Seven Seals - Overview

In many interpretations, the forces unleashed by the breaking of the “Seven Seals” are linked to the horrific calamities that unfold on the Earth prior to the coming of Jesus at the end of the age, especially so when the first four seals are opened. Apparently, His patience with humanity exhausted, God pours out plagues on the world in a last-ditch effort to bring men to their knees in repentance.

But before we can hope to understand the seal openings, certain questions must be addressed. When are (or were) they opened? Who opened them and why? Are the images “literal,” and do they portray past, present, or future realities?

  • (Revelation 6:1-2) - “When the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, I heard one of the four living creatures speaking as with a voice of thunder, Go! And I saw a white horse, and he that was sitting on it holding a bow, and there was given to him a crown, and he went forth conquering and so he might conquer.”


In the first place, it is the “slain Lamb” who is declared “worthy” to open the Sealed Scroll, and he proceeds to do so immediately upon his arrival before the Throne. He is labeled “worthy” because he gave his life to redeem men from every nation and to make them a priestly kingdom for God.

Thus, beginning with the first seal opening, it is the Lamb who acts and implements God’s plan by breaking open each of the Seven Seals. In the vision, there is no hint of any delay or passage of time between the enthronement of the “Lamb” and the commencement of the seal openings. The process began immediately after the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus.

The first four seals form a distinct group characterized by horses and riders. These first seal openings release four individual “riders.” Each rider sits on a colored horse and executes his assigned task on command, but only after the Lamb opens each seal.


Collectively, the four “riders” afflict a “fourth part of the earth.” As Jesus “opens” each seal, a voice summons its “rider” to “be going.” And each time, the Greek verb translated as “opened” is in the aorist tense, representing a past action.

But the tense of the Greek verb rendered “go” is a progressive present - an action in progress – “BE GOING FORTH!” The language suggests historical processes put into motion by the past act of breaking each of the first four seals. However, described are processes that continue after each initial seal opening, at least, for some period.

The unleashing of the fourth “rider” is followed by a summary statement applicable to all four horsemen - “Authority was given to them over the fourth of the earth to kill with sword and with famine and with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”

Thus, the four “riders” are authorized to act by the “Lamb,” but their actions impact only the fourth part of the Earth - within the limits set by Jesus. Thus, he remains in firm control over events on Earth.


The “Fifth Seal” reveals martyred souls underneath the “Altar.” They are to remain there until the full number of their fellow martyrs is gathered. No time-lapse is indicated by the text between the first four and the fifth seals. The sequence is literary, not chronological.

The “Sixth Seal” causes a great earthquake and celestial upheaval as the “Day of the Lord” dawns, the day of the “Wrath of the Lamb and He Who sits on the Throne.” And so, the “Sixth Seal” signifies the arrival of the final judgment and the reconfiguration of the created order - (Joel 2:28-32, Revelation 6:12-17).

Before the “Seventh Seal” is opened, the entire series of seals is interrupted for the “sealing of the servants of God,” and this occurs before the “four winds of the earth” are released on the earth.

This “sealing” enables the “servants” of Jesus to endure whatever the “four winds” represent, therefore, they are empowered “to stand” before the “Lamb and the Throne” in contrast to the rest of humanity.

In context, the “four winds of the earth” correspond to the first “four seals” and the afflictions unleashed by them. The placement of the sealing of God’s “servants” between the sixth and seventh seals should caution us against assuming that the “Seven Seals” are presented to us in a neat chronological order - (Revelation 7:1-17).

The “interruption” between the sixth and seventh seals is a literary pattern used several times in Revelation. Likewise, the series of “Seven Trumpets” is “interrupted” between the sixth and seventh trumpets by several visions.

Like the first “four seals,” the first four trumpets are distinguished from the final three which are labeled “woes.” And like the “Seven Seals,” the “Seven Trumpets” culminate in the “Day of the Lord” and a final judgment scene - (Revelation 11:15-19).

The opening of the “Seventh Seal” produces “silence” in heaven while the prayers of the saints ascend as “incense” upon the “Altar” before the “Throne.” This final seal also serves to transition the narrative to the next literary section, the series of “Seven Trumpets” - (Revelation 8:1-6).

The series of “Seven Seals” concludes with “claps of thunder, voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake,” the same phenomenon seen previously before the “Throne,” but now with an “earthquake” added to them - (Revelation 4:1-6, 8:1-5).

Thus, whatever the opening of the “Seven Seals” represents, the sevenfold series covers the entire period between the enthronement of the “Lamb” and the final judgment. It is the freshly slain Lamb who ascends the Throne and immediately begins to break open the Seven Seals and implement the contents of the Scroll.



Second Trumpet

Short Season