In this video we are going to get started looking at one of the most challenging sections of the Book of Revelation – the Seven Seals (Revelation, chapters 4-7).
We actually began to lay the foundation for this study with the previous video, which took an initial look at the Revelation timeline. We saw that there are actually two timelines in Revelation, an on-earth timeline that chronicles the events that take place down here, and an in-heaven timeline that reveals what God is doing in the meantime.
During the long centuries of history described in the messages to the Seven Churches, Jesus was in heaven “in the midst of the Seven Lampstands” (Revelation 1:13), which symbolizes His special ministry and interventions for His church.
We also saw that in Revelation 4:1 Jesus announced something new that would be taking place in heaven: “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1). In this video, we are going to find out what it is that happens in heaven “after this”.
I can’t overestimate the importance of getting this right. The seven seals, which take up over 20% of the book of Revelation, lay the foundation for understanding the rest of the book. With that in mind, we are going to take the time to analyze quite a few symbols and scriptural links so that we won’t have to guess or speculate about the meaning of the Seven Seals.
“Immediately I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He that sat was in appearance like a jasper and a sardius stone, in appearance like an emerald” (Revelation 4:2,3).
In these verses, we see God’s throne mentioned twice. As we keep reading we will encounter many more thrones. Of the 35 times thrones are mentioned in Revelation, 19 are in Revelation 4 and 5.
In the Old Testament, Kings sat on their thrones when they judged their people. For example, “In mercy the throne will be established; and one will sit on it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness” (Isaiah 16:5). “The tribes go up [to Jerusalem]…for thrones are set there for judgment” (Psalm 122:3-5).
God’s throne, which John described in this passage, is also for judgment: “You [God] sat on the throne judging in righteousness…He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness” (Psalms 9:4,7,8).
There is a list of other scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments that you can look up, which shows that thrones are for judgment.
- Psalm 11:4-6,
- Psalm 97:2,3,
- Isaiah 16:5,
- Proverbs 20:8,
- Matthew 25:31-46,
- 1 Kings 7:7, 10:9,
- Luke 22:28-30
This suggests that the prominent presence of thrones in Revelation 4 and 5 indicates some aspect of God’s judgment.
There are striking parallels between Daniel 7:9,10 and Revelation chapters 4 and 5. Both Daniel and John saw God seated on His throne.
- “Thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days [God] was seated” Daniel 7:9
- “A throne set in heaven, and One [God] sat on the throne” (Revelation 4:2)
They both saw the same number of angels around the throne, a thousand thousands and ten thousand times ten thousands:
- “A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him” Daniel 7:10.
- “Many angels round about the throne…and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11)
And Daniel tells us what this scene is all about: “The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:10).
Again we see strong evidence that the parallel scene in Revelation also has to do with the judgment.
Notice that in Daniel 7:10 the judgment involves the opening of books. This is significant because the central drama of Revelation 4 and 5 is the opening of a book. John saw God sitting on His throne with a sealed book in His hand. Then “A strong angel proclaimed with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book?” (Revelation 5:2).
John got really upset when it looked like no one could open the book: “[John] began to weep greatly, because no one was found worthy to open the book, or to look into it” (Revelation 5:4 NAS). In a later video I am going to present strong evidence that this book is what Revelation and other scriptures call the Book of Life.
Ultimately Jesus the Lamb was able to open the book. In Revelation 20 we can find out what it means when God is sitting on His throne while the Book of Life is being opened: “I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it…and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to…the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:11,12).
This is more evidence for judgment in the Seven Seals.
Judgment in chapters 4-7 is also suggested by the corresponding section of the chiastic structure.
If the chiasm of Revelation is a new concept for you, please take the time to review the video, Revelation of Jesus 4: chiastic structure. The chiasm of Revelation consists of mirror image sections with related themes. For example, the seven trumpet plagues are paired with the seven last plagues.
The seven seals in chapters 4-7 are paired with Revelation 19:1-20:15, the executive judgment, where the sentences pronounced in favor of the righteous and against the unrepentant, are carried out. This chiastic pairing suggests that Revelation 4-7 also involves a phase of judgment.
Besides the chiastic link to chapter 20, chapters 4 and 5 have very significant symbols and language links to Revelation 14.
Both chapters feature Jesus as the lamb, before the throne. Both chapters show the 24 elders and the four living creatures. In both chapters there are many angels with harps singing a new song, giving glory to God for His creation. Both chapters mention every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.
Some of these symbols are found nowhere else in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 14:7 we see the central focus of this scene: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come” (Revelation 14:7). The links to chapter 14 are even more evidence that chapters 4 and 5 also have to do with the “hour of His judgment.”
There are several clues that we have looked at in previous videos which show that the seven seals of chapters 4-7 are related to the judgment.
In Revelation of Jesus 13,Timeline and Revelation of Jesus 5, Sanctuary Scenes we looked at Revelation 4:1: “After these things, I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven” (Revelation 4:1). You may want to review those videos for the details, but briefly, we saw that this whole section is a scene from the sanctuary in heaven, which is the model that was used to create the Old Testament sanctuary and its services.
The open door indicates the beginning of the day of atonement, which was the only day of the year that the high priest went through the door that separated the holy place from the most holy place, where the throne of God was located.
The day of atonement was a solemn day of judgment for the children of Israel. This suggests that Revelation chapters 4 and 5, with its sanctuary scene and open door, is the beginning of the judgment that was symbolized by the Day of Atonement.
Some commentators have insisted that the Seven Seals cannot be about judgment or the Day of Atonement because the word judgment never appears in this section.
However, we should keep in mind that the Old Testament passages that describe the day of Atonement, Leviticus chapters 16 and 23, do not have the word judgment either, even though the concept of judgment is very clear. Likewise, the symbols and old Testament links show clearly that this section portrays judgment, even though the word judgment is not used.
In the next video we will examine more closely the other participants in this scene, but for now, we will take a brief look as we seek to establish the context of the Seven Seals.
“Around [God’s] throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones, I saw twenty-four elders sitting” (Revelation 4:4). We will see that these elders sitting on their thrones are most likely representatives of the human race.
It is intriguing to compare Revelation 20:4 where John also saw human representatives sitting on thrones in heaven: “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them” (Revelation 20:4).
Here we see that whatever the judgment is, human representatives will be involved and they will sit on thrones, just like the 24 elders. This reality underlines the teaching of the Apostle Paul: “Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? (1 Corinthians 6:2)
The four living creatures are also major participants in this scene. “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in the back” (Revelation 4:6).
We studied these creatures in Revelation of Jesus 1, Introduction. We saw that identical living creatures around God’s throne were present in Ezekiel chapters 1-11, when God visited Jerusalem to judge the people who lived there.
There is even more evidence that we could present, but what we have looked at in this video is more than enough to conclusively demonstrate that Revelation chapters 4 and 5, which introduce the Seven Seals, have to do with judgment. If you find this disturbing, you are not alone.
From a human standpoint, there is something awesome and even frightening about judgment. We are judged in a human court when someone has accused us of a crime, and even when we are innocent there is always the fear that a perversion of justice will prevail and we will be found guilty.
In this life, we make every effort to avoid having to go to court, but there is no avoiding God’s judgment: “For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10).
However, God’s judgment is fundamentally unlike a human trial. First of all, God is altogether righteous and holy; with Him, there are no mistakes, no bias, and no perversion of justice. And in fact, when we consider God’s judgment, it is actually Jesus who judges us, and He loved us so much that He died so that we can live. He Himself said, “The Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).
But that’s not to say that the Father is any less willing to save us from death: “For God so loved the world (which means each and every person who has ever lived) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
An even more basic difference is that God’s judgment is not designed to find out if people are guilty. In a human trial, the accused is considered to be innocent until proven guilty, and there is an investigation, examining the evidence to determine guilt or innocence. But God, who sees the heart and motives, declares in advance that “There is none righteous, no, not one” “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:10, 23, 6:23).
Sin and death are the default.
Judgment is not needed to prove that people are guilty; it is designed to declare people righteous and qualified for eternal life.
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16,17). When the prophet Daniel was shown a vision of the judgment, he saw that “The Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom” (Daniel 7:22).
When God declares people righteous and innocent it is not because they have managed to perform enough good deeds to outweigh their bad ones.
Although Daniel calls them saints who will possess the kingdom, the biblical meaning of saint is simply one who believes and trusts in God. “He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:18,19).
God does not need a judgment in order to gather more evidence. He already knows who believes and trusts in Him. Comparing it to a human trial, the jury consists of the “many angels around the throne, the [four] living creatures, and the  elders” (Revelation 5:11). They are the ones who have to be convinced that the sinners that Jesus claims as believers in Him, are safe to be included in the eternal family.
This is why there are many verses that say that we are saved by faith but judged by our works.
Jesus knows what is really going on in the hearts of those who profess to believe in Him. The jury of heavenly inhabitants, on the other hand, only knows what people say and do; in the judgment, they look for evidence that obvious sinners actually do believe in God.
They want to be sure that when they are transferred out of the corrupt environment of this world into the pure and holy atmosphere of the eternal kingdom, they will consistently and eternally follow God and not slip back into the ways of sin and death.
In the simplest terms, the judgment takes place to assure the inhabitants of the heavenly kingdom that “There shall by no means enter into it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27).
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And to find out in advance where this is all going, you can order the book A Revelation of Jesus by David Lackey, available from online bookstores.