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Friday: Further Thought – The Seven Seals — 22 Comments

  1. Reflection

    What is the takeaway lesson for this week? How could the Christian movement turn from being a group of caring loving followers of Christ into a political persecuting power? If the "seven seals" is the story of the apostasy of the Christian Church it is also the story of the nation of Israel. Could it be our story also? Now that is a challenging thought.

    Perhaps the important message for me is that a personal relationship with Jesus is the overriding thing. Our spiritual experience is something we must develop ourselves and not simply accept as part of an organization. It is too easy to point the finger at organizations and authorities but if we do not pursue our own relationship with Jesus and benignly accept institutional statements of belief, we become complicit in their political machinations. Paul's advice to the Philippians is pertinent:

    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.Phil 2: 12,13(NKJV)

    I am not saying that we should ignore the church, but a church where the individual members are seeking a dynamic relationship with Jesus is very different from a church that tells its members what to believe.

    • It seems I differ from your comment on one point only Maurice. The church does not tell it's members what to believe, for the church is made up of it's members. The "church" is not a separate entity from the congregation.

      What we as a church have done is establish fundamental beliefs, and the Word of God has clearly indicated that many, if not a majority, will "not endure sound doctrine" in the end. The shaking is happening now(many disagreements upon what is truth) and soon the sifting will follow, when those not living by faith in Christ will depart and join the opposition as enemies of the Lord's people. All that you wrote before this is vital for all to understand and experience, today. This is the ONLY remedy for unbelief. Each member must:

      1. Contemplate Christ
      2. Exercise faith in Him
      3. Experience for themselves His saving grace
      (see 5T, 158.2)

      • Robert, my only concern about that is the reference to "the shaking". We have traditionally believed that it was the "liberals" who would be shaken out, and those who hold to the traditional perspective, would be left. Besides the fact that I feel such stereotypes are often unhelpful generalizations, the more I read the Bible, and the more I look at both Biblical history and the history of the Christian church, the more I come to the realization that most of the defections have not been by those who are careless or less zealous, but rather by those who substitute rules, and yes, even doctrine, for a relationship. After all it wasn't the publicans who crucified Christ. It was the pious religious leaders whose practices were scrupulous. They wouldn't even allow him to remain on the cross when the Sabbath started. I fear that there are going to be some surprised people as things wrap up. But then, Jesus warned us of that, also. He told a bunch of pious people in a parable that "I never knew you". They had even cast out demons in his name!

        • I'm not sure how you understand the shaking Wilton, but it's clear from scripture that this is the separation of the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the lost from the saved, the righteous(by faith) from the wicked(through unbelief), those who serve God from those who serve Him not, etc.

          In short, those who overcome sin from those who are overcome by sin.

          If you have not read it before, see the chapter "the Shaking" found in "Early Writings", pg 269.

        • I think I have a reasonable understanding of the shaking. In Mt. 7:22 Christ talks of those who cry "Lord, Lord, didn't we prophecy in your name and in your name case out demons and do many powerful deeds?" to which he replied "I never knew you". These aren't people who were lax or careless. Just like the Pharisees of his time that crucified him to death, they were paying tithe on the spices in their herb garden and doing all the right stuff--for the wrong reason. Nor do I find it accidental that this passage lies only a few verses after "Judge not that you be not judged."

          I grew up (lifetime Adventist) believing that the shaking was sifting out the lax and careless. This is still a widely held perspective, and some would even go so far as to include progressive Adventists or anyone who isn't a "Historic Adventist" like they are (a rather slippery term that can be applied a number of ways). But the more I watch events shaping up within Adventism and the more I compare it to events around the time of Christ's life, the more convinced I am that many, maybe most, of those shaken out are going to be one who say "but Lord . . ." thinking they had done all the right stuff. But His response didn't include any form of the word "do", but instead contained the words "know [Me]".

          When Ellen White says some of the brightest lights will go out, I think she was thinking of people like this, some of whom are currently using their positions of power or access to Adventist audiences to sow condemnation, and discord and actually making it harder for some of God's loyal servants to do what He is asking them to.

      • Each time there is a natural disaster, a ‘shaking’ occurs.

        The occurrence of the natural disaster is an opportunity or catalyst for people’s true characters to be displayed.

        There are those who manifest a character of benevolence and give self-renouncingly to others. These display Christlike characters.

        And then there are those who reveal characters that are self-based where they will look after themselves at the expense of others or even opportunistically ‘loot’ from others.

        Shaking is not a deterministic process, it is a revelatory process. It doesn’t make a person a sheep or a goat - it reveals whether they already are a sheep or a goat at their core. It is not about who behaves a certain way or merely mentally ascents a certain belief. It is about who has a Christlike character that has been developed in the course of being in an abiding relationship with Christ where truth is actually lived out in daily life.

        Same as God’s “higher” (Isa 55:9) form of “judgment” - revelation not determination (eg, 1 Cor 4:5).

        • Yes Phil, every soul will choose their own eternal destiny.

          God only brings/allows circumstances by which we will reveal our choice. The tree in the middle of the garden in Eden was such a circumstance. The presence of the tree was not evil, but the resulting choice it presented could be either good or evil.

  2. What valuable lesson have I learned?
    From John's perspective the visions were telling the future. Jesus said John 13:19 I am telling you about it now so when it happens you will believe in Me.
    Why all the symbols? Because whether one believes the seals start in AD31 or 1844 is not as important as the fact that Jesus knows the hearts of man and their downward spiral without Him in their hearts. He was also promising in advance that He would intervene and put an end to evil and restore the world to be only always good.

  3. It’s a beautiful thing to see us leaning on, and trusting more, the Word of God for understanding the Word of God...

  4. Please help me to understand. The content of the scroll contained the redemption plan and no one was worthy to opened it but Christ. When did the revelation of John take place? was it before or after the ascension of Christ? if its after Christ ascension, doesn't it nullify the meaning of this revelation? Because Christ has died and resurrected already to save man.

    • The plan of salvation was created "from the foundation of the world". As for when Revelation was written, it covers events across a broad time period, so the last of someone worth to open the scroll should not be considered a historical data point at the time John wrote it. In fact, I don't believe the question of who was worthy is set in a specific time. Rather the focus is on the process. John wants to know what the scroll says. After all it was shown to him. There must have been a reason. So the "players" in the vision go through this drama of saying that no one can open the scroll culminating in the revelation that the Lamb can. Of course we know why the Lamb can open it. He is the one who has carried out the plan outlined in the scroll by His sacrifice.

  5. 1. The Revelation, given centuries before the events depicted took place, reveal the fact that God is in control and will prevail. Only by faith on our part will we prevail with Him.

    2. Doesn't our present condition reveal this need?

    3. If we understand prophecy correctly, the next “event” on the schedule will signal the close of probation for many, since it does not come until the Servants of God are sealed. For how many more generations will God hold back the four winds? When will that faithful generation fully yield to the Lord and His Spirit?

  6. Synopsis and Overview of the Seven Seals

    The seals are a portrayal of sacred history, not secular history. They describe a succession of historical events between the inauguration of Christ as priest/king in heaven and His final coming to take over the absolute kingship of the world. The seals have a certain “flow”. That is to say, they are not a description of individual, isolated and disconnected events of church history but rather a sequential and interconnected description of Satan’s battle strategy as he attempts to take over complete dominion of the world. On the other hand, the true church filled with the Holy Spirit is Christ’s chosen method to gain the victory in the struggle for world dominion. This battle is exemplified in the imagery of the building of God’s spiritual temple in Acts of the Apostles, pp. 596-602.

    Under the first seal the Apostolic Church goes out conquering and to conquer. These conquests of the enemy’s territory infuriate the hosts of wickedness who bring about persecution under the Roman emperors (red horse), doctrines of darkness under Constantine (black horse) and death during the middle Ages (yellow horse).

    The fifth seal opens to view the fact that the battle is far from over when the persecutions of the middle Ages come to an end. There will be a final struggle, no holds barred, for world dominion. An even greater number of martyrs will lose their lives in this battle for the word of God and the testimony which they held. This battle is described in Revelation 12, 13; 14:18-20; 16:4-7; 17:6; 18:20, 24; 19:2. The fifth seal shows that the battle for world dominion will have a great final struggle.

    The two stages of martyrs of the fifth seal must be understood in the context of the two periods of dominion of the Roman Catholic papacy. In between the two periods of persecution is the deadly wound (Revelation 13:3). This perspective is also found in Daniel 11 where the scenes of verses 30-39 will be repeated in verses 40-45. The fifth seal itself indicates that the historical events of the first four seals will transpire once more but on an accentuated and global scale. It is not that the first four seals will be fulfilled again but rather that the historical events which fulfilled them will occur once more in similar fashion. If the injustices of the first four seals in church history led the martyrs to cry out in the fifth seal, then we would expect the cry in the future to come as a result of injustices similar to those in the first four seals in the future. As the little horn thought it could change the Sabbath during the 1260 years, so the beast will impose Sunday observance on pain of death in the future.

    The future will look something like this: As at Pentecost, God’s people will receive the power of the latter rain as the disciples received the power of the early rain. The church will go out with power to preach the light and truth of God’s word—conquering and to conquer (PK, p. 725: White horse). This will awaken persecution (red horse) as the doctrines of darkness and superstition (black horse) overwhelm the world (Revelation 18:2, 3). Eventually God’s people will be condemned to death (pale horse). These will be the second group of martyrs that are mentioned in Revelation 6:9-11. When the martyrs were slain it looked like the enemies of Christ had triumphed (AA, p. 581). At the end of human history once again the martyrs will cry out (fifth seal). Again it will appear that Satan’s kingdom is about to take over the whole world and that the lone dissenting voices will be forever silenced. If Satan could blot the remnant from the earth, his triumph would be complete (GC 618). The battle will rage between the remnant of God and the dragon, the beast and the false prophet. The martyrs will cry out to God for justice from their graves (Ellen White makes this clear in her quotations about the martyrs in the fifth seal). Finally Jesus will take the battlefield and finish the work and take over kingship of the world. Jesus rides forth as a mighty conqueror. Signs in the sun, the moon and the stars (sixth seal) announce the coming of the victorious king. He comes as King of kings and Lord of lords and as the lion of the tribe of Judah.

    Thus the final scenes will repeat the general principles of the seven seals. At the end the church will once again be pure and will go out conquering and to conquer. As a result persecution will come. Darkness will come into the church because Babylon will be full of demons. As a result death will be decreed upon God’s people and the martyrs will cry out for justice. Then the category of the martyrs will be complete.

    • William, on what basis do you see the seals as "a succession of historical events between the inauguration of Christ as priest/king in heaven and His final coming"?
      Where is the inaugural language, for instance, in contrast to the judgment symbolism I see?

      • Sister Inge, the seals are opened one at a time, from the first one to the last one. This implies progression. Secondly, what was the content of the scroll? The scroll contains the history of salvation. When the book is finally opened, the universe will see that only Jesus and His followers have the right to the lost possession. Great Controversy, which I believe is the best commentary on the book of Revelation, tells us in no uncertain terms the contents of the scroll as is written in pages 666 - 669.

        • Thank you for your reply, Brother William.

          So you understand the seals being "opened one at a time" to imply chronological progression? But perhaps it does not. There is nothing in the vision that makes it necessary to see chronological progression.

          Secondly you say that "the scroll contains the history of salvation," and you equate that with the same periods of church history as the 7 churches, which begin with the coronation of Christ. Now if the scroll truly contains the history of salvation, shouldn't it begin much earlier than that? Did God not initiate salvation long before?

          For that matter, Ellen White sees the coronation of Christ as taking place after the millennium (much later than the 7 churches), just before the final destruction of the wicked:

          As if entranced, the wicked have looked upon the coronation of the Son of God. They see in His hands the tables of the divine law, the statutes which they have despised and transgressed. They witness the outburst of wonder, rapture, and adoration from the saved; and as the wave of melody sweeps over the multitudes without the city, all with one voice exclaim, “Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints” (Revelation 15:3); and, falling prostrate, they worship the Prince of life. {Great Controversy, p 668.4}

          You reference the Great Controversy, p. 666, and that says

          As soon as the books of record are opened, and the eye of Jesus looks upon the wicked, they are conscious of every sin which they have ever committed. They see just where their feet diverged from the path of purity and holiness, just how far pride and rebellion have carried them in the violation of the law of God. The seductive temptations which they encouraged by indulgence in sin, the blessings perverted, the messengers of God despised, the warnings rejected, the waves of mercy beaten back by the stubborn, unrepentant heart—all appear as if written in letters of fire. (Great Controversy, p. 666.2)

          Ellen White goes on to describe her vision of what will occur after the Holy City comes down with the saints having spent 1000 years examining the records.

          I see a few problems with this application. You assume that the scroll in Rev 5:1 is identical to the books of record Ellen White mentioned. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. There is no proof either way. You further assume that, since the scroll contains the same records as the books mentioned by Ellen White, the seals must follow a chronological progression. That is by no means necessary. Further, as I already pointed out, if the scrolls contain "the history of salvation," the seals cannot possibly be the same time period as the 7 churches, since the churches are pretty much universally seen to start at the time of Christ, and Seventh-day Adventists generally believe that God saved people before the cross too.

          Seeing these difficulties, perhaps it is time to take another look at the seals to see if a different interpretation fits better?

          As I have suggested earlier, if there's a choice of a complicated interpretation and a simple one, the simple one is more likely to be correct. And I propose that the seals give us a glimpse of how God has called people to Himself throughout the history of salvation, with specific emphasis on their responsibility for the opportunities offered - opportunities such as the gospel being preached directly to them, the opportunity to turn to Him during times of war and bloodshed, times of famine and destruction. Of course an innumerable host will have turned to Him for salvation as a result of these opportunities, others will not.

          The the "souls under the altar" represent the universal cry for justice before the final judgment. But the fact that the martyrs are given "white robes" indicates that they have been judged righteous before the universe.

          I find this way of looking at the seals far more satisfying than an interpretation that parallels the 7 churches. What's more, I believe this says more about Jesus Christ - the subject of the Revelation. It tells us that He is doing everything He possibly can to save all He possibly can. And that is, indeed, Good News!

  7. I believe that Revelation 1-11 focuses on the general realities of the Christian era from the first to the second coming because:
    A) in the synoptic apocalypse in Luke 21 Jesus divided into three parts 1) general realities of the Christian era 2) a special time of tribulations 3) end time signs and events
    B) the sanctuary background of Rev 1-11 is based on the "tamid" the daily service in the sanctuary - trim lamps, open doors, slay lamb, pour out blood, burn incense, period of silence, 7 trumpets.
    So I believe Rev 5 is describing heaven at the beginning of the Christian era because it focuses on revealing Jesus Christ and His triumph which is the foundation of everything that happens in the Christian era. They sing a new song because of what He did. Acts 1:4-8 Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit - why - until He is inaugurated. In the fifth seal only is there talk of judgement.
    In Rev 12 onwards focus is on judgement, Rev 11:18 summarize the rest of the book and says "the time has come for you to judge"

  8. The Seals bring to view the denunciations and judgments pronounced against unfaithful rebellious Israel/Jerusalem(Lev 26; Dt 28; Ezk 4-5; 14; Joel 1,2...). The first seal is pictured in Mal 4:1-3. Oil and Wine are especially relevant to God’s covenant people, not the nations. They are specified as products of the “early and late rain”(Dt 11:14; Lev 26:4) and are presented as “tithes and offerings” to the Priests (Mal 3:7-11). They typify believers in Christ, those given to Christ. In the third seal they are the *escaped remnant* of Israel, the survivors (Joel 2:32). Drought and famine cut the produce of the land (Rom 9:27-29; Isa 65:1-4). The relative *few* Hebrew believers troubled Paul. They are the numbered people, 144,000 in number, contrasted with the innumerable number from the nations. They a type of first fruits to God (James 1:18).
    The gospel has an aroma of death to unbelievers (2 Cor 2:16). It takes away Peace causing divisions among the people. The enemy is one’s own household (Ezk 5:10). Christ specifically addressed that to Israel. God sent the craftiest and most cursed (Gen 3:1,14) of the wild beasts into Jerusalem - the rulers of Israel, Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests... Both John Baptist and Christ dubbed them serpents and vipers.
    The response to the martyrs in the fifth Seal has reference to Christ’s prophecy and woes pronounced on the “serpents” (Jn 16:2-4; Matt 23:29-38): “...Therefor, behold, I am sending you prophets... some of them you will kill and crucify, some you will scourge in synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall ALL the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah... Truly I say to you, ALL these things will come upon this generation.” The response: “... rest for a little while longer, until their fellow servants and their brethren who *were to be killed* even as they had been would be completed also.” The first martyr was James. Jerusalem was razed in AD 70.
    The sixth seal is the reaction of the *nations* to the judgments on Jerusalem/Israel, anticipating their judgment. Israel longed for the “Day of the Lord” (Amos 5:17), the Lord’s Day. The Pharisees had asked Christ about that day(Lk 17:20-30). All the prophets pronounced that Day to be a day of darkness, wrath, vengeance, and destruction especially to Israel, instead of light, peace, and rejoicing, being God’s covenant people (Amos 5:18-20; Joel 1:15; 2:1,2,11: Zeph 1:14-17; Isa 5:30; 13:6-16; Ezk 4,5,14; 34:8; 61:2; Mal 4:5,6 and more). God had situated Jerusalem at the “center of the nations” (Ezk 5:5). But “she has rebelled against My ordinances more wickedly than the nations” (Ezk 5:6). God decided to execute judgment on Jerusalem in “the sight of the nations” as a “reproach, a reviling, a warning and an object of horror to the nations who surround you when I execute judgments against you in anger, wrath and raging rebukes. i, the Lord, have spoken.” (Ezk 5:8,14,15). Israel was privileged to receive the gospel first. They receive Judgment first also (Rom 2:8,9; 1 Pt 4:17; Amos 3:2; Jer 25:29; Ezk 9:6; Rom 1:16). Significant changes in the world are represented in Scripture by violent convulsions of nature. They are not necessarily literal. The sky being rolled up is quoted from Isa 34:4,5 and concerns judgment on Edom. The temple was destroyed after all the apostles to be martyred were martyred. Jerusalem had committed Babylon’s abomination and suffered God’s vengeance. They had destroyed God’s temple (Jn 1:29; Jer 50:28; 51:11).
    John was given a panoramic view of Christ in His Day, the Day of the Lord, the Lord’s Day (Lk 17:20-25,30; Rev 1:10). It is a day of vengeance for the nations, but a favorable year for the people of God (Isa 61:1,2).

  9. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:27
    Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church 1 Cor14:12

    Personal relationship: Not a phrase nor idea found in scripture. God does not deal with one in a personal manner, he instructs us as a people, as a church, ( a body of like minded Christ minded believers). There are no commands for one that does not follow for another. There is not a separate means of salvation for one that does not exist for all.
    And although we are saved individually not as a group we all have one Lord, One Faith, one baptism, one common set of laws and prophets.
    I fear the notion of "personal relationship" seem to invoke a spirit that leads one to believe that his expectation is higher or lower than another. It provokes an idea that one is gifted to uplift himself, the idea that God is partial, and that my relationship with God allows for a variety of individual behavior not found in instructions and commands to the church of God

    • You are reading much more into the idea of a "personal relationship" than I ever intended. The relationship you describe is a self-centered one and in a human relationship would be regarded as self-serving or narcissistic.

      Here is an example of a personal relationship with Jesus:

      Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38:42


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