The apostle John has just been spiritually transported to God’s heavenly throne room, where He is able to look upon our Creator. This is a major shifting point in the relationship between God and man, because heretofore, no one was allowed to look upon His face except His Son. (Ex. 33:20; Jn. 6:46.)
However, the glory of God’s countenance is so overwhelmingly magnificent that John cannot describe it other than as a stunning rainbow, emitting from incomparable jewels, with accompanying flashes of lightning and peals of thunder. (Rv. 4:3 & 5.) Surrounding God’s throne was 24 other thrones, occupied by 24 ‘church elders’ – consisting of the 12 apostles of Jesus and representatives for the 12 tribes of Israel. The elders were prostrate before Christ in worship, bringing forth the prayers of the saints. for His consideration. (Rv. 4:10, 11.)
John also sees the ‘seven Spirits of God, representing the Holy Spirit in His complete fullness.
Then, the apostle shifts his gaze to God’s right hand:
And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals?” Rv. 5:1, 2. NKJV
The scroll contains God’s final plan for redemption – the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It is written on both sides and sealed, denoting its completeness. There will be no further additions.
To John’s amazement and relief, the ‘one who is worthy’ turns out to be the ‘Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David – Jesus Christ who takes the scroll in the presence of the elders and of angels who worship Him:
“You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign on the earth.” Rv. 5:9, 10. NKJV
We see then that only the Son of God is worthy to carry out His Father’s plan for salvation. Christ is presented here as a ‘lion’ (especially to those who rejected Him), and as a ‘lamb’ (to those who have invited Him in their hearts. John further describes Jesus as having the appearance of a lamb who has been slain (to represent His death and resurrection); and having 7 horns and 7 eyes – symbolizing His divine power and complete amalgamation with the Holy Spirit.
Next, Jesus calls John to witness an overview of the nature of events which will unfold during the seven-year tribulation period. Jesus begins by opening the first four seals, which reveal the symbolic ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse. The first rider is interpreted by some to be the Antichrist (counterfeit christ), who is loosed upon the earth at the beginning of the tribulation.
The apostle Paul had also prophesied about this event:
…that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God… 2 Thess. 2:3, 4. NKJV
The ‘Day’ is the day of God’s wrath.
The second rider represents war – interpreted by some as a personification of a great ‘army from the north,’ said to be a coalition from countries that comprised the old Soviet Union and those populated by Islamic radicals.
The third rider signifies famine, and the fourth symbolic of death and disease.
When Jesus opens the fifth seal, John sees a vision of all who have been martyred for Christ, pleading for justice; but they are told to be patient a bit longer, so that our merciful God can use a little more time to gather in anyone who may yet choose Him.
The opening of the sixth seal reveals a preview of severe cosmological disturbances that will manifest when Christ returns to the earth.
Before the seventh seal is opened, we are privy to the first of three ‘interludes’ in heaven, where we can see the disposition of the saints during the various phases of John’s visions:
Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice…”Do not harm the earth, the sea or the trees till we have sealed the servants of God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed. 7:2 – 4. NKJV
What follows in a list of the 12 Jewish tribes of 12,000 each – all of which have been sealed by the angels. The ‘seal’ is the name of the Lamb and of God – the seal of salvation. (Rv. 14:1) Some interpreters see the 144,000 as a symbolic number of Jews who come to the realization the Christ is the Messiah, after they witness the rapture of the church of Christ, and watch God defeat the enemies of Israel in the final battle. Thus, like the church of Christ, the Jews are sealed as well. (Rm. 11:26)
John’s vision of the ‘interlude’ continues as he sees the appearance of an innumerable multitude of people from all over the world, dressed in white robes and worshiping the Lamb of God. (Rv. 7:9, 10.) One of the ‘elders’ explains who they are:
“These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore or thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Rv. 7:14 – 17. NKJV
Some interpret the multitude to be Gentiles from around the world that witness the rapture of the church, the defeat of Israel’s enemies by God, and the salvation of the Jews. In the face of all this, they too decide to embrace Christ. (Zech. 8:23)
This interpretation then, calls for an additional rapture, which occurs at mid-tribulation. It is another loving example of God’s mercy – giving His children a final chance to come to Him.
John’s vision shifts earthward to see how the inhabitants are faring at this time, and then it returns to Jehovah’ s throne room as Jesus opens the last of the seven seals:
When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of the saints on the golden alter which was before the throne. Rv. 8:1 – 3. NASB
Then the angel took the censor, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. Rv. 8:5, 6. NKJV
The seventh seal reveals the ‘judgments of the trumpets,’ which herald the coming of the cataclysmic events of the tribulations. From this scripture, we can take comfort in knowing that the prayers of the saints are ever-present before God’s throne.
The censer that the angel threw to the earth contains the prayers of the saints calling for justice to be served upon their persecutors. God is answering them through His imminent judgments on the ungodly.
Goodnight and God bless.