Setting

The Lamb, who was found worthy to open the scroll of judgment and vindication, came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. God is ready to judge the world, and His judgment proceeds directly from His throne (4:5), meaning that the events that shall occur until the end of history all proceed from God’s sovereign will. The Lamb now opens the seals one by one, revealing God’s wrath on the earth. After the opening of the sixth seal, there is an interlude in which an angel seals the servants of God on their foreheads.

Key Verse

(6:17; 7:3)

Did You Know...?

1. Denarius (6:6): “A denarius was a Roman silver coin, worth about 16 cents; it represented a laborer’s daily wages.” [ref]
2. Wheat…barley (6:6): “One quart of wheat would be enough for only one person. Three quarts of the less nutritious barley would be barely enough for a small family. Famine had inflated prices to at least ten times their normal level.” [ref]
3. Palm branches (7:9): “‘Palm branches’ are referred to only one other time in the NT (John 12:13), where they are connected to the Passover celebration. Moses provided that palms should be used at the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:40). Later they were used on other festal occasions (1 Macc 13:51; 2 Macc 10:7). Jewish coins of the period 140 B.C. to A.D. 70 frequently contain palms and some have the inscription ‘the redemption of Zion’ (IDB, 3:646). Palms were emblems of victory.” [ref]

Outline

  • Opening of Six Seals
    (6:1-17)
  • Sealing of God’s Servants
    (7:1-8)
  • Praise of the Great Multitude and Heavenly Beings
    (7:9-12)
  • Identity of and Blessings to the Great Multitude
    (7:13-17)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    Record the content of each seal in Chart F and give each seal a short descriptive title.

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    1st Seal: White Horse
    Descriptive Title:
    Content of Seal:

    2nd Seal: Red Horse
    Descriptive Title:
    Content of Seal:

    3rd Seal: Black Horse
    Descriptive Title:
    Content of Seal:

    4th Seal: Pale Horse
    Descriptive Title:
    Content of Seal:

    5th Seal: Saints under Altar
    Descriptive Title:
    Content of Seal:

    6th Seal: Earthquake
    Descriptive Title:
    Content of Seal:

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  • 2.

    Read Mt 24:1-35; Mk 13:1-37; Lk 21:5-33 and record signs mentioned by the Lord that also appear in the seals.

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    Wars and rumors of wars; nation against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; famines, pestilences, and earthquakes; persecution and killing of believers; many betraying and hating one another; sun darkened, and the moon not giving light; stars falling from heaven, and powers of the heavens shaken.

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Segment Analysis

  • 6:1-17

    1.

    In contrast to chapters 4 and 5, what is the setting of chapter 6?

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    On earth.

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  • 2a.

    How are the first four seals similar? How do they differ from the fifth and sixth seals?

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    The first four seals are marked by horses and horsemen. There is no mention of specific groups of people. Each of the four seals opens with the words, “come and see.”

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  • 2b.

    What do horses symbolize? (cf. Prov 21:31).

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    Strife, power, victory.

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  • 2c.

    How do the fifth and sixth seal imply the coming of more severe judgments?

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    In the fifth seal, the martyrs cry out to God for judgment and vengeance. God’s response to their cry implies that He will carry out judgment, although there will be a delay. In the sixth seal, the question, “who can stand?” implies an expectation of a much more severe judgment under which no one will be able to stand.

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  • 3a.

    Compare the white horse with that recorded in 19:11-16.

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    In both passages, the riders have crowns, although the first rider wears only one crown. Both riders are engaged in battle. Both claim total victory.

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  • 3b.

    If the white horse represents the true church and its rider the Holy Spirit, how would you explain verse 2?

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    The true church will spread the gospel to the whole world in the power of the Holy Spirit, and it will surely prevail over the forces of evil (Mt 24:14; cf. Acts 19:20).

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  • 4.

    What kind of world events comes to your mind when your read the description of the red horse and its rider’s power?

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  • 5a.

    What is the pair of scales in the rider of the black horse for?

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    The scales, which were used to measure out food, suggests rationing and scarcity of food.

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  • 5b.

    What is the meaning of “a quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine”? (cf. Mt 20:2 for the value of a denarius).

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    This amount suggests food prices about twelve times higher than normal. 9/474 Barley, used by the poor to mix with the wheat, further suggests food shortage and poverty, perhaps as a result of inflation. “Do not harm the oil and the wine” may mean that the horseman is not to harm the vines and olive trees. In other words, the devastation caused by the famine would not be total.

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  • 6a.

    What is the extent of the destruction in the fourth seal?

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    Over a fourth of the earth.

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  • 6b.

    How is the fourth seal similar to but different from the second and third seals?

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    The disasters in the fourth seal seems to be greater and more deadly than those in the second and third seals. In fact, the list of devastations shows a combination of those already occurring in the previous two seals (sword, hunger, death).

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  • 7a.

    Who are the martyrs and why were they killed? (cf 13:15; 18:24; 20:4)

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    They are servants of God (11) who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held (9).

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  • 7b.

    Could the symbol of the altar have something to do with the crying out of the saints?

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    If the altar refers to the altar of incense within the temple, the prayers of the martyrs are like the smoke of the incense that rises from the altar before the throne of God (5:8; 8:3,4). Just as God was pleased with the burning of incense in the past, He will also hear the prayers of the saints and vindicate them (cf. Lk 18:7).

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  • 7c.

    What does God’s reply to the martyrs teach us about the injustice we see in the world today?

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    Although evil seems to prevail and it is as if God is not doing anything about the evil and sufferings in this world, we must trust that God will surely judge the world and vindicate His people in due time.

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  • 8a.

    As you read about the sixth seal, read also Isa 2:10,19,21; 13:10; 34:4; Ezek 32:7-8; Joel 2:31; 3:15; Zeph 1:14-18; Mt 24:29; Lk 21:25,26 about the day of the Lord. What catastrophes are recorded here?

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    Great earthquake; sun becomes black; moon becomes like blood; stars fall to the earth; sky recedes; every mountain and island moves out of its place.

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  • 8b.

    What will the unbelievers realize when the Lamb pours out His wrath on the earth? What does this tell us about the reason for their unbelief now?

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    When they see the catastrophes of nature, they will realize that no one can stand under the wrath of God. Such realization reflects the unbelievers’ present arrogance. In their pride, they have no fear of God and therefore refuse to repent of their ways nor believe in Jesus Christ.

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  • 7:1-17

    9a.

    In what ways is the content of chapter 7 a direct contrast to chapter 6?

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    While the seals of chapter 6 are filled with disasters, bloodshed, and catastrophes, the scene in chapter 7 is peaceful, comforting, and even joyful. Whereas the Lamb pours out His wrath in chapter 6, He shepherds them in chapter 7.

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  • 9b.

    How is chapter 7 an interlude between chapters 6 and 8?

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    The fact that the scene in chapter 7, rather than the 7th seal, follows the opening of the 6th seal indicates that this chapter is an interlude. The angel from the east tells the four angels not to harm the earth, the sea, or the trees until the servants of God are sealed. The angel’s words suggest that a greater judgment is coming. Before that happens, John hears of and witnesses the protection and final salvation that God will give to His servants. Immediately after the interlude, judgment resumes in chapter 8 with the opening of the 7th seal.

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  • 9c.

    How does the question in 6:17 lead directly into chapter 7?

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    In their terror, the people of the earth said, “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Although the question in chapter 6 was not meant to be answered, the content in chapter 7 in a way answers that very question: No one will be able to stand under God’s wrath except those who have been sealed.

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  • 10a.

    How are the 144,000 identified?

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    Servants of God (3), tribes of the children of Israel (4).

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  • 10b.

    Why are they sealed? (cf. Ezek 9:4-6)

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    To be spared from God’s wrath and judgment.

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  • 10c.

    Who sealed the 144,000 and where was he from? With what did he seal them? Why are these facts significant?

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    The angel from the east with the seal of the living God probably refers to the Lord Jesus. He seals believers with the Holy Spirit as a mark of redemption (Eph 1:13 14; 2Cor 1:21,22). True believers who walk in righteousness are protected from God’s wrath because God’s seal is on them (cf. 2Tim 2:19). The angel coming from the east may represent the establishment of the true church in the end time in the east (cf. Ezek 43:2).

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  • 11.

    If Dan and Ephraim were excluded because of their association with idolatry (Judg 18:18-19; 1Kgs 12:28-30; Hos 4:17), what warning can we the believers learn from the exclusion?

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    We must always put God first in our hearts and walk in His ways. We cannot afford to lust after the world and lose the right to enter God’s kingdom. We must put to death the deeds of the sinful nature and live according to the Spirit (Rom 8:13,14), and we must keep our faith and fervor in the Lord to the end (Heb 3:14).

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  • 12.

    Who sang the song of verse 10? Of verse 12?

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    The great multitude; The angels, elders, and four living creatures.

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  • 13a.

    Compare the 144,000 in 3-8 and the multitude in 9-17 and record your observations. How are these two groups different?

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    1) The first group has a definite number and they are identified as the tribes of children of Israel, whereas the second group cannot be numbered, and they are from all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.
    2) While in 3-8, John did not see the 144,000 but only heard of their number, in 9-17, John saw the great multitude.
    3) The setting of 1-8 seems to be on earth, as opposed to the heavenly setting in 9-17 (“before the throne and before the Lamb”).

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  • 13b.

    If we interpret the 144,000 as the tribes of the children of Israel in a spiritual sense, who would these people be? (cf. Rom 2:28-29; 9:6,7; Gal 3:26-29)

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    Believers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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  • 13c.

    Is it possible that the differences between 144,000 and the multitude are just two different descriptions of the same group (i.e. all the believers, sealed from God’s wrath but suffered during the great tribulation)? Explain your answer.

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    The 144,000 can be the same group as the great multitude if we interpret 3-8 and 9 17 as two different vantage points. If this view is adopted, the 144,000 would be a symbolic figure. To John, the group is beyond number, but to God, the elect is according to a specific number (cf. 6:11; Rom 11:25). See also question 15.

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  • 14a.

    What is the great tribulation that the multitude came out of?

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    The great tribulation may refer to the unprecedented persecution and distress the Lord spoke of in Mt 24 (see Mt 24:21 22; Dan 12:1). This would be “the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world” (3:10; Lk 21:34-35). The great tribulation will probably be a period of intense persecution, disasters, massive deaths, as well as a time when Satan will deceive the world with his false prophets and “the lawless one” (cf. Mt 24:7-13; 2Thess 2:1-12).

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  • 14b.

    What was the multitude wearing? What does it mean? (cf 3:4; 7:14)

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    White robes (9,14). Their white robes symbolize that they have overcome sin and have become blameless through the sanctifying work of Christ.

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  • 14c.

    What do the palm branches suggest?(cf. Lev 23:40; Jn 12:12,13)

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    Palm branches are used for celebration on joyful occasions. For the Jews, palm branches were also emblems of victory. [ref]

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  • 15a.

    What are the similarities between 7:9-17 and 21:1-4; 22:1-5?

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    They will serve God (7:15; 22:3); God will dwell among them (7:15; 21:3); there will be no more pain (7:16; 21:4); they will be led to living fountains of waters (7:17; 22:1); God will wipe away their tears (7:17; 21:4).

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  • 15b.

    What does this resemblance suggest about the chronological placement of 7:9-17?

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    The recording of 7:9-17 may be a vision of the future, as opposed to the sealing of the 144,000 that takes place in the present. In other words, 1-8 and 9-17 refer to two different times and settings.

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  • 16.

    From your study of this lesson, what characterizes the saved ones? What blessings will they receive?

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  • 17.

    How do the visions in these chapters offer encouragement in times of difficulties and suffering?

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