Summary of Revelation 6, The Seven Seals (Seals 1)

Chapter six describes the events that occur as the Lamb breaks the first six of the seven seals. This scene follows directly on the vision of the heavenly throne room in chapter five. A careful study of this chapter exposed a number of interesting
Themes, which I will explore at greater length in posts to follow:

1. The Four Horsemen (Rev. 6:1-8) Portray the Progress of the Gospel and the Consequences of Its Rejection. This interpretation depends on the identity of the white horse and its rider (6:1-2).
2. The Main OT Background of the Four Horses Involves the Curses of the Covenant. The OT covenant, with its blessings and curses, is adopted in chapter six as a metaphor of the gospel.
3. The Judgments Portrayed in Revelation 6 Affect the People of God. This builds on the covenant promises and threats made to Israel in Lev. 26 and Deut. 32.
4. The “Souls Under the Altar” Passage Does Not Address the State of the Dead. The fifth seal (Rev. 6:9-11) has often been misused to argue consciousness after death.
5. The Adventist Reading of the Sixth Seal Is Supported by the Text. Close reading of Rev. 6:12-14 indicates both a movement in time in the passage and the literal meaning of sun, moon and stars.

This chapter in the book of Revelation is one of the more difficult ones to understand. This leaves scholars with two main and seemingly contradictory readings of the four horsemen in particular. One sees them along the lines of Matthew 24 as a symbolic portrayal as the work of Christ and the gospel throughout the course of Christian history. The presentation of the gospel compels decision and thus divides the world into two classes of people. Those who reject the gospel enter a downward slide leading to ultimate destruction. The second reading sees all four horsemen as negative, including the rider on the white horse. In this reading, the seals describe not the work of Christ but the work of Satan, which God permits him to do, a work of lies, deception, force and torment. Both readings are appealing in many ways. I prefer the first reading because to me the evidence that the white horse is a positive entity seems compelling. More on this in the next blog.

Chapter six is clearly based on chapter five. The chapter opens with “and” (Greek: kai), indicating a connection to what precedes. At the close of chapter five, the Lamb is holding the scroll (5:7-8) and receiving the worship of the heavenly host (5:12-14). John continues looking (both chapters begin with John saying “and I saw”—5:1; 6:1) and sees the Lamb open seal after seal (6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12). The fact that Satan does not appear in the heavenly visions of Revelation four and five is further evidence to me that the satanic reading of Revelation six is not to be preferred.

The events that occur as each seal is opened are not the content of the scroll. All seven seals need to be broken before the scroll can be unrolled and its contents seen (see 6:14). The events unleashed by the breaking of the seals are events on earth that lead up to the opening of the scroll, which seems to be associated with the consummation of human history and possibly even the whole cosmic conflict.

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