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    CHAPTER 20. The Seven Seals

    THE prophecy of the seven seals is presented in the 4th, 5th, and 6th chapters of the Revelation. The scenes which these seals portray are brought to view in Revelation 6, and the first verse of Revelation 8. They evidently cover events with which the church is connected from the opening of this dispensation to the coming of Christ.SYNPT 202.1

    While the seven churches present the internal history of the church, the seven seals bring to view the great events of its external history.SYNPT 202.2

    1. The first seal (chapter 6:2), showing a white horse, with a rider who went forth with a bow and a crown conquering and to conquer, represents the work of the gospel during the apostolic age. The whiteness of the horse denotes the purity of the church; and the victories of the rider; the marvelous successes of the first ministers of Christ.SYNPT 202.3

    1. Where is the prophecy of the seven seals found?
    2. What do they embrace?
    3. What is the difference between the seven churches and the seven seals?
    4. What does the first seal represent?
    5. What is indicated by the color of the horse?
    6. What by the success of him who sat thereon?

    2. The second deal introduces a red horse. Under this seal, peace is taken from the earth, and events of strife and confusion are introduced. This is shown by a great sword in the hands of him who sat on this horse. This seal is supposed to cover the time from the days of the apostles, at about the close of the first century, to the days of Constantine, A.D. 323-337. In his day the church had so far apostatized that peace was taken from the earth, and religious strife became so intense, that, as Mosheim testifies, there was continual war.SYNPT 202.4

    7. What takes place under the second seal?
    8. What represents this?
    9. What time is covered by this seal?
    10. To what extent had religious strife increased in the days of Constantine?
    11. What is the color of the horse of the third seal.
    12. What is indicated by this color?
    13. What does the reference to the balances, wheat, and barley show?
    14. What is the period covered by this seal?
    15. What were the characteristics of this period.
    16. What scene is present under the fourth seal?

    3. The third seal brings to view a black horse. He that sat upon him had a pair of balances in his hand. Then a voice was heard, saying, “A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny, and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” The color of this horse, just the opposite of that of the first horse, denotes the terrible apostasy both in doctrine and practice which had taken place in the church. The reference to the balances, the wheat, and the barley, sets forth the worldly spirit which had taken full possession of the professed church. The period which this seal is understood to cover, was embraced between the years 323, when Constantine was converted, and 538, when the papacy was set up. This was a period of superstition, of darkness and error, during which the principles of the great papal apostasy were rapidly developed.SYNPT 203.1

    4. The fourth seal introduces characters and movements stranger still. We behold a pale horse, the name of whose rider was death; and hell (hades, the grave) followed with him. “And they had power to kill with sword and with hunger and with death and beasts of the earth.” The preceding seal having brought us to the commencement of the papal supremacy, this seal naturally covers that period of its history during which it had in its hands the power of persecution. This was restrained by the great Reformation of the 16th century, as we shall see under the following seal.SYNPT 204.1

    5. The fifth seal brings to view a scene which the language of the scripture itself best describes: “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying. How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.SYNPT 204.2

    17. What time does it cover?
    18. To what work do the symbols employed appropriately refer?
    19. What did John see when the fifth seal was opened?
    20. What is this passage supposed to prove?

    This passage is supposed to furnish strong testimony in proof of the conscious existence of disembodied souls. But a little thought will show some insuperable objections to such a view. These souls are under the altar; and the altar is the altar of sacrifice; for it is where they were slain; but there is no such altar in heaven. They cried that their blood might be avenged; but the disembodied immortal soul has no blood. If they were in heaven, they could, according to the popular view, look over into the vault of hell, and behold their persecutors writhing in its inextinguishable flames; for such a conclusion follows from the view generally entertained of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Luke 16:19-31. How, then, could these souls cry for vengeance upon those who had slain them? Was it not enough to behold them in the flames of hell, there to be punished through all eternity?SYNPT 204.3

    In view of these difficulties, both Adam Clarke and Dr. Barnes give up the idea that this is a literal representation. Clarke says: “The altar was upon the earth,” and Barnes says that we are not to suppose that such a scene literally occurred, but that justice cried to God for vengeance upon those who had slain the martyrs as really as if they cried themselves.SYNPT 205.1

    21. Where are these souls seen?
    22. What altar is this?
    23. Is there such an altar in heaven?
    24. What do they cry?
    25. What is the objection to applying this to disembodied immortal souls?
    26. If such souls are in heaven, what view is constantly before them?
    27. What proves that this is the popular view?
    28. What, then, can be said of that view which represents them as crying for vengeance?
    29. What does Dr. Clarke say in regard to the altar?
    30. What is Barnes’s admission?
    31. If not conscious, how could they properly be represented as crying to God? References.

    But how could they cry, it is asked, if they were not conscious? The answer is at hand: They are represented as crying for vengeance, by a very common figure of speech, just as Abel’s blood is said to have cried (Genesis 4:10), and just as we read that the stone cried out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber answered it (Habakkuk 2:11). The persons here brought to view are those who had fallen under the papal persecutions of the preceding seal. The expression, “the souls of them that were slain,” is simply a strong expression to denote the persons, with all their capabilities of being, who had been sacrificed by papal fury. It means just what is meant by the parallel expressions, “spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23), “Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9), and “God of the spirits of all flesh” (Numbers 16:22, 2716); and these Dr. Clarke admits do not mean men “in a disembodied state.” Note on 1 Peter 3:19. The fact that they had been slain, cried like Abel’s blood to God for vengeance.SYNPT 205.2

    The white robes that were given unto them were robes of character. They had gone down into the grave covered with ignominy and reproach. But the Reformation vindicated them in the eyes of all Christendom. It was seen that they were not the vile heretics they had been represented to be, but the precious ones of the earth. They were to rest a little season. A few more were to be slain before the day for the final vindication of the people of God.SYNPT 206.1

    32. Who are the persons here brought to view?
    33. What can be said of the expression, “souls of them?”
    34. What was it that cried to God for vengeance?
    35. What were the white robes?
    36. How were they given?
    37. What is meant by their resting a little season?
    38. What period is covered by this seal?
    39. What is brought to view under the sixth seal?

    This seal covers the period from the beginning of the Reformation in the early part of the sixteenth century, to the opening of the sixth seal, about two hundred and thirty years later.SYNPT 206.2

    6. The opening of the sixth seal is marked by the occurrence of a notable earthquake, followed, in due order of succession, by the darkening of the sun, the turning of the moon to blood, the falling of the stars, the departing of the heavens as a scroll, and events immediately connected with the second coming of Christ.SYNPT 207.1

    The earthquake was unquestionably the great earthquake of Lisbon, which occurred Nov. 1, 1755. This convulsion of nature affected at least four million square miles of the earth’s surface. The sun was darkened May 19, 1780. The moon refused to give her light the following night; and when it did appear, it bore the appearance of blood as described in this prophecy. The stars of heaven fell Nov. 13, 1833. Other star showers or meteoric displays have been witnessed at different times, but this was the most remarkable and extensive of all.SYNPT 207.2

    40. What earthquake fulfilled this prophecy?
    41. When did it occur?
    42. How extensive was it?
    43. When was the sun darkened?
    44. When and how was the testimony relative to the moon fulfilled?
    45. When did the stars fall?
    46. Is not the character of these phenomena as signs destroyed by the fact that there have been other like exhibitions? And if not, why not?
    47. How does Mark speak of those signs?
    48. What days does Mark refer to?

    Mark speaks of the same signs and locates them at the same time. He says, “In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall.” “In those days,” before the 1260 years of papal triumph ended, but “after that tribulation,” after the persecuting power of the papacy was restrained (which was near 1755, when the sixth seal was opened), between that point and 1798 where the 1260 years ended, these scenes were to begin to appear; and right here in 1780, history locates the most remarkable phenomena of this kind that have ever been seen.SYNPT 207.3

    It will be noticed that in the fulfillment of this prophecy we stand between the 13th and 14th verses of chapter 6. The next thing here before us is the departing of the heavens as a scroll and the scenes of the great day.SYNPT 208.1

    7. The seventh seal is introduced in Revelation 8:1. The only event mentioned is silence in heaven about the space of half an hour; and the only time brought to view in the Bible when this could be fulfilled, is that described in Matthew 25:31, when Christ appears and “all the holy angels” come with him. Then there can be silence in heaven; and this event we understand to be the one to which the sixth seal is devoted.SYNPT 208.2

    It will be noticed that the language of the first five seals is symbolical, that of the sixth and seventh literal. We can account for this change in the language only by supposing that the events of these seals being located at the time when the prophecy was to be understood and the doctrine of the second coming of Christ proclaimed, is for this reason given in literal and not symbolic language.SYNPT 208.3

    49. What tribulation?
    50. Between what points of time does this locate these signs?
    51. Where do we stand in the fulfillment of the seals?
    52. Where is the opening of the seventh seal described?
    53. What is the event mentioned?
    54. When and by what means can this be fulfilled?
    55. Why is there a change between the fifth and sixth seals, from figurative language to literal?

    Taken as a whole, these seals may be said to represent the great apostasy in the church. The first seal represents the apostolic church in its purity. The succeeding seals, the church in its apostasy. But the true church occasionally appears this side of the first seal. It is the oil and the wine of the third seal, the martyrs of the fourth and fifth seals; and those who will be saved at the coming of Christ to which the last seal brings us. While the apostate church will be among those who will call for the rocks and mountains to fall on them, and hide them from His presence in the day of His wrath.SYNPT 208.4

    56. How are the true and apostate churches brought to view in these seals?

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