Jesus Christ and the sealed book
Part two of this Revelation series deals with a sealed book and the opening of the seals by Jesus Christ as The Lamb, chs.4-8:1.
As with the first vision about the seven letters to the seven churches this second vision also starts with a sanctuary scene.
- A door opened in heaven.
- A throne is seen.
- Four and twenty seats around the throne.
- Seven lamps burning before the throne.
- Before the throne also a sea of glass.
- A lamb as it had been slain is seen.
Two items we have seen in the first vision also, a throne and candlesticks or lamps. In this vision some more is added.
The first question we will answer is about the place in this vision. We suggest it is a sanctuary vision as mentioned before and also we state that the Revelation is built around the heavenly sanctuary scene. Jesus Christ again in His heavenly sanctuary. Is it the Holy place or the Most Holy place?
Some commentators maintain that John in vision has been moved to the Most Holy place and that this is a judgment scene.
We are of the opinion that John is still in the Holy place of the heavenly sanctuary. In the most Holy place was only one item located, the Ark of the Covenant. Not mentioned in this vision, but later in Rev.11:19.
Those who believe this is a Most Holy place vision do so because of the throne of God seen in this vision. They believe that the throne of God is located in the Most Holy place.
Ps.11:4 The Lord is in His Holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
Isa.6:1 Isaiah saw God’s throne and His train filled the temple.
Ezekiel had throne visions in ch.1 & 10 but does not indicate which part of the temple. In these Ezekiel throne visions also wheels are seen with the throne. This may indicate that the throne of God is a moveable one.
Dr.McGee writes: “John did not see this door opening as the authorised version of verse 1 suggests this door was open all the time. It is the door through which believers have come to God for over nineteen hundred years.” (NUBR)
Other translations do confirm this idea that the door was open, not being opened. Rev.4:1
RSV “I looked and lo, in heaven an open door.”
NRSV “I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open.”
NASB”I looked and behold a door standing open in heaven”
Jer.B. “I saw a door open in heaven.”
That door was open in Paul’s time when he wrote in Hebr.4:16 “Let us come boldly into the throne of Grace”. See also Hebr.10:19
The door in Rev.11:19 not open but was opened, that makes a difference in position of the door.
We are now ready for the question did this open door give access to the Holy or the Most Holy place?
We have already mentioned that what John sees is more related to the Holy place than to the Most Holy one. The Ark of the Covenant is missing till we reach Rev.11:19
John also sees 24 elders around the throne. If it is correct, as we will discuss later, that these elders do represent in heaven 24 priests serving the heavenly sanctuary as 24 priests served in the earthly sanctuary then this also indicates strongly that John sees the Holy place and not the Most Holy place.
We have already quoted Dr.McGee who alluded into the direction that this is the Holy place
We have the following statement from Mrs.Ellen G.White: “As in vision the apostle John was granted a view of the temple of God in heaven, he beheld there ‘seven lamps of fire burning before the throne’. He saw an angel ‘having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne . Here the prophet was permitted to behold the first apartment of the sanctuary in heaven; and he saw there the’ seven lamps of fire and the golden altar’ represented by the golden candlestick and the altar of incense in the sanctuary on earth “( Patr.& Proph.p.356)
Dr.Jon Paulien dealing with the seals vision in Symposium of Revelation Book I, published by the BRI of the General Conference of Seventh day Adventists, states the following conclusion on page 209 “Thus we conclude that the scene is best understood as a portrayal of the inauguration of the entire heavenly sanctuary in AD 31. In 8:3-5 the author focuses more specifically on the daily services associated with the first apartment of the sanctuary. Later in 11:19 the ark of the Second Apartment is clearly brought to view.”
The late Dr.Mervyn Maxwell writes: “The heavenly sanctuary is a central pivot of the message of Revelation. Five of the major divisions of the book are introduced with scenes that center on it. The introductory sanctuary scenes in the first three divisions are related to the holy place”. (GC II p.164)
We will notice these sanctuary scenes when we journey through the book of Revelation.
Dr.Paulien in the book quoted here above writes: “The cumulative effect of allusions reflects strong reminiscences of that (OT) sanctuary and its services”. (Ib.p.207/8)
He mentions the following:
“DOOR (thura, 4:1) 200 times in the Greek OT (LXX) and scores directly related to the sanctuary.Exod.29:4, 10-11, Lev.1:3, 5; 1Kings 6:31, 32, 34.
TRUMPETS (4:1) were used in worship as well as BATTLE.Numb.10:8-10
THRONE may remind us of the ark of the covenant.Rev.11:19; Ps.99:1 but that cannot be assumed. It might correspond to the table of shewbread in the Holy place, since the table is the only article of sanctuary furniture not mentioned explicitly in Revelation.
PRECIOUS stones (4:3) are also found in the breastplate of the high priest (Exod.28:17-21)
24 ELDERS reminds us of the 24 courses of the priests in the temple (1Chron.24:4-19)
SEVEN LAMPS (Lampades, 4:5) may recall the candlestick in the Holy place
SEA OF GLASS (4:6 makes use of the Greek word (‘thalassa’) applied to the ‘molten’ sea in Solomon’s Temple. 1Kings 7:23-24
FOUR LIVING CREATURES (4:6-8) reminds us of the cherubim associated with the Ark of the Covenant (Exod.25:18-20; 1Kings 6:23-28) Cherubim were, however. visible also in the Holy place (Exod. 26:1, 31-35)
In chapter 5 of Revelation we find a few additions, like the LAMB SLAIN (5:6) which is reminiscent of Isa.53:7 and the morning and evening sacrifices (Exod.29:38-42) or the Passover Sacrifice (1Cor.5:7)
THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB (5:9) provides the means to purchase the people of the earth for God. They (the 24 elders) in turn serve God in analogy to the priest of the OT sanctuary (5:10). The 24 elders hold golden bowls of incense which are interpreted as the prayers of the saints (5:8) Both the incense and the prayers of the saints are associated with the continual morning and evening sacrifices of the sanctuary (Ps.141:27); Exod.29:38-43;30:7,8; Luke 1:9,10)
No passage in Revelation contains a larger quantity or a wider variety of allusions to the sanctuary than this introductory scene.” (Ib.207/8)
Dr,Mewrvyn Maxwell in GC II p.163 links the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to the daily death of lambs in the OT sanctuary.
After making these comparisons with the OT sanctuary we must agree with Dr.Maxwell what he writes in GC II p.147: “As we proceed with our study of revelation, we’ll notice that in the early chapters John’s attention canters first on the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary in connection with the seven churches, the seven seals and the seven trumpets.”
This brings us to the question regarding the location of the throne of God as mentioned in the sanctuary introductory scenes.
Throne is mentioned 39 times in Revelation as counted from Strong’s Concordance. Out of these 39 times we find 17 times in Revelation 4 & 5. We may conclude that Revelation 4 & 5 is a throne vision of God.
Not all who have commented on the Revelation do agree on the location of the throne of God. Some say it is in the Most Holy place of the sanctuary. They think this is for obvious reasons, the Most Holy place that must be the location which qualifies for the throne of God.
Others, like myself, have the view that Rev.4 & 5 give us a vision of the Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary with the throne of God located there at that point of time.
In real terms all of the sanctuary is a Most Holy Place because of God’s continual presence. In the OT sanctuary on the day of the inauguration the whole of the sanctuary was filled with the presence of God. Exod.40:34, 35.and thus became a Most Holy place because of God’s presence at that time.
The same happened when Solomon’s temple was inaugurated. The glory of God filled the house of God and the priests could not enter. 2Chron.5:13, 14.
These two sanctuaries were real structures. We believe that the heavenly sanctuary also is a real structure. Bigger, more beautiful, but the material of which it is built not being known or revealed.
Paul writes in Hebr.8:1, 2 that Christ is “a minister of the sanctuary of the true tabernacle which the Lord has pitched and not man”. That is in heaven, heavenly made not made by man.
Through Revelation 4 & 5 we get a more inside picture as given to John by way of a vision what that sanctuary is like.
Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel had throne visions, Isa.6; Dan.7, Eze.1 & 10
Dr.Mervyn Maxwell discusses several points to argue in favour of the heavenly sanctuary being a real place. He concludes by quoting Dr. William Johnsson: “William Johnsson in another recent study of these matters has shown that the book of Hebrews encourages faith in a real deity, real humanity, a real priest, a real covenant, a real sacrifice, real purification, real access (to God) , and in keeping with these, a real heavenly sanctuary.
We can rest assured that Revelation also presents a real, actual heavenly sanctuary.”
(GC II p.170)
Ellen G.White also confirms that the heavenly sanctuary is real: “The sanctuary in heaven in which Jesus ministers in our behalf, is the great original of which the sanctuary built by Moses was a copy….
As the sanctuary on earth had two apartments, the Holy and the Most Holy, so there are two holy places in the Sanctuary in heaven. (Christ in His Sanctuary p.14)
Is the throne of God moveable? It reads in Rev.4:2 that “a throne was set”. According to Bullinger the same Greek is used in the LXX for “set” in Daniel 7:9 indicating ‘to place’.
To place something indicates a movement. In Ezekiel’s throne vision of chs.1 & 10 wheels are connected with the throne of God.
Dr. Maxwell quotes from Uriah Smith the following “that God’s throne is immovably, fixed to one place…………..cannot be shown; for in Ezekiel’s vision above referred to it is represented as full of awful life and unapproachable majesty and moving whitersoever the Spirit was to go. And as in the earthly tabernacle, so here, it sometimes stood at the door of the Lord’s house. Ez.10:18, 19. We have seen from Ezekiel’s sublime description that God’s throne is in itself a throne of life and motion.
The scene (Revelation 4 & 5) opens with the commencement of Christ’s ministry and at that time the throne of God was in the first apartment of the sanctuary” (GC II p.172/3)
In the Psalms we have several temple texts. Ps.11:4 “The Lord is in His holy temple, the
Lord’s throne is in heaven.”
Ps.48:9 “we have thought of thy loving kindness O God, in the midst of thy temple”
Ps.138:2 “I will worship toward thy holy temple”.
David could only write this because he believed in a real God in a real temple.
Dr.Norman Gulley has this to say in regard to Rev.4:1, 2 and what follows later “’At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it’ That was God the Father. Twenty four thrones circled God’s throne. Twenty four human beings sat on them.” (Christ is Coming p.476)
In the OT tabernacle only the High Priest served in the Most Holy Place. The ordinary priest stayed behind.
Dr.Gulley writes: “we enter the heavenly sanctuary and witness the inauguration of Christ into His heavenly sanctuary ministry (chapters 4 & 5.) Next follow Christ in His intercession in the Holy Place (ch.8:3-5) until John pulls the curtain back so we can peer into the Most Holy Place. (Ch.11:19)” (Ib.67)
That heavenly sanctuary is the anti-typical daily or tamid ministry of the typical earthly sanctuary/tabernacle. Christ had to start this ministry first before the annual day of atonement would commence of which we will say more along our journey through the Revelation.
Before we start on Rev.4 & 5 step by step and verse by verse we must say something about the 24 elders. Dr.H.K.LaRondelle says that they are mentioned 12 times in Revelation: 4:4, 10; 5:8, 11, 14: 7:11-13; 11:16; 14:3; 19:4; (Endt.Pr.in the Bible, p.109)
The question is who are these 24 elders? Pastor Alfred de Ligne raises that question in his Dutch book about the Revelation and answers as follows: “They are representatives of redeemed men, purchased from the earth. Probably the ones who were resurrected with Christ, (Matth.27:52, 53) which Christ took with Him as first fruit of His work of redemption (Eph.4:8) Matthew mentions their resurrection, Paul their ascension and John sees them in the heavenly sanctuary as kings and priests. They have vials full of odour which are the prayers of the saints (ib.p.81 translation JTK)
Dr.Gulley writes that they are human beings: “Twenty four human beings sat on them (4:4”) (Christ is Coming p.476)
They are priests, but why 24? We quote from Dr.LaRondelle; “In ancient Israel, twenty four priestly orders from the tribe of Levi were set aside to minister the order of worship and also twenty four orders for the ministry of prophesying, with accompaniment of lyres, harps and symbols. (1 Chron.24:4; 25:1, 6, 9-31)” (From his book p.109)
Twenty four priest with Christ as High Priest makes twenty five in total. We find in Ez.8:16 the twenty five priests engaged in idol worship. “Five and twenty men with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their face toward the east, they worshipped the sun toward the east.” They had fallen into deep apostasy.
These 24 elders may also be representatives of the 12 tribes of OT Israel and the 12 apostles, the founders of NT Israel. These two groups are also represented in the New Jerusalem. Rev.21:12, 14.
Some translations read “has redeemed us” and others “has redeemed them” Footnote in the NASB says “In either case the elders could have be singing of their own redemption in either the first or the third person”.
We have enough evidence as written here above that the 24 elders are redeemed men from earth serving with Christ as priest in the heavenly sanctuary. It appears even that they are serving at the altar of incense according to Rev.5:8. What this means we will notice when we reach Rev.8:3
Now we are ready to go through Rev.4 & 5 verse by verse and walk through these chapters.
“After this” means after the first vision which John saw about Christ and the seven churches
John hears again the voice of a trumpet as in Rev.1:10 the voice of Him who is the alpha and the omega, Jesus Christ.
John is told to come and he will be shown “things which will be hereafter”.
We may understand correctly that it is a new vision covering the same period as the previous vision. Not a follow on vision. The first vision ended in the end of times.
This new vision will give more additional information about the same period in history and terminates also in the end of times when Christ will return.
The vision shows to John where God’s throne is in the heavenly sanctuary.
The one who sits on the throne looks like precious stones. As we have noted before these stones also have a relationship with the sanctuary. There is also the rainbow, God’s sign of grace. See Gen.9:13. Grace is in God’s sanctuary.
The 24 elders are seated on seats or thrones according to the Greek. They are clothed in white raiment, most like the raiment the Loadiceans have been counselled to buy. (3:18) they have crowns as head cover. These are stephanos crowns, crowns of victory. In the first vision the church is admonished seven times to gain the victory. These 24 elders have gained the victory and are rewarded in wearing these crowns.
There is activity around the throne, as we also notice in Ez.1 & 10. Again we see the seven lamps as we have seen in 1:12, 13, 20 and 2:1
Before the throne is a sea of glass. The laver was a part of the OT sanctuary at the door of the tabernacle. Ex.38:8 And “he made the laver of brass and the foot of it of brass, of the looking glasses of the women assembling which assembled at the door of the congregation”.
The NASB reads “Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting”
We read in 1 Kings 7:23; 2 Kings 25:13 about the brazen sea of Solomon’s temple.
We meet that “sea” in heaven again in Rev.15:2
Is there a relationship between the earthly one and the heavenly? We may answer “YES”.
The KJV Bible commentary writes: “The Sea of glass is reminiscent of the laver in the Mosaic tabernacle and the bronze sea of the Solomonic temple. 2 Chron.4:2-6” (NUBR)
Matthew Henry writes: “He saw ‘before the throne a sea of glass like unto crystal’. As in the temple there was a great vessel of brass filled with water, in which the priests were to wash when they went to minister before the Lord (and this was called a sea), so in the gospel church the sea or laver for purification is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, who cleanses from all sin, even from sanctuary sins. In this all those must be washed that are admitted into the gracious presence of God on earth or his glorious presence in heaven”.
(MH vol. VI p.1139)
These thoughts are helpful to understand the symbolic language used in these descriptions of the throne room of our Creator God.
We are still in 4:6 and the next what John sees relates to the four “beasts” or “four living creatures” (NASB) .Here we have a direct reference to what Ezekiel saw in his throne visions of 1 & 10.They have eyes before and behind indicating full intelligence.
They look like a lion, calf, man and a flying eagle In Eze.1:10 the faces are of a man, lion, ox and an eagle. In Eze.10:14, 15 we have the face of a cherub, a man, lion and of an eagle.
Ezekiel saw them as cherubim see Eze.10, but John sees them as seraphim, each having six wings. In Eze.1:6, 7 they are seen with four wings.
They sang day and night, ‘holy, holy, holy Lord God almighty’. This is the same as in Isa.6:1-3.
The four different images may be explained as follows:
Man = intelligence
Lion kingly majesty
Calf service, sacrifice, ministry
Eagle swiftness, speed
Angels are highly intelligent, they show heavenly majesty, they are ministering spirits, Hebr.1:14 and can be very swift, Dan.9:20, 21
Sometimes these four images are associated with the four gospels. Lion in Matthew, Man in Mark, Ox in Luke and Eagle in John. (See SDA BC vol.4 – 576)
It appears from the description that these four beings are the closest to the throne of God, as the seraph images were in the Most Holy Place of the earthly sanctuary/tabernacle.
They are surrounded by the 24 elders.
Because we are dealing with the Revelation of Jesus Christ it is also suggested that these four symbols do represent the ministry of Jesus Christ:
Man – Christ’s incarnation becoming the Son of Man
Lion – Christ is the Lion of Judah, the King of Israel
Calf or ox – Christ came to be sacrificed, the Lamb slain, Lamb of God
Eagle – Christ swiftly and tenderly hovers over His people
By way of tradition we know that these four symbols were exhibited around the tabernacle in Israel’s camp in the desert. Lion was on Judah’s shield, Reuben had a Man as symbol, Ephraim an ox and Dan showed an eagle.
These 24 elders do worship God and give glory to God while the seraphim sing their holy, holy, holy.
Dr.McGee comments:” And cast their crowns before the throne” The crowns of the church are laid at Jesus‘feet as an act of submission and worship………..’For thou hast created all things’. The living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to Him who sits on the throne. They worship Him for His attributes, because He is who He is……not only because of His attributes but also because of what He has done. ‘Thou hast created all things and for thy pleasure they are and were created.’ In other words, the church comes out of this little earth which is God’s creation, and they join in the worship because He created this earth down here. Genesis 1:1 is accurate and the church believes it” (NUBR)
Here is no room or thought for evolution. Those who worship God in spirit and truth do not believe in evolution but in creation according to Genesis 1 & 2
This is a continuation of chapter 4 but we strike a serious problem. John sees that in the right hand of the one who sits on the throne is a book sealed with seven seals. The book is written inside and outside.
Dr.MacArthur writes “This is typical of various kinds of contracts in the ancient world including deeds, marriage contracts, rental and lease agreements and wills. The inside of the scroll contained all the details of the contract and the outside – or back – contained a summary of the document. In this case it almost certainly is a deed – the title deed of the earth sealed with seven seals. Romans sealed their wills 7 times – on the edge at each roll – to prevent unauthorised entry “(NUBR)
From this description we can be sure that John saw something of great importance. He must have been acquainted with Roman sealed documents.
Ellen G.White writes “The fifth chapter of Revelation needs to be closely studied. It is of great importance to those who shall act a part in the work of God for these last days”. (9Test.267)
Ellen G.White writes regarding the book, after quoting Rev.5:1-3 “There in His open
hand lay the book, the roll of God’s providence, the prophetic history of nations and the church. Here in was contained the divine utterance, His authority, His commandments, His laws, the whole symbolic counsel of the eternal and the history of all ruling powers in nations. In symbolic language was contained in that roll the influence of every nation, tongue and people from the beginning of earth’s history to its close.” (MR 9-7)
The SDA Commentary writes: “according to Christ Object Lesson p.294, the decisions of the Jewish rulers to reject Christ was registered in the book which John saw in the hand of Him that sat upon the throne. Apparently, then, that sealed book includes more than a record of events during the period of the Christian church, though the prophecies of the Revelation are specifically concerned with the latter. “SDABC vol.7-770/1
A strong angel proclaims with a loud voice. Dr.MacArthur writes: “the identity of this angel is uncertain, but it may refer to the angel Gabriel, whose name means ‘strength of God “(NUBR)
The angel raises a question about the scroll in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne. The one who sits on the throne is explained in chapter 4, it is the one of which in praise is saying ‘holy, holy, holy Lord God almighty, which was, and is and is to come’ Rev.4:8
No one answers that question as yet and John weeps about this that no one is found. Apparently John was very anxious to know who would be found able to unseal the scroll.
Now comes the answer by one of the elders. Why one of the elders and not one of the angels? We will learn about that later.
John is first told not to weep, because one has been found to open the book. The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David has been found. This is a direct reference to Jesus Christ according to the genealogy of Jesus as written in Matthew 1. Jesus is from the tribe of Judah out of whom David came also.
Jacob on his deathbed spoke of Judah in connection with a lion’s whelp
He is also the root of David referring back to Isa.11:1 “then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse and a branch from his roots will bear fruit“(NASB). Out of Judah would come the Messiah. Gen.49:9, 10; John 7:42; Hebr.7:14.
Jesse being the father of David and. while on earth Jesus was often called the Son of David. Matth.9:27; 12:23; 21:9; Luke 18:38.
In the midst of the throne vision John sees a lamb as it had been slain. In this one verse we are exposed to the two great positions Jesus Christ occupies. He is the kingly majestic ruler of the universe, even its creator and at the same time the lamb slain for the sins of the world. John 1:29, 36
First His relationship to David is mentioned in this vision. Luke 1:32 “The Lord God shall give him the throne of his father David”. Isa.9:6, 7; 2 Sam.7:16, not a literal earthly kingdom but an eternal kingdom of peace. John 18:36
Before Christ would be king in his kingdom He had to become a lamb slain. Isaiah’s prophecy of chapter 53 had to be fulfilled first. Luke 24:21-27.
When John saw that lamb as it had been slain he must have thought about the word of John the Baptist in John 1:29 and later standing with Jesus’ mother at the foot of the cross.
He may also have been thinking about the great exodus from slavery in Egypt when a lamb had to be selected (Ex.12:3, 6) on the tenth of the month and to be sacrificed on the fourteenth of the same month. The Greek word for lamb is “arnion” meaning a pet lamb. The four days were just sufficient to get to love the lamb and then it had to be killed. Jesus was in his fourth year ministering among people then He was sacrificed. Isa.53
and Jer.11:19. Many had to come to love him because of his ministry, but then the people led Him to the cross to be killed, sacrificed.
There will be people in eternity who will ask about his wounds in his hands and what are these wounds and Jesus will answer “I was wounded in the house of my friends Zech.13:6
Christ is also seen by John, not only as the lamb slain, but with seven horns. He is the mighty God (Isa.9:6) all power given to Him. Matth.28:18. But He has also seven eyes which means He has all the wisdom, all the fullness of the Godhead, Col.2:9 it also refers to the seven spirits as we have seen in Rev.1:4
The book is taken from the one who sits upon the throne. The “he” who takes the book refers to the one revealed in verse 5 who has prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof.
When it is seen that the Lamb,” the Lion of the tribe of Judah”, takes the book, there is an overwhelming outburst of praise, glory and profound worship and devotion. The 24 elders are falling down who are involved in offering up the prayers of the saints.
They sing a new song which angels cannot sing because they have not gone through the redemption experience. Isa.43:1; Eph.1:7.
But the angels are joining in this outburst of praise and forming one great celestial choir singing “worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and blessing”. The same is repeated in verse 13
This glorious scene ends with “Amen” and a profound act of worship.
What a lesson and example of what our worship should be like in devotion and praise.
Chapter 6 deals with opening of the sealed book or scroll. Six seals are mentioned in this chapter and seal seven is opened in chapter 8:1.
The understanding of the seals has been different through the ages. However we read from Bredenwolf the following: “Almost all scholars down to AD 150 took the image as a symbol of the preached gospel and its success. This is still the view of many modern commentators including Alford, Hendriksen, and Haely Hendricksen writes ‘our Lord is riding forth victoriously conquering to conquer. That in all probability is the meaning of rider on the white horse’ ”. (NUBR)
Dr.Maxwell builds further on this thought. He writes: “The seven seals, like the letters to the seven churches, occur in the first half of the Revelation; they belong to the historical half of the book that stretches from the time of Christ to the second coming. The persecution under the fifth seal parallels the ‘great tribulation’ that fell on Thyatira (Rev.2:22) and the war that the little horn made with the saints.(Dan.7:24,25) “
(GC II p.188)
We will follow this line of thought that in the seven seals we are dealing with the Church of Christ from its beginning till the end of times. The question may be raised, how can Jesus Christ be at the same time the Lamb opening the seals and then be the rider on the horse as well.
Henricksen answers this question as follows: “An objection often advanced is that Christ
cannot at the same time be the one who opens the seals and the contents of the first seal.
But why should this be considered impossible? By the same process of reasoning should we not reach the conclusion that Christ cannot lay His right hand on John (1:7) for in that right hand He is holding the seven stars (1:6) (NUBR)
We like to suggest that in all four cases of horses and its rider, Christ is the rider and the horses are symbols of His church in different periods of time. The horses do change colours in a downward trend. The rider does not change colour, we suggest it remains white, but different items are being given to the rider which will be discussed when we reach those points. Christ remains in charge of His church from beginning till the end, in good times and bad times.Hebr.13:8. He was also seven times the same writer of the letters to the seven churches.
We turn now to the seals individually as given in this chapter.
The lamb breaks or opens the first seal and one of the four beasts or living creatures (NASB) invites John to come and see.
What does John see? a. A white horse
b. Someone on the horse as the horse rider.
c. The person on the horse had a bow and is given a crown.
d. The action is conquering to conquer.
This is a picture of battle and victory. The symbol of a horse takes us immediately to what Zechariah saw in Zech.1:8-10; 6:1, 2. These horses do business for the Lord throughout the earth. Zech.1:10; 6:5-7.
Many bible students have suggested different explanation for the meaning of these horses in Revelation 6. Roy Allan Anderson in his book on the Revelation writes on page 63
“Whatever spiritual lesson we may gather from this prophecy, the historic interpretation since as far back as the third century has been that these symbols picture in graphic language the decline of the spiritual life of the church”.
The decline has been from white to red through black to a pale colour which is downward
Pastor Alfred de Ligne confirms this principle in his book about the Revelation p.92 and mentions a number of names who have followed this line of thought, like: Victorinus, Oecumenius; Bede; Albert Le Grand; and of more modern times Wesley; F.Godet;Bonnet; Stegeman.
Uriah Smith is in the same track of mind: “The seven seals represent events of a religious character and contains the history of the church from the opening of the Christian era to the second coming of Christ”. (D/R p.245)
Before we continue let’s pay attention to the noise of thunder in verse 1. This could be the result of an earthquake. Great events in scripture are often accompanied with great noise.
The giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai, Exod.20:18; 19:19
At the death of Christ on the cross, Matth.27:51.
At the time when Christ rose from the grave where He was laid, Matth.28:2.
There will be thunder, lightning and an earthquake at the time of the seventh plague, Rev.16:18
This thunder earthquake-like-noise may well confirm our thought that this first seal is the beginning of the church of Christ in the first century at the time of the Ephesus church of Rev.2:1-7
We have no problem in identifying the rider on the horse as Jesus Christ himself. So does Matthew Henry: “The Lord Jesus appears riding a white horse. White horses are generally refused in war, because they make the rider a mark for the enemy; but our Lord Redeemer was sure of the victory and glorious triumph and He rides on the white horse of a pure but despised gospel with great swiftness through the world”. (MH vol.VI p.1143)
The Lord will have to ride His horse/church in good and bad times. In the day to come He will again ride a white horse bearing the name King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Rev.19:11, 16
The rider in the first seal wears a Stephanos crown, one of victory. At the cross He had a crown of thorns on His head. Matth.27:29; Mark 15:7; John 19:2 In this first seal He is not suffering but going forth conquering to conquer.
Dr.Ed.Thiele mentions that horses are type of messengers for God. He refers to Zech.1:8-11; 6:2-5; Hab.3:8; Joel 2:4, 11; Jer.4:13. (Thiele p.120)
In the first century the gospel of salvation of Christ went swiftly through the world of that time. Paul writes in Col.1:23 about the gospel “which was preached to every creature which is under heaven”, ib.1:6 Ellen G.White confirms this in her book “Desire of Ages” “Before the fall of Jerusalem, Paul writing by the Holy Spirit, declared that the gospel was preached to every creature which is under heaven”. (DA p.633)
Anderson quotes from Edward Gibbons, “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” chapter 15, par. 54 “the progress of Christianity was not confined to the Roman Empire, but, the new religion, within a century after the death of its divine Author had
already visited every part of the globe.” (Anderson p. 64)
No doubt the horse in the first seal covers the first century as does the letter of Christ to the church of Ephesus.
A second seal is opened by the lamb and a second living being, one of the four, asks John again to come and see.
The colour of the horse is changed from white to red. There is no change in the rider and as said before we take it as being the same rider as on the white horse, Jesus Christ.
This time the rider has been given a sword. Peace would be taken from the earth. Jesus refers to something similar in Matthew 10:34, 35
The first century of victory met with a strong adverse reaction in the second century and beyond. Strong persecution would set into action as was told to the Smyrna people in Rev.2:10 “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer, behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison that ye may be tried and ye shall have tribulation”.
Jesus predicted the same in His prophetic message of Matthew 24:9, 10; Mark 13:9.
People involved in such activities will think that they do a service to God. John 16:2
The same Bible for which people have been killed has been used to kill people. As it reads in “Seventh-day Adventist Believe” second ed. 2005, p. 11 “No Book has been so loved, so hated, so revered, so damned as the Bible. People have died for the Bible others have killed for it”.
The horse of the second seal is drenched in blood, its colour is red. As mentioned here above the rider was given a great sword. In Eph.6:17 the sword stands for the word of God. In Rev.1:16 Christ is seen with a two-edged sword coming out of His mouth. He will be seen with that sword again in Rev.19:15. Hebr.4:12 tells what this two-edged sword is,
“the word of God, quick, powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword”. Sometimes the two edges of the sword are referred to the Old and New Testament of the Bible.
The preaching of the Gospel has brought peace and divisions at the same time. It started in the time of the apostles. The Jewish people persecuting those who decided to follow the new way. Acts 19:23 This was followed by the Roman people especially under Nero. Then came the Roman church of the dark ages with its inquisition. This war against the church would continue till the end of time. Rev.12:17
Anderson in his book about the Revelation, p.64/5 quotes from W.Cuninghame as follows: “The spirit of love and peace should recede from the visible church and be succeeded by a spirit of discord, dissension, and controversy, a fierce and fiery zeal instigating Christians to destroy one another. The ecclesiastical history of the fourth and fifth centuries sufficiently evinces that such a change did take place.”
Then Anderson quotes from E.Gibbons “The enmity of the Christians towards each other surpassed the fury of savage beasts against man; and Gregory Nazianzen most pathetically laments that the kingdom of heaven was converted by discord into the image of chaos, of a nocturnal tempest and of hell itself” (Ib.p.65)
Yes the white horse of the first seal becomes deeply dipped into red, blood. But more bad news is to follow.
The Lamb again opens another seal, number three. A third living being invites John to come and see. The horse now has changed its colour into black. It is the colour of darkness or nocturnal “tempest” as we read in the quotation here above. How did this darkness come about?
History tells us that persecution by the Roman Empire did not stop the expansion of the Christian church. The blood of the martyrs became the seed for more growth. In the fourth century Constantine the Great accepted formally Christianity and was baptized.
As a result persecution stopped but at the same time a change started to take place. Christianity started to adopt pagan customs transforming them into Christian practices.
Roman feast days became Christian days of feast or celebration. Like Christmas, Easter, Sunday and more. The latter even enshrined in a legal law in AD 321.
In comparison with the seven letters to the churches this period is similar to Pergamos and Thyatira. What was hated by the Ephesus church, the deeds and teachings of the Nicolaitanes (Rev.2:6) became accepted by the Pergamos church (2:15) but hated by God
Slowly the church entered in what is known in history as the dark or middle ages.
(Go to this website General Studies section and check List of Roman Catholic Doctrines).
The horse rider now has in his hand a pair of balances. These are for weighing. The rider is weighing the situation as He did in the night of Balthazar as recorded in Daniel 5.
To the Thyatira church Christ is called “He which searches (investigates-Bullinger) their reins and hearts”. Rev.2:23 this is a kind of judging the situation.
John hears a voice in the midst of the midst of the four beasts (4:6;6:6) declaring the scarcity of wheat and barley, two ingredients for making bread, being the symbol for the word of God. Luke 4:4; Luke 6:35; 41-58; John 6:31-33.
Dr.Thiele quotes Weymouth translation: “A whole day’s wages for a loaf of bread, a whole day’s wages for three barley cakes”, (Thiele p.128)
God’s word was very scarce in the dark ages. The Bible was forbidden to posses or to have under its roof and of course forbidden to read.
John also hears the voice saying “see thou hurt not the oil and the wine”. In Joel 1:10 we find a similar complaint about the scarcity of oil and wine
Oil is the symbol for the Holy Spirit. Zech. 4:2-6. Wine relates to the cup of salvation of the New Testament. Luke 22:20; 1 Cor.11:25, God’s grace and mercies.
But there were people even in the dark ages not going along with this kind of apostasy and accepting pagan teachings in the church. Rev.2:24
Dr.LaRondelle writes about the third seal as follows: “The third seal applies especially to that period of church history when church and state were united and began to enforce orthodoxy on the human conscience. The command ‘do not damage oil and the wine (6:6) suggests a restricted judgment of God, that God protects His gospel in a time of spiritual scarcity. It reveals that God tenderly cares for His people”. (Endtime p.127)
It is the time of Papal supremacy of which we learn more when we move deeper into the Revelation. The time of which J.A.Wiley wrote “The noon of the papacy was the midnight of the world” (Anderson p.68)
“During this period of spiritual famine, a cheaper grade of spiritual food was being offered to the people, and they could receive only the smallest amount of the word of God” (ib.67)
The foundation for the whole system of apostate Christianity were laid during this period
Arriving at the opening of the fourth seal John is again asked by one of the four living beings “come and see”. What he sees now is worse than before; the horse is now pale, colour of death. The rider has the name of death which is followed by hell.
This may sound strange for the rider, but we have learned from Rev.1:18 that Christ has the keys of hell (hades-grave) and death. He was dead himself but rose from the grave in which He was laid thus conquering death and hell (grave), they are under Christ’s control.
He came as the Lamb of God to take away sin (John 1:29), the cause for death. For that reason Paul could write “O, death where is thy sting? O, grave where is thy victory”
Isa.25:8; 1Cor.15:55, 56.
The pale, death like colour may coincide with what is written in the letter to the church of Sardis:”I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and are dead” Rev.3:1
The spiritual dark ages as described under the third, black horse and also in the letters to the Pergamos and Thyatira churches, was broken by the reformation. But the reformation reached in the 18th century a dead end and was in need of a strong awakening.
The text also tells us that power was given to kill by various means. The end of 18th century the time where the church was found in a sleeping, dead position is also known in history as the time of the French revolution. The French revolution does not stand by itself in spite of the fact that it is known as a terrible time. Many revolutions have followed with a similar effect of killing people, resulting in hunger and great suffering. Think about the Russian and China revolutions of the 20th century which have taken the lives of millions of people. These were times of judgment, suffering and putting people to death. The French revolution terminated the oppressive powers of the dark ages and gave the call for awakening of the sleeping church. We will learn more about this when we deal with this historical event in Revelation 11
At this point I like to quote from “Symposium on Revelation” Book I, page 233.
“The four horsemen probably should be understood more as a progression of thought than as a rigid historical sequence. In the first place the virtual absence of any reference to time is in striking contrast for example to the seven trumpets. Furthermore the woes reflected in seals 2-4 are ordered in a wide variety of ways in the OT. Four of the five (arrows, sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts) are found in Lev.26:21-26; Deut.32:23-25; Jer.15:2, 3; Ezek. 5:12-17; 14:13-19, 21, but in no two of these are they in the same order. A similar variety of usage can be seen by comparing the three versions of the Synoptic Apocalypse (Matth.24; Mark 13; Luke 21) where these woes constitute the general character of the Christian age…………..Thus the four horse men most likely represent a general description of the spread of the gospel (white horse), the resulting persecution and divisions (red horse) and the increasing consequences of rejection of the gospel (black and pale horse).”
The last sentence of this statement does indicate a following on from one situation (period?) to another. Also I like to add that the spreading of the gospel throughout the Christian era was not always of a conquering nature as under the white horse, but Christ as the head of His church (Eph.5:23) remains always in charge and control, doesn’t matter what the situation is like. This is the encouraging lesson we learn from the seven letters to Christ’s churches and the vision of the four seals.
There is a hidden call to all of us to surrender our lives to Christ, the Horse rider and let Him be in control of our personal lives from start to end, in good and bad times, then we will be safe for time and eternity Prov. 23:26; Matth.11:28-30
When the fifth seals opens the horses have run its course and another scene unfolds before John, an altar with souls under it. The questions are, what is the altar, who are the souls under the altar and what are they crying about.
First of all these are not the disembodied intelligently operating spirits/souls of the martyrs.
The Greek word used for “souls” is “psuche” equal to the Hebrew used in the OT “nephesh”. According to Bullinger that word has a vast variety of meanings.
- Manifestation of life also animal life, breath, once even applied to vegetable life.
- Possessed also by the lower creatures. Gen.1:20 (life in Hebrew soul) Rev.16:3
“every living soul in the sea died”
- Used of persons, Gen.12:5 “the souls they had gotten in Haran”.
- Souls can be killed or die, Lev.23:30; Eze.18:4; Matth.10:28
- Soul goes to the grave. Job 33:22
- It is also identified with blood. Gen.9:4, 5 (life=nephesh; Greek Psuche=soul). Same in Lev. 17:11, 14; Ps.72:14 blood equalled soul, also in Ps.94:21.
Number 5 is applicable to the souls of the fifth seal. Here the souls cry. Is that possible?
Abel was killed by Cain and we read in Gen.4:10 that his blood cried to God from the
the ground where he was slain by his brother. See also Hebr.12:24.
Abel was the first martyr killed for his faith in God. All martyrs after him have been slain on the ground of the earth and their blood spilled on the ground cries unto God. The earth is the altar where they have been slain and sacrificed. The earth was also the altar where Christ was sacrificed and shed His blood, spilled on the ground of the earth, for our salvation.
Dr.Thiele quotes A.R.Fausset on page 135 “As the blood of sacrificial victims on the altar was poured at the bottom of the altar, so the souls of those sacrificed for Christ’s testimony are symbolically represented under the altar”.
Ellen G.White writes: “The cries of the faithful persecuted ones ascend to heaven, and as the blood of Abel cried from the ground, these are voices also crying to God from martyr’s graves, from sepulchres of the sea, from mountain caverns, from convent vaults, ‘How long, O Lord holy and true, doest thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth.” (5Test.451)
It is definitely not the altar of incense in heaven from where these cries do come. It is from the ground here on earth, a symbol of the altar of sacrifice located in the court of the earthly sanctuary at the doorway. (Lev.4:7, NASB)
At the bottom of the altar of sacrifice blood was poured out, not at the bottom of the altar of incense which was located inside the sanctuary not outside. Jesus also died outside of Jerusalem. Hebr.13:12
Anderson quotes from Dr.Adam Clarke as follows “A symbolical vision was exhibited in which he saw an altar, and under it the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God – martyred for their attachment to Christianity – are represented as being newly slain as victims to idolatry and superstition. The altar is upon earth, not in heaven”. (p.69)
As we said before Christ, the true Lamb of God, John 1:29, was also slain, sacrificed on earth, not in heaven. His blood soiled the ground of the earth, as the blood did of Abel and the martyrs’ blood did.
“The altar in view here is the altar of burnt offering, not the altar of incense. Often in the OT sanctuary service blood was poured out at the base of the altar of burnt offering, where as nothing ever happened at the base of the incense altar. (Lev.4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34; 8:15; 9:9)” (Symp.Rev.Bk.I, note 138 on page 235)
The next point we will discuss is, which martyrs are mentioned here? The text itself does not specify a particular time period. It may sound logic that it covers the dark ages as symbolised by the black and pale horse in which time many Christian believers lost their lives as martyrs. We may call that the narrow view. But it also may cover the whole period of the Great Controversy, from the first martyr Abel till the last one yet to come.
We know why the martyrs, mentioned under the fifth seal have been killed, “for the word of God and for the testimony which they held”. Rev.6:9
In regard to “the testimony which they held” Dr.LaRondelle writes as follows: “This indicates that the broader sense of the testimony of Jesus is ‘the gospel as the revelation of Christ’s life and work’ (G.Pfandle in Symp.Rev.Bk.II:310)” (Endtimes, p.130)
The word “held” is according to Bullinger from the same Greek “echo” as in Rev.12:17 where the remnant will be persecuted because they held the Testimony of Jesus. See also
What are they asking in their cry? Rev.6:10 They approach the God of heaven, the Creator, in a deep sense of awe, O, Lord, holy and true. Then follows the question
“How much longer will it take before the judging starts and to deal with our blood?”
The answer in Rev.6:11 is in two parts:
First: white robes are given to each one of them.
Second: They should rest for a little season.
The NASB reads “they were told that they should rest for a little while longer”.
This implies that they are in a resting position as we read later in Rev.14:12 “rest from their labour” not active in some celestial heavenly place.
Daniel was told the same “for thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of days” (12:13)
The souls in Rev.6:11 are dead. What death means we learn in the beginning of the scriptures. Our first parents were told that in case they would eat from the forbidden tree
“Thou shalt surely die” Gen.2:17. Then in Gen.3:19 we learn what death means “thou return unto the ground for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return”. What returns to God is what we received from God the breath of life, Gen.2:7; 7:21, 22.
With these statement from the scriptures, and there are more, we have well established the fact that the souls under the altar are in the ground where they have been slain.
That is the place, the grave, of their rest or their sleep as we know from other scripture places. Job 14:1-12; 19:26, 27; Ps.146:4
Now we will deal with the point of “How Long?” which is the essence of their cry in Rev.6:10 The Lord answers “until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled”.
The Great Controversy is not yet ended. More would loose their lives in this great battle between good and evil. More martyrs would shed their blood on the ground of the earth.
This has happened and is still happening even in our day and age of the 21st century.
It is in the same trend of mind of Paul’s writing in Hebr.11:39, 40 All those people Paul wrote about in chapter 11 of Hebrews have not yet received the promise because “that they without us should not be made perfect”. All have to wait till the day of promise will be fulfilled. That promise is in John 14: 1-3, their places of residence are being prepared and when that is done Christ will come and take them where He is in His kingdom of glory. In the mean time they rest with the assurance of eternal life, John 11:11 (John 5:28, 29;14:1-3)
While they are resting they have been given white robes, Rev.6:11 White robes of victory Rev.3:5 which they will wear in the kingdom of glory. In Rev.7:9 John sees the saints wearing those white robes.
Ellen G.White writes in “Christ Object Lesson”; “From garrets, from hovels, from dungeons, from scaffolds, from mountains and deserts, from the caves of the earth and the caverns of the sea, Christ will gather His children to Himself. On earth they have been destitute, afflicted, and tormented. Millions have gone down to the grave loaded with infamy because they refused to yield to the deceptive claim of Satan. By human tribunals the children of God have been adjudged the vilest criminals. But the day is near when ‘God is Judge Himself (Ps.50:6. Then the decision of earth shall be reversed. “The rebuke of His people shall He take away’” Isa.25:8 (COL p.179/180)
The message of the fifth seal should be taken as a divine encouragement to all who suffer for the cause of God and are killed for it. They are assured of the white robes given to them from God.
The sixth seal opens and gives us a dramatic picture of end time events in nature and among people. Signs in the heavens, sun, moon and stars preceded by a big earthquake and followed by great distress among people because of what takes place.
What is happening here? The earthquake and the signs in the heavens have been mentioned in the scriptures by various prophets
The Evangelical Commentary makes here a very interesting observation “with the opening of the sixth seal cosmic catastrophe strikes, described by John in terms very familiar to his readers. It was nothing less than the dreaded ‘day of the Lord’ predicted in the Old Testament (Isa.13:9, 10; Eze.32:7, 8; Joel 2:10, 30, 31; 3:14, 15) In Rev.6:12-14 there is a sevenfold cosmic judgment, the number seven depicting finality and completion (earth shakes, sun darkens, moon reddens, stars fall to the earth, sky rips apart, mountains and islands moves). These same phenomena are predicted by Jesus to accompany the end of the age and the final coming of the Lord of Man (Matth.24:29, 30; Mark 13:24-26; Luke 21:25-27)” (EC p.1210)
However the commentary fails to give us data of fulfilment which we will add. Remember the question of the resting martyrs “How long O, Lord before you judge us or How long before the judgment starts?”
Then in the opening of the sixth seal signs of the day of the Lord or signs are given of the coming day of final judgment. Some readers may feel uncomfortable re judgment. They may think that gospel and judgment does not fit. Such readers are directed to the doctrinal section of this website and study the topic GOSPEL AND JUDGMENT
Judgment covers both investigation and execution. Before an execution takes place an investigation has to occur in order to justify the verdict.
Joel 2:31 makes it very clear that the signs mentioned in the sixth seal will take place before the Great Day of the Lord.
Daniel 7 mentions the judgment three times and indicates clearly when the judgment will sit. Dan.7:9, 2, 26. We will pay attention particular to verse 25 because this deals with time We are told that the power which would persecute the saints and would attempt to change times and laws and that this power shall last for 3.5 times, or a year, two years and half a year which makes 3.5 years, then the court of justice will sit. (Berkeley version)
This persecuting and law changing power has found its fulfilment in the Papal oppression of the dark ages which was brought to an end by the French revolution in 1798, more about this when we deal with Rev.13 in connection with Daniel 7.
As stated before according to Joel 2:31 these celestial signs of the sixth seal take place “before the great and terrible day of the Lord” which biblically is recognized as the Day of Judgment.
In 1755 a major earthquake took place in Portugal, Lisbon. The exact date being November 1, 1755
Maxwell writes about this earthquake as follows: “this event is still listed in almanacs and encyclopaedias as one of the major earthquakes of world history. This earthquake was followed a few years later by the Dark Day of May 19, 1780. This day also is well marked in history”. (See GC Bk.II pp194-198)
Anderson writes as follows about the dark day and the moon of the following night: “That the darkness was not caused by an eclipse is manifest by the various positions of the planets at that time; for the moon was more than one hundred fifty degrees from the sun all day.’ – Dr.Samuel Stearns The next night the moon appeared blood-red. The exact cause has never been settled. Forest fires seem paltry as an explanation, especially in the light of scientific statements that the cause is unknown”. (page.72)
The falling of the stars took place some years later, November 13, 1833. The greatness and impressiveness of this celestial event is well documented. Maxwell mentions some sources in his book GC Bk.II page 220, note nr.14
The question may be raised that this sign of the falling of the stars took place after 1798. The answer is that it took place before 1844 which is another and more exact date for the beginning of the judgment. 1798 marks the end of 1260 years of Papal supremacy which is at the same time the beginning of the time of the end while 1844 is the year the heavenly judgment started.
We quote from Symposium on Revelation Bk.I p.237 note nr.144 “The significance of the Lisbon earthquake, Dark Day, and the falling of the stars is their timing, their appearance in connection with the closing year of papal supremacy both before and after 1798”.
But something happened under the sixth seal, Rev.6:14 “The heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together, and every mountain and island were moved out of their place”.
Under the sixth seal we have what has happened and what is still to happen in future.
Later in the Revelation we find a similar description under the seventh plague, Rev.16:18-20. A great and mighty earthquake as never before and then in verse 20 “and every island fled away and the mountains were not found”.
In this scripture passage we have a part description of the coming of the Lord with great power and in majesty and glory. The attitude of the unprepared people is overwhelming and extremely fearful. Rev.6:15, 16 The Evangelical Commentary comments as follows: “what seemed so unshakable and eternal, the very heavens and earth now give way beneath God’s almighty hand, offering no place to hide and no security whatsoever. In verses 15-17 a sevenfold (Notice 7 again, JTK) depiction of humanity is given starting from highest and going to the lowest – kings, princes, generals, the rich, the mighty, slaves, and free men –all fleeing in terror from the face of the Lord, crying out to the mountains and rocks to protect them. Mountains have always symbolised stability and rocks unchangeability, but these offered no refuge now”.(EC p.1210)
Why this historically unprecedented magnitude of commotion? They cry “fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb for the great day of His wrath is come”. (Rev.6:16, 17a)
We quote again from the Evangelical Commentary: “The wrath of the Lamb’ vs.16 is a striking inversion metaphor; who can imagine a lamb being wrathful? Yet so identified is the Lamb with the one on the throne that ‘the great day of their (emphasis mine, JTK) wrath has come’, vs. 17 (“their” is a variant reading and found in RSV, ASV and NASB, JTK) The will of the Father and Son is one in salvation of the world (Rev.7:10) but becomes one in the judgment of those who reject that salvation and trust in themselves for security. The wrath of the Lord is spoken of frequently in the Bible and the end of the age is often referred to as the day of wrath.Isa.13:13; Jer.50:13; Ez.7:7, 8, 19; Hos.5:10; Zeph.1:14, 15, 18; Zech.7:12; John 3:36; Rom: 1:18; Eph.5:6; Rev.14:10, 19; 15:1, 7; 16:19; 19:15”.(EC. 1210)
Ellen G.White comments as follows: “The death of Christ brings to the rejecter of His mercy the wrath and judgment of God, unmixed with mercy. This is the wrath of the Lamb. But the death of Christ is hope and eternal life to all who receive Him and believe in Him”. (Test to Min.139) Read John.3:16
The final question in this great and awful scene is “Who is able to stand? 6:17b”. That question must be dealt with by each member of the human race individually. Read Nahum 1:6. For John the answer was given in the vision of chapter 7.
We will start by giving an overview of the contents of this chapter. Revelation 6 terminated with the sixth seal in which a description was given of end time signs and events. The last verses described how they will feel who are not ready for the Great Day of the Lord. Not being ready for Christ when seen in His wrath. As we have noticed the question is raised in great agony: “Who is able to stand?”
We do know from Isa.25:9 that there will be people ready for Hs coming and they speak differently. They are glad and rejoice in His salvation. These people are described more in detail here in Revelation 7. We find them divided into two groups. The first group under a number, 144000 out of Israel, verses 1-8, the other group in verses 8-17 “which no man could number from all peoples and nations”.
These are the two groups who will be able to stand in the day when the Lamb will be seen in His wrath. Many of them will have been sleeping in the dust of the earth but have been awakened. Isa.25:9; 26:19; 1 Cor.15:55
Let’s go and start walking through this chapter step by step.
John sees four angels holding the winds so that the earth will not be hurt. Four indicates all directions, East, West, North and South. Something is coming from these directions. All of earth is involved. This must be the last act of God to deal with planet earth and its people for its sinfulness as He did in the time of Noah which also involved the whole earth. Gen: 6:21-24. However this time not by water as promised by covenant after the flood. Gen.9:11-15:
Does this mean that the world will never be punished for its sin and wickedness? Read Jer.25:32, 33; 30:23, 24. A whirlwind will come from the Lord to deal with the wicked. In Jeremiah 49:36 we read about four winds from the four quarters of heaven doing a destructive work.
In Zech. 7:14 we read about a whirlwind against the nations for what they have done against the pleasant land. See Dan.11:16, 41 and the study in the Daniel section of this website about Dan.11:40-45 and notice the meaning of the pleasant land in the last days.
If the world will not be punished by water what then will be the destructive element the Lord will use as a whirlwind of destruction? Read 2Thess.1:8, 9 a fire will go from the Lord to punish with everlasting destruction those that have “not obeyed the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Fire is the destroying element not water, Rev.19:21; 20:14, 15 The destruction as a result of this fire will be everlasting, not that the fire will be burning for ever and ever. Read Psalms 21:8-10. We say more about this later in the Revelation.
The winds being held by the four angels may well include the seven plagues of Revelation 16.
Ellen G.White gives us this information: “I saw that the four angels would hold the four winds until Jesus’ work was done in the sanctuary and then will come the seven plagues.” (EW. P.36)
We know from Revelation 16 that these seven plagues will hurt severely sea, earth and its people.
Next what John sees is an angel from the east. East is the place from where Jesus will come in glory. Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of God. Acts 7:56; Hebr.1:3; 8:1. God’s throne and majesty is described in Ps.48:1, 2 as on the side of the North. Isaiah writes in 41:2, 25 that the righteous will be raised up or stand up from the North (see Dan.12:1) and he shall come from the rising of the sun or from the East.. That’s also the place from where the kings of east will come (Rev.16:12) more about that when we reach that point in the Revelation.
Jesus said in Matth.24:27 that “as the lightening cometh out of the East and shineth even unto the West, so shall also the coming of the Lord be”.
According to Rev.7:2 an angel will be sent before hand from the East to tell the four angels of verse 1 to hold back a little longer till the servants of God have been sealed.
Taking the events of the sixth seal and what the four angels are told to do in Revelation 7:1 and 3 we should be clear on the point that this is a time of the end event. The sealing takes place before the plagues are poured out on sea and earth
Ezekiel was shown a similar event in chapter 9:4. A man going out before the destruction takes place marking those who will be saved from destruction.
In Revelation 14:1 we read again about the 144000 sealed and “having His Father’s name written in their foreheads”. It is not an outside but an inside mark. In the forehead we have the frontal lobe of the human brain where thinking and decision making takes place. Those to be saved in the time of the end are the ones who have made a decision to be faithful to God come what may. (See Esther 4:16) This they will apply in particular to the commandments of God. Rev.12:17; 14:12; 22:14.
This angel “has the seal of the living God”, but we are not told what the seal is at this point in scripture. We know that sealing is a work done by the Holy Spirit, Eph.1:13, 14; 4:30, but also that the Holy Spirit self acts as a seal upon people. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the early apostles was a sign from heaven that they belong to Jesus in fulfilment of Joel’s word in Joel 2:28-32. See Acts 2:16-18
As we noticed it is “the seal of the living God” and will be “in their foreheads”. Read also Rev.3:12
We read in Jer.31:33 & Hebr.8:10 that God’s commandments will be in our hearts and minds. Is it possible that God’s commandments do carry God’s seal?
Ellen G.White writes: “Now is the time for the law of God to be in our minds, foreheads and written in our hearts.
My dear brethren and sisters, let the commandments of God and the Testimony of Jesus be in your minds continually and let them crowd out worldly thoughts and cares.” (EW. P.58)
A seal has three characteristics in order to be a seal. John was well acquainted with these characteristics and so should we. It shows properly the name, function or title and territory over which the one who issues the seal has authority. Like the head of a country or state. Per example Barak Obama, that is his name, president his function or title, of the United States of America that is the territory over which he exercises authority
Do we find something like that in the commandments of God, His ten commandments which form the basis of God’s kingdom? Read Psalms 119 and notice how often God’s commandments are mentioned and how they are regarded.
Nowhere in the Ten Commandments we find these characteristics indicating a seal then only in the fourth commandment. Exod.20:8-11 there we find.
First His name: “The Lord thy God”, in Hebrew Yahweh or Jehovah
Second His title “The Lord made” He is the Creator
Third His territory “heaven and earth”
In the fourth commandment we find the clear marks of the seal of God. When Israel received the Ten Commandments they were told that the Sabbath was a sign or mark between them and God. Exod. 31:16, 17 here again we find the name of God, His title, that he made, and His territory, heaven and earth.
The Sabbath was also a sign of sanctification. God sanctified it in the beginning, Gen.2:2 and made it a sign of sanctification, Exod.31:13; Eze. 20:12, 20
Is that only for Israel in the OT or the Israel- church in the NT as well? (Read in the doctrinal section of this website study on Scripture and Israel).Jesus is the head of the NT Israel-church. Eph.5:23; Col…1:18 He is made Lord, Acts 2:36. By Him, Christ the Lord all things have been made, John 1:3; Col.1:16; Hebr.1:2 Jesus declared in Mark 2:27, 28 that the Sabbath was made for men, not for the Jews only, and He as the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath. The Ten Commandments were given to Israel in the desert, outside Israel’s territory, indicating they are for all people, Jews and non Jews. More about the Sabbath issue when we study the mark of the beast in Revelation 13.
We will learn more about the 144000 and what kind of people they are in Revelation 14
But here in Revelation 7 they are named as people from the tribes of Israel so we must pay attention that point. They are not natural biological Jews because the names in some respect do differ from the list of names of Jacob’s sons as mentioned in Gen.49 and also not the same group as listed in Ezekiel 48. In Genesis 49 all the names are given as the biological sons of Jacob. In Ezekiel 48 Joseph and Levi are missing and here in Revelation 7 Dan and Ephraim are not named.
Dr Maxwell gives us the following answer: “The difficulty vanishes if the 144000 are indeed perceived not as a revival of literal Israel (which they cannot be, the list of the tribes being so different,) but rather as a symbol of Christ’s spiritual Israel, His true church”.
(GC Bk.II p.213).This will become clearer when we study the 144000 in Revelation 14.
Let’s say more about the number, 144000, literal, symbolic or spiritual? We take the position this is symbolic. It has a spiritual meaning related to the NT Israel church.
The apostle Paul writes in Hebr.12:22 that the NT church has come “unto mount Sion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem”. We read in Rev.21:12-14 that New Jerusalem has the names of the twelve tribes of the OT church Israel and the names of the twelve apostles of the NT church Israel. See also Eph.2:20
Twelve times twelve gives the sum of 144. The Most Holy Place in the tabernacle was like a cube, 10x10x10=1000, See Exod.26 and SDABC Vol.8 pag.1083, add the 1000 to the 144 and you get 144000. The 144000 are living in the end time, the time of the anti-typical Day of Atonement when in the OT the High Priest was ministering in the Most Holy Place. Christ as High Priest in NT times does the same ministry since 1844 in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary. God’s end time people are marked under that symbolic number of 144000. The opposite human number is 666, Rev.13:18 more when we reach that point in our Revelation journey.
The number 144 is also in the structure of the New Jerusalem which is also foursquare, equal in length, breadth and height. Rev.21:16, 17
After this, the group of the 144000, John sees a great multitude no man could number. They are standing before the throne and the Lamb. They are clothed in white robes and have palms in their hands. White robes sign of righteousness and palms sign of victory and peace.
Remember this, we are told from where they come and what they are wearing. Their cry is different from the group at the end of Rev.6:15-17 they give praise to God: “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb”. Rev.6:10
The angels standing around the throne and the elders and four living beings before the throne are becoming overwhelmed with this scene and fall down in an act of worship.
They give glory, praise and thanksgiving to God seeing such a vast multitude being saved into the eternal Kingdom of glory.
One of the elders wants to know whence they came, the “ones arrayed in white robes”. The question seems to be addressed to John, who of course does not know it. The elder gives the answer as follows: “these are they which came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”.
According to Bullinger the Greek pothen- whence can mean of place, source, author, cause or manner. Some commentators apply this multitude to the group under the name 144000, may be because this number can be numbered if taken literally. However the 144000 are not identified as wearing white robes and having palms in their hands. The souls under the altar in Rev.6:7-11 have been given white robes. We have suggest that they are the ones from all ages and having suffered for the cause of God.
The group mentioned here are coming out of great tribulation. Great, megas, in Greek. We may also include the time of the seven plagues. But as said before, tribulation is not mentioned in their description. .megas can mean of physical magnitude, also of the measure according to Bullinger. ‘Great in length’ according to my Greek-Dutch dictionary
Tribulation is not mentioned in connection with the 144000 group; in spite of the fact that they went through the end time period which no doubt is a time of great tribulation. Jesus speaks about a time of great tribulation in Matthew 24:21 which is applied to the time of the dark ages, or also the time between the two advents, first and second coming of Christ. (Dr.LaRondelle in Endt.Proph. page 51 and Dr.Gulley in Christ is Coming page.485)
The total time of the Great Controversy from start to finish can well be termed as a time of great tribulation and the group seen by John here in Rev.7:9 may have come out of that period. Abel as the first martyr for his faith suffered tribulation.
Thus we have here in Revelation 7 the special group under the number name of 144000 in opposition to the other group under the number name of 666, Rev.13:18, both being end time groups and then in addition also the total group of believers of all ages who have gained victory which could not be numbered.
At this point we like to quote Ellen G.White from her book “Prophets and Kings”: “Then it is that the redeemed from among men will receive their promised inheritance. Thus God’s purpose for Israel will meet with literal fulfilment. That which God purposes, man is powerless to disannul. Even amid the working of evil, God’s purposes have been moving steadily forward to their accomplishment. It was thus with the house of Israel throughout the history of the divided monarchy; it is thus with spiritual Israel today.
The seer of Patmos, looking down through the ages to the time of the restoration of Israel in the earth made new, testified ‘I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people and tongues, stood before the throne and the Lamb’ Rev.7:9-12”. (PK p.720/1)
Clearly in this statement Ellen G.White applies Rev.7:9, to the great group of people no man can number, those coming from all ages and periods of tribulation.
We may conclude safely that in Revelation 7 we have the end time group of believers and the totality of believers since Abel killed by his brother Cain. All have washed their sins soiled robes in the blood of the Lamb, Isa.1:18; John 1:29; Eph.1:7. Also all have been sealed with the Holy Spirit., because it is the Spirit that guides and leads to repentance.
John 16:7-11; Rom.2:4
These three verses give a very encouraging and uplifting picture of what will be the eternal reward of those who have suffered in the great tribulation of The Great Controversy. They will serve day and night in God’s Holy Temple but the Lamb will feed and lead them in pleasant places.” God will wipe away all tears from their eyes”. Read also Rev.21:4
When the seventh seal is opened John is not asked to come and see. There is nothing to see all is silent in heaven. So far he has seen holy activity in heaven of singing and praising God, Rev.4 & 5.Where have they all gone, what has happened with the heavenly host? We are not told but when we check Matt.16:27 & 25:31 we learn that when Jesus comes in glory He takes all His angels with Him. They are needed to gather the saints together from planet earth and bring them to their heavenly places.1Thess.4:13-18
We are told in this seventh seal that the silence will be for about half an hour. If this is taken prophetically on the scale of a day for a year it works out for about seven days. This could well be true. Ellen G.White writes: “we all entered the cloud together and were seven days ascending to the sea of glass”. (1 Test.p.60)
We read in Rev.15:2 that those who gained the victory will be seen as standing on the sea of glass.
Dr Ed Thiele lists the following events taking place during this time:
“The events of the seventh seal are not recorded in Revelation, but they are the events recorded elsewhere in connection with the second coming of Christ.
- The gathering of all for their final awards, Rev.22:12; Matth.25:31-46;24:31
- The translation of the righteous living, 1 Thess.4:17
- Destruction of the wicked living, 2 Thess.2:8; Isa.11:4; Luke 19:27
- Beginning of Satan’s term in prison, Rev.20:2, 3
- Raising of the righteous dead, 1 Thess.4:16
- Setting up of Christ’s kingdom, Dan.2:44;Eze.21:27
- Dominion given to the saints, Dan.7:27
- Adoration of Christ for the accomplishments of His work of redemption, Rev.5:1”2 (Thiele p.157)
(More when we come to Revelation 20 the period of the one thousand years).
Here ends the vision of the seven seals.
Pastor Jan T Knopper,
Edited September 2010
Revisited September 2013