The book of Revelation was given by Jesus Christ to John to pass on to the Church. Most of the book (chapters 4-22) reveals things to come during the end times. There are many mysteries and symbols in the book of Revelation. Some of the symbols are explained and some are not.
Shortly before Jesus comes again, a terrible time is foretold in the book of Revelation. A time of trouble like no other is prophesied to come and Bible scholars have called this future time the “Tribulation”. But all’s well that ends well. And the book of Revelation ends very well! It ends by giving us a glorious vision and a joyous hope to cling to!
It ends with visions of the final consummation of human history! (Chapters 21-22) Here we see a sinless and glorious “new heaven and new earth,” a “holy city” with open gates providing hospitality for the saints. And the Lamb of God is there in all His glory. We also see a “pure river of the water of life” flowing through the new heaven and giving out the water of eternal life. And perpetual fruit-bearing trees are in this new heaven, whose leaves are for the “healing of the nations.” Scripture says: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the imagination of man what is prepared for those who love God.” ((1 Corinthians 1:9)
But then before we enjoy this new sinless heavenly home, it seems that the whole earth will go through a scary time when all hell breaks loose! We learn in Revelation chapter 5 that Jesus Christ, the Lamb, is the only One who is able to open the seven seals of the scroll of human history. When Jesus opens the first seal, a rider on a white horse with a bow and a crown rides out to conquer. Most likely to proudly conquer on his own and leave God out. (Revelation 6:1-2) His methods of conquest at first do not seem to include open warfare. But many Bible scholars consider him to possibly be an Antichrist.
The second seal is opened by the Lamb and a fiery red horse rides out representing war. Peace is taken from the earth and everywhere soldiers and civilians are killing one another. The Lamb opens the third seal and a black horse with a rider ride out. (Revelation 6:5-6) This seal seems to represent famine around the world. The fourth seal is opened, and a pale horse rides out. it’s rider was named “Death” and “Hades”.
The fifth seal is opened, and there is no horse or rider but instead we see the souls of those who have been martyred or killed because of their faith in Christ during this dreadful tribulation period. These souls are under the altar calling out to God and asking, “How long until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:19) Scripture says that these martyrs were “given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.” (Revelation 6:11) Why do these martyred saints have to wait longer?
I am guessing that there are principalities and powers, and spiritual laws that we humans cannot understand now since they are from another realm. Perhaps one of these laws is that human sin and rebellion are allowed to work their way through stages to reach a certain point before the cup is full and God steps in and judges them. God surely puts up boundaries that we are not able to see or recognize. And for reasons that we do not understand. We can only trust our gracious God to do what is right and loving and good as we follow Him where He leads.
The number seven in the Bible represents “completeness”, and the number seven plays an important role and is mentioned often in the book of Revelation. In our lesson today, we have the scroll with seven seals, and later in the book of Revelation we read of the seven trumpets and the seven bowls. (Revelation 8:7-16:21) All are symbolic of God’s judgments on a rebellious world. And they all run to completion with a glorious ending.
The sixth seal is opened by the Lamb of God and: “There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, and the whole moon turned blood red. And the stars in the sky fell to earth….The sky receded like a scroll rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” (Revelation 6:12-14) People hid themselves in caves and rocks and tried to kill themselves because they were so terrified. But then judgments are delayed until 144,000 Jewish people can be sealed: and protected supernaturally.
Then there is an interlude and we see a great multitude or group of people from many races who have found Christ during the Tribulation. These millions of people who have died during this war of Good versus evil are praising God in heaven. When Christ opens the seventh seal there is silence in heaven for about half an hour. And it seems that out of the seventh seal there are seven angels (demons) with seven trumpets. (Revelation 8:1-9:21)
When each angel sounds his trumpet, more judgments are poured out upon the earth. A third of the vegetation is burned. Four demon angels are loosed, and they inflict more harm and death. A third of the sea is contaminated. A third of the fresh waters are contaminated. A third of the sun and a moon and stars are darkened. There is increased demonic activity on the earth. The Abyss (Hell) is opened and smoke and scorpion like demonic locusts come upon the earth. And a third of mankind is killed. All of these are the judgments poured out onto the earth when the trumpets are sounded during this Tribulation time. God is judging evil and ending it so He can inaugurating His kingdom.
After all of this, those left on the earth refuse to repent of their sins. Scripture says: “The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands, they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood. -idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.” (Revelation 9:20-21) Scripture says: “There is a way that seems right to men, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
The religion of many on the earth during the Tribulation seems to involve demon and idol worship, according to Scripture. We see the hardness of human hearts of some of the people left in the Tribulation times, even after all this destruction. Though God has revealed His wrath from heaven against them, they stubbornly hold onto their way of life and refuse to change.
Some believe that God is not loving when He judges the human race because of sin. But God loves the human race too much to allow us to remain stuck in our sin forever. When we are finally completely free of sin through Jesus Christ, Scripture says: “Surely the day is coming: It will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will become stubble,……But for you, who revere My Name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap and frolic around like calves released from the stall.” (Malakai 4:1-2) That will be the Day!