The Seven Seals
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|Dr Lee Fook Sin
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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS – STUDY 8
Please look at the questions and discuss the answers. The case histories are designed to let you apply what theoretical knowledge you have gleaned from the study. There are intentionally many more questions and case histories than you can manage in one session but this is designed to cover the many and varied needs of the individuals in the church hence please pick and choose which ones to discuss as long as it gets people sharing and applying the Word to real life situations. Never feel obligated to finish all the questions The answers will be posted on the web the next day.
They are symbols of a series of judgements that Jesus will unleash that will affect the world. It is Jesus alone who can open the seals and call forth the horses.
These judgements serve to purify the saints, punish the unbelievers, and shock them out of their blind idolatry as they prove that their reliance on idols are simply useless in protecting from God’s wrath.
The main controversy is that there are those who think the rider of the white horse is Jesus himself and His conquering is the gospel success all over the world.
The pros for this interpretation
a. This is based on the fact that there is a white rider in Revelations 19 clearly identified as Jesus.
Revelations 19: 11 “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.”
b. The ones in white of which there are 14 references in Revelations always refer to saints and the good guys.
c. Ps 45:3-4 refers to the messiah who conquers.
The cons for this interpretation
a. There are other references to evil symbols like the beast conquering as well, not only Jesus conquers.
Rev 11: 7 “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them”
Rev 13: 7 “Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them”
b. The Seals, Trumpets and bowls are all parallel minor depictions of judgment so it is discordant for it to be Jesus in one of the horses meting out minor judgments when He is the one with the final judgement in Rev 19. The 4 horsemen come in a set together and represent evil forces that hurt mankind and to put Jesus with these other agents would be discordant.
c. How can Jesus open the seal and also be the first horsemen?
d. The white horsemen can possibly Satanic force for deception-white appears righteous.
e. The horses of judgement in Zechariah including the white horse pulling the chariot are all homogenously symbols of judgement sent by God.
The 5th seal is very important because most of the churches of Asia are undergoing some sort of persecution to varying extent and it reminds them that the martyrs of the faith are close to God, right under the sacred altar in close proximity to God.
Their lives lost in the violence of persecution are therefore with the symbolism of an altar and considered a holy sacrifice acceptable to God. They have given up their most precious commodity, their lives as an offering of faith to God and this is not lost on God. He hears their cries of pain and demand for justice.
This is very important to persecuted Christians today, that they are not forgotten to God and their lives are right next to God. He is pleased with them and He will answer their pleas for justice.
Hence we don’t know exactly where Ps Koh is but God knows where he is and if he has been martyred, he will be in the presence of God and his cries for help and justice shall not go unnoticed by God nor His church.
The pleas of these saints are answered by God directly. That they are to be patient that one day the requisite number of martyrs will be reached which implies that there is more suffering that needs to occur.
This does not mean that God is sadistic and wants more blood spilt from His precious saints before He will act. But rather that there will be a well defined limited period during which persecution will be allowed to happen all over the world. John can easily write in answer to the saints that more time is needed but more lives lost is a more dramatic way of stating the same thing. In any case it indicates two more things, firstly that God is a God of long suffering and grace and desires no one to perish. Hence the delay in judgement always implies time given for mankind to repent.
In Genesis 15: 16 “And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” This on the surface sounds like there is a certain quota of sin that the Amorites would have to breach that would trigger God’s massive judgement and this would take 4 generations. Abraham’s offspring would have to be in a foreign nation under slavery for all this time because God was waiting for this to occur.
Gen 15: 13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions”
So the language of “iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” on the surface seems to indicate there is a quota or magnitude of evil to be reached before God can even consider to judge. It is just another way of God speaking to Abraham telling him that God waits for 450 years before He allows the Israelites to come into Canaan to evict its inhabitants forcefully as by then they would have been given enough time in God’s long suffering grace before He will judge.
Hence the fact that there are more saints that have to die before the final judgement is a dramatic way of indicating that God’s long suffering love towards mankind in His desire for them to repent has a costly metric measured by the blood of His saints. It also indicates the way of victory for the church is paved with sacrifice of more saints, not military might or political power. The way ahead is to be like the Lamb —faithful witness (martyr, first born of the dead and ultimate ruler).
The 6th seal indicates the final judgment of mankind because the symbolic language of destruction is total compared to the larger chapter where only a certain percentage of people are killed or a third of the stars are fallen. The world faces final judgment.
The 6th seal is the answer to the 5th seal when the saints ask how long…God answers with a certain number of future martyrs but in the 6th seal there is final judgement when there is massive judgement to the persecuting world.
The sealing of the 144,000 is the answer to the question of Revelations 6: 17 “for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
Even though the world will be deluged with judgement, the saints are sealed with the name of the Lamb and the Father and these seals are protective. The picture in Rev 7 is the withholding of the forces of nature that wreak judgement and havoc on the world till the 144,000 are sealed. These are Christians because in Revelations the imagery is very stark and clear as there are only two kinds of marks or seals: the one of the Lamb or the one of the beast 666. There are no in between.
It does not mean that whatever catastrophic events that occur in the course of judgement will not affect believers who are sealed. The sealing is akin to our contemporary branding of cattle or sheep. They will join all the other animals but the branding allows the owner to know who are His and preserve them. Our sealing guarantees our spiritual salvation despite the fiercest catastrophies of life.
The 144,000 is Israel simply because Revelations states that it is Rev 7:4 (ESV) 4 “And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel”
Then there is a whole list of tribes to hammer home the point. While this is a reasonable assumption on the surface, there are plenty of evidences that this 144,000 is actually the church as the true Israel and written about or recast symbolically as Israel because this will imply that the church will receive all the fulfilment of God’s promises to ancient Israel. This means the 144,000 and the multitude of saints in Rev 7:9 are two symbolic ways of recasting the same group of people to emphasise two different theological points.
It’s like a person who is a soldier in the Malaysian army who comes from a Baba Nyonya family. In one photograph he is taken with the traditional Baba Nyonya garments holding a dish of Otak Otak which is emblematic of that culinary cuisine and when we look at him we are reminded about the culture and how he fits in to the culture in all the ways he acts and eats and socializes.
In another photo we see him in full military gear with his helmet, medals, battalion insignias, boots and M16 gun and here we see the same person but he is sending another message that he is a warrior, a fierce brave soldier and a loyal Malaysians not to be trifled with. Both picture are of the same person but both pictures sends two different messages.
Same here in Rev 7. There are two pictures of metaphors for the one group of people of the church One picture is that of Israel as God’s chosen people inheriting all of His promises evidence of the integrity of God’s covenant promises coming to pass.
The other picture is the picture of the worldwide church incorporating the whole of humanity in all its diverse ethnic and social groups and this illustrate the majesty and power of God over the whole of creation and not just one nation.
There are many reason why we say these are two descriptions of the same group of the church. They are
1. The description of the 144,000 are in answer to the last question at the last judgement of Rev 6: 17 “for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” Hence it is the ones who are sealed. The 144,00 who can stand on the day of judgement and we know in Revelations we either have the seal of the lamb or the Mark of the beast.
2. The use of numbers in Revelations is largely symbolic hence the 144,000 is 12x12x1000 which symbolically is used to represent Israel but it is not to be taken literally. Even common sense will tell us there are way more than 144,00 Jews in the world today.
3. The other place we see the 144,000 mentioned in Revelations is in Rev 14 where they are described here as having the Lamb’s and Fathers name on their foreheads Rev 14:1 ..”who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads”. Only believers have seals on their foreheads. Then look at how they are described Rev 14:3 “No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb, 5 and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.” This 144,00 are the redeemed from the whole earth and from humanity not one tribe.
4. The redeemed 144,000 in Rev 7 and Rev 14 are the same as the redeemed in Rev 5 :9b “for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, The description of both groups of 144,000 and those redeemed in Rev are the same it must be the church”
5. The way the 144,00 is presented and then the multitude in Rev 7:9 are presented is the same way in which the Jesus is presented in Rev 5. John hears the elders say Rev 5: 5 “And one of the elders said to me Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” What he hears and what he sees are two different presentations of the same person. He hears the Lion of Judah and Root of David which is the majestic powerful title of royalty but what he sees is a Lamb that was slain Rev 5: 6 “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with..”
Likewise it is the 144,000 is what John hears in Rev 7: 4 “And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel”
What he sees is Rev 7: 9 “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb”
The reasons it is the same group with two different depictions is the use of mixed metaphors in Revelations, same technique to say different things about the same people.
6. It is unlikely that John is going to cast the ethnic Jews in a special light because in the earlier chapters in his address to the Smyrna and Philadelphia churches, the ethnic Jews were cast as belonging to the Synagogue of Satan rather than God’s chosen people in Rev 2:9 and Rev 3:9. In both references these Jews were cast not really Jews as they belong to Satan.
7. In Galatians 3:28-29 Paul says that the true Jews or offspring of Abraham are in fact those in Christ not ethnic Jews.
8. The list of Tribes in Rev 7 is not even complete as the tribe of Dan is missing and the top of the tribe list is not Ruben the first born but Judah obviously to point the Mesisah being the Lion of Judah.
9. Most Israelites today cannot even trace their lineage to any of the lost tribes of Israel.
Hence if John is only referring to the 144,000 being sealed, then it would be unlikely that it would have any relevance of the churches or Asia Minor nor to us today.
The description of the group in Rev 7:9 is similar to Rev 21-22
Revelations 7: 9-13 description of the multitude
Before God’s throne
Washed with blood of the lamb
No more scorched by sun Springs of living water
God will wipe away all tears
Revelations 21-22 description of the church in new heaven and new earth
Dwell in Gods temple (Rev 21:22) Washed robes (Rev 22:14)
No sun (Rev 21:23)
Spring of living waters (Rev 21:6)
God will wipe away all tears (Rev 21:4)
They are the same group of people
Here is another example of mixed metaphors where John is communicating two things about the same person.
In Ezekiel, God is reacting to the false shepherds who are the leaders of Israel leading his people astray and He promise to install His own Shepherd who will truly look after His sheep properly and this shepherd will be from the lineage of King David and God will directly shepherd His sheep through this ultimate shepherd.
In John 10 Jesus assumes this mantle of the true Shepherd of God.
In Revelations 7:17, it is the ultimate picture of fulfilment where the church of God will be cared for by their true Shepherd who is also the true Lamb because the way the true Shepherd looks after the lambs is by self sacrifice on the cross as it is the Lamb who was slain. The only way we will be Gods people around His throne in the end is when there is a Lamb to die on our behalf to become our true shepherd.
The significance is that these are promises God specially and specifically makes to Israel to be fulfilled when the Messiah comes and now these promises become the promises of God’s multitude. His church that is us where we can look forward to this. Israel was the light of the world through whom the Messiah comes and the Abrahamic covenant is fulfilled when the blessing passes to all the nations when the multitude stands around the throne won by the blood of the Lamb.
How do you think the vision of the 144,000 and the great multitude affects you when you are undergoing pain, trouble and persecution? How does that make you feel to know that you have been sealed and will stand around the throne one day to worship Him, what about your family?
Answers will be available on 19th November 2020.