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Monday: The Second and Third Seals — 24 Comments

  1. This morning I read the first few chapters of Ezekiel. I am not sure why I had not taken the time to read them earlier in this series of lessons, but it was mentioned in the lesson and I did not pick the significance at the time. For those who have not read Ezekiel recently, the parallels between the first three chapters of Ezekiel and Rev 4-6 are remarkable. Ranko Stefanovic in his book "Plain Revelation", the recommended extra reading for this series of lessons, says that about 30% of the language of this part of Revelation comes from Ezekiel.

    The four-beasts, the vision of the throne, the scroll are all there and although some of the detail differs you get the impression that they are describing parallel situations.

    The first four seals essentially describe the Christian church's slide from personal to political Christianity. Ezekiel's message was for a nation chosen by God who had slipped into rebellion against God.

    I am going to make the suggestion that we read both these passages together to see if the common theme is meaningful. Some may suggest that John is plagiarizing Ezekiel but that would be a very shallow interpretation.

    • No, I would counter that John, was on Patmos under Roman guard and probably everything he wrote had to pass scrutiny of Roman guards. Had he spoken plain English (plain Greek) they probably would have had his head for it. So he uses coded language that sounds like nonsense babbling to the Roman guards. But there is a cypher key that his intended audience has and knows--the Hebrew scriptures. This is one (and probably not the only) reason for significant parallels to Ezekiel, Daniel and even the Pentateuch (as well as Isaiah and others).

      • But aren’t these visions that John had? To me it makes sense that God would give him these images/use particular imagery for our benefit as we studied in this age having access to both books.

        • The mechanism is immaterial to the discussion. Yes, God gave him the vision, but wouldn't God want the message to pass through the Roman guards unhindered? And wouldn't God be smart enough to use symbols the reader would understand, but the guards wouldn't? And just maybe God gave OT writers vision that He knew would facilitate this, hundreds of years ahead of time.
          In addition, I think of Ellen White's comment that the Bible writers were God's penman, not His pen. We sometimes put them (and Him) in a straightjacket He never intended.

  2. With regard to the second seal and the accompanying symbolism (Rev 6:3-4), I could not help but recall Jesus words in Matt 10:34 regarding both peace and a sword.

    So I reviewed the surrounding verses in Matt 10 and what do I find? Jesus forewarning that those who go out in his name (Matt 10:22) will unfortunately arouse persecution in response (Matt 10:28). Now remember that name = character.

    The reason a Christlike character arouses persecution is outlined in John 3:19-21. This is a cause and effect phenomenon because it is a natural law - a natural reaction (embedded within reality) that will occur every time light and darkness meet.

    Interesting to note Matt 10:26 where Jesus points out that He has been called Beelzebub. Notice this: Jesus living out a Christlike character was called Beelzebub! Who was it that accused Jesus of being Beelzebub? It was the Church leadership - the church leadership did not recognise a Christlike character in action.

    What is being talked about in Matt 10 is persecution from within church circles where those that allegedly are Christians - even in leadership positions - are persecuting those who actually display Christlike characters. And those doing the persecuting believe they are serving God because they perceive that those displaying Christlike characters are instead of Beelzebub. How twisted is that!

    Is this prophecy limited to past fulfillment only, or could it perhaps happen again?

  3. I see the seven seals covering the whole great controversy as making more sense to me than starting in the first century.

    • It is sometimes said that "history repeats itself".

      Is it possible then that prophecy can have multiple, recurring applications?

  4. The study of prophecies give us a sense of care by the side of God! He wants us to know what is ahead! As a loving father, He gives us a glimpse of the future! We are the ones not to forget that the figured language beholds direct truths! That should give us focus in this time of great distress! Peace, because everything has a purpose in this great controversial times!

    • While there is an element of future fulfillment in the prophecies, We should remember that most of our interpretation of prophecy involves matching the prophecies with events after they have happened. Adventists are historicists as far as prophetic interpretation is concerned. There is nothing wrong with that but we must recognize the limitations of the method as well. One limitation that is often overlooked is that trying to interpret current events in terms of prophecies is often an extrapolation. In particular, I sometimes hear of efforts to prophetically involve China and Islamic nations. While I am sure that they do have an impact on Christianity in some way, some of the "prophecy talk" is evangelistic fervor rather than spiritually based. We do not need to prove Christianity be being first off the block, by saying that Trump or ISIS is a fulfillment of prophecy.

  5. The human traditions

    310AD They started praying for the dead.

    320AD They started lighting candles during worship. Ezekiel 8:14 a pagan tradition of worshiping Tammuz.

    375AD They started worshipping angels and dead saints. Isaiah 8:19.

    394AD They started the mass without washing of the feet.

    431AD The meeting at Ephesus started worshipping Mary calling her the mother of God. The image of a woman holding a child shows the mother is powerful than the baby.

    500AD. They started using different clothes for the clergy. Jesus never wore this. A kiss was used to differentiate Jesus from his disciples.

    593AD The doctrine of purgatory was introduced.

    600AD Latin the language of prayers was started. 1cor14:9

    610AD A title not found in the Bible was used to call their leader.

    709AD. Kissing the feet of their leader.

    758AD worshipping the cross.

    850AD holy water

    965AD baptism of the bells.

    995AD. Making the dead saints.

    1079AD clergy not to marry.1 Tim 4:1.

    1090AD rosary introduced. Math 7:7-13.

    1184. Committee to deal with heretics.

    1190AD selling forgiveness.

    1215. Eating and drinking real blood of Jesus.

    1215AD They started forgiving sins. Heb 7:23-25.

    1220AD. Worshipping the wafer.

    1229AD. The Bible was banned.

    1287AD scapular was discovered.

    1414AD The laity was banned from using the cup during sacrament.

    1439AD seven sacrament doctrine.

    1545AD traditions have the same authority as the Bible.

    1546AD. Books were added in the Bible.

    1834AD Mary was born without sin.(immaculate) luke1:47.

    1870AD Their claim of infallibility was made a doctrine. Rom 3:4,23.

    1950AD They declared that Mary was taken to heaven. Mark 16:19.

    • Cyrus, I think that you are trying to point out that the papacy made up their own traditions to replace Biblical truths. While that is true, the real issue with the papacy, as with most false religion is their use of coercion and persecution to enforce conformity with them. We get a hint of that in the message of the second angel:

      And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon[f] is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” Rev 14:8

      Babylon resorted to politics, persuasion, and persecution to convert and control the people. Such methods have no place in Christianity. And if we look carefully, we may find that while some of the more bloody methods of the past are no longer used, similar politics, persuasion, and other coercive methods still exist today to frustrate Christians.

  6. As I previously stated I believe the living creatures are either cherubim or seraphim that guard God's throne. Eze 10, Eze 1, Isa 6,
    Many scholars believe that in the first four seals the original text only has "Come!" (and not 'come and see') said by each living creature at the beginning of each seal. If this is correct it is the living creatures that are controlling the horsemen and calling them "Come" - basically activating them. It seems to be quite similar to Rev 7 where we have 4 angels holding back the winds, see Zech 6, the horsemen are winds.
    There seems to be some parallel between the living creatures' faces and the seals:
    1)lion - power
    2)ox - sacrifice
    3)man - tradition over gospel
    4)vulture - eating the dead

    The angelic living creatures are controlling the horsemen,but these superior angels are controlled by Jesus. So what does this tell us about the seals - are they evil forces let loose or are they actions controlled, allowed or executed by Jesus. We have discovered that Lev 26 is a strong background to the 4 horsemen. Lev 26 is about the blessing for those who keep the covenant and curses for those who break the covenant Lev 26:15. So what are the 4 horsemen revealing about Jesus Christ?
    1) accept the gospel and be an overcommer with me
    2) sword: don't be surprised when the established church persecutes you thinking they are doing a service to God Rom 16:2
    3) famine: if you ignore My Word our relationship will start deteriorating, however the Holy Spirit & My Righteousness will still be available if you repent and return to Me.
    4) sword, famine, plagues, wild beasts - if you still don't return our relationship is in danger of dying and I beg you, wake up and come back to me, because I will never forget the covenant I made with you. Lev 26:42-46

  7. Very briefly, in the 2nd seal, I believe the red horse symbolizes the toleration and presence of sin(Isa 1:18) within the church as persecution from without turns to compromise within. (Read the letter to Pergamos) When taking peace from the earth....what peace? The ONLY peace on earth is through Jesus, so we could understand this to say that the gospel has become perverted as many are baptized without any true conversion(Constantine, etc) as the world is welcomed into the fellowship of the Christian church and given a false peace. The sword would signify this false teaching(notice that the scepter of the ruler in Pergamos was a broad two-edged sword)as the church was now Satan's seat(Rev 2:13), and could also signify the emerging power of the church to exercise political and civil authority. Besides, Jesus did warn that when following His teachings, it would divide friends and family.

    In the 3rd seal, (Thyatira?)the balances symbolize judgment, which the Church, it's light gone and now in it's dark age(black horse), turned to in it's determination to root out “heretics”, and is said to be guilty for condemning and slaying around 50 – 100 million souls for their faith(only heaven knows the true number). Still, the warnings were given through the early reformers to “hurt not the oil and the wine”. At this time, possessing the Word of God would cost you all, even your life, and those spreading the gospel had to work with extreme discretion or forfeit their lives.

    These are very brief explanations, but to me they make sense when we follow the timeline of the 7 churches and what follows in the last 3 seals.

    • Robert, you wrote, "they make sense when we follow the timeline of the 7 churches and what follows in the last 3 seals." And I will grant you that. But what if the seals do not follow the timeline of the 7 churches?

      As often as I have heard/read it proclaimed that the 7 seals are basically a recapitulation of the 7 churches, it has never made sense to me. There seems to be no internal evidence in the text nor in the rest of the Bible to suggest such an interpretation. This interpretation seems to be just a matter of following the views of what someone wrote almost 150 years ago.

      I suggest that we follow the biblical basis to interpret the 4 horsemen, as given in Sunday's lesson and see where it logically takes us, without reference to what someone else thought about the seals.

      • I agree with your suggestion that that there is a lack of strong support for the churches and seals being parallelisms.

        In addition to the reasons you cited, I also wonder why give a detailed message to the churches and then give a generic overview of their historical context and dynamics? To my way of critically thinking, if the 7 churches and 7 seals were the same thing, it would have made more sense to have presented the 7 seals as the overview first, followed by the specific messages to - or to have combined the two (seals and churches) with a generic and then specific presentation.

        • Phil, I see only your reasoning at work in your comment. Do you have some scripture support?

          It is my belief that the seals are very specific in their revelation and warning, and their focus on the conflict, it's workings on earth, and the results of both faithfulness and unbelief. There is one history, and in these various views, we gain a very clear picture of the overall focus of Truth, which is that each individual must be centered on Christ and Truth as they overcome by faith.

          Let me illustrate my understanding with the concept of a mechanical drawing, usually with a minimum of 3 elevations. Need I say more? Look at Daniel, which is actually Revelation part 1. Daniel 2, Daniel 7, Daniel 8/9, and then Daniel 10-12. All the same vision, but differing in their starting point and narrative. An image of various metals, unclean beasts, clean beasts, and the tale of 2 kings. Same controversy, same outcome, but illustrated differently, resulting in a very clear view for the student of prophecy. The Revelation is from the same Author, and depicts in a similar manner the very same time periods, but with differing views/elevations. The result is one clear understanding of God's will and the need for being justified/sanctified by faith in the Surety for sinners.

          Each "elevation" adds to the clarity until there is a complete understanding. Eliminate one of these views and our understanding would be incomplete. God is the Author(Rev 1:1) and has given all we need for understanding and faith.

          • I am not sure what you mean by some scriptural support and to which point you are referring.

            I reviewed the scripture re the 7 churches and the scripture re the 7 seals. I compared each church to each seal and could not find parallel links. I saw that the messages to the churches were rather more specific in nature and the seals were rather more generic in nature (with the exception of the 6th and 7th seals which are more specific). And so I commented on my observations of scripture in conjunction with use of reason.

            There are 2 views (perhaps more) regarding Bible prophecy. One view believes that the key is to understand every detail and tie it to specific times and dates. This view presupposes that God has ordained a fixed timetable for this earth's history and that He orders events to conform to that timetable.

            The other view rests on the presupposition that God interacts with humanity (eg: Abraham negotiating for the salvation of Sodom if sufficient righteous people were found; Israel taking the long road to Canaan; Jonah and the Ninevehites) and that timeframes are therefore contingent and dynamic. Consequently, prophecy is viewed as thematic and symbolic - its purpose being to keep focus on the core issues whenever the corresponding dynamics are in play.

            I subscribe to the latter view....

      • "What if"? What timeline do the seals follow then if not from Jesus' ascention to His 2nd coming? Could you elaborate?

        The 7 seals follow the same timeline of the 7 churches, and it would be expected to see some cross referencing. However, in the 7 churches, the judgment(1844) is seen in the 6th church, while it is introduced in the 5th seal. So the seals are not a "recapitulation" of the 7 churches, but covers much of the same periods/events. We don't see the 2nd coming shown directly in the 7 churches as in the 7 seals, yet it is obviously indicated.

        The four horses sums up the church and it's decline through compromise with sin/worldliness, highlighting a vital principle, and addresses those slain by the "church" for their faith in Christ, and their reward to come.

        Inge, I have followed the Bible method of understanding prophecy and the result is where I am today, which I have not seen from any book or heard in any sermon(who preaches on these things today?!) What I have shared does not include all the evidence from scripture, as time/space is limited. (The Revelation needs a year of SS lessons to do any justice)

        Also, "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."

        • Bob, you are asking entirely the wrong question. Your question assumes that the seals follow a similar chronological order as the churches - and that without biblical evidence, I might add. I don't fault you for that, because that is what has been taught ever since the time of Uriah Smith - all without biblical evidence.

          The portion of Smith's book covering the lesson we are studying was not written by a Seventh-day Adventist with an understanding of the sanctuary services. Neither Smith nor any other Seventh-day Adventist felt qualified to write about this section of Revelation, and the book, Daniel and Revelation, was complete, except for this section. They wanted to get the book out, so they used material supplied by a Sunday-keeping Adventist who did not understand the symbolism of the sanctuary. (This history of that portion of the book was verified in person by Mervyn Maxwell to my husband some decades ago. My husband said he always felt that section did "not fit," as though it were written by someone else. Maxwell responded that that was a perceptive statement because that section was, indeed, written by a completely different author.

          Unfortunately Seventh-day Adventists seem to have slavishly followed this man's intepretation every since, perhaps because Ellen White commended the book. However, most seem to have overlooked the fact that Ellen White also said there was much yet to learn about the book of Revelation.

          Again, I challenge you to demonstrate your understanding of the four horsemen from the Bible. I would hope you would come up with as much evidence from the Bible as I presented for my understanding, if I am to seriously consider your view.

        • I have found several things worth weighing in on in this exchange.

          The first is just after the reference to Constantine. False teaching can be a slippery term. Since we don't have all truth, we should be constantly looking for new insights. But some categorically call anything different a false teaching. The church of the dark ages persecuted people for "false teaching" when in fact they were the ones in error. That is why Maurice's earlier comment is so significant. The greatest sin of the medieval church was not its doctrine but its coercion. It is still a danger today, even within Adventism.

          As for the seals, I have always been taught the parallel historical perspective, and I am glad for this discussion about it (besides, I have to teach this lesson this weekend). Revelation is definitely NOT a single chronology from start to finish--we know that. But portions of it seem to me to be more of "this is a drill-down on one of the above in more detail" than "this is a repeat of all of the above in a different context". I'm not an authority on the seals by any means, but this week has caused me to ask many questions, such as why Revelation never reveals what the scroll says, contenting itself to explore the seven seals in great detail.

          I'm certainly open to considering interpretations other than parallel, as I definitely see less than perfect parallelism. (Of course, as has been said several times, the "churches" themselves can be legitimately viewed in three different ways.) Probably the clearest, and definitely Biblical reason for considering other explanations is that the seventh seal (which is two chapters away after an interlude) definitely shows no resemblance to the seventh church unless one stretches the point by saying that the second coming occurs right after Laodicea. Another, as mentioned by the quarterly author, is the fact that the first four are horsemen and while they appear sequentially in the narrative, they seem to possibly ride together, or are at least more closely associated with each other than with the last three, who are not horsemen, but completely different metaphors.

          While it is easy to associate the sixth seal with the events of the 18th and 19th century that led to the awakening (which we associate with Philadelphia), it includes a strong emphasis on calling for the rocks to fall on them and hide them from God. That would have to be placed at the time of the second coming (and yes, there is scriptural support for that), and once that is said, one can reasonably ask if the other events described in that seal might not also fit that time frame just as well. So, yes, I think there is solid Biblical evidence for considering other interpretations.

          Finally, I agree 100% with Robert that we could easily spend a year on this. The quick fly by we are doing right now only can hit the highlights. I was frustrated that the seven churches flew by in a single week (more or less) and now the seals are as well. That we couldn't at least give each one (in each case) its own day was sad.

          • Wilton, Jesus and the apostles warned against the false teaching that would and did come into the church, some during their lifetime. Read the letters to the churches and see it clearly mentioned by Jesus. The nature of Christ was challenged which John addressed, and as I have understood, was one of the larger reasons for his gospel. We have a vivid record of the error promoted at Galatia. In the book Great Controversy, there is shown how Satan, once realizing persecution only strengthen the church and led many to confess Christ, turned to leading the church to compromise which eventually led to the rise of the papal church. Look at all the false teachings that exist among "Babylon" and her daughters, which all had their beginning much earlier, some as early as the period of "Ephesus".

            I'd be interested to understand why many consider Rev 7 an "interlude" when it is addressing the question of 6:17, and ends with the opening of the 7th seal. I think many are thrown off by the chapter divisions that were added long after the Revelation was penned and sent to the churches, and if removing those, one might read it more accurately. Notice how nothing can happen in the last two seals until the servants of God are sealed. Doesn't this thought stir our hearts into solemn reflection on our true condition? It also answers the question: "why the delay for Jesus' return?" All those generations since 1844 and none were sealed so the Lord could come for them. (this doesn't mean that all were lost, but the "church" has yet to respond fully to the counsel of the True Witness to Laodicea. Unbelief is the only reason.

  8. Apparently we've exceeded the indentation levels allowed on the previous message. I fully agree about false teachers arising. However, even within my local Adventist community there are sincere Godly people who totally disagree on who is and is not in that category. In the larger picture, there are a few high profile voices within the denomination that are demonizing others they don't agree with--all the while totally rejecting Christ's advice on how to deal with such situations, which alone is sufficient reason for me to distrust their judgment. And back on the local scene a recent pastor of our congregation held the same position about this group, and his successor endorsed them totally. So I'm real worried when individual within the organization take it upon themselves to decide who false teachers are. Obviously in the above situations someone made a wrong judgement. And voices within our church board alternately called out each side as doing Satan's bidding, citing their idea of who the most influential ministers within the denomination were--ones on each side of the issue. Satan love little more than to see us waste all our energy fighting each other instead of loving souls that need to find Christ.

    As for the 'interlude', I am in total agreement with you. Chapter 6 doesn't end until after chapter 8. Yes, chapter 7 addresses the question of 6:17. I totally agree.

  9. I believe the seals ARE another view of Christianity from the days of the apostles to the end of time, following the same basic timeline as the churches. There is nothing in the scriptures to indicate the seals are to be interpreted in a futuristic mode rather than the historicist method.

    The first church -- the apostolic church definitely went forth to conquer for Christ and did a remarkable job! They labored with endurance and did not faint. They are represented by the first seal, that went out conquering and to conquer with Christ -- the crown of victory, ( "stephanos," the same type of crown the 24 elders wear) and as Paul wrote, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness" (2 Tim 4:8)
    The word "toxon" translated as "bow" is used only ONCE in scripture -- Lexicons say its a bow of simplest fabric???? and is derived from a word that means to "bring forth".

    Horses are symbolic of warfare. And the first four seals depict warfare between truth and error.

    Christ, the Lamb of God, has ratified the covenant with His own blood and sending His ambassadors out to win the world and tell them about the gospel of LIFE!

    Satan sends out his horses against the churches.
    Second seal -- red horse, persecution.
    Second church -- Syrma, persecution.

    Third horse -- black horse, portraying the compromising church of Pergamum.

    Fourth horse -- deathly color portrays the Thyatira Church of the middle ages.

    There is an obvious match between those seals and the churches!

    The fifth seal depicts the Reformation era -- the same era as the fifth Church Sardis. Thousands were martyred as they rose up to preach the truth about Christ's work in the HOLY PLACE of the sanctuary -- They had found "Christ Our Righteousness" and thousands lost their lives in martyrdom.
    How long till the judgment their blood cries,

    All the horses -- though they came forth one after the other, are all still galloping.
    Scripture deems this progression of history important
    And of course there are spiritual lessons.
    The slide into apostacy -- 1, rejoice and share, 2. face opposition. 3, Compromise 4. spiritual death.

    Seal six shows the time period after 1798 with the earth quake, red moon, stars falling. It parallels the 6th church. The Philadelphia Church.
    Both the 6th church and the 6th seal have tokens of Christ's second coming
    To Philadelphia --", I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. "
    The sixth seal -- " the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;"

    The seventh church and Rev. 7 depict the people of God awaiting the judgment --


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