I want to propose something to you about the Seals of Revelation 6 that you might not have considered before. When you get a letter in the mail, do you open it at once, or pick at it over days or weeks or years? You open it, right? So you can read what’s on the document inside? It’s the same with the Seals.
In Revelation 6, the Lamb (Jesus) is about to break open the seals that hold the title deed to Earth, the scroll, sealed shut. Note that Seals aren’t normally considered part of a document, they “lock” the document until it is the right person, place, and time to open it. Opening the seal(s) is a prerequisite to reading the document.
Jesus has been worthy to open the scroll since His death, resurrection, and ascension. We thus have had the correct person (Jesus) and place (heaven/earth) for almost 2000 years. What we have been waiting for is the right time. Until then, the Seals restrain the document from being read (sound familiar? 2 Thessalonians 2…).
Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Romans 11:25 ESV
What we are waiting for is the mystery of the church age to be complete. When the fullness of the Gentiles has come in to the New Covenant, the fullness of time will be reached. The rapture will occur and the partial hardening upon Israel will be released. This occurs when the Restrainer, the Holy Spirit indwelling and sealing the body of Christ, is removed from the earth (with the church).
Seals and Sealing
I want you to pay attention to the words seals and sealing. When the fullness of the gentiles is complete, the sealing of the Holy Spirit upon them will be released as they are called up into heaven and redeemed – it is the Day of Christ, the Day of Redemption. The sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit will then immediately be transferred to a specific 144,000 Hebrew new believers. All this occurs during the opening / release of restraint of the 7 Seals which hold the scroll containing God’s judgment and wrath closed.
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed (esphragisthete, Strong’s Greek 4972) with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed (esphragisthete, Strong’s Greek 4972) for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 ESV
Each of the 7 seals of Revelation 6 (sphragidon, sphragida, Strong’s Greek 4973)
The scroll had been sealed, Revelation 5:1 (katesphragismenon, Strong’s Greek 2696)
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal [wahatom, Strong’s Hebrew 2856] the book [scroll], until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”… He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed [wahatumim, Strong’s Hebrew 2856] until the time of the end.” Daniel 12:4, 9 ESV
Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal (sphragida, Strong’s 4973) of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed (sphragisomen, Strong’s 4972) the servants of our God on their foreheads.” Revelation 7:2-3 ESV
The Hebrew wahatum root translates to the Greek sfragida root. (Google Translate)
I hope you are noticing that the body of Christ is sealed (Strong’s 4972) as a guarantee until the day of our redemption, at which point the 144,000 will be sealed (Strong’s 4972) as servants of our God. The 144,000 are firstfruits of the Lamb and of God – the firstborn into Christ after the rapture (Revelation 14:4). The seals, sealed, and sealing all have the same root word – sphragida.
What if the Seals on the scroll represent the mystery of the church age, the indwelling Holy Spirit who currently seals the body of Christ for the day of redemption? What if the ripping open of the SEALS on the scroll is a picture of the rapture of the church, and the Holy Spirit transferring His ministry from the church to the 144,000 Hebrews? What if the seals on the scroll is a picture of the passing of the torch in action?
When the Seals holding the scroll are opened, restraint on the Lamb’s and God’s wrath is clearly released.
The Effects of the Release of the Seals
Imagine horses at a starting gate. They are chomping at the bit, desperate to burst forth!!! But they are currently being restrained.
The horses of the apocalypse gallop forth the moment we leave.
When the Day of the Lord (“Tribulation”) arrives, it will be marked all at once by widespread war, global earthquakes, famines and pestilences, terrors and great signs from heaven. Collectively, “all these” are the “beginning” of the birth pains described by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse. These are exactly paralleled in Seals 1-4 and Seal 6. I believe the rapture of the church is pictured in Seal 5 (dead in Christ) and Seal 6 (alive in Christ).
- Seal 1 – Unrestrained antichrist – the lawless one is freed to rise to political and spiritual power (2 Thessalonians 2, Revelation 6). How quickly he arises is unspecified, but within about 3.5 years he will declare himself to be “god”.
- Seal 2 – Unrestrained Violence and/or War – Possibly WW3, Ezekiel 38-39, and the wars the antichrist fights as he rises to power (described in Daniel 7&11). Possibly includes the violence as people fight for survival. This violence begins now but continues until the Second Coming of Christ.
- Seal 3 – Unrestrained Economic Control and Famine – these will occur as a result of the events that are being unleashed. The ultimate economic control will be seen in the “Mark of the Beast” system at some point after the antichrist declares himself to be “god”.
- Seal 4 – Unrestrained Death…with Hell Following – A result of Seals 1-3 – Death via sword, famine, infectious disease (pestilence), wild beasts. Death is followed by Hades (hell); as such, it does not affect Believers in Jesus Christ. The gates of hell do not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18). A fourth of the earth will be killed, beginning at the opening of the seals and extending for some unspecified period of time. I would assume a short time, based on the fact that many people WILL become true believers shortly after the rapture when they realize that the Bible is true.
- Seal 5 – Resurrection of the Dead – The dead in Christ arise (resurrection and rapture) and enter their rest (Isaiah 26). Meanwhile, the martyrs will continue to collect until the full number of martyrs is complete – this time, their souls are seen gathering on the crystal sea (Revelation 15) instead of under the altar. Unrestrained antichrist religion will result in martyrs for the true Christ. The martyrs’ blood will not be completely avenged until later, when the 7th bowl judgment is poured out.
- Seal 6 – Translation of the Living – A great earthquake, which moves every mountain and island; the sun is blackened; the moon turns blood red. I believe the earthquake causes volcanic eruptions as a chain reaction, and the smoke and ash in the air darken the sun and make the moon appear blood red worldwide. In Joel 2 we are told this occurs BEFORE the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord begins. I believe this earthquake is CAUSED by the nuclear transformation of the physical into the eternal, as the dead are resurrected, the living are translated, and both groups are raptured. When the sky vanishes like a scroll being rolled up, I believe this is the third heaven opening up to allow the entrance of billions of resurrected and translated believers to enter heaven. This may come after the great earthquake. Additionally, the stars of the sky fall to earth. I believe this parallels Revelation 12:9 – “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” This may be the basis for an “excuse” of what happened to believers, and may involve “aliens” (fallen angelic deception). Alternatively, this could be asteroids/meteors, or the fallout from a near-collision with “Planet X / Nibiru”. The left behind, every human left from rich to poor, hide among the caves and rocks to attempt to hide from the wrath of him who is seated on the throne and from the Lamb, “for the great day of their wrath has come”. With the seal of God released from the body of Christ, we now see the transference of the sealing as the events of seal 6 continue to be described. On earth, 144,000 Israelites are sealed on their foreheads, to be God’s new witnesses (along with the 2 Witnesses, of course). They will become the firstfruits unto God and the Lamb of the remnant of Israel that will be saved. I believe these are literal bloodline Israelites, from the 12 tribes as detailed in Revelation 7. Meanwhile, in heaven, we see believers from all nations, tribes, tongues, and peoples worshipping the Lamb and the One on the throne. These are the newly raptured saints.
- Seal 7 – Silence in Heaven for “About Half an Hour” – This half hour of silence may represent the “10 Days of Awe” between the Feast of Trumpets and Yom Kippur, it may be a literal half hour, or it may represent some other sum of time. After this, it appears that the Yom Kippur Ceremony takes place in heaven and God’s judgments on the earth begin.
Are the Seals Wrath?
After much pondering, I don’t believe that the Seals contain the “wrath” of God. I believe they announce His imminent, or impending, wrath (as the inhabitants of the earth recognize in Seal 6). One reason is that the nature of the seals, which are generic and somewhat natural, is very different from the nature of the trumpets and bowls, which are specific and obviously supernatural. Another is that the Lamb opens the seals, whereas the Trumpet and Bowl Judgments are introduced and carried out by holy angels. The cherubim announce the actions resulting from Seals 1-4, the 5th seal contains no judgment at all, and Seal 6 contains a massive amount of catastrophe with no listed cause (I believe the cause is the rapture of the church).
Timing of the Release of the Seals
There are a few interpretations of when the seals are opened. For a number of reasons, I don’t agree with the interpretation that the seals are opened over a period of time during the “Tribulation”. The main reason is because I believe the rapture is clearly pictured in Seals 5&6 as discussed above.
The two interpretations of the timing of the Seals opening that I consider most logical are:
- Jesus takes the Seven Sealed Scroll from the right hand of God at His triumphant ascension to Heaven. He immediately opens Seals 1-5. The first four seals unleash 4 spirits who roam the earth, bringing trials and testing throughout the entirety of the church age. In Zechariah chapters 1&6 we can see these exact horses, and at that time they report on the earth’s condition to God. Perhaps seals 1-4 reassign them to new or more specific purposes. The fifth seal isn’t a judgment, but represents the persecution and martyrdom that the church has faced throughout the entire age (for details see Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs!). Following Seal 5, there is a long (2000+ year) pause while waiting for a certain number of the Seal 5 martyrs to accumulate, as well as the fullness of the Gentiles to come into the new covenant – Romans 11:25 – before opening Seal 6. While Seals 1-4 seemingly include judgment, it’s markedly different than the wrath that occurs in Seal 6 and the Trumpets and Bowls. When Seal 6 is opened, it unleashes the Day of the Lord (wrath). This is the view suggested by David Lowe in his book Earthquake Resurrection.
- Jesus takes the Seven Sealed Scroll from the right hand of God at His triumphant ascension to Heaven. Jesus then waits (~2000 years) until the fullness of time to open the seals. This includes the fullness of the Gentiles to come into the new covenant – Romans 11:25. There is scriptural corroboration for this in Daniel 12:4, 9: “But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal [wahatom, Strong’s 2856] the book [scroll], until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”… He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed [wahatumim, Strong’s 2856] until the time of the end.” The time of the end seems to be marked by an increase in transportation abilities and in knowledge, which happens to be actively occurring in our day. When this set of preconditions occurs, Jesus will then open the seals simultaneously – it’s time!!! As one unit, seals 1-7 unleash a torrent of chaos on the earth, while the saints are transformed and caught up to heaven. In his book When God Intervenes, Douglas Berner describes this moment – the unleashing of the seals – as the beginning of birth pains. Having birthed two children, I understand what Berner conveys – once birth pains hit, you KNOW.
There are three keys that make me lean towards the second interpretation. The first, is due to the analysis of the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit as discussed above. The second is in Daniel 12 as above, about the scroll remaining sealed until the time of the end. The third is that in Seal 4, Death and Hades (Hell) specifically are BOTH given control over 1/4 of the population to kill them. Hades / Hell has no power over believers, and as there is no mention of them being supernaturally protected from seal 4, it is extremely unlikely to apply during the church age. There is only one point in time when there will be NO saints on the earth, and that is at the moment of the rapture.
I’m not sure when the rapture will be. The Feast of Trumpets is a high watch possibility, with Yom Kippur being a high watch possibility for the start of the wrath/judgment of God. What if the Days of Awe (the 10 days between the feasts) represent the approximate 30 minutes of silence in heaven following Seal 7? The Days of Awe are traditionally a time of repentance, at the end of which “fates are sealed”. Will the 144,000 Israelites be sealed during some future 10 Days of Awe?
According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashanah the destiny of the righteous are written in the Book of Life, and the destiny of the wicked are written in the Book of Death. Most people, however, won’t be inscribed in either book, but are given ten days — until Yom Kippur — to repent before sealing their fate.
The Ministry of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit has many functions; only one of them is sealing. There have been some questions raised about salvation versus sealing. These are two different things outside of the church age. The Holy Spirit calls people to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, this was through the Law. In the New Testament church age, this is through Grace and is marked by a sealing in the heart. After the rapture, it will still be by grace, but not everyone will be sealed (only the 144,000 chosen ones get sealed). Thus, in the Old Testament, and after the rapture, it is possible to fall away from the faith and “lose” salvation.
I believe that the Holy Spirit is the one restraining the scroll until the fullness of time, as part of His sealing ministry. The scroll contains the details of how Jesus completes taking back control of the earth and initiates His millennial kingdom.
John encounters all three members of the Holy Trinity in his visions in the book of Revelation. This is possibly symbolised by the Father handing the 7-sealed (Holy Spirit in completeness) scroll to the Son. The wrath of the One on the throne and of the Lamb is contained therein, held until the transference of sealing between the body of Christ (church age) and the 144,000 Hebrews (firstfruits of tribulation Hebrew believers). I strongly believe that Seals 1-7 involve the removing of the “Restrainer”, which is the Holy Spirit indwelling in the body of Christ. This results in the “beginning of birth pains” as described by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse.
Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape? If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.
The Bible is infallible. I am not. I am merely challenging traditional models and testing them against Scripture. I believe that traditional pretribulation teachings provide a solid backbone upon which to lay the musculature of details, some of which I think might need to be adjusted slightly. I encourage you to consider my thoughts as you also examine the scriptures to see if these things are so!