Notes: "The Seven Seals" (2019, QTR 1, Lesson 5)

by admin admin January 27, 2019

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Sabbath (January 26): The Seven Seals

The seven seals is the second major line of prophecy in Revelation. Like the messages to the seven churches, the seven seals cover the history of the Christian church from the time of John until the second coming. Unlike the messages to the seven churches, however, the seven seals apparently have no immediate historical application to real events in John’s day. They are, for the most part, even more highly symbolic than the messages to the seven churches. As with all the prophecies in Revelation, the seven seals reveal God’s work in this world and contain the promise of the eventual eradication of sin.

In Revelation 6:1, the Lamb “opened one of the seals.” The seals contain a record of all significant events transpiring on earth in relation to the plan of salvation. One such example of this is the Jewish leaders’ rejection and crucifixion of Christ:

Thus the Jewish leaders made their choice. Their decision was registered in the book which John saw in the hand of Him that sat upon the throne, the book which no man could open. In all its vindictiveness this decision will appear before them in the day when this book is unsealed by the Lion of the tribe of Judah. {COL 294.1}

Likewise, the martyrdom of the saints during the great tribulation is recorded in the fifth seal (Revelation 6:9).

Discussion Questions:

  • How does it make you feel to know that both Christ’s sufferings and that of the saints is recorded in heaven?

  • What does this fact say about the relationship between Christ and His people? (Compare Matthew 25:45-46 and Ephesians 5:30,31.)

The seven seals, like many of Revelation’s prophecies, culminate in the final judgment scene of Revelation 20:11-5. The purpose of this judgment is threefold: to bring justice (Revelation 6:10), destroy sin and death (Revelation 20:14), and to vindicate God’s character before the universe (Revelation 5:13).

Discussion Questions:

  • Can any of these three purposes of the judgment be accomplished alone, or must they be accomplished together?

At the time of this final judgment, Satan acknowledges God’s justice and righteousness. Unfortunately, this admission does not change Satan’s character. “Notwithstanding that Satan has been constrained to acknowledge God’s justice and to bow to the supremacy of Christ, his character remains unchanged” (GC 671).

Discussion Questions:

  • What does Satan’s tragic end teach us? (Among other things, it is possible to acknowledge God without surrendering to Him and allowing Him to change us.)

  • Read Revelation 7:1-3. What is the focal point of the seven seals as far as God’s people are concerned? (The sealing of God’s servants and the transformation of their characters.)

  • Why is this focus so important to remember in our own lives?

Sunday (January 27): The Opening of the First Seal

In Revelation 6:2, John sees a white horse with a rider carrying a bow and a crown. This may be understood to represent the conquest of the gospel to the known world during the apostolic age (AD 31-100). It seems clear from history that God had ordered world events to make the successful spread of the gospel possible during this time period, which is often referred to as the Pax Romana.

Pax Romana, (Latin: “Roman Peace”) a state of comparative tranquillity throughout the Mediterranean world from the reign of Augustus (27 bce–14 ce) to the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161 –180 ce). Augustus laid the foundation for this period of concord, which also extended to North Africa and Persia. The empire protected and governed individual provinces, permitting each to make and administer its own laws while accepting Roman taxation and military control. (https://www.britannica.com/event/Pax-Romana)

Discussion Questions:

  • In Colossians 1:23, what did Paul say had been accomplished during his lifetime?

  • Read the statement below, and identify how this was accomplished.

In the days of the apostles the Christian believers were filled with earnestness and enthusiasm. So untiringly did they labor for their Master that in a comparatively short time, notwithstanding fierce opposition, the gospel of the kingdom was sounded to all the inhabited parts of the earth. The zeal manifested at this time by the followers of Jesus has been recorded by the pen of inspiration for the encouragement of believers in every age.{AA 578.1}

  • What did this conquest of the gospel look like on a practical level for the early Christians? (Read the statements below for help, and compare Acts 2:41-47.)

What was the result of the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost? The glad tidings of a risen Saviour were carried to the uttermost parts of the inhabited world. As the disciples proclaimed the message of redeeming grace, hearts yielded to the power of this message. The church beheld converts flocking to her from all directions. Backsliders were reconverted. Sinners united with believers in seeking the pearl of great price. Some who had been the bitterest opponents of the gospel became its champions. The prophecy was fulfilled, “He that is feeble ... shall be as David; and the house of David ... as the angel of the Lord.” Zechariah 12:8. Every Christian saw in his brother a revelation of divine love and benevolence. One interest prevailed; one subject of emulation swallowed up all others. The ambition of the believers was to reveal the likeness of Christ’s character and to labor for the enlargement of His kingdom. {AA 48.1}

With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:33. Under their labors were added to the church chosen men, who, receiving the word of truth, consecrated their lives to the work of giving to others the hope that filled their hearts with peace and joy. They could not be restrained or intimidated by threatenings. The Lord spoke through them, and as they went from place to place, the poor had the gospel preached to them, and miracles of divine grace were wrought. {AA 48.2}

A number of commentators have suggested that horses may be understood as symbolizing messengers for God.

Discussion Questions:

  • What is the message that we have been given to share with the world? (Compare Matthew 28:19,20; Revelation 10:10,11; 14:6.)

  • Read John 12:48, and discuss what determines our fate in the judgment. How important is accepting the message that God has entrusted to His church?

  • Compare Revelation 6:15-17 and Revelation 7:1-3. What distinguishes these two groups of people and how did individual people end up in one or the other group? What is the lesson for us?

Monday (January 28): The Second and Third Seals

In Revelation 6:3, John sees a red horse whose rider is carrying a sword. This rider is given power to take peace from the earth and to kill many people. Many commentators have observed the similarity between the second seal and the persecutions that fell on the church of Smyrna from AD 100-313 on.

Discussion Questions:

  • If the gospel is the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus (and it is), then does the gospel’s conquest in the first seal result in the bloody persecution of the second seal?

  • Read Matthew 5:10-12; 10:34 and Luke 12:51-53. Did Jesus ever promise that peace would follow those who accepted the gospel? (No.) What did Jesus promise? (He indicated that the gospel would produce division, resistance, and persecution.)

  • Is a gospel that produces no resistance from the world a true gospel?

  • On a personal level, is a gospel that produces no resistance or struggle within me a true gospel?

In Revelation 6:5, John sees a black horse with a rider carrying a pair of balances. The third seal corresponds to the time period of the church of Pergamos, from about AD 313-538. This was the time of the ascendancy of the papal power, and its accompanying reliance on human wisdom and traditions. The scale carried by the rider may symbolize this, as well as undue concern for material things in life, as opposed to the eternal realities of the gospel.

The “measure of wheat” in verse 6 likely represents a day’s ration of food. Likewise, a “penny” was a normal day’s wage at the time, so this verse predicts a terrible famine where a day’s ration of wheat is the pay for a day of labor. Much less, of course, would result in starvation. (It is interesting to note that according to food prices quoted by the Roman historian Cicero, the price in this verse is eight to sixteen times higher than the historical norm at this time.) Barley was the food of the poor, and further indicates the severity of the famine predicted. 

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Amos 8:11. What kind of famine might be represented in the third seal? Does this match historically with what was happening in the church between the fourth and sixth centuries?

  • The oil mentioned in Revelation 6:6 represents the Holy Spirit (compare Zechariah 4:2-6). Why might God give a promise of the Holy Spirit to the church at this time? What is the promise of the Holy Spirit to the church today? Are you praying daily for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?

Tuesday (January 29): The Scene of the Fourth Seal

In Revelation 6:8, John sees a pale horse with death and hell accompanying it. This seal corresponds to the time period of the church of Thyatira during the dark ages, from about AD 538-1517. The Greek word translated as “pale” here is chloros, and it refers to the ashen-gray color of a decomposing corpse.

Discussion Questions:

  • Read again the message to Thyatira in Revelation 2:18-29. Is the symbol of a pale horse appropriate?

  • Read the four curses upon the earth in the last half of Revelation 6:8. Is there any significance to their order? (Some commentators have observed the progressive deterioration of civilization that follows warfare: hunger often kills those that survive the fighting, and disease often destroys those that would have otherwise survived the famine. In ancient times especially, such a collapsed civilization would be hard pressed to defend itself against wild beasts.)

Leviticus 26 contains God’s promised blessings for obedience, and these blessings also contain God’s secret for overcoming and beating the three “evil riders” of Revelation’s second, third, and fourth seals (see God Cares, volume 2, pages 180-182).

Discussion Questions:

  • Read Leviticus 26:1-3. What must Israel do to experience God’s blessings? (Keep the Sabbath and God’s other commandments, and reverence the sanctuary.)

  • Compare Daniel 8:10-11. What two things did the little horn power “cast down” during its rule during the time of the pale horse? (Truth and the sanctuary message.)

  • Read Leviticus 26:4,5. What is promised here, and over which horse is victory promised? (Bread to the full; victory over the black horse.)

  • Read Leviticus 26:6. What is promised here, and over which horse is victory promised? (Peace; victory over the red horse.)

  • Read Leviticus 26:7,8. What is promised here, and over which horse is victory promised? (They will chase their enemies; victory over the pale horse.)

  • Read Leviticus 26:11,12. What is promised here, and what does this promise mean for God’s people today? (Compare the experience of God’s servants who are sealed in Revelation 7:1-3 and 14:1-5.)

Wednesday (January 30): The Opening of the Sixth Seal

In Revelation 6:9, John sees those that have been slain as martyrs. The word souls is symbolic, and merely points to the fact that these people have been killed for their faith in God.

Discussion Questions:

  • For what two reasons have these people been killed? (Their obedience to the word of God, and for the testimony that they held.)

  • What might the “testimony” be that they have held on to? (Compare Hebrews 11:5,6.)

  • In Revelation 6:11, these martyrs are told to “rest” and wait until their “fellowservants” should be killed as they were. What significance does Revelation 12:17 have in regards to the fulfillment of this statement? See also the statement below:

As the approach of the Roman armies was a sign to the disciples of the impending destruction of Jerusalem, so may this apostasy be a sign to us that the limit of God’s forbearance is reached, that the measure of our nation’s iniquity is full, and that the angel of mercy is about to take her flight, never to return. The people of God will then be plunged into those scenes of affliction and distress which prophets have described as the time of Jacob’s trouble. The cries of the faithful, persecuted ones ascend to heaven. And as the blood of Abel cried from the ground, there are voices also crying to God from martyrs’ graves, from the sepulchers of the sea, from mountain caverns, from convent vaults: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” {5T 451.2}

  • How can we have faith and peace in the light of the persecution that still awaits God’s people?

  • Read Revelation 6:10. For what reason should God’s people cry for vengeance? Should our primary concern be with ourselves or with the vindication of God’s character? (Compare Romans 12:19 and Revelation 5:13.)

Thursday (January 31): The Opening of the Sixth Seal

In Revelation 6:12-13, an earthquake, the darkened sun, a red moon, and falling stars are predicted. As the lesson quarterly explains, these signs were fulfilled beginning with the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and ending with the falling stars in New England in 1833.

Discussion Questions:

  • What do these signs point to? (The coming of Christ! Compare Matthew 24:29,30.)

  • Read Daniel 7:9,10,13,14. What other “coming” of Christ did these signs indicate was about to happen? (Christ’s entry into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary at the beginning of the pre-advent judgment in 1844. The judgment period in which we still live is extremely important for all humanity, for it will determine who hides from the Lamb and who welcomes the return of Christ at the second coming.)

In Revelation 6:14, the heavens depart as a scroll. This has not yet happened. For a general description of this event, read The Great Controversy pages 636-637. 

 Discussion Questions:

  • Read Psalm 50:3-6. What will be accomplished when the heavens depart as a scroll? (God’s righteousness will be declared. Compare GC 639:

While these words of holy trust ascend to God, the clouds sweep back, and the starry heavens are seen, unspeakably glorious in contrast with the black and angry firmament on either side. The glory of the celestial city streams from the gates ajar. Then there appears against the sky a hand holding two tables of stone folded together. Says the prophet: “The heavens shall declare His righteousness: for God is judge Himself.” Psalm 50:6. That holy law, God’s righteousness, that amid thunder and flame was proclaimed from Sinai as the guide of life, is now revealed to men as the rule of judgment. The hand opens the tables, and there are seen the precepts of the Decalogue, traced as with a pen of fire. The words are so plain that all can read them. Memory is aroused, the darkness of superstition and heresy is swept from every mind, and God’s ten words, brief, comprehensive, and authoritative, are presented to the view of all the inhabitants of the earth. {GC 639.1})

  • Read Isaiah 2:19-20. What will become painfully obvious to sinful man at this time? (Idols are worthless.) What idols are in my life that might prevent me from being ready for Christ’s return?

In Revelation 6:15-16, the lost flee terror-stricken from the Lamb.

Discussion Questions:

  • Why do these people flee from a Lamb?

  • What makes the difference between this group and the group in Revelation 7:1-3?

  • How can I make sure that I am in the second group (the group in Revelation 7:1-3)?

Friday (February 1): The Delay

We are currently living between the end of Revelation 6:13 and the beginning of Revelation 6:14, and many would agree that there has been a considerable delay in Christ’s second coming. Twenty-five years passed between the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 and the dark day in 1780. Fifty-three years passed between 1780 and the falling stars in 1833. But it has been over 185 years since the stars fell, and we are still waiting for the heavens to depart as a scroll. Why the delay?

The nation of Israel also experienced a delay in entering the promised land. (According to the timeline in Numbers, God wanted to bring Israel into the promised land within about 18 months after leaving Egypt. Instead, they spent 40 years in the wilderness. See Numbers 10:11 and 14:34.) The Bible explains exactly why they didn’t immediately enter Canaan.

Discussion Questions:

    • Read Hebrews 3:17-19. What kept Israel out of Canaan for so long? (Unbelief.) What did this unbelief prevent them from entering? (God’s rest.)

    • Read Hebrews 4:1-2. What was the fatal mistake that Israel made, and that we are still in danger of making today? (Being content to merely listen to God’s word, rather than act upon it in faith.)

    • Read Hebrews 4:3,9-11. What promise is given to God’s people who believe in faith? (Entering into His rest.)

    • Read Hebrews 4:12. What does it mean, practically speaking, to enter God’s rest? (To allow God through His word to divide and separate sin from the life.)

    • Read Hebrews 4:4. What is the sign of having entered that rest? (True seventh-day Sabbath observance.)

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