Summary: Emphasizes that there are interludes in the Book of Revelation which are not recognized by many writers.
SCENES, JUDGMENT SEQUENCES AND INTERLUDES
IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION
SCENE OF GOD’S THRONE (4:1-11)
The first major scene in The Revelation after the introductory letters is a scene of God’s throne in heaven (4:11). In order to see this vision John is caught up in the Spirit (4:2) to heaven. Among those in the heavenly court whose primary responsibility is to praise God are twenty-four elders (4:4,10; 5:6,8,14; 19:4) and four living creatures (4:6-8). This is the keynote scene of The Revelation. John’s readers, suffering intense persecution, need to know that the God who made all things (4:11) has not lost control. He is on the throne.
SCENE OF BOOK AND THE LAMB (5:1-14)
The next scene (5:1-14) focuses attention on a book in the right hand of God and on the Lamb who is worthy to open the book. The book seems to contain a very extensive outline (5:1) of the future in general or of the judgments which are coming upon mankind. John is very anxious to know what is in the book so that he may bring comfort to the people of God, so anxious that he weeps greatly (5:4) when he contemplates the possibility of not knowing what it contains. However, his anxiety is obviously relieved when the Lamb worthy to open the book appears (5:6). When the Lamb takes the book (5:7-8), the elders and the four living creatures rejoice in song (5:9-10). These elders and living creatures are not to be identified with the redeemed; rather they sing about the redeemed who are reminded of the promise that they will reign upon the earth (5:10). This promise is intended to encourage Christians to be faithful through persecution.
JUDGMENT SEQUENCE OF SIX SEALS (6:1-17)
The first judgment sequence in The Revelation is the sequence of the four seals (6:1-8). The four horses, white (v. 2), red (vv. 3-4), black (vv. 5-6) and ashen (vv. 7-8), represent conquest, war, famine and pestilence respectively, means by which God exercises His judgments upon men in all periods of human history. The fact that probably to the readers of John’s day the bowman on the white horse would have represented a Parthian invader and the black horse represents a famine which could have occurred amidst the luxuries of pagan Rome (6:6) has led some to the conclusion that the judgment of the four seals relates only to the period in which John lived. However, conquest, war, famine and pestilence occur at all periods in human history. Actually, the six seals cover the period of human history from the time of John until what some have called the sign(s) of Christ’s Second Coming.
The fifth seal (6:9-11) shows the primary reason for all the judgments in the judgment sequences in The Revelation: the killing of the martyrs. Just as in the Old Testament period God’s judgment on a particular nation was determined from a human standpoint in large measure by that nation’s treatment of His holy people, the true Jews; so in the New Testament period God’s judgment is determined similarly by the treatment of true Christians. It is my opinion that the Apostle John assumes that one characteristic of any true Christian is that he is prepared to be beheaded for Jesus Christ. Those who argue that the Christians described in the passage dealing with the Millennium (20:4) represent a particular class of Christians have failed to understand what I consider to be one of John’s basic assumptions.
The sixth seal (6:12-17) brings us to the time immediately before the Second Coming of Christ. Will any unprejudiced person deny that there is an obvious parallel between Revelation 6:12-17 and Matthew 24:29-30. Here we have an almost unmistakable chronological frame of reference.
Immediately after the sixth seal, particularly when we have the expressions of fear (6:16-17), we would expect the opening of the seventh seal and some very significant action. Instead we have an interlude. The interludes throughout the Book serve several functions. In some cases they heighten the suspense; often they prepare for subsequent action; and often they serve to give words of warning, instruction, or encouragement primarily to the people of John’s day and secondarily to all subsequent readers.
FIRST INTERLUDE (7:1-12)
The first interlude (7:1-17) is a preparation for the judgment of the seven trumpets (8:6-9:11). The judgment of the seven trumpets is a judgment which comes upon the generation of people, mainly Gentiles, who are living when Jesus comes (6:15-17). This judgment, unlike that of the first four seals, is miraculously cataclysmic, associated in large measure with angels, and has a sealing prior to it. Like the plagues of Egypt these cataclysmic acts of judgment have a sealing prior to them and show the unrepentant nature of man’s hardened heart (9:20-21).