24 Suffering and the Seven Seals
Updated: Oct 14, 2021
The theme of suffering continues in the seven seals as God is asked when He will finally make things right.
The Relational/Emotional Crisis in the Universe 5:1-6
Seals are a response as to who is the cause of the suffering and disasters described on heaven and earth: 7 Churches 7 Seals 7 Trumpets 7 Battles 7 Plagues
Revelation 5:1-6 NLT Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.
NOT EVEN GOD CAN EXPLAIN SUFFERING
Revelation 5:1-6 NLT 4 Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. Weeping = Anguish of soul. Emotional center of the Revelation. .5 But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
What does “Seal” symbolize?
5:4 no one could open the scroll with 7 seals!
Only those who are sealed will survive.
Nothing new in the seals. We have heard it all.
John weeps and weeps. Emotional center of book.
Jesus opening a seal means he explains the origins or cause of suffering.
Revelation 5:1-6 NLT 6 Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. The Lamb can make sense of suffering for the whole universe! The Lamb is at the center of the universe! Great relief and joy for the writer!
Breaking Open the Seals
The slaughtered Lamb shows that the Seals are the result of the Accuser’s presence on earth. It is NOT God punishing people but the “thief” (John 10:10) stealing away the health, wealth and happiness God gave in the beginning.
Daniel sealed He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end. May shall be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked shall continue to act wickedly. None of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. Daniel 12:9-10
Danielwrotebutdidunderstandthecauseofsuffering.The beasts are the embodiment of Satan!
First 4 Seals
As I watched, the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals on the scroll. Then I heard one of the four living beings say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked up and saw a white horse standing there. Its rider carried a bow, and a crown was placed on his head. He rode out to win many battles and gain the victory. (Victorious white horse) 3 When the Lamb broke the second seal, I heard the second living being say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse appeared, a red one. Its rider was given a mighty sword and the authority to take peace from the earth. And there was war and slaughter everywhere. (Warring red horse) . Revelation 6:1
First 4 Seals Revelation 6
5 When the Lamb broke the third seal, I heard the third living being say, “Come!” I looked up and saw a black horse, and its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice from among the four living beings say, “A loaf of wheat bread or three loaves of barley will cost a day’s pay. And don’t waste[c] the olive oil and wine.” FAMINE 7 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living being say, “Come!” 8 I looked up and saw a horse whose color was pale green. Its rider was named Death, and his companion was the Grave. These two were given authority over one-fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword and famine and disease and wild animals.
First 4 Seals 4 horses:
White—Tradition suggests this is Christ. Red—War Black—Famine Pale Green—Plague, disease, death
Parallels to the 4 Seals • First 4 seals: Read Ezekiel 14:21
Ezekiel 14:21 “Now this is what the Sovereign Lord says: How terrible it will be when all four of these dreadful punishments fall upon Jerusalem—war, famine, wild animals, and disease—destroying all her people and animals. Summary of Leviticus and Deuteronomy covenants. Obey =blessing. Disobey=punishment.
Jesus describes the seals Luke 21:8-11
Luke 21:8-11 NLT 8 He replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’and saying, ‘The time has come!’ But don’t believe them. 9 And when you hear of wars and insurrections, don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place first, but the end won’t follow immediately.” . . . 11 There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.
Ezekiel 14:21 Wild animals
Luke 21:8-13 Anti-Christs
Revelation 6:3 White horse
Wild animals parallel anti-Christs:
Dragon, serpent, beasts, scorpions & snakes (Read Lk 10:17-20)
White horse represents anti-Christs
Context determines meaning! Serpent, Leaven
Because the white horse of 19 is Jesus does not mean this white horse is Jesus.
First 4 Seals
Pale Green horse—Disease or Plague
Age old Suffering
Fifth seal addresses the elephant in the room
Fifth Seal 6:9-11
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. 10 They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” CRY out to GOD TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT SUFFERING. David and Habakkuk do the same. We all do! 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters—their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred—had joined them.
The first 5 seals
1. White horse—Anti-Christs 2. Red horse—War 3. Black horse—Famine 4. Pale Green horse—Disease or Plague 5. Martyrs under the altar crying for redress (Be patient. You are important.) All bad so far! Why does God not act?
Sixth Seal 6:12-15
I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. 13 Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from a tree shaken by a strong wind. 14 The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places. This is the Second Coming. It is the end of all life on the planet
Sixth Seal 6:12-15 15 Then everyone—the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person—all hid themselves (as in Eden) in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. (WISH FOR MASS SUICIDE. Remember Judas) 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive?” (Only those who are sealed chp 7) .
Seventh Seal 8:1
When the Lamb broke the seventh seal on the scroll, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour. The lamb that had the marks of slaughter has dealt with suffering caused by Satan. The noisy universe is in awe. No singing, no acclamation, no worship.
Breaking Open the Seals
The slaughtered Lamb shows that the Seals are the result of the Accuser’s presence on earth. It is NOT God punishing people but the “thief” (John 10:10) stealing away the health, wealth and happiness God gave in the beginning. Satan’s influence is clear in Seal 6: Mass suicide preferred to the Second Coming shows the success of Satan’s propaganda against God.
Summary of Seals
Satan has fragmented the Church the body of Christ
Satan has brought spiritual (anti-Christs), physical (war and famine and disease) and mental suffering (wish for mass suicide) to the earth.
Our hope is in the slaughtered Lamb. He is qualified to deal with suffering. • End
Moving from Earth to Heaven
Revelation 4:1 After this I looked, and there heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
FirstvoiceisthatofJesus!Jesuswantstomake further revelations to John.
Earth Seen from Heaven
Revelation 4:2, 3 At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald.
He does not say he saw God on the throne but describes someone very beautiful beyond words.
Throne means this one is very important.
Who is Who in Heaven
Revelation 4:4 Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads. • Power sharing in heaven? • Empowerment of creatures!
Who is Who in Heaven Revelation 4:5, 6 Coming from the throne flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God; and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal. Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind.
Who is Who in Heaven
The living creatures are around and in the throne.
These discerning beings occupying the throne with God —a transparent government.
Sound and light with each cycle of seven. We examine the OT for the meaning
Exodus 19:16, 18, 19 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of the trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled . . . Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the LORD has descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder.
Meaning of the Sound and Light
Is the lightning, thunder, fire, and earthquake meant show forth the divine majesty?
Is it meant to herald judgment?
Is it meant to be “shock and awe?”
Is it meant to signify revelation?
Why Repeatedly Saying
“Holy”? Revelation 4:8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” • This comes from Isaiah 6. (Dead Sea scroll difference) • Why the boring repetition?
This is a noisy book
The voices of Revelation—the voice of Revelation—are above all the voices of singing.
Revelation is justly called ‘the hymnic gospel.’
Studies of Revelation’s Hymns
Worship in Revelation is antiphonal-- as it was in the early Christian church.
There is proclamation followed by acclamation, or a response.
We give an example.
Revelation 4:8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the LORD God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” • This is intelligent proclamation from the center of the throne. • Three three’s!
Revelation 4:9-11 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, thetwenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one lives forever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” • Thisillustratestheantiphonalcharacterofthe worship. • Buttheremightbemoretotheworship.
More Than Antiphony?
Revelation 4:8 Day and night without ceasing they sing, “Holy, holy, holy, the LORD God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” • This is a response, but to what?
More Than Antiphony? Revelation 12:10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” • Here is the voice of accusation, a dissident voice.
Three Voices—Not Two 1. Proclamation 2. Acclamation 3. Accusation The first two are opposing the third voice, which is maligning the character of God and his followers. Better order? 1. Accusation 2. Proclamation 3. Acclamation
Calm or Conflict? Alternative I Is the heavenly scene meant to convey the contrast between heavenly calm and earthly turmoil? (R H Charles and others subscribe to this view.) or Alternative II Is the heavenly scene meant to convey the connection between heavenly conflict and earthly turmoil? (The heavenly conflict is the cause of the earthly turmoil.)
Acclamation and Accusation
• Alternative I Are the four living creatures singing, “holy, holy, holy” because the view, in heaven, is a foregone conclusion? • Alternative II Are the four living creatures singing “holy, holy, holy” because this view has been contested in heaven?
Did contention in heaven over the character of God and his law continue after Lucifer left?
Did Jesus’ death make any difference in the cosmos? (John 12:31)
One Question for God
What would you ask God if you could ask him one question?
Do we find this question asked in chapter five?
Is this question connected with the first five seals?
And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it (5:3).
And I began to weep bitterly (emotionally distraught) because no one was found who had what it takes to open the scroll or to look into it (5:4 trans. Tonstad).
Great things are at stake in this scene.
This scroll is at the center of the problem.
Questions • What is the meaning of the scroll? • Why is it impossible to find anyone who can open it? • Why is it so important to have it opened?
Chapter 12—the Hub of the Wheel 4 12 20 Many scholars fail to recognize the importance of taking 12 into consideration when reading 1-11.
Crisis in Heaven
• “The first four verses of chapter 5 imply that the heavenly council is faced with a serious problem.” – Adela Yarbro Collins, The Apocalypse (NTM 22; Dublin: Veritas Publications, 1979), 39.
Crisis in Heaven
“InthecontextoftheApocalypseasawholeitis clear that the problem facing the heavenly council is the rebellion of Satan which is paralleled by rebellion on earth. Chapter five presupposes the old story of Satan’s rebellion against God which leads to the fall of creation.” – Yarbro Collins, The Apocalypse, 39.
She has read chapter 12 so she knows about the cosmic rebellion.
The Sealed Scroll and the Old Testament
ThenIsawintheright hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals . . . – (Revelation 5:1)
Contentisapparently unknown—not so in Ezekiel
• Ilooked,andahand was stretched out to me, and a written scroll was in it. He spread it before me; it had writing on the front and on the back, and written on it were words of lamentation and mourning and woe. – (Ezekiel 2:9-10)
Meaning of the Sealed Scroll
Does it mean that its content is not known?
Is it possible for a scroll to ‘sealed’ in some other way so that we don’t understand what is written in it?
The book of Daniel was sealed—but the contents could be read.
Sealed Scrolls in the OT - 1
The vision of all this has become for you like the words of a sealed document. If it is given to those who can read, with the command, “Read this,” they say, “We cannot, for it is sealed.” And if it is given to those who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” they say, “We cannot read.” -Isaiah 29:11-12 • The problem is that the content is not understood.
Sealed Scrolls in the OT - 2 He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end. May shall be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked shall continue to act wickedly. None of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. Daniel 12:9-10 • It is not that Daniel could not be read but that it could not be understood.
Reappraising the Sealed Scroll
He content of a sealed scroll may be ‘known’ even though the scroll is sealed.
The content may be known but not understood.
• What happens when the seals are broken? –Fourhorsemenappear. Horses=War Machines • Is what is happening good or bad? – From reading chapter six it is clear that it is all bad. • Is it “new” or “old?” – The scenes do not picture any new realities.
• I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and hades followed with him; they were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. – Revelation 6:8
Breaking the Seals • Having seen the four horsemen, what do we know about human reality that we did not know before?
Content of the Scroll • “Then onto the stage of history come only four horsemen representing disasters as old as the human race. Is this all that we are to receive from the regnant Christ? – G. B. Caird, The Revelation of Saint John (London: A. & C. Black, 1966), 82. There seems to be no novelty in the horsemen or war, famine and death. Perhaps the newness is in the explanation of why these catastrophies happen.
Fifth Seal “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under that altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.” Revelation 6:9 Not caused by God!
Question of the Martyrs
How long, holy and true Lord, will it be before you act justly and vindicate us for our blood [shed] by those who dwell on the earth? (Rev 6:10). • “how long” is a piercing OT echo: Ps 6:3; 74:9-10; 79:5; 80:4, 90:13; 94:3-7; Isa 6:11; Jer 4:21; 23:26; 47:5-6; Dan 8:13; 12:6; Hab 1:2-4; Zech 1:12.
Sealed Scroll in Revelation
The Old Testament antecedent of the scroll “written on the inside and on the back” must be the scroll of Ezekiel.
The question “how long” is the quintessential theodicy question in the Bible, addressing the discrepancy between what is expected of God and what God is doing.
This is the question of human reality.
Crisis in Heaven
“Theheavenlycouncilisfacedwithaserious problem” (Yarbro Collins).
“theproblemfacingtheheavenlycouncilis the rebellion of Satan.”
Thecrisisinheavenisprecipitatednotonly by the rebellion of Lucifer as such but by the way God has responded to the rebellion.
Inchapter5wemovefromcommotionon earth to crisis in heaven.
Breaking Open the Seals
And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been murdered and mutilated, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. (5:6 trans. Tonstad)
Breaking Open the Seals Sealing means it is read but NOT understood (Daniel 12:4, 9). Daniel believed God had sent Israel into captivity (9:7b, 12, 14, 16, 24). Moses (Lev 26:14-23, Dt 28:21-26) and Ezekiel (5:7-17, 14:12- 21) believed the 4 curses of disobedience were caused by God. Daniel is unsealed by Jesus’ revealing that all suffering comes from Satan, including his own slaughter. To break open a Seal means to show its cause. The Trumpets, Battles and Plagues will all be unsealed in when we understand they originate with Satan!
Breaking Open the Seals The slaughtered Lamb (who did it?) shows that the Seals are the result of the Accuser’s presence on earth. It is NOT God punishing people but the “thief” (John 10:10) stealing away the health, wealth and happiness God gave in the beginning. Satan’s influence is clear in Seal 6: Mass suicide preferred to the Second Coming shows the success of Satan’s propaganda against God.