Revelation: the seals

Up to this point the interpretation has been somewhat unanimous, with the exception of the occasional “fringe” group. However, from this point on, the schools of thought differ widely. I have no time to address the problems I see in the other school’s interpretations of these visions. So I will give my school’s interpretation of these visions and explain why they seem to make more sense to me. My main goal, however, is to edify the church of God. I pray you will catch the hopeful vision of this beautiful book and see its relevance for today. If nothing else, I hope to inspire thought. Before we go through every seal I must tie in the preceding vision. The lamb is given a scroll that contains God’s decree to recreate this world and obliterate all pain and sorrow. On this scroll are seven seals that must be broken for the new creation to be established. Seven should be understood just as it is with the churches, not with a quantitative exact, but rather a complete number. That is to say, much more than seven but, nevertheless counted before God. The first seal is broken and a white horse comes with a bow and crown, he is said to be going out “conquering and to conquer”. He represents politics and the spirit of Empire, that beastial desire of powerful nations to control the weaker ones. The second that follows suit is a rider on a red horse that represents war and, somewhat less obviously Rome, he goes out to “take peace from the earth”. When empire does not get what it wants it goes forth with a sword to destroy all who oppose it. Jesus said His Kingdom would not be that way, but that the greatest would serve all. With the next seal comes a black horse who brings famine, an unfortunate consequence of war. The Romans would burn the crops of their enemies to destroy their morale. The fourth horse is pale-green, no doubt representing sickness and plague, which is followed by death and hades. Another unfortunate consequence of war, blood and guts and flies tend to attract disease. The fifth seal is an important interpretive key, for it hints at a very specific and subtle point that revelation is making, that all the chaos will seem to go on for an extended period of time. The martyred saints are depicted as crying out underneath the altar “Lord, how long, faithful and true, will you hold back judgement”. They are then given a white robe and told to wait just a little longer. The sixth marks the beginning of the final judgement, but also gives an intermission to reassure the saints they will be safe. The saints are depicted as 144,000 sealed from among Israel, it is the same group depicted as an innumerable multitude from every nation. The listing of the tribes seems to make that clear in its own, very Old Testament informed way. Ruben, who would be first, is second to Judah because our Lord descended from Judah. The sons of the concubines in the middle to represent the incorporation of the gentiles. They are said to be “coming out of the great tribulation” that, no doubt, is the same tribulation John himself says he is a partner in. It is a picture of the church triumphant from all ages, safe from the wrath that is to come, that will end injustice and sin. The ultimate takeout of this is that we will be safe from the judgement of God, even though we suffer in this current age. With the seventh seal the vision moves to the trumpet, which I will be talking about in my next post.

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