The Seven Seals of Revelation


Scripture reading, Revelation 5:1-8:5

John saw Jesus Christ standing before the high throne of God Almighty (chapter 4:6). He is symbolized as a lamb that looked as being slain but conquered. He is worthy because He had sacrificed his life for the salvation of humanity and therefore receives the book with seven seals and He alone is worthy to open the seals. The book with the seals reveals the hidden, spiritual authorities and powers, the good and bad ones,  that work on earth and in humanity in the time of the end, from the time John received this revelation (4:1). The message is clear: The glorified man, Jesus Christ, receives as a man full insight and control over what is going to happen on earth.

As humanity will increasingly reject Him and the salvation He has offered, the evil powers will increase in their influence for some time. But they can only do this when He permits them. For some reason only God knows, He must permit these evil powers to continue to operate on earth. But He has the power of control and can at any time intervene. 

I emphasize that the opening of the seven seals in symbolic pictures reveals the spiritual powers and authorities that are at work on earth, good and bad ones. The good ones are in the fifth seal, the prayers of the saints, the souls under the altar, and the prayers and worship of the saints on earth as revealed under the seventh seal. Possibly  is the rider on the white horse in the first seal also a positive authority and power.

The First Seal, chapter 6:2

A rider, a warrior, with a bow on a white horse. It is interesting to know that the Parthians, a nation in that time living in the region of Iran, fought with bow and arrow and the leader rode on a white horse. They gained a great victory in battle over the Romans in A.D. 62, some time before Revelation was probably written. They often did as if they fled on their horses before the Roman armies but suddenly they turned on their horses and shot their arrows at the Romans. Their arrows were so powerful that they could even penetrate the shields of Roman soldiers. The Parthians threatened the Romans from the east continually and were never really subdued by them, though the Romans also defeated them and even destroyed their capital once.

Let's face it: It is on earth like this, every culture, every empire, however great and well established, will sooner or later be overrun and overcome by another world power. The rider on the white horse however went out to conquer and would continue to conquer, he also wore a crown. And it is not said that he went out to kill, what may be significant. Some expositors say therefore that the rider on the white horse symbolizes Jesus Christ conquering the world with the good news, the Gospel. The Parthians did loose some battles but Jesus will be the great, eternal conqueror.  In Revelation 19:11-16 Jesus is clearly pictured as the conquering Word of God, riding on a white horse.

Please read my sermon on Revelation 19:11-16, 'The Rider on the White Horse' on the Web site for further insight.

The Second Seal, chapter 6:3,4

The horse depicts always earth power. The color is red, he rider receives power to take away the peace from the earth. Rivers of blood will be flowing, there will be killing. The hope for world peace will never be realized as long this as this force is in operation.

In the days of John there was a relative peace in the Roman Empire. This peace was called ' Pax Romana' - the peace of Rome. This period lasted from Caesar  Marc Aurelius in 10 B.C. till emperor August in 180 A.D. This peace was secured through the presence of the Roman armies everywhere in the empire. Is tit not the hope of many in our days that there will be a world peace? But again and again people will be disappointed for as long as this power is in operation. Fallen humanity is easily motivated to make war. shed blood and kill. The sinful heart is so much self-centered  that it seeks primarily its own good, manifesting itself in jealousy, envy and hatreds. John sees in the revelations that this power of the red horse will be finally conquered by Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace (Revelation 21:1-4).

The Third Seal, chapter 6:5,6

The black horse depicts famine. Much has to be paid for the basic food, a full daily wages for just a small daily portion. The balance symbolizes a shortage of the basic food for wheat was never weighed but measured in quantities.  The common, working must pay much for just s little wheat.
The black horse and its rider will however look to it that the rich will be able to continue to live with abundance and in luxury. They will have their oil and wine, the enjoyments of the rich. Is it not true that the poor and working men, the common people, suffer always most. We can even see it in our days how the mighty men, those who control politics and finances know always how to secure abundance for themselves whilst the poor suffer and lack in even the basic necessities of life. Even in civilized western countries with good social systems it is noticed in these days how the poor become poorer and the rich richer. The black horse is riding in these days and it is a very real spirit operating in the human world. James 5:1-5 could be read here. Some expositors of this text: The oil and the wine are also essential daily necessities in Eastern countries and these remain untouched.

But is it not true that in times of wars and shortages the poor, working class  people suffer most and lack food? Scientists predict in our days that times of worldwide shortages are coming rapidly and this constitutes a real and serious threat for the world population. The rider with the black horse is still riding in our days causing hunger on a scale as never before.

The Fourth Seal, chapter 6:7,8

A pale horse, the rider's name was death and hades follows him. Pale is the color of bodies, that are decaying. Death comes through a variety of causes. Four causes for death are particularly mentioned here:

a. The sword as symbol of- and a powerful instrument in war in those days.
b. Famine. In these days  world organisations are giving warnings that great, worldwide famines must be  expected as the result of
    climate change, the expected, enormous increase of the number of men in the coming decades, wars and selfishness of people in the rich countries.
c. Deadly diseases. Various diseases are also in our times a serious threat to the health of millions inspite of the many medicines, methods for
    prevention, such as vaccinations and therapies. A pandemic outbreak of a disease, even as e.g. influenza, could kill millions.
d. Wild animals. Even in these days wild animals can be a serious threat for the death of many people. In some Eastern European countries
    wild bears are an increasing danger.

The truth is that death is lurking everywhere and always and it will kill and so many times people try to escape one particular cause of death but are killed by another. Yes, the pale horse is everywhere present. and doing his deathly work.

The Fifth Seal, chapter 6:9-11

This is a most amazing revelation: The souls martyred for their faith in Jesus are alive and conscious of themselves, of duration of time and the continuation of the chaotic and evil conditions on earth and they are also conscious of God. The place under the altar is the place, where the ashes of the burned sacrifices fell. These martyred souls, perhaps even burned at the stake, are not dead, though evil men may think they are; they are alive and even cry to God for justice. A most amazing mystery is unveiled here! We are confronted with the first positive force under the signs of the seals. It is the force of martyred saints, living in another world, hidden from our eyes, but they ask for Gods intervention to establish righteousness on earth as soon as possible. But they have to wait for God works according to a scheme. But in the meantime they may celebrate the ultimate victory: They are given white robes, symbols of their personal purity and rightness before God, which they obtained by their faith in the sin cleansing blood of Jesus Christ..

a. The believers are seen as alive and as able to communicate with God.
b. They remember their cruel death and their firm faith in God.
c. They are conscious of the time that passes while they are at or under the altar.
d. They are conscious of their temporary body and that they receive a white garment that indicates their holiness and righteousness. On earth they
     had washed their soul in
the blood of the Lamb; look at Revelation 7:14.

It is an interesting question to think about how much departed believers are conscious of what is happening on earth and of the time that is lapsing. The revelation of the fifth seal gives in principle a surprising answer.

The Sixth Seal, chapter 6:12-17

We are told under the sixth seal that tectonic- and cosmic powers will intensely be activated in the last days. There will be a great earthquake - it could mean many earthquakes, please read Luke 21:11. The sun becomes black and the moon red. But there is more to come still: Stars fall from heaven, possibly a reference to great meteorites, hitting the earth. No doubt, owing to the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions the atmosphere will be darkened and become polluted. The movements in the planet structure cause mountains and islands to move from their positions. It is interesting to note that some scientists are quite sure that already in the near future great earthquakes will be taking place. The continents are slowly but surely moving against- and under each other and gigantic tensions are building up that will cause enormous quakes, explosions and eruptions.

Such disasters in nature should human beings make to think about their frailty and low estate. They will then hopefully turn to God and Jesus Christ. But all that men can think of is that God is angry and set to destroy them. They become very afraid and fear to meet God. Primitive religious instincts awaken in men and they want to hide from their Creator. They have seemingly forgotten that He wanted to save them from destruction, sending his Son as their Savior.

The Seventh Seal, chapter 8:1-5

Between the opening of the previous seal and this one occurs, what one could call, a break, it fills chapter 7. In order that no damage is done to Gods elect and that they are not going to be lost in the chaos on earth, they, Gods servants, are sealed (chapter 7:4 and John 10:28). The number 144.000 indicates a superfulness of Gods people. Though at times Gods chosen people was in a bad shape and very much diminished in number, a fulness will nevertheless be saved to further Gods eternal purposes. In addition to the symbolic figures of saved people from the tribes of Israel, there is a crowd that nobody can number (chapter 7:9). The symbolic fulness of this great multitude transcends every symbol and representation. This crowd is gathered out of all nations. They are the believers, who washed their sinful, dirty robes in the blood of the Lamb. They praise and worship Him before the throne - it is truly an amazing and impressing sight to behold.

Then, lastly, the seventh seal is opened, what on earth is going to happen now? John saw seven angels standing before the throne, each of them received a trumpet. From what follows we learn that these angels will announce catastrophic events on the earth. These catastrophes are the last efforts of God to bring humanity to repentance (Revelation 9:20). Whether man repents or not, the Anointed Lord will reign and judge all (11:15-18).

But, very surpassingly, there is a silence in heaven.  John sees an other angel one standing at the altar of incense and he holds a bowl with prayers and incense in his hands, which are ascending before God's face. Heaven must be quiet so that the prayers ascending from the earth can be heard. Before the Almighty God resorts to the most drastic measures to try to bring man to repentance, He wants to listen to what the praying and worshiping saints are praying for. When God has heard the prayers and enjoyed the incense, the angel casts everything back to earth, together with fire from the altar. The result of the throwing down of the worship, prayers and supplications of the saints is unexpectedly and surprisingly powerful. There are thunderings, voices, lightnings and an earthquake. What has this to say to us? This: The prayers, supplications and worship of Gods people will have effects. It is a wonderful message we have here for all who worship God and send up their prayers. Don't think that nothing is done with your prayers, that nothing will happen. The seventh seal reveals that prayers are heard, have effect and avail much. God does notice the prayers and they are thrown back on earth to do a mighty work. The thunderings, God is speaking powerfully from heaven. The voices, inspired prophetic messages, that call forth the things that are going to happen. The lightnings, indicating tremendous releases of energies and lastly, the earthquakes, the things men rely on will be shaken to shake them! Prayer and worship will shake the world.

In closing

The seven seals reveal powers released on earth, good and bad ones. The good news is that Jesus sits on the throne and will sit there for ever. He knows all that happens in creation and He will see to it that not one of his servants will get lost; they will be sealed, no one can pluck them out of his hands. The prayers of his people will have effect. He not only listens to them, but He effectuates them, let them do their work as the saints have desired of Him.

Revelation has a message here that is both solemn and serious, earthly and heavenly. It reassures Gods children that whatever does or does not happen, Jesus Christ sits on the throne and He will remember His own. His saints are precious and alive to Him, both those that are with Him and those, who are still on earth. He does take notice of their prayers, petitions, praise and worship. He leads His saints to victory!

Let's give glory to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

T. J. de Ruiter, Pentecostal pastor and teacher of the Bible in The Netherlands
Written in 1999, revised september 2009

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