Revelation, Lesson 12: The Two Interludes after the 6th Seal

After the Apostle John observed heavenly worship, he saw Jesus, represented as a wounded but victorious lamb, receive a double-sided scroll with seven seals.  Revelation then moved into four successive visions of each seal as Jesus breaks each one.  And, for the most part, we also see a fairly linear chronology. 

Seal 1: Mary gives birth to Jesus.  Satan tries to destroy the infant Jesus but fails.

Seal 2: Satan then used the Roman Empire to persecute the Church.

Seal 3: Those who refused to worship “666” (“Nero Caesar” through gematria) were persecuted mercilessly.

Seals 4-5: The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Seal 6: The bar Kokhba revolt in 132-135 AD. 

Today, we see two interludes that focus on the Church as she stands on the precipice of God’s final outpouring of wrath on the world.


The Church on Earth and Heaven

The Church on Earth

Read Revelation 7:1-3

After these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth nor on the sea nor on any tree.  And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Do not hurt the earth, Neither the sea, Nor the trees, Until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.

–          What does not happen until all of God’s servants are “sealed”?


Ezekiel 9:4: And the Lord said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who sigh and groan over all the detestable practices committed in it.”

The verses that follow say that all were who did not have the mark on their foreheads were killed.  That’s the imagery that this portion of Revelation is referencing.  In the same way, those who have the seal of God will have, instead of eternal death, eternal life.  So, the question is this: “What is this “seal”? 

The word for “mark” in Hebrew is taw, which in early Hebrew script looked like a + (or x).  Taw is also the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  In Old Testament times, it functioned as a mark of YHWH’s ownership, for taw was considered a shorthand way of writing YHWH’s name without actually writing His name (remember God’s name was considered too holy to write).  So, the mark (+) showed that one had God’s name written on him. 

So for us, what in the New Covenant takes place where we get God’s name?  It’s none other than baptism, for we are baptized into His name (Matthew 28:19-20).  The early Church fathers confirmed this understanding: They didn’t miss the connection between baptism and Christ’s crucifixion (John 3).  That is why from the earliest Church tradition, the sign of the cross (+) was put on the forehead of someone being baptized, for he was being baptized into God’s name. 

The 2nd Century Christian apocalyptic work, The Shepherd of Hermas, confirms this understanding of sealing with the God’s name in holy baptism.  “Hear, then why the tower [Church] has been built upon the water: because your life was saved and shall be saved through water, and the tower has been founded by the utterance of the almighty and glorious Name, and is maintained by the unseen power of the Master” (Vision III, 3.5).  The Shepherd of Hermas also stated, “The seal, then, is the water: they descend into the water dead, and they arrive alive” (Similitude IX, 16). 

The image in Revelation 7 depicts God protecting His people into eternity.


Read Revelation 7:4-8

–          From an earlier lesson, what does the 144,000 represent?


Galatians 3:6-8: Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, know then that it is those who have faith that are Abraham’s sons.  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”

–          Make sense of Revelation only listing 12,000 from each tribe of Israel?


The Church in Heaven

Read Revelation 7:9-13

After this I saw, and, behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and tribes, and people, and tongues, stood before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying: Salvation to our God, who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb.  And all the angels were standing around the throne, and the elders and the four living beings, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and strength, be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.

And one of the elders answered, saying to me, Who are these who are arrayed in white robes?  And where did they come from?

And I said to him, Lord, you know.  And he said to me, These are the ones who are coming out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sits on the throne shall dwell among them.  They shall hunger no more, nor thirst anymore; nor shall the sun beat on them, not any heat.  For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and shall lead them to living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.

This section in Revelation is similar to the vision of John in Revelation chapter 5.  For John is seeing the same reality in another vision.

Nehemiah 8:15: [After the Temple was restored,] they proclaimed and circulated a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, just as it is written.”

1 Maccabees 13:51: [After the Temple was restored,] the Jews entered [the citadel of Jerusalem] with praise and palms branches and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel.

–          What were palm branches used for during Old Covenant times.


–          What does the present-tense language (these are the ones who are coming out of great tribulation) say about the “great tribulation” that Christians suffer?


–          So, is this “tribulation” a specific time in human history or our human experience before entering eternity?


The Church in Her Sufferings

Read Revelation 10:1-11

–          John was about to write what the seven thunders had voiced.  Instead, what was he told to do?


–          What, instead, was he given to write?


–          When John was given the book, he was told to do what Ezekiel had done when he was commissioned or prophesy: eat the scroll/book (Ezekiel 2:8-3:3).  What do the sweetness and bitterness of the book point to the message that John will now write?


Read Revelation 11:1-2

What John describes is architecture of the Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD (This is some internal evidence pointing to John writing Revelation before 70 AD).  Yet, this imagery hails back to Ezekiel 40-42 and Zechariah 2.  In those Old Testament visions, the prophets saw the Temple and Jerusalem being measured to show what God will protect.  The same idea is taking place in John’s vision, except he is told to exclude the outer court of the sanctuary. 

Why?  God has given that area to the Gentiles from them to trample over for 42 months.  The 42 months would bring to mind to the first hearers of Revelation to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, in the late 160s BC, when he persecuted the Jews for 3-½ years (1 Maccabees 1:54-64).  This points to a time when God would allow the world to persecute His Church, and like before, such persecution would come to an end.  However, unlike in the 160s, the Church (Temple) would not be desecrated within because the inner court would still be untrampled.


Read Revelation 11:3-6

–          Why will the Church not be brought to complete ruin (vs. 5)?

The Two Olive Trees

The two witnesses are described as “olive trees.”  This tree imagery goes back to Zechariah 4, where Zechariah had a vision with two olive trees.  There, two olive trees provided oil for the lamps in the Temple.  The Lord explained the meaning: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will complete it” (Zechariah 4:9).  In Zechariah’s day, the vision told that the Temple would be built despite those who opposed it.  John saw the Church still continuing despite those who oppose her. 

The two witnesses have power to stop the rain, turn water into blood, and bring forth plagues.  These are images associated with Moses and Elijah (1 Kings 17:1, 18:1; Exodus 7:4-16).  So, John’s vision points to Moses and Elijah.  But we must also remember that it was Moses and Elijah who testified to Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8).  In the same way, the Church–no matter what–is always to testify to Christ.  This is simply what the Apostle Paul asserted: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

Read Revelation 11:7-10

–          Who is the Beast from the Abyss?


–          What does God allow this beast to do?


–          Who celebrates the death of the two who were martyred for the Faith?


–          How long do the dead bodies of the martyrs (symbolically) remain on the street?


Read Revelation 11:11-13

John now brings to mind the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel (37:1-14), where the breath of the Lord brought to life an entire army from dry, sun-bleached bones: “[The Lord] said to me, ‘Prophesy concerning these bones and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  This is what the Lord God says to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you will live’” (Ezekiel 37:4-5).

–          Was the celebration of the Church’s demise premature?


–          Who is vindicated in the end?


–          How did this encourage the first hearers of Revelation?  How does this encourage you?


Read Revelation 11:14

The second woe (that is, the 6th trumpet) is past.  The third and final woe now comes to the earth.



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