We understand that when God speaks, he causes something to materialize or some action to take place.
We can therefore understand that the function of the seals on the book held by the Lamb in Heaven is to prevent God’s word from being spoken into action.
What about the form of the seals? We can’t possibly believe that a circular impressed blob of wax or any other substance can possibly prevent God’s word from being spoken. This must simply be a visual aid for us four dimensional viewers of multidimensional realities. We can’t view the sound waves of God’s voice, but we know they exist. Likewise, there is a spiritual forcefield.
“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.” (Revelation 5:1-4)
There are two ways to interpret this book. First, that it is an entirely new construct never before mentioned in scripture.
It is not unreasonable to see the scroll as a sort of “title deed to the universe”…This theory explains John’s consternation when no one was found worthy to open the scroll…it is the document that proves God’s ownership of the universe….Happily, Jesus was worthy to open it, being perfect in justice and in mercy, in authority and in humility.
This kind of theorizing and substituting sermonizing for exegesis is what happens when Christians unhitch the New Testament from the Old.
Our second option is to, well, let’s just go wild here and assume that God is making good on a promise he made earlier to reveal the contents of a specific sealed book, especially since there is no other place in scripture where he lives up to that commitment.
“In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed was long…
- at that time…there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time:
- and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
- And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake…
But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end…when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people…for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” (Daniel 10-12)
The timing and associated circumstances are right to open the book, and the events unleashed are a repetition of God-directed events documented earlier in scripture. I honestly do not know why this is so hard to figure out.
The reason John is weeping is that he knows the contents of the book from reading Daniel. As Jesus described it and as any pregnant woman can tell you, the birth pangs are good reason to cry. They signal the beginning of an excruciating ordeal, yes, but more than that are a welcome sign of the end of an era of escalating misery in addition to the blessed expectation of finally experiencing the joy of embracing the long-anticipated new life!
According to a straightforward understanding of what the elders proclaim, Jesus Christ’s death won redemption for other humans who, in performing the key role of all rulers – join him in the fight to retake dominion. It should be obvious from the 2,000 years since his death that his death in itself did not win back dominion.
This is a whole different perspective of salvation from simply living a life of ease in a mansion in heaven forever!
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order:
- Christ the firstfruits;
- afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
- Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” (I Corinthians 15:22-24)
There is really only one explanation for the delay in Christ’s return – the failure of his people to get in line behind him!
“Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou [equivalent to Washington, the people in government, people, not a location] that killest the prophets...I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 23:37-39)
And that includes us Gentiles who are grafted in to Israel.
When / Time: The latter end. Hmm. Isn’t that an oxymoron? No. Not when we recognize the cyclic, repetitive nature of the end of God’s patience with his people. The book of Judges documents this happening over and over, and the major and minor prophets document this happening through Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Rome. Daniel fixes Rome as the last empire at the “latter” end of the latest cycle of, first turning to, then away from, God’s authority.
All of our most common time measurement systems we use in daily life are cyclical:The repetition of 60 seconds into a minute, 60 minutes into an hour, 24 hours into a day, seven days into a week, (roughly) four weeks into a month, (roughly) three months into a season, and four seasons into a year…
Until recently, the lives of agricultural, nomadic, and even urban peoples were governed by the endlessly repeating seasonal round…well-documented calendar systems don’t become common in the archaeological record until within the last 5,000 years…
Our modern lives are almost ridiculously structured by linear time and its precise measurement. However, our human ancestors, and some of our relatives today, live by a different understanding of time, one that it is cyclical, circadian, and rhythmic.
It was not uncommon in ancient times for a seal to be removed and replaced. In a letter quoted by Josephus the writer names the bearer and describes the seal to guarantee against the letter being surreptitiously opened and reclosed with another seal to conceal the sabotage (Josephus P 322) Since Paul’s letters were passed around the seals on his scrolls would have been lifted off and and replaced frequently to physically protect the written material in transit. Accordingly, Paul, like Jesus, used his signature rather than a stamp on the seal as proof of authenticity.
There is both biblical and historical evidence that the seals of this book in heaven are removed, only to be replaced, over and over, before the final time. So let’s consider a cyclical “coming to pass” perspective of the seal events in Revelation 6, providing an opportunity for Christ to return which, up to now, has been sabotaged by the failure of his people to get behind him.
God’s plans are irrevocable…hence, what is to pass is none other than the outcome of a declared decision of God’s…
This explanation is consistent with the foundational truth of all of scripture.
- “And God said…and it was so.” (Genesis 1)
- “my word…that goeth forth out of my mouth…shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
The things which must come to pass then are known to us already. They are God’s intentions previously declared by him. In other words, Revelation is the climax to the entire story beginning in Genesis 1.
“God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion.” (Genesis 1:26)
the term shortly signifies…that every detail is executed within the shortest possible period and without the least tardiness or waste of time, and is immediately followed by the execution of the next detail in systematic order.
Shortly is translated from the Greek word Tachos from which we get tachometer – speed, and is also translated hastily, immediately, quickly.
We find God’s intentions declared by his prophets, such as Daniel, often with the time, place, and characters established in order to understand the context of the action. For example:
- Time: in the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar, ruler of the Babylonian Empire
- Character: me Daniel,
- Place: at Shushan in the palace [which is in Persia as noted above in Esther’s account, so Daniel is one of Babylon’s embassy staff to Persia], which is in the province of Elam; I was by the river of Ulai.
- Action: a vision appeared unto me after that which appeared unto me at the first…I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be.
John provides the same contextual information at the beginning of his Revelation.
Time: in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. This is not Sunday or any day of the week designated for worship referenced obliquely in religious tolerance for Christians, Jews and Moslems. At the time John’s vision occurred the assembly of believers was still a Jewish sect meeting on Saturdays in synagogues or houses. This is in the hyper dimensional eternal, accessed by John’s hyper dimensional spirit connection with the Holy Spirit, as had occurred with Ezekiel.
“the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to...” (Ezekiel 8:3)
The Lord’s day is the day of the LORD’s punishment, wrath, anger, indignation. See the post The Day of the LORD for details. Keep in mind especially that “judgment must begin at the house of God.” (I Peter 4:16-18)
“Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it. For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations,
- and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter.
- And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven:
For it is the day of the LORD‘s vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion.
- And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and
- the dust thereof into brimstone, and
- the land thereof shall become burning pitch.
- It shall not be quenched night nor day;
- the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.
Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.” (Isaiah 34)
- “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,
- which God gave unto him, to shew unto his [God’s] servants things which must shortly come to pass; and
- he [God – stick with the subject, don’t switch to the object of the preposition “of”] sent and signified [authenticated] it by his [God’s] angel [messenger, his son Jesus Christ] unto his servant John, Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.” (Revelation 1:1-2)
The chain of custody of this evidence, and the sterling credentials of the expert witness giving testimony, makes this revelation unique from any other revelation purported to have been given by God or an angel since then. John was the last living witness of the Word that was in the beginning with God and was God and was made flesh therefore in whom only is the knowledge of God (John 1), and who was the firstborn of the resurrection.
In other words, John was the last of the apostles certified to be witnesses of Jesus Christ the unique Son of God, on whose testimony everyone since then must rely on for our own hope of resurrection to eternal life.
Place: the isle that is called Patmos, where John has been exiled for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ the Rock of Salvation.
Action: heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet…After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit…in heaven.” (Revelation 1, 4:1-2)
The only way we are going to understand John’s vision from Revelation 4 onward is to get the setting right. That is to say, interpret the time, place, characters and actions as the outcome of a previously declared decision by God.
Hermeneutics is the art and science of interpretation. Each view attempts to interpret Revelation according to the laws of hermeneutics…The idealist approach believes that apocalyptic literature like Revelation should be interpreted allegorically…The preterist views Revelation as a symbolic presentation of events that occurred in 70 A. D. while the historicist school views the events as symbolic of all western church history.
The futurist school believes Revelation should be interpreted literally. In other words, the events of Revelation are to occur at a future time.
This presentation is based on the eternal perspective of scripture. This means that while a futurist straight timeline is the only sightline we four dimensional humans have, it can be misleading. Awareness of past events “coming to pass” as prophetically announced are also valuable.
Time: things which must be hereafter, i.e. after 90 AD.
Place: earth looking down from heaven
Characters: Like a program in a play, the following list compiles all the main characters in one list.
- behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald…[who] hast created all things…And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
- And…there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
- And…in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. [Similar description of Ezekiel’s Cherubim.] And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
- And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold…The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou has created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
- and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne…the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof…And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb… and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever…And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
- And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.