“The Seven Seals of the Lamb” (Revelation Chapters 6, 8, 9; 11:15-19)
Introduction (Part 1)
A New Revelation Needed.
It was around 95 AD and all of the Apostles were now dead except the Apostle John who was a very old man who had been exiled to the Penal Colony on the island of Patmos because of his testimony to the Lord Jesus and affirmation to the revelation of God’s Word. (Revelation 1:1-2, 9) The wider Body of the Messiah was hard-pressed by opposition and persecution. The letters written by Paul and others were circulating among the Churches. John himself had written his gospel and his three Epistles.
However, the Church needed to be reassured that God was still in control of world events and that the Lord Jesus was still sovereign over the nations. Today more than ever the Body of the Messiah needs to know that the resurrected and glorified Lamb of God still has everything under His control and sovereignty.
For the believers in the Messiah in John’s time they needed to know that the Lord Jesus was coming back to judge the world, to deliver His people out of the hands of those who persecuted them and to set up His Kingdom on earth. They needed a further revelation of this great truth yet to be realised on earth. It was the Lord Jesus Himself who gave this revelation to John.
In John’s time the antichrists were the Pagan Roman Emperors who were worshipped as deity and of course faithful believers could not worship the Lord Jesus as God incarnate and Caesar as a ‘god’ at the same time, and for this they were imprisoned, persecuted and killed at the behest and whim of the Caesars of Rome. Every Roman Emperor was a type of or foreshadowing of the Antichrist to come. What the Pagan Roman Emperors did to believers teaches us about what the Antichrist will do to believers at the end of the age.
Then there were many antichrists around in John’s time namely those who had been part of the Christian Assemblies at one time who had left because they denied the eternal pre-existence and deity of the Messiah and His eternal relationship with His Father. They denied that the Lord Jesus was God manifested in a flesh and blood body and that He is the only way of salvation. They could not accept that the Lord Jesus was fully God and fully man in the one person. (1 John 2:18-23; 4:1-3) (John 14:6) (Acts 4:12)
The Bible of the First Century believers
The only Bible the believers had in the first Century was the Old Testament. Of course they also had access to the letters of the Apostles which had not been collated at that time. While the first century believers knew the Lord Jesus was coming back they needed to be encouraged in the face of severe persecution and martyrdom. Much of the symbolism used in the Book of Revelation comes out from the Old Testament such as the Books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah.
Allegorical and Literal
Throughout the entire Book of revelation we find allegory as well as descriptions of literal events and they are interwoven together throughout the entire text. One example is that in Revelation Chapter 12 John uses allegory and symbolism to describe literal events on earth and entities at work in the unseen spiritual realm and at work on earth. One is a reflection of the other. They are not separate from one another but describe and connect what is happening in the heavens with what is happening on earth.
In Heaven and on earth
Throughout the Book we are taken into the heavenly realms where time does not exist as it does down here. We see visions of heaven and of spiritual warfare in the atmosphere above the surface of the earth where Satan and his minions from Hades operate. (Ephesians 2:2) Also we see literal events described on earth. Events happening on earth are a reflection of what is happening behind the scenes in the unseen spiritual realm. For example in the Book of Daniel we see a battle going on in the unseen spiritual realm related to events on earth. (Daniel 10:12-14; 20-21)
Three time frames
The Book of Revelation applies to three time frames. Firstly, it applies to the Body of the Messiah in John’s time, and John wrote to seven literal churches that existed. Secondly it applies to the Body of the Messiah down through every age of the Church. Thirdly, it applies to the Body of the Messiah at the end of this present age depicting seven types of Churches that will exist in the last days. The number seven in scripture is the perfect number that represents a perfect and complete work that God does. While the individual churches in John’s time had differing situations we can see these same things happening today within wider Christendom.
God does not change
What has happened in the past concerning world events and nations teaches us about what will happen in the future. The way God has spoken and acted in the past is the same way He will speak and act in the future because He does not change and neither does His Word change as it will say the same thing tomorrow as it does today. (Malachi 3:6) (Psalm 119:89) One example is that the plagues we see in the Book of Exodus surface again in the Book of Revelation. Exodus and Revelation is like a loaf of bread that looks the same at both ends.
A Vision of the Glorified Messiah
The Book of revelation is called the Revelation of Jesus the Messiah and the first revelation He gives to John is a vision of His eternal and absolute sovereignty and glory in the heavens and His absolute sovereignty over man. He reveals Himself to John as a glorified resurrected man with awesome power and splendour as He did to Ezekiel and Daniel before He was in a flesh and blood body. (Ezekiel 1:26-28) (Daniel 10:4-6) It was the same Jesus, the Living and Eternal Word of God Himself who has always been God, existed in God the Father, and was face to face with God and the one who became fully human and tabernacled among us. (John 1:1-2, 14) (1 John 1:1-4) Both Ezekiel and Daniel saw the Lord Jesus in His eternal glory before He became flesh and yet He had the form of a man. When John saw the Lord Jesus he was looking at a resurrected glorified man and one who had ascended to His former glory in Heaven. (Revelation 1:12-18)
God is still in charge
The Lord Jesus was saying to His apostle whom He loved, “I am still in control of everything on earth, under the earth and in the heavens!” After telling John what to write to the Churches He takes John up into the very throne room of God Himself where He sits with His heavenly council. (Psalm 82:1) He is attended by myriads of angels, spirit beings and by the spirits of those saints who have already gone to heaven after they have physically died. (Hebrews 12:22-23) All of them are before the throne of God in eternity where time does not exist as it does down here on earth. We see this depicted in Revelation chapter 4. What a vision for the persecuted saints of God! The Lord Jesus is over all of His creation in the heavens, on earth and in the sea and under the earth. (Psalm 104) He is worshipped in every sphere of existence in time as we know it down here on earth and out of time in eternity. He is saying to his servant John “I have everything under control and I want you and My people to know this.”
The Tri-Unity of God
In Chapter five we see Tri-Unity of the Godhead. God was sitting on His throne in His Heavenly Court and in His right hand He held a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. It was a complete number and a record of the Panorama of history from the time of John to the end of the age when the Messiah would return to earth to set up His Millennial Messianic Kingdom and ultimately transitioning into the final perfect and eternal state. (Revelation Chapters 21-22)
Then at the centre of the throne stood the Lamb of God, the one who had freed His people from their sins by His atoning and cleansing blood and made them to be a Kingdom of Priests to serve God His Father on earth and in His heavenly court in eternity. (Revelation 1:5b-6) Then John sees the seven fold Spirit, namely the Holy Spirit Himself who is also co-equal in all of His divine attributes with the Father and with the Son as they are One God. (Elohim and Echud)
The one who controls history
In John’s vision no one was found worthy to open the seals except the Lamb Himself who stepped forward and took the scroll out of the right hand of the one who sat upon the throne. At this act every living being surrounding the throne fell face down and worshipped Him. In this eternal realm out of time John sees every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all that is in them singing praises to and worshipping the Lamb in His eternal splendour. As the Lamb at the centre of the throne of God steps out from the Father and steps forward to open the seals He is saying that He as God controls history.
When we look at the seven seals in the Book of Revelation we see descriptive and symbolic language used but they are describing literal events on earth. John was a first century man who had never seen modern skyscrapers, technology, weapons, tanks, ships, missiles and planes and nuclear fall-out, pollution, ecological disasters, famines, earthquakes, pestilences and death on an unprecedented global scale. John was a first century man trying to describe future historical events and end-time events in a modern day world.
Between the sixth and the seventh seal
The seven seals in Chapters 6-9; 11:15-19 mirror Matthew Chapter 24:1-31. In both passages you have spiritual deception, war, famine, death, persecution of believers and the shaking of the constellations. (Revelation 6:12-14) (Matthew 24:29) In Matthew Chapter 24: 29-31 you have the rapture and resurrection of the saints immediately after the tribulation of those days. We see this mirrored in Revelation Chapter 7 where we see the redeemed Jews and Gentiles as well as individual saints coming out of great Tribulation. (Revelation 7:14) It seems we are actually seeing the rapture and resurrection between the sixth and the seventh seal.
The believers are seen coming out of great tribulation (thlipsis). In the Greek text it is rendered in the continuous present tense. Tribulation is not wrath, as there are two different Greek words used to describe God’s wrath, one is “orge” and the other word is “thumos.” Whenever a believer in the Lord Jesus dies physically the Lord Jesus has come for them and they go to join Him in the Heavenly Kingdom. (2 Corinthians 5:8) John sees faithful believers in every age coming out of tribulation and this also telescopes to the end of the age when the reminder of the Body of the Messiah still living on earth is corporately raptured and resurrected immediately after the tribulation (thlipsis) of those days. (Matthew 24:29-31) These John sees are those coming out of great tribulation. Since the first century faithful believers have been in tribulation (thlipsis) and have been coming out of tribulation when they died physically, but for the last three and a half years of this present age it becomes the time of Great Tribulation or we could say the Time of the Big Trouble!
The Seventh Seal
When the seventh seal is opened we see a set of seven trumpets announcing to the world the seven bowls of God’s wrath. Believers are not destined for this time of wrath which happens just before the return of the Messiah to earth. As the saints go up to meet the Lord Jesus at the rapture and resurrection, the wrath comes down. Immediately after the time of wrath has finished the saints will return with the Lord Jesus to earth. All resistance to the establishment of His Messianic Kingdom on earth will be annihilated and Israel as a nation will be saved. These are consecutive events with no space of time in between and together they comprise the day of the Lord. The Day of the LORD is a series of events that occur chronologically, one after the other and culminating in the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.
God is the God of history
Even though there is a lot of allegory and symbolism throughout the entire Book of Revelation it is all rooted in historical events on earth. God is the God of History and He has said; “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:9-10) God still has everything under control and He wanted his servant John to know this and to pass it on to the corporate Body of the Messiah, the faithful Assembly! He wants us as bond-slaves of the Lord Jesus to know this too and especially so as we see the Time of the Big Trouble rapidly approaching.
The Alpha and the Omega
As the Lord Jesus has said; “Let the unrighteous continue to be unrighteous, and the vile continue to be vile; let the righteous continue to practice righteousness, and the holy continue to be holy.” “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to each one according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”(Revelation 22:11-12) The Lord Jesus in effect is saying to the unsaved “if you want to go on sinning and rebelling and living it up and having a good time go ahead as you haven’t much more time, but be assured you will live eternally with the consequences.”
He is saying to the righteous; “continue to become more righteous in action and holy in heart because you too have a reward to look forward to that will last forever and I will personally bestow it upon you because you have faithfully endured to the end.” He is also saying to John that He has always existed and will always exist and that every single person that has lived and will live who have the capacity to choose will have to give an account to Him personally when He judges the thoughts, the words and the action of all men and women. (Romans 2:16) (1 Corinthians 4:5) The only ones who will not be in this judgement will be those who are walking in the faith that produces obedience to the word of God and exercising the same kind of faith in the atoning blood of the Messiah. Make much of the Blood of the Messiah as it will redeem, protect, preserve, cleanse and keep you from the coming wrath of God! (1 John 1:7-9) (Ephesians 1:7) (Romans 5:9)