THE SEVEN VISIONS
The main body of Revelation has seven eschatological visions.
- THE VISION IN HEAVEN: Chapter 4:1 – 5:14
- God as creator – Chapter 4
- God as redeemer – Chapter 5
- THE VISION OF THE SEVEN SEALS: Chapter 6:1 – 8:1
- THE VISION OF THE SEVEN TRUMPETS: Chapter 8:2 – 11:19
- THE VISION OF THE WAR BETWEEN THE WOMAN & THE DRAGON: Chapter 12:1 – 14:20
- THE VISION OF THE SEVEN BOWLS OF WRATH: Chapter 15:1 – 19:10
- THE VISION OF THE MILLENNIAL REIGN & FINAL JUDGMENT: Chapter 19:11 – 20:15
- THE VISION OF NEW JERUSALEM – OUR ETERNAL HOME: Chapter 21:1 – 22:5
The key to understanding Revelation is to allow each of these visions to stand alone. Traditional interpretations provide that all seven visions follow each other in sequence beginning with Chapter 4:1 which is interpreted to be the Rapture. Thus, the entirety of Visions 1 – 5 must fit into a seven year period of time called The Great Tribulation. This sequential approach leaves a lot of confusion. Many give up rather than wade through the symbolism.
It was recently pointed out to me that the language of Revelation suggests that one vision is followed by another as John the Apostle says, “after this I saw…” and “then…” Remember John is seeing one vision and ‘then’ another. He is relating to the reader the order in which he sees the visions; he is not necessarily assigning them to a sequential order of events. We do no harm to the veracity of scripture by allowing each of these visions to stand alone. With that being said, it is obvious that the whole pattern is historical beginning with or near God’s creation of this Earth and continuing through to the end of this order and the beginning of the next eternal kingdom. Drop your preconceived ideas and what you’ve heard others say; let’s journey into scripture and try to see the simple interpretation.
VISION 1: A VISION IN HEAVEN: Chapter 4:1 – 5:14
- God as creator/sustainer – Chapter 4. The purpose of chapter four is to show the reader the throne room of creation; and that regardless how bad things get, God is the creator and sustainer of this order. He is on His throne and although Satan appears to be in control of the Earth, God has written the final chapter.
- God as redeemer – Chapter 5 – shows the adoration of the Lamb slain. Christ, the righteous judge, is our deliverer, so we have hope despite the events about to unfold.
Keep in mind that we have observed in the throne room of Heaven, the Lamb – slain. It is He who is worthy to open the seven seals. Also, note (as my wife pointed out through her Revelation study) there is no mention of the church in Heaven in either chapter 4 or 5.
VISION 2: THE VISION OF THE SEVEN SEALS: Chapter 6:1 – 8:1
The opening of the seven seals begins after the crucifixion; it is Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God – slain, who is opening the seals. Many believe the seven seals are opened after the rapture of the church, and they point to Rev.4:1 as that event. However, because of the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 24, I believe that the first four of the seven seals typify the entire period of time, in which we live, that runs from the cross-resurrection event until the end of this age.
Compare with Matthew 24:1-9. The entire period of time correctly called ‘the last days’ is typified by 1.False Messiahs, 2.Wars and rumors of Wars, 3.Famine and Pestilence, 4.Persecution and Death. This has been the nature of the world for 2000 years. These four events are synonymous with the first four seals, also known as ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ found in Rev. 6:1-8. As stated in Matthew 24:8; “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” This simply means that these signs will grow in intensity and frequency until the end comes, or until the church is delivered.
So, if the breaking of the seals begins after the lamb is slain, when do the seals end? Revelation 6:12-17 is typical of Old Testament passages describing final judgment. Look at verse 17, “For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
My own view, and that of Dr. Douglas Ezell, Revelations on Revelation, New Sounds From Old Symbols, is that the Seven Seals typify life on Earth but more specifically what those who are in Christ Jesus will experience. False Christ’s, War, Pestilence and Death follow life on Earth for all, but when the 5th seal is opened, we are in the throne room of Heaven where we see the martyrs of this whole period. In this view we are not shown what is happening on Earth, because the seals typify the followers of the Lamb and the Bride is absent from the Earth during this time which corresponds with the “First Woe” or Trumpet #5. Partial judgment against ungodliness does not apply to the followers of the lamb, therefore, no correlation between Seal 5 and Trumpet 5 other than both are spiritual views of the end time.
Seal 6 and Trumpet 6 both depict Great Tribulation, and parallel the Bowls of Wrath giving us a different perspective of the same time period. Chapter 7 shows those who are redeemed during tribulation, (still part of Seal #6). Notice in chapter 7:15 the language is present tense, not future. They are, “…before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. …and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” We know this actually happens following the 1000 year reign of Christ upon the Earth, but here it is in Chapter 7 prior to the Seventh Seal.
The Seventh Seal is opened and there is ‘silence in Heaven’. This silence represents “The End!” This is not silence in Heaven because the Trumpets are about to sound.
I am convinced that Dr. Doug Ezell is correct in suggesting that the seventh seal represents the End. It is the end of that vision and represents the end of recorded history, thus the beginning of our eternal dwelling. Dr. Ezell says:
“In the Apocrypha there are two references to silence. 2 Esdras 6:39 reads as follows: ‘And then the Spirit was hovering, and darkness and silence embraced everything; the sound of man’s voice was not yet there.’ This statement was made in the midst of a discussion on creation. Again, 2 Esdras 7:29-31 speaks of silence at the time of the revealing of the Messiah, new creation, and judgment: ‘And after these years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath. And the world shall be turned back to primeval silence for seven days as it was at the first beginnings; so that no one shall be left. And after seven days the world, which is not yet awake, shall be roused, and that which is corruptible shall perish.’
“I am not… claiming that the Apocrypha is sacred script. I am trying to show that a first century interpretation of the end posited a belief that there was to be a silence before the new creation to correspond with the silence before the first creation.” -Dr. Douglas Ezell, Revelations on Revelation, New Sounds From Old Symbols.
VISION 3: THE VISION OF THE SEVEN TRUMPETS: Chapter 8:2 – 11:19
Chapter 8 verse 2 begins a new vision that parallels the seven seals, in time. Here in the first four trumpets you have partial judgments cast upon the Earth because of wickedness and unbelief. Whereas the Seven Seals give us a vision of the followers of the Lamb of God during the entire period of time from the Crucifixion / Resurrection event until the end of this order, so the Seven Trumpets give another vision of the partial judgments that will be unleashed because of the followers of Satan. I say partial because, you see the pattern of 1/3 Earth burned, 1/3 sea becomes blood, 1/3 fresh waters polluted, 1/3 heavens struck and darkened. The first four Trumpets, as the first four seals, are physical/natural events.
Trumpet #5 brings torment against men who do not have the mark of God on their foreheads. This is ‘the first Woe’. This is partial judgment targeting those who are not followers of the Lamb. These judgments may be natural consequences of ungodly lifestyles, but it is a time of misery, agony and demonic oppression for those who do not have the seal of God in their foreheads. I think we have to admit that just as Christian martyrdom has typified the whole ‘end time’ so partial judgment against ungodliness also must typify the entire end time. Seal and Trumpet #5 give us a spiritual view of the entire end-time.
Trumpet #6, in my opinion, gives another view of judgment (Great Tribulation) and here, death to men, ‘the Second Woe’.
The 7th Trumpet, ‘the third Woe’, is ‘The End’, representing ‘final victory’ for God, or The Great White Throne of Judgment where Eternal Reward or Eternal Punishment is meted; a joy to followers of the Lamb; final judgment for unbelievers. Look at the language. Rev. 11:15, “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” Verse 17, “…you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.”(present tense) Verse 18, “…the time has come for judging the dead and rewarding your servants, the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name.” This is a picture of ‘the end’. Shall we say, ‘the end’ of this order and ‘the beginning’ of the eternal order, for all believers.
VISION 4: THE VISION OF THE WAR BETWEEN THE WOMAN & THE DRAGON: Chapter 12:1 – 14:20
Chapters 12-14 is a spiritualized vision of ‘TIME’. It begins at or near creation and runs until ‘TIME’ is no more.
This passage demonstrates that these are not consecutive visions. In this vision the woman is Israel, Rev.12:1, 2, who gives birth to Christ, Rev.12:5. The Dragon, Satan, (who carries a third of the angels of Heaven with him when he is cast out of Heaven, Rev.12:7-9,) is ready to devour Christ. (Herod’s decree to slaughter all children under two years of age in Bethlehem.) The child was snatched up to God (resurrected) and the woman fled into the desert. (Israel into dispersion)
Timeline: Satan was cast out of Heaven with his angels before or shortly after creation, not midway through Great Tribulation. Satan was given title deed to the Earth by Adam in the Garden of Eden. Satan and his demons control the Earth and the atmosphere surrounding Earth, as well as the underworld.
Daniel 10:12; Daniel’s prayer was heard on the first day of the three-week period, but the answer was delayed because of angelic warfare .
Matthew 4:8; Satan told Jesus that He could have all the kingdoms of the Earth if He would worship Satan. Jesus didn’t contest Satan’s authority to give it.
My opinion: The woman (Israel) was protected by a great Eagle, (USA) out of the reach of the serpent. The serpent spewed water like a river to overtake the woman. (Holocaust) but the earth helped the woman (WWII). This enraged the Dragon and he proceeded to make war against the offspring of the woman, (Christians) “…who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” I do believe that we can agree that since WWII Christians have come under heavy assault of Satan.
Chapter 13 has to do with the Beast and his False Prophet. This introduces the unholy trinity. In the previous chapter, the Dragon is Satan. This is the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet. The Anti-Christ is ‘the man of lawlessness’, the political ruler who sets himself up as God. The False Prophet is his enabler. He is the leader of the ‘one-world religion’. He introduces the ‘mark of the beast’, (666) thought to be the cashless society. This is another view on Earth during ‘Great Tribulation’.
Chapter 14 takes us back to Heaven and Final Judgment on Earth. We see the 144,000 who have been redeemed through Great Tribulation. (Compare this with Revelation Chapter 7) The angel who has carried the eternal gospel proclaims that the hour of God’s judgment has come. A second angel proclaims that Babylon the Great has fallen. A third angel proclaims that anyone who worships the beast and/or receives his mark (666) is damned.
Chapter 14:14-19 speaks specifically of the ‘harvesting of the Earth’. The language of verses 14-16 speaks of the rapture which immediately precedes judgment.
NOTICE: REGARDING THE RAPTURE!
The sealing of the saints in chapter 7, the measuring of the temple in chapter 11, and the harvest of the Earth in chapter 14 all may speak of the ‘rapture’. If this is the case, these events must align? There is only one rapture! (There are two additional resurrections)Verses 17-19 speak of final judgment when the grapes are thrown into the winepress of God’s wrath. The closing language sounds like the language of the final battle of Armageddon where the blood rises to the horses’ bridles for 1600 stadia. (180 miles) From this portion of the vision you can understand how some arrive at the pre-wrath rapture conclusion that the rapture immediately precedes Armageddon. However, we can find throughout scripture where we are given order of events without the determining time verification.
For example: Malachi 3:1 speaks of the Messiah’s first appearance, including John The Baptist. The very next verse (verse 2) speaks of Messiah’s second coming; at least two thousand years between verses 1 and 2; so here, in chapter 14, we know that rapture precedes judgment. We don’t know the period of time between the rapture and judgment from this passage.
Another indication in scripture of a long passage of time is seen in Luke 21:24. In this one verse we see another prophecy where 1897 years pass between the first and second sentences of this verse. Speaking of the Jewish Dispersion verse 24 declares, “they… will be taken as prisoners to all the nations.” (this began in AD 70 when Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed by the Roman General Titus. A later Jewish uprising in AD 133 – 135 completed the dispersion of the Jews into the nations. Jerusalem was turned into a pagan city called Aelia Capitolina and Jews were forbidden to live there.) “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Jerusalem returned to Jewish control in 1967; made the capital of Israel in 1980) From the dispersion to the return to Jerusalem was 1897 years.
VISION 5: THE VISION OF THE SEVEN BOWLS OF WRATH: Chapter 15:1 – 19:10
The visions of the seven bowls begin after the rapture or the harvesting of the Earth. This is commonly called ‘Great Tribulation’. Verses 1-4 indicate that those who persevered are beside the glass sea in Heaven. Now begins the full judgment upon the Earth. Whereas the Trumpets had represented partial judgments upon the Earth, Sea, rivers and heavens, so the ‘bowls of wrath – poured out’ represent full judgment upon the earth, the sea, the rivers, and the heavens, all affecting men, all temporal or physical in nature. The 5th Bowl, similar to the 5th Trumpet represents Spiritual Judgment on the Kingdom of the Beast. In my opinion, the 6th Seal, the 6th Trumpet and the 6th Bowl all represent the battle campaigns of Armageddon, culminating with the final battle as represented by Bowl #6 and War with the Dragon, Rev. 14:17-19. At any rate, The 7th Bowl speaks of the end, as does the 7th Seal and the 7th Trumpet.
Chapter 16:17 says, “The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It s done!” Chapter 19:6, says, (present tense) “our God reigns’. Verse 7 says, ‘the wedding of the lamb has come.” Word for word, the Greek says: “Because the marriage of the lamb came, and His woman (or wife) prepared herself.”
My interpretation: “The marriage of the lamb came, and His wife was ready.”
VISION 6: THE VISION OF THE MILLENNIAL REIGN & FINAL JUDGMENT: Chapter 19:11 – 20:15
Chapter 19:11 begins the description of the Vision of the Millennial Reign of Christ. It begins with a description of Christ at His Second Coming. He comes bringing the armies of Heaven. He is coming as a conqueror. He is coming as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to rule and to reign upon the Earth. His weapon is a two-edged sword proceeding from His mouth. Here again is the ‘winepress of God’ mentioned. Armageddon follows.
This culmination of the campaign called Armageddon is the official Second Coming of Jesus. The very day will be known beforehand; for this occurs 1290 days following the Abomination of Desolation in the temple where Anti-Christ sets himself up to be God. Because of Scriptural prophecies, the Anti-Christ and the armies of the Earth will proceed to Israel to STOP Christ from returning and setting up His kingdom on Earth. This cannot be the rapture because of the ‘rapture’ no one knows the day and the hour. Only the Father knows, not even the Son. This day will be known and the armies of the Earth will come against Messiah. The Anti-Christ and False Prophet will be cast into the Lake of Fire; the rest of the armies of the world will be killed then and there.
An angel from Heaven binds Satan and locks him away in the Abyss to keep him from deceiving the nations. He will be bound for a thousand years before being released for a short time. The righteous dead will be resurrected at this time. This is called the first Resurrection. These include those who have died during Great Tribulation without taking the Mark of the Beast. This is when the Judgment Seat of Christ occurs and the ‘faithful servants’ will rule and reign with Christ during the thousand years. (Matt. 25:14-30)
Following the thousand years, Satan will be loosed and will immediately begin rebellion against God and the people of God. The world will again gather around Jerusalem to destroy God’s people, but fire will fall from Heaven and devour them; Satan will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
The Great White Throne of Judgment follows. (Matt. 25: 31- 46) This is the Second Resurrection and is followed by the Second Death. If anyone was not found written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the Lake of Fire, the Second Death. Death and Hell were also cast into the Lake of Fire.
VISION 7: THE VISION OF NEW JERUSALEM – OUR ETERNAL HOME: Chapter 21:1 – 22:5
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”
The Holy City, the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven. This signals the beginning of the eternal state where God will dwell with men. This is when God wipes away every tear from their eyes. There is no more death, mourning, crying or pain for the old order has passed away. This will be Earth inhabited with immortals.
New Jerusalem is pictured as a cubic city of 1500 miles in length, width and depth. We are now three dimensional creatures who move about upon a plane, because we are mortal and subject to gravity. Then, we will be fourth dimensional creatures (immortals) moving about within a cube. The Bible speaks of these four dimensions which are almost incomprehensible to us. The Bible speaks of the length, width, height, and depth of God’s love. (Eph. 3:18)
There will be no night there! God is the light of the new order.
Finally, we conclude by again entering the throne room of God, where we can see God’s face, and we will be with Him forever and forever.
THE EPILOGUE: Revelation 22:6-21
Words of Comfort, Words of Warning.
17. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
20. “He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
SEALS TRUMPETS BOWLS (click on this hyperlink for chart)