The Seven Seals -- Part 3
No doubt you have heard it said, "With God, timing is everything." This statement is particularly true with the opening of each of the seven seals. I presented the idea in the previous issue of Day Star , that God wrote the Book of Life and sealed it with seven seals before He created angels and human beings. The timing of this event is important. God prerecorded the history of life to demonstrate certain immutable truths which will be verified at the end of sin�s drama. When the final 1,000 years of Earth�s history have come to an end, God will demonstrate that He has perfect foreknowledge. This means that God foreknew each and every choice everyone would make before He even created the first angel. By writing down what He foreknew, God provided a way to prove ultimately that He did not predestine anyone to eternal death. He will also prove to the universe that everyone is given the freedom to choose whether they will serve God or rebel against His authority. There is at least one more reason that I can think of for prerecording the history of angels and mankind. When the Book of Life is opened at the end of the 1,000 years, God will reveal to billions of angels and human beings that Jesus, the Creative Agent of the Godhead, was willing to give up His life forever � if necessary �in order to redeem sinners. This overwhelming revelation will confirm the great depth of God�s love for His children! Think about this: At the end of the 1,000 years, everyone who has ever lived on Earth or in Heaven will be present on judgment day. The wicked will stand before their Maker and those who chose to rebel against Him will see His face! With all eyes on Him, the Father will prove to them that before anyone was created, Jesus was willing to perish, if necessary, so His created beings could have the possibility of eternal life. No wonder John describes Jesus as "the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world." (Revelation 13:8) Jesus single-handedly rescued the redeemed sinners from the penalty of death. Because of Jesus� unselfish love, the Father has predetermined to fully exalt Jesus before the wicked and the righteous. He was not only willing to eternally perish for those He created, but He also made a way for sinners to regain what was lost through sin! These are the profound issues associated with the book sealed with seven seals. Understanding the issues surrounding the story of the seven seals helps us realize how truly wonderful Jesus really is.
Five General Questions
There are five general questions that are often asked during a study about the seven seals. First, what is in the book that is sealed with seven seals? Second, why is it necessary for someone to be found worthy to receive this book sealed with seven seals? Third, when was Jesus found worthy to receive the book sealed with seven seals? Fourth, what is the relationship between the four riders on the four horses and the first four seals? Last, when is the seventh seal broken and the contents of the book exposed? The first and last questions were answered in the two previous issues of Day Star . Now, I will try to address the remaining three questions. The answers to the three remaining questions involve a number of issues that go beyond the scope of this study. Therefore, the space allotted to explain these three questions may not satisfy some readers. A more comprehensive study on this subject can be reviewed in Chapters 10-14 in my book, The Revelation of Jesus .
Why Should Someone be Found Worthy to Receive the book?
"And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, �Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?�" (Revelation 5:2) The angel�s question, "Who is worthy . . ." means, "Who is qualified to break the seals and open the book?" At first, John does not reveal the lofty qualifications required to break the seals, but he does say, "But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside." (Revelation 5:3,4)
The Bible describes a great convocation in Revelation 4 and 5. To the vast assembly, God asks for nominations for someone who is qualified to break the seven seals and open the book. No doubt some discussion took place and a search throughout the universe was conducted. God�s offer is profound: He will give the book that is sealed with seven seals to anyone who is qualified to break the seals and disclose the contents of the book. When the Father presents this question to the assembly, at first He does not allow Jesus to be included among the candidates. The Father wants the 24 elders and the angelic host to consider the importance of this book and the qualifications necessary to break the seals and open the book. God will gladly summon anyone to the courtroom who is qualified, whether he or she is among the living or the dead, but there are no nominations. Zero. No one in the entire universe is found to be qualified � there appears to be no one qualified to accomplish the task! John writes that he wept because he understood (as did the angels) that if no one is qualified to open the book, God could not be exonerated from Lucifer�s long-standing accusations. The contents of this book are the only way an omniscient and omnipotent God can prove that He does not manipulate His creatures! God sealed up the book with seven seals at the time He wrote it because He knew if the contents were prematurely exposed, He could never prove this point to the intelligent beings of the universe.
After it becomes clear that no one in the universe is qualified, Jesus presents Himself for the task. The angels and the elders rejoice because Someone is qualified to do the job! What are these lofty qualifications that no one else can meet? Notice the powerful attributes of Jesus: "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth." (Revelation 5:6) The seven horns represent the fullness of power (omnipotence) and the seven eyes represent the fullness of knowledge (omniscience). "The seven spirits of God sent out into all the Earth" is an expression indicating that Jesus perfectly knows everything taking place at any point in time.
The angels reiterate the qualifications required to break the seals as they sing a song of praise and dedication to Jesus. Notice: "And they sang a new song: �You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.�" (Revelation 5:9) From this song we learn two important reasons why Jesus is uniquely qualified to open the seven seals:
(a) Jesus is the only person (so far) who has experienced the penalty for sin (the second death).
(b) Jesus flawlessly submitted to the terms and conditions set forth by the Father and He has successfully reconciled man to God through His blood.
Obviously, no one else in the whole universe can meet these qualifications � including angels, Mohammed, Buddha, Mary (the mother of Jesus), Abraham, etc. (Note: You may wonder why one of the qualifications for breaking the seven seals is the experience of the second death. The answer is found in the third seal which describes the judgment of man. In other words, because Jesus experienced the second death, He is in a righteous position to be Judge over all creation. Jesus is able to condemn angels and humans to death because God does not inflict punishment upon angels or people that He Himself has not experienced.)
Satisfying the Purposes for Which the Book was Written
The qualifications necessary to break the seven seals reveal a lot about the process leading up to the contents of the book being exposed. In other words, the distinct process of breaking the seven seals satisfies the grand purposes for which the book was written. The book was written to verify that (a) God foreknew the choices that everyone would make, and (b) God grants everyone the freedom to exercise his or her power of choice. (Remember, God wrote the book before anyone was created.) The process of breaking open the seven seals also includes the judgment and testing of mankind to reveal who will stand unmoved for truth and righteousness. All creatures granted the power of choice also have a moral accountability to their Maker for their attitudes and actions. When people lose sight of their accountability to God, they become degenerate. When the fourth seal is opened, it creates the circumstances that provide a great testing time for a degenerate world. (Matthew 24:21,22; Luke 21:34-26; Revelation 3:10) God will test human beings to reveal their choices and the motives of their hearts. During the Great Tribulation a powerful call and invitation to worship God will be presented before all humankind. Circumstances will force small and great, rich and poor to make a choice about their loyalty to God. (Revelation 14:6,7; 13 :8-10)
As God sets up a global situation which forces everyone to make a choice regarding worship, the choices of every human heart will be exposed. Notice that God does not force the will, but instead creates a situation on Earth that forces everyone to make a choice. War always does this! War forces those involved to take sides. The options during the Great Tribulation will be quite simple: Obey the laws of God and suffer the wrath of man, or obey the laws of man and suffer the wrath of God. Make no mistake! Wrath of some type will affect everyone. God is about to declare war on sin. This coming test has been carefully designed so that His laws will be found in opposition to the laws of man. I believe this coming test is a repeat of what happened in Heaven before Earth was created. Before the world was created, a war developed over the issue of worship. Lucifer wanted the adoration and worship that belonged to Jesus. Eventually, God forced the contest to a showdown to reveal who would worship Jesus. God lost one third of His angels because they chose to worship Lucifer rather than God. The angels who followed Lucifer put a lot of faith in Lucifer�s lies and promises to free them from God�s tyranny. For several thousand years Lucifer and His angels argued throughout the universe that God was a tyrant, but the death of Jesus proved otherwise. Resurrection Sunday will ever be a Memorial Day in Heaven�s history, because Lucifer and his angels were thrown out of Heaven forever! (Revelation 12:7-9)
We are about to see history repeat itself. The human race will face the same test. Because of Lucifer�s sin, and consequently, Adam and Eve�s sin, we live in a dark world full of lies about God. Because of our inherited sinful nature, we are naturally inclined to rebel against God. However, God is able, through the death of Jesus, to redeem anyone who will worship Him and loyally stand for His truth. Therefore, God has prepared a testing truth that will be imposed on the whole world at an appointed time. This testing truth (concerning the worship of God) will separate the people of Earth into one of two camps. All who are honest in heart (including many who are not religious) will "see the light of God�s truth" and take their stand on God�s side. Unfortunately, there will also be billions of people who will refuse to worship God. The rebellious (including many who claim to be devoutly religious) will reject God�s truth because they do not love God nor His truth. Do not be confused! Love for religion is not the same as love for God. (Matthew 15:9) When angels or human beings are confronted with the command to worship God, our response defines the love and loyalty within our heart. If we love ourselves more than God, we will choose what "we" think is best, rather than the expressed will of God.
When did Jesus Receive the book?
"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne." (Revelation 5:6,7) A review of church history confirms that until 1850, the majority of Christian writers believed that Jesus received the book sealed with seven seals upon His ascension to Heaven (A.D. 30). Because Jesus begins opening the seven seals, one by one, after He receives the book, the timing of the seven seals were thought to begin around the first century A.D. There have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of articles and books written that interpret the seven seals as events occurring over the course of the past 2,000 years. It is interesting to note that even though this was the majority view of Christians for centuries, there was very little agreement among them on the purpose and meaning of the book or the seven seals.
About 1850, a new school of prophetic thought began to develop within Protestant thinking. The idea of a restored Israel, the doctrine of dispensationalism and a pretribulation rapture combined to produce the conclusion that the breaking of the seven seals is yet future. Many Protestants today chronologically place Revelation 4 through 6 after a pretribulation rapture. Even though there may be wide agreement among pretribulation Protestants on the timing of Revelation 5, there is very little unity on the purpose and meaning of the book or the seven seals. In effect, pretribulation Protestants have the same problems as those who still cling to the first century view, they do not understand the basic story of the book and its contents!
Personally, I believe that Jesus received the Book of Life in 1798. My reasons are stated in Chapter 14 of my book, The Revelation of Jesus . I believe that the first three seals have been broken (1798-1844) and the fourth seal is next. As the fourth seal is opened, life on Earth will dramatically change for six plus billion people on Earth. At the same time, the authority of Jesus will be brought into the sharpest focus throughout the whole world. As Sovereign over the kings and nations of Earth, Jesus is about to send a series of judgments throughout the Earth to demonstrate His anger with sin and the decadent behavior of humankind. The opening of the fourth seal marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation and it is during this time that the whole world will be brought face to face with the testing truth of worship. So much more could be written about the timing of the seven seals, but the scope of this topic is too great to cover in this sketchy overview.
What do the Seven Seals Represent?
As each seal is broken, it releases a new revelation about the identity and qualifications of Jesus throughout the Earth. Thus, the breaking of the seven seals is a progressive revelation of seven truths about Jesus. The following is a brief overview of each seal:
Seal #1 : The salvation of Jesus
The first four seals are associated with four horsemen. Many people have heard about the four horsemen of the Apocalypse and artists have painted some very dramatic representations of them, but few people have a clue as to the meaning of the horsemen. In next month�s issue, I will explain who the four horsemen are and what they do. (Sorry to put this off for a month, but alas, I am out of space!)