Seven Seals - Part 1

Scripture: Revelation 5:1-14, Revelation 6:1-17
It was about the year 96 A.D. that John the Revelator was exiled to the lonely little Isle of Patmos because of his testimony for Jesus. It was believed by the cruel Roman emperor who placed him there that his influence for Christianity would now be entirely destroyed. But instead of this we find that John was chosen of God to be His special prophet.
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It was about the year 96 A.D. that John the Revelator was exiled to the lonely little Isle of Patmos because of his testimony for Jesus. It was believed by the cruel Roman emperor who placed him there that his influence for Christianity would now be entirely destroyed. But instead of this we find that John was chosen of God to be His special prophet. Upon that little, rocky island, John was privileged to look into some of the most rapturous scenes ever beheld by man, and he wrote them down as a permanent record for generations to follow. This is why we have now the tremendous record of prophecy in the Bible book of Revelation.

One of the most thrilling pictures portrayed in the pages of John's book is that which shows the development of the Church from the time of Christ right down to the very end of this world. In seven pictures, under the symbols of seals, a perfect chronological vision was given to John, revealing the history of the Church. The vision actually opens in Revelation 5:1, and he has there a view of heaven itself. "And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals." Here John sees one seated on a throne with a book in his hand. By the way, books in those days were in the form of scrolls rolled together. And this one was sealed within and also on the backside, and it was sealed with seven seals. Apparently the Revelator was impressed that this scroll contained something of infinite importance. Yet, no one was seen worthy to unloose the scroll and to reveal the contents. John wept over it, as we read in verse 2. "And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon."

This dramatic scene made an overwhelming impression upon the mind of John. We can well understand why he wept, because no one was found worthy to understand the things written in this important scroll. But in the midst of his sorrow, John is interrupted by another voice, as we read in verses 5 and 6: "And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not; behold the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth." In reading this description, friends, let us remember that these things are given to us in types and symbols. You will notice the predominance of this word, "seven," exemplifying perfection, throughout the book of Revelation. Here Christ is brought into the picture, as He had been slain from the foundation of the world. The representation here is of a perfect sacrifice, with perfect knowledge and perception of everything in earth and in heaven.

Yes, only one could possibly be worthy to loose the seals and look upon the scrolls, and that was Jesus Christ Himself, the Lamb of God. As He took the scroll to loose it, those nearest the throne lifted their voices in singing a new song as described in verse 9: "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."

Now we are prepared to see the unfolding and unveiling of the contents of this important book, or scroll, beginning in Chapter 6, verse 1: "And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering and to conquer." Now, notice that the first representation is a white horse, revealing and symbolizing the purity of that first period of the Church's history. The apostolic church, of course, did go forth with great victory to conquer the world for Christ. The crown represents Kingship. There was a bold, fresh, fearlessness about those who went forth fresh from Pentecost to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the text says, "They went forth conquering, and to conquer."

Paul was an example of the tremendous courage manifested by those early preachers of the Way. Paul said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is a power of God unto salvation." Romans 1:16. Of course, he had not seen, as the other disciples had, the actual healing, preaching ministry of Jesus. But nevertheless, he had been an eye witness of that power on the road to Damascus, as Christ was revealed to him. No wonder, then, that there was such boldness in the preaching of the gospel in those days. The disciples knew what they were talking about because they had been with Jesus and they had actually seen with their own eyes the mighty power of His ministry. The gospel actually reached out to cover the entire world in the days of the apostle Paul, according to Colossians 1:23. Thus we have a view of the first period of the history of the Christian church as it began to grow up into its worldwide scope. This period would probably cover, in general, the times of the apostles and their ministry.

Now, we read Revelation 6:3, 4, describing the second seal: "And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword." Notice now, that the color of the horse has changed from white to red, denoting a gradual change in the purity of that early Christian church. Worldliness began to creep in and the zeal of the people waned as the apostles passed off the stage of action. In Acts 20:29, 30, Paul actually prophesied of a departure from the faith soon after his own death. He said, "After my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock." Sure enough, we find that divisions arose. Men set themselves to lord their authority over the church of God. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, we read about a falling away that would come. A man of sin, or "mystery of iniquity" would arrive, seeking to destroy the original truth of the gospel. Paul said, the "mystery of iniquity" was even working in his day (verse 7). There were inroads of pagan ideas gradually gaining ground within the church. Of course we know that those things were finally fully revealed and many of them stand fully revealed in our own time. But it was only like a leaven working in the days of the apostle Paul. The general time period of the second seal reaches down to about 323 A.D., or the time of Constantine. Constantine was the first so-called Christian emperor. As he went out to fight the Battle of Milvian Bridge, he was reputedly converted by a vision of a flaming cross in the sky. Afterwards it was the determination of Constantine to build up the influence and prestige of the church. In order to do this he actually brought in many of the pagan doctrines and ideas of the heathen world to establish the authority of the church he had espoused.

Now we go on to the third seal revealed in Revelation 6:5, 6: "And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand." Here we see a complete turning away or departure from the original purity of the gospel. Spiritual darkness descended as more and more gnostic and heathen influences infiltrated the church. We see almost the opposite of the apostolic purity now. The balances here symbolize a spirit of commercialism that became rampant at this period of the church's history. Substitutes were set up for the actual commands of God and Christ. In general, the spirit extended from the time of Constantine to about 538 A.D., when some drastic steps were taken actually to put down the law of God and to dispense with some of the commandments contained therein. How very fitting, then, that this period of the church's history should be symbolized by the black horse.

Verses 7 and 8 bring to view the fourth seal: "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." Here we come to the time of the persecution period of history, the Dark Ages, beginning in general about 538 A.D., and extending for almost a thousand years. During this time more than fifty million martyrs laid down their lives for the truth's sake. This period actually continued almost to the time of the Protestant Reformation. Time would fail us to describe the awful inquisitions of some of the Roman emperors and their successors. Christians were thrown to the wild animals in the amphitheaters. Thousands upon thousands died because they refused to yield up the faith delivered unto them through Christ and the disciples. In Matthew 24:22 Jesus said, "For the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." And so it was that Martin Luther arose and nailed his thesis upon the church door at Wittenberg. Friends, we should be very, very thankful for that date of October 31, 1517, for without that we might not have a July 4, 1776. The courage of Luther and other great men of the Reformation period have made possible the concepts of freedom and religious liberty as we understand them in this modern age.

Let us hurry along now to the fifth seal described in verses 9-11: "And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were 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, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." Now here we come into a period representing the Reformation period, an era when the truth is vindicated in spite of the terrible persecutions which had swept away hundreds of thousands of innocent victims. Now those martyrs are recognized for their true heroism and courage. In the symbolic prophecy, "white robes" are ascribed to them, robes of righteousness. Their fidelity to truth is now recognized as being a great mark of heroism. Just as the blood of innocent Abel was represented as crying from the ground in the book of Genesis, crying for vengeance, so here the blood of the martyrs who had died for their faith, is represented as crying out also for vengeance from the persecutors. The unjust death of those Christians demands vengeance. It was the work of the Reformation leaders and the introduction of the printing press which made it possible to vindicate the multitudes who had gone down to ignominious death during the Dark Ages.

Let us be reminded right at this point that the truth was not entirely wiped out by the long period of persecution. Refugee groups fled back into the mountains and hid in the caves of earth to preserve the true doctrines of apostolic Christianity. Another book of Acts could be written concerning the heroism of those persecuted minority groups who sought to preserve the purity of the gospel during times of extreme persecution and tribulation.

So far our investigation has brought us down very close to our own modern times. The sixth seal actually does introduce a period of signs that lead us right up to our own day in world history.

Read verses 12 through 17 now: "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens 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 that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" Here is a period of great, physical signs which lead up to one actual appearing of Christ in the heavens, the Second Coming of Jesus. That period of persecution was to be cut short according to the words of Christ in Matthew 24:21, 22. He said that except those days should be shortened, the very elect would perish. So it was cut short. It should have continued right on up until about 1798, according to certain other prophecies of the Bible, but it was cut short because of the Protestant Reformation which began at that time. In Matthew 24:29, Jesus said, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened." Friends, it was actually true that these great, physical signs and phenomena of nature did take place just as soon as the terrible persecutions had subsided. You'll notice according to the prophecy that the first sign was to be a tremendous earthquake. It was November 1, 1755, when the historic Lisbon earthquake took place. It affected four million square miles of territory, and 60,000 people died in just six minutes' time. Some people might say, "Well, that was just another earthquake." But 25 years after that the next sign described here in Revelation actually took place. And that was the sun becoming "black as sackcloth of hair," and the moon becoming "as blood." It was May 19, 1780 when this great phenomenon took place. It was not understood then and never has been understood, even until this day. There was no eclipse due. It began about 10 or 10:30 in the morning. Suddenly the entire light of the heaven seemed to fade away. The animals thought the night had come, so the cows came in, and the chickens went to roost. People had to light candles in order to read ordinary print at mid-day. It was generally felt that the Day of Judgment had arrived, because nothing like it had ever been known before; neither has anything like it appeared in the years since. When the moon did appear on that night of the Great Darkness, it did not shine at all, but actually did have the appearance of blood. Joel made a prophecy many, many years before; in fact, hundreds of years before in his writing. In Joel 2:30, 31, he said, "And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come." Another Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, had spoken in similar language, in Isaiah 13:10: "For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine." All those things took place, friends, exactly according to the blueprint of the Bible.

The next startling event was described as the Stars of Heaven falling, as though fig trees were being "shaken of a mighty wind." This took place on November 13, 1833. It was doubtless one of the most sublime demonstrations in the heavens ever beheld by the eyes of man. Hundreds and hundreds, even thousands of stars were seen at the same moment in the skies, falling and shooting in every direction, exactly as though some unripened fruit was being shaken off a tree. There are many, many people who have talked with those who saw the Falling of the Stars in 1833, and who have been able to absorb something of the terror and fear of impending judgment which gripped the world at that time.

Now, immediately after verse 13, which describes the falling of the stars, we read this verse: "And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places." In other words, according to the great time table of heaven, the next event is the coming of Jesus in the clouds of heaven. We are actually living between verses 13 and 14 of Revelation 6. Everything else has been fulfilled and we are awaiting that grand climax of history, the rolling back of the clouds of heaven and the appearing of Jesus Christ. It has been now about 147 years since the last sign was given. A very, very little remains in this world to be fulfilled, as far as Bible prophecy is concerned. The close of probation, the seven last plagues being poured out, and then verse 14 will take place. The heavens will roll back, and the mountains and islands will be moved out of their places by the great earthquake of the last day.

Now there remains one more seal to be opened, and it is revealed in Revelation 8:1. The entire seventh chapter is thrown in here between the sixth and the seventh seal. It describes a great world movement, a message that will be carried everywhere to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus. And then Chapter 8, verse 1 brings the revelation of the seventh seal: "And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." Now, this is a strange thing, friends; it tells us only that there was silence in heaven. This could mean only that heaven is emptied momentarily of its inhabitants. The angels there, ten thousand times ten thousand, constantly sing their praises before the throne of God. But, as we discovered under the sixth seal, the end of the world has come and Christ and all the angels come down to intervene in human history. The righteous are to be resurrected, and the saints of God will be translated now and taken to that heavenly home. So this one half hour of time when heaven is silent, is undoubtedly prophetic time. In the Bible, a day represents a year in prophecy, according to Ezekiel 4:6, "I have appointed thee each day for a year." If we apply this prophetic yardstick, one half hour of time would be just about a week of regular days. So this would be the time, no doubt, that Christ and all the angels would be coming here to this earth to receive the saints of God, to take them back to the glories of heaven.

Friends, what a day that will be! Think of the joy of His coming, the glory that will be revealed at that time. Only two classes of people will be here then: the ones who cry unto the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from the face of Jesus; and the other group, who will look up and say, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us." Isaiah 25:9. Which group will you be in? No one can escape that moment of divine intervention. No one can fail to be present on that day. May God help you to make your decision, and to be prepared for Him when He appears.

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