Summary: As the Lamb opens the 7 seals on the scroll of man’s destiny, terrible things happen - politically, militarily, economically and with natural disastors unprecedented in world history. What does it mean to us and to salvation? See God’s hand of love even i
Here’s where Revelation switches into high gear. No more visions and letters and talk - now its action time. One thing we’ve got to keep straight is what’s happening here. We saw in chapter 6 the Lamb take the scroll - the only one among those in heaven and earth that have ever lived - that has earned the ownership of the scroll - man’s destiny. It’s sealed with 7 seals - we’re going to see those seven seals opened and terrible things happen with each seal. Under the seventh seal, there are seven trumpets and under the seventh trumpet there are seven bowls - so really - everything that happens up until chapter 19 happens as a result of the opening of this scroll.
Chapter 6 really begins the period of time known as the Tribulation - broken up into two periods - the last half - 3 ½ years is the Great Tribulation. Jesus said in Matthew 24 that if those days were not cut short, no one would survive. As it is - more than ½ of all humanity will be destroyed if you add up all the deaths from plagues, natural disasters, and war. In fact, turn to Matthew 24:3-28. We won’t look at all of this - but it is a great primer to our discussion. Notice "wars and rumors of wars," "famines and pestilences and earthquakes (KJV)." The time of the Tribulation has these features - which we’ll see in a minute - but it also fits into a timeframe.
To understand the context of chapter 6 we really have to check in with our key - the book of Daniel. Turn to chapter 9. Daniel was a prophet and a statesman who was in Babylon during the captivity of Israel hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Daniel wonders aloud to the angel Gabriel what is going to happen to his people Israel.
In verses 24-26 Gabriel lays out the foundations for the rest of time until Messiah comes and restores His kingdom on earth. We studied this in greater detail during our look at 1 Thessalonians and our overview of Revelation - but here is the thumbnail sketch:
In four short verses the angel lays out world history - 70 weeks - broken up into 69 weeks and 1 week. It had to represent weeks of years because nothing happened 490 days or months after Artaxerxes ordered the Temple rebuilt. But exactly 490 years later (69 weeks of years) Jesus of Nazareth walked through the gates of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and was hailed as Messiah the Prince. But He was cut off - or crucified (the seven weeks probably refers to how long it took to rebuild the Temple).
So we are left with one week of years - one 7 year period. The time between Jesus and us today is like the stop watch has been paused - this is the age of the church. When the church is taken out of the way, the countdown begins again, God deals with Israel again, and the final period of world history begins. By the way - there is some cool numerology going on here - 7 is God’s number (it’s God’s plan overall) - 10 is the number of what is possible with man (10 horns, 10 nations, etc). So 70 weeks is God allowing man rule (or so he thinks) over earth - but then it is multiplied again by 7 - showing that God is really in control after all.
Verse 26 - 28 tell us more about this final 7 year period - a "prince who is to come" is mentioned - this is the Anti-Christ (who is fulfilled several times - but has it’s last fulfillment during the Tribulation). This Anti-Christ ("replacement") makes a covenant with Israel allowing them to rebuild the Temple and finally have peace in the Middle East. But after 3 ½ years he breaks the covenant, goes to the Temple and declares himself to be God - unleashing God’s wrath on the earth in what is called the Great Tribulation.
At the end of that time - the armies of the east and west will draw together for a great battle in Israel and Jesus will come back with the church, land on the Mount of Olives, and begin a period of wonderful peace and joy on the earth. But first the bad must come before the good - and that brings us back to Revelation 6.
In this chapter we see the opening of six of the 7 seals. We also get heavy duty into symbolism here. But it is symbolism of something very real and very terrible. The first symbols that we see are very well known - the four horseman of the apocalypse. Notice too that these four horsemen represent four major areas of focus: political, military, economic, and health. Not surprisingly, these are the four major areas of focus today.