Seven Seals - Overview

OVERVIEW - Upon his arrival before the Throne, immediately the Lamb began to open the seven seals of the sealed scroll

Sealed Book Photo by Zoya Loonohod on Unsplash
The forces unleashed by the opening of the “
seven seals” often are linked to the horrific calamities expected to occur shortly before the return of Jesus at the end of the age. This is especially so with the first four seal openings, the so-called “four horsemen of the Apocalypse.” His patience exhausted, God sends harbingers of the eternal punishment awaiting the rebellious “inhabitants of the earth,” perhaps to torment the impenitent during their final days. - [Photo by Zoya Loonohod on Unsplash].

Regarding the “seven seals,” key issues include the timing of their openings - When do they occur - And the identity of the one who opens them. What is his purpose in doing so, and do the results portray past, present, or future realities?
  • (Revelation 6:1-2) - “When the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, I heard one of the four living creatures saying, as with a voice of thunder, Go! And I saw a white horse, and he that was sitting thereon holding a bow; and there was given to him a crown, and he went forth conquering, and that he might conquer.”
In chapter 5, it was the “slain Lamb” who was declared “worthy” to open the scroll, and he proceeded immediately to do so. He was “worthy” because he gave his life to redeem men and women from every nation for the kingdom of God. Jesus was the messianic “Lion of the tribe of Judah” but fulfilled that role as the “slain lamb.” Beginning with the first seal opening, it was the “Lamb” who acted, not the “Lion.” Each of the seals was broken open in turn by him, not by a vengeful God, let alone by Satan - (Revelation 5:5-14).

Upon receipt of the scroll, the “Lamb” began to open its seals. The first four seals form a group identified by their horses and riders.  There was no hint of any delay or passage of time between his enthronement and the commencement of the seal openings - (Revelation 6:1-8).

The opening of the first four seals released “riders” on colored horses that executed their assigned tasks on command, but only after the Lamb opened each seal. Collectively, the first four seals afflicted the “fourth of the earth, with sword, and with famine, and with death, and with the wild beasts of the earth.”

The first four seals unleashed troublesome times on the earth. As the Lamb “opened” each seal, a voice summons its “rider” to “be going.” In each case, the Greek verb rendered “opened” is in the aorist tense - A past action. And, in each instance, the tense of the Greek verb rendered “go” is a progressive present - Action in progress. The language suggests historical processes put into motion by the past action of the “Lamb.”

The unleashing of the fourth “rider” is followed by a summary statement applicable to all four “riders” - “Authority was given to them over the fourth of the earth to kill with sword and with famine and with death, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” The “authority” was given by the “Lamb.” Their actions impacted only a fourth of the earth, within the limits set by Jesus. He remained in firm control over the whole process.

Rider - Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

The “
fifth seal” revealed martyred souls underneath the “altar” where they were to remain until the full number of their fellow martyrs had been gathered. No time-lapse was indicated between the first four and the fifth seals. Their sequence is literary, not chronological.

The “sixth seal caused a great earthquake and celestial upheaval as the “Day of the Lord” arrived, the time of the “wrath of the Lamb and He Who sits on the Throne.” Thus, the “sixth seal” signified the arrival of the final judgment and the reconfiguration of the created order in preparation for the New Creation - (Joel 2:28-32, Revelation 6:12-17).

Before the “seventh seal” was opened, the series of seal openings was interrupted for the “sealing of the servants of God.” This occurred before the “four winds of the earth” could be released on the earth. The “sealing” enabled His servants to endure whatever the “four winds” represented, and “to stand” before the “Lamb and the Throne.” The “four winds of the earth” refers to the first “four seals” and their “riders” - (Revelation 7:1-17).

The “interruption” between the sixth and seventh seals is a literary pattern used several times in Revelation. So, also, the “seven trumpets” were “interrupted” between the sixth and seventh trumpets by several visions. Like the first “four seals,” the first four trumpets were distinguished from the final three, which were labeled the “three woes.” And like the “seven seals,” the series of “seven trumpets” culminated in the “Day of the Lord” at the end of the age - (Revelation 11:15-19).

The opening of the “seventh seal produced “silence” in heaven while the prayers of the saints ascended as “incense” upon the altar before the “Throne.” The “seventh seal” also transitioned the narrative to the next literary section, the series of “seven trumpets” - (Revelation 8:1-6).

The series of the “seven seals” concluded with “claps of thunder, voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake,” the same phenomenon seen and heard previously before the Throne - (Revelation 4:1-68:1-5).

Thus, whatever the opening of the “seven seals” represents, the sevenfold series covers the entire period between the enthronement of the “Lamb” and the “Day of the Lord.”


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