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No. 72: The Seven Seals of Revelation

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 72
April, 1995
Copyright 1995, Biblical Horizons

Commentators do not agree on the contents of the Book of Seven Seals (Revelation 5:1). Some see it as the New Covenant; others as the whole Word of God; others as the book of life; and others as the record of the Old Creation that is now being brought to an end and judged by its angelic overseers. It may be that the answer is "all of the above." My purpose in this brief essay is to explore the seals as they help us approach the question.

The Book is sealed, and that causes distress and weeping (5:4-5). Clearly the seals are an evil that restrains the good contents of the Book. Therefore the seals are the result of sin. They are seven judgments that prevent God from blessing His people. Jesus has, however, broken the power of sin, and thus He can break these seals.

As each seal is broken, a blessing comes to God’s people. The seals restrained the blessings, so if we look at the seals, we see what the blessings are.

1. The white horse Rider (6:1-2). Christ could not be crowned and ride forth to conquer the world, because sin prevented it.

2. The red horse rider (6:3-4). The wicked world was enjoying peace because sin prevented God from judging the wicked (compare Zechariah 1:7-17 & 6:1-8).

3. The black horse rider (6:5-6). The wicked world enjoyed prosperity, while the righteous were not blessed. Now the situation is reversed. Wheat (Old Creation blessing) will be terribly expensive, but wine and oil (New Covenant blessing: the saints) are not to be touched. The Voice from the Throne is Jesus, the Man now enthroned. This judgment comes from the man-faced cherub.

4. The death-green horse rider (6:7-8). The wicked enjoyed life, but now their time is up.

5. The saints under the altar (6:9-11). The evil seals had prevented God from avenging them. Now the time of His vengeance has almost arrived, but the whole book must be opened first.

6. The day of wrath against the Old Creation (6:12–7:17). The seals had prevented God from removing the Old Creation, centered in Israel, but now He will do so. First the heavens above are judged, but before the earth beneath and the waters under the earth are judged, the saints are sealed. This reverses the meaning of the seals. Instead of sealing the sinful world away from God’s judgment, now the saints are sealed to God away from the sinful world.

7. The half-hour of silence (7:1 + 7:1–14:20 & 11:17-18). This is how long the saints have to wait before God begins His avenging of them. The continuous singing of the angels ceases while the trumpets blow, so that they can be heard. The trumpets last for a half-hour. The trumpets last from Pentecost to the harvest of the First-fruits Church just before ad 70.

These seven seals are arranged chiastically:

1. Christ conquers

2. War devastates the land

3. Wicked starve; righteous sealed

4. Death and the grave to the wicked

5. Righteous assured of vengeance

6. Wicked judged; righteous sealed

7. Pentecostal conquest by Christ’s holy army

The seven seals judge the cosmos, according to Genesis 1:

1. Lion cherub: White horse = light banishing darkness

2. Ox cherub: Holy land = firmament, now rent with war

3. Man cherub: Bread, wine, and oil come from plants made on third day.

4. Flying eagle cherub (luminary): death and underworld.

5. God’s host (swarm) told to wait.

6. Men judged or sealed.

7. Sabbath: the day of judgment and blessing arrives.

All of this indicates to me that the Book is, in part at least, the record of the Old Creation, which is now opened in the court so that judgment can be passed. At the end of history, the same thing will happen with the New Creation (Rev. 20:12).