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John’s Vision Of The Seven Seals

John’s Vision Of The Seven Seals

Olivet Discourse Seminar – Session 3

 

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In this teaching, we interpret John’s vision of the seven seals (Rev. 5-6) in light of the conclusions of the Olivet Discourse Seminar. In Revelation 5, we see the Father holding a scroll containing His decrees of judgment and woe against the earth. Jesus alone has the authority to execute those judgments as the arm of the Lord (Is. 30:30-32, 40:10, Is. 51:5, 9, 52:10, Is. 53:1-2, 59:16, 63:5), the instrument through whom the Father accomplishes His “work” of judgment (e.g. Is. 28:21, Jer. 50:25, Ps. 110). When Jesus takes the scroll and opens the seals, it means that He is initiating the judgments/signs of the last generation. These will ultimately result in the wicked being cleansed and purged from the earth (cf. Zech. 5:1-3). The world will be shaken with increasing intensity until the age to come is finally “birthed” and the Messianic Kingdom established at the Second Coming. Join us as we ask God for grace to persevere through this time of great difficulty that will come upon the entire earth in the last days.

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John’s Vision Of The Seven Seals

REVELATION 6

REVELATION 6

Revelation 6: John’s Vision of the Seven Seals

Context

1Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne (the Father) a scroll with writing on both sides (decrees of woe and judgment, cf. Ezek. 2:9-10, Zech. 5:1-3, Est. 8:8) and sealed with seven seals (irrevocable decrees unto perfect judgment, cf. Est. 8:8). 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy (i.e. who has authority, cf. vs. 12, Mt. 28:18-20) to break the seals and open the scroll?” (i.e. who has authority to execute the Father’s decrees of judgment against the earth) …6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns (perfect power and strength) and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits (NIV Note – Or the sevenfold Spirit) of God (cf. Is. 11:1-5 LXX) sent out into all the earth (i.e. the hearts of men being examined, cf. Ps. 11, 33:13-15, 139 etc.). 7 He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down) before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (the earth rightfully belongs to the Son as His inheritance, cf. Ps. 2) 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!

 

Commentary

The Father is holding a scroll containing His decrees of judgment and woe against the earth. Jesus alone has the authority to execute those judgments as the arm of the Lord (Is. 30:30-32, 40:10, Is. 51:5, 9, 52:10, Is. 53:1-2, 59:16, 63:5), the instrument through whom the Father accomplishes His “work” of judgment (e.g. Is. 28:21, Jer. 50:25, Ps. 110). The Son has perfect power and through the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, godliness, fear of Yahweh (cf. Is. 11:1-5 LXX), He possesses perfect vision into the hearts of human beings, and therefore executes righteous judgment. When Jesus takes the scroll and opens the seals, it means that He is initiating the judgments/signs of the last generation. These will result in the wicked being cleansed and purged from the earth (Zech. 5:1-3). These will increase in intensity until the age to come is finally “birthed” and the Messianic Kingdom established at the Second Coming.

 

9 Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe. (NIVEzek. 2:9-10)

 

1I looked again—and there before me was a flying scroll! 2 He asked me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a flying scroll, thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide.” 3 And he said to me, “This is the curse that is going out over the whole land; for according to what it says on one side, every thief will be banished (KJV/NKJV – “cut off”; NASB – “purged away”; ESV – “cleaned out”), and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished (KJV/NKJV – “cut off”; NASB “purged away”; ESV – “cleaned out”). (NIVZech. 5:1-3)

 

 

 

8 Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.” (NIVEst. 8:8)

 

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land (NKJV/KJV – “earth”). (NIVPs. 37:8-9)

Seal 1

1I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

Commentary

The apocalyptic imagery of colored horses has its Old Testament precedent in Zechariah 1:7-17 and 6:1-8. In Zechariah 6, the horses are harnessed to and represent God sending out His judgments to the four corners of the earth. They come from standing/presenting themselves in the Lord’s presence (Zech. 6:5). In Zechariah they represent “God’s judgment on the Gentile nations as He is about to restore Jerusalem.” Horses are strong and run swiftly. When the signs of the last generation begin to unfold, they will overpower nations, they will come quickly, and they will come with suddenness.

 

1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him , to show His servants what is required to take place with suddenness . (Tim Warner Rev. 1:1)

 

Tim Warner – “This prepositional phrase literally means, ‘within a very short space of time.’ Nothing in this phrase requires that the beginning of this timeframe is close, only that the events themselves will occur within a short block of time. (See vs. 3).”

 

Two common interpretations of the seals:

1) The white horse represents the emergence of the Anti-Christ at the beginning of the last 3.5 years, and the rest of the seals represent the resultant consequences of the war by means of which the Anti-Christ attempts to take over the world during the last 3.5 years.

 

2) The seals correspond to the Olivet Discourse as recounted in Matthew 24. In this interpretation, the first seal/white horse is a symbolic representation of “deception” (Mt. 24:4-5); the second seal/red horse is a symbolic representation of “war” (Mt. 24:6); the third seal/black horse is a symbolic representation of “famine” (Mt. 24:7); the fourth seal/pale (“pale green” NRSV, “ashen” NASB) horse is a symbolic representation of death through earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and other disasters (the birth pains recounted with an overall summary in this seal); the fifth seal depicts martyrdom (Mt. 24:9); the sixth seal depicts cosmic disturbances (Mt. 24:29); and the seventh seal the Second Coming and establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom (Mt. 24:30-31).

 

When viewed in light of the conclusions of the Olivet Discourse Seminar, both of these interpretations have problems (though I believe that option 2 is stronger on the whole). In the Olivet Discourse, we saw that the “deception” of Mt. 24:1-5, when compared with Mark and Luke, applies to false Messianic movements of the first century. We also saw that the events portrayed in the sixth seal occur at the beginning of the last 3.5 years, not at the end of it. The above interpretations fail to adequately take into account the parenthetical section of the Olivet Discourse (in which Jesus describes signs leading up to the Temple’s destruction in the first century).

Question:

If the first seal does not represent the revealing of the Anti-Christ at the 3.5 year mark, nor the increase of “deception” in exact correspondence to Matthew 24:4-5, then what does it represent?

 

Thesis:

1) The seals on the whole represent the category 2 signs of the Olivet Discourse (those that signal when the earth has entered into the final generation at the end of the age). The first and fifth seals (not explicitly mentioned in the Olivet Discourse, but also rooted in the Old Testament and therefore assumed by the Discourse) give us additional insight into the final empire that will emerge in context to the beginning of birth pains. John received the Book of Revelation in the 90s AD during the reign of Domitian. This was after the Temple’s destruction. The focus of this vision, therefore, is the signs heralding the last generation and the end of the age.

 

2) The first seal symbolically represents the rise of the final empire in the Middle East – “Babylon” – in its first phase before the Anti-Christ or little horn comes to power and takes control of that empire at the beginning of the last 3.5 years. This empire comes to power in context to the “beginning of birth pains.” I will call this “pre-head-wound Babylon.”

 

3) The sixth seal communicates the beginning of the last 3.5 years, the rise of the Anti-Christ as leader of the same empire, which at that time enters into phase 2, or “post-head-wound Babylon.”

 

 

 

 

The Final Empire: One Empire, Two Phases

  1. A.  Daniel 7

7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. 8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully…. 11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire (the Second Coming)…. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this. “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’ 19 “Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. 23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them  (transition point – same empire, now under control of the Anti-Christ) another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time (NIV note – Or for a year, two years and a half a year).26 “ ‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints (at the Second Coming), the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’ 28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.” (NIV Dan. 7:7-11, 16-28)

Commentary

The fourth beast represents the final beast empire (centered in the Middle East) that will arise at the end of the age. When Daniel first sees the beast, it is crushing and devouring its victims, and it has ten horns representing ten kings. Note that this empire – and the ten kings that lead it – is already in place before the Anti-Christ comes to power in vs. 8. This is Phase 1 of the last empire. Also take note that the beast is already crushing, devouring, and trampling its victims even before the Anti-Christ comes to power.

 

 

 

Phase 2 begins when the “little horn” uproots or subdues (interpretation vs. 24) three of the horns or kings of the beast empire as it exists in its initial phase. The little horn is the Anti-Christ. This uprooting happens at the beginning of the last 3.5 years when the Anti-Christ comes to power. The saints will be persecuted by the Anti-Christ for 3.5 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, note that this final empire is already crushing and devouring before the Anti-Christ comes to power. Also note again that the ten kings – who are leading the crushing and devouring – are also already in place before the Anti-Christ comes to power.

 

 

 

Final Empire

Phase 1: Pre-little horn

Phase 2: Post-little horn

 

 

B. Revelation 12

7 And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven (cf. Is. 34). 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short (only 3.5 years before he is thrown into the Abyss, cf. Rev. 20).” 13 1 And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea (i.e. the Anti-Christ and his empire Gentile nations, cf. Is. 17:12, Dan. 7:2). He had ten horns (Dan. 7) and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. (NIV Rev. 12:6-11, 13:1-3)

 

 

Commentary

Satan and the fallen powers/angels – whose “place” is in the second heaven – are cast down to the earth at the beginning of the last 3.5 years. Verse 11 states that the reason God casts Satan down at this point, is that the saints overcame Satan by being faithful to Jesus even unto death. Take note that this wave of persecution and martyrdom occurs before Satan is cast down. In other words, it occurs before the last 3.5 years begins, and is actually provides the “grounds” for God’s “case” against the Accuser. God cannot tolerate His slander and accusations against the saints any longer, so He kicks Satan out of the heavens.

 

The Anti-Christ or little horn comes to power in conjunction with Satan being cast down to the ground. Notice that when John first sees the beast, the “fatal head wound” has been healed. In other words, John is seeing the empire now in Phase 2.

 

Final Empire

Phase 1: Pre-little horn, pre-fatal-head-wound

Phase 2: Post-little horn, post-fatal-head-wound

C. Revelation 17

1One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute (the “great city,” cf. vs. 18), who sits on many waters (the nations, cf. vs. 15). 2 With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” 3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. 5 This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.

Commentary

The woman is “Mystery Babylon,” or the “great city.” This city is being supported and upheld by the final empire, before the Anti-Christ comes to power and destroys the city at the 3.5 year mark.

 

Again, notice that this city/empire is drunk with the blood of the saints before the Anti-Christ comes to power at the beginning of the last 3.5 years.

 

19 They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out: “ ‘Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin! 20 Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.’ 24 In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” (NIV Rev. 18:19-24)

Revelation 17 Continued

7 Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. 8 The beast (final empire), which you saw (first in Rev. 13), once was, now is not (first century, when John received the vision), and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.

  • 20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. 11 1 And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.) (NIV Dan. 10:20-11:1)

 

  • 4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell (NKJV note – lit. Tartarus) and delivered them into chains of darkness (NIV – “into gloomy dungeons”), to be reserved for judgment…(NKJV 2 Pet. 2:4)

 

  • 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode (cf. Gen. 6), He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day (NKJV Jude 6)

 

  • The fifth angel sounded his trumpet (beginning the first “woe”, Rev. 8:13, 9:12), and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky (cf. Is. 14:12, Lk. 10:18, Is. 34) to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. 2 When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. 3 And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. 4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads….11 They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon (NIV note – “Abaddon and Apollyon mean Destroyer”). 12 The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come. (NIV Rev. 9:1-4)

 

  • 1I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. 2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months (3.5 years, before the Anti-Christ comes to power). 3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. 6 These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want (trumpets 1-4, Rev. 8). 7 Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss  (cf. Rev. 17:8) will attack them, and overpower and kill them. 8 Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days (therefore, not the last 3.5) men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. (NIVRev. 11:1-9)

Commentary

The empires of the past were directed and influenced by fallen cosmic powers. After the flood, many of these powers were locked in the Abyss, the deep part of Sheol/Hades. The Abyss also seems to be the place where governing powers/principalities are locked up once their “term” in power is up (Dan. 2:21). Here the angel is telling John that one of the cosmic powers that governed one of the five pre-Rome Empires that oppressed Israel will be released from the Abyss at the 3.5 year mark for “another go at it.”

Revelation 17 Continued

7 Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. 8 The beast (final empire), which you saw (first in Rev. 13), once was, now is not(first century, when John received the vision), and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come. 9 “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills (Gk. oros – “mountains” – most translations have mountains; i.e. kingdoms); on which the woman sits. 10 They are also seven kings (this second statement is conclusive evidence that Rome is not in view here, but ancient kingdoms). Five have fallen (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece; or Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Syria – if we start with Israel in the land), one is (Rome), the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. 11 The beast (whose fatal head that was healed) who once was, and now is not (i.e. the one mentioned in vs. 8, who comes up from the Abyss at the 3.5 year mark), is an eighth king (note this is not an eighth head, but an eighth king – the little horn). He belongs to the seven (KJV/NKJV – “is of the seven”; YLT – “out of the seven he is”; Gk – ek) and is going to his destruction. 12 “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. 13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” 15 Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. 16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled. 18 The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” (NIV Rev. 17:1-18)

 

See also Isaiah 13-14

When we pay close attention to Isaiah 13-14, we see that both phases of the final Babylonian Empire – both pre- and post- head wound – are addressed.

Commentary

Mountains represent kingdoms, either good or bad (see, e.g. Jer. 51:25, Dan. 2, Is. 2). In the beginning, God’s throne sat on a mountain in Eden (see teaching on Edenic Temple Complex). A “head” is a symbol of governmental authority (e.g. Eph. 5). It is a governmental center, a kingdom.

 

Note that the seventh kingdom must “remain for a little while,” or “one hour’ as verse 12 puts it. This is not an Empire of the past, but the final Empire at the end, which relative to empires of the past will rule for only a short time at the end of the age when Jews are back in the land  after the gospel has gone forth to the nations during the “times of the Gentiles” (Lk. 21:24, cf. Rom. 11:25). At some point, this last empire suffers some sort of blow that causes people to think it won’t be able to recover. Tim Warner thinks that the head wound is caused by the ministry of the two witnesses, who release the judgments of the first four trumpets during the 3.5 years preceding the final 3.5 years. This makes a lot of sense to me.

 

The eighth king is the little horn, who comes out from or out of – the Greek word here is ek – the seven. This could mean one of two things. 1) Probably a reference back to vs. 8, i.e. the final cosmic power directing the empire in the last 3.5 is one that formerly governed one of the first 5 empires that oppressed Israel, and will be released from the Abyss at the 3.5 mark; or 2) At the 3.5 year mark, the little horn comes out from the head of the final beast and uproots three kings (but, the word here is seven, not seventh).

 

At the 3.5 year mark, a former principality is let out of the Abyss to direct the same empire, marking its entrance into Phase 2. When this happens, the Anti-Christ armies destroy Mystery Babylon, the city that was propped up by the empire in Phase 1.

 

Final Empire

Phase 1: Pre-little horn, pre-fatal-head-wound, cosmic power/principality “7” over Empire 7

Phase 2: Post-little horn, post-fatal-head-wound, cosmic power/principality “7” replaced at 3.5 mark by a former cosmic power/principality from the past (one of 1-5) now released from imprisonment in the Abyss

 

 

 

Seal 1 Symbolism

1I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

Commentary

Therefore, in light of the above, I believe that the first seal depicts the emergence of the final Middle East-based empire, “Babylon,” with the city “Mystery Babylon” functioning as its power/economic base in Phase 1 of its existence. It gives us a picture of a shift in the world’s power structure that will occur in context to the shakings that will mark “the beginning of birth pains.” The symbolism of the first seal and this interpretation seem to fit well together. The rider of a white horse is given a bow. This calls to mind Nimrod, who was “a mighty hunter before the Lord” (Gen. 10:9), and who built the original Babylon as one of the first centers of his rebellious kingdom (Gen. 10:9). In Nimrod, the symbols of bow (hunter), crown (kingdom), and conqueror (conquest unto the establishment of a kingdom) come together. As Nimrod persecuted the righteous Abraham, fomented rebellion against the true God, and conducted a reign of terror on the earth (see below), so this final empire will intensely persecute the saints – Abraham’s Jewish “seed” and his “seed” in Christ. It will severely persecute the saints both in Phase 1 – resulting in the martyrdom depicted in the fifth seal, after which Satan will be cast to the ground – and in Phase 2, after the Anti-Christ has come to power at the 3.5 year mark. The sixth seal – which follows the martyrdom in accordance with what we see in Revelation 12 – marks the transition point into Phase 2 of the final empire.

Jewish Encyclopedia on Nimrod

“Nimrod was not wicked in his [y]outh. On the contrary, when a young man he used to sacrifice to Yhwh the animals which he caught while hunting (“Sefer ha-Yashar,” section “Noaḥ,” pp. 9a et seq., Leghorn, 1870). His great success in hunting (comp. Gen. x. 9) was due to the fact that he wore the coats of skin which God made for Adam and Eve (Gen. iii. 21). These coats were handed down from father to son, and thus came into the possession of Noah, who took them with him into the ark, whence they were stolen by Ham. The latter gave them to his son Cush, who in turn gave them to Nimrod, and when the animals saw the latter clad in them, they crouched before him so that he had no difficulty in catching them. The people, however, thought that these feats were due to his extraordinary strength, so that they made him their king (Pirḳe R. El. xxiv.; “Sefer ha-Yashar,” l.c.; comp. Gen. R. lxv. 12). According to another account, when Nimrod was eighteen years old, war broke out between the Hamites, his kinsmen, and the Japhethites. The latter were at first victorious, but Nimrod, at the head of a small army of Cushites, attacked and defeated them, after which he was made king over all the people on earth, appointing Terah his minister. It was then, elated by so much glory, that Nimrod changed his behavior toward Yhwh and became the most flagrant idolater. When informed of Abraham’s birth he requested Terah to sell him the new-born child in order that he might kill it (see Jew. Encyc. i. 86a, s.v. Abraham in Rabbinical Literature). Terah hid Abraham and in his stead brought to Nimrod the child of a slave, which Nimrod dashed to pieces (“Sefer ha-Yashar,” l.c.). Nimrod is generally considered to have been the one who suggested building the Tower of Babel and who directed its construction. God said: “I made Nimrod great; but he built a tower in order that he might rebel against Me” (Ḥul. 89b). The tower is called by the Rabbis “the house of Nimrod,” and is considered as a house of idolatry which the owners abandoned in time of peace; consequently Jews may make use of it (‘Ab. Zarah 53b). After the builders of the tower were dispersed Nimrod remained in Shinar, where he reestablished his kingdom. According to the “Sefer ha-Yashar” (l.c.), he at this time acquired the name “Amraphel” in allusion to the fall of his princes () during the dispersion. According to the Targum of pseudo-Jonathan (to Gen. x. 11), however, Nimrod had left Babylonia before the building of the tower, and had gone to Assyria, where he built four other cities, namely, Nineveh, Rehobot, Calah, and Resen (comp. Naḥmanides ad loc.).

Seal 2

3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.

Olivet Discourse

 

Mat 24:7a-b  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,

 

Seal 3

5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

Olivet Discourse

 

Mat 24:7c and there will be famines

Seal 4

7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him (primary focus here on earthquakes, cf. Nu. 16:23-34). They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

 

Cross-Reference

The floodgates of the heavens are opened, the foundations of the earth shake. 19 The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken. 20 The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls—never to rise again (NIVIs. 24:18-20)

Olivet Discourse

Mat 27:7c and earthquakes in various places.

 

Luk 21:11  There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences (Gk loimos – “pestilences” or “plagues.”). And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

 

Cross- Reference

23 Then the Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’ ” 25 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” 27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents. 28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave (Heb. Sheol – the abode of the departed spirits who await the resurrection of the body at the end of the age), then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.” 31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the grave (Heb. Sheol), with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” (NIV Num. 16:23-34)

 

 

Seal 5

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer (3.5 years), until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed (during the final time, times, and half a time). (NIV Rev. 6:9-11)

Cross References

10 … For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short (NIVRev. 12:10-12)

 

6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. (NIVRev. 17:6)

Seal 6

12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair (the rising sun, cf. Is. 13:10), the whole moon turned blood red (cf. Joel 2:31, Is. 13:10, Mt. 24), 13 and the stars in the sky (Satan and fallen angels, cf. Is. 34, Rev. 12) fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind cf. (Is. 34:4). 14 The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up (i.e. the heavens “shut” or no longer accessible to Satan and the fallen powers, cf. Is. 34:4, Rev. 12), and every mountain and island  (i.e. the ends of the earth, cf. Is. 41:5) was removed (Gk. kineo – shaken) from its place (Gk. topos). (NIV Rev. 6:12-14)

Olivet Discourse

Mar 13:24 -25 “But in those days (Mt. 24:29″Immediately after the tribulation of those days), after that tribulation (the beginning of birth pains), the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light( Is. 13:10), and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken (Is. 34:4).

Luk 21:25 -26 “And there will be signs in sun

and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

 

 

Commentary

3075 κινέω (kineō): vb.; ≡ Str 2795; TDNT 3.718—1. LN 15.1 move (Mt 23:4; Ac 17:28; Rev 6:14+); 2. LN 15.3 cause to move (Rev 2:5+); 3. LN 16.2 shake of the head (Mt 27:39; Mk 15:29); 4. LN 39.44 start a riot (Ac 21:30+; Ac 14:7 v.r. NA26); 5. LN 90.53 stir up, cause a riot, (Ac 24:5+)

 

If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove (Gk. kineo) your lampstand from its place (Gk. topos; the place being the foundation of the lampstand in this instance) (Rev. 2:5)

 

4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. 5 “They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. (NIVPs. 82:4-5)

 

1“Be silent before me, you islands! Let the nations renew their strength!…5 The islands have seen it and fear; the ends of the earth tremble. (NIVIs. 41:1, 5; Hebrew parallelisms)

 

See, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants (NIVIs. 24:1)

 

The sixth seal is where the 3.5 years begins. This begins Phase 2 of the final empire.

Seal 6 Continued

15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.

Cross-references

2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds (NIV Jdg. 6:2)

 

30 “Flee quickly away! Stay in deep caves, you who live in Hazor,” declares the Lord. “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has plotted against you; he has devised a plan against you. (NIVJer. 49:30)

 

6 For you have rejected (NIV “abandoned”; NKJV/NRSV – “forsaken”, i.e. abandoned protecting the nation for a moment for the purpose of discipline, cf. Is. 54:7-8)) your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of things from the east and of fortune-tellers like the Philistines, and they strike hands (i.e. bound themselves in covenant, cf. Prov. 6:1-5, Is. 28, Deut. 32) with the children of foreigners (and therefore also their false gods). 7 Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots. 8 Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made. 9 So man is humbled, and each one is brought low— do not forgive them! 10 Enter into the rock and hide in the dust from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty. 11 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. 12 For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low; 13 against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan; 14 against all the lofty mountains (kingdoms, e.g. Jer. 51:25-26), and against all the uplifted hills; 15 against every high tower, and against every fortified wall; 16against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the beautiful craft.  17And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. 18 And the idols shall utterly pass away (NKJV/KJV – “and the idols He shall utterly abolish”).  19And people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth (NIV – “shake”; KJV – “shake terribly”; NASB – “to make the earth tremble”; NKJV – “shake the earth mightily”; cf. Lk. 21:26). 20 In that day mankind will cast away (KJV – “cast”) their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, 21 to (NASB – “in order to”) enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth. 22 Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he? (ESV Is. 2:6-21)

20 At that time men will throw their silver and gold idols, which they made for themselves to worship, into the caves where rodents and bats live,21 so they themselves can go into the crevices of the rocky cliffs and the openings under the rocky overhangs, trying to escape the dreadful judgment of the Lord and his royal splendor, when he rises up to terrify the earth.22 Stop trusting in human beings, whose life’s breath is in their nostrils. For why should they be given special consideration? (NETIs. 2:20-22)

Seal 6 Continued

16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on (Gk. epi – Murdock – “fall over”; i.e. hide us/protect us, not kill us) us and hide us from the face 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 can stand?”

Cross-references

People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken (NLT Lk. 21:26)

 

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; 16 the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. (NIVPs. 34:15-16)

 

1The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any alien living in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death. The people of the community are to stone him. 3 I will set my face against that man and I will cut him off from his people (i.e. death, vs. 2); for by giving his children to Molech, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. (NIVLev. 20:1-3)

 

6 “ ‘I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.” (NIVLev. 20:6)

 

1“Now, son of man, take a clay tablet, put it in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it. 2 Then lay siege to it: Erect siege works against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it. 3 Then take an iron pan, place it as an iron wall between you and the city and turn your face toward it. It will be under siege, and you shall besiege it. This will be a sign to the house of Israel. 4 “Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the house of Israel upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. 5 I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the house of Israel. 6 “After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the house of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year. 7 Turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem and with bared arm prophesy against her. (NIV Ezek. 4:1-7)

 

7 “ ‘When any Israelite or any alien living in Israel separates himself from me and sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet to inquire of me, I the Lord will answer him myself. 8 I will set my face against that man and make him an example and a byword. I will cut him off from my people. Then you will know that I am the Lord. (NIV Ezek. 14:7-8)

 

1The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, set your face against Jerusalem and preach against the sanctuary. Prophesy against the land of Israel 3 and say to her: ‘This is what the Lord says: I am against you. I will draw my sword from its scabbard and cut off from you both the righteous and the wicked (LXX “and I will destroy out of thee the transgressor and unrighteous”) (NIVEzek. 21:1-3)

 

1I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said:  “Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake, and shatter them on the heads of all the people; and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword; not one of them shall flee away; not one of them shall escape. 2 “If they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; if they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down. 3 If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search them out and take them; and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them. 4 And if they go into captivity before their enemies, there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.” 5 The Lord God of hosts, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who dwell in it mourn, and all of it rises like the Nile, and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt; 6 who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth— the Lord is his name. (ESV Am. 9:1-6)

Parenthetical Section

1After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” 4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel…(cf. Ezek. 9:4; Jewish remnant preserved).9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands….13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (NIVRev. 7:1-4, 9, 13-14)

Revelation 12

6 The woman (Jews, cf. Is. 34-35) fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God (Jewish remnant preserved), where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. 7 And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him…. 13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach (Jewish remnant preserved). 15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest (Tim Warner – “remnants”, i.e. remnants of saints from all nations) of her offspringthose who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (NIVRev. 12:6-9, 13-17).

 

Commentary

Between the sixth and seventh seal, there is a parenthetical section. Not surprisingly, this parenthetical section is consistent with Revelation 12, which describes the beginning of the last 3.5.

Seal 7

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence (reverent worship) in heaven for about half an hour. (Rev. 8:1)

 

Commentary

 

Alfred Edersheim – “The incensing priest and his assistants now approached first the altar of burnt-offering. One filled with incense a golden censer held in a silver vessel, while another placed in a golden bowl burning coals from the altar. As they passed from the court into the Holy Place, they struck a large instrument (called the ‘Magrephah’), at sound of which the priests hastened from all parts to worship, and the Levites to occupy their places in the service of song; while the chief of the ‘stationary men’ ranged at the Gate of Nicanor such of the people as were to be purified that day. Slowly the incensing priest and his assistants ascended the steps to the Holy Place, preceded by the two priests who had formerly dressed the altar and the candlestick, and who now removed the vessels they had left behind, and, worshipping, withdrew. Next, one of the assistants reverently spread the coals on the golden altar; the other arranged the incense; and then the chief officiating priest was left alone within the Holy Place, to await the signal of the president before burning the incense. It was probably while thus expectant that the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias. As the president gave the word of command, which marked that ‘the time of incense had come,’ ‘the whole multitude of the people without’ withdrew from the inner court, and fell down before the Lord, spreading their hands in silent prayer. It is this most solemn period, when throughout the vast Temple buildings deep silence rested on the worshipping multitude, while within the sanctuary itself the priest laid the incense on the golden altar, and the cloud of ‘odours’ rose up before the Lord, which serves as the image of heavenly things in this description:  ‘And when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour….”

 

In Hebrew/biblical symbolism, seven represents the covenant. At the Second Coming, God’s promises in the covenants are fulfilled. The seventh seal, the seventh trumpet, and the seventh bowl all symbolically depict the Second Coming and establishment of the Messianic Kingdom on the earth in fulfillment of the covenants.

 

15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. 18 The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” (NIVRev. 11:15-18)

ENDNOTES

1 For more, see Tim Warner, translation of Revelation, http://www.oasischristianchurch.org/air/LGV_Revelation.pdf

2 Tim Warner, translation of Revelation, http://www.oasischristianchurch.org/air/LGV_Revelation.pdf

3 For more, see Tim Warner’s teaching on Revelation 17 at <http://www.answersinrevelation.org/>

4 Jewish Encyclopedia, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=295&letter=N&search=nimrod

5 Thomas, R. L. (1998, 1981). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : Updated edition (H8674). Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.

6 Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.) (DBLG 3075, #5). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

7 Edersheim, A. (2003). The Temple, its ministry and services as they were at the time of Jesus Christ. (166). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

8 Edersheim, A. (2003). The Temple, its ministry and services as they were at the time of Jesus Christ. (210). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

 

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Tim Miller Tim Miller (124 Posts)

Tim is founder of the Daniel Training Network. His passion is to see followers of Christ embrace a life of the cross. He, his wife Emily, and their four children itinerate regularly as part of their ministry, and are presently living in New Mexico.


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