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
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
“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
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
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