It’s not G-d who sends human beings to eternal punishment, it's human beings who choose eternal punishment in spite of Him.
An examination of Revelation 9.
Chapter 9 shifts our focus from plagues that affect humanity (non-believers) indirectly to plagues that spare nature while harming humanity. What is unleashed is from a depth of darkness that has sought to usurp G-d’s throne from the beginning.
Due to the symbolic, metaphoric and at times, allegorical representations of Yochanan’s writing; it’s unwise to be dogmatic concerning our interpretation of this chapter. However, there are some supportable interpretations and some foolish conjectures: we must avoid the latter.
Whatever we conclude, regarding the identities of the messengers, locusts and riders of Revelation 9, G-d is Master over them all. G-d is in full control of what is taking place and, even in the midst of these dark events He is working out His purpose.
9:1 Then the fifth messenger sounded (a shofar), and I saw a star from heaven which had descended (fallen) to the earth; and the key of the abyss (Hebrew: “teh-home” the deep, bottomless pit) was given to him.
Unlike the star in Rev. 8:10—which is foremost a cosmic entity and only via extrapolation a personification—this star is a clear personification, “the key of the abyss (Hebrew: “teh-home” the deep, bottomless pit) was given to him.”
It’s of note that this star had fallen to earth and that a key (access and authority) was given to him. However apocryphal Hebrew uses the terms, “fallen” and descending” synonymously, therefore the term, “fallen” does not necessarily denote a, “fallen angel”. The key on the other hand is without doubt, given by G-d to the messenger either directly or indirectly.
Commentary has been made suggesting any number of possibilities for the star’s identity, ranging from Nero (The Roman Emperor) to Satan himself. However, I see nothing in the text that confirms beyond doubt that any of these suggestions is correct.
What is clear is that the star-messenger has no independent authority, he receives his authority from G-d. The key opens the lock to the shaft of the great abyss (the deep Gen 1:2, 6, 7; 7:11; Proverbs 8:28). This abyss is thought to have a narrow shaft-like opening that widens in to a great bottomless chasm beneath both the earth and Sheol.
The abyss (deep unfathomable prison) is often confusing to the reader and even more regularly misunderstood due to its similarity to Gehennah (the temporal place of torment in Sheol, set apart for the enemies of G-d).
The Abyss of Revelation 9 is not Sheol:
It’s important to note that the abyss is the intermediate place of punishment for fallen angels, demons, the beast, the false prophet and Satan (Rev. 9:1, 2, 11; 11:7; 20:1, 3). The place of final punishment, is the lake of fire mentioned in Revelation 20:10, 14, 15).
“And Yeshua (Jesus) asked him, “What is your name?” And the demon said, “I am Legion”; for many demons had entered the man. The demons were imploring Yeshua (Him) not to command them to go away into the abyss.” –Luke 8:30-31
The apocryphal writings of Enoch support the idea that the abyss of Hebrew eschatology is seen as an entirely separate holding place set apart for the fallen angels and demonic beings (Enoch 18:12-16; 21:1-10).
2 He opened the abyss, and smoke went up out of the shaft (of the Abyss/Pit), like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the shaft (of the abyss/Pit).
Once again the reader is reminded of the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 10:22), of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:28), and of the giving of the Torah at Sinai (Exodus 19:18). This speaks of judgement against the inhabitants of the earth (non-believers).
The air (filled with the smoke of the abyss) is understood to be the abode of the demonic forces (Ephesians 2:2): this is consistent with what is about to be unleashed upon the earth.
3 Then out of the smoke came locusts to the earth, and power was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power.
This plague reflects the eighth plague of Egypt (Exodus 10:12-10). They are, “given” power, G-d is in control.
The nation that will be the vehicle of G-d’s judgement described in the prophetic book of Joel, are likened to locusts, even using three of the four key descriptors used in Revelation 9:5-12.
The Hebrew words used to describe the locust are: “arbeh” which comes from the root, “rabbah” meaning great, “gazam” shearer, “arbel” swarmer, “hasil” finisher, “solam” swallower or annihilator, “hagol” galloper, and “tzelatzel” creeker. The terror of the locust is written in its many names, they effect a devastating, all consuming destruction (Hence the name of the one in authority over them Rev. 9:11), leaving their victims desolate.
4 They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the people who do not have the seal of G-d on their foreheads (intellect-Mental assent).
These demonic locusts however, don’t act like the locusts of earth’s natural plagues. They have no authority to, nor do they damage the grass, or any green thing. They’re also kept from harming those who belong to G-d (All who are sealed with Messiah’s name, not just the 144,000 Jews).
The locust’s origin (The abyss), is secure proof that they’re demonic beings. They are described in the same way that Joel the prophet described the army that would come against Israel. Therefore they’re not literal locusts but metaphorical locusts. Demonic forces released into the air to do G-d’s bidding. Notice that they are released, not sent.
5 And they were commanded not to kill anyone, but to torment for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a person. 6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.
The command not to kill is yet another act of mercy on G-d’s part. He is ever longing for the repentance of His creation. The five month period uses the natural life cycle of the locust as a period of time that denotes a half way point to completion (10). The number five is also said by some to represent grace, a fitting observation given the context. The torment like that of a scorpion is an allusion to intense and continual agony, the kind that if untreated by pain suppressants, will cause any human being to ask for death rather than have to continue to endure it.
The language used, “And in those days people will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death flees from them.” Is similar to that of Jeremiah 8:3. These words denote the results of the harshest of judgements, which follow continual and wilful hatred toward G-d (Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30). But these same physical torments are also experienced by the righteous (Job 3:21). We are not sealed and protected from physical pain, rather it is our eternal security and life everlasting that we are secured for. Paul/Shaul the apostle views life and death quite differently to those being punished in the present text. Shaul says:
“Moreover, I’m hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart (die) and be with Messiah, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh (live) is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) through my coming to you again.” –Philippians 1:23-26
7 The appearance of the locusts was like horses prepared for battle; and on their heads appeared to be crowns like gold, and their faces were like the faces of human beings. 8 They had hair like the hair of women, and their teeth were like the teeth of lions. 9 They had breastplates like breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was like the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to battle.
These words mirror those of Joel 1:4-6; 2:4-5. We note that they are like horses strengthened for battle and that they had what appeared to be crowns like gold. The phrase, “appeared to be” is important because elsewhere Yochanan speaks of actual crowns. These locusts have a sort of authority but it is temporal (only appearing to be), as is their power and that which results from it.
The, “hair like that of women” is said by some to simply refer to the locust’s antennae, however I see in this a symbol of seduction, an ironic element to the demonic workings of these beings. My wife and I have experienced many times, the privilege of seeing people set free from demonic forces that had seduced them through seemingly innocent circumstances but had latter brought great torment into their lives.
This seduction is also represented in many false religions and philosophies of our time which attract adherents with promises of fulfilment and happiness, grooming them for a later stage in their development where they will be manipulated, controlled and used by the leaders of these groups. Islamic terrorist organizations employee similar tactics, luring young men and women with the promise of spiritual reward, only to use them as cannon fodder in a hate filled war against the G-d of Israel.
The, “teeth like lions” denote the unrelenting fierceness of their attack and the breast plates are representative of their resilience in battle. The sound of their coming is the sound of utter terror, chariots thundering, shaking the earth beneath the feet of their victims.
10 They have tails like scorpions, and stings; and in their tails is their power to hurt human beings for five months. 11 They have as king over them, the messenger of the abyss (Hebrew: “teh-home” the deep, bottomless pit); his name in Hebrew is Abaddon (destroyer), and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon (destroyer).
The fact that their tails were like those of scorpions indicates that even after they’ve seemingly passed by, their destructive purpose will lash out behind them. Thus there will be no rest from their destructive course. The five months is an opportunity for repentance, it is not to be seen as a limit to the judgement of the first woe, but as a holding back of the judgement to come, it is an act of mercy on G-d’s part.
Unlike the natural locusts, the demonic locusts have a ruler over them (Proverbs 30:27). This, “Angel of the Abyss” is not an angel from the abyss or in the abyss, rather he is the angel who has been given authority by G-d to rule over the abyss. With regard to Jewish tradition this angel is most like Yeremial, who has authority over the abyss. There is no need to presume that this ruler is an evil fallen angel, after all, G-d himself is the ultimate ruler over Satan and his angels, and this doesn’t mean that G-d is evil.
The name of this messenger is Abaddon (Destroyer), from the Hebrew root meaning destruction (Job 26:6; Psalm 88:11; Proverbs 15:11; 27:20).
In Hebrew thought angelic beings who bring destruction, death and war, are not presumed to be evil. G-d Himself is said to ride like one armed for battle (Isaiah 19:1). The Angel of The L-rd, who some have linked to Messiah Himself, goes out to put to death the enemies of Israel (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36).
12 The first woe is past; behold, two woes are still coming after these things.
13 Then the sixth messenger sounded (a shofar), and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar (altar of incense as alluded to in the previous chapters) which is before G-d,
One third of the devastating woes has passed. The two woes that follow will increase humanity’s suffering and effect even greater judgements upon the enemies of G-d.
The voice from the four horns of the altar of incense seems to be the voice of the Lamb (Yeshua) responding to the united prayers of the martyrs (Rev. 6:9-11) and the saints (Rev 8:3-5), who had requested vengeance from G-d. We should note that this voice follows the voice (sounding) of the Ram’s horn (A symbol of Messiah’s voice).
14 One saying to the sixth messenger who had the shofar, “Release the four messengers who are bound at the great river Euphrates (Syria-Iraq).”
It’s difficult to determine who the four messengers are. They can’t be the angels of Rev. 7:1-3 because those angels are the angels of the four winds. These angels are bound, which denotes a form of imprisonment. The angels of Rev. 7:1-3 are instructed to wait, they are angels of HaShem who do His bidding willingly. These four angels on the other hand are bound and are released only to serve the greater purpose of G-d. Therefore these angels should be understood to be the evil spiritual forces who act as motivators to the pursuant armies.
The Euphrates is the historical border of Israel’s promised territory (Genesis 15:18) and spans modern Iraq and Syria. The Euphrates was also the border of the Roman Empire at the time of Revelation’s writing and would have brought to mind images of the Parthian’s for Yochanan’s readers.
15 And the four messengers, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of humanity.
The fact that these angels are said to have been prepared for, “the hour, day and month” (Num. 1:1; Haggai 2:10) denotes G-d’s precise timing for the events of History, past present and future. He has held back, released and sent out His judgements throughout the history of creation.
These angels, though demonic and previously bound, are more than willing to do what is evil, thus they are allowed (not sent) to kill a third of humanity. The third reminds us that two thirds remain.
16 The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. 17 And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breast plates the colour of fire (red) and of blue and of sulphur (yellow); and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and sulphur.
These armies are not the four angels but are motivated by them. The number two hundred million is meant to be understood as the literal number of riders of a literal army. We interpret it this way because Yochanan adds the phrase, “I heard the number of them.” Meaning that Yochanan wasn’t just approximating them from what he saw or using metaphorical numbers from his traditional Jewish understanding.
The riders of this army are seated on horses (vehicles) that carry plagues in the form of fire, smoke and sulphur. These plagues may be as practical as the destructive bombing and burning of cities, the deaths of residents due to smoke inhalation and pollution and poisoning resulting from sulphur gas.
It’s interesting to note that the riders are attired in primary colours, red, blue and yellow, perhaps signifying the elemental nature of the plagues and the death that results.
18 A third of humanity was killed by these three plagues, by the (1) fire and the (2) smoke and the (3) sulphur which proceeded out of their mouths.19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm.
If we interpret the plagues metaphorically we see them as forces that issue from the vehicles (horses) of this army. The power that brings these plagues comes from before (mouth) and behind (Tail). The hatred in the intent of this army is witnessed both as it approaches and in the aftermath. The tails like serpents (a demonic symbol) attack those who have been wounded and have fallen in the wake of the army.
From a Hebraic perspective this brings to mind the torment which Israel suffered during the snake plague in the desert (Numbers 21). One is reminded that only by looking upon the defeated snake on the pole, that is, the complete work of the cross of Messiah, could Israel be saved.
20 The rest of humanity, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands (actions) (1), they continued to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see (2) nor hear (3) nor walk; 21 and they did not repent of their murders or of their sorceries or of their immorality or of their thefts.
“The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
made by human hands (1).
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see (2).
They have ears, but cannot hear (3),
nor is there breath in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.” –Tehilim/Psalm 135:15-18
The idols are:
1.) Made by human effort
2.) Can’t see
3.) Can’t hear.
It’s fitting that a correlation be drawn between the demonic hordes of these verses and the idolatrous pagan worship of inanimate objects, Shaul/Paul explains:
“Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to G-d, and I don’t want you to be participants with demons. You can’t drink the cup of the L-rd and the cup of demons; you can’t have a part in both the L-rd’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the L-rd’s jealousy? Are we stronger than Him?” –1 Corinthians 10:19-22
The tragic irony of these verses can be seen today. We are being destroyed by the very demonic forces we worship. So many reject G-d, even in the most distressing circumstances. People dying of terrible diseases curse G-d rather than cry out to him, those under oppressive regimes curse the G-d of Israel rather than repenting and turning away from their false gods, in particular the false feminine moon deity Allah. Though we witness the deaths of thousands on the nightly news, we continue to look for ways to free ourselves in our own strength, saying, “We don’t need G-d, we have science, medicine, technology, space exploration, other spiritual forces, self-deification, inner power, pride and a new morality. We will rule the universe.”
The present scripture reinforces the sobering truth that it’s not G-d who sends human beings to eternal punishment, it's human beings who choose eternal punishment in spite of Him.
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
The workings of G-d are not bound by time, to the contrary, time is bound by the workings of G-d.
An examination of Revelation 8
8:1 When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there came silence in the heavens for about half an hour.
This chapter begins, “When” rather than, “After this” which indicates an indefinite chronological location for the events that follow.
We should go no further without reaffirming the fact that it is the Lamb of G-d (Yeshua), Who opens the seal. What results is born of His resurrected worthiness and His will, joined to the will of His Father.
The opening of the seventh seal completes the number and releases the inner contents of the scroll of G-d’s decrees. In doing so it also releases seven shofar blasts from seven angels, which will in turn release seven bowls to be poured out over the earth.
The silence denotes the awe of G-d and is pregnant with the coming shofrot (Rams horn blasts). It’s a silence that precedes the approaching wrath of G-d against His enemies and the enemies of His people (Jew and Gentile). Zechariah 2 explains that G-d has sent His messenger to bring punishment to the nations who have persecuted Israel (ethnic), it goes on to say that He will gather people to Himself from every nation and restore Jerusalem and Zion (ethnic Israel). These words of promise are followed by a silence as the reader considers the metaphor of The King HaShem rising from His throne to perform His wonders.
“Be silent, all flesh, before HaShem; for He has risen out of his holy habitation.” –Zechariah 2:13
To read this silence in context, we must remember that we are witnessing the heavenly Temple/Miskhan (Tent of meeting). We are about to read of the offering of incense by a select angelic messenger who acts in the role of a priest. The process of offering incense in the Temple was carried out in relative silence each day before the holy of holies on the altar of incense, which stood outside the curtain. This was done prior to the first sacrifice of the day and after the last sacrifice. While the incense was being offered worshippers would stand in the outer courts davening prayers. This is referred to in the following portion of Luke’s gospel.
“According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to enter into the temple of HaShem and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying in the outer courts at the hour of incense.” –Luke 1:9-10
We note that in the present text the silence takes place in the heavens. This was reflected in the service of the earthly temple (a shadow of the temple in the heavens) during the hour of incense. While the inner temple was silent, those in the outer courts prayed. I believe we are seeing the same pattern here. This silence in the heavens denotes the silence that anticipates the burning of incense, while on earth in the outer courts those who follow HaShem through Yeshua are davening prayers and looking to G-d to bring vengeance against the wicked and the final redemption of the righteous.
Silence is an uncommon event in the heavens, where continual worship of HaShem is the norm (Nehemiah 9:6; Revelation 7:11). This adds to the awe and anticipation felt in the midst of the half hour of silence spoken of here.
The, “half hour” mentioned is symbolic of a short period of time as perceived from an earthly perspective, given that the workings of G-d are not bound by time, to the contrary, time is bound by the workings of G-d.
2 And I saw the seven messengers who stand before G-d,
The seven messengers that stand before G-d are well documented in Jewish tradition. These messengers are not the sevenfold spirit (Holy Spirit) of G-d, rather they are servants of both G-d and the Lamb (Yeshua).
The concept of the “Angels of the Presence” as alluded to in Jewish tradition, is seeded by the text of Isaiah 63.
“In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” –Yishiyahu/Isaiah 63:9
This same idea is affirmed by the text of Luke 1.
“And the messenger answering said unto him, I am Gabriel (Mighty one of G-d), I stand in the presence of G-d; and I was sent to speak unto thee, and to bring thee these good tidings.” –Luke 1:19
Ezekiel 9 illuminates this idea further promoting the sevenfold angelic concept:
“And behold, six men (messengers) came from the way of the upper gate, which lie toward the north, every man with his slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man (messenger) in the midst of them clothed in linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side. And they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar.” –Ezekiel 9:2
The book of Tobit (Apocrypha) records the angel Rafa’el identifying himself as “one of the seven holy angels”:
“I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of HaShem.” –Tobit 12:15
The names of the seven Angels of the Presence, according to Jewish tradition are: Uri’el (My light is G-d), Rafa’el (Healing from G-d), Re’uel (Friend of G-d), Mikha’el (Who is like G-d?), Saka’el (Commanded by G-d), Gavri’el (Mighty one of G-d), Remi’el (Thunder of G-d).
In both the Talmud and the Siddur (Prayer book) the first four angels of this list are designated by the special title, “Ministering Angels” (Malakhay ha-sharet); they’re sung about in the kabalat Shabbat prayer melody “Shalom Aleichim” (Peace Himself is with you). This is of interest because the first four angels of this chapter of Revelation bring the, “No-woe” blasts of the Rams horns, being that these blasts bring harm to the earth but only secondary harm to those who oppose G-d, whereas the latter three blasts “the blasts of woe,” bring harm directly against those on earth who oppose G-d.
And seven shofrot (Rams horns/Lamb’s horns) were given to them.
The messengers/angels are given Rams horns (Shofrot), not trumpets. The Tanakh (OT) tells us that the Great Judgement of HaShem will be heralded by blasts on the shofar (Rams horn):
“Then HaShem will appear over them,
and his arrow go forth like lightning;
HaShem Elohim will sound the shofar (Rams horn)
and march forth in the whirlwinds of the south.” –Zechariah 9:14
“And on that day a great shofar (Rams horn) will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship HaShem on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.” –Yishiyahu/Isaiah 27:13
“Blow the shofar (Rams horn) in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of HaShem is coming, it is near” –Yoel/Joel 2:1
These seven rams horns are given to the messengers as representations of the voice of the Lamb of G-d, Who was previously revealed as having seven horns and seven eyes (Revelation 5:6). Before the Ram’s horn is sounded a blessing is said:
“All blessing comes from you O L-rd our G-d Sovereign of the Universe, Who has commended us to listen to the voice of the ram’s horn.” –Traditional Jewish Blessing over the shofar (Rams horn)
The rams horns represent the strength and voice of the Messiah Yeshua (Lamb of G-d) Who commands His servants (The Seven Angels of the Presence) to sound judgement against the people of the earth (enemies of G-d).
3 Another messenger came and stood at the altar (Exodus 30:1), holding a golden censer (Exodus 27:3; 1 Kings 7:50); and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before G-d out of the messenger’s hand.
As with the seven Angels of the Presence, there is no conclusive solution to the identity of this messenger. It’s significant that the term messenger is used here, this is not one of the elders (Rev 5:8) because if it were Yochanan would have used the term elder. The role of this messenger is not to make propitiation for the saints but to offer up the prayers of the saints in combination with the coals of the altar. These prayers combine the prayers of those at the foot of the altar (Not the incense altar: in Sheol/Bosom of Abraham), the martyrs of Revelation 6:10, with the prayers of the righteous who remain on earth. Based on what follows, it seems that these prayers are prayers that are made out of suffering and persecution and call upon G-d’s vengeance.
The altar spoken of here is not the sacrificial altar. The messenger is offering incense, which is only offered on the incense altar (Exodus 30:1) that stood before the curtain which veiled the Holy of Holies. This curtain was torn at the point of Messiah’s death. It was torn from top to bottom as the action of a grieving Father tearing His garment. This has meant the unveiling (Revelation) of the Holy of Holies and means that this altar is now seen immediately before the throne of HaShem in the heavenlies.
It is interesting to note that a small portion of the coals from the sacrificial altar, which was outside the Holy Place, were carried by “One who is worthy” (A priest) to the altar of incense, thus mingling the coals of the sacrificial altar with the incense being offered on the incense altar. (Mishnah. Tamid. c. 5. sect. 5)
We see in this a picture of the sacrificial death of the Messiah represented in the coals of the sacrificial altar, being the ignition point for the suffering prayers of the saints (set apart ones) represented by the insence.
5 Then the messenger took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake. 6 And the seven messengers who had the seven shofrot (Rams horns) prepared themselves to sound them.
“HaShem said to the man clothed in linen, ‘Go in among the wheels beneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim and scatter them over the city.’” –Ezekiel 10:2
The coals of the sacrifice of Messiah ignite the prayers of the saints and as a result G-d sends the answer to their prayers as coals of wrath upon the earth (enemies of G-d). These coals represent the punishments recorded in the Torah. This is why the language reflects that of the giving of the Torah at Sinai.
“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud (fire) over the mountain, and a very loud shofar (Rams horn) blast. Everyone in the camp trembled.” –Exodus 19:16
7 The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
The first four shofar blasts produce plagues that resemble those of Israel’s escape from Egypt. The plagues affect nature directly but humanity indirectly. This can be understood to give yet another opportunity for repentance. Also, given the similarity to the plagues of Egypt, we can understand this to be a sign of G-d’s coming deliverance of His people, who remain on earth, deliverance from the temporal world which is infected by sin.
Jewish tradition teaches that the plagues of Egypt will be repeated in the last days:
“’Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail such as has not been in Egypt from the day it was formed until now’ (Exodus 9:18)… However, there will be one like it in the time to come. When? In the days of Gog and Magog, as it is written… ‘A torrential rain and great hailstones, fire and sulphur’ (Ezekiel 38:2, 22).” –Midrash Exodus Rabbah 12:2
This first plague, issued by the voice of the rams horn, reflects the seventh (fulfilment) plague against Egypt (Exodus 9:13-25; Ezekiel 38:22).
“He turned their waters into blood,
causing their fish to die… He turned their rain into hail,
with lightning throughout their land;” –Tehilim/Psalm 105:29, 32
The phrase, “a third of” indicates that this is only the beginning of G-d’s judgement upon the earth, there are yet two thirds of the earth that will be affected as the judgements come to completion.
8 The second messenger sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, 9 and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.
The second shofar brings a plague that replicates the first (beginning/head) plague against Egypt (Exodus 7:20-21).
This is a picture of volcanic pollution and the resulting destruction.
It’s important to note that the plagues against Egypt were punishments for idolatry. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the Nile River, so G-d turned it to blood, they worshipped the weather and their crops were decimated by hail, they worshipped frogs and found them infesting their every living space, and so the list goes on.
10 The third messenger sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. 11 The name of the star is called Wormwood (Bitterness); and a third of the waters became wormwood (bitterness), and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.
The falling star is symbolic of the worship of cosmic entities, like the ancient Egyptians, those who resist G-d in the last days will suffer greatly as a result of the destruction of the very objects of their worship.
These events originate in the middle heaven, which is the space between the edge of the earth’s atmosphere and the furthest edges of the universe (Rev 8:13).
Wormwood is from a family of bitter plants, hence, “Bitterness”.
Like the plagues of Egypt, wormwood/bitterness is a judgement against idolatry:
“’Instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts; they have followed the Ba’als, as their ancestors taught them.’ Therefore this is what HaShem Shaddai, the G-d of Israel, says: ‘See, I will make this people eat bitter food and drink poisoned water.’” –Jeremiah 9:14-15
“’And among the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen something horrible:
They commit adultery and live a lie.
They strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that not one of them turns from their wickedness.
They are all like Sodom to me;
the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.’
Therefore this is what HaShem Shaddai, says concerning the prophets:
‘I will make them eat bitter food
and drink poisoned water,’” –Jeremiah 23:14-15
12 The fourth messenger sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.
The fourth shofar brings about a plague which partially reflects the ninth (penultimate) plague of Egypt. It is also familiar as an allusion to the darkness of the day of the L-rd.
in the valley of decision!
For the day of HaShem is near
in the valley of decision.
The sun and moon will be darkened,
and the stars no longer shine.” –Yoel/Joel 3:14-15
The use of the phrase, “a third” again conveys the beginning of a greater judgement yet to be fulfilled.
13 Then I looked, and I heard a messenger in the form of an eagle flying in mid-heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the shofrot (Rams horns) of the three angels who are about to sound!”
I’ve chosen to combine the Greek and Syriac/Aramaic texts to render the translation, “a messenger in the form of an eagle”. In other words I agree that the messenger is both an angel and an eagle. We should remember that we’re reading a vision that unveils the greater depths of G-d’s decrees for the universe. There is no need to respond to false choices regarding textual preferences. The texts available to us complement one another, they’re not intended as tools for contradiction. Those who demand that one text have greater authority over another (Many of whom presume to represent the Messianic Hebrew view), foolishly miss the point entirely. G-d is echad (one) and has made those texts that are reliable and authentic in each of the ancient languages, to complement one another within the parameters set by the Holy Spirit’s direction.
The eagle is in, “mid heaven” which can be interpreted to mean either the apex of the skyline or in the space between the outer atmosphere and the edge of the Universe.
The eagle was a symbol of Rome’s dominance at the time of Yochanan’s recording of the Revelation. It is therefore ironic that it will be G-d’s angelic eagle that brings the warning of woe against the empires of humanity.
The first mention of eagles in the Scripture is at Exodus 19:4 where G-d says, “I carried you on eagles’ wings”. Scripture describes the eagle as being swift (2 Sam. 1:23), swooping on prey (Job 9:26) and building nests on high (Job 39:27). The eagle is also seen as a symbol of G-d’s judgement against idolatrous nations (Jeremiah 49:16, 22). An eagle’s head is one of the faces of the cherubim who guard the Ark (Ezekiel 1:10; 10:14). This face is a symbol of all seeing judgement, strength, and swift vengeance against G-d’s enemies.
“Put the shofar to your lips! An eagle is over the house of HaShem because the people have broken my covenant and rebelled against my law.” –Hosea 8:1
The angelic eagle therefore, is a sign of judgement and vengeance against the enemies of G-d and their idolatry, and at the same time, is a sign of hope, strength and deliverance for the people of G-d.
The three woes indicate the three shofar blasts yet to come. The last three shofar blasts (9:1-12; 9:13-11:14; 11:15-18:24) will be the catalysts for judgements that affect humanity (the enemies of G-d) directly, While the sealed people of G-d are spared (9:4; 7:1-8). These plagues are intended to provide an opportunity for repentance (9:20-21).
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.” –Daniel 12:1
An examination of Revelation 7
Revelation seven returns us to the sub plot regarding the reconciliation of Israel (ethnic), drawing it’s theme from the repentance of Israel (ethnic) which has already begun in Revelation 1:7 where, “All the tribes (Jews) of the land (Israel) will mourn on account of Him”. The ultimate conclusion to this plot line is the reconciliation of ethnic Israel to G-d.
Following this, a new part of the vision is revealed but not fully resolved. When the multitude is presented, they’re pictured well into the future, at the very end of days, after the final judgement. Yochanan records what he’s seen like a skilful screen writer, setting up a plot thread and then putting it aside to build his characters before bringing all the threads together in a satisfying conclusion. Revelation seven therefore, is a literary break from the chronology of the opening of the seven seals. It’s meant to reveal additional elements regarding the main characters of the vision, but is out of chronological order with the main narrative. The text returns to the opening of the final seal (seventh seal) at the beginning of Revelation 8, after a brief intermission (Revelation 7).
Yochanan’s eschatology revolves around the reconciliation of the tribes of Israel (ethnic) in a very similar way to the visions of Ezekiel the prophet. By failing to observe this obvious fact and or by making the mistake of allegorizing it, many foolish Christian scholars over the centuries have dug deeply into the soil of error and have lead the wider Church with them into the pit of heresy, the blind leading the blind. The theology that teaches that the Church is Israel and Israel is the Church is nothing more than a satanic lie. In all its forms: Replacement theology, Supersessionism etc. It is a teaching that places a blindfold over the eyes of Gentile believers and a noose around the necks of Jews. The day is coming when those who teach it will come under harsh judgement from G-d, Who is fierce on behalf of His people, ethnic Israel.
7:1 After this I saw four messengers standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.
The phrase, “After this” reminds us that we have just heard Yochanan describe the latter days when the enemies of G-d from throughout the earth, ranging from kings and rulers to the common and poor, will “hide themselves in the caves nd among the rocks of the mountains; saying to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand? Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’”
These four messengers, like the horsemen of Zechariah’s vision (Zech. 6:5), are the riders of the four horses of Revelation 6.
“I asked the messenger speaking with me, ‘What are these, my master?” 5 The messenger answered me, ‘These are the four winds of the sky that go out, after presenting themselves before the master of all the land.” –Zechariah 6:5
The four corners of the earth reflect the points of the compass and symbolize the entry points of the coming events which will consume the entire globe. The naming of the land, sea and vegetation is simply a reference to the key elements of the earth, meaning that the destruction brought by the winds (the four horsemen) will be withheld from the earth temporarily.
The prophet Daniel calls the four winds, “The four winds of heaven” (Dan. 8:8). The prophet Isaiah calls them, “The four winds of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12). Jeremiah 49:46 combines these two elements, showing that the four winds of heaven act as the four winds of the earth.
Jewish tradition teaches that messengers/angels stand at the gates of the four winds, “with the keys of the winds in their hands.” (Raziel, fol. 36. 1. 2.), and call these messengers, “Angels of the winds” (Targum in 1 Reg. xix. 11.) In addition, Jewish tradition conveys the understanding that there are angelic beings who have authority over the elements. This is affirmed by Revelation 14:18, “the angel of the fire” and Revelation 16:5, “the angel of the waters”.
The withholding of the winds of judgement, conveys a season of reprieve, a length of time between the commandment to go out into all the earth and the enacting of that command by the horsemen.
Apocryphal Jewish literature supports the concept of angelic beings holding back the elements. In the book of Enoch the angels of the waters are commanded by G-d to hold back the waters until Noah has completed the Ark (Enoch 66:1-2). 2 Baruch tells of angels with burning torches who are commanded to hold back their fire until the sacred vessels of the Temple could be hidden away (2 Baruch 6:4).
It’s important to remember that in Biblical Jewish thought secondary scientific causes aren’t explained. This is not to say that science has no place in our spirituality, rather it is a reminder that all things are subject to the direction of G-d.
2 Then I saw another messenger coming up from the east, having the seal of the living G-d.
The Messenger from the East:
Symbolically speaking the East is a source of blessing, the place where light originates. Eden was located in the East (Gen. 2:8), and the Shekinah (manifest feminine glory of G-d) came to the Temple from the East (Ezekiel 43:2). In addition the Magi who visited Yeshua after His birth said, “We have seen His star in the East” (Matthew 2:2). It’s impossible to determine who the angel/messenger from the East is. It seems most likely that given His responsibility in carrying the seal/mark of the Living G-d, that he is one of the arch angels, in particular Michael, who is the angel that stands in time of conflict, acting in favour of the Jewish people.
“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.” –Daniel 12:1
The Zohar (eleventh century Kabbalistic text written in Aramaic) speaks of an angel/messenger named “Gazardiel (Possibly means: Circumcised or divided by G-d),” that presides at the eastern part of the heavens, who is also one of the angels who are in charge of making sure that the sun rises and sets on time and receive the prayers of the Israelites. This same angel is said to offer up the prayers of the saints (Rev. 8:3).
"(Gazardiel)… kisses the prayers of the faithful and conveys them to the supernal firmament." –Zohar in Exod. fol. 79. 2.
The Hebrew equivalent to the Greek, “sphragis” meaning to permanently seal is, “Tav” which is also the name of the last character of the Hebrew Alphabet. This is symbolic of the fact that the Jews who are about to be sealed are a catalyst for the final judgement and the resurrection of the dead as alluded to by Rav Shaul/Paul in Romans 11:15:
“For if their (Ethnic Israel) rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their (Ethnic Israel) acceptance be but life from the dead?” –Romans 11:15
The Hebrew, “Tav” means to, “mark, scratch, imprint, engrave, desire”. This is not a seal in the sense of a seal used to secure a document, although those receiving it are certainly made secure in Messiah, rather it’s a seal/mark like the one received by the righteous Jews of Jerusalem prior to the smiting of the wicked (Ezekiel 9:4-6). It is like the holy engraving of the golden plate that was made a seal on the High priests forehead () and a mark of belonging, a seal of approval and of G-d’s desire for His people, ethnic Israel.
The seal brought forth by the angle from the East is most likely a priestly seal, like the gold plate placed on the forehead of the High Priest, engraved with the words, “Kadosh le’HaShem” Holy unto YHVH (Exodus 28:36).
“You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, ‘Holy to YHVH (the L-rd).’” –Exodus 28:36
This is confirmed in the text of Revelation 14:1, which tells us that it is the Father’s Name (YHVH) that is written on the foreheads of the 144,000.
This is a fulfilment of the calling of ethnic Israel as a nation of priests:
“ For you are a chosen people, (Isaiah 43:20; Deuteronomy 7:6; 10:15) the King’s cohanim (priests), (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 61:6) a holy nation, (Exodus 19:6) a people belonging to (sealed for) G-d! (Isaiah 43:21; Exodus 19:5) That you might declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are G-d’s people (Hosea 2:23); before, you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” –1 Peter 2:9-10
These verses from 1 Peter 2 can also be applied as a midrash to all believers, both Jew and Gentile, however, in the context of Revelation 7, via the seal, the application is unto ethnic Israel alone.
The seal marked on the forehead of each of the 144,000 Jews is a symbol of authority. The head (Rosh) is the beginning and the guide of the body, symbolically speaking. Thus the Head over all things (Yeshua), sends forth His mark to be placed on the heads of His elect.
While the seal/mark is clearly a spiritual mark, engraved upon the minds of the Jewish faithful, it is also represented in the prayer practice of donning Tefillin (Prayer boxes), which are warn by devote Jewish men in prayer (Deut. 6:8), and, are a sign of the priesthood of every Jew (Exodus 19:5).
It is noteworthy that these boxes contain the written Word (ketvi) of G-d and therefore symbolize Messiah Himself (Ketvi, D’var, Memra etc.): they are warn on the left arm next to the heart and on the forehead over the mind, they are wound around the arm three times to represent the unity of G-d and the character Shin, which is the first character of the Hebrew words Shaddai (Mighty G-d) and Shalom (Prince of Peace). They are then wound seven more times around the arm to symbolize action (halakhah) and perfection, and finally they’re wrapped around the centre finger of the left hand which is said to mark the point of the most direct blood flow from the heart and is significant because it is known as the finger of betrothal. While the finger is wrapped three times the final blessing of donning Tefillin is prayed, it’s a direct quote from Hosea 2:19-20:
“I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness (tsaddikim) and justice (mishpat),
in loving kindness (chesed) and compassion (racham).
I will betroth you in faithfulness (emunah),
and you shall know (yada) HaShem.” –Hosea2:19-20
This entire practice finds its sum in the Shema (Central prayer of Judaism) which says:
“Hear, listen, receive and understand O Israel (Who overcomes in G-d), The L-RD YHVH (Father, Merciful) your G-D Elohim (Son, Judge), The L-RD YHVH (Ruach—Holy Spirit, Comforter) is echad (complex unity). You shall love The L-RD YHVH your G-D Elohim with all your heart, mind and strength/action. ” –Deuteronomy 6:4
Therefore, seal/mark on the foreheads of the 144,000 Jews, symbolizes G-d’s desire for His people ethnic Israel, His having sealed them with the mark of His Son Yeshua (The Word), The head (Rosh) over creation, and the great High Priest (le’kadosh Adonai); Who has betrothed them to Himself in love and has redeemed them and is sanctifying their hearts (core being), minds (Thoughts and motivations) and actions (Mitzvot, good works).
The seal, like the blood on the doors of Israel’s homes in Egypt, will act as a sign of protection when the avenging angels of HaShem come to bring judgement against the pagan peoples of the earth. (Exodus 12:23)
The Seals of Jewish Tradition:
The Zohar speaks of the east gate of one of the heavenly palaces, which is said to be shut for the six days of the work week, and on the Sabbath day is opened, and the ruler of the palace has two subordinate messengers/ministers/angelic beings, one on his right hand, and one on his left, and they each have a seals in their hands: these are, "the seal of life", and the “seal of death”, and all the books of the world are before them. Some of those who are recorded in the books are sealed to life, and some to death (Zohar in Exod. fol. 100. 1.)
Of course the seal/mark (seal of life) brought by the angel of the East, finds its dark counterpoint in the mark of the beast (Seal of death) of Revelation 13:16. This mark also represents belonging, unfortunately it is the seal received by those who belong to eternal punishment.
The Living G-d:
The title, “Elohim Chayim (Living G-d)” is used throughout Scripture. It is a title that sets HaShem apart from the dead deities of Israel’s enemies. Isaiah 44:9-17 describes the futility of the worship of idols and contrasts the dead pagan gods with the “Living G-d” of Israel. Joshua reminds Israel that “The Living G-d” is with them to defeat their enemies (Joshua 3:10). Hosea reminds Israel that once they were not a people but through G-d’s mercy they have become children of the “Living G-d” (Hosea 1:10).
“My soul thirsts for G-d, for the living G-d.
When can I go and meet with G-d?” –Tehilim/Psalm 44:2
The seal of the, “Living G-d” is a mark/seal of Chayim (life), secured in His mercy through the blood of His Son, the sacrificial Lamb Yeshua (Jesus).
Notice that the life that is secure in G-d through Yeshua is Chayim (plural form: which denotes intensity and longevity), it’s full, intense and eternal.
He called out in a loud voice to the four messengers (Horsemen) who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our G-d.”
The loud voice of the angel from the East is an indication of the fact that his voice reaches to the four corners of the earth where the four Horsemen are situated.
It is the four riders of Revelation 6 who have been given power to bring the various judgements of G-d and the Lamb which have been firmly decided upon.
The command not to harm the earth (Land, sea and trees), affirms G-d’s decision to hold back judgement until He has marked those who belong to Him.
As we will see from the following verses, the servants spoken of here are those who have been set apart among the tribes of ethnic Israel. While it’s true that G-d has sealed all who belong to Him both Jew and Gentile, that is not the intended meaning here. The language of the text is very specific.
4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. 5 From the tribe of Judah (Praise) 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben (Behold a son) 12,000, from the tribe of Gad (a troop is coming) 12,000, 6 from the tribe of Asher (Happy am I) 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali (wrestling) 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh (Causing to forget) 12,000, 7 from the tribe of Simeon (Hearing) 12,000, from the tribe of Levi (Joined to) 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar (there is reward) 12,000, 8 from the tribe of Zebulun (Exalted) 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph (YHVH has added) 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin (Son of my right hand) 12,000.
The text doesn’t tell us from whom Yochanan heard the number of those being sealed. It may have
been spoken by the angel from the East who brought the seal, however it’s also possible that this
number was spoken to Yochanan’s spirit for the purpose of qualifying what he was witnessing.
What is clear beyond any doubt or misinterpretation, is that the 144,000 are ethnic Jews “from all
the tribes of Israel.” The fact that this is the p’shat (Plain meaning) of the text is irrefutable. Those
who see the Gentile Church represented here are looking through an anti-Semitic and Satanic lens:
some because they’re unaware, others out of pride, pursue this view intentionally. Ignorance is not
the absence of knowledge, it is refusing to know.
Some have suggested that based on Revelation 14:1-5 we are able to determine that these 144,000
Jews are male infants. As proof they site the fact that the 144,000 are “virgins” (Rev 14:4), who
“have never spoken a lie” (Rev 14:5). However a closer look at the text of Revelation 14 proves these
assertions to be untenable.
“These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among humanity, being the firstfruits unto G-d and to the Lamb. And in their mouths was found no guile (dolos: trickery, deceit, guile, subtlety): for they are blameless before the throne of God.” –Revelation 14:4-5
We can agree that these 144,000 are virgins. However this isn’t evidence of infancy. My wife and I
were virgins when we married at 21 and 22 years of age respectively. Furthermore, Jewish tradition
required virginity prior to marriage and no ancient Jewish marriage took place prior to Bar Mitzvah
age (12 years). Therefore the fact that they are virgins is not valid proof.
The second proof offered, that of there having been, “No lie found in their mouths” is simply a
mistranslation and a misunderstanding of what being blameless before G-d actually means in
Biblical terms. The Greek word, “dolos” which is often translated as, “lie” has a wealth of greater
meaning that is better suited to the context. It can mean, “Trickery, deceit, guile, subtlety”. The
better translation follows the same usage as John 1:47 and should read:
“And in their mouths was found no guile (dolos) for they are blameless before the throne of God.”
Neither being devoid of guile nor being blameless are proof of infancy. Nathaniel was without guile
and yet an adult (John 1:47) and both Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, the parents of Yochanan the
Immerser, are called blameless (Luke 1:6). This is clearly not intended to infer that they’re sinless, for
we are vulnerable to sin from our conception, which is the point at which conscious life begins for
every human being (Psalm 51:6; Isaiah 49:1; Hosea 12:3; Luke 1:41-44).
“For all (not some) have sinned and fallen short of the glory of G-d.” –Romans 3:23
Notice also that these 144,000 blameless Jewish males are later pictured, “before the throne of
G-d (Rev 7:9)”, along with the righteous of the nations, meaning that they are blameless because
they have been washed in the blood of Yeshua, redeemed and resurrected and singing before G-d’s
throne having been, “redeemed from the earth”, that is, they were redeemed on the earth and are
now redeemed from the earth. The context denotes that this is taking place in the heavens at a later point in time.
Therefore there is no reason to believe that these 144,000 Jewish males are infants.
The number 144,000 is perfectly rounded and like many other numbers in the Tanakh (OT) it has a
symbolic rather than literal meaning. There are 12 tribes and 10 Instructions (commandments) upon
which Judaism finds it’s ethnic and spiritual foundation in G-d. In addition the 12 tribes are
represented in the 12 talmidim (disciples) of Yeshua. 12 squared equals 144 and 10 cubed (unity of
G-d 3 as echad/one) equals 1000: therefore the fulfilled nation of Israel multiplied by the fulfilled
Instruction of G-d equals the redemption of ethnic Israel and the resurrection of all humanity unto
judgement. 144 x 1000 = 144,000. The number of Jews sealed therefore, is a symbolic way of saying
what Rav Shaul/Paul the apostle says in Romans 11:25-27.
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brother, so that you may not be conceited: ethnic Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all of ethnic Israel will be saved. As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion (That is out of the East);
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.” –Romans 11:25-27 (Isaiah 59:20, 21; 27:9; Jer. 31:33,34)
Rav Yechiel Lichtenstein explains that:
“Israel numbered 7,200,000 at the time of the destruction of the second Temple. The t’rumah [the offering to cohanim from the firstfruits] is usually one fiftieth (Mishna, T’rumot 4:3), which here comes to be 144,000. At Romans 11:16 Paul remarked that ‘if the challah offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole loaf.’ Thus the meaning is that if the firstfruits of Israel, the 144,000 Messianic Jews who put their trust in Yeshua, is holy, then the whole loaf, all of Israel, is holy. Therefore Paul continues, ‘In this way all Israel will be saved. As the Tanakh says, “Out of Zion will come the redeemer; He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26).’ This is in accordance with my comment on Revelation 1:7, which says that when the sign of the Son of man is seen in heaven, the children of Israel will repent, recognize Messiah, and mourn because they pierced Him unjustly. That is when all Israel will be saved.” (Commentary to the New Testament, on Rev 7:9)
The conclusion we reach is that all of the remnant of ethnic Israel who remain at the time of these
events will be saved prior to the four judgements meted out by the four horsemen and before the
final judgement of all humanity.
The order of the tribal listing is significant for a number of reasons. Judah comes first because it is
from Judah that the Branch (Messiah) comes forth. Levi is mentioned, which is unusual because a
number of Tanakh listings of the tribes exclude Levi due to the fact that the priestly tribe has no
separate allotment of land. Levi is mentioned here to affirm the fact that ethnic Israel is finally
becoming a true nation of priests through Yeshua the Great High Priest.
Some commentators site Dan’s idolatrous behaviour as the reason he’s not mentioned, however this
is unnecessary. All the tribes of Israel have black marks against them for some reason or another and
yet they are listed here. We should note that the writer considers, “all the tribes” of ethnic Israel to
be represented here. Therefore the unmentioned tribes of Ephraim and Dan are represented by the
fact that they’re part of the nation of Israel. Ephraim finds validation under Joseph as the second of
the two sons of promise (Ephraim and Manasseh), and Dan, whose name means Judge, is
represented in the judgements that are about to take place.
We further note that one might interpret the listing of the tribes in this way: Jacob blesses the 12 tribes in Genesis 49 according to their position as his sons and heirs. He does not list Ephraim and Manasseh among the blessed in Genesis 49. This of course is outworked in the fact that Ephraim and Manasseh are half tribes under Joseph. They are listed elsewhere in the Tanakh (OT) and Levi (The Priestly tribe) is not, because the priestly tribe receives its inheritance from HaShem. In the context of Genesis 49, the tribes or sons of Jacob are subject to the judgement of Joseph, who is a figure for the King Messiah, one rejected by the tribes but latter received. Joseph as judge over the tribes (sons) of Jacob (Israel) is a prefigure of the Messiah our King and Judge at the end of the age. Therefore, in the context of Revelation 7, it makes sense that Manasseh (Cause to forget) is mentioned in place of Dan (Judgement) because it is Joseph (the judge of his brothers) who is needed (in his role as prefigure of the Judge Messiah) in order that the judgement of men (Dan) be superseded by the judgement of God (Yeshua) Who will forgive Israel's sin and cause it to be forgotten (Manasseh). Therefore, the two unlisted tribes Ephraim and Dan find their home in Joseph who (in the tribal listing of Revelation 7) represents Judge (Dan) and Double Fruitfulness (Ephraim) unto everlasting life.
Rav Yechiel Lichtenstein says of these verses:
“Some say Dan is excluded because he sinned by worshipping idols (Judges 18:30; 2 Kings 10:29); as
proof they quote 1 Chronicles 2-7, where the tribe of Dan is not mentioned. But this is not a valid
proof , because Z’vulun is not mentioned there either; and the reason in both cases is that the
author, Ezra, wrote in his book only what he found in the scrolls available to him. This is why the
subjects there often follow one another without logical connection—there are missing links…
Concerning Dan, Ya’akov, when blessing his sons, said, ‘Dan will judge his people as one of the
tribes of Israel’ (Genesis 49:16). Moreover, Ezekiel 48:32 attributes one gate to Dan, one to Yosef,
since Joseph includes Efrayim and Ma’nasheh in respect to the heritage, and one to L’vi.”
–Rav Yechiel Lichtenstein (Commentary to the New Testament)
Perhaps there is also a remez (hint) in the meanings of the tribal names and the order in which they
follow one another? A sod (mystery) that might read like this:
I give Praise (Judah) because I have seen a son (Reuben) and He is coming with heavens armies
(Gad). I am Happy (Asher), though I once wrestled with G-d (Naphtali), He has caused me to forget
my sin (Manasseh). Having heard (Simeon) His Gospel I am joined to (Levi) Him in love. His reward
(Issachar) is with Him and His name is exalted (Zebulun) I have been added in YHVH (Joseph) to the
book of life, by the Son of G-d’s right hand (Benjamin).
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from
every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
The phrase, “After this” is an indication to the reader that the emphasis has shifted and a new part
of the vision is being presented. Meaning that what we are now about to read takes place after the
events of Revelation 7:1-8 at some undetermined point in the future.
The description of the multitude is different from that of the sealed 144,000. This is
because it’s a description of the Church (Ecclesia) as a whole, “from every nation, tribe (Israel),
people and language,” People who belong to G-d through Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah.
This multitude is seen at a future time after the great tribulation. This means that the multitude is
the unity of both Jewish and Gentile believers pictured before the throne at a later date. This
multitude is not the 144,000.
They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
The white robes, as before, represent the righteous actions of the set apart ones and the purity
Purchased for them by the blood of the Lamb of G-d who takes away the sin of the world.
The palm branches are waved before the L-rd on the first day of Sukkot along with leafy trees, citrus
and willows. This is known as a lulav (Date tree frond: Lev. 23:40) and symbolizes thankfulness to
G-d for His abundant provision. This practice also anticipates the coming of HaShem’s Shekinah glory
and the dwelling of His presence within the Sukkot (booths) of Israel, along with the Ushpizin
The palm is also a sign of triumph and coronation for the Kings of the East. It was used to welcome
victorious kings and their armies into the capital cities of their kingdoms. Yochanan’s Gospel records
a similar practice being applied to Yeshua’s entry into Jerusalem.
“They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hoshanah (Save us now)! Blessed is he who comes in the name of HaShem! Blessed is the king of Israel (ethnic)!’” –John 12:13
The righteous themselves are said to be like palm trees:
“The righteous one will flourish like the palm tree,
He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” –Tehilim/Psalm 92:12
The multitude is celebrating Yeshua’s victory over sin and death and waving the offering of the
abundant overflow of their faith in Him.
10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
Their praise is heard throughout heaven and earth.
“Salvation (Yeshua) belongs to our G-d,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
This should be understood in a similar way to the text of Psalm 98:2:
“His right hand and His mighty arm have brought forth for Him salvation/victory (Yeshua)”
Salvation has been purchased by HaShem through His own blood, which is G-d with us as the Lamb Yeshua. Therefore praise is due to The Father and The Son.
11 All the messengers (angelic beings) were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped G-d,
This is a description of all the heavenly host, every order of angelic being from greatest to least and the heavenly priesthood who serve before the throne, bowing down to G-d’s absolute sovereignty over all things. They worship in complete humility.
The first thing these mighty ones say is, “We agree (Amen) with all that the multitude of believers have said.”
Praise (1) and glory (2) (k’vod)
and wisdom (3) and thanks (4) and honour (5)
and power (6) and strength (7)
be to our G-d for ever and ever.
These are seven words of praise to reflect the attributes of G-d and His eternal nature, followed by a rhetorical “Amen?” spoken to the multitude, seeking their affirmation.
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
It seems that even in visions of the heavenly court there is good old fashioned Hebrew debate. This delightful rhetoric between the elder and Yochanan is akin to listening to a Rabbi and his student.
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
This, “Great Affliction” is not an allusion to the persecution of believers throughout the centuries, rather it is a specific great trial that is to come upon the world in the future (that is Yochanan’s future).
We can take comfort however in the words of the Scriptures as they apply to all who follow Messiah unto the glory of G-d:
“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.” –Daniel 12:1
“For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equalled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” –Matthew 24:21-22
They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
The multitude have endured persecution, however, there robes are not made white by their deeds, to the contrary, they are made white by being washed in the blood of the lamb. Right action is born of Messiah’s work.
It is important however, to note that they (the multitude) washed their robes, meaning that Messiah offered His cleansing blood but every believer must receive and appropriate the salvation of G-d. We are not saved by inaction. Messiah offers us the gift of His saving sacrifice but we must unwrap it.
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.” –Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 1:18
Because those in the multitude have, “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
“They are before the throne of G-d
and serve Him day and night in His temple (Mishkan/Tabernacle);
and He who sits on the throne
will dwell among them (Mishkan) with his Shekinah presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat. Isaiah 49:10
This will take place after the resurrection when the Heavenly Temple and the New Jerusalem come down from the heavens and G-d dwells (tabernacles) with His people (Jew and Gentile). This is a depiction of a type of eternal Sukkot (Feast of Booths). There are two clues in the text that indicate the future chronology intended. First, the multitude are those who have survived the great tribulation, some of whom have passed away. While in Sheol in Abraham’s bosom those who have passed away in Messiah are within time and are not above in the heavens (Specifically the third heaven), therefore they are not yet located in the heavenly Temple. Second, The Scripture speaks of a time when G-d will dwell (Tabernacle/Mishkan) among them with His Shekinah (feminine light presence). This will not happen until the very end of days following the final judgement. This is affirmed in Revelation 21:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! G-d’s dwelling (Tabernacle/Mishkan) place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and G-d himself will be with them and be their G-d. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” –Revelation 21:3-4
Therefore the present passage must be understood as corresponding chronologically to the text of Revelation 21. This is further reinforced by the fact that Revelation 7 is a type of intermission between the opening of the sixth seal at the end of Revelation 6 and the opening of the seventh seal in the beginning of Revelation 8. This is a literary tool that builds almost to completion and then is left open to await its conclusion in the latter chapters.
7 For the Lamb at the centre of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘He will lead them to springs of living water.’ Isaiah 49:10; Jeremiah 2:13; Ezekiel 34:23
‘And G-d will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” Isaiah 25:8 (Rev. 21:3-4)
“He (G-d) will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign HaShem will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
He will remove His people’s (ethnic Israel’s) disgrace
from all the earth.
HaShem has spoken.” –Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 25:8
“And the ransomed of HaShem will return
And come with singing unto Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads.
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 35:10
The Lamb is seated at the centre of the throne because He is echad, G-d is One. Yeshua is G-d with us.
From ancient times G-d has called Himself the shepherd of ethnic Israel. This vision testifies to a future day when the ultimate fulfilment of G-ds role as shepherd over all His people (Jew and Gentile) will be seen.
“HaShem is my shepherd, I shall want for nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside still waters,
3 He refreshes my entire being.
He guides me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod (discipline/protection)and your staff (guidance),
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil (Holy Spirit);
my cup overflows (Kiddush cup).
6 Surely your goodness and merciful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell (tabernacle/live in a sukkah) in the house (New Jerusalem) of HaShem
forever.” –Tehilim/Psalm 23
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
Gentle Jesus meek and mild?
An examination of Revelation 6
It is important to note that the origin of the four horses and their riders is found in the scroll of Zechariah chapters 1 through 6: where four horses are sent to carry judgement to the four corners of the earth (against the pagan nations) and G-d is called upon (by an angelic messenger) to dismantle the tranquillity of the nations and restore the peace of Jerusalem, Zion and Israel (ethnic).
Therefore, the horses and riders of Revelation 6 are personifications of the instruments of G-d’s avenging judgement against those on the earth who continue to resist Him.
While we observe that the horses and riders stand for four destructive forces that have appeared in Israel’s past and will reappear at some point in the future, we must not neglect the fact that these same events were also taking place in Yochanan’s present (70 – 90 AD) and as a result much of our understanding of them must combine the historical context of the late first century AD alongside the ancient context of Israel’s dispersion (522 BC) and the Hebrew consciousness of the recorder of these visions.
The book (scroll) of Zechariah, is foundational to the present passage (Rev 6) in that the chronology of events is similar. It acts as a prophetic vision of both the physical rebuilding of the Temple and the future coming of the Messiah. By saying that the nations are at peace (Zech. 1:11), the returned riders of Zechariah are observing a stark contrast to Israel’s suffering and homelessness. This can be compared to the suffering of ethnic Israel following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD and the suffering of Jewish and Gentile followers of Messiah during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian between 81 and 96 AD (Yochanan is thought to have written the Revelation at some point during Domitian’s reign).
Just as Zechariah’s prophecy goes on to describe the raising up of the Branch (Messiah), the crowning of Yehoshua (Joshua, Yeshua, Jesus) the Priest and the restoration of Israel and Jerusalem (Zech. 6); so too the goal of the opening of the scroll of Revelation 6 is to see the very same thing happen for the final time in all of temporal history: that is, the final restoration of Israel (ethnic) to G-d through Yeshua the Messiah and the restoration and completion of the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, that will be the habitation of the righteous ones, both Jew and Gentile, who have been redeemed through the Lamb, Yeshua, our High Priest and King.
Six of the seven seals are opened in chapter 6, however the scroll itself is not opened until Revelation 8:1 after the breaking of the seventh seal.
Verses 1-8 echo the following Scripture from the Tanakh (OT): Ezekiel 14:12-20; Jeremiah 15:3, 24:10, 29:17; Ezekiel 5:17, 14:21, and are contextually related to the service of the Temple altar as described in Leviticus 16:14-26.
6:1 Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.”
The irregular feminine form of the Greek, “mia” meaning, “a one” or “one of” conveys a similar meaning to the use of the Hebrew equivalent, “echad” of Genesis 1:5, meaning “complex unity, a one”, best translated, “And there was evening and there was morning, one day”. This usage is understood as an ordinal rather than a cardinal use of the term, “echad”. Therefore one of the seals, like one day of creation, is opened at an undetermined point in time and begins a subsequent cardinal order of numbered seal openings. We are therefore unable to tell which of the seven seals is opened first.
Using the same method we are also unable to determine which of the four living creatures is speaking with a voice of thunder. The living creature is calling, “Come!” to the white horse and its rider, who will soon appear. It seems that the breaking of the seal is a catalyst for the calling out of the horseman, however the scroll itself remains closed, still sealed by the remaining six seals.
The voice of thunder symbolizes the fact that the living creatures call can be heard throughout the earth while it resonates in the heavens.
2 I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
The four horsemen bring judgement against the earth and are called out to perform their tasks. They correspond to the vision of Zechariah 1:8-17; 6:1-8. It’s important to note that the first four judgements bring subjugation, bloodshed by war, famine and plague, and death at the hands of wild animals. These all precede the outcry of the righteous slain and their request for vengeance, which correspond to the report of the horsemen and the messenger’s plea regarding Israel (ethnic) in Zech. 1:11-12. The four riders symbolize the fact that their judgement of subjugation, sword (civil war), famine, plague, and bloodshed, will reach to the four corners of the earth.
The same instruments of destruction are recorded in the following passage from Ezekiel:
“The word of HaShem came to me: 13 “Son of man, if a country (eretz: land) sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its people and their animals, 14 even if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign ADONAI. 15 “Or if I send wild beasts through that country (eretz: land) and they leave it childless and it becomes desolate so that no one can pass through it because of the beasts,16 as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign ADONAI, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons or daughters. They alone would be saved, but the land would be desolate. 17 “Or if I bring a sword against that country (eretz: land) and say, ‘Let the sword pass throughout the land,’ and I kill its people and their animals, 18 as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign ADONAI, even if these three men were in it, they could not save their own sons or daughters. They alone would be saved. 19 “Or if I send a plague into that land and pour out my wrath on it through bloodshed, killing its people and their animals, 20 as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign ADONAI, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness. –Ezekiel 14:12-20
“A white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow:”
These represent judgement by conquest, subjugating peoples one unto another. The crown placed on the rider’s head represents his G-d given authority to carry out a particular judgement, and the bow is a symbol of war reflecting the Hebraism, “My arm can bend a bow of bronze”. The rider, like his three companions, is a personification. The horse, like its three companions, is a symbol of the vehicle for the related judgement.
When Roman generals returned in triumph from a conquest they would ride into Rome in chariots drawn by white horses (symbolizing successful conquest) with their armies and captives trailing behind them.
The rider of the white horse has a bow in his hand, which is first and foremost a Hebraic symbol of strength in battle, as seen throughout the Tanakh. When Babylon suffers her final defeat her soldiers are taken and their bows (A sign of military strength) are destroyed (Jeremiah 51:56). The prophet Hosea writes that, “G-d will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel” (Hosea 1:5).
“He (G-d) makes wars cease to the four corners of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the shields with fire.” –Tehilim/Psalm 46:9
Therefore, the bow always represents military power.
There is one final image that both the Romans and all those who lived in Asia at the time of the writing of Revelation would recognize, the one enemy that Rome feared most, the Parthians. The Parthians dwelt in the Far East of the Roman Empire and were of great concern to Rome. The Parthians rode on white horses and were renowned for their skill with the bow. These bowmen were feared throughout the known world and were conquerors of the unconquerable Rome.
The white horse and its bow wielding rider stand for strong military conquest.
3 When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” 4 And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, so that human beings would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.
The second seal, having found its reference point in the one previous seal opened, now begins a chronology of events.
The red horse and rider denote bloodshed and civil war, that is, the horse and its rider cause the nations to fight among themselves as houses that are divided and as a result will not stand.
This rider, like his counterpart in Zechariah. 1, will take away the tranquillity that the pagan nations have enjoyed at ethnic Israel’s expense. He holds a great sword because the damage that he facilitates will consume the earth (pagan nations). He is a true peace maker because he is sent to take away false peace from the enemies of G-d.
The complete disintegration of human relationships is one of the key elements of the Jewish understanding of the last days. Brother will fight against brother, neighbour against neighbour, city against city and nation will rise against nation (Isaiah 19:2).
“On that day people will be stricken by HaShem with great panic. They will seize each other by the hand and attack one another.” –Zechariah 14:13
5 When He (The Lamb) broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard something like a voice in the centre of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
We continue to see the Lamb opening the seals. It is important to note that as the Lion-Lamb, Yeshua is the One Who is releasing wrath against the earth (v16).
We are foolishly fond of saying, “Yeshua (Jesus) doesn’t judge, He doesn’t bring wrath, He’s a pacifist, a sacrificial, non-violent lover of humanity”. The Scripture says otherwise.
It’s helpful to remember that events Yochanan is recording are not the events of the end itself but are signs that precede the end.
The black horse symbolizes famine and economic distress, its rider holds scales which represent both judgement and the measuring out of essential food supplies. This is qualified by the description of the market place and the distinction made between staple food products and refined sacramental liquids.
The, “something like a voice in the midst of the four living creatures”, is the voice of the Lamb, His Ruach (Spirit) speaking from His position in the midst of G-d’s throne.
“A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius,” is understood to be the equivalent of paying a single person a day’s wage which would purchase enough wheat for one person to eat a single meal. Wheat was the food of the rich and the second crop harvested in Israel. Here it is compared to the barley grain favoured by the poor, which, for the same price will feed an entire family. This is a description of economic upheaval. A situation that will level the playing field so to speak, between the rich and the poor (pagan nations).
The primary crops of first century Israel were grain (Barley & Wheat), grapes and olives. The Tanakh’s frequent mentioning of these fruits is makes them a familiar symbol to the Jewish reader and brings to mind Israel’s complete reliance on G-d for the provision of them (Deut. 7:13, 11:14, 28:51; Hosea 2:8, 22).
Rav Yechiel Lichtenstein (1825-1908) of Hungary, the only Rabbi (Messianic or otherwise) to have ever written a complete commentary of the New Testament in Hebrew, wrote:
“Weighing the bread is a sign of curse, according to Vayikra (Leviticus) 26:26, ‘They shall dole out your bread by weight; you will eat but you will not be satisfied.’” –Rav Lichtenstein’s commentary of the New Testament
G-d warns Israel through the prophet Ezekiel:
“Moreover, He (G-d) said to me, ‘Son of man, behold, I am going to break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, and they will eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and drink water by measure and in horror,” –Ezekiel 4:16 (NASB)
“And do not harm the oil and the wine.”
Agriculturally speaking it is more than possible to have a season where there is an abundant grape and olive harvest despite a poor grain harvest. This is because both Grape vines and olive trees are more deeply rooted and often produce better fruit under harsh conditions. A Biblical example of this can be found in Genesis 43:11, where Jacob sends, “the best fruit of the land” down to Joseph in Egypt during a time of drought in Canaan.
When Yochanan was recording the scroll of Revelation during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, there was a serious shortage of grain throughout the Roman Empire. Interestingly, at the same time in history there was an abundance of wine available. Domitian issued a decree commanding that half the grape vines in the Empire be uprooted and replaced with grain crops. Due to this edict the people of the province of Asia (Who Yochanan was writing to) came very near to all out rebellion against Rome because their vineyards were their primary source of income. As a result Domitian rescinded the edict.
Notice the differences between the two types of grain and the water and wine. The former are in their raw state, whereas the latter are refined and set apart for sacred purpose. Also, the text says, “do not harm the oil and the wine” which is literally understood to mean, “Do not compromise it or pollute it”. However, the language hints (Remez) at an allegorical meaning.
The oil, which represents the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) and the wine, which represents the cup of redemption in the blood of Messiah; are clearly symbols associated with those who have been redeemed through Messiah Yeshua and are filled with the Ruach Ha-Kodesh. Therefore the voice (which is Messiah the Lamb) is instructing the horseman not to harm His people. The result is the Divine protection of the people of G-d (Both Jew and Gentile) in the midst of the turmoil that the pagan nations (the earth) will suffer. This affirms the promise that Yeshua made to the assembly of Philadelphia (Rev 3:10).
7 When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” 8 I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death (Thanatos) (the result of sin, the physical event); and Sheol (the holding place of the dead, separated into Gehenah—temporal punishment—and the bosom of Abraham—temporal paradise) was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence (Thanatos) and by the wild beasts of the earth.
At this juncture it is important to remember that the vision is beholding events that occur throughout time and are referenced against the resurrection of the lamb Who is worthy to open the scroll. This means that these events have been happening from any point in time and are released by the Lamb of G-d Who was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).
These are events that had taken place prior to Yochanan’s writing them down, they were also taking place in Yochanan’s present and would continue to take place at any given point in the future within time and space as we perceive it. Therefore, when the text says, “a fourth of the earth” it means a fourth of all pagan humanity from time immemorial until the future time of the culmination of the events pictured in Yochanan’s (John) vision.
These are signs which precede the end. They’re not descriptions of the end itself.
The Greek, “Thanatos” means both death and pestilence, therefore we could read, “He who sat on it had the name pestilence”.
We are reminded again of the fourscore judgement of HaShem, the sword, the famine, the wild beasts and pestilence (Ezekiel 14:21).
“‘If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins. 22 I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which will bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted. 23 ‘And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, 24 then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins. 25 I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send pestilence among you, so that you shall be delivered into enemy hands. 26 When I break your staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread in rationed amounts, so that you will eat and not be satisfied.’” –Leviticus 26:21-26 (NASB)
No human being and no nation can escape the consequences of sin forever.
“An ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death and Sheol was following with him.”
Death here is the result of sin, the catalyst for the physical event of dying. Sheol is the holding place of the dead, separated into Gehenah—temporal punishment—and the bosom of Abraham—temporal paradise. These are personifications of spiritual forces that are beyond our full comprehension. I have called the compartments of Sheol temporal because Judaism understands Sheol to be a spiritual abode which is metaphorically beneath and within time awaiting the judgement and the world to come.
The future Kingdom of G-d that is illuminated to His servants post judgement is eternal life, whereas the future lake of fire described in Rev 20:11-15, is the eternal punishment awaiting Satan, fallen angels, Death (the result of sin), Hades (specifically Gehenah) and all those who have rejected Messiah’s offer of redemption (whose names are not written in the book of life).
Confusion over the terms describing various aspects of the afterlife has left many a believer under the delusion that there is only temporary punishment after death. This is a lie that contradicts Scripture and impugns the character of G-d. There can be no doubt that when the word eternal is used in Scripture it is to be understood to reflect life and death forever outside of time and space. Hence, when Revelation speaks of the punishment following judgement it says, “The Second death” (Rev 20:11-15).
9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw beneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of G-d (Messiah), and because of the testimony (of the Messiah) which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O HaShem, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
The heavenly altar, which is the basis for the shadow of the earthly one (Exodus 25:9, 40; Numbers 8:4; Hebrews 8:5; 9:23), features throughout the scroll of Revelation (Rev 8:5; 14:18).
For a Jew, the most sacred part of any sacrifice is the blood. “The life is in the blood”, life which comes forth from and belongs to G-d and to none other (Leviticus 17:11-14).
“The priest shall also put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense which is before the Lord in the tent of meeting; and all the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering which is at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” –Leviticus 4:7 (NASB)
The life blood of these martyrs has been poured out onto the earth at the base of the altar and cries out to HaShem for justice.
There is a wealth of rabbinical commentary regarding the heavenly altar and the function of it. The following are a selection of relevant quotations:
“Ha-Kadosh (The Holy One), blessed be He, took the soul of Moshe (Moses) and stored it beneath the Throne of Glory… Not only the soul of Moshe (Moses) is stored beneath the Throne of Glory, but the souls of the tsaddikim (righteous ones) are also stored there. –Rabbi Natan Ha-Bavli
“Rabbi Akiva used to say,… ‘Whoever is buried beneath the altar is as though he were buried beneath the Throne of Glory’” –Avot diRabbi Natan 12:4, 26:2
“Rabbi Abba Arikha (Rav)… taught that the archangel Michael offers a sacrifice on the heavenly altar in the heavenly Temple (M’nachot 110a). The Tosafot, medieval commentators on the Talmud, said about this passage that this sacrifice consists of the souls of the righteous, of Torah scholars. Similarly Shabbat 152b” –David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary
When we read that the souls of the tsaddikim (righteous ones) are beneath the altar, we must understand that the heavenly altar facilitates the covering (Kiparot) of redeemed humanity and is the altar at which Yeshua our High Priest ministers on our behalf. In this way it bridges the distance between the heavens and the earth and beneath it is the paradise of G-d, the bosom of Abraham, in which the righteous dead dwell. This is also how Yeshua is manifest both in Paradise and in the heavens at the same time (being that in His resurrected body He is outside of the confines of time and space, able to operate within and without).
These righteous souls are those who have been slain due to their having upheld the Word of Messiah’s Gospel and the testimony of Messiah. This includes the Jewish prophets of old, who having been visited by The Word, gave of their lives in His service. Their blood cries out from the earth like the righteous blood of Abel and Zechariah and all those in between (Gen. 4:10; Matt. 23:25).
The Jewish concept of martyrdom is known as, “al Kiddush HaShem” (To Sanctify the Name).
“How long, O HaShem, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Many misunderstand the Scripture relating to vengeance:
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for G-d’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says HaShem.” –Romans 12:19 (Deut 32:35; Hebrews 10:30)
G-d does not say that we should not ask Him to avenge us, rather He says, “Don’t take vengeance into your own hands” why? Because He knows that we may in some cases mistake the facts and fall into sin by avenging ourselves upon the innocent. Therefore it is right to ask G-d to avenge us against the enemies of G-d upon the earth. Here, “those who dwell on the earth” refers to those who are not sealed by Yeshua.
This verse also reflects the plea of the messenger of Zechariah’s vision concerning Israel (ethnic):
“And they reported to the messenger of HaShem who was standing among the myrtle trees, ‘We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.’ Then the messenger of HaShem said, ‘Adonai Tzevaot (YHVH of Heavens armies), how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?’” –Zechariah 1:11-12
Add to this the voice of the psalmist:
“Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Before our eyes, make known among the nations
that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants.” –Tehilim/Psalm 79:10
And finally the voice of the true Judge Yeshua (Given authority to judge by HaShem):
“ And will not G-d bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” –Luke 18:7-8
11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants (Gentile Christians) and their brethren (Messianic ethnic Israel) who were to be killed even as they had been, would be fulfilled also.
The idea that the martyrs should rest until their number is complete is a Jewish one. Judaism teaches that the drama of history must be completed in full before the end can come. Jewish apocryphal works remind us that, “G-d will not stir until the measure appointed has been fulfilled (4 Ezra 4:36). An offering of the complete number of the righteous must be made before the end can come (Enoch 47:4).
The white robe is a symbol of purity purchased by Messiah Yeshua’s blood and of the righteous acts of these tsaddikim (righteous ones). It is interesting to note that up until the present day Judaism employs the white robe at sacred rites. The Rabbis and devotees of many branches of Judaism today, don a full length white robe called a ketel during the High Holy Days in the seventh month in order to acknowledge Israel’s need for purification and redemption at the hand of G-d. These High Holy days include Yom Teruah (Rosh HaShanah), The Days of awe (10 Days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur), Yom Kippur (Day of Covering/Day of Judgement) and Sukkot (Feast of Booths/Tabernacles).
In Revelation we are watching the High Holy days unfold, or rather, be unveiled to us by Yeshua. At the beginning of the scroll of Revelation we hear the trumpet of Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets) calling to us to prepare ourselves for the visitation of Messiah. As we progress we journey through the days of awe and repentance upon the earth as the seals are opened and the judgements of G-d begin. At the opening of the books we see Yom Kippur and the Judgement of G-d over all creation, and finally as the scroll of Revelation concludes we witness the descending city of the New Jerusalem and G-d and His Messiah dwelling with us in the great fulfilment of the Feast of Sukkot (Booths). I call this final joy, “Camping with Dad”.
The time of persecution of the followers of Messiah has a limit set upon it and will come to an end, at which point there will no longer be opportunity for returning to G-d. At that time the Gentile nations will lose any further chance to repent and the whole remnant of ethnic Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).
What follows is a vivid picture of the key elements described in the Jewish Scriptures regarding the last days. The Tanakh and other Jewish writings detail these events as follows:
1.) Earthquake: At the coming of the L-rd the earth will tremble (Amos 8:8); there will be a great shaking of the land of Israel (Ezekiel 38:19); the earth will quake and the heavens will tremble (Joel 2:10); G-d will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and dry land (Haggai 2:6).
2.) The Darkening of the sun and moon: The sun will set at midday and the moon will grow dark in the clear daylight (Amos 8:8); the stars will not shine; the sun will be darkened in his going forth, and the moon will not cause her light to shine (Isaiah 13:13); G-d will clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering (Isaiah 50:3); the sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood (Joel 2:31); The sun will be darkened and the moon will not give her light (Matt. 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 23:45).
3.) Falling of the stars: From a Jewish perspective the heavens in array are the unchangeable assurance of the created order and the fidelity of G-d. If the reliability of the heavens is taken away, then all things will fall into chaos, a state of pre-created darkness.
“Enoch saw the chambers of the sun and moon, how they go out and come in, how they never leave their orbit, and add nothing to it and take nothing from it.” –Enoch 41:5
From a Jewish perspective the disintegration of the heavens is the last word in chaos. However, Isaiah speaks of this very thing:
“And all the host of heaven will wear away,
And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;
All their hosts will also wither away
As a leaf withers from the vine,
Or as one withers from the fig tree.” –Isaiah 34:4 (Matthew 24:29)
4.) The folding of the heavens: The picture of this in Revelation 6 is that of an open scroll being torn down the middle and then the two halves recoiling and being rolled up onto each of their respective pillars. The heavens will be rolled together as a scroll (Isaiah 34:4); they will be changed like a garment and folded up (Psalm 102:25-26).
5.) The moving of the mountains and the islands of the sea: The mountains will tremble and the hills will be removed (Jeremiah 4:24); the mountains will quake and the hills will melt (Nahum 1:5).
All of the events pictured in Yochanan’s vision are familiar to Israel, they have been prophesied from ancient days and are now communicated afresh at this pivotal time in history.
12 I looked when He (The Lamb) broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood;
This description of the breaking of the sixth seal alludes to a number of similar Tanakh passages which describe the end of days: Isaiah 2:10-12, 19, 13:10, 34:4, 50:3; Jeremiah 4:23-29; Joel 2:31, 3:15; Nahum 1:5-6; Haggai 2:6. New Testament comparisons can be found in Matthew 24:29 and Luke 23:30.
“Go into the rocks, hide in the ground from the fearful presence of HaShem and the splendour of His majesty! 11 The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low;
HaShem alone will be exalted in that day. 12 HaShem Tzevaot (Almighty) has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled),” –Yeshaiyahu/Isaiah 2:10-12
One of the first things we note is that this is a singular event. Much of the foolish conjecture of recent times regarding the so called “Blood Moons” (plural) neglects this very important fact. The sun becoming like sackcloth is a reference to a specific eclipse of the sun at a specific time in the future which is unknown to us but known to G-d (Duet. 29:29). The metaphorical use of the word, “sackcloth” is an allusion to the great tragedy and mourning that will befall the earth (pagan nations) and the blood colour of the moon is a symbol of bloody judgement meted out against the earth (pagan nations).
It’s important to note that from ancient times pagan nations have worshipped the sun and the moon as deities. Therefore by removing their effectiveness G-d is symbolically showing that not even the loftiest gods of humanity are a match for His wrath. This is prophetically foretold in the historical account of Joseph (a type for Messiah) and the bowing down of the sun and the moon and the eleven stars (Genesis 37:9-11).
13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.
The stars falling can be seen to include both stars and asteroids and the imploding of planets. Symbolically speaking they may also represent fallen angelic beings (falling from within space, not from the third heaven which they were cast out of long ago).
The comparison of the stars to the unripe fruit of the fig tree is a poignant Hebraic symbol. The fig tree is the place of Jewish teaching, when the teachers of Israel taught the word of G-d the fruit was ripe and benefited Israel, however, when the teachers of Israel taught the rules of men, the fruit fell from the tree out of season and rotted on the ground. The wind is the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit), Who shakes the tree and removes the unripe fruit, that is the fruit of false teaching.
14 The heavens tore apart and recoiled like a scroll rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
This is a description of the heavens imploding rather than exploding. The scroll rolling up is torn in the centre and pulls the heavens apart. This is a vivid image of catastrophic astronomical events, followed by perhaps the greatest tectonic shift ever to affect the earth.
The rolling up of the scroll of the sky is a metaphor for the conclusion of those things that have come before and acts in juxtaposition to the soon to unrolled scroll of G-d.
15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
The kings of the earth are the leaders of those who have rejected Messiah. The list goes on to include every walk of life, all of whom have rejected Yeshua and the G-d of Israel (ethnic). Their response is noteworthy because although they acknowledge that no one can hide from G-d’s wrath and the wrath of the Lamb, they do not repent. In fact it seems that they invite death rather than choosing to repent.
This is consistent with ancient Hebrew thought, which boasts numerous examples of prophetic statements regarding the universal terror that will befall humanity in the last days.
“Wail, for the day of HaShem is near!
It will come as destruction from Shaddai (the Almighty).
7 Therefore all hands will fall limp,
And every human beings core being (heart) will melt.
8 They will be terrified, pains and anguish will take hold of them;
They will writhe like a woman in labour,
They will look at one another in astonishment,
Their faces aflame.” –Isaiah 13:6-8
“At that time even the mighty man will cry bitterly.” –Zephaniah 1:14
“The inhabitants of the land shall tremble.” –Joel 2:1
“The day of HaShem is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it?” –Joel 2:11
“Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
This text reflects the writings of the Tanakh (OT) which describes the Day of the L-rd (Judgement Day) in similar terms (Zeph. 1:14-18; Nahum 1:6; Malachi 3:2).
“Then they will say to the mountains,
‘Cover us!’ And to the hills, “Fall on us!” –Hosea 10:8 (Luke 23:30)
“That day will be a day of wrath--
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of trouble and ruin,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.” –Zephaniah 1:15
Those who refuse to address the sin that reigns in their lives become accustomed to the darkness. When the Holy G-d pours out His wrath, which is born of love and light, the one who hates G-d flees because the darkness in him seeks to hide from the light. This reminds us of humanity’s first response to G-d after our very first act of sin. Adam and Eve sought to hide themselves from G-d (Genesis 3:8).
“The wrath of the Lamb;”
According to John 5:22, Acts 17:31, Romans 2:16 and 2 Corinthians 5:10, G-d has entrusted judgement to His Son the Lion-Lamb. This judgement is said to take place on:
1.) The Great Day of The L-rd (Rev. 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10)
2.) The Day of The L-rd Yeshua our Messiah (1 Corinthians 1:18)
3.) The Day of our L-rd Yeshua (2 Corinthians 1:14)
4.) The Day of The Messiah (Philippians 1:10)
5.) The Great Day of ADONAI Tzevaot (Rev. 16:14; Isaiah 2:12; Jeremiah 46:10)
6.) The Day of Judgement (Matthew 10:15; 2 Peter 2:9; 1 John 4:17)
As Mashiyach Ben David The warrior Messiah, the Lamb will reveal His wrath:
“Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron sceptre.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of Adonai Tzevaot (G-d Almighty).” –Revelation 19:15
“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against HaShem and against his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; HaShem scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”
7 I will proclaim HaShem’s decree He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
8 Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
10 Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve HaShem with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” –Tehilim/Psalm 2
It is the great day of, “Their wrath” both the Father and the Son will visit just retribution against the enemies of G-d and His people (ethnic Israel and believing Gentiles).
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
We will reign in the sense that Adam, the first man, reigned on earth prior to the fall, as caretakers of a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth.
An examination of Revelation 5
As we continue we need to keep in mind that we are reading about the Heavenly Mishkan/Temple of G-d on which the shadow of the earthly Mishkan/Temple is based. We’re then able to compare the symbols we read about with their earthly counterparts and deduce their unveiled meaning.
5:1 I saw laying upon the open right hand of Him who sat on the throne, a scroll with writing on both sides, sealed up with seven seals.
“I saw upon the right hand”
The Greek, “Epi” rendered, “in” by most English translations is better translated, “upon”. Therefore the sense of the opening phrase is, “I saw laying upon the open right hand”. This is important because it means that the right hand of HaShem was open rather than gripping the scroll/biblion (Book, tablet). It is being offered and not withheld.
Notice that the comparative vision of Ezekiel also shows the hand, “stretched out” rather than closed:
”Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. Upon it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.” –Yetzkiel/Ezekiel 2:9-10
“A scroll with writing on both sides,”
The Greek, “Biblion” from which we receive the English word, “Bible”, meaning a collection of books, can be understood to mean, “Book, Scroll, Tablet, Writing, Bill”. Each of these meanings has some significance here. The scroll in this vision is a book in the sense that it is a volume containing a record of things to come. It’s also a scroll like the one spoken of in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 2:9-10). It is a tablet which identifies itself with the tablets of Sinai (Which were written on front and back: Exodus 32:15). It’s a collection of writings which contains the mysteries of G-d, like those of the prophets of Israel, and it is a bill of notice which unveils the consequences of the failure to pay its debt.
The most efficient single English word in this context is, “scroll” because it unites all of the other meanings:
a.) A collection of scrolls can be formed into a book
b.) The Torah was transferred onto a scroll following Sinai and the Prophets and Writings are also written on scrolls (Megilot), as were the books of the New Testament
c.) The tablets containing the Instruction of G-d, including the Ten Commandments, became part of the record of the Torah, which was written on scrolls
d.) A Greco-Roman bill of debt was written on a small scroll among other methods
The most significant elements of the Scroll’s description are the fact that it is written on front and back and that it has seven seals. I’ll address the symbolic and literal nature of the writing itself first.
Writing on Front and Back:
Just as the eyes of the living creatures cover them front and back and represent their ability to see future and past events, so too the scroll in G-d’s right hand details revealed past events and concealed future events.
“The secret things belong to HaShem our Elohim, but the things unveiled belong to us and to our children forever, that we may observe all the words of this Torah.” –Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:29
1.) The Stone Tablets of Sinai:
While the scroll of Ezekiel’s vision is written on front and back, like the scroll of Yochanan’s vision, it is described by the mourning and affliction of the plagues of the Torah and denotes Israel’s journey out of slavery. Therefore both scrolls (which are in fact one in the same, and part of a larger volume of writing) submit to the first writings imparted to humanity at the hand of G-d, the stone tablets (sapphire: according to the Targum of Yonahtan) of Sinai which contained the Torah (Instruction) of HaShem and were written on both front and back.
“Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant Instruction in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back.” –Shemot/Exodus 32:15
This is not to say that the scroll of Yochanan’s vision only represents the Torah. We must remember that the tablets are a representation of G-d’s perfect Instruction on earth, Yochanan on the other hand, is looking at the fullness of that same word of Instruction within the framework of the heavenly Mishkan/Temple.
If we agree that each element of the earthly Mishkan/Temple is represented in some way, then we must also agree that within the Ark of the Covenant, beneath the mercy seat, the Tablets of G-d’s Instruction were stored. In Yochanan’s vision G-d Himself sits on the mercy seat and offers forth the tablets in their full form as the writings of love and justice, compassion and judgement which contain the plagues that will punish the earth and set His people free. The earth then is seen in the metaphor of Egypt and what is about to take place is illuminated in what has gone before, through the historical allegory of Israel’s escape from slavery.
2.) Ezekiel’s scroll
”Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.” –Yetzkhiel/Ezekiel 2:9-10
This scroll, like the scroll of Yochanan’s vision, is full of lament and woe because Israel has turned her back on HaShem. The same is true of the nations of the earth, therefore the scroll of Revelation will pronounce judgements upon the people of the earth. However, judgement and justice can’t commence until someone worthy is found to open the scroll.
In summation, the scroll of Yochanan’s vision is a book of G-d’s decrees with respect to all of creation from beginning to end. It is a scroll that exists outside of time and space in the heavenly Mishkan/Temple and its words invade time and space in order to reconcile all things to G-d.
John Gill notes that the scroll contains:
“All occurrences and events in the whole world, from the beginning to the end of time; and so Ezekiel's roll, according to the Targum on Eze_2:10; which was written before and behind, signified that which was מן שרויא, "from the beginning", and which דעתיד למהוי בסופא, "shall be in the end", or hereafter. This book G-d holds "in his right hand", as the rule and measure of all he does, and of the government of the world, and which he constantly fulfils and executes; and its being written "within and without" may denote the perfection and comprehensiveness of it.”
“Sealed up with seven seals”
During this period in history it was probably standard practice to use either one or at most two seals when securing an important scroll, however the seal itself represents the witness and mark of the one who makes it, meaning that in some rare cases a council of witnesses might approve a document and seal it, each with their own seal. Here that council of witnesses consists of One sevenfold Witness, that is G-d Himself and will be opened by the One Who is the faithful witness, Yeshua the Messiah (Rev 1:5).
The fact that there are seven seals is of symbolic significance in that the number seven continues to represent the fullness of the complete work of G-d with regard to all things. It’s also significant that seven messengers attest to the seven events that come about after the opening of each seal. The scroll itself has been sealed by the sevenfold Spirit of G-d and as a result only One Who has sevenfold authority over the created order will be allowed to open it.
This is the scroll of which the L-rd had said:
“But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” –Daniel 12:4
This means that many will increase their own form of worldly knowledge but will remain ignorant to the hidden knowledge of G-d, which is being unveiled to His servants. Those who refuse the Gospel have blinded themselves to true knowledge.
2 And I saw a mighty messenger proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals?” 3 And no one in the heavens or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.
“Mighty messenger” In Hebrew the equivalent phrase easily translates as, “Gabriel” Mighty one of G-d. Gabriel is one of four Arch Angels in Hebrew thought, two of which, Gabriel and Michael are featured in the Biblical text.
“Proclaiming with a loud voice” Means that his voice could be heard in the heavens, on the earth and under the earth, in other words, his voice was heard throughout creation, time and space.
“Who is worthy to open the scroll and to break its seals?”
The messenger asks, “Who is deserving? Who can, with a clear conscience, dare to break open seals put in place by G-d? Who has, by thought and deed, shown himself to be the one and only deserving being in all creation?”
This is both a question and an invitation to the whole of creation. It is a statement that defies the Accuser and longs for the Redeemer.
The Mishnah reminds us that the High Priest made this same call to the priesthood when summoning them to participate in Temple service. The Cohen Ha-Gadol of the Temple would call to the division of the priests under him, to attend to the several parts of service assigned them, saying unto them, מי שזכה, "whosoever is worthy, let him" enact his duty (Misnah Tamid, c. 1. sect. 4. & c. 5. sect. 4. 5).
And no one in the heavens or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.
“No one” means no created being or thing. Not in the third heaven outside of time and space, not in or on the earth, not under the earth in Sheol (the holding place of the dead). No Power or spirit or force or thing was worthy to either open the scroll or look into it… except…
4 Then I burst into tears and continued weeping greatly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it;
The sense is that Yochanan is weeping for both the dire condition of creation, being that no one is worthy and the fact that the scroll, which contains the events that will bring about the final judgement, the end of the age and the Olam Habah (World to Come) remains sealed.
5 and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
One of the priests of the Heavenly order encourages Yochanan with the words:
“Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah,”
This is a Messianic title gleaned from the Torah:
“Judah is a lion’s cub;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He couches, he lies down as a lion (in it’s prime),
And as a lion (Mature), who dares rouse him up?
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh (Peace Personified) comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” –Bereshit/Genesis 49:9
The following Targums and ancient Jewish writings agree that this passage of Genesis is speaking of the Messiah: Zohar in Gen. fol. 32. 4. & in Exod. fol. 4. 1. & in Numb. fol. 101. 2. Bereshit Rabba, fol. 98. sect. 85. 3. Jarchi & Baal Hatturim, in loc. Nachmanidis Disputat. cum Paulo, p. 53. Abarbinel. Mashmiah Jesbuah, fol. 10. 1. R. Abraham Seba, Tzeror Hammor, fol. 36. 4. & 62. 2. T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 2.
"Of Messiah, the son of David, who comes forth from Judah, is it said, Gen 49:9, "Judah is a lion's whelp";'' –Raya Mehimna in Zohar in Exod. fol. 49. 3, 4.
“Messiah, the son of David, who is אריה, "a lion (of YHVH)", shall be on his right hand, and Messiah, the son of Joseph, who is an ox, on his left hand” –Targum in Hos. v. 14. & xi. 10. & xiii. 7.
“The Root of David”
This is yet another Messianic title, one gleaned from Isaiah, where Messiah is called both The Root and the Branch of Jesse, that is, “The Aleph and the Tav, The Beginning and the End”.
“Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” –Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 11:1
Isaiah also details the rule of the root of Jesse saying:
“Then in that day
The nations will resort to the root of Jesse,
Who will stand as a sign for the peoples;
And His resting place will be glorious.” –Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 11:10
Then he speaks of a second return from exile for the tribes of Israel. Notice that the two returns inferred are from the four corners of the earth, which excludes all the dispersions prior to the return that resulted in the modern state of Israel being formed in 1948. Therefore, there remains a future return for the ethnic people of Israel who are still living among the nations.
“Then it will happen on that day that the Lord
Will again for the second time, with His hand
Recover the remnant of His people, who will remain,
From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath,
And from the islands of the sea (New Zealand).
And He will lift up a standard for the nations
And assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.”
By referring to the text of Isaiah 11, Yochanan affirms the fact that G-d has not finished with the corporate ethnic people of Israel, to the contrary He will keep His promises and return Israel to her land to reign with her Messiah Yeshua.
“But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of G-d are irrevocable.” –Romans 11:28-29
“And again Isaiah says,
‘The root of Jesse will come, even He who arises to rule the nations;
in Him will the nations hope.’” –Romans 15:12
“Has overcome so as to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
What has He overcome? He has overcome death and is the One Who was dead and is now alive and holds the keys to death and sheol (Rev 1:18). He has overcome the reign of sin in the earth through His incarnation, blameless life and sacrificial death and resurrection, and has redeemed a people for G-d. Who is that people? They are Jews and Gentiles who have accepted Messiah Yeshua.
6 And I saw in the midst of the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders (Priests), a Lamb standing, and appeared as if had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the sevenfold Spirit of G-d, sent out into all the earth.
“I saw in the midst of the throne”
The lamb stood in the midst, just as He had stood in the midst of the Menorot (Seven branched candle stands) of the assemblies. He stands as High Priest (Hebrews 5) among the priests (24 Elders) and witnessed by the four living creatures (Cherubim).
He stood in the midst of the throne, being that He is G-d with us and is therefore in the midst of the manifest representation of G-d.
“A Lamb standing, and appeared as if had been slain”
Yochanan uses a different Greek word (arneeon) here to refer to the lamb than the one (amnos) used throughout his gospel, why is that?
When Yochanan records, “Behold, the Lamb of G-d, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) He uses the word, “amnos” which is a general term used to describe a lamb, however throughout the book of Revelation he uses, “arneeon” which is a more endearing term like the English, “Lambkin”. The reason for this is simple, the term, “amnos” denotes the yet to be sacrificed lamb, whereas the term, “arneeon” refers to the once slain now resurrected Lamb.
Notice that the Lamb is standing. He bears the marks of having been slain but is now alive. Yochanan is witnessing the Lamb that Isaiah spoke of:
“He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.” –Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 53:7-8
The fierce Lion of Judah is now seen as the vulnerable Lamb of G-d. This juxtaposition challenged the rabbis of early rabbinical Judaism, who, not wanting to accept Yeshua as having fulfilled both roles, invented the concept of multiple Messiahs: the suffering Messiah, Mashiyach ben Yosef and the victorious Messiah, Mashiyach ben David. Yeshua is in fact the unity of these two, He has both suffered and conquered and will come again as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (6:16-17), to execute judgement and rule over all the earth, instituting a reign of peace from the city called, “Rain of Peace”, that is, “Jerusalem”.
“Having seven horns”
In the Tanakh (Old Testament) horns symbolize power and strength (Deut 33:17; 1Sa 2:10; 1Ki 22:11; Psa 112:9; Dan 7:7, Dan 7:20.), salvation (2 Sam 22:3; Psalm 18:2) and sacrifice (Lev 4; Lev 8:15; Lev 9:9). The horns of the altar also symbolized the effectiveness of G-dly sacrifice and its ability to reach to the four corners of the earth.
Seven continues to represent completeness and perfection, deity and fulfilment. Therefore Yeshua is the complete perfection of rule, power, strength, sacrifice and salvation.
The seven eyes denote Messiah’s ability to see all things and judge them with perfect judgement (2 Chron 16:9). The seven eyes of the lamb also recall for the Jewish reader the promise that HaShem had made to the high priest Yehoshua (Yeshua/Jesus) in Zechariah 3:8-10. This high priest is a type for Messiah and is promised the stone (jewel) engraved with seven eyes (Which represents the Messiah).
“ Now listen, Yehoshua (Joshua) the high priest, you and your associates (fellow priests) who are sitting in front of you—indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch (Messiah). 9 For behold, the stone (eben: jewel/stone) that I have set before Yehoshua (Joshua); engraved into one stone (eben: jewel/stone) are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,’ declares the L-rd of hosts, ‘and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. 10 ‘In that day,’ declares the L-rd of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbour to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.’” –Zechariah 3:8-10
First, the high priest (a type for Yeshua) has priests (associates) sitting in front of him. These are said to be, “men who are a symbol”, why? Perhaps because there are 24 of them and they are a symbol of the elders in future heavenly vision of Yochanan.
HaShem refers to the Messiah as the branch and then says that He has placed a stone/jewel (eben) before the high priest. This stone is a symbol of the Messiah. Here the Hebrew word eben can be understood to refer to a precious stone (Gen 2:12; Ezekiel 28:13). It is upon this stone which is set before the high priest that HaShem engraves seven eyes. As a result of the provision of the seven eyed stone (Messiah), all iniquity will be removed from the land in one day. This is speaking of the sacrificial death of the Messiah Yeshua.
It is a worthwhile exercise to read the entire portion of Zechariah 3 in order to glean the greater context of the text and observe the continuity of the Messianic story as it unfolds through the words of Zechariah.
“Which are the sevenfold Spirit of G-d, sent out into all the earth.”
The horns and the eyes are echad (one) with the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) of G-d and are sent out into all the earth. The Spirit of G-d moves in every part of the universe because all things are created and have their being in G-d. The Spirit issues forth from the throne from the Father and the Son, bringing perfect strength, vision and judgement to all of creation.
7 And He came and received the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.
It’s important to note that in the present age Messiah is positioned at the right hand of the throne of G-d (Psalm 110:1; Mtt 22:44; Acts 2:34-35, 7:56; Hebrews 1:3). Therefore, the fact that He is seen here approaching G-d’s right hand to retrieve the scroll, affirms the future chronology of these events.
We are reminded that the hand of HaShem was open, offering the scroll to the One Who would be shown to be worthy. Therefore, the Lamb takes the scroll from the father’s hand like a graduate receiving a degree from the hand of a tutor (Who in this case is the graduate’s father). This is not to say that the Messiah is in any way less G-d, He has simply come as the only One worthy to break the seven seals and release the final judgements of the scroll.
8 When He had received the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the set apart ones.
The worship of the four creatures and the 24 elders is yet another affirmation of the deity of Messiah Yeshua (the Lamb). Israel is commanded to worship G-d alone, based on this scripture we can only conclude that Yeshua is G-d the Son.
“Each one holding a harp”
This phrase relates to the elders (priests). We know this because of the words of the new song that follows which speak of the redemption of humanity (The living creatures are angelic beings).
The harp in question is a smaller instrument than the modern orchestral harp, it’s shaped more like a lute or a small guitar and is the kind of instrument used by David and his priests (Psalm 33:2) in worship of HaShem. It is therefore fitting that it is a harp that each of the priests uses to bring praise to G-d and His Messiah.
“Golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the set apart ones.”
These bowls represent the censors filled with incense and the incense offered on the altar of incense in the Mishkan/Temple by the priests, as detailed in Exodus chapters 30 through 40, and Leviticus 2 through 6.
The Psalmist says:
“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” –Tehilim/Psalm 141:2
The Zohar says:
"prayer (they say) ascends with those spices which are mentioned in Son 4:14; and at the time that prayer ascends it is perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, and of this the holy blessed God asks, "who is this that comes up", &c. Son 3:6;'' –Raya Mehimna in Zohar in Exod. fol. 48. 3
The sage rights:
“And they say, prayer is greater than all offerings” –Yalkut Simeoni, par. 2. fol. 40. 3
(Compare Revelation 8:3)
The prayers of the set apart ones (saints/Tzidikim) are the prayers of all time, from the prayers of Adam and unto the prayers of the set apart ones in the final days, and every righteous prayer in between. Every prayer we utter in response to HaShem rises from the altar of incense, having been carried there in the golden bowls of the heavenly priesthood (24 elders).
9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the scroll and to break its seals; for You were slain, and redeemed for G-d with Your blood people from every tribe (ethnic Israel) and tongue and people and nation.
New songs are the domain of G-d’s victorious prophets, messengers and heroes. Throughout the Tanakh a new song celebrated an act of G-d’s deliverance of ethnic Israel. From Moses (Exodus 15) to Miryam the mother of Yeshua (Luke 1:46-55) and in full circle back to Moses (Revelation 15:3) new songs have celebrated G-d through the ages (Isa 42:10; Psa 33:3; Psa 40:3, etc.).
The Lamb is worthy because He was slain, and redeemed for G-d with His blood people from every tribe and tongue and ethnicity and nation.
Note that the salvation begins with ethnic Israel and then spreads to every language, people and nation. The Greek word, “phule”, literally tribe, is almost exclusively used of ethnic Israel and is intended to be understood in the same sense here. The progression then follows the revelation of the Gospel and reaffirms the earthly lineage of the Messiah.
10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our G-d; and they will reign upon the earth.”
“Made them to be a kingdom and priests to our G-d”
The priests who are singing are the heavenly divisions of the priesthood who unite the priesthood of Israel and therefore sing of the wonderful reconciliation to G-d of both Israel and the nations.
This language finds its inspiration in Exodus 19:6 and Isaiah 61:6. When we compare 1 Peter 2:9 (Written firstly to Messianic Jews and also Messianic Gentiles) we understand that while this promise is metaphorically true of all Messiah followers, it is always and only literally true of the ethnic people of Israel.
“They will reign upon the earth.”
“Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people who are holy set apart to the Most High; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.” –Daniel 7:27
This Daniel text refers specifically to the set apart righteous people of ethnic Israel. However, once again, the midrash can indicate a remez (hint) of the metaphorical use of these terms to refer to the righteous among the nations. This does not however cancel out the p’shat (contextual literal meaning).
The text uses the future tense, “will” meaning that this will take place at a later date. Some suggest that this reign is a metaphorical reign and that in Messiah believers already reign in His now and not yet fully complete Kingdom. From a Hebrew perspective it is nonsensical to separate the unity of physical and spiritual kingdom with respect to this verse. Therefore the most plausible interpretation seems to be that of the future reign/rule of believers which is also alluded to in Rev 20:4. As an Ecclesia it seems clear to me that we are not presently reigning on the earth.
Notice that the text says, “Reign upon the earth.” We do not lord our reign over others, the scripture does not say, “Reign over the earth’s peoples.” To the contrary, we will reign in the sense that Adam, the first man, reigned on earth prior to the fall, as caretakers of a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth.
We are being returned to HaShem and will become stewards of a new Eden. Let’s put aside all our Greco-Roman notions of oppressive rule and control, that have been perpetuated by a false Church hierarchy, and instead admit that there is One Who reigns and that we are His children. Let’s not adopt a false premise based on an unsubstantiated rule, rather let’s look forward to a time when in Messiah we will be made caretakers, reigning together.
11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many messengers around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing.”
The number of angelic messengers is meant to be understood as conveying the presence of the entire heavenly host.
We now see all present unified in praise and acknowledging the power and authority that HaShem has given to the Lamb. We see that G-d, Who has held these attributes from time immemorial now grants them to His Son Yeshua. There are seven in all: 1.) Power 2.) Riches 3.) Wisdom 4.) Might 5.) Honour 6.) Glory 7.) Blessing. These seven convey the perfect nature of the lamb and His intrinsic connection with The Father and the Spirit.
13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honour and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
Just as the call for a worthy One went out to all of creation, so now all of creation responds in praise and worship to G-d the Father Who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, the worthy one. In this case the text infers that all creation (including the enemies of Messiah) are confessing, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honour and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
”For this reason also, G-d highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Yeshua (Jesus) every knee will bow (Isaiah 45:23), of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Yeshua Mashiyach (Jesus Christ) is L-rd, to the glory of G-d the Father.” –Philippians 2:9-11
Every creature will acknowledge Him (Philippians 2:9-20; Colossians 1:20) but the enemies of Messiah will not enjoy the benefits of His reign (Revelation 20:11-15; James 2:19).
14 And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Now that all creation has been represented, the four living creatures, the Cherubim of the Holy of Holies, guardians of the ark of the covenant, these four who have observed Messiah Yeshua from before the foundations of the earth, now give their agreement and acknowledge His eternal nature and unity with the Father.
The Amen: The Hebrew word, “Amein” shares the same Hebrew root as emunah (faith) and is also connected with the word emet meaning “truth.” The meaning it expresses is of established trust, acceptance, and agreement. Many translate it, “So be it”, or, “So say we all”.
A late second-century teacher in the Talmud takes the initial letters of amen to represent, “el melekh neeman”, (G-d, Faithful King.) This reflects Yeshua’s descriptions of Himself in Revelation 1:5, 3:7.
A later Jewish commentator of the siddur (prayer book) interprets the initial letters homiletically as, “ani moser nafshi,” (I offer up myself as a sacrifice). A clearer description of the life of Yeshua we could not find.
“Because he who is blessed in the earth
Will be blessed by the G-d of Amein (truth);
And he who swears in the earth
Will swear by the G-d of Amein (truth);;
Because the former troubles are forgotten,
And because they are hidden from My sight! –Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 65:16
Yeshua is the faithful (emunah) witness to the truth (emet), the agreement (Amen) with HaShem (Rev 1:6)
In conclusion to this wonderful event the elders who represent the heavenly priesthood, fall down at the feet of the One Who is on the throne and of His Son, the Great High Priest, and worship.
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.