A SCROLL IN THE CREATOR’S HAND
John paints a fantastic scene underway in Heaven through chapter 4. In chapter 5 he tells of a sealed scroll, with writing on both sides, held in the hand of the Lord God Almighty.This is the most famous scroll in the last 2000 years…and also the most mysterious. What is it?
It is possible this scroll is the book of the Revelation itself, or the combined word of God (the Bible), or maybe the Lamb’s Book of Life, mentioned elsewhere. I agree with Chuck Missler, who teaches that this scroll is the title deed to the earth.
Remember, the earth was created for man, and man was given charge over it. Man’s authority was forfeited to the devil, however, when Adam fell. The world is now corrupted in every way because Satan is prince of the world (John 12:31, 16:11).
John wept because there is no human being anywhere, living or dead, capable of redeeming the earth from the evil one (Revelation 5:3-4), i.e: opening the scroll.
But wait a minute: God has come to earth, clothed in human flesh; He was tempted in every way (Hebrews 4:15) but never sinned; He laid down his life and paid the price for all sin–including the original sin which forfeited the earth over to Satan’s control. The Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) has legally met all requirements of ownership of the earth (study the laws for a kinsman redeemer outlined in Exodus and Leviticus, and modeled in Ruth). Jesus is worthy to open the scroll.
It’s interesting to note that in this one scene John reveals Jesus in the role of both His first and second coming: the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah; our kinsman redeemer and avenger of blood. In verse 5 one role is referenced, in verse 6 the other. The execution of those roles is more than 2000 of our earth years apart, yet here in this vision of the kingdom, beyond space and time, we see Him in both roles simultaneously.
There’s a subtle clarification I’d like to make here, not because of any great heresy or doctrinal debate, but because misunderstanding of this concept might cause some to be sidetracked or confused. There was a movie in the late 1980s called The Seventh Seal. In it, a spooky supernatural individual appeared at various locations around the planet breaking open the seals of this scroll. When he broke the 2nd seal, for instance, he was standing in some Latin American jungle, and machinegun/small arms fire sounded in the distance.
The seals of Revelation are not broken in “real time” as the prophecies unfold. These seals were broken within this vision John experienced. Each time a seal broke, something new was revealed, which he wrote down for us. Yes, watch for the return of our Lord. Just don’t expect Him to appear in the background of some footage on Fox News carrying an old scroll, breaking the seal as some crucial turning point in history unfolds. Supernatural forces will carry out their assignment at the appointed times…they are NOT awaiting the symbolic seals of the Revelation to be broken (because they’ve already BEEN broken).
As I discuss the 7 seals (which are even more famous than the scroll they secure) I again will employ terms used primarily in film and fiction–not because there is anything fictitious about the Word of God; only to help illustrate certain concepts.
THE FIRST 4 SEALS: (PARTIAL) CAST OF CHARACTERS
The Conqueror (Good guys ride white horses, right?):
The first character on the scene rides a white horse, and is frequently mistaken by theologians to be Jesus, because the Lord of Lords is depicted in Chapter 19 as riding a white horse. Actually, that they both ride a white horse makes perfect sense, because this rider is an impostor, attempting to replace the Mighty Warrior in Chapter 19.
Exhibit A is the crown this rider is given. The Greek word translated “crown” here is stephanos, used to denote the wreath or garland awarded to champions of public contests. The Greek word diadema is used for a royal crown.
Exhibit B is the bow. Unlike the Rider of the white horse in Chapter 19, this rider doesn’t wield a sword or a rod of iron. Some commentators point out there is no mention of arrows for the bow, implying some symbolic impotence or maybe even a “peace by threat of force” policy a la United Nations.
There are many homonyms used in scripture. Unlike any other book, when the Bible uses homonyms, you can translate the word both (or all) ways, and often the message still points in the same direction. The word translated “bow” is the Greek word toxon which is also found in Genesis 9:13 (Septuagint), referring to the rainbow.
Why should you care?
Only because the bow mentioned here isn’t necessarily a weapon. The bow in Genesis is the sign of a covenant. Daniel prophesied that the coming world dictator would confirm a covenant (Daniel 9:27) for the 70th “seven” (7-year-period), which is the same time period expounded upon in Revelation (split into 3.5-year halves). There is evidence throughout prophesy that this great deceiver will masquerade as the Jewish messiah–the majority of devout Jewry believe that Jesus was the impostor and the real Messiah has not yet come.
The first horseman holds a sign of covenant when he rides on the scene; he wears a victor’s wreath (after all, he has just won for himself the highest level of power, probably surpassing Nimrod, the first world dictator) and he is bent on conquest (see Daniel 7:21 and Revelation 13:7). Which covenant is it that he is brandishing? The full counsel of scripture leads me to believe it is a treaty guaranteeing Israel’s protection and providing for a rebuilt Temple and all that logically would accompany such a covenant. Maybe this pact is even the Abrahamic covenant itself! Sounds appropriate for someone who aspires to a Messianic position over Israel, right? There are clues elsewhere (Revelation 6:16, Ezekiel 39:7) that by this time in history, the author of lies will have abandoned his Darwinian deceptions and the world at large will acknowledge the existence of God (yet continue their rebellion against Him). So perhaps this individual acknowledges the existence of a Creator, even that Creator’s relationship with Israel, and now claims to be that Creator’s messenger. Isn’t that exactly what devout Jews are looking for? I know this sounds farfetched, but it has been prophesied and unlike occultic predictions, God’s forecasting is always 100% accurate. I’ll spend more time building a case for this in the future, but for now I’ll stay on track.
Exhibit C is the “Olivet Discourse.” (This is the title theologians have given Jesus’ own words regarding the last days.) Jesus’ inner circle of disciples (Peter, James, John and Andrew) asked Him what would be the sign of His (2nd) coming and of the end of the age (Matthew 24, Mark 13). Careful comparison reveals that the horsemen John wrote about are introduced in the exact same sequence as the corresponding signs Jesus listed. Matthew 24:4-5, for instance, is a warning of false messiahs, deceiving many.
A Rider Known as War:
Matthew 24:6-7 warns of wars and rumors of wars.
Bible students for the last 2000 years have all named this horseman “War” and there is no controversy regarding this to my knowledge. I mean, he’s given a large sword and the power to take peace from the earth…a no-brainer, right?
I’m not going to argue this horseman’s identity, but I do want to point out that he HAS an identity. When we get to the 4th seal (6:8) we realize that certain concepts we regard as phenomena or myths are actually entities with names.
In Isaiah 13-14 the prophet is speaking of/to the king of Babylon, when suddenly (Isaiah 14:12) in the midst of his “rant” it becomes apparent he has shifted his attention from the physical, earth-bound, mortal king to the spirit-being who has given that king his authority. Something similar happens in Ezekiel 28 during a rant against the king of Tyre: one moment Ezekiel is lambasting a mortal, perceivable wicked ruler and the next (verse 13) he is addressing the invisible power behind that king, with no conventional literary transition between the 2. A bit more subtle is the demonic connection to Leviathan (Job 41:34; Isaiah 27:1). Want an example more familiar and less subtle (yet still difficult to grasp)? Try the serpent in Genesis: Is God talking about/to a literal snake or the devil? Or both? We know that the devil is much more than a reptile; we also know not every snake is the devil. Still, in Genesis 3 they are addressed as if interchangeable.
Yes, “war” is an armed conflict between nations, kingdoms or factions; but I believe the individual John saw is a literal being (whether or not he rides a red horse literally). This being I’m referring to as “War” may focus his efforts through certain nations and/or leaders more than others, just as at certain points in time Satan was closely associated with specific individuals (Kings of Tyre and Babylon, for instance).
The prophet Zechariah also experienced a vision featuring horses and riders (Zechariah 1:8-11, 6:1-8) centuries before John saw these visions on Patmos. Though Zechariah’s horses rode in pairs, pulling chariots, the colors are the same (if you will accept that “pale” and “dappled” can be 2 different men’s description of the same horse), and so some Bible scholars have opined that Zecariah and John are both describing the same forces.
What causes some to dispute this idea is that an angel tells Zechariah these are “four spirits of heaven;” and how can a heavenly spirit cause strife, chaos and destruction as described in forthcoming chapters?
First of all, be careful when you see phrases like “heavenly creatures” or “celestial beings.” Don’t assume it always means “good guys,” or angels who did not join Satan’s rebellion. Fallen angels are still celestial beings (Jude 8-9) and Satan is a heavenly creature (Ezekiel 28:16).
In Job 1:6-7 we are told that the angels–including Satan–came to present themselves before the Lord. The narrative focuses on the dialog between God and the devil but it seems these heavenly beings are before the throne to give a report. (This is mind-boggling to consider: the avowed enemy of God not only presents himself before the Creator’s throne, but reports on his own activities!) My point here is that just because God, or an angel of God, dispatches a spirit on a mission does not mean that the spirit is a “good guy” and going to behave like a Walt Disney cartoon character. Remember the angel of death and what he did in Egypt? He doesn’t quite fit our culture’s definition of “angelic.” More on him later. During the trumpet judgments, 4 angels are released, by an order from the altar before God, to kill a third of mankind (9:14-15). The fact that they are bound, waiting for the hour and day of their release, suggests that they are not “good guys” with a bad mission. (Jude 1:6 mentions rebellious angels who are bound with chains until Judgment Day, but it’s hard to fathom why God would ever have His faithful angels bound.)
Back to the 2nd horseman: He is given power to take peace from the earth. I don’t believe this means he starts some war somewhere–there has always been some war being fought somewhere. During the first half of the 20th Century there were 2 large European conflicts which spread out to involve nations from every continent; yet I believe even these “world wars” will pale in comparison to the carnage this horseman ushers in. This coming war may be literally worldwide and will be so horrific that when the first rider (on the white horse) seemingly puts an end to the fighting, the nations will clamor for his elevation to supreme leader.
I find it interesting that the color of his horse is red. The planet Mars was named after the Roman god of war due to its color (and due to planetary behavior in ancient times we can’t really appreciate). Maybe the color was chosen merely because it fits the convention we are comfortable with (red=blood/war). However, I wonder if the color of the horse in the vision has another significance.
The predominant color in communist/socialist regimes is red. In fact, “red” was once synonomous with “communist.” The ugliest wars in the last century have been sparked, fueled or sustained by communists/socialists. Wait a minute, you say, the bloodiest war in recorded history was started by Adolph Hitler, and television, newspapers and public schools have trained you to think of him as “fascist” or “right-wing”–the opposite of left-wing (socialistic). News flash: Hitler was a socialist. You can examine how his government operated to confirm this truth, or you can look at the name he adopted for his cause, his party and his empire: “Nazi” was an abbreviation for “National SOCIALIST German Worker’s Party.”
Though he preached hatred of his Soviet counterparts, you’ll also notice the predominance of red colors in Nazi heraldry.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the popular assumption is that communism is dead, but nothing could be further from the truth. Lenin once said that for his cause to spread over the world, it was sometimes necessary to take 1 step back before taking 2 steps forward. This current supposed death of communism is merely 1 step back.
In Zechariah 6:5-6, for some reason, the Holy Spirit inspired the prophet to reveal the “theater of operations” assigned to the horsemen. The white horses went west, which makes sense from the perspective of a native Israelite, since the future world dictator will rule from the west, at least for a time. He will accomplish what all the king’s horses and men haven’t been able to do since the fall of Constantinople: put the Roman Empire back together again.
The black horses went north. If we look at the land of “the uttermost north” Ezekiel prophesied against (Russia), this also seems to fit (in our allegedly “post-communist” geopolitical scenario): It’s hard to find a people who have suffered hunger as consistently as the Russians, even when the USSR was recognized as a superpower. I doubt their situation will improve during the end times.
The dappled (or pale) horses go toward the south. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here, but this spells bad news for the southern hemisphere, if these are indeed the same horses John describes.
Conspicuous in its absence is the assignment given the rider of the red horse. Both he and the remaining compass point are left out, but logically, it follows that the red horses ride east. In the far east is the most powerful, most unabashedly red empire on the earth.
Beijing is one of the few governments that doesn’t bother to disguise its communism. China grows more powerful with every purchase you make at Wal-Mart, with every US patent they are allowed to plagiarize, with every strategic asset handed to them (the Panama Canal, oil reserves off our shores, etc.), and with every military and nuclear secret given them by the Clinton administration and like-minded politicians (if the national defense of any nation but the USA were compromised, this would be called “treason.” Perhaps Obama’s treason will surpass all his predecessors’). Red China has already threatened to use their power, and their long-term strategic doctrine assumes a war with America is inevitable within the next 20 years (though it really looks like they don’t have much to worry about).
The butchers of Beijing are the most prolific mass-murderers in recorded history (73-77 million as of 1987), dwarfing the genocidal efforts of amateurs like Hitler (15 million) and neighbor Stalin (30 million); when their technology and industry builds to the point that they are able to project that fearsome power throughout Asia and the world, they won’t be shy about enforcing Marx’s vision for the whole planet.
The invasion of the Holy Land prophesied in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is conducted by a coalition of currently Muslim nations, led and equipped by Russia (currently a “former” communist country). There is evidence in the prophecy which leads me to believe that in conjunction with the conventional warfare waged by this armada, which will render all previous wars “small potatoes” by comparison, there will also be an intercontinental nuclear exchange (which could be 1 of many reasons why the USA is nearly impossible to find in end-time prophecy). I am convinced that this war will closely preceed the 70th week/tribulation period and, in fact, pave the way for the Man With the Plan.
Famine (Change…Yes we can!):
Matthew 24:7 warns of famine(s).
If I am correct about the significance of the second horse’s color, then how appropriate that that horseman is followed by this one. Socialists come to power by promising to feed the hungry and stand up for the working class. Once they achieve absolute power, however, the working class starves and is trampled underfoot with no redress of grievances.
The cancer of socialism has eaten out the heart, soul, and infrastructure of America and the (once) free market. The solution, we are told, is more socialism, of course. Judging by the 2008 elections, the masses have bought into this hegelian trap.
The hatred of America may be more obvious in the Clintons and Obamas, but the Bushes and McCains have been doing their part to destroy our constitutional republic too. These Judas goat sellouts, by masquerading as “conservatives” and even “right-wing,” have turned the nation’s leftward drift into a stampede.
Our situation is no accident. The enemies of America have worked long and hard to bring her to the brink of collapse, while those who appreciate the freedom we’ve enjoyed as Americans, chained down by ignorance, apathy and/or cowardice, have done little but hand over our tax dollars to fund its destruction; patting ourselves on the back because we’ve managed to get the lesser evil elected from time to time.
However we got to this precipice and however avoidable it might have been, the fact is we’re here now and it’s only going to get worse while human beings are in control. So you need to heed the warning given here.
Treasure any oil in your possession. Looking at this from a modern perspective, it’s tempting to think of “oil” as petroleum-based commodities (gasoline, diesel, motor oil, plastic, etc.) and the Holy Spirit may very well have intended such be included. At the time of John’s vision, “oil” usually meant olive oil or something similar–used for food preparation, anointing and medicinal purposes. During the worst famine in history, I imagine any kind of oil will become all the more precious.
The meteoric rise of gasoline prices wasn’t subtle in 2007-8, and probably won’t be when the war on freedom of mobility begins in earnest, soon. What gets a lot less attention is the steady climb of food prices.
Wine is a luxury beverage right now, but in ancient times it was much more common. In some regions clean water was very difficult to come by, so wine and milk were consumed far more regularly than what we now would consider normal. When we get to some of the later judgments, we see that the earth’s current supply of drinkable water is going to be severely reduced. Maybe that’s the reason for this warning to take care of the wine.
In any case, the scales this rider carries weigh out a bitter pill to swallow. It appears that people worldwide will be reduced to the slave labor wages now endured by the Chinese proletariat who assemble the products you buy at Wal-Mart (and everywhere else). The ruling class won’t suffer as bad, of course–they never do.
Not that we’ll get paid less for our labor, necessarily…runaway inflation will simply make our wages nigh-worthless. Obama himself has already admitted that it’s going to get worse (just don’t expect him to ever admit that he and his accomplices in Congress are the ones who will make it much, much worse). Really, he’s got a blank check: he can strike the deathblow to the country he so hates while playing the savior because he’s “doing something” (burying the economy under even deadlier doses of the poison which got us here in the first place–not that you’ll ever hear this from the Press).
The previous administration, along with Obama’s political rivals, and the free market itself, will receive all the blame–just as Hoover and FDR’s political opposition received the blame for the Depression FDR (and, to a lesser extent, Hoover) milked out of the crash of ’29 via his socialist tampering with the free market.
In a world ravaged by war and famine of a magnitude unseen so far in world history, the rider of the white horse will look more and more appealing. He’s the Man With the Plan. He’ll bring peace on earth and food on every table if you just grant him absolute power on a global scale.
Death and Hades (The Grim Reaper rides again, with his faithful sidekick):
The 4th seal introduces 2 more riders. That’s right, there are 5 horsemen of the apocalypse. And nobody needs to speculate about what to call them, because John reveals their names.
This seems truly bizarre to our allegedly logical human minds, but Hades isn’t just a place, its an entity! Greek mythology plagiarized this concept, too. Hades (Pluto to the Romans) was god of the underworld, and his kingdom was named after him. The mythical Hades sounds like a fun little amusement park, what with multi-headed dogs, boat rides over the river Styx and so on.
Well, let me be specific so as not to confuse: “Hades”in the New Testament means the same as the Hebrew word “Sheol“. This is not the lake of fire (Hebrew: Gehenna) generally referred to as “hell,” but another plane or dimension a soul is confined to between death and Judgement Day.
And speaking of Death, it’s not just an “it” either, but a “he,” apparently. Ah, I’m just being too literal, you say. But later on we learn that Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire (20:14). This not only seems paradoxical (if you ignore the distinction between Hades and Hell) but symbolically sloppy. God is not sloppy. Sometimes His symbolism is too sophisticated for the human mind to completely fathom, but there is order in everything He does.
The personification of death may have its origins here in this book (though I will admit the ancients probably had access to some of the info Biblical writers did, centuries or millennia prior). In fact, when you combine this bizarre passage with chapter 14, verses 17-19, I suspect this is the medieval inspiration for the concept of death personified as “the Grim Reaper” with the sickle or scythe. You’ve seen Hollywood caricatures of this infamous character in The Last Action Hero, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, and Scoop, just to name a few. In any case, it is possible that this being is that same one referred to as the “angel of death” back in Exodus. Interestingly, the angel of death is also called “the destroyer,” and there is a “destroyer” who plays a significant role in a forthcoming chapter. (The Hebrew word translated “destroyer” in English is different in Exodus, but it nonetheless gives one food for thought.)
Death and Hades are given power over a 4th of the earth to kill by sword, famine (remember the 2nd and 3rd horsemen?), plague and the wild beasts of the earth. There is no shortage of fascinating concepts to ponder, here.
First of all, imagine 1/4th of the world’s population wiped out. If you remember the impact of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, consider that the death toll was only a tiny fraction of 1 percent of the US population. What kind of chaos would ensue if 25 % of our population was wiped out, with according collateral damage? But that’s assuming a flat, clean 25% wipe out of human population across the board, and there’s no guarantee that this devastation will be allotted in neat demographic proportions. Some nations may escape virtually unscathed. Other nations may be utterly annihilated. I daresay the swath these horsemen cut will impact everyone, everywhere, whether all or none of their friends, family and co-workers survive. (Except for the super-rich insiders, of course.) Famine, for instance, has no on/off switch; it’s not hit-or-miss; normal people don’t either live comfortably or starve to death. Look at pictures of people who lived through Stalin’s purges (if you can find them), or the Islamic/socialist created famines in Sudan. Yes, those people survived, but it’s evident from their physical condition that they’ve suffered more than the average American can even imagine.
What really intrigues me is that Death and Hades will use animals to help spread their devastation. Could this be a clue that man’s dominion over animals (Genesis 9:2) will be forfeited? Far from the ecological apocalypse forecast by environmentalists, human beings will be the victims of the animal kingdom, and not vice-versa. This despite increasing encroachment of civilization into the wilderness and all the endangered species therein.
Could “wild beasts of the earth” indicate something more sinister than lions and tigers and bears (oh my!)? Nuclear/Biological/Chemical warfare has grown far more sophisticated and deadly since the mustard gas of World War I. There is a component of NBC warfare called “vectors.” It is a chilling tactic: Insects are infected with biological agents and infested into enemy populations. The Black Death, Bubonic Plague, Spanish Flu and other epidemics were spread by rats, fleas, birds, etc. As far as we know, those epidemics were caused by a combination of unintentional happenstance. How much deadlier would a disease be if a virus were deliberately created by scientists with all the advanced resources now at their disposal, injected into flies, cockroaches or some other vermin, and intentionally released in major population centers? Or anywhere, for that matter? “Plague” and “wild beasts of the earth” might be next to each other in verse 8 just because ordering the list that way was as good as any other way; or their proximity may subtly imply a link between the 2, which could suggest vectors.
Then again, might these “wild beasts” be the “locusts” described in Chapter 9? After all, the ruler over those “beasts” is the angel of the Abyss, whose name means “destroyer.” Or could Hades be the angel of the Abyss? As interesting as these possibilities could be to explore, I must poo-poo them. The problems with the theory are:
1. the locusts don’t kill, only torture (Revelation 9:5-6, 10) and
2. there is evidence that these locusts are not “of the earth.” (9:11; Proverbs 30:27)
THE MARTYRS WAIT (“How long, sovereign Lord, holy and true?”):
When the 5th seal was opened, John “saw” the souls of God’s faithful, slain for their steadfast commitment to Him. They are told to wait a little longer for judgment day and the avenging of their blood.
Again, it is not natural for a man to “see” somebody’s soul, whether the accompanying body is alive or dead. So John is still perceiving things supernaturally–things invisible to his (and our) physical eyes.
Also notice that these persons met untimely death for doing the right thing in the sight of God. So many times I hear Christians talk as if salvation guarantees your physical safety. What goes along with this attitude is the assumption that if a believer is killed or afflicted with some form of suffering, it must be the result of sin or spiritual immaturity, or they just don’t measure up somehow. That’s a carnal, unBiblical attitude.
ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE (Coming soon, to a theater [of operations] near you!):
When the 6th seal is opened John is given a preview, or overview, of the judgments which will be revealed in greater detail later.
When a Hollywood editor finishes cutting a 3-hour epic blockbuster movie, he then sets about cutting some theatrical “trailers” (we know them as “previews”). Some of them may be as short as 30 seconds. Obviously, they want to show the highlights during that short time: shots from the car chase; the love scene; the attack of the giant lizard. Establishing shots, phone conversations and kitchen montages will be left out (unless it’s a chick flick, maybe).
This is sort of what the Holy Spirit, through John, has given us here.
There is a great earthquake you will also see mentioned in the trumpet and bowl judgments. Every mountain and island is removed from its place. The sun turns black; the moon turns red; stars fall to earth; the sky rolls up like a scroll. It is safe to assume that mankind, even the Great Flood generation, has never seen a barrage of catastrophes of this magnitude. Perhaps this is part of the reason why the people mentioned in Chapter 6, verses 15-17 don’t question the existence of God (as kings, princes and generals currently do, using pagan or Darwinian fantasies as an excuse). In fact, they even understand that these catastrophes are the wrath of God, though apparently it’s too late for that knowledge to do them any good.
All of these catastrophes are intriguing. Does the sun turn black due to an eclipse, or does it “burn out?” There is evidence elsewhere that during the end times, it will burn hotter than normal–could all this be cumulative evidence of a star’s death cycle? Perhaps the moon turns blood red because it is reflecting Sol during the red giant phase. (Schoolteachers will tell you that these processes take millions or billions of years. But if you’ve read this far, chances are you trust God’s word more than schoolteachers, and recognize that Evolutionary theory is a hoax.)
We are told that our sun is an average-sized star, and that it is many times larger than our planet. If so, then I doubt stars will literally fall to earth, since just one small star would obliterate the earth on impact, if not the entire solar system. “Shooting stars” and “falling stars” are terms commonly applied to meteors. We know God has used meteor storms to dispense justice in the past (Joshua 10:11) and will again in the future (Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 16:21), so this could just be a highlight of what is described in some detail elsewhere. There is another possibility: For some reason, John uses the word “star” interchangeably with “angel” in the Revelation (13:4, 9:1). Many of these heavenly beings have, or will, fall to earth. Why angels are associated with stars, though, is a mystery I won’t speculate on here.
The removal of mountains and islands could be a result of tectonic upheavals during the Great Earthquake, or this could be a “flash forward” to the refurbishing of the earth after the Day of the Lord (Revelation 21:1).
The sky receding like a scroll might be the most fascinating phenomenon. I could speculate about what this might imply about the O-zone layer and nuclear detonations, but Chapter 10 verse 7 says, “…in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” Once the mystery is accomplished, there’s no need to keep it a mystery any longer, is there? Chapter 11 verse 19 says, “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant…” God’s temple is in Heaven; can you find it with a telescope? Whether “the ark of His covenant” refers to the lost golden box Indiana Jones went through so much trouble to find, or what that hand-made model was designed to represent, I’ll bet nobody has discovered it hovering in space, either. Add this all up and “the sky receding like a scroll” could mean that our perception of reality is peeled back to expose the actual reality. Right now we can’t naturally perceive anything beyond 4 dimensions (height, width, depth and time), so we assume the 4 dimensions are the extent of reality. (Scientists have known there is more than these 4 dimensions for a long time, but I don’t know enough about quantum physics to elaborate as effectively as others have.) We can’t “see” God, nor His dwelling place in Heaven, nor His angels. There is a time coming, however, when it will be revealed that there is much more to reality than what we can see, hear, feel, touch, smell, taste or measure right now. Humanity will learn that there is more in the heavens than stars, planets and the blackness of space.
THE SURVIVING REMNANT OF ISRAEL AND THE TRIBULATION SAINTS:
Now that you’ve got a preview of what’s coming, or “the big picture,” John introduces us to one of the end-time subplots.
4 angels hold back the wind until God’s chosen can be prepared for the fury to come. Don’t get hung up on the phrase “4 corners of the earth.” “4 compass points” might be a better phrasing. The Greek word gonia translated “corner” can also mean “secret place,” which I think fits the context far better.
Demographics of the 144,000:
Again, there is a whole lot packed into this little chapter. First of all, notice that the 144,000 sealed by God are not just Jews, but Israelites from every tribe–including Judah (the Jews). 12,000 men, who have not committed fornication, from each tribe listed. There’s a potential load of controversy right there. Feminists, and those who feel obligated to kowtow to them, allegorize this chapter because God doesn’t seem to be meeting their standards of integration and equality. It appears the Lord hasn’t repented of His “sexist” ways from Old Testament times when only men qualified for the priesthood, only men served in the military, and census numbers only tracked men of fighting age. But don’t let Jesus off the hook: all the apostles He chose were men and the New Testament has directives for leadership of the Church that is flat-out embarrassing for the milquetoast Christians in our feminized culture.
That’s not the only controversy, by far. The fact that there are people genetically identified as belonging to the specific tribes bothers many folks. Some folks believe being “Jewish” is strictly a religious distinction, and has nothing to do with nationality. I went to college with such an individual. Once when he insisted that Jewishness was strictly a matter of Judaism, I challenged him with an argument something like this: “If that’s true, why do you call yourself ‘Jewish’? You’re a self-proclaimed atheist; you don’t keep to a kosher diet; you don’t keep the Sabbath holy; you don’t attend synagogue; you don’t worship the Lord and, in fact, you ridicule those who do. If being a Jew is only a religious distinction, you have to admit that I’m more Jewish than you are.” Needless to say, he didn’t appreciate me using his own logic against him.
I suppose the reason for this idea is an assumption of prolific interbreeding over the centuries. One problem with this assumption is that, for so much European DNA to have diluted Israelite blood, you must assume an enormous volume of converts to Judaism, and the Jews don’t proselytize. Many of them have been forced at swordpoint to convert to Islam or Catholicism over the centuries, but not only do they not reciprocate in kind, you won’t even find Jews going door-to-door “soul-winning,” “witnessing” opportunistically, or passing out tracts. Everyone has heard of the Spanish Inquisition. The Turkish Inquisition has been censored out of the history books. But there never was a “Jewish Inquisition.”
Hopefully your faith in God is strong enough that when He (through the Holy Spirit and through John, in this case) says “12,000 from the tribe of Gad,” He means 12,000 descendants of Gad, and this is not just symbolic of some unspecific number of some random demographic cross-section.
The 1 lost tribe and 10 incognito tribes of Israel:
When the tribes of Israel are listed in the old testament, the Levites are left out (Levi was exempt from military service) and the half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh are both counted, and the total always equaled 12. When the tribes are listed here, Levi is included but the tribe of Dan is missing, so of course they still equal 12. Perhaps you’ve heard of the “lost 10 tribes of Israel.” I won’t insist that the 10 tribes (separated when the kingdom split after Solomon’s reign) are all lost, but 1 of them definitely is. J.R. Church has an interesting theory for what happened to the tribe of Dan after the time of Samson’s judgeship. I can’t do it justice here, but suffice it to say he believes the tribe has survived, and thrived, over the millennia, and will play a part in the end times. At this point I don’t know why Dan has been excluded from Israel–it is not explained overtly in the Bible.
When the kingdom split into Judah and Israel, not all of the Israelites outside Judah and Simeon stayed in the northern kingdom. Those who were devout wanted access to the temple, which was in Judah (specifically, in Jerusalem), and migrated. During the gospel period some of their descendants were known as the “Samaritans.” Remember that Paul identified himself as a Benjamite (Phillipians 3:5). During the diaspora these Israelites were scattered with the Jews and Simeonites and lost their tribal identities, becoming known as “Jews” alongside their countrymen from Judah.
There are other theories out there about the “10 lost tribes.” White supremacists believe that either the Celts or the northern Europeans are the lost tribes.
The Bnei-Menashe from northeast India (between Burma and Bangladesh) identify themselves as descendants of Manasseh (1 of the half-tribes from Joseph), and some of their ancient cultural traditions support their theory.
Mormons and others believe the Native Americans are descended from the lost Israelites. There is a fascinating non-Mormon theory that the Americas were populated, not by evolving Eskimos/Siberians walking south from the Bearing Strait, but by colonists brought over by Phoenician ships thousands of years ago. These colonists were a melting pot of Middle Eastern peoples including the Asiatic-looking Hittites and, yes, Israelites. And there is evidence throughout the Americas that Israelites have lived here many centuries before the first Europeans explored this hemisphere. Antonio de Montezinus reported that in 1642 he encountered descendants of Reuben and Levi in Ecuador who still spoke Hebrew. An ancient encampment was discovered in New Mexico with inscriptions on stone like “Yaweh is our Mighty One” in old-form (pre-captivity) Hebrew. In 1587 Nicholas Delttsu, a Jesuit, met a tribe in Argentina with Hebrew names that practiced circumcision with stone knives. Stone tablets with some of the 10 Commandments on them were discovered in Peru and dated centuries before the first Spaniards ever showed up. Nearby were discovered 3,000 year-old stone etchings of a Menorrah with “passover” written in Aramaic, and a ship named Tzipora. There is speculation that some Benjamites and Ephraemites live among the Kurds of Afghanistan–including the Afghan royal family. The Chiang tribe along the China-Tibet border region might be of Israelite descent. There is cultural evidence in Japan of Israelite influence from ancient times. Pakistan and Burma also have evidence of the diaspora.
Regardless of how “lost” the northern tribes are to us, they are not lost to God. Wherever they are, He knows, and will bring them forth at the appointed time.
Mission of the 144,000:
I’ve heard preachers and prophecy teachers purport that these 144,000 Israelites will be evangelists during the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. The primary evidence for this assumption is, immediately after John reports on their “sealing,” he saw a great multitude from every ethnicity and nationality, which nobody could count, who have “come out of the great tribulation” (6:9-14). These people have accepted salvation; therefore must have been the targets of the biggest soul-winning campaign of all time; therefore the sealed Israelites mentioned just before them must be elite super-evangelists who spread the Gospel throughout the world like never before. This all may very well be true. I don’t have enough evidence to debunk the hypothesis, but I’ll just throw a couple ideas out there:
After the invasion of Israel by the multinational armada prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39, I suspect the devil will abandon his tactic of denying the existence of God, and shift to a confusion of “good” and “evil” in the perception of the world. Anyone reasonably intelligent who observes what goes on in the times we live can see that the groundwork for this confusion has already been laid. The confusion is a transitional state to the ultimate strategem. That strategem, put simply, is that God is a mean old cosmic Killjoy who wants to keep you from having a good time, while Satan is a long-maligned benevolent entity who only wants to elevate mankind to a higher consciousness, unifying us, bringing peace and untold pleasures, unlocking our true potential and inherent power. (Kind of a sophisticated update of the deception in the Garden.)
In other words, all will know that God exists. Furthermore, there will be more demonstrations of His divine intervention than there ever has been. For those whose hearts are not hardened beyond hope, they can read His prophetic word and see what He foretold unfolding before their eyes. I suspect that multitudes will accept Jesus whether or not some elite super-evangelist visits their village to witness. What evangelist proselytized Abraham? What evangelist called Moses? How about Noah, for that matter? Aw, those are all Old Testament examples, you say. But during the 70th week of Daniel, God operates as He did during the Old Testament. Israel, not the church, becomes His focal point again.
Jesus Himself prophesied a warning to those living in Judea (the “west bank”), to flee to the mountains when they see the “abomination which causes desolation” (prophesied by Daniel) standing in the Holy Place (Mark 13:14). These are devout Israelis He is speaking to, as evidenced by his warning to pray this doesn’t happen on the Sabbath (Matthew 24:20). (I personally suspect this event will happen during Passover.) Perhaps these Israelis from Judea are a significant part of the remnant of Jacob divinely protected during the great tribulation (Revelation 12:14). Moreover, maybe those Israelis who survive the Armageddon campaign will turn out to be these same exact chosen ones from the 12 tribes.
The Bona Fide Mark:
Everyone has heard of the “mark of the beast.” Not everyone understands that it, like the beast himself, is a counterfeit. The best Satan can ever offer is a cheap imitation of the real thing. Here God marks his chosen ones on the forehead, sealing their protection from the unprecedented catastrophes to come. The beast will come up with his own mark for his followers, which is on the forehead or right hand. Far from protecting them from the wrath to come, however, it assures their burning torment in the lake of fire (14:11). Not that his followers will believe this, of course, or they’d never accept it.
One example of what this seal protects the 144,000 from is given in some detail a little later.
As for those in white robes, too numerous to count, we know they will suffer during the Great Tribulation and 7:16-17 clues us in as to some of the ways they will suffer:
Hunger–as of 2008, few Americans know what it’s like to truly hunger. That will change when socialism places the final straw on the free market camel’s back. Remember there is a worldwide famine coming when the 3rd horseman rides, which will make conditions even worse for people around the world less fortunate than us.
Thirst–the bodies of water upon earth are going to be contaminated in increasing measure (8:8-11; 16:3-4) and don’t forget, droughts are probable (11:6).
Sun stroke/scorching heat–as mentioned earlier, the sun will be rather irratic during these times (8:12; 16:8). Scorching heat could be a result of this alone, or contributed to by firestorms, nuclear devastation, and fire called down from the sky (13:13). A little later we’ll see that vegetation throughout the earth will be burnt up (8:7). And the people living through this will already be dying of thirst.
Finally…and this isn’t so much a revelation, at this point, as a reminder…verse 17 suggests these people have wept much, and I believe they will have had much to weep about.
SILENCE IN HEAVEN
When the 7th seal is opened, John reports a silent period of about half an hour. Since the limitations of time don’t apply in God’s “throne room,” I would guess John is speaking from an earthbound perspective: Just before the final battle, the skies are absent the din of relentless catastrophies which have been hurled upon mankind for the last 3.5 years. It could be the armies of heaven are maintaining silence just as the Israelites did prior to their last orbit around Jericho.
7 angels standing before God are given trumpets to blow. The prayers of the saints rise up to God.
Then fire rains down upon the earth, accompanied by peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. John is understating this cataclysm here, but will expound on it somewhat in chapters to come…