Revelation 8

There is a pause between the sixth and seventh seal when John sees the glorious vision of the great multitude in heaven rejoicing and worshiping the Lamb upon the Throne. Then the seventh seal is opened and there is silence in heaven for a half an hour. This is a dramatic pause before we move on to the ever increasing evils of the trumpets. But before the trumpets are sounded, there is a time of silence with intense prayers of the saints offered on the altar mixed with incense; they ascend before God from the angel’s hand. When this prayer time is finished the angel fills the censer with fire from the altar and hurls it to earth, the result is thunder, roaring noise, flashes of lightening and an earthquake – the silent prayer time is finished, the trumpets of war against evil begins.
When the first four trumpets are sounded the earth is crushed with plagues like the plagues of Egypt. The first trumpet blare sends hail and fire mixed with blood at the earth so that one third of the earth was burned up. The second trumpet announces a “great mountain of burning fire” that is thrown into the sea, one third of the creatures in the sea died and a third of the ships were destroyed. The third trumpet announces a huge burning star that falls from the sky to land on the rivers and springs of water, this turns the waters of the earth bitter and many people died from the poisoned water. Finally, the fourth trumpet is sounded and the sun was struck so that a third of the moon and third of the stars are darkened.
Notice the increasing destruction, the pale rider of Revelation 6 was given power to kill a fourth of those living on the earth by sword, famine, plague and by the wild beasts. This round of judgments is increased to one third of the earth, the sea creatures, the rivers and streams and the sun, moon and stars. But still there is time; it is still a partial judgment the final judgment is still to come
All four of these trumpets parallel the plagues of Egypt when Pharaoh refused to allow the Israelites to worship God; Pharaoh continued to insist that the gods of Egypt were more powerful than the LORD God Almighty. God repeatedly demonstrated His power and Pharaoh refused to humble himself before the LORD. This battle between the minor gods we create and the LORD God Almighty that created the universe continues: “We are a nation of little Pharaohs and Caesars, with each person intent on ordering his or her own private universe. But we are not the masters of the universe we think we are…earth dwellers can either humble themselves before the Living God or harden their hearts the way Pharaoh did”. Doug Webster, Follow the Lamb
The four trumpets have sounded the advance, now John hears something like an eagle flying screaming out “Woe! Woe! Woe to those who live on the earth because of the remaining sounds of the trumpets of the three angels who are about to blow them!” An ominous ending to Revelation 8, the judgment continues in the following chapter.

Revelation 7

Revelation chapter seven is an interlude or pause in the unsealing of the scroll, a pause between the sixth seal and the seventh seal in chapter eight. This interlude includes two visions, the first is the sealing of the 144,000 and the second is the countless multitudes that are worshiping the Lamb in heaven. Chapter six ends with the question “who can withstand?” against all the evil that is being unleashed upon the earth – God answers in chapter seven – those with the seal of the Living God! All those ripped off seals of destruction, war, revolution, famine; disease and death is no match for the seal of the Living God that protects the faithful during times of tribulation.
The vision begins with four angels standing at the compass points of the earth – holding back the winds of destruction that parallel the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The angels like the horsemen have been given permission to damage the earth and the sea. Then another angel appears coming from the east, carrying the seal of the Living God. He called out in a loud voice, “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.
This vision is similar to Ezekiel’s prophecy against Israel: the end is coming on the four corners of the land…..(when) I will hold you accountable for all your abominable practices. Then a man dressed in linen in the temple of God is called to go through the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of the people who have been faithful and not practiced the abominations of Israel.
The principle is the same throughout the generations, when God makes a covenant with people, He will be their God, they will proclaim Him LORD, they will be faithful to his decrees and God marks them as His very own possession. “When you heard the word of truth the gospel of your salvation when you believed in Christ you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory”. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Then the number is revealed to John about how many were sealed: 144,000 – that is 12,000 from all the tribes of Israel. Then twelve tribes are listed, they are listed as a census just as they were numbered after the Exodus, in the wilderness and before Israel entered the Promised Land. What is interesting in this census is the exact same number from each tribe indicating that this is a symbolic number meaning perfect or complete – everyone who should be counted is counted; no person is missing. Therefore the 144,000 is symbolic of the perfect and complete number 12 squared – all the faithful from the Old Testament and the New Testament together. Then John, note he hears the number 144,000 then see the multitude and describes it. “An enormous crowd that no one could count made up of persons from every tribe, people and language standing before the throne and before the Lamb”. The multitude is saying, “Salvation belongs to our God, to the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb!” The entire crown, the angels that circle the throne, the 24 elders, the four creatures all bow before the throne and worship God with perfect praise. “Amen! Praise and glory, and wisdom and thanksgiving, and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
The great multitude that no one could count were all wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. John is asked a question, “Who are they and where have they come from?” John says, “You know the answer” and the elder responds, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation”. The symbolic number, the countless multitude brings me to the conclusion that the great tribulation is not only in the future, but in the here and now as well. It began at the cross and will end when Christ comes again; in the meantime, it continues. “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart; I have overcome the world” John 16:33
How do we survive our current or coming tribulations? We rely on the Lamb in the middle of the throne, He is our shepherd, and He will lead us, feed us and protect us.

Revelation 6

Chapter six begins the first of the sevenfold series of judgments; the seven seals are followed by the seven trumpets and the seven bowls. This section of the Revelation is what many call “The Tribulation”, each series of judgments are preceded by a vision in heaven before the earthly events happen. Before the judgments of the seven seals John saw the Lamb of God in heaven worthy to open the seals.

There are several different interpretations of “The Tribulation” – the dispensation view is of a sequential chronological timeline – the seven seals are followed by the seven trumpets then the seven bowls during a literal 7-year period that begins when the Anti-Christ makes a treaty with Israel.

Another view is that events and judgments on earth happen simultaneously with the worship in heaven – in God’s time the beginning, middle and the end occur all at one –existing outside of our concept of chronological time. The third view is called “recapitulation” the idea that the seven trumpets further explain the seven seals, then the seven bowls expand on the seals and trumpets further still. This thinking is that the seals, trumpets and bowls are describing the same events with expanding severity and detail.

All eyes are fixed on the Lamb as the one who is worthy peels off the first four seals; as the seal is removed one of the Living Creatures issues the command “Come!” What appears next are the four horsemen of the apocalypse – the White horse, the rider has a bow and crown as he rode out to conquer. Next is the fiery Red horse, the rider carrying a huge sword is granted permission to take peace from the earth so that people would butcher one another. The third horse is black and the rider carries a balance scale in his hand, “a quart of wheat will cost a day’s pay and three quarts of barley will cost a day’s pay. But do not damage the olive oil and the wine!” The last horse is pale green, the name of the one who rides it is Death and Hades follows him. Death and Hades are given authority to kill ¼ of the earth’s population with sword, famine and disease and by the wild animals of the earth.

Looking at the four horses together the context is that the first judgment is conquest and control, military conquest from without that leads to the catastrophes that follow with the other horses of judgment. The Red horse is anarchy and revolution, internal strife and unrest from within neighbor against neighbor. The Black horse describes the famine, unemployment and disease as the result of conquest, anarchy and revolution – there is scarcity of food and the poor suffer greatly. Finally, the Pale horse of death appears with Hades accompanying him. War, revolution, anarchy, famine and disease has its toll, ¼ of the earth’s population has died by the sword, starvation, deadly disease and attacks by wild animals.

The dispensational view uses Daniel 9 and Matthew 24 to set the chronology for the appearance of the Anti-Christ. The White horse is the Anti-Christ that looks like Christ but is not, he makes a treaty with Israel for 7 years. The Red horse is war, coming from the king of the north (Ezekiel 38-39) – which has been interpreted over the years to be Russia or China. The Black horse is the decree of the Antichrist that happens midway through the Tribulation that requires everyone to accept his mark or they will not be allowed to buy or sell anything. The Pale horse is death on a massive scale under the dominion of the Antichrist.

Another interesting view is the Preterist – they understand Revelation in the context of first century historical events of earthquakes, persecution, civil war, the eruption of Vesuvius followed by a grain famine and increased persecution of Christians by Emperor Domitian.

Meanwhile back in the throne room of God there is a pause before the next four seals are opened. John sees that under the altar are countless souls of those who have been martyred for their faith. They are continuously calling out to God, “how long, before you judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood?” The answer they are given is to rest for a little longer until the full number of fellow believers who will be martyred is reached; God says wait. The message for the church and for us is this: resist evil, and continue to worship, praise and pour your heart out to God, His timing is perfect.

As the sixth seal is opened there is a tremendous earthquake, the sun turns dark and the moon red; yet still those on earth still do not turn to the LORD. The kings of the earth, the rich and powerful and the poor all hide themselves from the Lamb. The Great Day of the LORD has come and the question arises “Who can stand?”

Revelation 5

Revelation 5 continues from the Throne Room of God, John is overwhelmed by the colors, the strange creatures and the 24 elders who are laying their crowns before the throne in continual worship and praise God. What an awesome sight, there is a sense that while the church on earth is struggling to overcome – simultaneously there is glorious worship in heaven because the end is known. The Lamb has conquered and God is seated on his throne – all is well in the universe, even while we struggle and fail to see the victory from our earthly perspective.
John see that God is holding in His right hand a scroll that has writing on the front and back and is sealed with seven seals. Then an angel asks, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and beak its seals?” They look about for someone to open the scroll, but no one is found either in heaven, on earth or under the earth – John responds with despair, weeping bitterly that the contents of the scroll will remain hidden because no one was worthy to open the scroll.
One of the elders rebukes John saying, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered; thus he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” John sees standing in the middle of the throne, a lamb that appears to have been killed; the Lamb of God bears the marks of His slaughter, yet is alive – on the throne in power, having overcome through His death. The Lamb has seven horns and seven eyes symbolizing complete and perfect strength, power and understanding.
The Lamb takes the scroll from God’s right hand and the four living creatures and the 24 Elders throw themselves to the ground before the Lamb in worship. Each one had a harp and a bowl full on incense which are the prayers of the saints; together they are all singing a new song of praise and worship to the Lamb.
The song declares why the Lamb is worshiped; because you were killed and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people and nation. The new song is the song of redemption; the Lamb has conquered death and sin and redeemed the people of God for God.
Then joining with the elders and the creatures are millions of angels all singing praise to the Lamb, then every creature on earth, in heaven, on the sea and in the sea and even those under the earth join in praise of the Lamb of God. There is increasing praise and increasing numbers – all creation sings – praise to the King of Kings! Worthy is the lamb who was killed to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and praise!
God is seated on His throne, the Lamb of God rules with God surrounded with worship by all the creatures of His creation. God and the Lamb are worshiped together as Creator, Savior, Lord and Judge – we can rest in His work, God is in control next we will see God’s glorious fearful plans for the end of the world.