Rev. 6:1-17

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Rev. 6:1-17. The Fifth Seal (6:9-11) The cry out for justice and vindication of a righteous God upon a rebellious and God-forgetful world; expression “those who dwell upon the earth,” the earthdwellers, throughout the book refers to those who are not God’s people.
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Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Fifth Seal (6:9-11)
  • The cry out for justice and vindication of a righteous God upon a rebellious and God-forgetful world; expression “those who dwell upon the earth,” the earthdwellers, throughout the book refers to those who are not God’s people.
  • Throughout the Bible God is represented as the one to whom vengeance belongs; “I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:9).
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Fifth Seal (6:9-11)
  • Some find the cry for vindication incongruous with the Xtian spirit, pointing out that J. prayed for his enemies; however, this parallels J’s teaching in Lk. 18:7, where the living elect pray to God to vindicate them in the future, while these who have already been sacrificed pray that they may be righteously vindicated in the moral justice of God and his universe.
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Fifth Seal (6:9-11)
  • This is not so much a matter of personal vindication as it is for the bringing of his justice upon evil in all of its entrenched power and persecuting force.
  • The 5th seal is not in chronological succession to the 1st 4, but rather is simply in the succession of the visions.
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Fifth Seal (6:9-11)
  • The plea of the souls under the altar was answered in the white robes of victory given to each one of them and in the call that they should “rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were killed as they themselves had been.”
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Fifth Seal (6:9-11)
  • God’s great redemptive purpose in history must be worked out even though more suffering is involved; they were not transferred from beneath the altar; they were given white robes of victory while they wait for the consummation of God’s purposes.
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Fifth Seal (6:9-11)
  • Their rest is probably a reference to the rest mentioned in 14:13, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth.”
  • “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Sixth Seal (6:12-17)
  • Descriptions in this seal are drawn from a number of passages; they indicate that we are looking to the great day of God’s judgment; “The great day of their wrath has come” (17), when the vindication called for in the fifth seal will take place.
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Sixth Seal (6:12-17)
  • 5 great events accompany this day in the universe, and every detail is also found in the description of judgment in the OT (Isa. 13:13; Ps. 102:25-26):
  • 1) the earthquake (Ezek. 38:18ff; Joel 2:10; Hag. 2:6-7)
  • 2) the sun becoming black like sackcloth and the moon becoming blood (Joel 2:31; Isa. 50:3)
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Sixth Seal (6:12-17)
  • 3) the stars falling like green, unripe figs swept off the tree prematurely by a strong wind (Isa. 34:4)
  • 4) the rolling up of the heavens like a scroll (Isa. 34:4)
  • 5) the moving of the hills and the islands of the sea (Jer. 4:24; Nahum 1:5)
  • The whole universe is convulsed and the most enduring things falls into chaos.
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Sixth Seal (6:12-17)
  • Along with these convulsions of the earth and heavens, 7 classes of mankind are mentioned: the kings, the princes, the chief captains or the military leaders, the strong, the slaves, and the freemen.
  • All the godless world from the highest to the lowest classes is seized with the same fear (Joel 2:1), hiding in caves and rocks to cover them up and to hide them from the face of God and from the wrath of the Lamb (Hos. 10:8).
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Sixth Seal (6:12-17)
  • This is a graphic, dramatic picture of the terror of evil men at the end and the inescapable judgment of God and the Lamb.
  • As throughout the NT, the Lamb is also the judge; note the expression “the wrath of the Lamb,” even though he was called a Lion.
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Sixth Seal (6:12-17)
  • One scarcely thinks of a Lamb being wrathful, but this indicates the justice and the judgment of God upon evil.
  • The concluding question in this paragraph is, “Who is able to stand?” (Joel 2:11).
  • As in the Garden of Eden sinful man hid from God, so shall it be man’s desire at the end.
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Sixth Seal (6:12-17)
  • There is no place to hide, though the first instinct of sinful man is to run for cover and to seek the darkness rather than stand in the face of God (John 3:19).
  • Scholars differ regarding the description of judgment here whether it refers to judgment brought upon men while the earth stands or is a reference to the last day.
  • Rev. 6:1-17
  • The Sixth Seal (6:12-17)
  • Likely, it is the last day, looked at proleptically here and more fully later.
  • The 4 horsemen of Rev. have ridden many times through human history, and the people of God have suffered persecution many times.
  • The assurance of this lesson is that the persecuted triumph and the godless are judged.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Between the 6th & 7th seas there are 2 visions that are given to answer the question, “What about the people of God during this time? Are they to be forgotten? Or will God take care of them?
  • 1st vision concerns the sealing of the 144,000, while the 2nd vision describes the innumerable company around the throne in glory.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • The 1st vision concerns God’s people on earth, while the 2nd looks to the ultimate consummation of God’s great protection in the final salvation of his own.
  • Despite the riding of the 4 horsemen, and the persecution of God’s people, in the sealing of the 144,000 God’s purpose is to bring them safely through any evil which the world has to bring upon them.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • This does not mean that God’s people will be exempt from all tragedy and suffering; rather, they shall be secured by an inner spiritual sealing so that passing through the fires of suffering they shall not be hurt.
  • Those who hold to the futurist view interpret this to refer to the Jewish Xtians that are sealed after the coming of X and the “rapture” of the saints in the sky; the nation of Israel has been converted and these are now sealed.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • But this overlooks the fact that the expression “servants of our God” (v. 3) refers to the same group addressed in chap. 1 in the intro. (1:1).
  • Through the NT fleshly Israel is a type of spiritual Israel, the church, God’s people under the New Covenant; the ch is the true Israel of God today (Rom. 2:28,29; Gal. 3:29; 6:16; Phil. 3:3; James 1:1; I Pet. 1:1; 2:9,10).
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • In addition, previous references in Rev. indicate that John regards Xtians as the true Jews (2:9; 3:9); also in 14:1 this same group is pictured on Mt. Zion sharing the triumph of the Lamb.
  • Thus the 144,000 described in terms of the 12 tribes on earth refer to God’s true spiritual Israel on earth, being protected by his seal and brought safely through the tribulations.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • This same group of people is spoken of as the great multitude which no man could number out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, standing about the throne of God and of the Lamb in heaven in the second vision.
  • If this interpretation is correct, the sealing is an act by God embracing all his people, both Jews and Gentiles and continues in every generation until the end of this age; God assures the faithful that they will come safely through under his protection and he promises them for their encouragement the ultimate triumph of everlasting peace and joy.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-6)
  • John’s 1st view shows 4 angels standing at the 4 corners of the earth at all the 4 points of the compass, holding the 4 winds that blow from north, east, south, and west.
  • They keep in check these winds so that no wind may hurt the earth and sea until the sealing is finished; nothing is to prevent God from protecting his own.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-6)
  • “The seal of the living God” is to be placed upon the foreheads of his servants; the book does not satisfy any further our curiosity as to what happens when the 4 angels turn loose the 4 winds to blow on the earth and sea, but imagination can lead us to understand that perhaps these represent in various ways the judgments that are to come as a storm upon the earth.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-6)
  • These may refer to the judgments that are represented in the trumpets by way of warning to the earthdwellers.
  • One of the important lessons of the book is that God makes use of the evil in the world in order to bring judgment upon evildoers; evil bears in itself the seeds of its own destruction; God makes use of the tragedies that men cause in order to bring about the destruction of evil men.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-6)
  • The winds the 4 angels control are winds of woe (7:2); another angel, used as God’s agent for sealing the children of God, commands that these four angels shall not turn loose their winds of woe until the work of sealing has been completed.
  • “The seal of the living God” refers to the common use in ancient world of the seal in everyday life.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-6)
  • The tomb of J. was sealed by Pilate to protect it from tampering (Mt. 27:66); seal also denoted ownership (II Tim. 2:19), “the Lord knows those who are his.”
  • Expression “the living God” is familiar in NT and emphasizes the difference between the God who not only lives forever but also is the source of life everlasting and all that exists.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-6)
  • Note that this seal is placed on the forehead and will be later referred to in contrast to the “mark of the beast” which is the distinguishing mark of those who follow this agent of the dragon (13:16,17).
  • J. does not actually see the sealing; he only hears the number of the sealed; this number, 144,000, is a symbolic number, since the same number comes from each one of 12 tribes and each tribe is named one by one.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-6)
  • This signifies the fullness or full number of God’s people; those who limit it to the elect from Israel in the OT have missed the Xtian emphasis of Rev.; those who would limit it to only the Jewish Xtians have missed the significance of the ch being the true Israel of God today.
  • The listing of tribes would certainly not refer to earthly Israel, for a number of the tribes had already lost their identity by NT times.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-6)
  • The order of the list is strange; Judah heads the list where we would expect Reuben; probably J’s heading the list focuses attention on that tribe as the one from which the Messiah came.
  • Dan is omitted and Joseph is substituted for the name Ephraim (Ephraim and Manasseh were sons of Joseph).
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Sealing of the 144,000 (7:1-6)
  • Irenaeus (ca. A.D. 185) explained the omission of Dan as due to the belief that the antichrist would come from the tribe of Dan (Against Heresies, v. 30.2).
  • Perhaps; indeed the tribe of Dan is specially identified with idolatry in the book of Judges in the OT.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Innumerable Company (7:9-17)
  • In this 2nd vision J. sees the whole multitude of the redeemed, now a company “which no man can number,” coming from all over the world and standing before the throne of the Lamb.
  • They are now clothed with the white robes of their victory and palm branches are in their hands, as they join in a great cry of triumph; the theme of their cry is “salvation,” for they have been redeemed eternally and ascribe their redemption to God and to the Lamb.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Innumerable Company (7:9-17)
  • Here the one who sits upon the throne is described as “our God,” thus interpreting this particular statement definitely, if there had been any doubt before.
  • The true Savior is not the emperor who loved the title Soter, meaning Savior, but the true Savior is Jesus X and our God.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Innumerable Company (7:9-17)
  • Joining the circle of worshippers around the throne is the great company of angels and they fall upon their faces and offer their own hymn of praise; is a 7-fold ascription of praise to God beginning with the Amen, by which they sanction the cry of the redeemed.
  • Definite article used in Gk with each one of the 7 elements in this doxology, but the order is different from other doxologies in the book.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Innumerable Company (7:9-17)
  • One of the elders asks a question of J, not for purpose of gaining information, but for purposes of identifying the scene—esp. the ones in the scene and from where they come.
  • J’s answer indicates he would like to know the answer; elder then identifies the ones wearing the white robes as those who had been sinners, for they had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Innumerable Company (7:9-17)
  • One of figures in Bible describing sin looks at it as that which makes the spirit of an individual dirty, and redemption is described in terms of cleansing from the uncleanness and defilement of sin.
  • These are also the ones who have come through the great tribulation, the time of persecution and great suffering, and have been faithful and true.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Innumerable Company (7:9-17)
  • They had realized the promises to the ones that conquer specifically made in the letters to the 7 churches; thus they are always before the throne of God, serving him in his temple and his protection is upon them.
  • Word trans. “shall spread his tabernacle” (ASV) (Gk skenoo) is defined as “live” or “dwell” but specifically in this passage as “shelter.”
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Innumerable Company (7:9-17)
  • God’s presence is with his people and his protection shields them forever; as his seal had protected them on earth, they are now made secure through all eternity.
  • Drawing upon language in Isa. 49:10, the protection is further described; they shall know hunger and thirst no more, nor suffer because of the blazing heat.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Innumerable Company (7:9-17)
  • Their “slight momentary affliction” (II Cor. 4:17) is contrasted to eternity around God’s throne.
  • The next verse (17) presents us with the Lamb as the shepherd of his people; while KJV trans. “feed,” the Gk word literally means “act as a shepherd” (cf. with Acts 20:28); is a favorite figure in the writings of John.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Innumerable Company (7:9-17)
  • Interestingly, the Lamb as their shepherd has taken on their nature as sheep; we do not think of a lamb being the shepherd, but the Lamb who took on the nature of his sheep now is their shepherd; he is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep (John 10:11).
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Innumerable Company (7:9-17)
  • As he has guided them through life in this world, this passage shows that his shepherding will continue to “guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
  • Like a mother wiping away tears from the eyes of little children, so God wipes away our tears; this language is from Isa. 25:8.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • Innumerable Company (7:9-17)
  • There are several parallels in this section to the last two chapters of the book; here the description of the new Jerusalem and the blessing of God’s people are anticipated proleptically.
  • Baljon says “Words like these of vv. 15-17 sound like a divine music in the ears of the persecuted. God will comfort as a mother comforts.”
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • The Seventh Seal (8:1-5)
  • With opening of 7th seal, the sealed book is now open and an expectant silence occurs in heaven; this dramatic silence ushers in the 7 angels with 7 trumpets.
  • Actually the entire group of seven trumpets composes the contents of the 7th seal.
  • Praises of the angel hosts along with the elders and 4 living creatures are stopped in order that the prayers of those saints (Xtians) on earth may be heard.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • The Seventh Seal (8:1-5)
  • The 7 angels “who stand before God” were thought of as occupying a particular position by the Jews; expression “to stand before” means to attend upon or to be the servant of someone.
  • Gabriel describes himself as one who stands in the presence of God (Lk. 1:19)
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • The Seventh Seal (8:1-5)
  • In the Book of Tobit (Jewish Apocrypha) “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels which present prayers of the saints, and go in before the glory of the holy one” (12:15).
  • In I Enoch (another apocryphal book) names of the archangels are given as Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, Uriel, Raquel, Sariel, and Remiel; only Gabriel and Michael appear in the NT; whether the 7 angels of Rev. are archangels cannot be determined.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • The Seventh Seal (8:1-5)
  • Trumpet had particular significance in the OT; was used not only in connection with warning, but also with the time of judgment (Joel 2:1ff); it is a sign of God’s intervention in this world’s affairs (Ex. 19:16,19).
  • In NT have “the last trumpet” which will accompany the coming of the Lord again (Mt. 24:31; I Cor 15:52; I Thess. 4:16); the 7 trumpets are trumpets of warning and judgment.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • The Seventh Seal (8:1-5)
  • Next see another angel who comes and stands at the altar with his golden censer and much incense is given to him “to mingle with the prayers of all the saints” that go up before God out of the angel’s hand.
  • “Altar” occurs 7 times in Rev. (6:9; 8:3 twice, 5; 9:13; 14:18; 16:7).
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • The Seventh Seal (8:1-5)
  • The golden altar was the altar in the tabernacle that stood just before the veil which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies; here both morning and evening incense were offered to God from the golden censer filled with coals of fire from the brazen altar in the court and with incense from the table of shewbread inside the tabernacle.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • The Seventh Seal (8:1-5)
  • The golden altar is here described as standing before the throne of God in heaven; probably “much incense” represents Christ’s intercession added to the saints’ prayers, for he is the saints’ Advocate with the Father (I John 2:1); there is no idea here of a special angelic mediation in addition to X’s, since throughout the book angels refuse to receive the worship of the prophet.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • The Seventh Seal (8:1-5)
  • Note again that “all the saints,” the struggling, suffering saints on earth, are included; the prayers of the saints accompanied by the sweet perfume of he incense, representing X’s intercession, are purged of everything selfish and come up acceptably before God.
  • The answer to those prayers came in v. 5 when the censer was filled with fire from the altar and cast upon the earth.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • The Seventh Seal (8:1-5)
  • Doubtful that 2 distinct altars appear in the passage, but probably characteristics of both the golden altar and the altar of burnt offering are combined in this altar.
  • Obviously, no sacrifices of blood would be offered upon the altar of burnt offering in heaven, since one full and one complete sacrifice had already been given.
  • Rev. 7:1-8:5
  • The Seventh Seal (8:1-5)
  • Better to understand the altar as partaking of the nature of both these OT counterparts.
  • The “thunders, voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” are also associated with the seventh trumpet (11:19) and the 7th bowl (16:18).
  • The judgments of God upon a wicked world are about to be given.
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