The Last Seals

Introduction – Christianity and Rome

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
Revelation 6:9
The great conflict between Rome and Christianity comes to the forefront of history. Roman paganism is overcome, but a foretold corruption of Christianity takes its place.

In each of the series of seven Seals, Trumpets, and Vials, the first four visions form a subset of their own. The first four Seals are connected by the obvious symbols of the horse and rider. The first four Trumpets and Vials are connected within themselves, and with each other, by their four successive areas of effect: the earth or land, the sea, the rivers, and the heavenly bodies.

These sets of earlier visions also tend to be brief, which corresponds well with their comparatively rapid fulfillment. In each series, these first sets of four also tend to describe more secular and political events. The fifth and sixth in each series, however, introduce eras and events with a marked religious aspect. The sixth vision in each set also tends to contain more than one subject, and can be said to have two parts to it.

The first four Seals, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, describe the glory and then the decline of imperial Rome. But on the entrance to the fifth and sixth Seals, we see a marked change in the symbols, which corresponds with another great historical influence in the overturning of pagan Rome – that of Christianity.

In the last stages of the united Roman Empire, paganism and Christianity clashed. Under Diocletian, the last and greatest persecution of Christianity sought to exterminate the church. But pagan Rome was itself overturned and its religion seemingly swallowed up in the name of Christianity, under Constantine the Great.

These events, while history-making themselves, gave birth to a greater, a darker, and a more terrible phase of Rome. The mingling of Roman politics and idolatry corrupted nominal Christianity, and the true church faded into the background against the rising of the prophesied Beast of Daniel and Revelation – the pseudo-Christian dominance of the ten kingdoms of Catholic Europe, by the papacy of Rome.


Symbols of Christ

The coins of Constantine and Magnetius show the Chi Rho, standing for the first two letters of Christ in the Greek (looking like our X and P). In the left and right sides of the Chi (X) can be seen the Greek letters Alpha and Omega – a reference to the title Christ gave himself in the book of Revelation. On the coin of Constantine (top middle) his military standard, the labarum, has the Chi Rho on top of it, and has speared the "great serpent" or dragon below. The latter symbolised his victory over his pagan Roman adversaries. The “draco” or serpent, like the eagle, was a common military standard of the Roman legions.

The Emperors move to the East

Constantine established a new capital city for the Roman Empire in the east, which became known as Constantinople (now Istanbul). The removal of the emperors to the east, and the nominal Christianisation of the empire, ultimately made the way for the rise of the papal power in the city of Rome. The imperial power of the Roman Empire was the “let” or hindrance, spoken of by the apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2, that needed to be “taken out of the way” before the “man of sin” could be revealed.

The Last Three Seals


Altar and martyrs

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held…

Revelation 6:9–11


The great persecution

After the first four Seals which dealt with the secular condition of the Empire, the visions change and the fifth and sixth seals contain a “religious” aspect. As Rome begins to fall apart a new and important emperor, Diocletian, arises to reorganise the Empire. Diocletian, however, also brought about the last and greatest Imperial Roman persecution against the Christians, who were growing in strength. He and his fellow leaders sought to exterminate Christianity and the Bible once and for all. For ten years the Christians suffered under this attempt.
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The great earthquake

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood …

Revelation 6:12–17


The fall of paganism

Immediately after Diocletian’s time, a great upheaval in the empire took place when Constantine became emperor. Aligning himself with Christianity, Constantine fought against his pagan rivals to the throne. He established Christianity as the state religion and during the next century his successors generally followed his lead. The worship of the old Roman and Greek gods virtually disappeared and the empire was nominally Christianised. Constantine also removed the seat of the emperors from Rome and established a new seat in Constantinople.
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The 144,000

And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.…

Revelation 7:1–17


True & false Christianity

With the fall of paganism, Christianity became the religion of the empire. But the change meant many people converted only out of political expediency. As a result, nominal Christianity became corrupted, and eventually took on many of the old pagan forms of worship. Idolatry, and the worship of dead saints and Mary, became established. Baptism in water replaced baptism with the Holy Spirit as the seal of salvation. During this time a separation between the true worshippers and the false nominal majority began to take place. The true spiritfilled church receded to the background of history.
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The Seven Trumpets

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.

Revelation 8:1–2


The fall of Rome

The Seventh Seal vision concerns the fall of Rome. Since this is the climax of the Seven Seals, which have dealt with Rome’s glory and decline in the previous six Seals, it is expanded upon in more detail. The prophecy accomplishes this by making the Seventh Seal a vision of seven angels sounding Seven Trumpets. As each Trumpet is sounded a new vision is revealed. Since the prophecies of Daniel indicated that Rome would have two phases (a united iron phase, and a divided or mingled iron-and-clay phase), the Seven Trumpets deal with both. The first, or imperial, fall of Rome’s dominion is outlined in the first six Trumpets. The Seventh Trumpet, like the Seventh Seal, is a vision of seven angels, but this time pouring out Seven Vials of God’s wrath. Each of these Vials again reveals a further vision, again expanding the detail of the last Trumpet. The Seven Vials describe the fall of the papal phase of Rome’s dominion.
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    Revelation 5–7

    The Seven Seals

    1 And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
    2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
    3 And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
    4 And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.
    5 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
    6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
    7 And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.
    8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.
    9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
    10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
    11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, 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 strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
    13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
    14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.


    Mark Wattchow

    Mark Wattchow is the pastor of the Christchurch Revival Fellowship in New Zealand. The thoughts and understandings expressed here are solely his own.

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