THE SEALS OF REVELATION
Living in the End Times
By James Duffee
Looking at the prophecies of Revelation concerning the end times, many people wonder how many of these prophecies have been fulfilled, and how many are still in the future. To answer this, it is necessary to study history, as well as prophecy. Many events are hidden away in the history books, waiting to be "discovered" by a new generation. To unlock the mysteries of Revelation, we'll begin with the seven seals. The seven seals depict ages, or time periods, for the Christian church - the body of Christ. As the number seven means "completeness", the seven seals are the complete story of the Christian church, from the very beginning until the return of Christ.
Revelation 6:1) 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. 2) 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.
The lamb, of course, represents Christ. Only He is worthy to open a seal and usher in a new era for the church. In this first seal, the white horse signifies purity, the pure gospel taught by the apostles in the first church age. The crown symbolizes the royalty and righteousness of Christ. The rider carrying a bow and going forth conquering represents the tremendous growth of the church under the leadership of the apostles. This seal covers the time between Christ's death and approximately 100 AD.
Revelation 6:3) And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 4) 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.
Contrasting the white horse of the first church age, this period is represented by a red horse, revealing corruption and error that crept into the church after the deaths of the apostles. During this church age, God's people were persecuted and slain, shown here in the fact that peace was taken from the earth, and this rider bears a great sword. This persecution, and this seal, ended at the time of Constantine, around 310 AD.
Revelation 6:5) 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. 6) And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and [see] thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
This period is represented by a black horse, symbolizing the complete corruption of the gospel message. The pair of balances refers to the balance of power between the church and the government during the reign of Constantine and his successors. In verse six, the rider sets the "selling price" for wheat and barley. This represents the greed and desire for wealth which permeated the church at this time. The command not to hurt the oil and the wine refers to the words of David in Psalm 104:15. David said the oil and wine were gifts from God. These gifts came to symbolize the joy and peace that can be found in God. Even in this age of darkness, there were some Christians who remained true to the gospel and had these gifts of oil and wine. The third church age ended when the Roman emperor Justinian granted the Bishop of Rome judicial authority in 538 AD.
Revelation 6:7) And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 8) 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.
The pale horse of the fourth seal represents the sickliness of the church in this age. The rider of this horse is named death, and Hell ("the grave" in Greek) followed him. This signifies that the persecution of God's people would resume, this time at the hands of the Church of Rome. This rider had power over a fourth of the earth, which was roughly the size of the Roman Empire at the time. He was given power to kill with the sword, hunger, death, and the beasts of the field. In this sentence, the word "death" means an instrument of death, such as torture or the gallows. These display the different means by which the Church of Rome killed those who were against it. This sick period of the church lasted until the Protestant Reformation began to break the power of the Roman Catholic Church, around 1600 AD.
Revelation 6:9) 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: 10) 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? 11) 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.
Under the fifth seal, John saw those who had been slain for the Word of God during the previous seals. Most people believe this is speaking of souls in heaven, but all of John's visions reveal events on earth or things that can be seen from earth. This altar, rather than the altar in God's heavenly sanctuary, is a sacrificial altar of pagans. In the Old Testament, it can be seen that an altar constructed by God's design is solid stone - there is no "under" side of the altar. Pagans, however, used an altar that looked like a table. These souls (people) that John saw were under a pagan altar, symbolizing their deaths at the hands of pagans in the church. These people were given white robes, showing that God considered them righteous and "eligible" to enter heaven. The voice telling these people to "rest yet a little season" indicates the temporary end of martyrdom at the close of this age. As the power of the Roman Catholic Church was ended, so were the violent executions of the saints. The final part of verse eleven reveals that there will be another time of martyrdom though.
Revelation 6:12) 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; 13) 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. 14) And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15) 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; 16) 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: 17) For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
From the highly symbolic nature of the first five seals, we are now given more literal events to look for. This coincides with the instructions that Daniel received concerning his visions. He was told to "seal the book even unto the time of the end" (Daniel 12:4). This indicated that the visions of Daniel would not be understood until the time of the end. Following the Protestant reformation, Biblical scholars began studying the prophecies of Daniel in earnest. God revealed the meanings of Daniel's visions at that time, which is also the time of the opening of this sixth seal. Under this seal there would be an earthquake, the sun would turn black, the moon would turn to blood, and the stars would fall from the sky. This would be followed by the heavens rolling back like a scroll and the mountains and islands "fleeing". Each of these signs is intended to warn God's people that the time of judgment is rapidly approaching.
The first sign of the sixth seal occurred on November 1, 1755. The great earthquake, centered in Lisbon, Portugal, (known as the Lisbon earthquake) was felt as far away as Great Britain, Sweden, Italy, northern Africa, the West Indies, and even America. Looking at a world map, it is almost impossible to conceive of an earthquake so great that its effects were felt over so large an area. But historical accounts indicate that cities from Lisbon to Morocco to Algiers were damaged, resulting in an estimated 90,000 deaths in Lisbon alone. The second sign, the sun turning black, occurred on "the dark day of May", May 19, 1780, followed by the moon turning to blood the same night:
"The 19th of May, 1780, was a remarkable dark day. Candles were lighted in many houses; the birds were silent and disappeared, and the fowls retired to roost. . . . A very general opinion prevailed that the day of judgment was at hand." Timothy Dwight, quoted by John W. Barber, Connecticut Historical Collections, p. 403.
"The appearance and effects were such as tended to make the prospect extremely dull and gloomy. Candles were lighted up in the houses; the birds, having sung their evening songs, disappeared, and became silent; the fowls retired to roost; the cocks were crowing all around, as at break of day; objects could not be distinguished but at very little distance; and everything bore the appearance and gloom of night." Samuel Williams, in Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. I, pp. 234, 235.
"The darkness of the following evening was probably as gross as ever has been observed since the Almighty gave birth to light. . . . I could not help conceiving at the times, that if every luminous body in the universe had been shrouded in impenetrable shades, or struck out of existence, the darkness could not have been more complete. A sheet of white paper held within a few inches of the eyes, was equally invisible with the blackest velvet." Samuel Tenny, in Collections of Massachusetts Historical Society for the year 1792, Vol. I, pp. 97, 98.
"In the evening . . . perhaps it never was darker since the children of Israel left the house of bondage. This gross darkness held till about one o'clock, although the moon had fulled but the day before." Boston Gazette, May 29, 1780.
The fact that the moon had been full the day before eliminates the possibility that the sun turned black due to a natural solar eclipse. Vivid accounts of the following night refer to the moon as having taken on the crimson color of blood. To this day, astronomers have been unable to discover a cause for such events. The third sign of the sixth seal, the stars falling from heaven, occurred on November 13, 1833.
"The most sublime phenomenon of shooting stars, of which the world has furnished any record, was witnessed throughout the United States on the morning of the 13th of November, 1833. The entire extent of this astonishing exhibition has not been precisely ascertained, but it covered no inconsiderable portion of the earth's surface. . . . The first appearance was that of fireworks of the most imposing grandeur, covering the entire vault of heaven with myriads of fireballs, resembling skyrockets. Their coruscations were bright, gleaming, and incessant, and they fell thick as the flakes in the early snows of December. To the splendors of this celestial exhibition the most brilliant skyrockets and fireworks of art bear less relation than the twinkling of the most tiny star to the broad glare of the sun. The whole heavens seemed in motion, and suggested to some the awful grandeur of the image employed in the Apocalypse, upon the opening of the sixth seal, when '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.'" Elijah H. Burritt, The Geography of the Heavens, p. 163.
"The stars fell 'even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.' Here is the exactness of the prophet. The falling stars did not come, as if from several trees shaken, but from one; those which appeared in the north fell toward the north; those which appeared in the west fell toward the west; and those which appeared in the south (for I went out of my residence into the park), fell toward the south; and they fell, not as ripe fruit falls. Far from it. But they flew, they were cast like the unripe fruit, which at first refuses to leave the branch; and, when it does break its hold, flies swiftly straight off, descending; and in the multitude falling, some cross the track of others, as they are thrown with more or less force." New York Journal of Commerce, Nov. 14, 1833, Vol. VIII, No. 534, p. 2.
The next sign, the heavens departing as a scroll, has yet to happen. This imagery is associated with the judgment of God's wrath - the seven final plagues.
Hebrews 12:25) See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more [shall not] we [escape], if we turn away from him that [speaketh] from heaven: 26) Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
Joel 3:16) The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD [will be] the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
It is the voice of God which causes the sky to depart like a scroll being rolled up. Following this, the mountains and islands will "flee" and not be found. These things are part of the seventh plague:
Revelation 16:17) And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. 18) And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, [and] so great. 19) And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. 20) And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
The final portion of the sixth seal, which we now await, will bring the plagues of Revelation. During this time, even the most influential people on earth will be running to the mountains in an effort to hide from the wrath of God. Before these things happen, though, we will see the establishment of the beast empire, along with the mark of the beast and the persecution of Christians.
Revelation 8:1) And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
This is the only event that occurs under the seventh seal. We are told that the angels sing to God continually in heaven, and praise Him "day and night":
Revelation 4:6) And before the throne [there was] a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, [were] four beasts full of eyes before and behind. 7) And the first beast [was] like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast [was] like a flying eagle. 8) And the four beasts had each of them six wings about [him]; and [they were] full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
Why, then, would there be silence in heaven? Because the entire host of heaven has accompanied Christ on His return.
Matthew 25:31) When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
Imagine the sight of the entire host of heaven surrounding the Son of God as He descends from His heavenly throne to gather His people. For some, this will be a time of rejoicing, praise and relief. For others, it will be a time of utter despair, as they realize that the "fables" they mocked and scoffed at are true.
God loved us so much that He saw fit to give us signs of warning that this time was fast approaching. Each of these signs has come to pass, and we stand on the threshold, awaiting the fulfillment of the beast prophecies. As the beast with horns like a lamb persuades the world to establish an image of the beast of Daniel, Christians will be persecuted like never before. They will be considered traitors, radicals and extremists - people who are to be exterminated without a second thought.
We have already seen in recent years how those with "odd" beliefs can easily be targeted for destruction with little or no objection from the general public. The assassination of Randy Weaver's wife and son were tolerated because the Weavers held unpopular beliefs. The Branch Davidians were tortured and executed without a shred of protest from most Americans because they were "weird". This same attitude will prevail against Christians and others who refuse to conform to the new standard of society.
Anyone who chooses not to honor the new empire, whether Christian, patriot, survivalist, or all of the above, will be singled out for destruction. Individuals, families, and entire colonies will be hunted down and murdered for the sake of the One World Government - the image of the beast.
Revelation 20:4) And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Those who refuse to accept the mark of the beast - those who will not worship the beast or the image of the beast - do so at the risk of beheading. The beast with lamb-like horns will command that anyone who does not worship the beast empire is to be killed. Unable to buy or sell, these people will be forced to live in the wilderness, on land they cannot own, growing and hunting their food and trusting in God to protect them from the beast.
Scripture does not tell us how long this period under the sixth seal will last. Before the plagues of God's wrath come upon this world, His people will have to live apart from the beast empire. This may last a year, ten years or possibly even several generations. We may be faced with the prospect of having to live off the land for the rest of our lives, and teaching our children and grandchildren to do the same. How well prepared are you?
Next in this series: "The Trumpets of Revelation"