In any age of oppression, whether it be physical or mental, the only weapon is written expression. In the early decades of this era the world to the Jews had been turned upside down. Many had been displaced from their self-sufficient rural setting and moved to cities. They were forced into massive building projects of ports and new townships. They had become poverty stricken and nearly all except the authoritarian leadership remained illiterate. Cities were burned and they fought each other. They were persecuted, taxed and many believed they were the messiah. Their community shattered into various sects. The people had been “slain” and “avenge our blood” was longed for – seal 5.
The ancient scribes had written recollections of torment, death and resurrection in the pre and post exilic ages. But in this era all was completely doomed – “hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks” – seal 6. The Pharisees and Sadducees were victorious. They were always going to be triumphant. They wanted no resurrection of the turmoil that had proliferated ever since the reign of Herod the Great and culminated in a crushing defeat of the third decade.
John in Revelation inevitably accepted that things would get much worse. Roman procurators were being appointed, failing, and being constantly replaced. Impending destruction was sensed. Doom was foreseeable.
In this age of illiteracy and domination no ascent would be possible, no resurrection attainable. The Book of Revelation was sourced and compiled from the OT. Its composition is easily seen once we accept midrashic construction but the consequences are world shattering – “silence in heaven” – seal 7. The book would be sealed for the foreseeable future. The Gospels were later written after the complete destruction of Jerusalem and personified the birth, death and longed for resurrection of their society. In the Gospels the key focus was criticism of their governance, of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Now to unseal the last three seals – following the unsealing of the four horses.
The Midrashic Fifth Seal: Revelation 6:9–11 — Torment — How long?
And when he (the Lamb) had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, doest thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. (Rev. 6:9–11)
The fifth seal reveals a time of great torment, indicated by the question “How long?” and “rest yet for a little season” continuing throughout Christendom. Souls who understood the book, through faithfulness, waxed valiant in fighting aliens of the “Word of God”, were stoned, wandered about in sheepskins being not worthy, were destitute, afflicted and tormented. “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith (wrongly translated, original meaning is faithfulness, steadfastness from pistis, conviction) received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us (comprehension of the “Word of God”), that they without us should not be made perfect” (see Heb. 11:33–40). The age of old Christianity continues, and the saints are “slain” during the age of deception. However, hope is eternal. Opening the fifth seal indicates that a “little season” of rest is required. Only a short while precedes the great astounding revelation. The same message was given by Paul’s epistle in Hebrews but is now expounded on in the late final days of this closing era.
John writes, “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God (Rectitude) and the testimony (witness) which they held.” The third angel’s “everlasting gospel” (Rev. 14:6) is a part of their evidence, having the power to cause great division. This seal is showing us the message, Judge this day, God, Maker, or Creature. “In righteousness he doth judge and make war” (Rev. 19:11), infuriating the three unclean spirits (Rev. 16:13). Unclean spirits are described as “frogs” from the mouth of the dragon, the mouth of the beast, and the mouth of the false prophet (see Sixth Plague). Just who do these “frogs” think they are? What audacity! Persecution is the only measure to maintain tranquility, declare these “qualified” authorized.
The altar is recalling the brazen altar at the door of the tabernacle. It was at the foot of this altar that the blood of the sin-offering was poured (see Lev. 4:7). The lamb slain (then type) represented the blood of those who repented of a wrongful course of moral oppression through deceptive influence.
This token of a lamb points forward in the narrative to the antitypical sacrifice, of the messianic graphic recorded so strikingly in the Gospels. Great immolation was required to oppose inflexible routines of ceremonial and outward shows of staunch piety. Open-minded ideas of a life of goodwill, refining and strengthening the soul, are said to have been ruthlessly trodden underfoot, crushed and silenced. This brutal practice was continuously repeated. Now John visualizes the great forward archetype, well into the last days of deception. Just a short time would be required before the walls of fake, fatuous theology fall down.
Self-questioning, the saints cry, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, doest thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on earth?” A psalmist wrote, “How long wilt thou hide thy face from me? I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.” “White robes were given unto every one of them.” The saints are, “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Rev. 19:8). These souls are on one side of the great divide. Conversely, others are denigrated as “the earth” (Rev. 6:10). As we proceed through the Apocalypse, the cry, “How long?” shall be unveiled.
The Midrashic Sixth Seal: Revelation 6:12–17 — Great Earthquake
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Rev. 6:12–17)
The sixth seal unveils mind shaking trepidation, a “great earthquake.” All former believers become afraid, pleading, “hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” They question their former conjured beliefs. Have they been fooled? What was is no longer. Cherished masterpieces crash to the floor. No longer are adornments sacrosanct. “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Eccles. 1:2). The unraveling of the mystery of God is set in motion. Shock tremors quiver, and the bow (covenant) is strung out. Our globe vibrates, shattering. Rocks fall. Citadels that were become just ash; they are jolted, unplugged. Seismic convulsions erupt, and gas clouds form. Light becomes blackened as sackcloth and ashes. No memory of the universal cosmology could be acclaimed. No reflections of light are seen. Blood could not produce illumination.
Small sparks fall from grace. Defect upon defect is exposed. All inspiration is gone; the great ought, lost. Hovel doctrines are obliterated, having overstepped, denying the voice of the soul. Divine impulse baffles, blunts, bruises, batters. “For the day of the Lord of hosts (judgment) shall be upon everyone that is proud and lofty, and upon everyone that is lifted up … and upon all the high mountains. The haughtiness of men shall be made low” (Isa. 2:12-14, Rev. 18:7). Everything is questioned. Great pillars fall. Runners cannot be saved.
Contempt is narrated, and another expression of reproof comes from the pen: “Israel is an empty vine … the sin of Israel shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us” (Hos. 10:1, 8).
“A sword is upon the Chaldeans, (the magic men), saith the Lord, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men. A sword is upon the liars.… A sword is upon her mighty men.… A sword is upon all the mingled people that are in the midst” (Jer. 50:35–37). The evils of the religious are now made manifest. Wow.
The Midrashic Seventh Seal: Revelation 8:1–3 and Revelation 7:1–3 — Silence in Heaven
And when he (the Lamb) had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given to him much incense that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. (Rev. 8:1–3)
Why was there “silence in heaven”? The story of Revelation is a story of the ultimate day of Atonement, the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10). When the Lamb opens the seventh seal, another angel comes and stands, “at the altar, having a golden censer;” and is given much incense that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar. According to the custom of the priest’s office (speaking of Zacharias, father of John the Baptist), his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. “And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense” (Luke 1:10). This would account for “silence in heaven” in archetype. Confirming this setting is a statement from Leviticus 16:17 regarding the conduct of the people during the sin offering: “And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he (high priest) goeth in to make atonement in the holy place.” The silence is now reflected as the high priest enters the holy place with the renewed message of the opened manuscript. Silence, please, hats off.
And 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, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. (Rev. 7:1–3)
Chapter 7 opens with four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, far removed from a local or national. “Four” envisages a universal cosmological. They must hold back the winds of judgment from the earth, sea, and trees yet a little while. The sealing work has been proceeding for a long time. Ezekiel makes mention of the sealed by using the word “mark” way, way back in time: “set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezek. 9:4). The NT parallel is in John 6:27: “for him hath God the Father sealed.” Early missionaries recorded similarly; see 2 Corinthians 1:21–22 and Ephesians 1:13 — “Who hath also sealed us.” Type and antitype are apparent everywhere.
John of Patmos looked forward, “And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God.” This is the last seal, “ascending.” Yes, this is the day spring (uprising) star (Luke 1:78), or “the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16). This luminous light is declaring, wait before you finish the sealing work. There may be yet a sown seed about to germinate, a ripening olive tree, or perhaps a tardy contrite soul in, “the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness” (Lev.16:16). This quote alludes to the closing work of the great high priest at the sin offering. Of course John is casting archetype, a closing of humankind’s probation. Some could be in danger; hence the atonement (see Num. 16:46–50) when the plague was stayed. The same situation repeated. When a plague came upon Israel for complaining, for fault-finding, atonement was made for the just. Atonement was reserved for special occasions; each has a chance to repent of old ways.
Continuing John’s insight, the fugitive, “heard the number of them which were sealed … an hundred and forty and four thousand … and a great multitude” (Rev. 7:4, 9). This 144,000 is an important symbolic number representing perfection and precision. “And the city (new Jerusalem) lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal” (Rev. 21:16). There were 12 tribes each consisting of 12,000 sealed (from sphragizō meaning to impress, inferring astound, influence), and multiplying these numbers results in 144,000. This 12,000 squared picture represents a plumb, precise, and perfect city. Each resident appreciated the sacred-civil intersection, representing uprightness and lateral compassion, of the cross. This great multitude followed the Lamb, Faithful and True. Precept upon precept, they built their city of peace, the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2). The twelve tribes are virgins, pure, the Lamb’s bride, and the first fruits, symbolic of continuity. The great multitude of unswerving followers is, “the tabernacle of God, is with men” (Rev. 21:3). The voice of people, the echoes of magnanimity, and the reflection of vertical uplifting excellence bear the record of the “Word of God” and the testimony of Jesus Christ, created by the labeled Son of man.
Continue reading from Revelation 8:4–5, “And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.”
Taken from the model in Leviticus, the atonement procedure differs. “And he (the high priest) shall take the censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar with hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail. And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, so that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he dies not” (Lev. 16:12).
In Revelation’s text, the sun is setting on propitiation, on continuation. Instead of taking, “the censer of burning coals, and hands full of sweet incense” and bringing them within the vail and putting “the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud would cover the mercy seat,” the angel in Revelation 8:5, “took the censer, and filled it with the fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth.” This casting it into the earth signifies that the catastrophic culmination bursts asunder, “and there were voices and thundering, and lightning, and an earthquake” (Rev. 8:5). Casting into the earth is highly symbolic of the very end of deception.
Take your time with the opening of the seals, considering all the drawn types and modifications. Now to the seven trumpets sounding and a much deeper pitch.