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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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12-5 The Seals

The vital key to interpreting the seals is found in the clear links between them and the Olivet prophecy. The connections are so copious that it must surely be admitted that consideration of them is important in coming to an understanding of the seals. Consider the following summary of the links:


Olivet Prophecy



Mt. 24:14


Mt. 24:35




Lk. 23:30




Lk. 21:36




Mt. 24:31




Lk. 21:18,28




Mt. 24:19,21




Lk. 21:36




Mt. 24:27

John was told that the events of the seals "must take place"- dei genesthai. The Olivet prophecy uses the same phrase (Mt. 24:6; Lk. 21:9). We have seen that the Olivet prophecy describes the events of both AD70 and our present last days, with special reference to the tribulation of God's people, both natural and spiritual. The connections between the Olivet prophecy and the seals would therefore indicate that the seals, and therefore much of Revelation, has reference to these same two time periods. Fairly conclusive evidence for a pre-AD70 date for Revelation has now been published (1). In any case, the connections with the Olivet prophecy cannot be shrugged off as incidental. The seals, then, can be applied to our latter day tribulation. There seems no reason to insist that they should be interpreted chronologically; they can quite comfortably be seen as describing different aspects of the same period. This is how series of judgments described in the prophets often have their fulfillment (notably in Isaiah), rather than being a chronological prophecy of events. Zech.12:3-11 is a passage which contains seven occurrences of the phrase " In that day..." . The passage does not have to be interpreted chronologically; this is a list of events which will occur around the same time, " in that day" . They are snapshots of the same scene from different angles. The seals and the repeated references to a 3.5 year tribulation period can be understood likewise; they do not necessarily refer to chronologically different events, but are giving different aspects of information about the same basic scene. The lack of strict chronological sequence in prophecy is a major feature of the Old Testament; thus a consideration of the phrase " in that day..." in Isaiah reveals that the context 'jumps around' all over the place, from the first coming of Christ to the Babylonian invasion to the Kingdom. There is no reason to think that Revelation is any different.

The sixth seal concludes with the great day of the Lamb coming, with the fig tree casting her immature figs (cp. the fig tree parable), and great changes in Heaven and earth. This must have some reference to the second coming. If it does not, then where is the principle of interpreting Scripture by Scripture? This sixth seal appears to be an extension of the fifth seal, where persecuted believers plead for vengeance to be shown against their persecutors. They are assured of their salvation (by being given white robes), and rest " for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled" (6:11). Once these brethren were killed, the Lord would take vengeance- by His second coming. It follows that this violent persecution of brethren is going on before the second coming. Perhaps the " little season" refers to the three and a half year period? The persecuted souls under the altar would then describe the early sufferers in the persecution. It should be noted that once a set number of believers have been slain, then the Lord will come (Rev. 6:11 Gk. and modern versions). This must mean that there will be violent slaying of believers going on right up until the Lord’s return (so the Greek for “killed” implies); which suggests that we have yet to see violent persecution before the second coming.

A further indication that the fifth seal concerns the last days is in the obvious connection between the altar scene and the parable of the widow crying for vengeance on her persecuting adversary; she would be avenged " when the Son of man cometh" (Lk. 18:8) (2). Thus the intense prayers of the persecuted saints of the last days are what prompt the second coming; at least, this is how God wishes us to see it. If our prayers were that fervent now, perhaps the tribulation could be avoided. Revelation 7 then describes how the 144,000 are sealed to ultimately survive the persecution, and due to the accumulated intense prayer of the persecuted believers, the seventh seal of judgment is poured out on the world (8:3,4), resulting finally in the establishment of the Kingdom.


(2) Several relevant studies could be referenced here. The most conclusive is N. Lunn, Alpha And Omega (Sunderland: Willow, 1992).

(3) The many connections between Revelation and the Gospels need to be followed up; the incidents in Christ's earthly experience seem to be woven by him into the fabric of the visions he gives John. The theme of persecution is especially common. The widow crying to God because of persecution represents the prayers of the " elect" remnant of the last days (Lk. 18:7 cp. Mk. 13:20). They will be asking for vengeance against the beast which is persecuting them, and thus this parable is the basis for the souls under the altar crying out for vengeance (Rev. 6:9). Christ's return is therefore the day of vengeance (Lk. 21:22; Is. 34:8; 61:2; 63:4) of his persecuted latter day ecclesia. Despite the power of prayer in bringing about the Lord's return in vengeance, Lk. 18:9-14 continues in this same context to warn that despite this:

- Perhaps the Lord won't find such faith in prayer when he returns

- Many will pray but be so sure of their own righteousness that their prayers are hindered

- The disciples will tend to despise the little ones in the ecclesia.

All these are latter day problems: abuse of " the little ones" , self-righteousness and lack of real faith in prayer.