The seven seals of Revelation

Beginning in Revelation chapter 4, the Apostle John is given a vision of the throne room of God at the end of the age and the second coming of Jesus Christ. There are powerful angels, worshiping elders, marvelously radiant light beyond description and on the throne is God the Father, and in His hand is a scroll sealed with seven seals. Contained in the scroll are the judgments of God against a sinful world. If the scroll cannot be opened then wickedness would not be judged and evil and suffering will continue on the earth, a hopeless situation which brings the Apostle John to tears (Revelation 5:3-4). However, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ death and sin are defeated making Jesus worthy to open the scroll and bring judgment upon sinful man.

 The seals are outside of the scroll and prevent the scroll from being opened. The first five seals describe the darkest, most sinful days on the earth, the sixth seal protects God’s people from the judgments to come and the seventh seal opens the scroll itself and begins the Day of the Lord.

 The first seal – Antichrist / Deception

 "As I watched, the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals on the scroll. Then I heard one of the four living beings say with a voice like thunder, "Come!" I looked up and saw a white horse standing there. Its rider carried a bow, and a crown was placed on his head. He rode out to win many battles and gain the victory." (Revelation 6:1-2 NLT)

 With the opening of the first scroll comes the first of the infamous four horsemen of the apocalypse.  The antichrist is here permitted to enter the world scene. He begins by consolidating his power on earth and enforces a treaty with the people of Israel.

 "Jesus told them, "Don't let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah.' They will deceive many." (Matthew 24:4-5 NLT)

 "Then I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. It had seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns on its horns. And written on each head were names that blasphemed God. ... Then I saw another beast come up out of the earth. He had two horns like those of a lamb, but he spoke with the voice of a dragon." (Revelation 13:1, 11 NLT)

 "The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him."" (Daniel 9:27 NLT)

 The second seal – War

 "When the Lamb broke the second seal, I heard the second living being say, "Come!" Then another horse appeared, a red one. Its rider was given a mighty sword and the authority to take peace from the earth. And there was war and slaughter everywhere." (Revelation 6:3-4 NLT)

 The appearance of the antichrist is quickly followed by war, most likely a result of his attempt to grab power and its likely these battles will surround the nation of Israel.

 "And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don't panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won't follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. …" (Matthew 24:6-7a NLT)

 ""The king will do as he pleases, exalting himself and claiming to be greater than every god, even blaspheming the God of gods. He will succeed, but only until the time of wrath is completed. For what has been determined will surely take place. He will have no respect for the gods of his ancestors, or for the god loved by women, or for any other god, for he will boast that he is greater than them all. Instead of these, he will worship the god of fortresses--a god his ancestors never knew--and lavish on him gold, silver, precious stones, and expensive gifts. Claiming this foreign god's help, he will attack the strongest fortresses. He will honor those who submit to him, appointing them to positions of authority and dividing the land among them as their reward. "Then at the time of the end, the king of the south will attack the king of the north. The king of the north will storm out with chariots, charioteers, and a vast navy. He will invade various lands and sweep through them like a flood. He will enter the glorious land of Israel, and many nations will fall, but Moab, Edom, and the best part of Ammon will escape. He will conquer many countries, and even Egypt will not escape." (Daniel 11:36-42 NLT)

 The third seal – Famine

"When the Lamb broke the third seal, I heard the third living being say, "Come!" I looked up and saw a black horse, and its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice from among the four living beings say, "A loaf of wheat bread or three loaves of barley will cost a day's pay. And don't waste the olive oil and wine."" (Revelation 6:5-6 NLT)

 With the third seal comes a devastating famine, likely the result of the wars being fought with the release of the second seal. But this is a disproportionate famine, the grain is scarce, it must be measured very carefully and sold at twelve times its normal price costing an entire day’s work for a small loaf of bread. But the luxuries produced for the rich, the oil and the wine, are still produced in abundance. The common folk cannot afford them, they are spending all their money on basic needs but the rich are indulging instead of helping the needy. This seal describes scarcity in the midst of prosperity; the rich get richer as the poor get poorer.

 "Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come." (Matthew 24:7-8 NLT)

 The Temple Desecration

 It is my belief that these first three horsemen will bring us three and half years into the final seven years of this current age. It is because of the descriptions of the fourth, fifth and sixth seal and the timing laid out in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 that I hold to this opinion. Before we get to the final four seals it is important to note that a significant event takes place at the mid-point of this time period. The temple will be rebuilt either before or during the first three seals and the Jewish nation is offering animal sacrifices in worship in accordance to Old Testament tradition. At this time antichrist invades Jerusalem, enters into the temple and proclaims himself to be God and demands to be worshiped. The false prophet will set up an image of the antichrist, most likely in the temple, and demand that people use it to worship the antichrist. Once he demands the world worship him as god he will slaughter anyone who does not worship him be they Jew, Christian or any other religion, a time known as the great tribulation which I believe occurs at the fourth seal.

 ""The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about--the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place." (Reader, pay attention!) "Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. ... For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again." (Matthew 24:15-16, 21 NLT)

 "The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him."" (Daniel 9:27 NLT)

 "Don't be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don't believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. Don't be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed--the one who brings destruction. He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God." (2 Thessalonians 2:2-4 NLT)

 "And with all the miracles he was allowed to perform on behalf of the first beast, he deceived all the people who belong to this world. He ordered the people to make a great statue of the first beast, who was fatally wounded and then came back to life. He was then permitted to give life to this statue so that it could speak. Then the statue of the beast commanded that anyone refusing to worship it must die." (Revelation 13:14-15 NLT)

 The fourth seal – Death and Tribulation

 "When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living being say, "Come!" I looked up and saw a horse whose color was pale green. Its rider was named Death, and his companion was the Grave. These two were given authority over one-fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword and famine and disease and wild animals." (Revelation 6:7-8 NLT)

 "And the beast was allowed to wage war against God's holy people and to conquer them. And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation. And all the people who belong to this world worshiped the beast. They are the ones whose names were not written in the Book of Life before the world was made--the Book that belongs to the Lamb who was slaughtered. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison. Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword. This means that God's holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful." (Revelation 13:7-10 NLT)

 In 1940, the world population was 2.26 billion people. 5.93 million Jews were killed during the holocaust of 1945. As horrific as that number is, the death toll is only 0.26 percent of the population. The death toll that is coming in the great tribulation at the fourth seal is “over one-fourth of the earth”. That is over 25 percent of the population. The current world population is 7.51 billion people. If this event occurs today it will mean that Antichrist will kill 1,877,500,000 (1.88 billion) people. It is with all seriousness that Jesus describes this time period as being the worst anguish in all of history and if God did not intervene not a single person would be left. But within this same prediction of horror is the affirmation that the gospel will be preached throughout the whole world.

 ""Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. ... And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. ... For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God's chosen ones. "Then if anyone tells you, 'Look, here is the Messiah,' or 'There he is,' don't believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God's chosen ones." (Matthew 24:9-11, 14, 21-24 NLT)

 The book of Mark gives a clearer picture of how this great tribulation will be used by God for a great proclamation.

 ""When these things begin to happen, watch out! You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. For the Good News must first be preached to all nations. But when you are arrested and stand trial, don't worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit." (Mark 13:9-11 NLT)

 The great tribulation will be a horrendous time period and will mean the death of over 1.88 billion people making Hitler’s holocaust look like a walk in the park. Satan is waging war on God’s chosen people with ruthless precision all over the world. A single martyr can be a very convincing witness. One of the most famous who comes immediately to mind is Jim Elliott who was slain by the Wuaorani Indians, a tribe who later came to faith thanks to the witness of Jim Elliott and his wife after his death. Cassie Bernall is another famous martyr who died for her faith in the columbine shootings on April 20, 1999 who’s legacy has touched millions around the country. These two martyrs alone have touched the lives of millions. The great tribulation will boast over 1.88 billion martyrs who will die proclaiming the gospel all over the world.

 The Fifth seal – Martyrs comforted

 "When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. They shouted to the Lord and said, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?" Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters--their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred--had joined them." (Revelation 6:9-11 NLT)

 Remember Revelation, the end of the age, is about Jesus and it is about hope! Yes, the tribulation will be a time of great persecution for believers and Israelites. Many professing believers will be deceived and lead astray or will simply abandon their faith but those who remain faithful, those who are jailed, tortured, beheaded for their faith will boldly speak the gospel all over the world. The good news will be preached to all nations and God will do that by turning the greatest tribulation into the greatest revival.

 Death is not the end for the martyr. These tribulation saints are granted their own seal where in they plead their case before the throne of the God of the universe and God grants them a white robe of righteousness and promises to bring justice at the right time, which is fast approaching. The time of greatest anguish is followed by the time of our greatest hope, eternal life in the very presence of God!

 The 6th seal – the Rapture

 "I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from a tree shaken by a strong wind. The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places. Then everyone--the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person--all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive?"" (Revelation 6:12-17 NLT)

 ""Immediately after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world--from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven." (Matthew 24:29-31 NLT)

 ""At that time Michael, the archangel who stands guard over your nation, will arise. Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence. But at that time every one of your people whose name is written in the book will be rescued. Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace." (Daniel 12:1-2 NLT)

 "And I saw another angel coming up from the east, carrying the seal of the living God. And he shouted to those four angels, who had been given power to harm land and sea, "Wait! Don't harm the land or the sea or the trees until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants." And I heard how many were marked with the seal of God--144,000 were sealed from all the tribes of Israel: ... After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, "Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!"" (Revelation 7:2-4, 9-10 NLT)

 Several things occur at this seal which I don’t want you to miss.

 First off there are signs in the heavens, the sun goes dark, stars vanish and the people of earth are given a glimpse of heaven, God the father is on the throne and Jesus is approaching. This is the first time in the Revelation account that God interferes in the events on earth and makes His presence powerfully known. Up until this time you could be ignorant of the events taking place around you. Yes, things are bad on the earth but life goes on, stay calm and carry on, etc. There will be warnings, but like Noah’s preaching and his unusual boat, they will be ignored and people will simply go about their day in willful ignorance. Right up until the sixth seal. With the unmistakable signs in the sky above us God will make sure that He has our attention.

 Mankind has reached his darkest hour and the time has come for Jesus to rescue and to judge. Believers will be rescued with the rapture, rescued from persecution and spared the coming wrath of God. 144,000 Jewish evangelists will be given special protection, the seal of God on their foreheads, protection that will enable them to endure the Day of the Lord and be a witness unto Israel. With the church now removed God’s plan now refocuses on the nation of Israel, on its protection and its salvation. In this protection and rescue there is hope for the days ahead.

 For the rest of the world, the Day of the Lord is not a day of hope, but of despair. For the unbeliever the approach of Jesus is a sight of great fear, not joy. Even here, as they see God with their own eyes they cling to the lies of this world and refuse repentance. If you continue to read through Revelation you will see that with most, if not all of the judgments it is recorded that the people still refuse to repent. Each trumpet call, each bowl judgment is another chance to turn from pride and receive forgiveness but still they cling to sin and rebellion.

 Jesus is coming again. Does that promise give you hope or dread?

The Seventh seal- The Scroll Opens
 "When the Lamb broke the seventh seal on the scroll, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour. I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and they were given seven trumpets." (Revelation 8:1-2 NLT)

With this seal broken the scroll opens, the trumpet judgments are prepared to sound and the Day of the Lord begins.