Revealing Revelation – The Seven Sealed Scroll

01Mar11

In this post we will discuss the many different options for interpreting what the seven sealed scroll represents and what is the purpose. Views differ greatly and are impacted by ones basic presuppositions regarding interpreting Revelation. It is also impossible to discuss the differing views without also discussing some characters and events that arrive later in the book. Some basic knowledge and familiarity with the book and it’s characters will be useful, though not completely necessary.

Rev. 5:1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.

THE SCROLL

The scroll is pictured rolled up with seven seals placed across the overlapping edge of the document. John notes that the scroll appears to have writing both on the front and the back of the document. This image appears only once in the rest of the Bible and may help in deciphering just what kind of document it is. The seals guarantee that they document can only be opened by one who has the authority or, in this case, worthiness, to open it.

This is a common literary device as well as actual historical idea. A document, like the one presented, must indeed be important because of the number of seals required to open in order to read. No one could accidentally open this document as they would have to unseal seven different seals.

LAND TITLE

Most futurist, especially Dispensationalist, argue that the document in question in a “Land Title” to the earth. The unleashing of the tribulation, it is argued, is the act of God reclaiming and redeeming the earth for Himself.

There are several potential theological problems with this view. None of those problems impact the preterist or futurist interpretation of the book as a preterist could hold to the “Land Title” view and maintain the preterist interpretation. The problems lie, though, in a misunderstanding or misapplication of the plan and will of God.

The first problem lies with a presupposed idea that God “lost” or “forfeited” the earth and needed to regain it. The idea, most notably promoted by Dispensationalist like Hal Lindsey in his book, “Satan is Alive and well on Planet Earth,” is foreign to the word of God. The Lord never relinquished control or sovereignty over the earth. There is no Land Title to regain as it was never lost at the Fall.

When the Bible speaks of the the Prince of this World it speaks of Satan’s dominion over that which is Godless. The “wordly” system is in view, not Terra Ferma. In fact the Bible is replete with the concept that everything occurs under the watchful, predetermined acts of the one who is in control of all things.

Exodus 9:29 Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD’s.

Deuteronomy 4:39 Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.

Joshua 2:11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

2 Kings 19:15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD : “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.

1 Chronicles 29:11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.

Psalm 24:1 [ Of David. A psalm. ] The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;

Psalm 47:2 How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!

Psalm 83:18 Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD- that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

Isaiah 37:16 “O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.

Isaiah 66:1 [ Judgment and Hope ] This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.

1 Corinthians 10:26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”

The above may be seen as a bit of overkill, but because of the immense popularity of this doctrine I felt it necessary to clearly note Scriptures overwhelming consensus that the earth and all that is in it is the Lord’s. Always has been. Always will be!

Even the pagan king of Babylon realized this truth…

Dan 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”

If even the pagan King can understand that the earth is the Lord’s than one must ask why the Dispensationalist can’t? There is no reason to understand the scroll as a deed to the earth. He never lost it and this includes the Christ as well! T

Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. 17And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross

He never lost the earth! It was His at creation and was His at His death, resurrection and ascension to receive glory, power, dominion and a kingdom (Dan7).

FUTURE EVENTS and WILL

Many, including the Historicist, argue that the scroll represent simplly the future events. This, though, would lack the necessity of a worthy one needed to open the scroll. Many unworthy “men” were given prophetic pronouncements in the past.

Spiritualist have argued the document should be seen as the Last Will and Testament. The writing on both side indicates that nothing can be added to the plan and that it contains the fullness of the will of God for human history.

MURDER VERDICT

A more reasonable option is that the book is an indictment and verdict of murder against the enemies of God. This makes sense within the court room scene as described in chapter four. This view also appeals to Matthew 23 for support in relation to Jesus’ own words that that generation would receive the punishment for all the righteous blood ever spilled from Abel to Zachariah.

The document has writing on both sides because the indictment is filled with so many acts of violence against God’s people throughout history that it would take both sides to list them all. This also is in line with what we discover later in the book as the judgments contained within the pages are set against those who martyred the people of God and those who were sent to them. This would include the prophets and the son of God Himself.

This view also appeals to other portions of Matthew as well. Those would include the story of the banquet in which those who were sent by the Master were scoffed at and eventually killed by those they were sent to. Also in view is the story of the vineyard in which the workers of the land killed those that were sent to them, including the son of the land owner. These evil acts are in view and are part of the indictment and the judgment contained within the words of the seven sealed scroll.

DIVORCE DOCUMENT

The final and most intriguing view is that the seven sealed document is actually a certificate of divorce against apostate Israel for her continuing harlotry. This harlotry began in the Old testament where the initial certificates of divorce were given to the two kingdoms as they were brought under captivity at the hands of Babylon and Syria.

The two-sided nature of the argument against Israel would indicate the consistent and continual acts of unfaithfulness against the Lord. There is such a lengthy history of unfaithful actions that it would take both the front and back of the document to list them. It has been argued by some historians that a man giving a certificate of divorce would need to list the reasons on the certificate to act as a “warning” or “defense” of his actions. If this is true, than the document in question would contain the same information in regards to Israel.

The picture of Israel as the Harlot is continued within the pages of Revelation as the Harlot and Bride are contrasted. The harlot is seen prostituting herself with the nations of the earth, an image made more visible as the harlot rides the Beast of Rome. The ultimate act of this Harlotry is seen at the death of Christ when Israel joins with Rome to put the Lord of Glory to death. They proclaim to have no other king but Caesar and covenantally call down the curse and judgment of God by placing the blood of Christ on their hands and on their children’s as well.

This view makes sense in light of God’s decree of divorcing Himself from the harlot in the Old Testament and the institution of the New Covenant in Jeremiah. Note the language below:

Jer 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.

Note how God uses the language of describing Himself as a husband, but that His wife broke that covenant. This same picture is described in the story of Hosea as well. The use of the Harlot language is quite common in the Old Testament as it related to Israel. The final act of Covenantal unfaithfulness is found at the crucifixion of Christ.

This image is seen in the book of Ezekiel as well. This ironically is also the book John borrows from the most in His descriptions of the things he has seen. Note the similarities below.

  • Presence of the four living creatures (Ez 1/Rev 4)
  • A throne with great brightness and a rainbow (Ez 1/Rev 4)
  • A scroll with writing on front and back (Ez 2/Rev 5)
  • Told to est the scroll in which is tasted like honey but made his stomach bitter (Ez 3/Rev 10)

There are many more similarities, but these are painfully obvious. Ezekiel is given a scroll and told to prophecy against Israel. The scroll itself with filled with Lamentations and Woe. It is later revealed in Ezekiel that Israel is the harlot deserving of this judgment of lamentation and woe. This would lead to her destruction at the hands of the Babylonians while Jerusalem would meet her destruction in Revelation at the hands of the Romans.

The last two views make the most sense Covenatally, especially considering the context of the courtroom scene and the harlot later introduced. remember, than only would that at one time was covenantally tied to God could be a harlot to god. This cannot refer to a pagan nation or people, because they could not harlot themselves against God because they were never covenantally tied to God in the first place.

I will admit to wavering between these last two options and actually have started to understand the document to contain both. Rhe reason I came to this conclusion is based on the two primary themes of Revelation in which the judgments against Israel are both for her covenantal unfaithfulness (making her the Harlot) and for the persecution and murder of the church members and of Christ Himself.

I have found myself rejecting any idea that does not contain some sort of indictment and judgment against the adversaries of God. This is made painfully clear as the document is unsealed and the actions that take place or are at least described within the document. There is no mistaking this document contains a judgment that any other view need be considered circumspect at best. Even the fact that someone had to be worthy to open this judgment document. It had to be someone who “was without sin” who was able to “throw the first stone.”

Now, as to who is worthy to open the scroll and what actually takes place at the unsealing we will need wait for a later post.

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One Response to “Revealing Revelation – The Seven Sealed Scroll”

  1. Hi this blog is great I will be recommending it to friends.


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