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CHAPTERS 4, 5, 6, AND 7 OF REVELATION

(Notes Compiled by F. M. Perry)

A Part of Division I, The Conflict on Earth (continued).

Section 2, Chapters 4-7, The Book with Seven Seals.

A. Chapter 4, Verses 1-11, Activities Around the Throne of God.

"(1) After these things I looked and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking to me, said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things'. (2) Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. (3) And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. (4) And around the throne were twenty four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. (5) And from the throne proceed flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; (6) and before the throne there was, as it were, a sea of glass like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. (7) And the first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle. (8) And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come'. (9) And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, (10) the twenty four will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, (11) 'Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.'". NASV.

In the first three chapters of Revelation, the vision and the activity was concerned with things happening on earth among the people of God, the people in the church of Christ. A glimpse was given in the first three chapters behind the scene on earth into the spiritual realm to let the reader know that more goes on than meets the fleshly eye. The church was persecuted on earth, but the vision showed that the persecution was actually led by Christ's spiritual foe, Satan. Christian were shown that evil spiritual forces, unseen by fleshly eyes, cause evil things to happen on earth. Christians were shown that evil spiritual forces can seemingly gain control even of churches composed of Christians. But, Christians were also shown in Christ's letters to the seven churches that Christ and His Holy Spirit were actually in control and make it possible for Christians to overcome. So Christians have already been assured in chapters 1 through 3 that Christ and His church will overcome all forces of evil.

In chapter 4, verse 1, John was invited to look behind the scenes of time bound earth to see what was happening in the spiritual realm, heaven itself. John saw "a door standing open in heaven," and he heard a voice saying to him, "Come up here and I will show you what must take place after these things." He was to see into the future, not with fleshly eyes, but with spiritual eyes, for ver se says, "immediately I was in the Spirit." John was allowed to look on the future from the perspective of eternity, outside the boundaries of earthly time.

The first thing John saw was a throne ... standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne." The One sitting on the throne was clearly identified in verse 8 as "the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come," and in verse 11 as the God who created all things. In verse 5 the One on the throne was in company with the seven Spirits of God, representing the Holy Spirit of the Godhead. And later in the next chapter, verse 6, the One on the throne was joined by the Lamb, the Son of God. Thus John had a vision of the throne of allo three Persons of the Godhead, the Trinity, or the Triune God.

Now we know from secular history that, in the first century, people of the Roman Empire, including Christians of the area of the seven churches of Asia, were being politically pressured to worship as gods the emperors of Rome. And if they did not have that pressure, they were pressured by their local culture to worship idols representing mythological gods. It seemed at that time that almost the whole world was going after false gods. (Is that really very much different from our own time?) But John's vision let him see through all the evil pressure to reveal that the throne of the One Almighty God stood intact in the spiritual realm. It stood intact then in the first century. And, as we read the Revelation today, 2,000 years later in earth time, we recognize that John saw the throne intact in heaven in our time as well, for the vision is to serve Christians throughout the entire Christian dispensation. God's throne exists in a realm that transcends time. None of the turmoil and strife on earth changes God's eternal scheme of things. Against the so-called passing glory of the earthly thrones of Satan and his followers stands the permanent glory and authority of God's throne in heaven.

John did not try to describe God. He just said He was "like a jasper stone and sardius in appearance." He said there was "a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance." Remember that God specifically created the rainbow as a sign of His covenant with Noah. The rainbow in this vision may indicate that God also has a covenant with His church, and He will not forget His people in their time of need.

John saw in verse 5, "From the throne proceed flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder." For those readers of the Revelation who remembered the Old Testament description of God's presence before Moses and the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai, it was not unusual to think of thunder and lightning around the place where God was. Exodus 15 told them, "there were thunder and lightning flashes upon the mountain" where God was at that time.

And John saw around the throne of God twenty four elders also on thrones. They wore white robes and crowns, and were ruling with God. Who do the twenty four elders represent? Possibly they represent a combination of the twelve fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve Apostles of Jesus, the combination of God's two great covenants with mankind. In verse 12 these twenty four elders were seen by John falling down before God, worshiping Him, and casting their crowns before Him. In so doing they acknowledged that their authority came from God, and in reality belonged to God. The twenty four elders represent the people of God in all ages in their worship of God.

John saw also around the throne of God four living creatures constantly worshiping God. One was like a lion (possibly representing God's wild animal creatures). One was like a calf (possibly representing God's domesticated animal creatures). One was lie a flying eagle (possibly representing God's flying creatures). And one the face of a man (possibly representing God's human creatures). Thus, in the four living creatures, living things created by God, all of God's animal creation was represented as worshiping Him and serving His purposes. We see later in the vision that each of these four living creatures had six wings, so they were not exactly like any living creature we know, but were symbolic of those we do know.

In this vision the first century Christians could see that it was not really Rome that ruled the world, but the spiritual God. And we can see even today that back of all the mighty worldly powers the only real ruler is God. Some of God's creatures rebel against God but in so doing they deny their origin and purpose and lose their chance of fellowship with God. Their rebellious actions do not in any way impede the true and constant worship by the four living creatures or the worship of the twenty four elders around the throne of God. Worship to God never ceases. The persecuted church of the first century, and the struggling church of today, are not alone. The church is encouraged to join in the worship and to realize that there is no power in the fleshly or spiritual realm that can thwart God's will and purpose.

B. Chapter 5, Verses 1-14, The Lamb Found Worthy to Remove the Seals from the Book.

"(1) And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. (2) And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?' (3) And no one in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look into it. (4) And I began to weep greatly, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it; (5) and one of the elders said to me, 'Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals,' (6) And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. (7) And He came, and He took it out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. (8) And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one having a harp, and golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (9) And they sing a new song, saying, 'Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (10) And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.' (11) And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, (12) saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing'. (13) And every created thing which is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, 'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.' (14) And the four living creatures kept saying, 'Amen'. And the Elders fell down and worshiped." NASV.

As the vision of God's throne room was continued in chapter 5, John noted that God was holding a book. A book of the first century would have been in the form of a scroll. This scroll had seven seals on it signifying that it was fully secured. Then John saw a "strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?'"

As we read we get the impression that it was very desirable to everyone in the vision that the seals of the scroll be broken. In fact, in verse 4 John began to weep greatly, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it. Just what was John led to think might be in this book? What are we led to think, as we read today, might be in this book? The answer was given in chapter 1, verse 1, "Things which must shortly take place." And in chapter 4, verse 1, John was told, "Come up here and I will show you what must take place after these things."

In John's vision, "No one in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it." No one in heaven in God's throne room, none of the angels, none of the elders, none of the living creatures, were worthy to open the book. No one "under the earth," possibly meaning no one of those prophets or saints of old whose flesh had died and whose souls lived in the unseen place, was found worthy to open the book. The One to open the book had to be worthy! Nor one of God's created beings was found worthy!

John so desired that the book be opened and the contents revealed that he wept. But no one else around the throne wept. Apparently all except John knew that there was One worthy to open the book. One of the elders told John to stop weeping for there was One who "has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals." The implication was that to loose the seals and open the book One must have "overcome," or One must have "triumphed," or One must have gained the victory. This One who is worthy because He has overcome, was identified as "the Lion of the tribe o0f Judah," and "the root of David." Then in verse 6 He was identified as "a Lamb standing as if slain." This could refer to none other than Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, who was descended in His fleshly form from Judah and David, and who gave Himself as the sacrificial Lamb for the sins of mankind. He is the only One who has ever "overcome" Satan and lived a sinless life on earth. He is the only One worthy to loose the seals from the book which tells the truth about future things. He has "overcome" for all mankind and people today can "overcome" only through Him.

As we read we might ask, why was it impossible for anyone other than the Lamb, the Christ, to loose the seals of this book and reveal the real truth about the future? Why was it necessary that the One to open the book be worthy in the superlative sense of the word worthy? Why couldn't one of the created beings have opened the book?

The answer lies in the fact that Satan would not allow anyone else to look and reveal the true future of the world. Satan wants to rule the world in his own way. The Lamb is the only One who has overcome Satan. Satan cannot stop Him from revealing the contents of the book. Satan strives to give to every human creature Satan's own vision of the world's future. It is vastly different from the contents of the book. But it is a lie! Satan has the power to present His own lying view and to suppress the truth. Without the word of God which reveals the truth, we would be fully subject to Satan's lie! Satan would keep the good news of salvation and victory in Christ hidden from us. Satan is afraid of what the book reveals. Sinners who makes their search for truth dependent only upon themselves, Satan can stop from finding the truth. Only the Lamb who has overcome Satan can reveal the truth to mankind and give them the eternal life which Satan would deny to them. Only Christ can open the book that reveals that He has already overcome Satan, the book that reveals that sinful human beings can overcome Satan also through the Lamb. This is what the visions of Revelation are all about. They tell us the truth about Satan and pronounce His doom. Satan would never have revealed it to us nor. allowed us to know it if Christ had not overcome Him. Even today, especially today, Satan will stop us from studying and understanding the Revelation if we allow it.

Any speculative ideas that men bring about the meaning of the Book of Revelation today, ideas that do not come clearly from God's word, must be suspect as coming from Satan. Any further visions men may have today about the meaning of this book of Revelation must be suspect as coming from Satan. The Revelation itself, chapter 22, verse 18, says, "I testify to everyone who hears the word of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book." That pronouncement is very significant in light of the fact that the visions of the Book of Revelation could only be revealed to us by the Christ who has overcome, and that Satan is trying to keep us from learning the knowledge to be imparted to us in the Revelation.

John saw One between God's throne and the Elders who had great power like a Lion (called the Lion of Judah) and great authority like King David (called the root of David), but is presented as a gentle Lamb, a very special L:amb, the Lamb slain at the sacrifice for the sins of mankind. And that is not all there is to this figure of Christ. This Lamb has "seven horns and seven eyes." Horns usually stand for power, and eyes usually stand for knowledge. In this case, it is the power and knowledge of Christ who is always with us in the form of His Holy Spirit. Verse 8 says the seven horns and the seven eyes are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the world. (We are reminded that the Old Testament P:rophet Joel foretold in Joel 2:28-32, and the Apostle Peter revealed the fulfillment of the prophecy in Acts 2:17, that God would pour forth His Spirit upon all mankind.)

Then in verse 8, the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb and sang a new song, saying, "Worthy art Thou to take the book and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." That phrase, "tribe and tongue and people and nation," is used over and over again in the Revelation to indicate all people from every age no matter how they may be classified. Members of a "tribe" are classified according to family or according to the patriarch from whom they are descended. Those who speak a certain language are classified according to "tongue." The word "people" refers to the ethnic background, or race, by which humans are often classified. And the word "nation" refers to political division or country in which people live. The Lamb was slain and thereby purchased for God with His blood, people from every organization, people who speak every language, people from every race, and people from every country in the world.

Then the four living creatures and the twenty four elders were joined in their worship of the Lamb by thousands of thousands (millions) of angels. And finally, in verse 13, "every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them" joined in the praise "to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

C. Chapter 6, Verses 1-17, The Breaking of Six of the Seven Seals of the Book.

"(1) And I saw when th Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, 'Come,' (2) And I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering, and to conquer. (3) And when He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, 'Come,' (4) And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another, and a great sword was given to him. (5) And when He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, 'Come'. And I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. (6) And I hears as it were a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, 'A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.' (7) And when He broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, 'Come.' (8) And I looked, and behold, an ashen horse, and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. And 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. (9) And when He 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, wilt Thou 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, should be completed also. (12) And 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 earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. (14) And 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) And 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 0of 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?'" NASV.

In chapter 6, the Lamb began to break open the seals of the book in such a way that part of the contents of the book poured forth with the breaking of each seal. The opening of the first four seals followed a set pattern. As each of the first four seals were opened in its turn, a voice called "come," and a horse and rider appeared. This was certainly no ordinary book. John did not read or hear the contents; he saw its contents in a series of visions.

When the first seal was opened, a white horse bearing a powerful conqueror came into view. The second revealed a red horse with a rider who caused men to slay one another. The third showed a black horse whose rider had a scale in his hand for the purpose of measuring out precious necessities of foodstuffs to men. The fourth revealed a pale horse whose rider was called Death.

Many scholars of the Revelation understand the four horses and their riders to represent woes which God sent upon Rome in the first century, or upon other wicked nations throughout the Christian dispensation (that is, different nations depending upon the century being considered). But it may be more likely that the first four seals predict the perils of persecution that will be brought against Christians as they live on earth. For instance, they show what the first century church would have to face from Rome before the wicked empire would begin to feel God's judgement. And they show figuratively what Christians may have to face from evil governments at any time, even today.

Many commentators believe that the first rider on the white horse who went forth to conquer represents warfare that nations bring against Christianity. However, because our Savior Himself is shown in a later vision (Chapter 19, verses 11-16) riding forth on a white horse to conquer, it seems likely that this first rider of the vision of Chapter 6 is also a vision of Christ. The Lamb Himself who looses the first seal, rides forth Himself on the white horse. All through this Christian dispensation, Christ is working through His church to conquer His enemies in the lives of people. He rides forth to conquer and He does conquer. But, whenever Christ and Christians are at work, persecutions and tribulation arise, because Satan cannot abide in the presence of that work without making opposition.

Then was seen the red horse as the second seal was loosed. The one who rides on the red horse seeks to rob Christians of the peace of Christ by the use of the sword and the slaying of Christians. This very thing was happening to Christians of the first century as it has happened also in more recent centuries.

Then, as the third seal was broken, was seen the black horse and a rider who persecutes Christians by excluding them from the normal economic affairs of the world. Christians simply were not allowed to prosper in many societies of the world in the first century. Today, as well, many Christians are considered outsiders to their own communities. This is true in many Islamic communities and many communist communities of the world today. We learn from this vision that this is to be expected. It is foretold as being a part of the earthly life of Christians.

The fourth seal seems to show a vision that involves more than just the Christians of the world, for the rider on the ashen (or pale) horse has authority to kill a fourth of the earth's population whether they are Christians or not. The warning may be that Christians will be killed as well as non-Christians in these plagues. A point may be that Christians are not necessarily sheltered from wars and famines and pestilences and wild beasts.

A question comes to mind. What war or other calamity has ever killed a full one fourth of the earth's population? Probably none. Some calamities have taken a full one fourth of the population of a local area. Perhaps that is the meaning of "one fourth of the earth." Or, perhaps the phrase is figurative, not meaning exactly what it says. That is the nature of the figures used in Apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature often uses figures that exaggerate. Even as we contemplate that possibility, however, we all know that today the world is able to wage a war that could easily wipe out one fourth of the earth's population.

When the fifth seal was broken we see the "souls" of Christians preserved in a protected place very near the throne of God. The "souls" of these Christians, whose bodies had been slain for the word of God, were "underneath the altar" which, we learn in chapter 8, is "before the throne of God." The "souls" were not yet in the actual presence of God but they were very near to God underneath the altar which sits before the throne of God. We are reminded that Jesus said, "Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul" (Matt. 10:28). The conclusion must be that after life on earth is taken from Christians, their souls are taken to a place very close to the throne of God, beneath the altar which stands before the throne of God.

It may be that the souls seen underneath the altar, souls of those "who had been slain for the word of God,' are representative of the souls of all true Christians, not just those who have been martyred by the sword or tortured to death as some have been over the years. A true Christian is one who has been called upon "to die" to the world around him, and the true believer does die in that sense, symbolizing his death by consenting to baptism. He dies to the world "because of the word of God" and because of the testimony he maintains in his Christian life. If he is faithful, the world rejects him as if he is "dead." He is despised and rejected in the wicked world just as was Christ when He lived in the flesh on earth. In this sense the Christian has been slain by the world even though he may live on in flesh for a few more years before he forfeits his fleshly body. All of us have sinned. Satan is allowed to slay our fleshly bodies sooner or later. But those Christians who have previously died to Satan's world need have no fear. Satan cannot slay their souls. They rest and are cared for in a place which the Revelation refers to as "underneath the altar" that is before the throne of God.

The breaking of the sixth seal revealed the coming of the great day of the wrath of God against a world which persecutes Christians and rebels against God. This is undoubtedly the final judgement, but it was not described in detail in this vision. The fear of wicked as they recognize the day was described. According to the vision, "they said to the mountains and 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.'"

D. Chapter 7. Verses 1-17, the Administration of Salvation to Christians During the Judgment.

"(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 should blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree. (2) And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, (3) saying, 'Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.' (4) And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel; (5) from the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, (6) from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naptali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, (7) from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, (8) from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed. (9) After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, and all the tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; (10) and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.' (11) And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, (12) saying, 'Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever, Amen.' (13) And one of the elders answered, saying to me, 'These who are clothed in white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?' (14) And I said to him, 'My Lord, you know.' And he said to me, 'These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (15) 'For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne shall spread His tabernacle over them. (16) "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; (17) 'for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.' (Chapter 8, verse 1) And when He broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour." NASV.

In chapter 6, John's vision has included the loosing by the Lamb of six seals from the book. The loosing of the seventh seal was held in abeyance until the first verse of the eighth chapter. In chapter 7 John's vision, John saw four angels "to whom it was granted to harm the earth and sea." Apparently these four angels were to execute judgement at God's direction. But then John saw a fifth angel who called out and restrained the four angels from the judgement until he, the fifth angel, went through the earth sealing the bond-servants of God. The implication seems to be that God wanted Christians to know that all during the Christian age, even while Christians might be undergoing persecution, they were being identified and placed in spiritually safe places where no spiritual harm could come to them. This sealing was done, indeed, is still being done, so that Christians may know they are safe and so that angels of God may know who belongs to God and who are to be seen as enemies of God.

A Biblical background for this vision is found in Ezekiel 9. The Almighty God was about to punish Jerusalem for its sinfulness, and God was giving Ezekiel a vision to illustrate what was going to happen. Ezekiel saw six men who were going to carry out God's command to slay the sinful people of Jerusalem. But first, one of the six men was to go through Jerusalem and put a mark on the forehead of all those who were innocent of the abominations for which the people of the city were to be punished. Those who were marked were then "sealed" and safe from the destroyers who were then sent through the city to slay without pity everyone who did not have such a mark.

The Christians of the first century might have seen in the vision of John here in chapter 7 of Revelation the forthcoming destruction of the Roman Empire. But whatever they might have thought about the vision of coming judgement, they were assured that the destruction would be held up long enough for God to mark those who were innocent of Rome's abominations. The purpose of the marking of Christians on the forehead in John's vision was the same as in Ezekiel's vision. Christian bond-servants of God were to be spared the utter destruction God has in store for the wicked. In the day of God's wrath, ":who is able to stand?" (Rev. 6:17). Only those can stand who have been figuratively sealed on their foreheads.

In later visions of the Revelation there are further references to those who have the seal of God on their foreheads. In Rev. 9:4, they are protected from the spiritual judgement of the fifth trumpet, In Rev. 14:1, the 144,000 people who have been sealed on their foreheads are seen standing safely on Mount Zion with the Lamb. In Rev. 22:4, they are seen with God in heaven after judgement.

The point of this imagery seems to be that God and the Lamb know their followers and the followers will not be spiritually destroyed in the judgements to come upon the earth or in the final judgement. Note that later in the Revelation Satan's wicked forces were given a seal also. But the seal on each of Satan's people will guarantee that they will be thrown into the lake of fire with their leader, Satan.

The total number of those sealed (or saved from condemnation) in John's vision of chapter 7 is symbolized by Israel with its twelve tribes and by the total figurative number 144,000. This is a number figurative of all the people God will save at the final judgement. Why a specific number like 144,000? Because it is a definite number that must be fulfilled. Not one of the people who overcome through Christ will be left behind. Everyone will definitely be saved. Perhaps this answers the question of the souls beneath the altar who cry out, "How long. O Lord, wilt Thou refrain from judging?" The reason that the Lord has not brought on His final judgement is that He has not completed the sealing of His bond-servants! The number sealed has not yet reached the number symbolized by 144,000. When the sealings reach that number, an actual number known only to God, then will come the final vision seen in the latter part of chapter 7. Note that the people represented by the figurative 144,000 are seen to be still upon the earth suffering from persecution and from physical disasters that God brings upon the earth.

The final vision of the saved is a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue, and they are in heaven, standing before God's throne. This is the actuality of the figurative 144,000, the redeemed of all time. And, finally in this vision, this multitude joins the other heavenly creatures in worshiping God around His throne. "And they serve Him day and night." Among the "great multitude" there is no unsatisfied desires. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore, neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes."

Six of the seven seals were loosed in the vision of chapter 6 illustrating happenings throughout the Christian dispensation. The vision of chapter 7 announced the final judgement but only showed details of how God's "bond-servants" were marked and saved from the judgement of condemnation against the wicked. Chapter 7 ends with the final judgement over and the multitude of the redeemed standing and worshiping God before His throne. But there is one more seal to be loosed from the book to complete this section of the Revelation. The seventh seal is loosed in verse 1 of chapter 8. This verse seems to belong in the second section of the outline, not the third section.

John said simply, in chapter 8 verse 1, "And when He broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour." And that seems to be the end of this section of John's Book of Revelation. The removal of the seventh seal revealed nothing but silence! We must accept that.

But many commentators do not accept that and try to bring John's next vision, the sounding of the seven trumpets of warning in chapter 8, into that "half hour," or try to say that the half hour of silence was in announcement of the trumpets of warning which then follow in time the loosing of the seven seals. John Burton Coffman, in his commentary on Revelation, says that the first verse of chapter 8 brings modern readers to a moment of decision in interpretation that affects their understanding of everything that follows in the Book of Revelation. The question of the interpretation of the meaning of verse 1 of chapter 8 may be the most important in Revelation. If the wrong view of this verse becomes fixed in the reader's understanding, it may be impossible for the reader to correctly understand the rest of Revelation. Is the next vision to be described in chapter 8, the vision of the seven trumpets, a part of the vision of the seven seals? Or does the vision of the seven seals end with verse 1 of chapter 8 and a new separate vision start with verse 2 of chapter 8? The question boils down to: What happens after the completion of the vision of the sixth seal?

The answer to the question should be to take the scripture at its word. After the sixth seal, the loosing of the seventh seal revealed a "half hour of silence." John Burton Coffman reminds us that there is not a word in the whole Bible that actually portrays the events following the judgement of the last day. Even the last two chapters of the Revelation, chapters 21 and 22, which give a view of heaven, do not reveal the actual events which take place in heaven. John himself said, "It has not appeared as yet what we shall be." (1st John 3:2).

The "silence" revealed by the removal of the seventh seal indicates that God has withheld any prophecy concerning details of life in eternity. That fact in itself is important. The silence regards the time after the end, and God is silent with reference to that. Indeed, time as we now know it on earth may not exist for the redeemed in eternity.

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