Revelation's Seven Seals
In the seven seals of Revelation, as in the seven
churches and seven
trumpets, John was shown a delineation of conditions
characterize the successive stages of the Christian
era.   By studying the
outline given in these prophecies, we are able to see
where we stand in
the stream of time.
As the first seal is opened ( Revelation 6:1, 2 ), a
white horse appears,
"and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was
given unto him: and he
went forth conquering, and to conquer."   This is a
description of the
advance of the gospel in the first century.   Through
the missionary zeal
of the early church the gospel "was preached to every
creature which is
under heaven" ( Colossians 1:23 ).   The white horse
indicates the church in
its original purity.   The crown, or victory wreath,
shows its conquest
over the power of the enemy.
The second seal ( Revelation 6:3, 4 ) reveals a red
horse.   In this bloody
scene, peace is taken from the earth, and many are
killed with a great
sword.   From the beginning of the second century until
of A.D. 313, Christianity was illegal throughout the
Roman empire, and
Christians were terribly persecuted.
The opening of the third seal ( Revelation 6:5, 6 )
provides us a view of
Christianity's status for the 200 years following A.D.
313. The horse,
now black, reveals that the church had lost its
original purity.   Its
rider holds a pair of balances.   A voice is heard
declaring that the
amount of money which previously was equivalent to a
full day's wage
( Matthew 20:2 ), is now only worth a quart of wheat.
What an appropriate
illustration of how, through Constantine's efforts to
blend it with
paganism, Christianity had been cheapened.   Previously, to declare yourself a "Christian" might
cost you your life.
Now the word had so lost its value that every vile
pagan walking the
street was a member of the church.
The opening of the fourth seal ( Revelation 6:7, 8 )
ushers in a pale
horse.   Here is a church that is lifeless and pale.   Its
rider is Death,
and the Grave follows closely behind.   This represents
the period of the
Dark Ages during which the spark of true godliness was
extinguished.   "And Power was given unto them over the
fourth part of the
earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with
death, and with the
beasts of the earth."   The tribulation of those days
was so terrible that
Jesus said, "Except those days should be shortened,
there should no flesh
be saved" ( Matthew 24:22 ).
When the fifth seal is opened ( Revelation 6:9-11 ), the
The cumulative deaths of millions of God's people
through centuries of
oppression are now pictured as crying out to God,
calling for justice.
"How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge
and avenge our
blood on them that dwell on the earth?" The answer is
given that the dead
must "rest yet for a little season."
The first five seals have brought us down to the mid
1700's.   We now turn
our attention to the signs of the end which would then
appear under the
opening of the sixth seal ( Revelation 6:12, 13 ).
November 1, 1755
"Lo, there was a great
Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica (1961 ed.), Vol. 7,
Probably the most famous of all earthquakes is that
Lisbon on Nov. 1, 1755.   There were three great
earthquakes (the first was
the largest) at 9:40 A.M., 10 A.M. and at noon.   The
main shock lasted six
to seven minutes, an unusually long duration.   Within
six minutes at least
30,000 people were killed, all large public buildings
dwellings were demolished.   It was a church day, and
great loss of life
occurred in the churches.   A fire followed which burned
for six days.   A
marble quay at the riverside disappeared into the
river bottom laden with
people.   Alexander von Humboldt stated that the total
area shaken was four
times that of Europe.
Source: G. A. Eiby, About Earthquakes (New York:
Harper, 1957), pp. 141,142.
By far the most spectacular earthquake of earlier
times was that of
Lisbon, in 1755.   This has some claim to be regarded as
earthquake on record.   If it is possible to believe
reports, the felt
area, which was certainly more than 700 miles in
radius, extended from
the Azores to Italy, and from England to North Africa.
A source of
confusion in the reports of this shock, which makes it
difficult to judge
the real extent of the felt area, was the widespread
seiches,...  wave movements in ponds and lakes....
Oscillations of this kind were observed in France,
Switzerland, and England, and reports of the movements
even came from
Norway and Sweden, at a distance of nearly 1800 miles
from the epicentre.
In those countries, however, the shock was certainly
In 1755, the damage to Lisbon itself was very great.
At that time, the
city had about 230,000 inhabitants, nearly 30,000 of
whom were killed,
according to conservative estimates.   Great numbers of
people were in the
churches, for it was All Saints' Day, and the time of
the first Mass.   The
shock was followed by a tsunami (tidal wave:) about
twenty feet in
height, and by fire.
The disaster shocked all Europe, and the moralists and
the wiseacres were
not slow to make capital of it.
May 19, 1780
"And the sun became black as
sackcloth of hair."
Source: The Boston Gazette and the Country Journal,
May 29, 1780, p. 4.
About eleven o'clock the darkness was such as to
demand our attention,
and put us upon making observations.   At half past
eleven, in a room with
three windows, 24 panes each, all open towards the
south-east and south,
large print could not be read by persons of good eyes.
o'clock the windows being still open, a candle cast a
shade so well
defined on the wall, as that profiles were taken with
as much ease as
they could have been in the night.   About one o'clock
a glin of light
which had continued 'till this time in the east, shut
in, and the
darkness was greater than it had been for any time
before, Between one
and two o'clock, the wind from the west freshened a
little, and a glin
appeared in that quarter.   We dined about two the
windows all open, and
two candles burning on the table.   In the time of the
some of the dunghill fowls went to their roost: Cocks
crowed in answer to
one another as they commonly do in the night:
Woodcocks, which are night
birds, whistled as they do only in the dark: Frogs
peeped In short, there
was the appearance of midnight at noonday.
Source: Samuel Williams (a Harvard professor), Memoirs
of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: to the End of the Year 1783 (Boston: Adams and Nourse, 1785), Vol. 1. pp. 234, 235.
[p. 234] People were unable to read common print
determine the time of
day by their [p. 235] clocks or watches dine or manage
business, without the light of candles.   In some
places, the darkness was
so great, that persons could not see to read common
print in the open
air, for several hours together.
Source: Timothy Dwight, quoted in Connecticut
compiled by John Warner Barber (2d ed.; New Haven:
Durrie & Peck and J.
W. Barber, 1836), p. 403.
The 19th of May, 1780, was a remarkable dark day.
Candles were lighted in
many houses; the birds were silent and disappeared,
and the fouls retired
to roost.   The legislature of Connecticut was then in
session at Hartford.
A very general opinion prevailed, that the day of
judgment was at hand.
The House of Representatives, being unable to transact
adjourned.   A proposal to adjourn the council was under
When the opinion of Colonel [Abraham] Davenport was
asked, he answered,
"I am against an adjournment.   The day of judgment is
or it is not.   If it is not, there is no cause for an
adjournment: if it
is, I choose to be found doing my duty.   I wish
therefore that candles may
Source: John Greenleaf Whittier, "Abraham Davenport,"
in his Complete
Poetical Works (Cambridge ed.; Boston: Houghton,
1894), p. 260.
'Twas on a May-day of the far old year
Seventeen hundred eighty, that there fell
Over the bloom and sweet life of the Spring,
Over the fresh earth and the heaven of noon,
A horror of great darkness.
Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp
hear the doom-blast of
the trumpet shatter
The black sky, that the dreadful
face of Christ
look from the rent clouds, not as he looked
guest at Bethany,
As Justice and inexorable Law.
Meanwhile in the old State House, dim as ghosts,
the lawgivers of
Trembling beneath their legislative
"It is the Lord's
Great Day! Let us adjourn,"
Some said; and then, as if
with one accord,
All eyes were turned to Abraham Davenport.
slow cleaving with
his steady voice
The intolerable hush.   "This well may
The Day of
Judgment which the world awaits;
But be it so or not,
I only know
present duty, and my Lord's command
To occupy till He
come.   So at the
Where He hath set me in His providence,
for one, to meet
Him face to face,
No faithless servant frightened from
when the Lord of the harvest calls;
with all reverence, I
Let God do His work, we will see to ours.
Bring in the
Source: Discourse by eyewitness Elam Potter, delivered
May 28, 1780, in
Enfield, Conn., quoted in The Advent Herald, March 13,
1844, p. 46.
Perhaps some, by assigning a natural cause of this,
ascribing it to the
thick vapor in the air, will endeavor to evade the
force of its being a
sign, but, the same objection will lie against
earthquakes being signs
which our Lord expressly mentions as such.   For my
part, I really consider
the darkness as one of the prodigies foretold in the
text; designed for
our admonition, and warning.
[Note: Any suggestion of a natural cause can in no
wise militate against
the significance of the event as a prophetic
time-honored explanation is that seventeen and a half
centuries before it
occurred, the Saviour had definitely foretold this
twofold sign saying,
"In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall
be darkened, and
the moon shall not give her light" ( Mark 13:24 ); and
these signs occurred
exactly as predicted and at the time indicated so long
occurrence.   It has long been pointed out that it is
the fact, and not the
cause, of the darkness that is significant in this
connection; as also in
the case of earthquakes, falling stars, and other
events seen as signs of
the times.   When the Lord would open a path for his
people through the
sea, he did it by "a strong east wind." Exodus 14:21 . Was
it for this reason
any less miraculous? In like manner, to account for
darkening of the sun and moon or of the falling of the
stars as events in
nature is not to discredit them as merciful signs of
the approaching end
of probationary time.]
May 19, 1780
"And the moon became as blood."
Source: Benjamin Gorton, A View of Spiritual, or
(Troy [N.Y.]: the Author, 1808), p. 73.
The second is that of the moon's turning to blood;
this I have not seen,
but, from information, I have reason to believe it did
take place between
2 o'clock and day break in the morning of the same
night after which the
sun was darkened, which was said to appear as a
clotter of blood; and it
is the more probable, as that night, before the moon
appeared, was as
dark, in proportion, as the day, and of course would
give the moon an
extraordinary appearance-not suffering her to give her
Source: News item from Providence, R.I., dated May 20,
in The Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia), June 6,
1780, p. 62.
[Note: This news dispatch refers to a red moon in
certain areas for a
three day period.]
November 13, 1833
"And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth,
even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she
is shaken of a mighty wind."
Source: Denison Olmsted, "Observations on the Meteors
of November 13th,
1833," The American Journal of Science and Arts, 25
([Jan.?] 1834), 363,
365, 366, 386, 393, 394.
[p. 363] The morning of November 13th, 1833, was
rendered memorable by an
exhibition of the phenomenon called SHOOTING STARS,
which was probably
more extensive and magnificent than any similar one
Probably no celestial phenomenon has ever occurred in
this country, since
its first settlement, which was viewed with so much
delight by one class of spectators, or with so much
astonishment and fear
by another class....
[p. 365] The reader may imagine a constant succession
of fire balls,
resembling sky rockets, radiating in all directions
from a point in the
heavens, a few degrees south-east of the zenith, and
following the arch
of the sky towards the horizon....   The balls, as
they travelled down
the vault, usually left after them a vivid streak of
light, and just
before they disappeared, exploded, or suddenly
resolved themselves into
smoke.   No report or noise of any kind was observed,
although we listened
The flashes of light, although less intense than
lightning, were so
bright as to awaken people in their beds.   One ball
that shot off in the
north-west direction, and explo- [p. 366] ded a little
northward of the
star Capella, left, just behind the place of
explosion, a phosphorescent
train of peculiar beauty....
[p. 386] The meteors began to attract notice by their
or brilliancy, from nine to twelve o'clock in the
evening, were most
striking in their appearance, from two to five,
arrived at their maximum,
in many places, about four o'clock, and continued till
by the light of day.
Source: Peter M. Millman, "The Falling of the Stars,"
The Telescope, 7
(May-June, 1940), 57.
To understand the use of the word shower in connection
stars we must go back to the early morning hours of
Nov. 13, 1833, when
the inhabitants of this continent [of North America]
were in fact treated
to one of the most spectacular natural displays that
the night sky has
produced....   For nearly four hours the sky was
literally ablaze....   More than a billion shooting stars appeared over the
United States and
Source: Denison Olmsted, Letters on Astronomy,
Addressed to a Lady: in
Which The Elements of the Science Are Familiarly
Explained in Connexion
With Its Literary History (1840 ed.), pp. 348, 349.
The shower pervaded nearly the whole of North America,
having appeared in
nearly equal splendor from the British possessions on
the north to the
West-India Islands and Mexico on the South, and from
sixty-one degrees of
longitude east of the American coast, quite to the
Pacific Ocean on the
west.   Throughout this immense region, the duration was
nearly the same.
Source: J. T. Buckingham, "The Meteoric Shower," The
New-England Magazine, 6 (Jan.-June, 1834), 47, 48.
Neither language, nor the pencil, can adequately
picture the grandeur and
magnificence of the scene....   It may be doubted,
description has surpassed, in accuracy and
impressiveness, that of the
old negro in Virginia, who remarked "It is awful,
indeed, sir, it looked
like ripe crab-apples falling from the trees, when
shaking them for
Source: Garrick Mallery, "Picture-Writing of the
[U.S.] Bureau of Ethnology. Tenth Annual Report...  to the Secretary of
the Smithsonian Institution, 1888-'89 (Washington:
Office, 1893), p. 723.
The five winter counts [chronological records in
picture writing naming
each year (winter) by an outstanding event] next cited
refer to the magnificent meteoric display of the
morning of November 13,
1833, which was witnessed throughout North America and
correctly assigned to the winter corresponding with
that of 1833-'34. All
of them represent stars having four points, except
The-Swan, who draws a
globular object followed by a linear track.
Fig. 1219.  It rained stars.   Cloud-Shield's Winter
White-Cow-Killer calls it "Plenty-stars winter."
Fig. 1220.   The stars moved around.   American-Horse's
1833-'34.   This shows one large four-pointed star as
object and many small stars, also four-pointed.
Fig. 1221.   Many stars fell.   The Flame's Winter Count,
character shows six stars above the concavity of the
Fig. 1222.   Dakotas witnessed magnificent meteoric
terrified.   The- Swan's Winter Count, 1833-'34.
Battiste Good calls it "Storm-of-stars winter," and
gives as the device a
tipi with stars falling around it.   This is presented
in Fig. 1223.
Source: Frederick Douglass,Life and Times of
Frederick Douglass (New
York: Pathway Press, 1941), p. 117. (Original edition
I witnessed this gorgeous spectacle, and was
awe-struck.   The air seemed
filled with bright descending messengers from the sky.
It was about
daybreak when I saw this sublime scene.   I was not
without the suggestion,
at the moment, that it might be the harbinger of the
coming of the Son of
Man; and in my then state of mind I was prepared to
hail Him as my friend
and deliverer.   I had read that the "stars shall fall
from heaven," and
they were now falling.
We now stand between verses 13 and 14 of Revelation
chapter 6.  The next
event to occur is the end of the world (verses 14-17).
(Author: Ken LeBrun, North American Bible