The Seven Seals
These devotions will be a little different in format. I typically start with the Scripture passage, then move onto the context and application. For these devotions, the Scripture passages will be embedded into the devotion itself.
In our last devotion, we discovered that God’s righteousness will not be denied. Throughout the Scripture, God promised that the wicked will receive their judgment. Revelation 6 begins to describe how God’s justice will be expressed. As we continue in Revelation, we should be reminded that although John uses symbolic language and describes frightening scenes, he writes these passages to comfort believers throughout the ages to endure through persecution.
We learned in the last devotion that no one was worthy to open the scroll – or the title deed to the world – except Jesus Christ. In Revelation 6-19, John describe the seven year Tribulation. As we enter Revelation 6-8, John reveals what happens with the breaking of the seven seals.
1 – The First Seal, v 1-2 – The breaking of the first seal describes the Anti-Christ being let loose on and conquering the world.
“I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” Revelation 6:1-2 NIV
The rider introduced in this passage held a bow with no arrows. This indicates that thought he is strong militarily, he does his conquering in the beginning, by diplomacy. The rider of the white horse, or the anti-Christ, is sometimes confused with Jesus. This is a Satanic dictator who impersonates Jesus. Following the rapture of the church, the anti-Christ quickly rises to power. Jesus held a sword, while the rider of the white horse carries a bow with no arrows. Unlike Jesus, the anti-Christ, “rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.” He will rule over man as a false Messiah.
Daniel states that there is a “prince that shall come” who will make a covenant with Israel to protect her from enemies in Daniel 9:26-27. In other words, the future dictator of the world begins his career by being a peacemaker! He will go from victory to victory and finally control the whole world!
2 – The Second Seal, v 3-4 – The breaking of the second seal describes war beginning to break out and peace being lost.
“3 When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.” Revelation 6:3-4 NIV
The peace that the anti-Christ brings is short lived and war breaks out. Peace is taken from the earth and people are made to kill each other.
3 – The Third Seal, v 5-6 – The breaking of the third seal describes famine breaking out.
“5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” Revelation 6:5-6 NIV
The result of war, both in the ancient world and today, is inflation and famine. Two pounds of wheat and six pounds of barley represent what was sufficient for a person’s daily need. According to this passage, man will have to work a full day just to secure food for himself!
4 – The Fourth Seal, v 7-8 – The breaking of the fourth seal describes the ultimate result of war and famine – which is death.
“7 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6:7-8 NIV
Another common after-effect of war, both in modern and ancient times, is death. This passage says that one fourth of the earth will be killed by sword, famine and plague, and the wild bests of the earth. Think for a moment about the massive amounts that will perish – one fourth of the world’s population.
5 – The Fifth Seal, v 9-11 – The breaking of the fifth seal describes the persecution of God’s people which brings further judgement from God on this world.
“9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.” Revelation 6:9-11 NIV
Shortly after the rapture, there will be a great revival in which millions will come to faith in Jesus Christ. Since the text says their murders are alive on earth, it is likely that those martyrs are apparently from the early part of the Tribulation – mainly as a result of the preaching of the 144,000 witnesses described in Revelation 7. They represent all who have laid down their lives for Jesus Christ and the cause of God’s truth. As a result of the anti-Christ’s rise to power, a large number of these saints will become martyrs – those whose lives were given sacrificially to the glory of God.
Their question is not when their enemies will be judged. The saints who have been martyred know God’s judgment is coming. Their question is “how long, Sovereign Lord…” This passage both assures us that God will have the last word, and provided encouragement to the first century believers to whom John wrote.
6 – The Sixth Seal, v 12-17 – The breaking of the sixth seal describes a great earthquakes and mega-natural disasters.
“12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” Revelation 6:12-17 NIV
Whether people are rich, poor, kings, or slaves, will not matter at this time. These mega-natural disasters will affect everyone. John points out that every mountain and island was moved out of its place. Also implied is volcanic activity as he says, “The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red.”
Sadly, John points out that while people of the earth recognize these phenomena as coming from God, they refuse to submit to God’s will rather hide from God in fear than run to Him in faith.
7 – The Seventh Seal, Revelation 8:1-6 – The breaking of the seventh seal describes silence in Heaven for half an hour followed by the beginning of the next wave of judgments upon the earth – The seven trumpets.
“When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. 4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. 5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” Revelation 8:1-6 NIV
When the seventh seal is broken, there is silence in Heaven for about half an hour. Some scholars suggest that there were no women in Heaven for a half hour – ok just kidding about that part!
The silence in Heaven is accompanied by an angel bringing a golden censer with all the prayers for God’s people. The text does not say what causes the silence in Heaven, but it could be because the scroll had now been completely opened and all of Heaven could see God’s glorious plan unfolding. The breaking of the seventh seal leads to the seven trumpets and the seventh trumpet leads to the seven bowls.
As horrible as the seven seals were, the trumpets get worse. We will explore the seven trumpets in a future devotion.
Lord Jesus thank You that in the end, You win. You own the Heavens and the earth. Your justice rules over all. I pray, dear Jesus, increase the in me the boldness to share You Word and to call people to You before judgment arrives. In the precious name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Ty Tamasaka is an author who hold a Master of Arts Degree from Pacific Rim Christian University in Christian Ministry He is a Bible teacher who loves to encourage people to enjoy Jesus’ grace and extend His Kingdom. Ty just released his new book Starting Fresh: Following Jesus on the Adventure of a Lifetime in addition to More than a Conqueror: 5 Pathways to Personal Revival.