealed (Rev 7:3). In other words, the purpose of the seal of the living God is to protect God’s people when the end-time winds of destruction are released (Rev 7:1-3). This also means that this seal will ONLY be available in the end-time.
THE 144000 (7:4-8)
These verses explain who are sealed. According to Revelation 7:3, “the bond-servants of our God” are sealed. But now we hear that 144000 people are sealed, and they are all Jews; 12000 from each of the tribes of Israel (Rev 7:1-4).
THE MULTITUDE BEFORE THE THRONE (7:9-17)
At the end of Revelation 6, the multitude hiding in the mountains asked:
“The great day of their wrath has come,
and who is able to stand” (Rev 6:16-17)?
After Revelation has jumped back in time to describe the sealing of the 144000 (7:1-8), Revelation 7 continues to describes:
“A great multitude which no one could count …,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev 7:9).
The great multitude “standing before the throne,’ therefore, is the answer to the question of the hiding multitude; they are the people who are able to stand on Judgment Day. They have the “white robes” of salvation (Rev 7:9).
Consequently, the sealing of the 144000 (Rev 7:1-8) is an interruption of the sixth seal and the multitude before the throne (Rev 7:9-17) is a continuation of the sixth seal. In other words, the sixth seal describes a point in history, DURING Christ’s return, when:
- God’s people are standing before God’s throne while
- The lost hides in the mountains.
THE SEVENTH SEAL
The final seal is described in only one verse:
“When the Lamb broke the seventh seal,
there was silence in heaven
for about half an hour” (Rev 8:1).
Revelation 5 began with sorrow in heaven because nobody was able to open the book (Rev 5:1-4). With the seventh seal broken, the book is now fully open.
QUESTIONS RAISED BY THE TEXT
By way of summary, several questions have been raised in this introductory overview of the text, including:
- What and why do they not understand?
- Why did God not open the book and and why was not even the Son of God able to open the book before His death?
- How did Christ’s death make Him “worthy” to break the seals?
- The seven seals symbolize things that prevent understanding. What are these things?
- Why did Jesus not open the book immediately after He received it?
- Why are bloodshed, famine, and death necessary to enable the heavenly beings to understand the things written in the book?
- What are the “four winds” against which God’s end-time people must be protected?
- What is the seal of God and how will it protect God’s people?
- Why are only 144000 people sealed and why are they all Jews?
- Why are the beings in heaven silent when the seventh seal broken and the book is fully open?
This is the end of the overview of the text. The remainder of this article proposes some answers. The first question is: What is the sealed book?
THE SEALED BOOK
IS THE BOOK OF LIFE.
In Revelation 6:1 to 8:1, Jesus breaks the seven seals of the book one by one, causing catastrophes on earth. We will not be able to understand what these events are unless we understand what this book is.
The book of life is mentioned 6 times in Revelation. As its name indicates, it identifies those who will inherit eternal life (e.g., Rev 21:2, 27; 20:14-15).
One of the foundations on which this article rests is that the sealed book is the Lamb’s Book of Life. This is based on the following similarities:
1) Both books are written by God:
- Since God decides who will be saved, He writes the book of life.
- The sealed book is in God’s hand (Rev 5:1), implying that He wrote it.
2) The slain Lamb owns both books:
- The book of life is called “the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (Rev 13:8; 21:27).
- Jesus received the sealed book after He appeared as a slain lamb (Rev 5:6-7).
3) Both books are required for redemption:
- The book of life identifies the redeemed (cf. Rev 20:12, 15).
- Jesus is worthy to open the sealed book because He died to “PURCHASE” people for God (Rev 5:9). The sealed book, therefore, somehow, is required for redemption.
4) Both books are opened AFTER Christ returns:
- The book of life will be opened in the final great judgment (Rev 20:12).
- The sixth seal begins with the signs of His return (Rev 16:12-14; cf. Matt 24:29-30). Consequently, the seventh seal will be broken AT OR AFTER His return. And the book will, naturally, only be fully open when all the seals are broken.
5) Both books determine who will die and who will live:
- This is by definition true of the book of life.
- The sixth seal divides the population of the world between God’s people, standing before His throne (Rev 7:9), and the people hiding in the mountains (Rev 6:17), soon to be put to death by Christ (Rev 19:21).
These parallels indicate identify the sealed book as the book of life. The full article is available at – The sealed book is the Book of Life.
REVELATION 12 EXPLAINS THE SEALED BOOK.
This section presents another foundation on which this article rests, namely that Revelation 12 describes the same crisis as the sealed book and that Revelation 12 explains that crisis as a “war in heaven” between the angels over God’s judgments.
The identification of the sealed book as the book of life does not explain why nobody is able to open the book, what the seals are, or what breaking the seals means. These things are explained in Revelation 12. Revelation 12 also confirms that the sealed book is the book of life. But to introduce the discussion below, it is perhaps necessary to provide a very brief overview of Revelation 12. (A series of articles is available that discusses Revelation 12 in much more detail.)
OVERVIEW OF REVELATION 12
WAR IN HEAVEN
Revelation 12 describes a “war in heaven” between two factions of angels. Michael in the leader of the one group and “the dragon” leads the other. (Rev 12:7) “The dragon” is “Satan” (Rev 12:9).
NATURE OF THE WAR
The nature of the war is clarified by the identification of Satan in the context as “the accuser of our brethren” (Rev 12:10). That means that he specifically accuses only God’s people, showing that they are sinners and deserve to die.
It is not directly stated, but we can assume that Satan’s goal is to save himself. God condemned Satan (cf. Ezek 28:19). Satan retorts that, if he must die, then all sinners must die. If it can be shown that God’s judgments are faulty, even to the slightest degree, then Satan and his angels would have grounds for their claim that they have been judged unfairly.
We see evidence of the nature of the crisis in the universe already in the book of Job – probably the oldest book of the Bible. In that book, “the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them” (Job 1:6). God continued to describe the man Job as “blameless and upright” (Job 1:8) but Satan accused Job, saying “touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face” (Job 1:11). (For a discussion of Job, see – Why Satan thought he could win against God.)
Similarly, in Romans 3:25-26, Paul explains that Jesus died as a public demonstration of God’s “righteousness because … He passed over the sins previously committed.” In other words, Christ’s death was necessary because God forgave sins. How this works we attempt to explain below in the section: Why Jesus had to die.
Since, in this war in heaven, “Michael and his angels” (Rev 12:7) oppose Satan, they defend God’s judgments and protect God’s people (cf. Dan 12:1). The “war in heaven,” therefore, is a dispute between the angels of heaven over God’s judgments.
But Satan and his angels were “thrown down to the earth” (Rev 12:9-10). “There was no longer a place found for them in heaven” (Rev 12:8).
The series of articles on Revelation 12 shows that Satan was expelled from heaven IMMEDIATELY after Christ’s resurrection and ascension (Rev 12:13). This means that Jesus died to make an end to this war in heaven. In other words, without Christ’s death, it would not have been possible to refute Satan’s objections to God’s judgments. (This is also explained below in the section, Why Christ had to die.)
WAR CONTINUES ON EARTH
However, Christ’s death did not make a complete end of this war. The “blood of the Lamb” made an end to the war in heaven, but it continues on earth (Rev 12:12). Verse 11 is important because it mentions two things that are required to make a final end of the war. The first is “the blood of the Lamb” and the second is the “testimony” of our brethren; “even when faced with death” (Rev 12:11). From this we conclude that the war will continue on earth until we have confirmation of the “testimony” of our brethren; “even when faced with death,” namely, until it has been proven that God’s elect will be “faithful until death“ (Rev 2:10).
A single error in God’s judgments would limit the perfect happiness of the whole universe for all eternity. If only one person, who should be saved, is condemned to hell, some sorrow will always remain. Therefore, until all understand that His judgments are perfect, God delays Christ’s return and the implementation of His judgments.
See the series on Revelation 12 for a further discussion.
The war in heaven is seldomly mentioned in pulpits. The Bible is mostly concerned with things on earth and does not mention the war in heaven much. Consequently, many Christians are not even aware of it. Nevertheless, it should be clear that evil was developed in heaven and brought to this world (Gen 3:1-5). Since an appreciation of the nature of the war in heaven is critical for the interpretation of the sealed book, the reader is advised to read some of the articles in the series – The Origin of Evil; particularly the article – Why Satan thought he could win against God. The series of articles on Revelation 12 is also important.
THE SAME CRISIS
For the following reasons, Revelation 12 and the sealed book describe the same crisis. In both:
1) There was a crisis in heaven.
- Revelation 5 symbolizes the crisis as a sealed book, causing John to weep greatly (Rev 5:1-4).
- Revelation 12 describes it as a war between the angels in heaven.
2) The crisis relates to an inability to understand.
- In Revelation 5, nobody is able to open or read the book.
- In Revelation 12, Michael and his angels were unable to refute Satan’s accusations and conclusively prove that God’s judgments are always perfect.
3) Christ’s death made an end to the crisis in heaven.
In both chapters 5 and 12, the first four verses describe the time before Christ, the fifth verse refers to His death, and the rest of the chapter describes events following His death.
- In Revelation 5, Christ’s death made an end to the sorrow in heaven (Rev 5:4-5).
- In Revelation 12, after Christ’s death, Satan and his angels were expelled from heaven.
4) But the crisis continued on earth.
- In Revelation 5, the book is not yet open because Jesus continues to break the seals of the book.
- In Revelation 12, the war continues on earth (Rev 12:12-13).
5) The crisis will only finally be resolved through God’s people (Rev 6:9-10; 12:11-12).
In Revelation 12, to “overcame” Satan, required both:
- “The blood of the Lamb” and
- The “testimony” of God’s people, “even when faced with death” are required (Rev 12:10-11).
Similarly, in the vision of the sealed book:
- Christ, firstly, became “worthy” to open the book because He “purchased” people for God with His blood (Rev 5:9).
- Secondly, He breaks the seals. The fifth seal shows God’s people under the altar crying to God to avenge their “blood” (Rev 6:9). By implication, it was their blood that was spilled in the previous seals. Since the book is opened by breaking the seals, it means that the testimony (and consequential deaths) of God’s people are required for that purpose.
These parallels imply that the sealed book and the “war in heaven” describe the same crisis. This also allows us to use Revelation 12 to interpret the sealed book:
Since Revelation 12 identifies the crisis as a war between the angels about God’s judgments, and since His judgments are contained in the book of life, this confirms that the sealed book is the book of life.
The seals of the book are Satan’s brilliantly presented accusations against the people listed in the book of life.
That the book was sealed in the time before Christ died does not mean that the contents were unknown but that nobody was able to fully refute Satan’s accusations of unfair judgment. In other words, the angels were or are not sure that God’s judgments are perfect.
John’s tears (Rev 5:4) represent the sorrow in heaven for, unless a solution is found, God would NEVER be able to execute His judgments, and Satan would have had to exist forever.
God’s inability to open the book is because He created intelligent beings who are truly free and He wants His creatures to be fully assured of His judgments. He will not force them to accept His judgments.
That Jesus breaks the seals means that He directs events on earth to obtain evidence to show that Satan’s objections are false, namely, that God’s judgments are perfect.
To open and read the book does not mean to learn WHO is saved, but to understand WHY they and only they are saved.
Until all understand that His judgments are perfect, God delays Christ’s return and the implementation of His judgments.
The evidence which will finally resolve the crisis is that the people listed in the Book of Life are willing to give up everything – even their lives – rather than disobey God. That which the Creator is already able to see in the hearts of people, and on which He also based His judgments, will become visible in the “deeds” of His people.
This section is discussed in more detail in the article – The sealed book in Revelation 5 is the Lamb’s Book of Life.
WHY CHRIST HAD TO DIE
This section discusses the significance of Christ’s death as explained by the vision of the sealed book. Before His death, nobody was able to break the seals (Rev 5:3) but, after He appeared as a slain lamb, Jesus Christ was declared “worthy” to do it (Rev 5:5, 9). So, we ask, why was He not “worthy” to break the seals before His death and how did His death make Him “worthy?”
The church has been debating this question – why Jesus had to die – for the last 2000 years. (See – Theories of the Atonement.) In my view, the vision of the sealed book provides the answer but, to my knowledge, my website is the only one that uses this vision for that purpose.
WHAT IS CHRIST’S SAVING DEATH?
To answer these questions, we first need to agree what the Bible means when it refers to His saving death.
According to Revelation 5:5, Christ is able to break the seals and open the book because He “has OVERCOME.” But Revelation 5:9-10 states that He is worthy to break the seals because He was “SLAIN” and purchased people with His “BLOOD.”
In these verses, we find three related concepts:
- He has overcome,
- His death (slain), and
- His blood.
The relationships between these concepts are explained as follows:
Firstly, we must agree that we are not saved by His literal blood, but by His death. His blood is simply a symbol of His death.
Secondly, we are not saved merely because He died but because He DIED WITHOUT SIN (Heb 4:15). That is what Revelation means when it says that He “has overcome” (Rev 5:5; 3:21). He was “faithful until death” (Rev 2:10; cf. 12:11). He never submitted to Satan’s temptations to disobey God. If He disobeyed God at any time during His life, His death would have been in vain.
Jesus knew that He was going to die a horrible death. He asked God not to subject Him to this cruel torment (Matt 26:39). But the Son had to be tested to the fullest. Jesus could simply have gone away. Or He could have spoken a word and His tormenters would have died. But, in obedience to His Father, He allowed them to nail Him to the cross.
Therefore, thirdly, His death does not simply refer to the moment of death or the fact that He died. Rather, His death refers to His FINAL HOURS when Satan inflicted the most severe torment and temptations on Him. Those hours were His highest and final test but also His greatest victory.
However, fourthly, that victory reflects how He overcame THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE. As stated, if He disobeyed God at any time during His life, His death would not have been of any value, and His mission would have failed.
Lastly, the significance of the MOMENT of His death was that it was THE END of the test He had to endure. He entered Satan’s kingdom as a human being, emptying Himself of the form and equality with God (Phil 2:6-7), allowing Satan to tempt Him “in all things as we are” (Heb 4:15). Until He died, the heavenly beings watched the battle between Christ and Satan with bated breath. But when He died, that test came to an end. Knowing that He died without ever disobeying God, the heavens erupted in jubilation, as recorded in Revelation 5.
HOW HIS DEATH MADE HIM WORTHY
But the question remains: Why was the Son of God, before His death, not regarded as “worthy” to break the seals? And how did His death make Him “worthy” (Rev 5:3, 5, 9)?
We should agree that the Son of God was not somehow improved by overcoming.
Neither did God change to become willing to forgive, as Protestant tradition teaches. Rather, God is our Savior (1 Tim 1:1; 2:3-5). Jesus is also our Savior because God so loved the world that He GAVE His Only Son (John 3:16; cf. Col 1:12-14).
We do not know how His ‘death’ made Him worthy. We cannot hope to understand the discussions and arguments that took place in heaven. These things are not clearly revealed. My best explanation, which is my synthesis and extrapolation of known facts, is as follows:
1) SATAN ACCUSED GOD’S PEOPLE.
Satan accused God’s people (Rev 12:10), showing that they are sinners, reasoning that, if he (Satan) must stand condemned, then God’s people must also be condemned. Effectively, Satan accused God of unfair judgment.
2) THE SON DEFENDED GOD’S JUDGMENTS.
The Son is the One who breaks the seals of the book, thereby providing evidence of the perfection of God’s judgments. This implies that that was also His role before He became a human being. In other words, it was His task to show that God’s people are worthy of mercy.
3) SATAN ACCUSED THE SON PERSONALLY.
Since Satan’s nature is that of an accuser (cf. Gen 3:3-5), he also accused the Son personally. Since, after His victory on earth, the heavenly beings declared the Son to be “worthy” (Rev 5:5, 9), we can assume that Satan accused the Son of not being “worthy.”
But in what respect did Satan say that He is not worthy? After the Son became a human being, He had to overcome temptations, namely temptations to disobey God. This suggests that, before the Son became a human being, Satan claimed that the Son, given the right circumstances, would also sin (disobey God).
4) SATAN HAD SUCCESS.
Since the Son became a human being, there must have been a need to prove His “worthy”-ness, implying that Satan was successful in creating a level of doubt in the minds of the heavenly beings with respect to the Son; just like Satan was able to create doubt in the minds of the created universe about the perfection of God’s judgments.
5) WHY WOULD SATAN USE THIS ARGUMENT?
Namely, why would Satan claim that the Son, given the right circumstances, would disobey God?
Satan is perhaps the most talented and the most beautiful of all of God’s creatures. He was:
“Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty …
the anointed cherub who covers …
blameless in your ways” (Ezek 28:12, 14-15)
But he sinned. God said to him:
“Unrighteousness was found in you …
Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty” (Ezek 28:16-17).
Therefore, God condemned him:
“You will cease to be forever” (Ezek 28:19).
Satan’s purpose is to defend himself against God’s condemnation. He, therefore, claimed that the Son would do the same as he did, given the right circumstances, namely to use His powers to benefit Himself, even if that means disobeying God.
Since Satan stood above all other created things in power and beauty, perhaps he argued that it was his supreme powers that caused him to sin. Perhaps he argued that disobedience to God is the NATURAL CONSEQUENCE of having such extreme powers. And since the unique Son of God has powers above all created things, Satan argued that the Son, given the right circumstances, would also use His power to protect Himself, even if that means going against the will of God. In other words, Satan argued that it is not his fault that he used his powers to glorify himself; it is simply how creation functions. And if it is anybody’s fault, then it is God’s fault because He, as the Creator, made him (Satan) that way.
6) THE SON’S LIFE WAS A DEMONSTRATION.
Christ’s sinless life demonstrated His worthiness.
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. He won the victory by remaining “faithful until death” (Rev 2:10). That means that He never used His powers contrary to God’s will.
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). He asked the Father not to submit Him to this cruel death (Matt 26:39, 42), but the Father explained to Him why it was necessary (Luke 22:43). Therefore, when sinful men nailed Him to a wooden pole, He did not use His powers to save Himself from this most severe torment. He obeyed God to the end.
Christ’s willingness to be tested and His faithfulness to God under the most excruciating torment refuted Satan’s accusations and demonstrated the Son’s ETERNAL character. It was not God who declared the Son “worthy,” but the heavenly beings (Rev 5:9-10), implying that His worthiness was something that they witnessed. He was a PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION of “God’s righteousness” (Rom 3:25, 26); a “public display” through which God “triumphed over” “the rulers and authorities” (Col 2:15). (See, The Cross disarmed the rulers and authorities.)
Therefore, by overcoming, the Son demonstrated something about Him that was ALWAYS true but that was disputed by Satan and his followers. Now the universe is fully convinced that Jesus is “the faithful and true Witness” (Rev 3:14).
I want to repeat my qualification: This is my best synthesis of what I learn from the Bible. Why Christ had to die is not clearly revealed. On the other hand, we do not need to understand why Jesus had to die to understand the sealed book and its seven seals.
WHY CHRIST HAS NOT YET RETURNED
Christ received the book soon after His death, resurrection, and ascension (Rev 5:7) but He breaks the seals over the church age. A further question is, therefore, why did He not open the book IMMEDIATELY after He received it? Since Christ will return as soon as the book is open, we may ask this question this way: Why has God allowed sin and suffering to continue for another 2000 years after Christ has redeemed humanity at the Cross? What else does God need, in addition to Christ’s death, to make a final end of evil?
The vision of the sealed book explains this as follows:
1) That the seals have not ALL been broken means that Satan’s objections against God’s elect have not yet been FULLY refuted. Satan accused both God’s people and the unique Son of God but of different things. Christ’s life demonstrated Himself to be “worthy” but His life did not refute Satan’s objections to God’s mercy for His elect.
2) That Jesus breaks the seals means that He provides evidence that the people identified in the book, which is the book of life, are worthy of salvation.
3) Christ’s return and the implementation of God’s judgments are delayed until the last seal has been broken, namely when the intelligent beings will have FULL assurance that God’s judgments are perfect.
4) Particularly during the end-time crisis for which God’s people are sealed, the obedience of God’s people will demonstrate that the people identified in the book of life are worthy of salvation, namely that they are willing to give up everything – even their lives – rather than disobey God. But God delays that crisis until He has a people who are able to remain standing during that time (Rev 7:1-3).
In conclusion, Christ has not yet returned because Satan’s accusations against God’s people have not yet been fully refuted. When that has been achieved, Christ will return, the followers of the beast will be put to death (Rev 19:21) and God’s elect will be resurrected (Rev 20:4).
The full article is available at – How Christ resolves the crisis.
GOD’S CREATURES ARE TRULY FREE.
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 desires a universe filled with creatures that love Him and one another. Therefore, He has populated the universe with creatures who are truly free, for true love is only possible in freedom. Since God’s creatures are free to love, they are also free to rebel against their Creator. They have that freedom without even the fear of punishment, for if we obey because we fear punishment, then we are not really free. (God will eventually destroy evil, but not as punishment for evil done in the PAST. He will destroy evil to protect the FUTURE happiness of the universe.)
When God condemned Lucifer (Ezek 28:5, 19), he found fault with God’s judgment. Because of the freedom His creatures have, God allows Satan complete freedom to defend himself.
To suppress this rebellion with force, BEFORE the intelligent creatures understand the true nature of the rebellion, would only serve to confirm to them Satan’s charges against God. For that reason, God allows time and provides evidence of the perfect accuracy of His judgments. That is what the sealed book of Revelation is all about.
Consistent with the principle of complete freedom, the One through whom God created all things (e.g., 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:
This section is a summary of the article – Revelation 5; verse by verse. But it also serves as a summary of the previous conclusions.
THE SEALED BOOK (5:1)
This chapter begins with the sealed book in God’s right hand (Rev 5:1).
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.
God’s judgments are known. “Sealed up,” therefore, means that, due to Satan’s accusations, even God’s loyal angels are unable to fully refute Satan’s allegations of unfair judgment.
NO ONE IS WORTHY (5:2-3)
A search is made but no one is found “worthy to open the book
and to break its seals” (Rev 5:2-3).
The Son of God defended God’s people and God’s judgments. As part of Satan’s strategy to discredit God’s judgments, Satan was able to create a level of doubt in the minds of the created universe about the trustworthiness of the Son. In that sense, before His death, not even the Son was not regarded as “worthy” to open the book.
GREAT SORROW (5:4)
John began “to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it” (Rev 5:4). John’s weeping symbolizes the great sorrow in God’s creation caused by the inability to conclusively prove the perfection of God’s judgments because, for as long as Satan’s objections to God’s judgments remain unrefuted, God delays Christ’s return and evil must continue to reign over the world.
JESUS OVERCAME (5:5-6)
But then one of the elders said to John:
“Stop weeping … the Lion
that is from the tribe of Judah (Jesus Christ) …
has overcome so as to open the book
and its seven seals” (Rev 5:5).
“And I saw between the throne … and the elders
a Lamb standing, as if slain” (Rev 5:6).
HOW DID JESUS OVERCOME?
“Overcome” 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 the hours preceding His death. He remained “faithful until death” (Rev 2:10).
WHY DID OVERCOMING MAKE THE SON WORTHY?
Satan claimed that even the Son would sin, given the right circumstances. By remaining faithful to God despite all temptations which Satan put in His path, the Son refuted all of Satan’s accusations against Him personally. Now, the Son is trusted as “the faithful and true Witness” (Rev 3:14) to reveal the true nature of God’s people.
WHEN DOES JESUS APPEAR IN THE THRONE ROOM?
In verse 6, Jesus appears as a slain lamb. That symbolism explains HOW he overcame, namely at the cross as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Revelation 5:5-6, therefore, describes Christ’s ascension to heaven. (See here for more.) Consequently:
- Revelation 5:1-4 and John’s weeping describe the time BEFORE Christ’s death.
- The remainder of Revelation 5 describes events in heaven immediately AFTER Christ’s ascension.
THE LION AND THE LAMB
John hears about a lion (Rev 5:5) but when he looks, He sees a lamb (Rev 5:6). These animals seem like opposites, but reflect two different roles of the same person; Jesus Christ. He “has overcome;” not by using His lion-like power but by restraining His power and, like a lamb, by offering up His life. However, He will return as a lion (Rev 6:16-17).
SENT OUT IN ALL THE WORLD
Before Jesus appeared in the throne room, “the seven Spirits of God” were “before the throne” (Rev 4:5) but, now they are “sent out into all the earth” (Rev 5:6). In the context of a slain lamb, this points to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:33; cf. John 14:26).
CHRIST’S ENTHRONEMENT (5:7-14)
Jesus “came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne” (Rev 5:7). This has been interpreted above as Jesus’ enthronement after His ascension. The New Testament frequently states that Jesus sat down “at the right hand of God” (e.g., Eph 1:20; Rom 8:34).
Christ does not open the book immediately. He will break the seals over the church age. The reason is that He, by overcoming, did not refute Satan’s objections against God’s elect. Before His death, the war in heaven was at a stalemate and it seems as if evil will have to exist forever. But His death brought a breakthrough because it showed Jesus to be “worthy” to break the seals (Rev 5:9).
YOU WERE SLAIN
The heavenly beings sang “a new song” (Rev 5:9) because something new has happened. They sang to Jesus:
“You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev 5:9).
As argued above, Christ’s blood symbolizes His death. His death refers not only to when He breathed His last but to His final hours. During those hours the tempter inflicted the most severe torment and temptation possible on Him, but He overcame; just like He lived His entire life in obedience to God.
PRAISE AND WORSHIP
The chapter concludes with “myriads of myriads” angels praising “the Lamb that was slain” (Rev 5:11-12), followed by “every created thing” saying:
“To Him who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb,
be blessing and honor and glory and
dominion forever and ever.”
“And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen’. And the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Rev 5:13-14)
THE FIRST FOUR SEALS
THE WHITE HORSE
“When the Lamb broke one of the seven seals …
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”
In the view of critical scholars, 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 horses. Furthermore, this horse “went out conquering and to conquer.” This implies that it will never stop conquering. Therefore, it symbolizes 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.
For the following reasons, the white horse symbolizes the gospel:
1) In Revelation, the color white always refers to the things of Christ (Rev 1:14; 2:17; 3:4-5; 6:11).
2) This rider receives a crown. A diadma crown symbolizes a ruler’s authority but this rider receives a stephanos crown, which is always used for Christ and His people (Phil 4:1; 1 Thess 2:19; 2 Tim 4:8; Rev 12:1).
3) In the seals, the Greek words for conquering, which may also be translated as “overcome,” refer to Christ and his people (Rev 3:21 and 5:5).
4) In the Synoptic Apocalypse, (Matt 24) Jesus predicted that the church age will be a period of (a) gospel preaching, (b) war, (c) famine, (d) pestilence, and (e) 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.
5) The other rider on a white horse in Revelation is explicitly Jesus Christ (Rev 19:12).
Many interpreters regard the rider on the white horse as a counterfeit of Christ; mostly because all the other horses bring plagues. However, the arguments above show sufficiently that this rider symbolizes the gospel. Furthermore:
1) 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.
2) The white horse will continue conquering until everything is conquered but the Antichrist will be destroyed in the lake of fire (Rev 19:20).
The full article is available at – The white horse of the first seal.
THE FOUR HORSEMEN FORM A UNIT.
As indicated by the following, the four horsemen symbolize one thing that consists of parts:
1) All four are horsemen.
2) Seals 2, 3, and 4 symbolize sword, famine, and pestilence. The Old Testament uses these curses as a single expression of judgment. For example, “My four severe judgments … sword, famine, wild beasts and plague” (Ezek 14:21).
3) The Synoptic Apocalypse (Matt 24), when it predicts the nature of the church age, mentions the same things that we find in the four horsemen but describes them as characteristics of the ENTIRE church age; rather than as consecutive events.
4) The grammar of the white horse is extremely continuous and ongoing (Rev 6:2), implying that it covers the entire church age.
5) The fourth seal includes the bloodshed and famine of seals 2 and 3.
6) Revelation has seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowl plagues. As discussed in another article, the first four of each of these sevens are general and should not be individually interpreted.
Since the white horse represents the proclamation of the gospel over the church age, and since the four horsemen form a unit, symbolizing one thing consisting of parts the next three horsemen symbolize the consequences of gospel preaching.
The full article is available at – Seals 2 to 4 form a unit.
THE RED HORSE
“When He broke the second seal …
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” (Rev 6:3-4).
The rider of the red horse 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 the slaying of God’s people when the gospel is rejected:
1) Since the four horsemen form a unit, the bloodshed of the second must be the consequence of the first, which is the gospel.
2) The Greek word for the rider’s “sword” refers to a smaller weapon used for close-in combat OR FOR SACRIFICE.
3) 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). Symbolically, they have been sacrificed ON the altar. This makes it evident that many of God’s people were martyred in the first four seals.
4) The word translated “slay” in the second seal 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 full article is available at – The four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
THE BLACK HORSE
“When He broke the third seal …
behold, a black horse;
and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.
… a voice … 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.’” (Rev 6:5-6)
This rider has a pair of scales. In times of scarcity, the quantity of things being bought or sold is measured very accurately. To do that, one requires a scale. Since this seal emphasizes food, the scale symbolizes a shortage of food; i.e., famine conditions.
This is confirmed by the “voice,” 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:
1) 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 God’s word.
2) This horse is black. In the sixth seal, black is the opposite of the light of the sun (Rev 6:12). Since the sun may symbolize the gospel (John 3:18-21), the black horse may represent THE ABSENCE OF THE GOSPEL.
3) The Bible often uses food in a spiritual sense. For example, Jesus is, “the bread of life” (John 6:35).
The full article is available at – The four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
THE ASHEN HORSE
“When the Lamb broke the fourth seal …
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. (Rev 6:7-8)
The color of the fourth horse (ashen or pale) is the color of a very sick person; on the verge of death.
The name of the fourth horseman is Death. He is death personified. Hades, which is the dwelling place of the dead, followed after him. As in human experience, the grave follows after death. This seal personifies Death as an executioner and Hades as an undertaker.
The fourth horse has both the sword of the second seal and the famine of the third but adds to them pestilence and the beasts of the earth. It, therefore, combines and intensifies the second and third seals.
Since the four horsemen form a unit, the death in 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 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. (Zech 1:8; 10-12; 14-16; 6:1-8) Because of these differences, Zechariah’s horses do not help us to explain the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
For more detail, see – Zechariah’s Colored Horses.
CONCLUSION: FIRST FOUR SEALS
As discussed elsewhere, the Synoptic Apocalypse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) divides history into three great parts. Revelation 6 follows the same pattern. In this pattern, the first four seals describe the church age:
1) The white horse, which will never stop conquering, is the gospel.
2) The red horse symbolizes the persecution of God’s people when they proclaim the gospel. William Tyndale, for example, was the first to translate the Bible into English and was burnt to death at the stake.
3) 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, the church burned Bibles along with their owners.
4) Lastly, the ashen horse is spiritual death; the frightful permanent exclusion from mercy.
The full article is available at – The four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
THE FIFTH SEAL
This section is a summary of the article – The souls under the altar.
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.
??THE SEALS FOCUS ON GOD’S PEOPLE.
This seal focuses on God’s people. In fact, the main focus of this entire section of Revelation that deals with the sealed book (4:1-8:1), is God’s people. For example:
1) The stage for the seals is set when Jesus is declared “worthy … to take the book and to break its seals” because He “purchased for God with ... (His) blood men from every tribe” (Rev 5:9).
2) The first five seals form a unit. The white horse of the first seal symbolizes the gospel going forth and the fifth seal concludes by showing “the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God” (Rev 6:9). These two bookends imply that these five seals focus on God’s people.
4) The sixth seal begins in Revelation 6 but includes the entire chapter 7. It contains two perspectives of God’s people. Two explain:
The sixth seal is Christ’s return (Rev 6:12-14; 16-17). In it, the lost hide in the mountains “from the presence of Him who sits on the throne,” asking, “the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand” (Rev 6:17)?
Revelation 7 answers this question by describing two perspectives of God’s people. Firstly, it describes how God’s people are sealed in preparation for when the four end-time winds of destruction are released (Rev 7:1-3). This is before Christ’s return.
Then it describes God’s people during Christ’s return as an innumerable multitude “standing before the throne.” They, therefore, are answer to the question of the hiding multitude: “who is able to stand?“
The beginning, the middle part and the end of the seven seals, therefore, focus on God’s people.
??FAITHFUL UNTIL DEATH
So, the main focus of the seals (4:1-8:1) is God’s people. However, the point is not merely to say that they will suffer, but that will remain faithful when persecuted; “faithful until death” (cf. Rev 2:10). We see this emphasis in the following:
1) The fifth seal describes the souls under the altar WHO “HAD BEEN SLAIN … because of the testimony which they had maintained” (Rev 6:9). Revelation 12:11 explains that, “through the word of their testimony … EVEN WHEN FACED WITH DEATH,” they must and will show that Satan’s accusations against them are false (Rev 12:11).
2) God’s people will be able to remain standing through the end-time destruction because they will receive the “seal of the living God” (Rev 7:1-3), which is interpreted as special empowerment for God’s people for the end-time crisis in which people are forced to accept the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-17).
3) While the souls under the altar are “given” white robes, the innumerable multitude themselves had to wash their robes and make them white “in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14). In other words, they are not mere bystanders or onlookers. They are God’s soldiers. They have to fight.
4) In the final judgment, through which God will recreate eternal peace in the universe (Rev 21:1), 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 main message of the seals, therefore, is that God’s people will remain faithful under persecution. As Jesus urged the church:
“Be faithful until death, and I will give you
the crown of life” (Rev 2:10).
Above, it was argued that Satan brought accusations against the Son of God. In response, the Son submitted Himself to a test, became a vulnerable human being, but overcame the most severe temptations, revealing Himself to be “the faithful and true Witness” (Rev 3:13; 5:5, 9). Satan, similarly, accused God’s elect (Rev 12:10). By remaining “faithful until death,” God’s people will refute Satan’s accusations.
THE CRY FOR REVENGE
The souls under the altar cry out for revenge (Rev 6:10) but God’s people would not seek revenge. Rather, like Jesus and Stephan, they cry out:
“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, similar to Abel’s blood that cried out to God from the ground (Gen 4:10), the cry for revenge symbolizes that God is aware of the injustice to His people and of His desire to set things right.
RECEIVE WHITE ROBES
In response to their cry, they receive white robes (Rev 6:11). Since their cry is not a specific event, by implication, receiving white robes is also not a specific event. Rather, it is also a general principle, namely 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).
ARE THE SOULS UNDER THE ALTAR ALIVE?
The reference in this seal to souls under the altar is often used to support the popular belief that believers go to heaven in a bodiless state when they die. However, for the following reasons. this must not be interpreted literally:
1) In the Old Testament sacrificial rituals, the blood of the sacrificial animals was “poured out” at the base of the altar (e.g., ). The fifth seal converts this ritual into a metaphor: God’s people are symbolically sacrificed ON the altar. They are not under a literal altar.
2) The same “souls” that are under the altar in the fifth seal “CAME TO LIFE” when Christ returns (Rev 20:4). In other words, they are not alive today.
3) They are told to “REST” for a while longer (Rev 6:11). “Rest” implies that they are currently inactive. “Rest” is also a synonym for 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).
4) According to Revelation 6:11, the souls under the altar receive white robes (i.e., confirmation of salvation) NOT while alive or at death but “a little while” before Christ returns. Literally interpreted, since they have not yet received their white robes at death, they cannot go to heaven at death.
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). (See the articles on Death and Eternal Torment.)
In the view of this website, the dead sleep. My mother died recently. From my perspective, she sleeps. But from her perspective, according to her experience, she is already awake and with her loved ones. From the experience of a person who dies, she or he is IMMEDIATELY AWAKE AFTER DEATH. Therefore, Paul could say, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21)!
For a further discussion, see – Souls under the altar.
COMPLETED IN CHARACTER
The souls under the altar are told:
“Rest for a little while longer,
until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren
who were to be killed even as they had been,
would be completed also” (Rev 6:11)
The purpose of this section is to show that this does not mean that a specific number of God’s people must be “killed” but that God’s people will be “completed” QUALITATIVELY IN CHARACTER:
a) This translation adds the words “number of” but there is no such phrase in the original Greek.
b) Would a God of love arbitrarily decree that a fixed number of people must suffer and die before He intervenes?
c) Both the souls under the altar and the innumerable multitude are clothed in white robes (Rev 6:11; 7:9). They are, therefore, the same people. But the innumerable multitude “NO ONE COULD COUNT” (Rev 7:9). The number, therefore, is not important.
d) Elsewhere, Revelation informs us that God’s end-time people will be spiritually mature. This supports the proposal that “completed” should be understood qualitatively, namely that God’s people must be completed in character. For example, in end-time context:
- “His bride has made herself ready” (Rev 19:7-8).
- The 144000 are sealed on their foreheads, namely, in their thinking, with the name (the character) of God (Rev 7:3-4; 14:1).
- It is said of the 144000 that “no lie was found in their mouth;
they are blameless” (Rev 14:4-5).
- Jesus will “reap” when “the hour to reap has come,
because THE HARVEST OF THE EARTH IS RIPE” (Rev 14:15).
This website does not propose that God’s end-time people will be sinless, but that they will be completely loyal to God as David apparently was despite his many flaws (1 Kings 11:4-6).
We will discuss the fifth seal in more detail when we discuss the sealing of the 144000 (Rev 7:1-3) because, as it will be argued, that sealing begins in the fifth seal.
THE SIXTH SEAL
This section is a summary of the article – The sixth seal.
Rev 6:12 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 catastrophes (Rev 6:12-14) and
- The response of people who live in rebellion against God (Rev 6:15-17)
Literally interpreted, everything in heaven and on earth is destroyed (Rev 6:12-14). But we should not interpret these signs literally. For example, after the stars have fallen on the earth (Rev 6:13), the people still hide in the mountains (Rev 6:15-17).
“Him who sits on the throne” is the Father and “the Lamb” is Jesus Christ (Rev 6:16; cf. 5:13). Christ now appears as the loving Ruler of the universe, but for people who have cursed God all their lives, His appearance is utter torment.
THE SIXTH SEAL IS THE SEVENTH PLAGUE.
This section shows that the sixth seal is parallel to the seventh plague, as described at the end of Revelation 16. This shows, firstly, that the different visions in Revelation cover the same ground. This also shows that the sixth seal describes the very last events of the history of this current world.
Revelation 16 lists the seven last plagues.
During the fourth and fifth plagues, the people of the world still refuse to repent (Rev 16:9, 11). Since, in the sixth seal, they hide in the mountains from “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev 6:15-17), the sixth seal describes events later than the fifth plague.
In both the sixth seal and sixth plague we find the phrase “great day.” But there is a difference:
In the sixth plague, demons GATHER THE PEOPLE FOR “the war of the great day of God” (Rev 16:14). In other words, the people PREPARE to do battle.
In contrast, in the sixth seal, THEY RUN AWAY, hide in the mountains, and cry out, “the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?“
The sixth seal, therefore, is also later than the sixth plague.
For the following reasons, the sixth seal is parallel to the seventh plague:
Firstly, in both the seventh plague and the sixth seal “a great earthquake” destroys “every mountain and island” (Rev 6:12, 14; 16:18, 20).
Secondly, both the seventh plague and the sixth seal are the revenge that the souls under the altar call for. To explain:
In the fifth seal, the souls under the altar call for revenge. Since the people of the world have to hide in the mountains in the sixth seal, that seems to be the requested revenge.
But the seventh plague is that revenge because the revenge requested in the fifth seal is fulfilled in the judgment on Babylon (Rev 19:2) and Babylon is judged in the seventh plague (Rev 16:19; cf. 16:6).
In conclusion, since the sixth seal is parallel to the seventh plague, and since the seventh plague describes the final events in the history of this world, the sixth seal portrays events at the end of this world’s history. A series of articles is available on the seven last plagues.
THE SIXTH SEAL IS CHRIST’S RETURN.
This conclusion is based on the following:
1) SIGNS OF HIS RETURN
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 in the first part of the seal (Rev 6:12-13) are the signs of Christ’s return (Matt 24:29).
2) THE DAY OF THE LORD
This seal is “the great day” (Rev 6:17) which identifies it as the well-known Old Testament “great and terrible Day of the LORD.” The New Testament interprets the Day of the Lord as Christ’s return; the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:8).
3) PEOPLE GATHERED FOR THE GREAT DAY
In the sixth plague, demons GATHER the people of the world together for “the war of the great day of God” (Rev 16:14). But then Revelation 19 shows them GATHERED FOR WAR when Christ returns (Rev 19:11, 19). They are, therefore, gathered (Rev 16:14) for Christ’s return.
Since the sixth seal is also called “the great day” (Rev 6:17) and since it also describes the people as gathered (sort of) for they are hiding in the mountains, the hiding of the people in the sixth seal is parallel to the gathering of the people when Christ returns (Rev 19:19).
4) SEPARATES THE SHEEP FROM THE GOATS
The sixth seal divides the people of the world into two groups:
(1) The multitude that hides in the mountains asks, “who is able to stand” (Rev 6:17)?
(2) After an interruption (Rev 7:1-8), the sixth 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 population of the world into these two great multitudes. Jesus, similarly, 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“
The sixth seal describes a point in time DURING Christ’ return. His return will not be a single sudden ‘out of the blue’ event but will be the climax of the end-time crisis as described in various parts of Revelation. Eventually, the people who live in rebellion to God will be put to death (Rev 19:21). But two verses earlier, they are still ready to war “against Him who sat on the horse and against His army” (Rev 19:19; cf. 19:11-14). In the sixth seal, they hide in the mountains. This, therefore, seems to fit somewhere between verses 19 and 21 of Revelation 19).
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
“Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees
until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God
on their foreheads.
The number “four” symbolizes THE WHOLE EARTH. For example, Revelation often uses four synonyms to describe the entire population of the world (e.g., Rev 10:11; 13:7; 14:6).
The earth and sea (Rev 7:1) symbolize the people of the world (Rev 13:1, 11) in contrast to the trees (Rev 7:1), which represent God’s people (Rev 9:4). For that reason, the “four winds” are allowed to “harm the earth and the sea” but not the trees (Rev 7:2).
The “four angels” symbolize God “holding back” the forces of destruction. That is not one specific event. God has ALWAYS been restraining the forces of destruction. In contrast, verses 2 and 3 do portray one specific event, namely, when God sends “the seal of the living God” to earth. God continues to hold back the forces of destruction but we are also told that He will release those forces as soon as His people are sealed. When that happens, God’s people must be empowered to remain standing through that very difficult time. Therefore, God holds the “four winds” in check until His “bond-servants” are sealed (Rev 7:2-3). In other words, until they are ready.
This section is a summary of the following article:
It is discussed below under the following headings:
- God’s people will be sealed through the Revelation 13-persecution.
- The purpose of the seal is to protect them from the seven last plagues.
- Only end-time believers will receive the seal.
- The seal will empower God’s people to remain standing.
- The sealing is the fifth seal.
- The sealing is Daniel’s time of the end.
- Overview of the sealing
1) SEALED THROUGH THE REVELATION 13-PERSECUTION
During the end-time crisis, the beast-powers will attempt to put the mark of the beast on all people (Rev 13:15-16). This, therefore, will be a time of testing and persecution for God’s people.
Next, Revelation 14:1-5 describes 144,000 people “having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.” This is the same as the people who are sealed in Revelation 7:1-3 because both groups:
- Are 144,000 in number (Rev 7:4; 14:1), and
- Have something of God on their foreheads, namely:
– “The seal of the living God” (Rev 7:2-4) and
– “His name and the name of His Father” (Rev 14:1).
It follows that “the seal of the living God” is the same as “His name and the name of His Father.”
In Revelation, names on foreheads symbolize character. For example, the harlot’s character is reflected by the name on her forehead (Rev 17:5). Similarly, the mark of the beast is the name of the beast on the foreheads of people (Rev 13:16, 17). They have the beast’s character!
1) Since both the mark of the beast and the seal of God are names on foreheads (Rev 13:16-14:1), that end-time persecution will divide the people of the world into these two camps.
2) God’s people will receive His seal (Rev 7:1-8) DURING AND THROUGH the Revelation 13-persecution. In other words, they are NOT sealed to protect them during that time of persecution, but to protect them for what follows AFTER that persecution!
2) SEALED AS PROTECTION AGAINST THE PLAGUES
This section shows that God’s people receive God’s seal to protect them during the seven last plagues (Rev 15:1).
These seven last plagues are described in Revelation 16. Revelation 15 serves as an introduction to Revelation 16. Revelation 15, therefore, describes events and conditions AT THE BEGINNING of the seven last plagues. Included in that description is “those who had been victorious over the beast” (Rev 15:2). They, therefore, are the people who have resisted the efforts of the beast to put the mark of the beast on them. In other words, they are the 144000!
The way in which they are described in Revelation 15:2-4 implies that, at that point in history, ALL of “the bond-servants of our God” have ALREADY been sealed (cf. Rev 7:3). This is confirmed by the fact that, during the plagues, there will be no switching of sides:
NONE of the people with the mark of the beast will repent (Rev 16:9, 11, 21), and
The term “seal of God” implies that the eternal destiny of the sealed people has been permanently settled. Therefore, NONE of them will fall away during the plagues.
Since there will be NO switching of sides after the plagues begin to fall, Revelation 15 is a SPECIFIC point in history 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. The plagues will begin only after that point in history. Therefore:
1) The sealing of “the bond-servants of our God” (Rev 7:3) will be COMPLETED BEFORE the plagues begin to fall.
2) The purpose of the seal is to protect them from the plagues.
3) Since BOTH the seven last plagues and the four winds will be released as soon as God’s people are all sealed, the four winds (Rev 7:1) are the same as the seven last plagues.
3) FOR THE END-TIME ONLY
This section is a summary of the article – The end-time Seal of God. It argues that the seal of God, as described in Revelation, will ONLY be available to the end-time generation. In other words, it will not be available to previous generations.
According to the apostle Paul, people are sealed with the Holy Spirit when they put their faith in Christ (e.g., 2 Cor 1:22). In contrast, for the reasons below, the seal in Revelation 7 is something special that ONLY end-time believers will receive to protect them during catastrophic end-time events before Christ returns:
1) It is given to people who ALREADY are Christians (Rev 7:3).
2) It protects against a danger that DOES NOT EXIST in previous ages, namely the four winds – interpreted above as the seven last plagues.
3) Revelation always mentions the seal in the context of the end-time, namely in the context of:
– The great day of God’s wrath (Rev 6:17-7:2) and
– The mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-14:1).
4) TO EMPOWER GOD’S PEOPLE
Th article – The end-time Seal of God – also shows that this seal will actually change God’s people to EMPOWER THEM to remain standing during the seven last plagues.
As stated, the purpose of “the seal of the living God” (Rev 7:2) is to protect God’s people when the winds (the seven last plagues) are released (Rev 7:1-3). One possible interpretation of this is that the seal will serve 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:
1) The seal is God’s name (Rev 14:1). Since names in Revelation symbolize character (e.g., Rev 17:3, 5) and since the seal is put on the “foreheads” of God’s people, symbolizing their thinking, the seal symbolizes that the 144000 will have “no lie … in their mouth; they are blameless” (Rev 14:1-5).
2) On the new earth, God’s people will still have “His name … on their foreheads” (Rev 22:4). Since, as shown above, His name is the seal of God, it means that His people will still have the seal of God on the new earth. But, then, EVERYBODY will have the seal of God. It, therefore, cannot simply be for identification. It must signify character.
3) Spiritually mature – Revelation several times 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 itself symbolizes spiritual maturity.
- Jesus will “reap” when “the hour to reap has come,
because THE HARVEST OF THE EARTH IS RIPE” (Rev 14:15).
4) Completed – As discussed above, the fifth seal refers to a point in time which divides time into two parts:
- In the past, God’s people were killed (Rev 6:9), and
- In the future, “their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also” (Rev 6:11).
Since, as also argued above, the sixth seal is Christ’s return, the sealing of the 144000, which is mentioned immediately AFTER the sixth seal, actually begins BEFORE the time of the sixth seal. The sealing, therefore, begins in the fifth seal. This implies that the sealing (Rev 7:1-3) is the ‘future’ completion of God’s people (Rev 6:11).
Since it was argued above that they will be “completed” (Rev 6:11) in character; not in literal number, this supports the view that the sealing would be a substantive change and actual empowerment of God’s people.
5) Refute accusations – God’s people are sealed while Jesus is breaking the seven seals of the book of life. As discussed above, that Jesus breaks the seals means that He directs events on earth to refute Satan’s accusations against God’s people by revealing their faithfulness under persecution. In that context, it makes more sense to say that the seal of God symbolizes spiritual maturity than mere identification.
6) Purpose of the plagues – Above, the “four winds” were interpreted as the seven last plagues. As discussed in the article – the purpose of the plagues – one purpose of the plagues is to show that God’s elect 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 the living God” is well explained in the book “The Call” by Rick Joyner. In it, Jesus says:
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.
5) THE SEALING IS THE FIFTH SEAL.
This section is a summary of the article – God’s people are sealed during Daniel’s Time of the End.
As discussed above, the first four seals (Rev 6:1-8) describe the timeless realities of the church age. But the fifth seal (Rev 6:9-11) describes 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).
As is also discussed above, the seal of God is available ONLY in the end-time. This means that the angel brings the seal down from heaven (Rev 7:2) at a specific point in time. The purpose of this section is to show that the seal comes down from heaven at the point in time indicated by the fifth seal. To see this, compare the fifth seal to the sealing:
The fifth seal (Rev 6:9-11):
- Describes the souls of God’s people who have been slain in the past,
- Gives them white robes,
- But tells them to wait until their fellow brethren are “completed“.
The sealing (Rev 7:1-3):
- Shows angels holding back the four winds of destruction,
- Then the seal of God is brought out of heaven, and
- The angels are told to continue holding back those destructive forces until all of God’s people are sealed (the 144000 – Rev 7:4).
Note the similarities between the fifth seal and the sealing:
(1) Both refer to the past, the present, and to the future – marked a, b, and c above.
(2) In the ‘present time’, in both, beings are told to wait (informed of a delay):
– Fifth seal = Souls must wait until their brethren are complete.
– Sealing = Angels must wait until God’s people are sealed.
(3) Both set as future goal that God’s people will become mature:
– Fifth seal = God’s people must be “completed” (Rev 6:11).
– Sealing = God’s people must be “sealed” (Rev 7:3).
(4) Both give a token of salvation to God’s people:
– Fifth seal = “a white robe” (Rev 6:11)
– Sealing = “the seal of the living God” (Rev 7:2)
(5) Both are followed by massive destruction:
– The destruction of the sixth seal follows after the fifth.
– The four winds follow after the sealing.
These similarities imply that the fifth seal is parallel to the sealing. In particular:
(a) The point in time in the fifth seal is when the angel brings the seal out of heaven.
(b) The ‘future time’ in the fifth seal, when “their fellow servants … would be completed,” is equivalent to the sealing of the 144000.
6) THE SEALING IS DANIEL’S TIME OF THE END.
Furthermore, since the book of Daniel is the foundation on which Revelation is built, we should find this point in history in Daniel as well. 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 beginning of “the time of the end” (Dan 12:4):
- 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 fifth seal is the beginning of “the time of the end” (Dan 12:4).
And, since the previous section has shown that the angel brings the seal of God out of heaven at the point in time in the fifth seal, we can conclude that the seal comes down out of heaven at the beginning of Daniel’s time of the end. Consequently, during “the time of the end,” God’s people will both be sealed and learn the meaning of the prophecies of Daniel (Dan 12:4, 9).
THE SEALING – OVERVIEW
The discussion above of the sealing (Rev 7:1-3) may be summarized as follows:
God has always been restraining the forces of destruction but, in the time of the end, God will release those forces. To empowered His people to remain standing through that very difficult time, God will seal His people with “the seal of the living God.“
His people will be sealed DURING and THROUGH the end-time persecution in which when the beast will attempt to put his mark on all people (Rev 13:15-16). That end-time persecution will divide the population of the world into two great multitudes; those with the mark of the beast and those with the seal of God. The seal will protect His people against for what follows AFTER that persecution, namely the seven last plagues (Revelation 16).
Once all people have been marked with either the mark of the beast or the seal of God, God will release the seven last plagues. During the plagues, there will be no switching of sides. NONE of the people with the mark of the beast will repent (Rev 16:9, 11, 21), and the NONE of the people with the “seal of God” will fall away either.
The reader may then well ask what the purpose of the seven last plagues is. I discuss that in the series on the plagues and conclude that the purpose is to show that God’s judgments are perfect, namely that:
- The people with the mark of the beast are hardened beyond repentance. Even when they KNOW that they are wrong, they will NOT repent.
- That God’s people will die rather than disobeying God.
We must not think of the mark of the beast OR of the seal of God as something visible that people will be able to see with their eyes. But the angels will know who has what mark and, just like they anxiously watched the crisis of Christ’s last hours to see whether Christ will submit to Satan’s temptations, they will watch the crisis during the final days or months before Christ returns, for the future of the universe depends on it. Untill God’s judgments are proven to be perfect, evil must remain!
THE 144000 (7:4-8)
John heard that 144000 were “sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel” (Rev 7:4). This section is a summary of the article – 144000 are sealed. It shows that:
- The 144000 cannot be literal,
- But symbolize faithfulness “even when faced with death” (Rev 12:11).
- The book of Revelation merges the church into Israel.
THE NUMBER 144000 IS NOT LITERAL.
For the following reasons, the 144000 Israelites are not literal:
- Ten of the twelve tribes have disappeared long ago. The ten northern tribes broke away from the rest after the death of Solomon and were assimilated into the peoples of the Middle East.
- The list of tribes in Revelation 7 is not a valid list. It excludes Dan and Ephraim and includes Joseph and his son Manasseh; which is effectively a double count.
- 12000 from each of the 12 tribes (Rev 7:4) is too exact to be literal.
- Literally interpreted, they are all men and without sin (Rev 14:4-5).
THE NUMBER 144,000 SYMBOLIZES FAITHFULNESS.
Rather, the number 144000 is symbolic. Revelation is a book of symbols and all numbers in it are symbols. Revelation frequently uses literal things from the Old Testament as symbols. The number 144000, similarly, is Old Testament military language converted into a symbol. Israel referred to its army as “the thousands of Israel” (Num 31:5). A “thousand” was a military unit; equivalent to what we today may call a regiment or a platoon.
If Revelation uses the number 144000 as a symbol, then we must ask what it means. The following indicates that it symbolizes that the people with the seal of the living God will remain faithful “even when faced with death” (cf. Rev 12:11):
Firstly, as argued above, the sealing of “the bond-servants of our God” (Rev 7:3) is the ‘completion’ of “their fellow servants” in the fifth seal (Rev 6:11). Since the latter symbolizes qualitative completion, the same applies to the seal of God.
Secondly, Revelation describes the 144000 as spiritually mature (Rev 14:4-5).
Thirdly, the number 12 symbolizes God’s people (cf. Rev 12:1). Similarly, the names of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles are written on the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:12, 14). The number 144000, then, symbolize God’s people in their strongest possible form = 12 x 12 military units.
The 144000, since it is not literal, and since it symbolizes perfect faithfulness, represents God’s true people FROM ALL RACES.
REVELATION MERGES THE CHURCH INTO ISRAEL.
In the view of many Christians, the nation of Israel has a distinct role during the end-time events. However, Revelation merges the church and Israel. For example:
(a) The seven churches are promised the things that previously belonged to Israel, such as the tree of life (Rev 2:7), manna (Rev 2:17), the book of life (Rev 3:5), the temple (Rev 3:11) and Jerusalem (Rev 3:12).
(b) The woman of Revelation 12 represents both Israel (before Christ) and the Church (after Christ). For a discussion, see – Who are the woman, the dragon, and the child?
(c) “Those who had been victorious over the beast … sang the song” of MOSES AND THE LAMB (Rev 15:3); the two main characters in the Old and New Testaments.
(d) “The New Jerusalem” – a symbol of God’s people (Rev 21:9-10) – has written on it the names of both the 12 apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev 21:12, 14).
(e) John hears about the 144000 Jews but then sees the innumerable multitude from all nations (Rev 7:4, 9). As discussed below, such hear-see combinations, in Revelation, actually are different perspectives OF THE SAME THING (e.g., Rev 5:5-6; 17:1, 3).
(f) In the seven letters, there are people “who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9; 3:9). In this context, to claim to be a Jew is a claim to be a true Christian. What value would a claim to be a literal Jew have in a Christin context?
THE ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT MERGES THE CHURCH INTO ISRAEL.
This is a huge study. Whole books have been written on this subject and I will not attempt to do justice to this topic here. The following are a few examples:
(A) My 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. Remember, when the books of the New Testament were written, the majority in the church were Jews. See, Early Church History.
(B) Paul illustrated this principle by saying that Gentiles are grafted into Israel’s olive tree (Rom 11:17).
(C) “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29).
(D) By choosing twelve disciples and not eleven or thirteen, Jesus signaled His intention to re-shape Israel.
For a further discussion, see – 144000 are sealed from the tribes of Israel.
THE IMMUMERABLE MULTITUDE
This section is a summary of the article that discusses Revelation 7:9-17 verse by verse. This section first provides an overview of the text and then asks: Who is this Innumerable Multitude?
OVERVIEW OF THE TEXT
Revelation 6 has ended with the sixth seal, which has been interpreted above as Christ’s return. The first part of Revelation 7 jumps back in time to explain the sealing of God’s people BEFORE His return (Rev 7:1-8). Revelation 7:9-17, then, continues where chapter 6 left off. In other words, these verses continue to describe a point in time DURING Christ’s return.
NO ONE COULD COUNT
John saw “a great multitude which no one could count” (Rev 7:9). This does not literally mean that they cannot be counted. It is a way of saying that this is a very large group.
FROM EVERY NATION
While the 144000 in the first 8 verses of this chapter are from Israel only, this “multitude” is “from (1) every nation and (2) all tribes and (3) peoples and (4) tongues” (Rev 7:9). Revelation often uses such four-fold descriptions of the people of the world (e.g., Rev 10:11; 14:6; 17:15) because the number 4 symbolizes worldwide extension (cf. Rev 7:1).
ABLE TO STAND
They are “standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev 7:9). In the sixth seal, the multitude hiding in the mountains asked:
“The great day of their wrath has come,
and who is able to stand?” (Rev 6:16)
The multitude before the throne, therefore, is the answer to that question. This implies that Revelation 7:9 describes them ON THAT “great day of their wrath.”
They are “clothed in white robes” (Rev 7:9). In Revelation, the color white always describes Christ and His people. See, the discussion of the white horse of the first seal.
White robes were also given in the fifth seal to the people who have been martyred “because of the testimony which they had maintained” (Rev 6:9-11). The great multitude in Revelation 7, therefore, is the same people. They have all died for their faith. In Revelation, symbolically, all of God’s people die for their faith.
SALVATION BELONGS TO GOD.
They cry out with a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb” (Rev 7:10).
While the multitude in the mountains acknowledges their doom (Rev 6:16), the multitude before the throne acknowledges that they are not the authors of their own salvation but that they have been saved by God and the Lamb.
COME OUT OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION
One of the elders said to John:
“These who are clothed in the white robes, …
These are the ones who come out of
the great tribulation” (Rev 7:13-14).
“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” (Rev 7:14). In other words, it is one specific tribulation that the reader already knows about. Given the context, and as emphasized by the fifth seal (Rev 6:9-11), it is the martyrdom of God’s people during the entire church age.
THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB
The elder added:
“They have washed their robes
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14).
It is not literally possible to make clothes white in blood. It is a metaphor: As discussed, Christ’s blood is a symbol of 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 His final hours were also His greatest victory, for He overcame by remaining “faithful until death” (Rev 2:10). He subjected Himself to God’s will to the end. The significance of His death is not that He died, but that He died without sin, meaning that, even under the most excruciating circumstances, He never used His powers contrary to God’s will.
THEY WASHED THEIR OWN ROBES.
The elder said:
“They have washed their robes
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14).
White robes are a sign of being right with God (cf. Rev 3:4-5). But the people clothed in the white robes had to wash their own robes (Rev 7:14). Revelation states several times that people have to work for their salvation (e.g., Rev 3:4-5; 19:7-8; 16:15). This principle is consistent with the teaching of the whole Bible. Man is judged by his deeds (cf. Rev 20:12). It is sometimes claimed that Paul taught something different, but he also taught that:
“God … will render to each person according to his deeds” (Rom 2:6; cf. Rom 2:9-13; 8:13; 14:12).
People find it difficult to reconcile 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” (e.g., Rom 3:20). However, the “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. For a discussion, see – The doers of the Law will be justified but NOT by the Works of the Law.
People are judged by their deeds but saved by grace because people DO NOT EARN salvation through their deeds. Nobody deserves to live. We all deserve to die. Judgment by deeds determines WHO must be saved. By grace is HOW those people are saved. For a further discussion, see the articles on justification.
THE LAMB IN THE CENTER OF THE THRONE
The Lamb is not “around the throne,” like the elders and the angels are (Rev 4:4; 5:11), or “before the throne,” like the great multitude is (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).
THE NEW JERUSALEM
The remainder of the chapter is similar to the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 and 22. For example, both these descriptions say:
- “He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them” (Rev 7:15; cf. Rev 21:3).
- They will no longer be hungry or thirsty (Rev 7:16-17; cf. Rev 21:6; 22:17).
- “The Lamb … will guide them to springs of the water of life” (Rev 7:17; cf. Rev 21:6; 22:1, 17).
- “God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Rev 7:17; cf. Rev 21:4).
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.
WHO IS THE INNUMERABLE MULTITUDE?
A HEAR/SEE COMBINATION
The great multitude described in Revelation 7:9-17 seems very different from the 144000 (Rev 7:1-3):
|Exactly numbered||Cannot be counted|
|From the tribes of Israel||From every nation|
|On earth||Before God’s throne|
However, some argue that the 144000 are THE SAME as the Innumerable Multitude because this is one of the hear/see-combinations in Revelation where John first hears about something and then sees something completely different but the two things really are the same. For example:
In Revelation 5:5-6, John first hears about a lion and then sees a lamb, but both symbolize Christ.
Similarly, John first hears that the woman sits on “many waters” (Rev 17:1) but then he sees that she sits on a beast (Rev 17:3).
In the same way, John first hears of the 144000 (Rev 7:4-8) and then sees a great multitude that no one can number (Rev 7:9). It is proposed here that what John first hears and then sees are not exactly the same but DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES OF THE SAME THING:
The lion and the lamb symbolize two different roles which Christ has. On earth, He was a lamb. But when He returns, He will tread “the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (Rev 19:15). Then He will be a lion.
The waters and the beast on which the woman sits, similarly, are two different perspectives of humanity:
- The “waters” simply symbolize all the peoples of the world (Rev 17:15).
- The beast, on the other hand, has “seven heads and ten horns” (Rev 17:3). The seven heads are the seven phases of the beast (cf. Rev 17:9-10) and the ten horns symbolize the end-time confederacy that will oppose God (cf. Rev 17:12). The beast, therefore, symbolizes humanity divided into kingdoms.
In the same way, the 144000 and the innumerable multitude are different perspectives of God’s people. To explain:
The sixth seal has been interpreted above as the return of Christ. In it, the question is asked: “Who is able to stand” on “the great day of their wrath” (Rev 6:17)?
Revelation 7 answers this question in TWO ways:
The first part (Rev 7:1-8) jumps back in time to describe how God’s people will be sealed BEFORE His return. The seal will enable them to remain standing during the end-time crisis. They, therefore, are God’s end-time people.
Then verse 9 describes the Innumerable Multitude. That they stand BEFORE THE THRONE (Rev 7:9) implying that this describes them WHEN CHRIST RETURN. They, therefore, are the same as the 144000 but describe God’s people at the end of the end-time crisis.
NOT THE SAME AS THE 144,000
But, as the fifth seal explains, the Innumerable Multitude is NOT exactly the same as the 144000:
The Innumerable Multitude is “clothed in white robes” (Rev 7:9). This reminds us of the fifth seal. That seal describes a specific point in history when WHITE ROBES are given to God’s people who have ALREADY died. But they are told to wait for “their fellow servants … who were to be killed even as they had been” (Rev 6:9-11). By implication, this last group will ALSO receive white robes. The innumerable multitude, since they are dressed in white robes, includes BOTH groups.
This is confirmed by the statement that the innumerable multitude come out of “the great tribulation” (Rev 7:14). In the context, this “great tribulation” refers to the slaughtering of God’s people as described in the first five seals. Since both groups of people in the fifth seal are martyred, both groups come out of “the great tribulation.“
The 144000, however, are only the second group in the fifth seal (those who must still die) BECAUSE, as discussed above, “the seal of the living God” comes down out of heaven (Rev 7:2) at the specific time in history to which the fifth seal refers.
AFTER CHRIST’S RETURN
Does Revelation 7:9-17 describe the innumerable multitude before or after Christ’s return? The following seems to indicate that it describes the time AFTER His Return:
1) If they, as argued, include God’s people who have already died, then it must be AFTER His return.
2) They stand BEFORE GOD’S THRONE, and His throne is in heaven (Rev 11:19; 16:17).
3) In Revelation 6:17, a multitude hides from the throne and 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 that question. This implies that they are described on “THE GREAT DAY,” which is Christ’s return.
4) The palm branches in their hands (Rev 7:9) foreshadow the bliss of eternity.
5) The souls under the altar cried out for revenge (Rev 6:10), symbolizing God’s desire to set things right. The multitude does not cry out for revenge, implying that God has already set things right.
6) Their description in Revelation 7:15-17 is the same as the description of the eternal state of God’s people (Rev 21:3-4, 21:6; 22:1) AFTER Christ has returned, implying that the innumerable multitude includes all of God’s people of all time.
Revelation 7:1-8 jumps back in time to describe the sealing of the 144000. Verse 9, then, continues exactly where Revelation 6 left off. In other words, while the one multitude hides in the mountains (Rev 6:15-17), the other great multitude stands before God’s throne. 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”
THE SEVENTH SEAL
This section is a summary of the article – The seventh seal Christ’s Return.
“When the Lamb broke the seventh seal,
there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Rev 8:1)
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 Christ’s return (Rev 19:21):
SATAN’S OBJECTIONS REFUTED
As argued, firstly, the seventh seal is the last seal of the Book of Life; which identifies the people whom God had elected to eternal life. The seals of the book are Satan’s informed objections to those people. That nobody is able to open the book symbolizes that the heavenly beings are unable to refute Satan’s objections. In other words, they are unable to prove that God always judges perfectly. That Jesus breaks the seals means that He directs events on earth to refute Satan’s objections.
Therefore, when the last (seventh) seal is broken, all of Satan’s accusations have been refuted and all barriers to understanding God’s judgments are removed. Then God can make an end to the reign of evil on this earth through the return of Christ.
THE SIXTH SEAL IS HIS RETURN.
Secondly, it was argued in the previous section that the sixth seal is Christ’s return but BEFORE the people who live in rebellion against God are put to death. The seventh seal, therefore, should be the next phase of His return.
ALL MAIN PARTS END WITH CHRIST’S RETURN.
Thirdly, Revelation consists of five main parts. Except for the first main part (the letters to the seven churches – Revelation 1-3), all other main parts cover the entire church age and all end with Christ’s return:
- Seven trumpets – Revelation 8-11 (Rev 11:15);
- Seven wars – Revelation 12-14 (Rev 14:14);
- Seven last plagues – Revelation 15-19 (Rev 19:11).
Therefore, the seven seals should also end with His return. For a further discussion, see – Does the Book of Revelation describe events in chronological sequence?
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 (Rev 19:21).
THE SEVEN TRUMPETS
This section is a summary of the article – Does the seventh seal include the seven trumpets?
The Book of Revelation may be divided into several main parts, including:
- Seven Seals (ch. 4-7);
- Seven Trumpets (ch. 8-11);
- Seven Wars (ch. 12-14).
One view is that these three main parts describe the same period, namely the time from the cross to the return of Christ. Each main part adds a different perspective to that period. This is called ‘recapitulation’.
Another view is that the visions of Revelation are listed in a strict chronological sequence FROM BEGINNING TO END, with only one final climax at the end of the book. In this view, the seventh seal includes the seven trumpets.
The following seems to support the view that the seventh seal includes the seven trumpets:
- The seventh seal is included with the trumpets in chapter 8 of Revelation.
- Nothing happens when the seventh seal is broken—only silence. For some, this means that the real action of the seventh seal is the seven trumpets.
However, for the following reasons, the seven trumpets cannot be part of the seventh seal:
- Chapter and verse divisions are not inspired. They were only added in the 13th century.
- The themes of the seals and the trumpets are very different. The seals are about God’s people and their experience on earth (e.g. Rev 6:9; 7:3; 7:14). In contrast, the trumpets focus on God’s enemies (e.g., Rev 8:13; 9:4; 11:10). Since the themes are so vastly different, the trumpets cannot be part of the seals.
- The sixth seal is the Return of Christ (Rev 6:12-14; 6:17) and introduces the New Heaven and New Earth (e.g., Rev 7:17). The silence of the seventh seal, therefore, must be even later. It follows, since the trumpets describe the old world of sin and sorrow, that the seventh seal cannot include the trumpets.
- The seventh trumpet, at the end of Revelation 11, is the return of Christ (Rev 11:15) but the next vision (the seven wars) jumps back in time to Christ’s birth (Rev 12:2, 5). Since this happens in the switch from the trumpets to the wars, the same could also happen in the switch from the seals to the trumpets.
- Both the seven seals and the seven wars begin with Christ’s first advent and end with His return (Rev 5:5; 6:17; 12:5; 14:14). Both, therefore, cover the entire Christian era. For that reason, it is clear that Revelation does use recapitulation. Furthermore, since the two main parts of Revelation before and after the trumpets both cover the whole Christian era, and since all three main parts conclude with Christ’s return, it is very likely that the trumpets also begin with Christ’s first advent and end with His return.
1) DIFFERENT THEMES
The torment of the trumpets is the work of the “two prophets” (Rev 11:10) “that stand before the Lord of the earth” (Rev 11:4). Therefore, while the focus in the seals is God’s people and their experience on earth, the trumpets are about unbelievers and God’s efforts to reconcile them back to Him. For that reason, the trumpets cannot be part of the seals.
2) THE SEVEN SEALS END WITH CHRIST’S RETURN.
As discussed, the sixth seal is the return of Christ (cf. Rev 6:12-14). Since, in the seven trumpets, people still have time to repent, the seven trumpets describe an earlier time and cannot be part of the seventh seal.
3) REVELATION 12 JUMPS 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, we should expect the same to happen in the switch from the seven seals to the seven trumpets.
4) THE PRINCIPLE OF RECAPITULATION
According to the principle of recapitulation, EACH OF the main sections of Revelation covers the time from Christ’s first advent to His second advent. The following supports this principle:
1) It is generally agreed that the visions in Daniel build on each other—each providing additional insight concerning periods covered by previous visions. Since Daniel is the foundation on which Revelation rests, we might expect recapitulation also in Revelation.
2) Both the seven seals and the seven wars explicitly start at the time of Christ and reach to His second advent (Rev 5:5-6; 7:12-14; 12:5; 14:14). Therefore, it is likely that the trumpets also cover the whole church age.
3) Both the seven trumpets and the seven wars include the “time, times, and a half” (Rev 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:6). Since this is a period of persecution for God’s people (Dan 7:25; 12:7) and since the seals focus on the persecution of God’s people, the seals must also cover this period.
The principle of recapitulation implies that the seven trumpets begin with Christ’s first advent and, therefore, cannot be part of the seventh seal.
5) A LITERAL READING CONTRADICTS ITSELF
The idea that the seven trumpets are included in the seventh seal is part of the strictly literal and chronological interpretation Revelation. But a strictly literal interpretation just does not make any sense. See – Does the Book of Revelation describe events in chronological sequence? For example, 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 one example of the many contradictions that would result from a strictly literal and chronological reading of the text.
THE CHIASM IN REVELATION 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. This chiasm is discussed in the full article which shows that verse 1 does not have a place in this chiasm. This means that verse 1 does not form part of the trumpets.
HOW THE TRUMPETS RELATE TO THE SEALS
It is then concluded that the trumpets are not part of the seventh seal. Rather, 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. Then the trumpets jump back in time to explain what God did to turn the lost from their disastrous paths.
DEEDS WILL REFUTE SATAN.
This section is a summary of the article – People’s deeds will refute Satan’s criticism of God’s judgments. But this section does not add anything new. It serves as a summary of the conclusions above.
SUMMARY OF PREVIOUS CONCLUSIONS
Previous articles concluded as follows
1) The sealed book 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. He claims that God is judging unfairly when He saves only some sinners.
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) means 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 trustworthy:
“Worthy are you to take the book
and to break its seals” (Rev 5:9).
6) That Jesus breaks the seals means that He directs events on earth to obtain evidence to show that Satan’s objections are false.
7) Christ’s victory did not immediately end the crisis. He is still breaking the seals today. Christ’s return and the implementation of God’s judgments are delayed until the last seal has been broken, which means that the intelligent beings will have full assurance that God’s judgments are perfect.
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 what they truly 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
There will be one final battle between Christ and Satan, namely, through their people on earth. Both sides are today preparing for that 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 to persecute and to 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 HAVE TO 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 (Rev 12:10). 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, God’s people will show that the people listed in the book of life will not surrender God’s principles. This will justify God’s decision to save them.
THE PURPOSE OF THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES
The frequent mention in the seven last plagues that the worshipers of the beast do not repent (Rev 16:9, 11, and 21), 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.
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