Revelation #2 — 7 Seals, 7 Trumpets, 7 Bowls

In this blog, we are going to look at the main body of Revelation as found in Chapters 6-21.  As events lead to the unveiling of the final Kingdom of God, 7 seals are opened, 7 trumpets are sounded and 7 bowls of wrath are out-poured.

I remain convinced that the seals, trumpets and bowls of wrath are showing the same events from 3 different perspectives: 1) the way all of these eschatological events will appear from the perspective of the Church in Heaven, 2) the way all of these events of the end time will look from the perspective of the Church on earth, and 3) the way all of these events of the last days will appear to the enemies of God.

Again, let me mention that not everyone agrees with those scholars who think this, although they have convinced me.  Many scholars argue that first come the seals, and then come the trumpets, and finally come the bowls of wrath — a linear understanding of Revelation rather than “an accordion” understanding of the book, where the three perspectives “fold on top of” one another.  All of which is to say that you should feel perfectly comfortable disagreeing with me here, because there really is no scholarly consensus on how to understand Revelation.  But this is the way that made sense to me, so I’m sharing it with you.

Here goes.

Following a vision of the Heavenly Throne Room in Chapters 4 & 5, we begin a description of how the events at the end of time will unfold.

Please remember that while we were at the Throne of God, we worshiped the God who created all things simply because He wanted to do so, and who is absolutely in control of the process that is going to unfold before our eyes.

The Seals: Then in Chapter 5, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb Who was Slain takes the scroll as the only one in heaven of on earth or under the earth who is worthy to open the scroll or even look at it.  That this lamb has seven horns and seven eyes means He is all powerful and all-knowing.  That everyone in Heaven worships Him is an indication that the Son is equal to the Father in deity. And then the citizens of Heaven watch as He opens the seals of the scroll.

It is interesting to note how closely this first series of judgments parallels Mark 13. (Go look at Mark 13.) It uses the imagery of 4 riders on horses, which we ran across earlier in Zechariah 1 and 6.  When the 5th seal is opened, we hear the martyrs cry “How long?” but the 6th seal brings the judgments to a climax as it tells of a great earthquake, of the sun becoming black as sackcloth, of the moon becoming red as blood, of the stars falling to earth, of the sky rolling up like a scroll, and of every island and mountain becoming unsecured. Those who the population of  heaven see as kings and the mighty try to get away from the judgment that is befalling them, and we notice how this entire passage is made up of prophetic descriptions of the Day of the Lord.  Now would be a good time to look up Isaiah 13:10-13, Isaiah 34:4 and Zechariah 1:14-15.

In Revelation 6:12-20, the Church in Heaven sees the end of humanity’s rebellion against God, and with the opening of the 7th seal in Revelation 8:1-5, the prayers of the whole Church are answered and Christ returns.  This has all been witnessed by the Church in Heaven.

The Trumpets: Meanwhile, the Church on Earth has been witnessing all of this as the sounding of seven trumpets: God Himself is coming to the rescue of His people. For the Church on Earth, the events leading up to the coming of the Kingdom of God are a new Exodus — the trek from bondage to the Promised Land.  For example, the first five trumpets are adaptations of five of the plagues that beset the Egyptians: hail and fire, water becoming blood and bitter, darkness, locusts.   Everything comes to an end in Revelation 11:15-18 as the Church on Earth sings to God because He has taken up His great power and begun His reign.  This has all been witnessed by the Church on Earth and is understood as a second Exodus.

Preliminary Visions: In Chapters 12-16, we see some visions as prelude to the emptying of the bowls of wrath on the enemies of God.  The vision of the woman, the child, and the dragon is a retelling of the story of Jesus.  The woman wearing the garland of 12 stars who gives birth to the child is NOT only Mary.  She is the Messianic Community, the whole people of God (12 stars = 12 tribes) of which Mary was a member.  The dragon with the seven hears and 10 horns is Satan who tries to devour he child — which is a reference to the crucifixion.  The wilderness into which the woman fled is to remind us that the Church has been wandering in the wilderness, on it’s own new Exodus, persecuted but taken care of by God ever since the resurrection of Christ.

Then we see visions of the Beast from the Sea and the Beast from the land, which are simply a way of looking at human history ever since the Resurrection.  The point in all this is that God protects His Church against every evil that those who are opposed to God can bring about.  Even though the second beast puts the “mark of the beast” on the foreheads of those he deceives (“666” which means “evil, evil, evil”) the Lamb writes His Father’s name on the foreheads of every one of His people (that’s what 144,000 means — as a multiple of 12 it means “the complete number of the people of God”).

And, by the way, you can be assured that you have received the mark of the children of God.  When did you receive it? On the day of your baptism, you received the sign of the cross on your forehead.  This also shows you how long the church has been making the sign of the Cross on the foreheads of those infants and adults who receive Baptism!

Bowls of Wrath: Then come visions of angels and the out-pouring of the seven bowls of wrath. Interestingly enough, what the Church on Earth experiences as steps in its deliverance as it completes its journey to the Promised Land (“Trumpets”), the enemies of God as experiencing as the plagues on Egypt: sores, waters turning to blood, darkness, and so forth.

Then in Chapter 17, we are shown the City of the Antichrist, the Harlot, which is contrasted with the City of God, who comes down out of Heaven like a bride adorned for her husband (Chapter 21). It is important to note that strictly speaking, the whole story of salvation / the whole New Exodus comes to an end in Revelation 21:8 with the description of the new creation. The description of the City of God is in deliberate, intentional contrast to the un-Christian city described in Chapter 17.  In a very real way, the book of Revelation is a tale of Two Cities — the harlot and the bride.

Now, let me say again, not everyone agrees with the scholars I agree with.  But all of the people who have come up with predictions about the date of the end of the world have been wrong.  They have all interpreted the events of Revelation in a linear manner, they have all come up with a date on which the world would end, and they have been wrong every single time.  They have also completely ignored the vision in Revelation 10 in which John sees a mighty angel and hears seven thunders — a vision which John is forbidden to write down. All of which means, at the very least, that even those who do think that Revelation is to be interpreted in a linear manner are missing a big piece of the story.  And we know why: Jesus told us no one will know when the end will come … not even the Son of God.  Only the Father knows.

I love Revelation! It is a strange and peculiar and very reassuring book.  It reminds us that God is in control of the events of history, no matter what happens and no matter how out-of-control everything looks. God cherishes and protects His Church throughout all of it.  You and I may die like the martyrs, but we will see the City of God.  We are part of The Church, the Bride of the Lamb, and God protects His own.  Revelation assures us that “they may kill us, but they can’t hurt us.”  We were made for an eternity of love, and that’s great news!

Have fun with Revelation.  And congratulations to you on finishing the Bible! Martin Luther read through the Bible four (4) times a year — every year.  That would mean he did what you just did every three months.

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