When studying the prophecies concerning the prophetic seals and plagues of the Book of Revelation, it is good to keep the following in mind:
These prophecies were given to John during the demise of the early church, after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and after the death of all the apostles but John.
The organized and powerful preaching of the gospel was coming to an end, the elect were being persecuted, and their numbers were rapidly declining. Because the concentrated spiritual and physical power of the holy people was dissipating, the early church was about to cease its existence as a powerful spirit-filled entity.
KEYS TO UNDERSTANDING
There are several keys that will help us understand the prophetic seals and plagues of the Book of Revelation. One of these keys is in the first chapter of Revelation:
"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God [the Father] gave him, to show his servants things which must shortly come to pass . . ." (Rev.1:1 Para.).
Notice that this book was written so that the Father's servants can understand what he and Jesus Christ are planning to do concerning the end of human rule on earth. Because it is probable that humanity is living in the time just before Christ's return, it is extremely important for the servants of God to understand the message that Christ sent them through John.
To The Seven Churches
"I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What you see, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia; to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea" (Rev.1:10-11 KJV).
Through the power of the holy spirit, the apostle John was projected far into the future, to a time just before the return of Jesus Christ. The information given to him was to be sent to seven churches that were in Asia, but why was he supposed to give the message only to seven of the churches in Asia?
One reason seems to be that these seven churches were centers of mail distribution and on a mail route that began and ended with the first and last churches mentioned (Ephesus and Laodicea), which indicates a prophetic progression of events with a beginning and ending point. It is also interesting that, in the end of the age, the Laodicean church seems to receive the severest persecution of all the seven churches and their persecution ends just before Christ's return.
The number seven is used in the Bible to symbolize a division of time, spiritual perfection, completeness, finality, and bringing to an end. Within the messages to these seven churches we see all of these symbolic meanings. Depicted in these seven churches are attitudes and behaviors that cause people to lose their salvation if they do not change them prior to the first resurrection.
THE FIRST FIVE CHAPTERS
It seems logical to assume that the chronological order of presentation in the first five chapters reveals important information that will help unlock the understanding of the first five seals. This is because the first five chapters contain background information concerning the inner workings of God's government as it relates to his elect children. These chapters also reveal the basic attitudes and behaviors that existed in the church during John's time. These same attitudes and behaviors have existed in varying degrees throughout the centuries since John's time and will exist in the very end of the age.
It is only after this background information is given and after the churches have received their warnings from Jesus Christ that he opens the first seal.
THE FIRST FIVE SEALS
The first five seals contain a number of events and conditions that threaten the health, welfare, and safety of the earth's population, including God's elect. Many of the prophecies contained in the biblical record seem to indicate that, in the end of the age, the entire population of the earth will receive the wrath of God because of their rebellion against him. The descendants of the Patriarchs, Abraham, and Israel are specifically targeted to receive most of God's wrath.
As we study the first five seals, it will become apparent that all the conditions announced and/or caused by the opening of these seals have a continuation of fulfillment from their initiation to a time near the return of Christ.
It can be proven that the elect are to understand these prophecies (Dan.12:9-10; Rev.1:1). Moreover, some of these things should begin to happen very soon; therefore, it behooves us to discover the major meaning of the first five seals of this book.
Matthew 24:1-13 Paraphrased
In Matthew 24:1-13, we are given an overview of the first five seals of the Book of Revelation and the conditions that will prevail right up to the end of the age when Jesus Christ returns to collect the Father's firstborn children at the first resurrection.
"And Jesus went out of the temple: and his disciples came to show him the buildings of the temple. But Jesus said to them, Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone on a stone which shall not be thrown down" (vs.1-2).
After being at the temple and meeting his disciples, he began to speak of the things that would happen after his death by foretelling the destruction of the temple complex, which would take place in about 40 years.
"And as he was sitting on the Mount of Olives the disciples came to him privately, and asked, Tell us when shall these things come to pass? And what will be the sign of your coming, and the end of the age?" (v3).
The disciples wanted to know three things: When the temple would be destroyed, when Jesus would restore national Israel to prominence, and when the current phase of humanity would end:
"Jesus answered them and said, See that no one mislead you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ. And they will mislead many" (vs.4-5).
Before the advent of Jesus and his ministry, there had been a number of people that came describing themselves as the savior of humanity and of national Israel. Jesus was, in essence, telling them that they could expect to see more false Christ's that would deceive people in the future.
"But you will begin to hear of wars, and rumors of wars, but see that you are not troubled. For these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will be raised against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, plagues, and earthquakes in many places. But these are the beginning of sorrows" (vs.6-8).
We must remember that Jesus gave this prophecy during one of those rare periods in human history when there was relative peace throughout the world, which is why he places these statements in the future tense.
These things are just the beginning of a period of sorrow upon the earth and probably have been going on for a long time. It is therefore logical to assume that, because these same things are contained in the second, third, and fourth seals, what Christ said to his disciples was also meant to be understood by future generations of his followers who would live after he opened these three seals containing these same events.
"Then they will deliver you up to affliction and will kill you; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And many will be offended, and they will deliver up one another, and will hate one another" (vs.9-10). See also Mk.13:9.
Verses 9-10 clearly refer to the events contained in the fifth seal. In these verses we see a clear reference to the martyrdom of the servants of God because they hold the testimony of Jesus Christ. And some of those called to partake in the first resurrection will be viewed as betraying the faith.
"And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness shall have been multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. But the one that endures to the end, that one will be saved" (vs.11-13).
Verses 11-13 show a progressive prophecy that continues past John's time and into the very end of the age, ending at the first resurrection. Again, Christ warns of the rise of people who will teach a false religious system of worship that is in opposition to that of his Father's. Because of the increasing wickedness in the world, many will fail in their calling to salvation; only those who continue to be faithful will be saved.
By B.L. Cocherell b2w13a