Many have been confused about the scroll with seven seals (compare Revelation 5:1), and they have tried to attach human interpretations to them. But John saw, in a vision, that no one was able to break and explain the seven seals, except for the Lamb, Jesus Christ (compare Revelation 5:3, 5-7, 9; 6:1). We therefore need to turn to Jesus Christ’s Words in order to understand the seven seals. And IF we accept the explanations of Jesus, as written, then the meaning becomes very clear.
The first six of the seven seals are all recorded in Revelation 6. When Christ opens the first four seals, described in Revelation 6:2-8, John sees in the vision the famous four horsemen of the Apocalypse which kill “a fourth of the earth” with “sword, hunger, death and by the beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8). When comparing Revelation 6:2-8 with Matthew 24:4-7 and Luke 21:8-11, then the meaning of the four horsemen or the first four seals becomes clear:
(1) The FIRST SEAL (Revelation 6:2) — RELIGIOUS DECEPTION (compare Matthew 24:3-5; Luke 21:8).
(2) The SECOND SEAL (Revelation 6:3-4) — WAR (compare Matthew 24:6-7; Luke 21:9).
(3) The THIRD SEAL (Revelation 6:5-6) — FAMINE (compare Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:11)
(4) The FOURTH SEAL (Revelation 6:7-8) — PESTILENCE (compare Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:11).
Oftentimes religious deception leads to wars, directly or indirectly. Wars, in turn, lead to famine and diseases. Historically, the Black Death alone killed upwards of one third of the people living in Europe in the 14th century. The Spanish flu pandemic lasted from March, 1918, to June, 1920, spreading even to the Arctic and remote Pacific islands. While older estimates put the number of killed at 40–50 million people, current estimates are that 50 million to 100 million people worldwide died, possibly more than that taken by the Black Death.
(5) The FIFTH SEAL (Revelation 6:9-11) — THE GREAT TRIBULATION
After the four horsemen have begun their terrible ride, organized and worldwide martyrdom of true Christians will occur next, depicted by the fifth seal (compare Matthew 24:9-12; Mark 13:11-13; Luke 21:12-19). The fifth seal describes a vision, as do the other seals. The four horsemen do not REALLY ride–they REPRESENT certain events, which will take place on this earth. In the same way, the “souls under the altar” are not really alive and do not really cry to God with a loud voice—as the “dry bones” in Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 37:11 did not really speak either, neither did Abel’s shed blood (Genesis 4:10).
At the same time of this religious persecution, the modern nations and peoples of Judah and of the house of Israel (the English-speaking nations of the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and others) will be attacked and destroyed in war, mainly by a European power bloc, during the “Great Tribulation” (Matthew 24:15-28; Mark 13:14-20; Luke 21:20-24; Daniel 12:1; Jeremiah 30:10; Hosea 9:3; 13: 16; Amos 6:7; 7:17).
The Great Tribulation is Satan’s wrath directed against true Christians–spiritual Israelites–and the modern houses of Israel and Judah.
(6) The SIXTH SEAL (Revelation 6:12-14) — COSMIC DISTURBANCES or HEAVENLY SIGNS
After the Great Tribulation has begun, the sixth seal is opened—picturing “heavenly signs” or cosmic disturbances which are introduced by a great earthquake (Revelation 6:12-14; Luke 21:25-26; Matthew 24:29).
These cosmic disturbances PRECEDE and will be followed by the “Day of the Lord,” the seventh seal. Revelation 6:17 refers to it as the “great day of His wrath.” Compare Joel 2:30-31; 3: 14-15. This time span, which will begin prior to Christ’s return, is described as a time of Godly retribution (Isaiah 2:10-21; 13:6-16; Zephaniah 1:14-18).
Before God pours out His wrath on unrepentant mankind during the Day of the Lord, God’s servants will be sealed to be protected from the time to come (Revelation 7:1-3; compare Ezekiel 9:4; see also Revelation 9:4). First 144,000 will be sealed—12,000 out of each tribe of Israel (Revelation 7:4-8; compare Revelation 14:1-5), excluding Dan (compare Judges 18:30; Deuteronomy 29:17-20; Genesis 49:18). After that, John sees a great multitude which “no one could number,” from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues,” standing before the Lamb with white garments (Revelation 7:9). They “came out of the great tribulation… and washed their robes and made them white” (Revelation 7:14). If they CAME OUT of THE Great Tribulation (as it says in the Greek), then they must have been in it.
While some Christians will be protected here on earth–not in heaven–from the Great Tribulation (compare Revelation 3:10; Revelation 12:14; see also Luke 21:36; Proverbs 14:26), others will have to go through it, to be purified (Revelation 12:17; compare 1. Corinthians 11:32). But all true Christians who survive that time of trouble will be protected from God’s wrath to come.
(7) The SEVENTH SEAL:
The SEVENTH seal consists of SEVEN TRUMPETS, which are blown by seven angels (Revelation 8:2, 6). The first FOUR trumpets are described in Revelation 8:7-12.
(7.1) The FIRST TRUMPET
It describes, what appears to be, a firestorm destroying one third of all trees and of the grass (compare Revelation 8:7)
(7.2) The SECOND TRUMPET
It depicts, what appears to be, a huge burning meteorite falling into the sea, destroying one third of all sea creatures and one third of all the ocean ships (Revelation 8:8-9).
(7.3) The THIRD TRUMPET
It describes, what appears to be, another huge fiery comet or asteroid, destroying or poisoning one third of all the sweet drinking water (Revelation 8:10-11).
(7.4) The FOURTH TRUMPET
It brings further cosmic disturbances, blocking one third of the light of the sun, moon and stars (Revelation 8:12-13).
Revelation 8:13 speaks of the last three remaining trumpets as the last “three woes”—because of their great and extreme severity.
(7.5) The FIFTH TRUMPET (the “first woe”)
The first of the last three woes—or the fifth trumpet—is described in Revelation 9:1-12. It identifies the final resurrection of the Roman Empire, coming out of a “bottomless pit” (Revelation 9:1-3, compare Revelation 11:7; 17:8), an end-time European power bloc, referred to as the “beast” elsewhere. It is depicted to be at war with other nations. Its instruments of war are symbolically portrayed as “locusts” (Revelation 9:3) or helicopters, causing pain and harm on humans for five months, without killing them (Revelation 9:4-5, 10). The real ruler of this power bloc is “the angel of the bottomless pit” (Revelation 9:11)–Satan the devil. This war occurs after the Great Tribulation—after the time of war between Europe and the modern nations of the houses of Israel and Judah. By that time, the modern nations of the houses of Israel and Judah will already be destroyed, and their surviving people will have become captives of this European power. The war depicted in Revelation 9 is alluded to more fully in Daniel 11, commencing with verse 41.
(7.6) The SIXTH TRUMPET (the “second woe”)
Revelation 9:13-21 describes the second woe or the sixth trumpet—the appearance of an invading army of 200 million soldiers (Revelation 9:16) from the east (Revelation 9:14)–shortly after Europe’s invasion of the Middle East (Daniel 11:41-43, 45)–to kill “a third of mankind” (Revelation 9:15). Apparently, this is the second stage of a total world war between, at that time, mainly the European power bloc and a power bloc of eastern nations (compare Revelation 9:17 with Joel 2: 4). This second stage is also alluded to in Daniel 11:44.
(7.7) The SEVENTH TRUMPET (the “third woe”)
The third woe or the seventh trumpet is not described until Revelation 16. Previous chapters are interludes—flashbacks—setting the stage for the climax of the last or seventh trumpet, as identified in Revelation 16 (compare Revelation 10:7).
The seventh trumpet of the seventh seal consists of SEVEN LAST PLAGUES, which are described in Revelation 16:1-21. Seven angels pour out these seven last plagues, also referred to as the seven bowls of the wrath of God (Revelation 15:7; 16:1).
(7.7.1) The FIRST OF THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES or bowls:
It causes “a foul and loathsome sore” on those who worship the beast and its image, and who have accepted the mark of the beast (Revelation 16:2).
(7.7.2) The SECOND OF THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES or bowls:
It causes every living creature in the sea to die (Revelation 16:3).
(7.7.3) The THIRD OF THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES or bowls:
It causes the sweet water supply to become “blood”—that is, undrinkable (Revelation 16:4-7).
(7.7.4) The FOURTH OF THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES or bowls:
It brings about increased solar radiation which horribly scorches mankind. Despite this punishment from God for their sins, man will not repent, but rather blaspheme God (Revelation 16:8-9).
(7.7.5) The FIFTH OF THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES or bowls:
It causes total darkness to cover the Headquarters of the beast—again, people will blaspheme God and will refuse to repent even then (Revelation 16:10-11).
(7.7.6) The SIXTH OF THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES or bowls:
It will dry up the waters of the “great river Euphrates” (Revelation 16:12) to enable the “kings from the east” to advance to the place of “Armageddon” (Revelation 16:16) to “gather” there in preparation for “the battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14, 16). These kings from the east, as well as all the other kings of the earth, will be influenced by Satan and the demonically possessed beast and the false prophet (Revelation 16:13-14). All of them will gather at “Armageddon” or the “hill of Megiddo” (“har” meaning “hill” in Hebrew), about 55 miles or 90 kilometers north of Jerusalem, and about 15 miles or 25 kilometers inland from the Mediterranean Sea. Megiddo is a huge mound with a commanding view of the long and fertile valley of Jezreel—an ideal place for armies gathering there. Then, they will converge from there on Jerusalem to fight the returning Christ. We don’t read that there will be a battle at Armageddon—the battle will be fought farther south in the valley of Jehoshaphat, which is called today the “Kidron Valley,” bordering Jerusalem on the east.
(7.7.7) The SEVENTH OF THE SEVEN LAST PLAGUES or bowls:
It causes a tremendous earthquake to shake the earth “as had not occurred since men were on the earth” (Revelation 16:17-18; compare Isaiah 2:12-19; 13:6-13; 24:1-20), causing the “great city” of Jerusalem to be “divided into three parts” and “all the cities of the nations” to fall (Revelation 16:19). Further, every island disappears, and mountains are leveled (Revelation 16:20). A great hail of tremendous size destroys everything in its path. Again, man will not repent, but blaspheme God because of the hail (Revelation 16:21).
To obtain the entire picture of the events at the time of Christ’s return, we need to consider additional passages.
The battle in the valley of Jehoshaphat and the mighty earthquake are more fully described in the nineteenth chapter of the book of Revelation, which describes the return of Jesus Christ (Chapters 17 and 18 are again interludes—flashbacks—setting the stage for the climax of the destruction of this world’s civilization–called “Babylon”–which is being dominated or influenced by a military-economic and religious power).
Chapter 19 describes the returning Jesus Christ, riding on a white horse, to establish the government of God here on earth (Revelation 19:6, 11, 14-15).
When the seventh angel sounds and when Christ returns, the saints–converted Christians–will be resurrected to immortality, if they have died, or they will be changed to immortality, if they are still alive (1 Corinthians 15:50-56; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). They will at that time be born again and inherit salvation, by entering the Kingdom or very Family of God. They will meet Christ in the air and descend with Him on that same day on the Mount of Olives. Zechariah 14:3-5 indicates that, apparently due to the great earthquake of the seventh bowl, mentioned in Revelation 16:17-18, the Mount of Olives shall split in two, making a very large valley, where the final battle of God Almighty will take place.
Christ will overcome the armies which will be trying to fight Him, as well as the modern leaders of modern “Babylon”–the military ruler (“the beast”) and the religious leader (“the false prophet”) (compare Revelation 19:19-21). The destruction of the armies is more fully described in Zechariah 14:12, 15. The beast and the false prophet will be cast into “the lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20).
Revelation 19:7-9 also states that Christ will come to “marry” His “wife”—His Church—and that those are blessed “who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Other passages shed more light on this marriage and the marriage supper, compare Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-13; Luke 12:35-38; 13: 25-30.
Beginning with Revelation 20, further events are described, which will occur after Christ has returned to this earth. An angel will bind and imprison Satan and his demons for 1000 years or a “millennium,” so that Satan cannot deceive mankind during that period (Revelation 20:1-4; compare also Revelation 12:9). The immortal saints will rule with and under Christ on and over this earth for those thousand years (Revelation 20: 5-6; Daniel 7: 22, 27). The results of this rulership will be peace, prosperity and a correct understanding of God and His ways (Isaiah 2:2-4; 9: 6-7; 11:1-10; 35:1-10; Amos 9:13-15; Micah 4:1-5). Ultimately, the saints will reign under God “for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).
To summarize, here are the seven seals of the book of Revelation, as follows:
(1) The FIRST SEAL (Revelation 6:2) — RELIGIOUS DECEPTION
(2) The SECOND SEAL (Revelation 6:3-4) — WAR
(3) The THIRD SEAL (Revelation 6:5-6) — FAMINE
(4) The FOURTH SEAL (Revelation 6:7-8) — PESTILENCE
(5) The FIFTH SEAL (Revelation 6:9-11) — THE GREAT TRIBULATION of spiritual and physical Israel
(6) The SIXTH SEAL (Revelation 6:12-14) — COSMIC DISTURBANCES or HEAVENLY SIGNS
(7) The SEVENTH SEAL consists of SEVEN TRUMPETS (Revelation 8:2, 6)
(7.1) The FIRST TRUMPET destroys one third of all trees and of the grass (compare Revelation 8:7)
(7.2) The SECOND TRUMPET destroys one third of all sea creatures and of all the ocean ships (Revelation 8:8-9)
(7.3) The THIRD TRUMPET poisons one third of all the sweet drinking water (Revelation 8:10-11)
(7.4) The FOURTH TRUMPET blocks one third of the light of the sun, moon and stars (Revelation 8:12-13)
(7.5) The FIFTH TRUMPET (the “first woe”) depicts a war caused by Europe (Revelation 9:1-12)
(7.6) The SIXTH TRUMPET (the “second woe”) depicts retaliating Asian powers (Revelation 9:16)
(7.7) The SEVENTH TRUMPET (the “third woe”) consists of SEVEN LAST PLAGUES (Revelation 16:1)
(7.7.1) The FIRST PLAGUE causes “a foul and loathsome sore” (Revelation 16: 2)
(7.7.2) The SECOND PLAGUE causes every living creature in the sea to die (Revelation 16:3)
(7.7.3) The THIRD PLAGUE causes the sweet water supply to become “blood” (Revelation 16:4-7)
(7.7.4) The FOURTH PLAGUE scorches mankind (Revelation 16:8-9)
(7.7.5) The FIFTH PLAGUE causes total darkness (Revelation 16:10-11)
(7.7.6) The SIXTH PLAGUE prepares for “Armageddon” (Revelation 16:16)
(7.7.7) The SEVENTH PLAGUE causes the greatest earthquake of all time (Revelation 16:17-18)
We do not know the exact time of Christ’s return, and it is unbiblical to try to figure out the year of His Second Coming; but we can say that, based on world conditions in the light of Biblical prophecy, Christ’s return is near (Please listen to Norbert Link’s recent sermon on this topic, which is dated December 29, 2007, titled, “Do You Know the Year of Christ’s Return?”) The events connected with the seven seals, as described in the Book of Revelation, will take place very shortly. Once these prophetic events begin, they will be fulfilled in just a few years. Here is what Jesus stated: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till ALL THESE THINGS TAKE PLACE” (Matthew 24:34).
Also, to the generation who lives to face these horrific times, Jesus Christ warns: “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory… Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:27, 36).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link