Opening of the Seven Seals. 1. Introductory observations regarding the whole scene (6:1-8:5) a. The setting for this scene is 4:1-5:14 The throne The scroll The lamb at the very center i. Assurance ii. Yet raises profound questions
1. Introductory observations regarding the whole scene (6:1-8:5)
a. The setting for this scene is 4:1-5:14
The lamb at the very center
ii. Yet raises profound questions
b. The judgments John sees and relays “are but precursors of the salvation of the world” (G. Beasley-Murray).
Seals … leading up to 8:1ff
Trumpets … leading up to 11:15ff
Bowls … leading up to 16:17ff
2. Overview of the whole scene.
Breaking of the seven seals, sealing the people of God.
First seal (6:1-2) — conquering (and deceit/counterfeit)
Second seal (6:3-4) — war
Third seal (6:5-6) — injustice
Fourth seal (6:7-8) — death
Fifth seal (6:9-11) — “how long, 0 Lord?” (6:10)
Sixth seal (6:12-17) — cosmos-quake — “fall on us and hide us” (6:16)
Interlude (7:1-17) — sealing of the 144,000, great multitude
Seventh seal (7:1-17) —silence in heaven
3. Observations, interpretations of the scene.
a. The seals are broken one at a time. Not until the breaking of the seventh do we understand the m of the other six.
b. Note the number 4 throughout the scene. It is the number of “universality”, the number for the cosmos.
¼of the earth
More on the numbers in The Revelation of Jesus Christ
c. In each of the seven seals someone in the cosmos “prays”.
Seal one - a living creature cries, “come”
Seal two - a living creature cries, “come”
Seal three - a living creature cries, “come”
Seal four - a living creature cries, “come”
Seal five — the martyrs cry out to God “how long?”
Seal six — “kings of the earth”, etc. cry out to the mountains and rocks “fall on us and hide us”
Seal seven — “the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of all the saints, went up before God...”
The point? History is moved by prayer!!!
d. Note the call “come,” sounded by the four living creatures (6:1,3,5,7; 6:1 — “with a voice of thunder” no less!).
The question is — whom are they calling?
“coming”—1:7 and 22:7,12,20
e. Then why the four horsemen?
They represent the forces in opposition to the coming of the Lamb. –
They represent the kinds of turmoil/upheaval the takes place the kingdom of God invades the earth but is resisted
f. Who is the first horseman? Some argue that based on the vision in 19:llff he. is Jesus Christ. But note — the horseman in 6:1-2 is armed with a bow, whereas Jesus carries a sword. More importantly, the first horse in the scene is “given authority” in the same way as the other three’ his “authority” as of the same nature as the other three.
g. Note the correspondence between this scene and the eschatological discourses in the synoptic Gospels (Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21). “We should not be surprised that these passages correspond, since the same person is dealing with the same subject in each case” (Michael Wilcock, I Saw Heaven Opened)
Second seal Matthew 24:6-8 (Luke 21:9-11)
Third sealwars, famine, earthquakes, etc.
NB — Jesus says, “...but the end is not yet... all these are merely the beginning of the birth pangs”
Fifth sealMatthew 24:13-14 — trouble for Gospel preacher (Matthew 24:15-28, prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70—which had already happened by the time John is given the Revelation).
Sixth sealMatthew 24:29-3 0 — cosmic breakdown
h. Note the phrases “was given to” (6:2.4.8) and “was granted” (6:4). All that happens in the unsealing of the seven seals in under control. Thus the reference of “one fourth” (7:8) and to “do not harm the oil and the wine”(6:6).
i. Note the phrase “under the altar” (6:9). This gives meaning to the death of Jesus’ disciples.
j. When do the scenes recorded in 7:1-17 take place? Yes, John says “after these things” (7:1,9). But note well: John says “after these things I saw”. Remember: John records in the order he sees; what he sees does not necessarily follow in order of occurrence. When then do these scenes in 7:1-17 take place?
i. 7:1-7. Note the reference to “four winds of the earth” and compare Zechariah 6:1-5. Are the “four winds” another way of speaking of the “four horsemen” of 6:1-8? If so, then 7: 1-7 takes place in time before 6:1-8. (Remember, what John “sees next” may not be what “happens next”.) John is telling us that the “servants of God” (7:3) are sealed before the unsealing of the seals. (Compare Ezekiel 9:1-4 where a mark is place on the foreheads of God’s people before the “executioners of the city” strike it).
ii. 7:9-17. It seems this scene does take place after the seals are opened, indeed, after everything else that John will see happens. The image of 7:9-17 anticipate the vision in 2 1-22.
iii. These two scenes then serve as “boundary markers” for disciples of Jesus in the world: before everything starts to happen they are sealed; after everything happens they enjoy life with the “lamb in the center” (7:17).
k. Who are the 144,000 (7:4)? And who are “the great multitude” (7:9)? Are they related? If so, how?
i. 144,000 (see also 14:1,3).
- “Servants of God” (7:3)- -“The suspiciously tidy sort of number that is much more likely to be a symbol that a statistic” (Michael Wilcock)
- Israel = Church?
- note two significant changes in the genealogy
Judah is first (in all OT texts, Reuben is always first) Dan is omitted
Other Israel-Church connections in the NT
(See Leon Morris, p.114)
James 1:1, Matt.19: 28—Church as “12 tribes”
1 Peter 1:1 — Church as “Diaspora”
Romans 2:29 — true Jew as believer in Jesus
Galatians 6:16 — Church as “the Israel of God”
I Peter 2:9-10; Eph. 1:11,14—images of Israel
used to describe the church
Galatians 3:29 — disciples of Jesus called
“the seed of Abraham”
Philippians 3:3 — disciples of Jesus are called “true circumcision”
- 12 tribes x 12 apostles = 144?
The Jews of the first century would express a large and endless number by simply multiplying it by 10. Thus Matthew 18: 21-22, where Peter asks Jesus, “how many times should I forgive my brother, seven times?” Jesus answers him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy (i.e.7 x 10) times seven”. So we ask John, “How many redeemed servants of God are there?” 144? No, 144 x 10, a numberless number. In fact, 144 x 10 x 10. No, even more, 144 x l0 x l0 x l0!
ii. The great multitude. Note how they are described.
- “coming out of the great tribulation”
iii. Are the two groups the same?
- note the “heard”-”saw” literary device
iv. What does John mean by “until the number of their fellow servants.. .should be complete” (6:11)?
l. What is the seal with which the disciples of Jesus are sealed?
a. Rabbinic concept
b. “The significance of this picture can hardly be overestimated. No one was more aware than John of the limitations to what individual men and women can do to change the course of history and to bring in the Kingdom of heaven, particularly in the face of the cosmic forces against them and the transcendent character of the Kingdom itself (none of
...us can raise the dead). But, we can pray to Him who has almighty power, and it would seem that God ahs willed that the prayer of His people should be part of the process by which the Kingdom comes. The interaction between the sovereignty of God and the prayers of the saints is part of the ultimate mystery of existence. Faith is called on to take both seriously” (G. Beasley-Murray, p. 151).
4. Summary of the whole scene and its discipleship implications.
a. The upheaval in the world is due to the birth pangs of the Kingdom. In actuality it is a sign of His Coming. Thus, when you pray for transformation and upheaval comes, don’t panic!
b. Judgment is an answer to prayer; Justice is coming; Prayers go Up, judgment comes down
c. Do not fear, we are sealed; Lamb will bring us thru
d. Prayer moves History
“Intercession is spiritual defiance of what God has promised in His name”