Lesson Three – Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9
The Seal Judgments, the First Parenthesis (144,000 Jewish Evangelists), the Second Parenthesis (martyred saints), and the Trumpet Judgments
Chapters 6 and 7 – The Seal Judgments and the First Parenthesis (144,000 Jewish Evangelists)
The First Six Seal Judgments – Chapter Six
Chapter 6 marks the very beginning of the Tribulation period of seven years. There are several prophecies that fall after the Rapture and before the start of the Tribulation period that add about three years to the time between the Rapture and the Second Coming. Chapter 6 of Revelation starts the seven Seal judgments and the time period that ends existence as we all have known it. This is the third group of seven, the seven Seal Judgments, that occur in the Book of Revelation. Christ’s Millennial (thousand year) reign begins when the Tribulation ends marking a time of righteousness and visible reign of the King of kings.
The “wrath of the Lamb” begins with the opening of the very first seal (6:1-2) on the scroll that Jesus is the only One worthy to open. With each successive seal, which come fast and devastatingly, the world falls farther and farther into disorder and disaster and death. The first seal is opened after the four living creatures say, “Come and see”. The one on the white horse with a bow and a crown now goes forth conquering and to conquer, the white horse representing the permission to move forward with the rider and his agenda of world domination. The rider on the white horse is the “son of perdition”, “the beast”, the Antichrist himself who is given authority signified by the “stephanos” crown (“stephanos” in Greek which means a crown given to one who was not born into royalty but “won” the crown, not a kingly crown – “diadema” is a crown that royalty or birth is handed down, definitely a kingly crown). The Antichrist will wreak havoc on the earth on a global scale. Many mistake this rider as Christ since Christ also rides on a white horse (Revelation 19), but this rider is the opposite of Christ since Christ wears the “diadema” crown meaning he IS royalty who carries a sword not a bow.
The second seal (6:3-4) is broken and one of the four living creatures thunderously says, “Come and see”. Another horse and rider (the second of the famed but unbiblical name “four horsemen of the Apocalypse”) appear, but this time the horse is red which pictures bloodshed and war. The rider with his great sword” turns people against each other to kill and destroy. The so-called peace that Antichrist initially gains through the peace treaty of Daniel 9:27 apparently does not last long since war and bloodshed accompany only the second seal out of seven.
The third seal (6:5-6) is broken after another thunderous “Come and see”, and a black horse emerges with its rider holding a pair of balancing scales representing the scarcity of food that needs to be carefully weighed before distribution. A black horse represents famine and death. A quart of wheat and three quarts of barley are each about what an adult needs to stay alive on any given day. Each sells for a denarius which was the recognized wage for an entire day’s work meaning that one’s pay only bought enough food to stay alive with none left over for anything else. The world situation will deteriorate increasingly making survival continuously more difficult. The oil and wine seem to be spared and this could mean that the more luxurious things of life will remain since the wealthy or upper class will still be separated from the poor even during the Tribulation.
The fourth seal (6:7-8) is broken after the fourth living creature called out “Come and see’. A fourth horse appears that is disgustingly the color of death, a pale green since the Greek word used is “cloros” from which we get chlorine which is a green and deadly gas. The rider on this horse is who some has titled the Grim Reaper because this rider is accompanied with the grave and Hades or the final destination of those without Christ. This rider has many weapons in order to inflict death on the Earth; a sword, famine, pestilence or plague, and the wild beasts of the Earth. Authority over a fourth of the Earth was given to this rider to inflict death.
These four horses and their riders act in correlation with each other and are given or are granted their permission to do the destructive things they are assigned to do. This all implies that, since the scroll comes from the throne of God the Father and the Lord Jesus is opening the seals and unleashing these riders to do their duty, divine sovereignty is allowing these terrible events and actions to come about on the Earth as God’s judgment.
The fifth seal is broken by the Lamb (6:9-11) and the scene is shifted back to Heaven where John sees at the foot of the alter the martyrs or those killed for their testimony of Jesus Christ. These saints are not the church but those who accepted Christ and were killed by the previous four seal judgments in the first part of the Tribulation. We know this because they plead with God to avenge their deaths at the hand of the Antichrist. These martyred saints are given white robes signifying their righteous suffering for the Lord’s sake and then told to rest and wait patiently just little while longer until their number is completed or that must die as they did and be brought home to glory.
The sixth seal (6:12-17) is broken and a great earthquake shakes the whole globe. This is followed by the sun darkening, the moon turning red as blood, and the stars (perhaps an asteroid shower) fall like figs from a fig tree that was shaken. The darkening of the sun and the moon turning blood red could be caused by atmospheric pollution perhaps from the asteroids striking the Earth or the earthquake causing dust and gas to pollute the air. The sky will be rolled up like a scroll (sounds like a description of mushroom clouds from nuclear explosions) and every mountain and island all over the Earth will be moved from their places. Those on the Earth still alive will panic in fear and hide in caves and under rocks begging the mountains and rocks to fall on them to” hide them from the face of the One on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb”. This tells us that the unbelievers understand clearly that what is happening to them and to the Earth is from God the Father and Jesus Christ from Heaven. Some say the early judgments are not from God but just natural occurrences or from man or even Satan; however, verse 11 clearly establishes that the seal judgments are from God and his wrath. And, since the saints of the Church of Jesus Christ are promised in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 and 5:9 that we are not subject to God’s wrath, then the Rapture of the Church MUST occur before the Tribulation begins.
The First and Second Parentheses – Chapter Seven – The 144,000 Jewish Evangelists and the Tribulation Martyrs
Note here that chapter seven is the first of seven “parentheses” that are interspersed throughout chapters 6 through 19 and are not chronological necessarily. Chapter 7 describes events taking place on the Earth and in Heaven while the seal judgments are taking place. John is shown a vision of four angels who are placed around the Earth at its “four corners”. These angels are holding back the winds that blow in the four directions meaning the wind does not blow at all during this time anywhere. Another angel appears and has “the seal of the living God”. This angel commands the four angels that the Earth not be harmed until the bond-servants of God be sealed on their foreheads. This angel seals the 144,000 Jewish evangelists against death or harm during the entire three and one-half years of the first of the Tribulation period. It is very clear that these 12,000 from each of the Twelve tribes of Israel are indeed Jewish believers in Jesus Christ are NOT the Church. These witnesses/evangelists bear strong witness for Christ to the unbelieving Tribulation population until the middle of the Tribulation. In Revelation 14, these are seen in glory, “standing on Mount Zion” in Heaven with the Lamb.
Next, the second parenthesis, John sees a great crowd from all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages standing before the throne of God “clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands”. This shows that God is not a respecter of persons, that His salvation is for anyone regardless of physical characteristics of any kind. These appear to be the ones who come out of the Tribulation and are given a special place in glory before God’s throne. This multitude shouts praise to God the Father and to the Lamb for their salvation. Immediately the 24 elders and the four living creatures and the angels around the throne all fell down in worship to God and all “blessing and glory and majesty and splendor and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and might be to our God forever and forever, Amen”. These will never again hunger or thirst and God Himself will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Chapters 8and 9 – The Trumpet Judgments
Trumpets one, Two, Three, and Four
The seven trumpet judgments come out of the seventh seal judgment. So, breaking the seventh seal unleashes the more harsh seven trumpet judgments (8:1). The nature of the intensity and destruction of these judgments to come cause the entirety of Heaven to remain silent for about half an hour. A pause in the unveiling of the judgments of the wrath of God point to just how horrible and wrathful is God’s holy response to man’s willful sin.
There is a short prelude to the trumpet judgments in 8:2-6. The seven angels are given their trumpets, but an eighth angel appears holding a golden censer full of incense to which more is added along with the additional prayers of the Tribulational saints uttered before. All of this is placed on the altar of God in Heaven with the smoke from this offering rising in the presence of God. Then the angel fills the censor with coals and fire from the altar and throws it down to the Earth those results in peals of thunder and loud rumblings and lightning flashes and an earthquake. The Lord is furious with the death of His saints resulting from the persecution of Christians on the Earth.
Then the first trumpet sounds (8:7) and hail and fire mingled with blood are cast upon the Earth and one-third of the Earth’s surface will burn up, one-third of the trees will burn up, and ALL the green grass will burn up.
The second trumpet judgment follows quickly (8:8-9) and much speculation has come trying to explain this “great mountain burning with fire”. John has never seen anything like this before as indicated by his use of “something” like a great mountain. The result of a hydrogen bomb explosion is different from a nuclear weapon signature. While the nuclear explosion results in a mushroom cloud, a hydrogen explosion looks like a great mountain full of fire, sort of a semi-circle of flaming gas. This great mountain hit the sea and caused a third of all living creatures in the sea to die, that part of the sea to turn into blood, and a third of all ships at sea to be destroyed. Such destruction has never happened before. Even the flood was tamer than this.
The third trumpet sounded (8:10-11) and another stellar phenomenon, probably a great asteroid, falls from Heaven “burning like a torch”. Remember when that asteroid fell to Earth in Russia recently. It looked just like a flaming torch. But this one in Revelation is devastating to life. This judgment pollutes all the Earth’s drinking waters making them bitter and poisonous so that those who drink this water die. Wormwood is a terribly bitter and caustic plant of the Middle East that renders water undrinkable. Imagine the panic if the Earth’s water was undrinkable resulting in death regardless of whether one drinks or does not drink.
The fourth trumpet sounds (8:12-13) and the lights of God are struck. The rays of the heavenly bodies are dimmed somehow or the Earth’s atmosphere is clouded to the degree that one-third of the intensity of light during the day and during the night is gone. Then John saw an eagle (better translation is a vulture) flying and crying out loud, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the Earth”. A “woe” is a painful term of despair and resignation of no hope of survival for those left on the Earth. There are three more trumpets to be sounded, and these three “woes” represent those remaining trumpet judgements which are much worse than the previous four.
The Three “Woes” are the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Trumpet Judgments
The first “woe” and the corresponding fifth trumpet judgment (9:1-12) sounds and, unlike the first four trumpets, this one takes considerable explanation since it covers twelve verses. The activity described next is fallen angel activity, the fallen angels that were so bad, so rebellious, that God had imprisoned them in the bottomless pit or the “shaft of the abyss” as properly translated. Jude 6 tells us that some fallen angels are so bad that God imprisoned them in chains in utter darkness (the pit) until the judgment of the great day (the Tribulation?). A star from Heaven or an angelic being has a key to the bottomless pit and releases a swarm of evil creatures. Remember Legion and the 6,000 or so demons that possessed him? They were sent to the pit (Luke 8), so these that are released could be fallen angels and/or demons from the pit. Smoke comes from the shaft of the abyss “like that of great furnace” and blots out the sun, and in the smoke are locust-like creatures with the power to torment people as a scorpion does. Unlike normal locusts, these creatures were told to leave the greenery of the Earth alone, and to instead torment humans for five months, all except those with the seal of God on their foreheads. This protective seal is on the 144,000, and some have interpreted the seal to be on God’s chosen which would include all those who trust in Christ during the Tribulation. So, even the new Christians are protected from this terrible demonic sting that lasts five months. People stung will long for death, but be denied. John uses terms “like” and “as” nine times indicating that what he saw defied explanation and description. Verses 6 through 10 seem to describe human-like traits and strong animal traits. Their strength is formidable and they are frightening. They have a “king” over them (verse 110 who is the “angel of the abyss” named Abaddon in Hebrew meaning destruction and Apollyon in Greek meaning destroyer. This fallen angel could be Satan himself but probably a high ranking fallen angel reporting to Satan since Satan is not ever connected to the abyss until he is cast into the abyss chained throughout the Millennium until the end for a little while (Revelation 20).
The second “woe” and the corresponding sixth trumpet judgment (9:13-21) also needs lengthy explanation apparently because of the number of verses used to describe it. From the four horns of the golden altar in Heaven comes the command, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates”. Since holy angels are never bound or confined, these are fallen angels, diabolical creatures, who have an army of 200 million supernatural beings capable of killing man. These four fallen angel generals with their vast army have been prepared for this very hour to kill a third of all living mankind. These fearsomely described evil warriors and their horses come from the dividing line between Assyria and Babylon, a separation of Israel from her enemies. At the time of their release, this demonic army pursues people that are still alive and survived the fire, smoke, and Sulphur that came from the horses alone (9:18). Those that are left alive after this trumpet judgment still, amazingly, do not repent of idolatry, murders, thefts, immorality, and sorceries which is the Greek word “pharmacopeia” indicating this involves drug abuse.