March 26, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XLII: The Seven Seals-Part I

The Seven Seals: Part I

John has said already that Christ has begun to reign over earthly kings in Revelation 2:6–27. Now in Revelation 6:1–8 he explains that this reign extends even over the situations of suffering in which many Christians find themselves. The exact suffering that has been allueded to in the letters in chapters 2 and 3.

In the beginning of chapter 6 we see that it is intended to show that Christ rules over such an apparently chaotic world and that suffering does not occur indiscriminately or by chance. As a matter of fact, we see that the  destructive events are brought about by Christ for both redemptive and judicial purposes. We see that it is Christ sitting on his throne who controls all the trials and persecutions of the church. The commands for each of the four destructive horses and riders originates from the throne room, where Christ opens each seal.

Cherubim around the throne issue commands to the horseman in response to the opening of each seal. Only then do the horsemen release their fury. The  sequence of the four seals being opened could mean sequential occurrence of each disaster but there is also the probability that they may happen concurrently. In actuality the fourth seal summarizes the prior three. What is also interesting is that the glorified saints in Rev. 6:9–11 appear to suffer under all four trials portrayed in the seals.

Conquest seems to symbolize the first rider. Anarchy and social breakdown symbolizes the second rider. Catastrophes that lead to famine is the third rider and obviously death is the fourth  rider. White horse with rider holding a bow  but what appears to be no arrows is wearing a crown  or a στέφανος / stephanos – a victor’s crown or wreath; not  a kingly crown or diadem. This imagery is very Ancient Persian or Parthian. Persian archers were greatly feared for their deadly accuracy. As such they were greatly feared by Rome’s and they were Rome's mortal enemy since they had endure defeats in front of these authors. Additionally, the bow is a symbol of judgment by  battle or war in the Old Testament.

The rider on the white horse is either (1) Christ, Antichrist or a generalized aura or spirit of conquest. It should be noted that the early church viewed this horse as conquest from external sources.

There is then a red horse with a rider empowered to take peace and the rider had  a great sword. As with the bow the sword symbolizes judgment (sometimes by war). In addition the color red is  associated with bloodshed and war. Hence Mars being the God of War and a red planet is named after him. The early church saw this as internal not external and it appears this might be strife caused by an internal way (i.e.: insurrection, revolution or civil war). This is further support by the fact that men that "σφάξουσιν/sphaxousin/they should be slaying".... "ἀλλήλους/allelous/one another" or "each other" as if they would be killing themselves, amongst themselves. It is interesting to note that in A.D. 68-69 the Roman Empire saw great ‘bloody unrest’ as three emperors were assassinated.

Then comes the black horse with the rider holding a pair of scales. We have seen judgment unfold in conquest, bloodshed and now as famine and what appears to be some form of rationing. Barley & wheat were basic staples – a quart of wheat was a day’s sustenance – a denarius was a day’s wages thus a man with a family would have to buy the cheaper barley but 3 quarts of barley would not feed a family of four so some family members will starve to death. The famine caused an inflation rate for wheat will be about 10 times its average price.

The Pale horse then arrives (ashen or pale green – appearance of the dead) with the rider that has the name of “Death” and Hades followed him. It will be a pale eerie green a la Scooby-Doo in and ethereal and ghastly kind of way. One quarter (1/4) of humanity will be killed wiped-out via sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts. Things will not be looking too pretty for people. The people on the earth during this tribulation had better stock up on a few extra months-worth of rations and Toll House Cookies. In a world of 8 billion humans, 2 billion would be destroyed. That is a magnitude of death or death toll that is hard to get one’s head around. The population of China and India would be wiped off the face of the earth. The first “Four Seals” may be considered as a unit and a general description of the Great Tribulation as an unprecedented time of horrible trouble

There will be a Fifth Seal and there will be an appeal to God by persecuted and glorified Christians to demonstrate His justice by judging persecutors. They will be answered when all His people complete the suffering that He has determined for them (Revelation 6:9-11). Things that need to be noted about this passage is that in OT rituals poured the blood of the slaughtered animal at the base of the altar (Ex 29:12, Lev. 4:7). Martyrs are viewed as sacrifices (Phil. 2:7). Souls are visible and given white robes and the question arises, “How can a spirit without substance wear a white robe?” They were martyred because of the Word of God & the testimony they had maintained. Finally, they cry out for vengeance and are told to wait until the full number of righteous dead is completed.

Along with the above statements it must be taken into account that celestial cataclysmic language is often used to illustrate God’s judgments in history as in the Minor Prophets and they are also used at the end of the age. Powerful earthquakes (Zechariah 14:4-5; Ezekiel 38:20; Amos 8:8). Revelation 6:12-14’s – earthquake is a regular feature of divine visitation as in Exodus19:18; Isaiah 2:19; Haggai 2:6). The moon became like blood (Joel 2:31) is quoted by Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:20). Severe earthquakes occurred in the first-century Asia Minor and were an ever-present reality for people reading the Bible in John’s time and later.

Even more dramatic than the earthquake was the celestial signs and changes in the heavens with the sun turning black, the moon turning blood red, and stars falling like late figs from a tree. Darkness also follows the OT judgment motif (Exodus 10:21-23) and this is especially at the end of the age (Isaiah 13:9-10). The stars could symbolize angelic hosts (Revelation12:4; Isaiah 24:21; Daniel 8:10) but in this context it is more than probable that we are dealing with something cosmic and in judgment. Although the graphic language is not always meant as literal astronomy - disappearing or fallen stars were used as poetic language for great devastations. Every mountain and island were moved is very reminiscent of Jeremiah 4:24, Nahum 1:5. While some see a figurative fulfillment, others see a literal fulfillment. I am not passing judgment here or offering opinions as I just do not know from the wordage. It is possible that the trumpet & bowl judgments include great cosmic disturbances associated with the Parousia or second-coming of Jesus.

The original audience would’ve been encouraged to know that God would ultimately vindicate them against the emperor and his governors who now judged them, as would others persecuted in the future in the same situation. Hiding in the rocks and crying for the mountains to conceal them from God’s wrath reflects Hosea 10:8, Isaiah 2:10, 19-20. The unbelievers fear in these passage is to be so great they would rather be killed by a falling mountain than to face the wrath of God.

Chapter 6 is a pivot point in Revelation. It describes the first six seals and also introduces the seventh seal which consists of and introduces the 7 trumpets and the 7 bowls of the wrath of God.

Revelation chapter 7:1-17 is a digression that separates the final seal from the preceding six seals which is the same as the trumpet sequence. It also contains two visions (1) sealing of the 144,000 and (2) the innumerable multitude (v 9-17). In Revelation 7:1 we again see the “After this” as we did in Chapter 4 and means that this vision follows the preceding one, not that the events it describes do. The four winds mentioned are the angelic destructive agents of God (Jeremiah 49:36) seen in very figurative language (Jewish figurative language to be exact).

As we reach the 7th Seal in 7:2, it should be noted that a " σφραγῖδα / sphragida/ seal” refers to the impression of a signet ring or cylinder seal which authenticated and protected the contents and can only be sealed or closed and then opened under certain conditions such as witnesses as we have seen in earlier chapters. As these are God’s seal(s), He will protect these chosen bond-servants ownership & protection guaranteed.

It appears that the sealing in chapter 7 results in the name of the LORD being stamped on the forehead of His bond-servants just as we see a form of "passover" in Revelation 9:4; and allusions to in 14:1; 22:4. Whether this is this  to be understood as literal or figurative is unknown. I do not find it ironic though that the mark of the beast was to be in the same area in Revelation 13:16-17. It would cause, "all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name."

Furthermore, Israelites are told in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6) concerning the Lord's teaching that, "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

The key to understanding the inappropriateness of taking the mark of the beast on the forehead or hand in Revelation is Deuteronomy 6:8. The Israelites were to bind the commandments on these areas. God's greatest commandments. Modern devout Jews still do this. They are called Phylacteries or Tefillin. The little square boxes that they bind to their head and arms/hands contain small folded pieces of Deuteronomy 6:5-9, 11:13-21 and Exodus 13:1-16.

Deuteronomy 11:13-21 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul-then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord's anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

Instead of binding what God commands His people to bind in the areas of the forehead and hand, people will instead take the "mark" in these areas. It is essentially mocking and belittling what God told the Israelites was to be done to remind them what He considered most important, which is love and obedience. It is the most disobedient form of disobedience and shows a complete lack of love for God and His statutes by taking "the mark".

On the other hand, God will mark his people so it will be obvious come judgment time who will get a whoopin' and who won't. Those with Mark of the Beast are gonna get hammered, those with God's mark will eventually be saved ad triumph.

God's mark will direct man towards God. The Mark of the Beast directs man towards man or towards evil and system of this world. A system that has nothing to do with Biblical love or obedience.

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