Revelation 6 and 7

In Revelation 6 the Lamb begins to open the scroll by breaking the seals on it.  And as each seals is broken something bad happens or is released.  These events are not the contents of the scroll but signs that accompany the breaking of the seals.   The first four seals are accompanied by four separate horsemen, each of a different color.  The first rider is white and carries a bow.  He is a conqueror bent on conquest.   He represents “wars and rumors of wars.”  The second horseman is red and he carries a sword.  He is to take peace from the earth and turn people on each other.  He represents “nation turning against nation and kingdom against kingdom.”  The third horseman is black and he brings economic hardship.  The last horseman is pale like a corpse and brings death and Hades with him.  When the fifth seal is broken John sees the souls of the martyrs under the altar.  These five things occur in every age and are not the beginning of God’s judgment.  They are the reality of life in a corrupt age.  John wants his listeners to know that these things are not beyond God’s control.  At the breaking of the sixth seal all the powerful people on the earth, along with the slaves and the powerless try to hide under the rocks.  They know that the Day of the Lord has come.   This is an example of the ”looping” chronology of the Book of Revelation.  John tells us things about the future and then loops back to the present.  Then he loops into the past before jumping into the future again.  I believe this throne room scene follows Jesus ascension to Heaven.  In that sense it is past.  Yet the events that accompany the first five seals are always present on the earth.  And the breaking of the sixth seal takes us far into the future.  Before the seventh seal is broken there is an interlude.  This is Revelation 7.  In it John sees two visions of the church.  The first 8 verses speak of the 144,000 servants of God who are sealed in their foreheads.  144,000 is a number that represents completed humanity, humankind in its fullness.  John sorts them by the twelve tribes of Israel.  It is an unusual list because Joseph is included, and there is no tribe of Joseph.   Levi is included, although this tribe is usually left off because they did not receive an inheritance of land within Israel.  Dan and Ephraim are omitted.   Many scholars believe the names on the list are less important than the list itself as representative of the fullness of humanity.  Then John sees a multitude to great to count made up of every tribe, tongue, nation, etc.  One of the elders asks him if he knows who they are.  The question seems rhetorical because he quickly answers, “These are those who came out of the great tribulation.  They washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.”  They will now always be with the Lamb.   The first century believers believed a time of trouble would precede Jesus’ second coming.   It was a time of “great tribulation” and during it they were participating in the suffering of the Messiah.  Further, they felt they were in that time.  You can see hints of this in the NT (i.e., Col. 1.24; 2 Cor. 1.5a; Phil. 3.10, etc.).  So these are the people of all ages and people groups who become followers of the Lamb.  In these two images, then, John has seen the fullness of the church.  The interlude comes to an end in 8.1 as the seventh seal is broken and heaven falls silent for one half hour.

 

About bob

I am a Vineyard pastor and a passionate student of the Bible with an instinctive distrust of "business as usual" when it comes to the story of the Bible. Gratefully I have the opportunity to dig a little deeper and my purpose with this blog is to share what I discover.

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