Friday, May 29, 2009

Revelation 19

Chapter 19 continues the reaction of heaven to the destruction of Jerusalem.

“After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.’ Again they said, ‘Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!’” (Revelation 19:1-3).

Those in heaven rejoice because God has judged Jerusalem, the great harlot who polluted the land with idolatry and killed the saints.

“And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, ‘Amen! Alleluia!’ Then a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!’ And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’ And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’” (Revelation 19:4-10).

God is praised for caring out his vengeance. As Jerusalem is destroyed and the last vestiges of the Old Creation are put away, the Lamb is preparing to take a new bride, the church. She wears fine linen, which is a symbol of the righteous acts of the saints.

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-16).

This is obviously a description of Jesus. Many see this as a portrayal of the second coming, and there are probably typological parallels between this description and the second coming.

However, if we keep in mind the context of the book of Revelation, we understand that this is Jesus coming in judgment. As Jesus comes in judgment, so the church also expands through the preaching of the word, which is the sword coming out of Jesus’ mouth. The great commission is being fulfilled.

“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.’ And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Revelation 19:17-21).

Those who survived the destruction of Jerusalem are eventually taken out, including the beast and the false prophet.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Revelation 18 (The Fall of Baylon [Jerusalem])

Revelation 18 describes the destruction of Babylon (Jerusalem).

“After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, ‘Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury’” (Revelation 8:1-3).

Jerusalem (Babylon) has fallen. This is classic Old Testament language to describe the apostasy of Israel.

“And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ Therefore her plagues will come in one day--death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her’” (Revelation 18:4-8).

God’s people are supposed to flee Jerusalem before the final wrath is poured out (cf. Matthew 24:15). Two lamentations come next.

“The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come’” (Revelation 18:9-10).

The first is the lamentation of the kings of the earth (land), that is the religious leaders.

“And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore: merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men. The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all. The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, `Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! ‘For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’ They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate’” (Revelation 18:11-19).

The second is the lamentation of the merchants. The merchandise listed matches that used to build the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:4-7) and the Temple (1 Chronicles 28-29). All the nations that assisted Israel in building the Tabernacle and the Temple are now lamenting her destruction.

“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!” (Revelation 18:20).

While the earth weeps for Jerusalem, heaven rejoices.

“Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore. The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore. The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth’” (Revelation 18:21-24).

The archangel casts a mighty stone into the sea, signifying that the surviving Jews will be scattered among the Gentiles. The city will be destroyed.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Revelation 17 (The Babylonian Harlot)

Outline of Revelation

1) The Vision of Jesus (Revelation 1)

2) Seven Churches (Revelation 2-3)

3) Jesus Takes the Scroll (Revelation 4-5)

4) Seven Seals (Revelation 6:1-8:5) – expansion and persecution of the church

5) Seven Trumpets (Revelation 8:6-11:19) – warning judgments

6) The Times of the Trumpets (Revelation 12-14)

7) Seven Bowls (Revelation 15-16) – final judgments

Overview of Revelation 17-20

Chapter 17 – Description of the Babylonian Harlot (Jerusalem)

Chapter 18 – The Fall of Babylon (Jerusalem)

Chapter 19 – The Defeat of Babylon (Jerusalem) and the Beast (Rome)

Chapter 20 – The “Millennium”

Revelation 17

This is a symbolic description of Jerusalem and unbelieving Jews as “the great harlot” and “Babylon.”

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication’” (Revelation 17:1-2).

Jerusalem is about to be judged. She “sits on many waters.” That is, she does not have her own sovereignty but is dependent upon Gentile nations. Indeed, she trusts these foreign nations, rather than Yahweh. She is a harlot, spiritually speaking (Isaiah 1:21, Jeremiah 2:20-24; 2:30-33; 3:1-3; Ezekiel 16; 23; Hosea 9:1).

“So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement” (Revelation 17:3-6).

John sees that the woman (Israel/Jerusalem/Jews) is in the wilderness. Why was she in the wilderness? She was persecuting the church, which had fled to the wilderness (12:14). The Jews were persecuting the church.

The woman is sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and tens horns. This is the sea beast (Rome) from chapter 13. Unbelieving Jews are sitting on Rome in that they are trusting Rome, not Yahweh.

The colors of the woman’s adornment matches those of the Temple and the priesthood. The high priest also wore a gold plate on his forehead that was engraved “holiness to Yahweh” (Exodus 28:36-38). Because the priesthood is now unbelieving, they symbolically wear a plate that identifies them as “Babylon, the mother of harlots.” The priests were the ones that led the persecution of the saints. They are “drunk” with the blood of the saints and martyrs.

Most Reformers saw the Babylonian harlot as the Roman Catholic church. We can certainly see similarities between how the Reformers were persecuted and how the first century church was persecuted. In fact, every person in every age who is persecuted can find similarities between their persecutors and the original persecutors of the first century church.

These are typological parallels, and these are legitimate connections. The Reformers were right in seeing typological parallels between the Roman Catholic Church of their day and the Babylonian harlot of Revelation 17. However, they were wrong to make an absolute identification.

“But the angel said to me, ‘Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time’” (Revelation 17:7-10).

The Beast (Rome) himself will eventually be destroyed, which will cause the world to marvel. The woman (harlot = Jerusalem) sits on seven heads, which are seven mountains. Rome was built on seven hills.

John learns that these seven mountains are also seven kings. Here, we gain insight into the time that Revelation was written.

John is told about seven kings of Rome. Five kings have fallen, or died. The sixth king is still alive, and the seventh king is not reigning yet.

Starting with Julius Caesar, the sixth king is Nero, and the seventh is Vespasian. When John recorded the book of Revelation, Nero was reigning, which dates the book to between AD 54-68.

“‘And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition. The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.’

Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth’” (Revelation 17:11-18).

There is a lot of detail here that describes the relationship between Rome and Jerusalem, but we are going to skip over it for now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Revelation 15-16 (The Seven Bowls)

In Revelation 12, there were two signs in heaven (the woman in 12:1 and the dragon in 12:3). We see a third sign in Revelation 15.

“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete” (Revelation 15:1).

The third sign is the seven angels, who have the seven plagues (bowls), which will complete the wrath of God on Jerusalem, which is a response to the martyrdom of the saints.

“And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested’” (Revelation 15:2-4).

The saints have been martyred. They are now in heaven, worshiping God. Next, the attention returns to the seven angels with the seven plagues.

“After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and having their chests girded with golden bands. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever. The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple till the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed. Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth’” (Revelation 15:5-16:1).

One of the four archangels gives each of the seven angels a bowl of the wrath of God and commands them to pour them out. As we shall see, the first four bowls are similar to the first four trumpets.

The First Bowl

“So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image” (Revelation 16:2).

The first bowl of wrath is poured out upon the earth (geo = land of Israel). This is against the unbelieving Jews who worshiped Caesar instead of Jesus.

The Second Bowl
“Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died” (Revelation 16:3).

The second bowl of wrath is poured out on the sea, which is a symbol of the Gentiles. The Gentiles who participated in the persecution will be judged.

The Third Bowl
“Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying: ‘You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, And You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.’ And I heard another from the altar saying, ‘Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments’” (Revelation 16:4-7).

The third bowl of wrath is poured out on the rivers and the springs of water, which are symbols of the Temple. The priests and the Levites led the Jewish persecution of the saints. The saints who cried “How long?” in 6:10, now say “Even so” (amen) in 16:7.

The Fourth Bowl

“Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory” (Revelation 16:8-9).

The fourth bowl is poured out on the sun, which is a symbol of Jewish rulers, particularly the high priest.

The Fifth Bowl
“Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds” (Revelation 16:10-11).

The fifth bowl is poured out on the beast, Nero (Rome). Nero dies in torment and pain.

The Sixth Bowl
“Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. ‘Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.’ And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Revelation 16:12-16).

The sixth bowl is poured out on the Euphrates. When Rome surrounded Jerusalem with her armies, they were supported by troops from the east.

John also sees three demons coming out of the dragon (Satan), the beast (Nero/Rome), and the false prophet (the high priest). These demons deceive the people into a battle royal.

The battle is going to take place at “Armageddon.” Armageddon does not mean “apocalypse.” It is a place. In Hebrew, it is actually Harmagedon, which is made up of two words: har meaning mountain and maged meaning festival assembly.

Harmagedon is a reference to Mount Sinai. There will be a final battle at the temple on Mount Sinai. This battle will be further described in chapter 19.

The Seventh Bowl
“Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great” (Revelation 16:17-21).

The seventh bowl is poured into the air. The full wrath of God has been poured out. The language of cosmic destruction is the final destruction of the temple, the city, and the entire Old Covenant system.

The Seven Bowls (Revelation 15:5-16:21)
1) Judgment against Land (Israel)
2) Judgment against Sea (Gentiles)
3) Judgment against Waters (Temple)
4) Judgment against Heavens (Jewish Rulers)
5) Judgment against the Sea Beast (Rome/Nero)
6) The Battle of Armageddon (Mount Sinai)
7) The Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Revelation 14

In Revelation 7, John witnessed the sealing of these 144,000. Now, in Revelation 14, John witnesses the martyrdom of this multitude of Jewish Christians.

“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God” (Revelation 14:1-5).

These 144,000 are the firstfruits of the New Covenant, as well as the final harvest from the Old Covenant.

Next, three angels make pronouncements.

“Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth--to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people – saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water’” (Revelation 14:6-7).

The first angel commands that these martyrs are to preach the gospel to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.

“And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication’” (Revelation 14:8).

The second angel announces that Babylon has fallen. Babylon is a symbolic name for Jerusalem, who has become apostate. God will later describe Jerusalem as a great harlot who is guilty of fornicating with the nations.

“Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.’

Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”’

‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them’” (Revelation 14:9-13).

Whoever worships the sea beast (Nero) will suffer the wrath of God forever. Conversely, the saints who are martyred will receive eternal comfort.

“Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped” (Revelation 14:14-16).

Jesus is the One like the Son of Man with a golden crown. He thrusts his sickle into the earth and reaps. This is the salvation and martyrdom of the 144,000. Jesus said that the fields were ripe for the harvest, and now he reaps his harvest. This is the grain harvest.

“Then another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire, and he cried with a loud cry to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Thrust in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe.’ So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs” (Revelation 14:17-20).

Another angel cries out for another harvest, the grape harvest. Grain and grapes produce bread and wine. This is a sacramental harvest of the church.

The saints (symbolically grapes) are martyred outside the city (Jerusalem), just as Jesus was. The blood from their martyrdom fuels the winepress of the wrath of God. The blood of the martyrs covers the land and cries out for vengeance. This vengeance comes with the pouring out of the bowls of wrath.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Revelation 13

Revelation 13 describes how the church will be persecuted by Rome.

“Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority” (Revelation 13:1-2).

“A beast rising up out of the sea” is Rome (the beast) rising up among the Gentiles (the sea). Satan brought this to pass when he used Nero to change Rome’s relationship with the church. Up until then, Rome was the restrainer of the Jewish persecution and the protector of the church. In fact, during the early part of Nero’s reign, from AD 58-64, Nero did not persecute the church.

However, after the Jewish persecution of the church began to wind down, Satan moved Nero to persecute the church, beginning in AD 64. Nero blamed the burning of Rome on Christians.

This imagery of the beast should remind us of Daniel 7. Remember, that God gave Daniel a vision of four animals that would be the caretakers of Israel until the Messiah. The fourth animal, representing the Roman empire, was simply described as a beast. Notice that this beast encompasses the previous three empires: leopard (Greece), bear (Persia), and lion (Babylon).

These four caretakers of Israel can also be divided into seven distinct stages, which are the seven heads.

1. Babylon

2. Persia

3. Greece (under Alexander)

4. Greek Egypt (king of the South from Daniel 11)

5. Greek Syria (king of the North from Daniel 11)

6. Hellenistic Rome

7. Imperialistic Rome (under Nero, AD 64-70)

Just as in Daniel 7, the ten horns are the ten rulers of Rome, starting with Julius Caesar and ending with Vespasian, who was ruler in AD 70, when the temple was destroyed.

“And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’” (Revelation 13:3-4).

This describes the transition from the sixth head to the seventh head. Under Nero, Hellenistic Rome suffers a “mortal wound” and is “healed” when she becomes imperialistic and persecutes the church.

“And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:5-10).

Nero is given forty-two months (3½ years) to persecute the church. He forces all inhabitants of the land of Israel to worship him (verse 8).

“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed” (Revelation 13:11-12).

John now sees a second beast. This beast comes not out of the sea (Gentiles), but out of the earth (geo = land of Israel). This is a Jewish beast, representing the Jewish rulers.He has two horns, like a lamb. However, he is a counterfeit of the true Lamb. The two horns may refer to the twin powers of evil: the Herods and the high priests.

He speaks like a dragon, that is, like Satan. He has all the authority of Nero, and forces those in the land of Israel to worship Nero.

“He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Revelation 13:13-15).

This may be referring to the completion of the Herod’s temple, which was completed in AD 64, the same year that Nero began to persecute the church. The newly built temple emboldened the Jewish leaders to persecute. The fire from heaven may be a reference to the animal sacrifices.

An image of Nero is set up, and worship is commanded under the penalty of death.

“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666” (Revelation 13:16-18).

This is one of the most well-known and least-understood parts of Revelation. The “mark of the beast” is not a literal mark on the forehead or hand. This is not a tattoo or a computer chip. This is classic Old Testament language to describe one’s thoughts (forehead) and deeds (hands). To receive the mark of the beast was to worship the beast, which is the sea beast (Nero).

The “number of the beast” is 666. This is not three sixes in a row, but a number, six hundred and sixty-six. This appears in 1 Kings 10:14 to describe how the weight in talents of the gold Solomon took in annually.

“The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold” (1 Kings 10:14).

Israelite kings were forbidden to multiply gold, women, and horses. Solomon did all three. He collected an “evil” amount of gold, and thus the kingdom was taken from him.

The first century Jewish leaders were thoroughly evil, and so their kingdom was taken from them in AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed.

The number 666 corresponds with the Hebrew (Aramaic script) of Nero’s full name, Nero Caesar. The Hebrew language did not have a separate alphabet and separate numerals. Alphabetic letter also represented numerals, similar to how Roman “numerals” (I, V, X, L, M, etc.) are actually from the Roman alphabet.

In Hebrew, Nero Caesar would have been written: “NRWN QSR.”

N = 50

R = 200

W = 6

N = 50

Q = 100

S = 60

R = 200


John was given a clue to identify the beast. The sum of his name is going to be 666, according to the Hebrew alphabet. This was a message for Jewish believers.

Thus, non-Jewish readers of Revelation would have been confused because in Greek, Nero Caesar adds up to 616. Interestingly, one ancient manuscript lists the number of the beast as 616. Some enlightened scribe changed this so that Gentile readers would understand.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Revelation 12

The seals and the trumpets (Revelation 6-11) describe the themes and characteristics of the period from Pentecost through the Great Tribulation (AD 70). Remember, the Great Tribulation is a time of trouble for believers. Believers are rejected, persecuted, and martyred. This Tribulation for believers leads to God taking vengeance on those who persecute.

Next, we are going to cover Revelation 12-16. Revelation 12:1-15:4 backs up and further describes the times of the seals and trumpets. Revelation 15:5-16:21 describes the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem by the Seven Bowls of Wrath.

In Revelation 12, John is given a new vision, which is a retracing of the birth of the Jesus and of the church. This is described as two signs appearing in the heavens.

“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth” (Revelation 12:1-2).

The first sign is a woman. This woman is Mary (specifically) and Israel (generally). She is pregnant and about to give birth to Jesus.

“And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born” (Revelation 12:3-4).

The second sign is a dragon, who is Satan. He has seven heads with seven diadems and ten horns. These will be explained later.

Satan wants to kill Jesus (specifically) and the church (generally). After the birth of Christ, Satan kills all males under the age of two. After the birth of the church, Satan persecutes and kills those in Jerusalem.

“She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Revelation 12:5-6).

This describes the incarnation, the ascension, and the dispersion. Jesus is born to rule, and so he ascends to heaven to take his throne. Because of persecution, the church flees Jerusalem into the “wilderness.”Again, these visions are not a comprehensive history of Christ and the church, but a selective, thematic history.

The 1,260 days is the exact same period of time that the two witnesses prophesy (Revelation 11:3). This is 3 years and 5½ months. The spiritual battle during this period is described next:

“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7-9).

Michael is an archangel. He and his angels fight against Satan and his angels (demons). This is the heavenly battle behind the earthly persecution. Michael’s side prevails, and Satan and his demons are cast out of heaven.Notice, we see four more names of Satan: dragon, serpent, Devil, and Satan (Revelation 12:9).

“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth {geo=land} and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.’ And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed” (Revelation 12:10-12).

Satan and his demons are kicked out of heaven, firmly establishing the kingdom of Christ in heaven and the church on earth. God has given Satan a short time (forty years) to torment the earth (geo, or land of Israel) and the sea (Gentiles).

“Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child. But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:13-17).

When Satan is cast out of heaven, he enters the temple and persecutes the woman (the church) via the Jews, as described in Acts 3-7. The Jewish believers flee into the wilderness (Acts 8:1), as Satan continues to try to persecute the them, but he is deterred. Instead, Satan goes after “the rest of her offspring,” which are the Gentile Christians.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Revelation 8:7-11:19 (The Seven Trumpets)

The heavenly worship is stopped so that the trumpets can be heard. These trumpets are both a judgment and a warning. They are judgments in that people are punished and die. They are warnings in that they are partial judgments, one-third of the full judgment. At first, God sent a partial judgment as a warning that the people should repent and turn to Christ.

The First Trumpet
“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” (Revelation 8:7).

The first trumpet is a warning to the earth, or land, which is referring to the land of Israel. These are judgments against Jews who had not converted.

The Second Trumpet
“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. And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed” (Revelation 8:8-9).

The second trumpet is a warning against the sea, which is a symbol of the Gentiles. Rome will face losses in this battle as well. They need to repent and turn to Christ.

The Third Trumpet
“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. 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” (Revelation 8:10-11).

The third trumpet is a warning against the rivers and the springs of water, which are symbols of the Temple.

In Revelation, Satan is called by seven different names. The first of these is Wormwood, which is a poisonous plant. Satan had taken over the temple and the priesthood because the Jews had rejected Jesus.

The Fourth Trumpet
“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 them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night. 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!’” (Revelation 8:12-13).

The fourth trumpet is a warning against the rulers and the inhabitants of Israel. If they do not bow the knee to Jesus, they will be struck down. This is their warning. Judgment will get worse in the next three trumpets, which are the three woes from verse 13.

The Fifth Trumpet
“Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit, and smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace. So the sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke of the pit” (Revelation 9:1-2).

The fifth trumpet unlocks the gates of hell. Demons are released upon Israel.

“Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 9:3-4).

These demons have the power to torment everyone except believers.

“And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them. The shape of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle. On their heads were crowns of something like gold, and their faces were like the faces of men. They had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. And they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots with many horses running into battle. They had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails. Their power was to hurt men five months. And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things” (Revelation 9:5-12).

Five months is how long Rome held Jerusalem under siege. Here we see two more names of Satan: Abaddon and Apollyon. The fifth trumpet is the first of three woes. The sixth and seventh trumpets will be the second and third woes, respectively.

The Sixth Trumpet

Like the sixth seal, the sixth trumpet also contains three visions.

The First Vision of the Sixth Trumpet
“Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind” (Revelation 9:13-15).

The sixth trumpet releases the four arch-angels who were delayed at the sixth seal.

“Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed--by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which came out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they do harm. But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Revelation 9:16-21).

Two hundred million angels ride out to battle the enemy.

The Second Vision of the Sixth Trumpet
“I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire. He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.’ The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:1-7).

The description of this “other” angel matches that of Jesus Christ. He prepares to read a book, which contains the seven thunders, but this is sealed up for later. There is to be no more delay of vengeance. The vengeance will be poured out after the seventh trumpet sounds.

“Then the voice which I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, ‘Go, take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and on the earth.’ So I went to the angel and said to him, ‘Give me the little book.’ And he said to me, ‘Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.’ Then I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter. And he said to me, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings’” (Revelation 10:8-11).

John eats the book and suffers the same reaction as Ezekiel when he did the same thing (Ezekiel 2:8-3:3). The book was a condemnation of Israel. John must continue to record the prophesy of judgment against Jerusalem.

The Third Vision of the Sixth Trumpet
“Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months’” (Revelation 11:1-2).

John measures the temple, which is a sign that it will be destroyed. He is told that Rome will tread Jerusalem for forty-two months, which is 3½ years. This is the length of time that Rome will occupy outer court before destroying the temple.

“And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them” (Revelation 11:3-7).

Israel has 3½ years to repent before their destruction. The law required two witness for capital punishment (Deuteronomy 17:6), so God raises up two witness to testify of Israel’s sin for three years and 5½ months. They are called two olive trees and two lampstands (cf. Zechariah 4). They are like Moses and Elijah in their miraculous powers. After the allotted time, the two witness are martyred.

“And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8).

Verse 8 is very important as a clue to the imagery in Revelation. The city where all of this is taking place is “where our Lord was crucified,” which is obviously Jerusalem. Jerusalem is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt because both Sodom and Egypt received warnings of destruction but did not repent. So, Jerusalem will receive warnings of destruction but they will not repent.

“Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 11:9-10).

The martyrdom of these two prophets will be celebrated throughout Jerusalem and even in the land of Israel.

“Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly” (Revelation 11:11-14).

After 3½ days, these two witnesses are resurrected, and they ascend to heaven, being seen by many. A tenth (tithe) of the city falls, and seven thousand are killed. This leads many to repentance.

The second woe is the sixth trumpet. The third woe is the seventh trumpet.

The Seventh Trumpet
“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’ And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.’ Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail” (Revelation 11:15-19).

The wrath of God is finally about to be poured out upon Jerusalem. The temple on earth will be destroyed. This is the long-awaited sign that Jesus has ascended as King. The Old Covenant era will officially be over. The New Covenant will have come in its fullness. Heaven rejoices at this.

Summary of Seven Trumpets
1) Judgment against Land (Israel)
2) Judgment against Sea (Gentiles)
3) Judgment against Waters (Temple)
4) Judgment against Heavens (Jewish Rulers)
5) Five months of siege (1st woe)
6) Three visions of sixth trumpet (2nd woe)
6a) Release of four archangels and 200 million angels
6b) The Book
6c) Two witnesses
7) The Kingdom of Christ announced (3rd woe)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Revelation 6:1-8:6 (The Seven Seals)

In Revelation 6-11, we have the seven seals and the seven trumpets, followed by the seven bowls in chapter 16. Because there are seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls, many argue that these seals, trumpets, and bowls are basically describing the same events, just using different language. This approach to Revelation known as “recapitulation.”

There are a lot of parallels between the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls. Some of these descriptions overlap, but some are also unique.We should be careful not to try to make the seven seals “match” the seven trumpets or the seven bowls. The seven seals open the scroll. The seven trumpets are a proclamation of the scroll. The bowls are the application of the scroll.

What is the Scroll?

The scroll that Jesus takes hold of in Revelation 5 is the scroll that Daniel sealed up.

“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4).

The scroll was to be sealed until the time of the end, that is the end of the Old Covenant era, and the establishment of the New Covenant era and the kingdom. The breaking of the seals is re-opening of Daniel’s book and the unleashing of the Kingdom of God.

The Seven Seals

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

In Revelation 6:1-8, the first four seals release four horses and their four riders, popularly referred to as the four horsemen of the apocalypse.This imagery is taken directly from Zechariah, where he is prophesying about the appearance of the Messiah and the restoration of Israel.

“Then I turned and raised my eyes and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming from between two mountains, and the mountains were mountains of bronze. With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses, with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot dappled horses--strong steeds” (Zechariah 6:1-3).

In Zechariah 6, the horses are the exact same colors that we will see mentioned in Revelation 6: red, black, white, and “dappled” (“gray” = “pale”).

“Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord?’ And the angel answered and said to me, “These are four spirits of heaven, who go out from their station before the Lord of all the earth” (Zechariah 6:4-5).

An angel tells Zechariah that these four horsemen are symbols for the four spirits (“winds”) of heaven: north, east, south, and west (cf. Zechariah 2:6).When God sends his Messiah and restores Israel, he will send his Spirit to cover the entire earth, symbolized by four horsemen scattering in four directions. In Revelation, the four horsemen represent the spread of the gospel and the conditions that the early church will face.

The First Seal

“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.’ 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” (Revelation 6:1-2).

The first seal reveals a white horse with a conquering rider who has a bow and a crown. The rider is Jesus Christ (cf. 19:11-16). After Pentecost, the gospel of King Jesus goes forth and conquers the nations.

The Second Seal

“When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, ‘Come and see.’ Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the 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” (Revelation 6:3-4).

The second seal reveals a fiery red horse, instigating war. Some of the church will face persecution, even from their own families (cf. Matthew 10:34ff).

The Third Seal

“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. 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” (Revelation 6:5-6).

The third seal reveals a black horse and a famine. The scarce materials are all sacramental. Bread (wheat and barley) and wine for the elements in the Lord’s Supper. Oil is for healing (James 5:14). Many of the Jews in the land will reject the gospel. Spiritual famine will lead to actual famine.

The Fourth Seal

“When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come and see.’ 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 them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:7-8).

The fourth seal reveals a pale horse, which is ridden by death. Some of the church will be persecuted even to death.

The Fifth Seal

“When He opened 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. 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?’ 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 completed” (Revelation 6:9-11).

The fifth seal reveals those who are martyred. They are asking for God to take vengeance for their deaths, and they are told to wait a bit longer. There are more to be martyred.

The Sixth Seal

The sixth seal contains three visions.

The First Vision of the Sixth Seal

“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. 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. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. 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, 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! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” (Revelation 6:12-17).

The sixth seal is a summary of the judgment to come, revealing the death of the Old Covenant. Everything is overturned. The land quakes. The sun, the moon, the stars, and the skies are affected. Remember, these descriptions of massive upheaval are depicting the death of a world (cf. Isaiah 13:10-14; 34:4-5; Ezekiel 32:7; Amos 8:9). The Old Covenant is being overthrown.

At the same time, the Lamb will pour out his wrath in judgment. This sixth seal is a general description of judgment which will be described more fully as the book of Revelation progresses.

The Second Vision of the Sixth Seal

The description of the sixth seal continues in chapter seven.

“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. 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 harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads’” (Revelation 7:1-3).

The four angels will hold back these judgments of the sixth seal until a massive number of Jews are converted.

“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: of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; 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; 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;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” (Revelation 7:4-8).

God planned to convert 144,000 Jews, twelve thousand from each tribe. Some think this fulfills the promise that “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

The Third Vision of the Sixth Seal

John returns to the scene of heavenly worship.

“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, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen’” (Revelation 7:9-12).

John now sees a multitude of Gentiles standing before God’s thrown and worshiping the Lamb. John asks about all these Gentiles.

“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’ 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. 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. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 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’” (Revelation 7:13-17).

This multitude of Gentiles are all martyrs who gave their lives in the great tribulation.

The Seventh Seal

“When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1).

The opening of the seventh seal stops the heavenly worship.

The Prayers of the Martyrs

“And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. 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. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. 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. So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound” (Revelation 8:2-6).

The martyred saints had been praying for vengeance, and their prayer will finally be answered when the angel releases the judgments promised in the sixth seal, which will also be described further in the seven trumpets as well as the seven bowls.

Summary of the Seven Seals

1) The church conquers

2) The church faces persecuted

3) The church faces rejection

4) The church faces martyrdom

5) Prayer of the martyrs

6) Three visions of the sixth seal

6a) Vengeance is promised

6b) Delay of vengeance until full number of Jews are saved

6c) Comforting the martyrs

7) Prayer leads to the pouring out of vengeance