Having touched upon the judgment of the church, I should point out at this point that we also can’t take the visions of the book sequentially. In other words, one judgment doesn’t occur followed by the next and so on. As we get to the Seal Judgments, it’s not one horseman riding forth followed by the next. In the Trumpet Judgments, it’s not one trumpet being blown followed by another. More likely, these judgments have been, are, and will occur simultaneously.
My main goal of these posts is to look at Revelation through the lens of what’s happening in the world today. We’re getting there. However, rather than skip over large chunks of prophecy, I’m taking a moment to point out some things in chapters 4 and 5.
As we continue in the book, Revelation moves to a heavenly setting. We see the throne room of God, and it looks much the same as Ezekiel’s vision of the throne room (Eze 1). We again see the living creatures with faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle—representing mankind, wild animals, domesticated animals, and birds. Even the brilliance of a rainbow surrounds the throne in both visions.
However, this time we also see 24 elders wearing crowns and seated on thrones before God’s throne. Who are these elders? Well, we know they aren’t angels because nowhere in the Bible are angels depicted wearing crowns. Many pastors teach that they represent the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles. Perhaps, but since John, the apostle whom Jesus loved, is viewing this, who is warming his throne for him? Maybe these seats are reserved for others. In Daniel 12:13, he is told “But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.” His allotted place? A throne maybe? Anyway, the identities of these 24 are subject to speculation and among those things about Revelation that will only become clear upon our graduating to the heavenly realm.
More importantly, the location of Christ, the Lamb of God, is noteworthy. He’s not seated at the right hand of the Father, or on a throne in front of the elders. He’s standing among the 24 thrones, with mankind, as our Intercessor. Dr. David Aune, in his commentary, sees this as an investiture scene. Christ is not enthroned here, nor is He commissioned to perform a task, as was Isaiah in Isaiah 6. Christ has fulfilled the three requirements for an Israeli to become king: 1) anointed or designated as a candidate for kingship, 2) proven himself kingly by His acts, and 3) being exalted to His throne. Yet, He cannot sit on the throne of His kingdom until all is finished—the world being reconciled back to God and the new Eden established.
So, it’s likely that this scene took place upon His ascension, and that the judgments of mankind began those two millennia ago. John seems to reinforce this idea In Rev 1:9 when he stated that he is our “brother and partner in the tribulation.” The tribulation started way back then, not at some undefined point in the future.
In chapter five we see Christ stepping forward as the only One able to take the scroll from God’s hand and to open its seals. His credentials are impeccably perfect. This is a scene of great praise and worship. He alone is worthy!
Finally, we arrive at the first of His judgments—the seven Seal Judgments. We’ll get into the judgments themselves in the next post. But what is this scroll with its seven seals? While being the topic of much debate, it would seem that two main candidates have garnered the most attention.
One points out that land deeds of that time were sealed with seven seals. Proponents of this choice speculate that this scroll is the title deed to the earth, previously usurped by Satan from Adam. This concept gives us an image of a scroll with seven seals attached to the outside. The reality of a scroll sealed this way is that we can’t see the contents of the scroll until the seventh and last seal is broken, allowing us finally to unroll the scroll. As such, we see the judgments depicted in Revelation 6 being unleashed by the breaking of the seals and not necessarily contained on the scroll itself.
The second consideration, however, is based upon a scroll with seven seals found in a cache of Egyptian scrolls. Here, there was a single outer seal, which when broken allowed the unrolling of part of the scroll. Unrolling that part revealed a second seal that, upon breaking, allowed a second part to be unrolled. This was repeated to find the final, seventh seal and roll. The first six rolls, upon being unrolled, were blank, but the seventh held a legal document believed to be a last will and testament. If we use this concept for the scroll in Revelation 5, we don’t find blank rolls with the breaking of the seals, but instead the judgments from God. As such, this scroll appears to hold the judgments of God upon the world, and the seals imply a legal validity to it.
John also appears to allude to Ezekiel 2:9-10:
9 And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. 10 And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
Note: “. . . words of lamentation and mourning and woe.” Sounds like judgment to me. While Ezekiel 2 talks of judgment on the people of Israel, John universalizes it to the whole world, and this would seem to support the idea that God’s judgments are written upon the scroll. In truth, we’re never told explicitly what the scroll holds, just that the breaking of each seal brings forth a form of judgment.
In the next post, let’s look at those judgments.