The Seal Judgments

ESV Revelation 6:1 Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!”

“Chapter 6 of the Book of Revelation Introduces the Seal Judgments – The Seal Judgments make up the first quarter of the Tribulation Period. The seventh seal then introduces the seven TRUMPETS, which indicates that we are carried into the second quarter of the Tribulation as described in chapters 8 and 9. The seventh trumpet, in turn, introduces the seven BOWL judgments, which comprise the last half of the TRIBULATION Period” {LaHaye}. Said another way, chapter 6 records the beginning of the Great Day of God’s Wrath, i.e., the Tribulation. John’s account of the Tribulation is the focus of chapters 6-18.

The Tribulation – The Tribulation, which is sometimes capitalized, sometimes not, may be described as the seven-year period which immediately follows the Rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) and precedes the Second Coming of Christ (Matthew 24-25). Most conservative commentators agree that the most extensive commentary on the Tribulation is found in Revelation 6-18, which is a detailed exposition of the tribulation days proclaimed in Daniel 9:24-27:

NAS Daniel 9:24-27 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. 25 “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

See also Deuteronomy 4:30-31; Isaiah 2:19; 24:1, 3, 6; 24; 24:19-21; 26:20-21; Jeremiah 30:7. “Form these Scriptures it is inescapable that the nature or character of this period is that of wrath, indignation, destruction, darkness, desolation, overturning, and punishment. No passage can be found to alleviate to any degree whatsoever the severity of this time that shall come upon the earth”{Pentecost}.

“God’s purpose for the tribulation can be divided into three aspects:

  • To make an end of wickedness and wicked ones (Isaiah 13:9; 24:19, 20) – The first purpose for the tribulation is seen to be a punishment in history upon the whole world for its sins against God, in a way similar to that of the global flood in Noah’s days (Matthew 24:37-39).
  • To bring about a worldwide revival – This purpose is given and fulfilled in Revelation 7:1-17.
  • To break the power of the holy people – Israel” {Fructenbaum, from Ice & Demy}.

“The Heart of the Book of Revelation” – “As we come to the sixth chapter of the book of Revelation, it becomes immediately apparent that we have reached the very heart of the book. As John beholds the Lord Jesus Christ, represented by a lamb, breaking the first seal, we encounter the first of a long series of events that begin in heaven and are consummated on earth. A seal is broken in heaven and a horsemen appears on earth. each seal broken in heaven introduces a tragedy on earth.

With the breaking of the first seal and the appearance of the horseman the dreaded period of time known as the tribulation Period begins. This 7-year span of future world history, graphically described in Revelation 6:1-19:21, will be the darkest time the world has ever known” {LaHaye}.

“Progressive Revelation” Progressive revelation is the concept that the sections of the Bible that were written later contain a fuller revelation of God compared to the earlier sections. The things that God revealed to humanity were not all given at once. His revelation was given in stages. This is known as progressive revelation. The apostle Paul made a distinction between the revelation which God formerly gave and that which He was presently giving.

NAS Romans 16:25-26 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;

The opening of chapter 6 of the book of Revelation marks an important milestone in the PROGRESSIVE REVELATION of the end of the age. In chapter 5, John is introduced to the seven-sealed book (or scroll) in the hand of Christ, who has taken it from the right hand of God the Father seated on the throne (5:7). In chapter 6 the first six seals are opened with the resultant tremendous events occurring in the earth (chapters 4-5 took place in heaven). The interpretation of these events depends upon the understanding of other portions of the prophetic Word. If the events portrayed are taken in any literal sense, it should be clear that they describe an event yet future, in the words of Christ ‘the things which shall be hereafter (1:9). Van Ryan expresses the common pretribulational position: ‘The opening of the seals ushers in the terrible judgments to fall upon this earth after the Church has been caught up to glory (i.e., the Rapture), as we saw in 4:1.’ In support of the pretribulational position, it is significant that the church so prominent in chapters 2 and 3 is not mentioned again until 22:16 except as the wife of the Lamb at the close of the tribulation. Nowhere in scenes of earth which describe the end time (chaps. 6-19) is the church pictured as involved in the earthly struggle. This lends credence to the conclusion that the rapture of the church has occurred before the events pictured beginning with chapter 4” {Walvoord}.

The Opening of the Scroll – “The vision of the glorified Son of Man in chapter 1 led to the writing of the seven letters to the churches in chapters 2 and 3. Similarly the throne-room vision of chapters 4 and 5 sets the stage for the opening of the scroll with its sequence of seals, trumpets, and bowls (chaps. 6-16). The dramatic portrayal of God’s righteous judgment is now under way. It should be noted that the scroll is not actually opened until all seven seals are removed. So, in a sense, the content of the scroll begins with chapter 8 and the sounding of the seven trumpets. On the other hand, as each seal is removed we are introduced to a series of preliminary judgments representing forces operative throughout history by means of which the redemptive and judicial purposes of God are being carried out prior to the end” {Mounce}.

Further Information on the Tribulation – “To understand the Tribulation Period, one should understand that it is a very special day in the plan of God for His nation, Israel. To see this clearly, we must turn to the O.T. book of Daniel and examine Daniel’s SEVENTY WEEKS of Years. The ninth chapter of Daniel reveals that after the nation of Israel had been in captivity about 68 years, Daniel was diligently studying the prophetic word of God. He saw in Jeremiah 25:11-12 that Israel would serve the king of Babylon for 70 years. Daniel tells us in Daniel 9:2 that in the first year of the reign of Darius he understood in the books the number of the years which was revealed to Jeremiah the prophet for the ‘completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, 70 years.’ In vv. 24-27 of the ninth chapter Daniel is given a vision by God of the Seventy Weeks of Years. It is most important to understand the time element involved: Seventy Weeks means Seventy years. Thus we find that Daniels’s 70 weeks are literally 70 units of 7 years, or 490 years. Verse 25 of Daniel 9 tells us that these 490 years are divided into 3 groupings which we must understand in order to comprehend the time element. The first two periods of these 70 units of years total 483 years. From the going forth of the DECREE OF CYRUS (Ezra 1; Nehemiah 2) to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ was 483 years.

Thus all but one ‘week’ of Israel’s prophetically determined history has been accomplished. The final period of time will be such a horrible time in history that the people of God are referred to as ‘the desolate (Dan 9:27)” {LaHaye}. Because of this last word, some have argued that a better name than “Antichrist” is “DESOLATOR.” This final ‘week’ of Daniel has not yet happened; it is in the future. The world is in an indeterminable ‘GAP’ in which the church age is being fulfilled. At present God is not dealing with the nation of Israel prophetically. When the Rapture of the church takes place, God’s prophetic timetable starts again and Daniel’s 70th week begins. Daniel’s 70th week is the TRIBULATION, and this brings us back to chapter 6 of Revelation.

The Seals + the Trumpets = the Tribulation – “The seals are the events of the first three and one-half years and the trumpets events of the last three and one-half years” {Pentecost}.

– Professor Thomas A. Rohm