Revelation 5; 6: Judgment: Seals, Trumpets, Vials
John was in the island of Patmos and the Lord was teaching him a lesson for the churches. The Lord showed John visions that he has described. We must try to see the visions with him. There was a throne, such as a king or judge might sit on. It was the Lord's throne, and it meant that the Lord is King and judge of all. And then a book was seen, perhaps a roll written within and on the back side, rolled up; or possibly a book like our books, with leaves, sealed with seven seals. It meant the Lord's Word, in which is truth to judge all things and to show what is good and bad. But no one could open the book until the Lord Himself, Who is called both the Lamb and the Lion (the Lamb because He is so innocent and gentle, and the Lion because He is so strong and brave), took the book and opened the seals. Then John heard great rejoicings by all the creatures and elders about the throne, and by thousands upon thousands of angels. Some heavenly rejoicings, as those in Revelation 4:8, 11, and 5:12, we sometimes sing in church.
Now the vision continues, and as each seal of the book is opened some new thing is seen. At first a white horse and his rider, who goes forth conquering and to conquer; then a red horse, then a black horse and then a pale horse. Afterward the sun was darkened and the moon became as blood, and stars fell to the earth. The heaven was removed as a scroll when it is rolled together. Kings and rich men of the earth fled from the presence of the Lord. Six seals have now been opened; only one remained, which would be opened soon. The vision must have seemed to John very holy, even if he could not understand all its meaning. It must have given to John and to the churches an assurance that the Lord knew their trials and the cruelty of their enemies, and that He would expose their wickedness and save His people from them.
As we read in chapter 5 of the throne and the book with seals which must be opened, and then in chapter 6 of the opening of the seals, one after another, and the appearing of horses of several colors and of other things, we realize that the vision is giving a picture of judgment in which by truth from the Lord's Word the secrets of all hearts and lives are revealed. Evil things are exposed and flee away from the Lord's presence.
You may be asking when and where the judgment which was pictured by the vision would take place. One answer is that it would take place in the spiritual world among multitudes of people who were coming from the earth, calling themselves Christians. Some of them were coming with very false ideas of what it is to be a Christian and a follower of the Lord; some thinking that they were very wise and deserved honor for their learning, some that they were holy and should be given rule over others. The real quality of these people could not be known and they could not be separated from simple good people until there should be a new opening of the Lord's Word and new light should shine to reveal all hearts and to distinguish good and evil. The new opening of the Lord's Word was given to Swedenborg and to angels, and the judgment took place in the spiritual world in the year 1757. There came order and peace, where confusion and anxiety had been.
There is another answer to the question when and where the judgment would take place. The judgment in the spiritual world, of which we have been thinking, was a clearing of the skies to us on earth, letting the new light shine also into this world. The result is a judgment here. The light shines which is exposing hidden selfishness in slavery and war, in our ways of living in our homes, in our treatment of our neighbors, in our business methods, in our government, and in our churches. This exposure will lead to the recognition of evils in this world and their removal, with the Lord's help. The judgment pictured in John's vision has taken place in the spiritual world and is more slowly taking place in this world. The Revelation tells us toward what the Lord is leading through the confusion that is about us. It gives us courage and faith in the final establishment of the Lord's kingdom in this world. It shows us what to hope for, what to pray for, and work for, that we may be with the Lord and not against Him. The Lord's message of warning and encouragement to the churches of John's time is also a message of warning and encouragement to us and to all followers of the Lord.
1. Why is the Lord sometimes called "the Lamb"? Why is He sometimes called "the Lion"?
2. With how many seals was the book sealed which John saw in his vision? Who alone was able to open the book?
3. How many different numbers are mentioned in chapter 5? What do they signify?
You have in mind that the Revelation opens with the Lord's revealing Himself to John and with the appeal to all who will to live in the sunshine of His presence. The realization of the promise is found in the Holy City. The scenes of judgment which come between describe the exposure and removal of the false and evil things that keep us from the Lord. Scenes of judgment begin with the fourth chapter, and first the exploration of the evil of faith alone. The progress of the exploration is pictured in the opening of seven seals (Revelation 6 and 8); the blowing of seven trumpets (Revelation 8, 9 and 11); and the pouring out of seven bowls (Revelation 15 and 16).
The throne in chapter 4 is the announcement that judgment is at hand. The sealed book means that the light for judgment must be from the Lord's Word, but that He Himself must open it, that the light may shine and judgment be effected. At the opening of the first four seals, horses are seen: white, red, black, and of deathly pallor. We are told that this represents exploration, first of all, of those to be judged as to their understanding of the Word. Recall what you know of the correspondence of a horse with the faculty of spiritual understanding and especially understanding of the Word. The white horse must represent a true understanding of the Word which will bring victory. Note again the appearance of the white horse and of other white horses in Revelation 19, and note in verse 13 of that chapter what the rider on the white horse is called. The red horse represents an understanding of the Word destroyed by evils; and the black horse an understanding destroyed by falsities; and the horse whose rider is death, an understanding utterly without truth or goodness.
Verse 6 means that more external kinds of goodness were destroyed by those in falsity and evil, but that interior forms of goodness and truth were saved from profanation by being hidden from their consciousness. So at the cross the soldiers rent the outer garment but not the inner garment of the Lord.
The souls under the altar, in verses 9-11, represent simple good people who are kept in the protection of the Lord while falsity and evil are active and liable to deceive and harm them. There were very many such in the spiritual world at the time of the judgment who after the judgment were brought into the freedom of their life.
The darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars we easily understand as describing the loss of heavenly light in all its degrees; and the rolling up of the heavens represents the complete separation from heaven and conjunction with hell. The hiding of kings and rich men from the Lord is the fleeing from the Lord's presence of those who before had seemed wise and powerful but whose evil hearts are now revealed. Find help in R. and E. on chapters 5 and 6.