I want to propose something to you about the Seals of Revelation 6 that you might not have considered. When you get a letter in the mail, do you open so you can see the contents, or do you pick at it over days or weeks or years? Can you read the letter it contains while it is still sealed shut? Bear with me here, because we need to examine this concept before I can continue with my Pentecost study series 🙂
I propose to you that the seals are not part of the scroll in Revelation. I also propose that they are withholding (one might say, “restraining”) the contents of the scroll. Look at what Revelation 5 says about the scroll and the seals:
Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:1-5)
What we note about the scroll:
- it has writing on the front and on the back
- it is sealed with seven seals
- the seals can only be broken by someone worthy (Jesus)
- the scroll can only be opened by someone worthy (Jesus)
- the scroll can only be looked into by someone worthy (Jesus)
Historically, a wax seal was used to verify that a document was unopened. I would suggest that the seals of Revelation also verify that the scroll has been unopened. Historically, a wax seal verified the sender’s identity, such as with the stamp of a signet ring. We are not told what is on these particular seals, but we know that there are seven of them, which indicates completeness in scripture.
Seals aren’t normally considered part of a document; they merely “lock” the document until the right person, place, and time arrives for the document to be opened. Opening the seal is a prerequisite to reading the document. Strong’s Concordance lists the definition for “sealed” as “having been sealed up, secured with a seal”. Under “seal” (#4973 sphragis), usage includes “a seal, signet ring, the impression of a seal, that which the seal attests, the proof”.
Jesus has been worthy to open the scroll since His death, resurrection, and ascension. We see this further in Revelation 5:
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
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 – the appointed time. Until then, the Seals restrain the document from being read. Sound familiar?
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining [the lawless one] now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:5-7)
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)
What we are waiting for is the dispensation of the church age (“age of grace”) 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 specific words “seals” and “sealing”, and how they are used very deliberately in a few key passages. 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.
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
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
Revelation 7’s sealing the 144,000 with a seal connects the root word seal (#4973) with the process of sealing (#4972). Interestingly, the root word seal is the one used to describe the seals on the scroll:
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)
I would suggest this unsealing and transfer of sealing occurs during the opening / release of restraint of the 7 Seals which hold the scroll containing God’s judgment and wrath closed.
The Appointed Time of UnSealing
The appointed time of the unsealing of the scroll is the “time of the end”.
“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
The Hebrew wahatum root translates to the Greek sfragida root. (Google Translate) When we look up in the interlinear what “the time of the end” is, we find the Hebrew word eth (Strong’s #6256) which also carries the meaning of “appointed time”.
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? Jeff wrote a great article about that here: Passing The Torch: Ministry Transfer From the Church to the Two Witnesses.
When the Seals holding the scroll are opened, restraint on the Lamb’s and God’s wrath is clearly released.
Are the Seals Wrath?
Instead of asking if the seals are wrath or not, think in terms of what they are restraining. It’s not that the seals contain judgments or wrath specifically, but that they are withholding it from bursting forth. The seals aren’t part of the scroll, they are preventing the scroll from being read/acted out.
The release of the seals results in terrible calamity on earth. The scroll dramatically unfurls as the seals fling aside, and the “four horses of the apocalyse” ride forth in a frenzied gallop. They have been waiting for this moment!
It’s not that the seals contain wrath or judgment, or not. The effect of their removal clearly announces God’s impending, imminent wrath upon the earth – which the earth’s inhabitants recognize.
What is On The Scroll?
The prophet Daniel was given an amazing preview of the fate of his people (Israel). The majority of the book of Daniel is prophetic; however, in this article we will focus on what Daniel saw related to the 7-sealed scroll that is currently in the hand of the Lamb of God. The contents of this scroll appear to be related to the 70th, and final, prophetic week that Daniel was shown. In this seventieth week, the following will be finished:
Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place… And [he] shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week [he] shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” (Daniel 9:24,27)
Daniel is given many details of the time of the end, which enmesh with the details we are given in the book of Revelation. That is a huge study in and of itself, but we can confirm that his vision is of this “time of the end” in these passages:
But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”… He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end… His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.” (Daniel 8:17,19,24-26)
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Then I, Daniel, looked, and behold, two others stood, one on this bank of the stream and one on that bank of the stream. And someone said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, “How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?” And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream; he raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven and swore by him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished. I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, “O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. (Daniel 12:1-10)
“Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end. And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. (Daniel 7:19-27)
There’s more to be mined from the book of Daniel, but I will stop there as I think I have made my point that the book the angel tells Daniel to seal is none other than the 7-sealed scroll of Revelation. The word “scroll” and “book” appear to be utilized interchangeably from a concordance search. I believe the scroll contains the details of HOW Jesus sets up His dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. God reveals to us many of these details in Revelation chapters 6 through 22.
The Effects of the Release of the Seals
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).
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.
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!