Life-Study of Revelationby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In the book of Revelation there are a number of insertions, and chapter seven is the first of them. This chapter is not the continuation of chapter six. It is an insertion between the sixth and seventh seals, showing how God cares for His people while He is about to execute His judgment upon the earth. Chapter eight is the continuation of chapter six. At the end of chapter six we have the sixth seal, and in the beginning of chapter eight we have the seventh. The opening of the seventh seal will bring in the seven trumpets, the last three of which constitute the great tribulation (8:1-2). But before this transpires, God will seal the Israelites whom He intends to preserve (7:3).
God will preserve His two peoples—the Israelites and the redeemed saints. Why does this insertion regarding God’s preservation of His people come here? Because in the sixth seal we see the warning of the coming tribulation. As we have seen, the fifth seal is the cry of the martyred saints for revenge, and the sixth seal is God’s answer to this cry, which is also a warning to the dwellers on the earth that the tribulation will soon come. Since the ascension of Christ, there have been a great number of earthquakes and other calamities. All these have been natural calamities. However, beginning at the opening of the sixth seal, the calamities will no longer be natural but supernatural. Both natural and supernatural calamities are God’s punishment upon the earth. This rebellious earth deserves God’s punishment, and the punishing hand of God has never been removed from it. To a certain extent, God punishes the earth for His purpose. Since the ascension of Christ, God has been punishing the earth.
One aspect of God’s punishment is seen in the destruction of the city of Jerusalem by Titus and his armies. That destruction was prophesied by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 24:2 where, speaking of the temple, He said to His disciples, “See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus for two reasons: because the Jewish religion was rebellious against God’s economy and because this religion was a negative influence on the church in Jerusalem. In Acts 21 we see how much the old Jewish religion influenced the church. By the time of A.D. 70 the Lord could no longer tolerate the rebellion of the Jewish religion and its influence upon the church, so He sent the Roman army to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. That destruction was a terrible punishment which was accompanied by famine, pestilence, and death. After that, throughout the centuries, natural calamities have been and will be used by God to punish the earth until the sixth seal.
At the time of the sixth seal, the calamities will be changed from natural calamities to supernatural ones. The earth will be shaken, and the sun, moon, and stars will be damaged. These calamities will be a preface to the seventh seal. When the seventh seal is executed, the situation will be terrible and no one will be able to bear it. Shortly after the opening of the seventh seal, the first trumpet will be sounded, and “the third part of the earth” will be burnt up (8:7). At the sounding of the second trumpet, “the third part of the sea” will become blood (8:8). At the sounding of the third trumpet, a great star will fall upon “the third part of the rivers and upon the springs of waters” and “the third part of the waters” will become wormwood (8:10-11). At the sounding of the fourth trumpet, “the third part of the sun and the third part of the moon and the third part of the stars” will be smitten “so that the third part of them might be darkened” (8:12). God made the earth for man to live on. The sun, moon, and stars all help to maintain life on earth. But because the dwellers on earth have been so insolent toward Him for centuries, the time will come when God will no longer endure it. He will come in to judge the earth, the sea, the rivers, and the sun, moon, and stars. The earth is for human existence, and every form of life on earth is for man’s benefit. The animals, vegetables, and minerals are all for the existence of mankind. These did not come into being by accident, but were planned and created by God. For example, there is no air on the moon, but there is air on earth. Around the globe is a layer of air which the Bible calls the firmament (Gen. 1:7). The earth is the planet with a firmament. God created it in such a way so that it would produce the supplies for maintaining human life. The air, sunshine, and water are all necessary for man’s existence. But after God judges the earth and heaven, the earth will no longer be a suitable place for man to live on.
In Matthew 24:6 and 7 the Lord prophesied that two kinds of wars would come—wars of people against people and wars of nation against nation, that is, civil wars and international wars. After Christ’s ascension, these wars began to take place. The Lord also prophesied in Matthew 24 that there would be “earthquakes in various places” (v. 7). A recent article said that each year there will be approximately five to six thousand earthquakes ranging from two to eight on the Richter scale. This is the fulfillment of the Lord’s prophecy. In His prophecy the Lord seemed to be saying, “Don’t live on this earth so complacently, not caring for God’s purpose. You must realize that God has a purpose on this earth and that you must turn to Him for the fulfillment of His purpose.” God will warn people again and again with wars and earthquakes until the time of the fifth seal when the martyred souls can no longer tolerate the situation. The martyred saints will then cry out, saying, “How long, O sovereign Lord, holy and true, will You not judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (6:10). God’s answer comes in the sixth seal when the earth will be shaken and the heavenly hosts will be smitten as an introduction to and warning of the coming tribulation. The sixth seal and the first five trumpets are closely related to one another in time.
At this juncture we need to consider the second chapter of Joel. Joel 2 says that certain things will occur before the day of the Lord. If you read New Testament prophecy along with the Old Testament prophecies, you will see that there is a time called the day of the Lord. This is the great tribulation. The day of the Lord means the day of the Lord’s wrath, the day of His coming in to interfere with the world by means of supernatural calamities. The day of the Lord will be terrible. Several prophets of the Old Testament mention the day of the Lord, and they all indicate that it will be a dreadful day (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Zech. 14:1; Mal. 4:5). The sixth seal will be before the day of the Lord, meaning that it will be before the great tribulation. The great tribulation will begin at the sounding of the fifth trumpet. The first four trumpets are the preliminary to the great tribulation. It is similar to starting an automobile. First the ignition is turned on, the motor starts, and then the car will run. In like manner, after the warning of the sixth seal, the first four trumpets will be the preliminary to the great tribulation. But, like an automobile which is warming up but has not yet moved, the four trumpets are the preparation for the great tribulation. But even these trumpets will cause severe suffering. The damage to the earth, waters, and the heavenly hosts will be greater than that caused by the earthquake of the sixth seal. From the time of the sixth seal, there will be nothing good for man on earth.
The New Testament indicates that the early overcomers, such as the man-child and the firstfruits, will be taken away from the earth shortly before the sixth seal. However, we cannot calculate the exact time. But according to Revelation, Matthew, and other portions of the Word, we can say that the first kind of rapture, the raptures of the man-child and the firstfruits, will take place before the sixth seal. Recall that the Lord promised to the church in Philadelphia to keep them out of the hour of trial which will come upon all the inhabited earth (3:10). The Lord’s lovers and seekers will be taken away before the sixth seal. Immediately after the opening of the sixth seal, we have chapter seven, an insertion revealing that before the great tribulation God will do two things to preserve His people: He will seal the chosen remnant of Israel and He will begin the rapture of the redeemed ones of the church.
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