As we concluded Chapter 4, God was sitting on the throne in the present of the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures. Chapter 4 & 5 are introductory to, and explanatory of the remainder of the Apocalypse. In Chapter 5 we see Jesus enthroned and His authority to open the seals of judgment recognized.
“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.”
In Roman law a will or testament bore seven seals of seven witnesses on the treads that were tied around the scroll. This particular scroll contained so much information that not only was it written on the traditional inside of the scroll but on the outside as well.
I see this scroll as a passing of inheritance from the Father to the Son. A book of prophecy would not require someone worthy to open it. However, the passing of Jesus’ inheritance could only be open by Him. With the inheritance comes instructions and those instruction bring judgment. Remember that Jesus told the apostles that only the Father knew about the end times.
“2 Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?”
“3 And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.”
The unnamed strong angel asks who is qualified to open this most important document. The results are that no one is found who posses the qualifications to open it. No man, no angel, not Satan or his demons, no matter of being is worthy to open it.
“4 So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.”
Christians having been looking forward to the day that Jesus would receive His inheritance. John wept because of his concern that righteous might not prevail over the unrighteous. Could it be that the kingdom of God might not come because sin would not be judged? Would the righteous be vindicated? Would the wicked go unpunished? Would the suffering of His Lord and friend Jesus be in vain?
“5 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep, Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”
One of the twenty-four elders that were before the throne speaks to John. John’s sorrow is turned to joy because there is One who is worthy to open the scroll and to reveal its contents.
Jesus is described as the Lion because He is qualified as judge. John 5:22 says, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” Also John 5:27 says, “and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.”
These two titles relate Jesus to the nation of Israel. Some hold that this passage supports the view that some of the twenty-four elders are representative of the twelve tribes of Israel.
“6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”
I wonder if John recalled the first time he had heard Jesus referred to as the “Lamb”. In his gospel verse 29 of the first chapter recounts John the Baptist words, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Now in the midst of all present stood the Lamb looking as if it was freshly slain. Jesus bears the marks of His sacrifice for our sins even in the throne room of God.
The seven horns are symbols of Jesus’ complete power (omnipotence) and the seven eyes His complete wisdom (omniscience). His power is sent into the world through the Holy Spirit and reveals His omnipresence.
The titles of verse 5 are clearly connected to the nation of Israel. This verse is clearly connected to Jesus’ ministry on earth. As the Lamb He has three qualifications; 1) He was sacrificed for man’s sins; 2) He have power over every enemy; 3) He poses all knowledge, know and unknown.
“7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.”
Jesus accepts His inheritance from the Father and prepares to pour out judgment on the world.
“8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”
Here once again the Scriptures give us an interpretation so that we might better understand. The golden bowls full of incense we are told represent the prayers of the saints.
The passing of the scroll brings the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures to prostrate themselves before Jesus. It is a clear sign of absolute devotion and worship in recognition of His authority. I see this as a time of great joy on the part of those present. They fall at Jesus’ feet not out of fear but love.
Some hold that the prayers are those of martyrs of 6:10, but I see them as the prayers of all saints through time. Prayers lifted up for ourselves and for others, prayers of praise and thanksgiving to our Lord.
“9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.”
For me verse 9 makes it clear that those who are singing the new song are redeemed. Regardless of whom they represent we know they have been born again into God’s Kingdom. Their redemption is made possible by the blood of Jesus at Calvary.
We are also told that the redeemed will come out of every tribe and people and nation, the whosoever of John 3:16.
They sing a new song about an old story, our redeemer lives!
Verse 10 is a fulfillment of 3:21 were Jesus told us,“To Him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” An “I will” promise made to the church of the Laodiceans.
There is debate as to the meaning of “we shall reign on the earth”. Some believe it to be an eternal reign on a new earth, while others see it as the time of the millennial reign over earth.
“11 Then I looked and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.
Now the second of three circles of praise joins the chorus. The first circle being that of the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures, the second a multitude of angels so large in number they can’t be counted. In verse 13 the rest of creation joins the chorus.
Possibly billions of God’s creation singing in harmony! A chorus that starts at the throne and moves out to all of creation fills heaven with praise.
“12 saying with a loud voice;
Once again we see the Biblical use of seven. In the song, Jesus is declared worthy of seven joys. Because of being who He is and His obedient sacrifice for our sins Jesus is worthy to receive;
1. power --- over all creation in heaven and on earth --- power over the church – power over my life and yours
2. riches --- all that the world posses --- all that we have ever possessed in His
3. wisdom --- we are to use our intellect for His service
4. strength --- our physical strength for His service
5. honor --- all honor is His not ours for every good and perfect gift is from above
6. glory --- He is worthy of my entire life devote to bringing Him glory
7. blessings --- all our power of praise and blessings are due Him
“13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying;
This calls into remembrance Philippians 2:10 -11, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and those under the earth and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
“14 Then the four living creatures said Amen! And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshipped Him who lives forever and ever.”
The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders prostrate themselves before the enthroned Christ, Lord and Savior.
With Jesus now properly acknowledged and empowered, He prepares to open the seals of judgment.
Let’s review before we continue. Place: we are in the throne room with the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures. Purpose: the opening of the seven seals.
What follows is the opening of the seven seals of judgment. It is important to remember that the 7th seal contains the judgment of the seven Trumpets, and that the 7th Trumpet contains the 7 bowel judgments. Therefore, the 7th seal, the seven Trumpets and the seven bowels are locked together and therefore part of the same event.
There is much debate about the timing of the events that follow. Although we will develop some ideas as we proceed, we must learn from Daniel’s questions when he was given visions of this same time. Daniel speaking in Daniel 12:8 says, “Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, “My Lord, what shall be the end of these things?” And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”
There are some things we will not know until they happen. And that is OK, but we have a responsibility to search the Scriptures so that we will recognize them when they do occur. We also have an obligation to pass this information on to unbelievers and seekers so that they may know the consequences of their rejection of Christ.
Daniel was clearly told that he could be assured that the righteous will be purified, the wicked will manifest themselves as such, and that only the wise will understand. We are to be the “wise”.
The Liberty Bible Commentary makes this reference, “The Day of the Lord, the time of God’s judgments on earth before the visible reappearing of the Lord Jesus, is the subject in this and following chapters”.
“Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.”
Chapter 24 of Matthew gives us insight into these last days. As Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples asked Him, “What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” He warns them to beware of those who come claiming to be the Christ; He tells them that there will be times of war, famine, pestilence, and earthquakes. And that these are but the bringing of sorrows.
We need to understand that when the Tribulation Period is spoken of it is a reference to the entire Tribulation Period (seven years of Daniel 9:27). The Great Tribulation covers only the last half (three and one half years) of the Tribulation period.
Many conservative Bible scholars hold to the belief that the Great Tribulation period (last three and one half years) reflects the events of Matthew 24:15, the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet. They also hold that the first six seals occur during the first half of Daniel’s Seventieth Week or the first three and one half years of the Tribulation period. As we proceed we will examine this and other viewpoints.
John watches Jesus open one of the seals. The reference to “a voice like thunder” indicated to me that it is more than a casual request for John to “Come and see”. As stated earlier the four living creatures are involved to some degree in the judgments that follows.
2 “And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”
1 Thessalonians 5:3 says, “For when that say, Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them”
Some say that the rider of the white horse is Christ but I disagree with that viewpoint. They leap to that conclusion because the horse is white; often a symbol of purity, plus the rider is crowned. Many hold the rider to be that Antichrist.
I agree with the viewpoint that the horse and rider are symbolic of conditions not individuals. I say this because of the nature of the seven letters to the churches. Remember we said the letters address three purposes. One of those was a progression through a historical time-line. They were descriptive of a series of events from the early church to the falling away of the church at the end of the Church Age. Here to, as Jesus opens the seven seals, we will find a progression from peace and safety to final judgment.
Throughout history and even today there have been and are attempts at lasting peace. But any success has proven to be short lived.
These are man-made attempts of the white, bloodless victory (arrowless bow). This viewpoint becomes clearer as we go forward in our study.
More and more in our world today we see people and nations conquered by bloodless actions. They may not be occupied by invaders but they are controlled and managed by outside forces. But sooner or later bloodshed comes.
3 When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see”.
4” Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.”
Matthew 24:6-7,“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to past, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”…
As we discussed in verse 2, mans attempts at world peace have now failed completely. The second of the four living creatures summons the second rider. War and bloodshed follow. The sword is used in hand to hand combat and the results are extremely bloody. This is more than a local conflict.
5 When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see”. So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.”
6 And I heard a voice in the midst 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.”
The third living creature calls John forward to observe the opening of the third seal. The rider of the black horse holds in his hands the sign of commerce, the scales. Following the destruction of the bloody war of verses 3 & 4, hard times come.
The conclusion of Matthew 24:7 says,“And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.”
A denarius was considered a day’s wages. A small amount of wheat (food for man) cost a day’s wages, as does three measures of barley (food for livestock). The destruction of war has limited the food supply. It could be that the land has been damaged by the conflict too. Ezekiel Chapter 4 gives us another example of hard times requiring the precise measurement of everyday food.
Why are the oil and the wine not to be harmed? There are two viewpoints. One, oil and wine are essentials that can not be harmed. Two, they are symbolic of the wealthy. Although we can not be sure which is correct, the later seems to be the most popular view. When hard times first come, the wealthy are the least effected. But in time they too will suffer.
The seals are revealing a process by which things go from comfort to despair.
7 When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see”.
8” So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to the over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”
Death refers to the body while Hades refers to the spirit. In the Old Testament, Death is synonymous with the grave. Hades or Hell is the abode of the departed spirit. First comes death of the body follow by the second death of unbelievers, separation from God in Hades.
On TV we occasionally see stories of some great disaster and scenes of the death and destruction of war. Imagine the horror of an event that involves one-fourth of the planet. Conditions just continue to get worst and worst.
9 “When He opens the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.”
Once again opinions vary. Some say that the location has changed, that we are now in the temple representing Israel. There is no mention of the living creatures as Jesus opens the fifth seal.
Since there is no mention of a new location I trend to believe we are still in the throne room. I have no problem believing we will find an altar there. Others have the opinion that the altar could only be found in a Jewish temple.
In any case, we continue to see a parallel with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 24 where verse 9 says,“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”
All agree that we are now looking at the first martyrs of the Tribulation Period. And, there is general agreement that they are Jewish believers who went out and had a great testimony for God and were slain.
The first four seals are obviously grouped. They are connected by the common call of the four living creatures to “Come and see”. We will discover that the remaining seals likewise seemed to be grouped.
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
These departed saints should not be confused with the believers of the Church Age. Remember we defined the Church Age as that time from Pentecost until the Rapture of the church.
The expression “How long, O Lord, holy and true” is considered by many Bible scholars to be reflective of Jewish worship. They cry out for vengeance for the tribulation they have suffered.
11 “Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was complete.”
The white robe given to each indicates that they have been justified and accepted by God. As stated in the notes on verse 10 above, these are not the saints who are already seated with their white robes and crowns (the redeemed of the Church Age).
They are told they must wait until God’s plan is complete. Others will be slain as they were and it is God’s desire to deal with them together. They receive robes but there is no mention or indication they receive crowns. They are not seated as were the twenty-four elders. John saw their souls under the altar not standing in the open court of the throne room.
Remember early on in our studies I cautioned that we would need to be aware of differences between the overcomers of the Church Age and the nation of Israel.
12” I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.”
Jesus’ opening of the sixth seal brings on great turmoil in nature. Are these events literal or are they solely symbolic? In cases like this I believe we should first consider them to be literal unless there is some other Scriptural reason to consider them as symbolic. Of course there are times that events would be both, as we saw in the seven letters to the churches.
Further evidence that these are literal can be drawn from the parallel passages of Matthew 24-29 were Jesus foretold of these events in the Olivet Discourse with the apostles.
The effects of this great upheaval in nature are universal, with dramatic effects on social, emotional, governmental and spiritual lifestyles.
Earthquake: foretold by Jesus in Matthew 24:7
Darkening of the sun: foretold by Isaiah 50:3
Moon: foretold by Joel 2:30-31
13 “And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.”
14 “Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.”
Isaiah 34:4 says, “All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; all their host shall fall down as the leaf falls from the vine, and as fruit falling from a fig tree.”
Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 24: 21 “there will be a great tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
The destructive powers of nature will be seen “such as has not been since the beginning of the world”. We have seen the effects of great storms, earthquakes, and floods but none of that will compare to what is coming.
15 “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains.”
The passage goes into great detail to include all manner of man, from rulers to slaves; they all seek shelter from the worldwide holocaust of nature. Societies, governments and military powers are helpless and hopeless.
16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.”
Everyone understands who it is that is bringing judgment upon them. They desire complete destruction rather than to face the eternal judgment that is coming. The Lamb that was slain for their sins, the One who had loved them and whom they had rejected now comes as Judge and He bring with Him terrible eternal punishment.
17 “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Notice there is no repentance, no outcry for salvation or for forgiveness. Nor do we see them pleading for intervention from God. Instead we see a stark realization that “it is over”. The great day of wrath is no longer a debated future event. It is not something that “Christians” used to scare or intimidate people into coming to church. It is here! It is real! And it is too late to act!
We now pause between the opening of sixth and seventh seals. This is often referred to as our first parenthesis in Revelation. In Chapter seven we are introduced to two groups not previously mentioned in John’s vision of “things which take place after this”.
First, the nation of Israel is brought into the picture in verses 1-8. Secondly, we discover the much debated great multitude arrayed in white robes in verses 9-17.
In the midst of pouring out judgments, God remembers mercy for His own. God does not forget His promises.
“After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.”
Psalms 148:8 illustrates stormy wind as fulfilling God’s word on earth. The four angels are seen restraining judgment until the sealing of His people is complete. This sealing is God claiming his people that have been faithful and placing His seal of protection upon them. Those who believe that the church will go through Tribulation but will be protected from harm during that terrible time refer to this chapter.
The four angels are not described in detail. Therefore, should not be considered to be prominent figures but workers simply doing their jobs.
All of earth is protected in order that no harm be brought until the sealing is complete.
2 “Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to hare the earth and the sea.”
3 saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
We are also warned in Ephesians 4:30 not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom we were sealed for the day of redemption.
This fifth angel has in his possession “the seal of the living God.” Although I can not be dogmatic about my belief, I see this fifth angel as the Holy Spirit. The angel speaks with authority and uses the phase “till we have sealed”. If might be the “we” is a reference to the Godhead.
The sealing of the living God most likely includes a special outpouring and filling of the Holy Spirit to equip them for specific service to God during the Great Tribulation. The sealing is a sign of ownership; the importance of which will become even more apparent as we progress in our study.
4 “And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed;”
5” of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Ruben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed;”
6 “of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed;”
7 “of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed;”
8 ”of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed”.
I find if difficult to understand why there is so much debate over “who are the 144,000?” They certainly are not members of some Gentile cult. Let’s explore some of the differing views as to who they are.
Some believe they are the first fruits of the church. Others suggest they are the Jewish nation in general. And yes some believe them to be a gentile exclusive group set aside by God.
First, it is obvious that they are from all the tribes of Israel. They can not represent the church because the church is never referred to as Israel. Thirdly, they can not be the nation of Israel in general, for God would not place His seal on unbelievers, especially those who have blatantly rejected Jesus.
There are also those who question if the number, 144,000, is symbolic or actual. If the number is symbolic, why the detail in enumerating the tribes?
My thoughts are that they are just as they are presented, 12,000 believers from each tribe seal for God’s service. They are a special group commissioned for a specific mission.
The timing of the sealing is extremely important. It is before the opening of the seventh seal that we will study in Chapter 8. They are sealed before the second half (three and one half years) of the Tribulation Period. They need the extra protection of God for their work during the Great Tribulation Period.
The naming of the twelve tribes also raises questions. Levi is included while Dan is not. Joseph is substituted for Ephraim. There is no way to be dogmatic about the whys of this list. God knows and that is all that is required.
9 “After these things I looked and behold a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,”
10 and crying out with loud voice saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!”
11 “All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God,”
13 Then one of the elders answered saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”
14 And I said to him, “Sir you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.”
16 “They shall neither hunger any more nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;”
17” for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Verses 9 - 17 must be consider together for us to have a clear picture of who, what, where and why.
First, this is clearly a separate group from the group identified in verses 4 - 8. This second group is from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue. They are clearly believers (white robes) who are victorious (palm branches). It may be that they become believers because of the ministry of the 144,000 during the Great Tribulation.
Verses 13 and 14 make it clear they are believers who are saved during the Great Tribulation, the last three and one half years of the Tribulation Period.
I do not see this group as representing the church of the church age as some teach. They are separate from the 24 elders who have received both their robes and crowns. In verse 13 it was an elder who ask the question about where did this group come from, indicating to me he was not one of the group.
The first three words of verse 9 are important for us to understand, “After these things.” Recall that we are in a break between the sixth and seventh seals. We are being given additional information that will help us to understand the rest of the judgments.
It is as if John is being told, “You are now standing here in the throne room with the 24 elders, the four living creatures, a host of angels, and the Lamb who is worthy to open the scrolls, and you are seeing what will happen beyond this time. You are seeing those who are redeemed during the pouring out of the final judgments in the great tribulation.”
It hasn’t happen yet, but it will as we go forward. I see it as God’s way of reassuring us that He will keep His promises. Bad times are coming, terrible times, but souls will still be won for the Lord. And not just a few but a number so large they can’t be counted.
John is seeing God’s mercy and grace being poured out. Recall John 3:16, “whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.
What a lesson for us today! We make excuses for why our churches aren’t being the soul winners we used to be. We have ever advantage and little tribulation, but like the church of the Laodiceans we have become lukewarm in our efforts.
Verse 16 and 17 give us the blessing of knowing that God will take care of us and our future is bright. Our victory in Jesus brings a life of no sorrow, no tears and no fears.
Summary of Chapter 7:
We take a break between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals. John is given some additional insight into the time of the Great Tribulation before if occurs. The angels hold back the judgment process until the Holy Spirit can place His seal on the 144,000 believers of the nation of Israel who are given a special mission during the Great Tribulation.
John is blessed with the knowledge that during the terrible times that will follow souls will be saved from every nation, tribe and tongue. The number of them is so large it can not be counted.
We now return to the opening of the seals. The events of Chapters 4-11 are continuous except for the parentheses or break of Chapter 7 and another that occurs in 10:1 through 11:14.
Some see the events of seal judgments and the trumpets judgment as simultaneous or concurrent. However, this is not possible since the seventh seal contains the seven trumpet judgments. And as we will see later, the seventh trumpet includes the seven bowel or vial judgments. Therefore, there is an orderly progression throughout the judgment process.
Beginning with Chapter 12 we return to the nation of Israel and its last days. We will explore this idea in detail as we look at Chapter 12. The bowel or vial judgments come in succession in Chapters 15 -16.
The severity of the judgments is like nothing ever seen on earth. Therefore I disagree with those that say that we have and are now experiencing these judgments. Jesus told us that we will experience times of wars, pestilences and earthquakes but these are not the end. He referred to them as “only the beginning or sorrows. The natural disasters we are experiencing today pale to the ones we will see unveiled in the judgments that follow.
Trumpets are used through Scripture to announce special events. Here to they are used to announce a series of events that move us from judgment to the reign of Christ. The rapture of the church will occur with the blowing of trumpets (1 Thes. 4:16). The walls of Jericho fell at the sounding of the trumpets (Josh. 6:13-20). Judges 7:16-22 teaches us that the Midianites were defeated by Gideon when the trumpets were blown. And when the Law was given at Mt. Sinai the people were called together with the sounding of trumpets
“When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half and hour.”
The “He” is Jesus Christ. Remember the Lamb was the only one found to be worthy to open the scroll containing the sealed judgments.
A hush falls over the throne room. The elders, the four living creatures, the angels all fall silent. All of creation knows that this is the calm before the storm. A storm like never before seen, the storm to end all storms is about to be unleashed on earth.
The silence is brief.
“2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.”
Each of the seven angels will in turn sound his trumpet to announce the opening of one of the trumpet judgments by Jesus. We are not given detail information as to who these angels are; therefore, to try to identify them is useless.
Others do try to connect them to the angels Uriel, Raphael, Michael, Sariel, Gabriel and Remeiel of the book of Enoch in the apocryphal.
“3 Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.”
“4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.”
“5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.”
We should not overlook the use of incense. Incense is one of the offerings detailed in Exodus 25. It is a mixture of aromatic spices. The incense used in worship in the Old Testament was prepared according to exacting specifications and was offered only by the high priest.
It is clear that the angel is not one of the seven. Notice the following;
1. the angel offered prayers of the saints in addition to the incense
2. from the angel’s hand the smoke of the incense and the prayers passed to God.
3. the angel threw fire to the earth causing an earthquake.
It is widely held that the angel is Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the High Priest whom is qualified to do all these things.
Many hold that this is another example of God dealing with Israel and unbelievers. Jesus is not functioning as the Advocate of overcomers of church age here because the church is already in heaven. The golden altar, the incense and a golden censer all are part of Old Testament worship.
We have moved from the beginning of Tribulation in Chapter 6 to the beginning of the Great Tribulation period.
The prayers are those of the Tribulation saints and they are beseeching God to punish their enemies. In answer to their prayers, Jesus throws flaming coals to the earth. H. B. Swete says, “The prayers of the saints are returning to the earth in wrath.”
In the literal view, on earth the seven trumpet judgments are introduced by violent disturbances of nature.
“6 So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.”
“7 The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up and all green grass was burned up.”
The seven trumpet judgments are more difficult to define than the seal judgments we have seen so far. Many see them as literal while many others see them as solely symbolic. Like the seal judgments they are divided into two groups of four and three. The first four represent the four points of the compass. Four is often a number associated with earth. The last three suggest the Trinity. These last three are also referred to as the woe judgments because of their extreme severity.
The first four trumpets affect man’s natural environment and the last three man himself.
As symbols, hail speaks of sudden judgment from God (Isa. 28:2); fire of God’s wrath (Deut. 32:22) and blood of death (Eze. 14:19).
So if we consider only the symbolic viewpoint, death suddenly and surprisingly is poured out on earth because of God’s wrath in judgment.
If we consider only the literal viewpoint, man’s environment is suddenly impacted to the point that 1/3 of the earth’s vegetation is destroyed.
The results are the same. Notice also the events whether symbolic or literal where thrown to the earth ---- they did not just fall. This is yet another sign of purpose and authority in God’s judgment.
“8 Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood,”
“9 And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.”
Whether we take a literal or symbolic viewpoint the results are that man’s food supply, commerce, and ability to travel are greatly reduced.
There are numerous ideas as to what the “great mountain burning with fire” could be. If taken literally, a comet or asteroid comes to my mind.
Symbolically, a mountain can be considered to be some great kingdom or power that would come crashing down. The sea is seen by some to be the Mediterranean because of its physical proximity to the Promised Land.
We can be sure that when it does occur, those who are living on earth will know something terrible has happened.
“10 Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.”
“11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.”
Wormwood is a bitter and poisonous herb. It can produce convulsions, paralysis and even death.
Some interpreters see this as symbolic of a church leader or some other dignitary whose corruption poisons the spiritual life of the masses. The poisoning of the springs could indicate false doctrine that is taught to oncoming generations who blindly follow the corrupt leader. (See notes for Chapter 9:1-2)
If it is indeed a celestial phenomenon, it is wide spread. The water table is infected and it spreads to underground streams and springs.
In either case, men die because of the poisonous event. Things continue to grow worse and worse.
“12 Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night,”
There are and have been numerous viewpoints to this section of Scripture. Some go as far as to name persons, places, rulers, religious groups, and a variety of doctrines. I can find no Biblical support for such details; therefore, such viewpoints must be seen as only conjecture.
I am well convinced that as the events begin to unfold those who are present on earth will be fully aware of the judgment being poured out on them.
Why do we see the repeated use of one-third? I believe God in His wisdom understands that the judgments must be server enough to not be considered as ordinary or somehow natural events. His desire is always for repentance. His is giving mankind yet another opportunity to repent and turn to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Many scholars point out the similarity to the darkness of the plague in Egypt. The literal view would see a damaged sun, moon and stars. This would completely and dramatically change to order of the universe. Temperatures, tides, gravity and numerous other physical properties would be altered.
Jesus warned us in Matthew 24:29, “Immediately, after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
We must remember that we can not discount the literal because of scientific improbability. God is the Creator of science and the universe, He is still in control. Since He made the laws of science and nature to begin with, He certainly has the power to alter them.
“13 And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound.”
Consider all that has already occurred. And understand the angel is saying the judgments to come are much worse. The last three judgments are also known as the Woe Judgments.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:21 about this time, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
Adam and Eve were warned not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:13). The Scriptures warns us over and over to repent and turn from our sin. We can never say we have not been warned of God’s ultimate judgment!