Although this passage is very long, only the fifth and the sixth seals are opened, which are the events happening at the moment the great tribulation begins; therefore we will look at them together. The first four seals are a group; they are four storms or trends that will come during the end times. Although the events of the first four seals happened on earth, they are not real storms; they are not real horses or riders. The events described herein take place right before the great tribulation. When the fifth and the sixth seal are opened, it is already the beginning of the great tribulation.
THE VOICES OF SOULS OF THE MARTYRS WHO HAD BEEN SLAIN
9 揭開第五印的時候，我看見在祭壇底下，有為神的道，並為作見證被殺之人的靈魂，10 大聲喊著說：聖潔真實的主阿｢，祢不審判住在地上的人，給我們伸流血的冤，要等到幾時呢？｣
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”
For now, the scene returns to the sanctuary in heaven. The blood of the animal sacrifices that is contained below the altar calls out in a loud voice on behalf of the souls of those who were killed. They call out accusing the evil ones, requesting to be avenged. As when Cain murdered his brother Abel, God said that Abel’s blood cried out to Him from the ground.
The altar on earth is where animal sacrifices were performed. The altar in heaven is mainly the place where Christ sacrificed Himself and the place where martyrs gave their lives as a sacrifice, they are all first fruits offered on the altar so that the fruits that came later would grow to perfection. When the Church started to develop, it needed many martyrs to sacrifice their lives in order for the Gospel of the Lord to spread. They were treated unjustly yet endured patiently and in silence. At the end of the world, they feel it is time for the great judgment and for them to be avenged.
不過在這裡看見他們所發的冤氣，不像是崇高基督徒的表現。信徒不是應該甘願吃虧，受苦不反抗的嗎？為甚麽有這麽多冤氣呢？要知道他們並沒有自己伸冤，都是等候主為他們伸冤。這是正確的。作基督徒不是說要作麻木、受欺負不反抗、善惡不分、或受冤曲也不知道的人。為主受苦一定是不公平的。他們甘心忍受苦難，期待神做申冤的主。在這裡他們所呼求的主，英譯作Master 主人 despoteis ，不是平常的｢主｣字。殉道者看主是買贖他們的主，自己是奴僕。主人要他死他就死，他就死。不怨神，怨的是傷害他們的仇敵。
However, here we see that as they air their grievances, this action does not seem proper of noble Christians. Aren’t Christians supposed to be willing to suffer loss and go through hardships without resisting? Why is there so much injustice? Know that they did not take it into their own hands to avenge themselves; they were waiting for the Lord to avenge them. This is the correct way of doing things. Christians are not people who are insensitive, who let others bully them without resisting, who do not seem to distinguishing between good and evil, or who do not know when they are treated unjustly. Suffering for the Lord is never fair, yet they endured pains willingly because they were waiting for the Lord to avenge them. Here, the word “Lord” means “Master ( despoteis )”; it is not the regular word for “Lord”. The martyr looks at the Lord as his Redeemer and he looks at himself as a slave. If the Master wants him to die, he will die. They do not blame God for what happened t o them, they blame the enemy that harmed them.
The voices of the souls are not the sounds of a people talking; they are the continuous clamor of the blood. The human body is like the hardware, the spirit of a human being is like the software. When the hardware is asleep, the software is still at work waiting for the time when it can do what it is supposed to do.
11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
At the last moment, there is a new development; white robes are given to them, which represent a new body. Just like what Paul said, at the last trumpet, the believers who have died will resurrect first and we will be taken together with them to be before the throne of the Lord. Therefore, not only the martyrs await the great judgment but also the souls of all the believers who lived in the past. They are all waiting for a fair and righteous trial to prove the innocence of all the saints and to vindicate all grievances.
However, the great judgment is not taking place at this time yet. They were given a new body so they can stand before the throne of God together with the other saints. “Judgment begins with God’s household.” This trial is not to punish the wicked but to review the fruits of the believer’s work and life. Therefore, they still needed to wait a little longer for the other group of witnesses to be martyred during the seven years of the great tribulation.
THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE ON EARTH
12 揭開第六印的時候，我又看見地大震動，日頭變黑像毛布，滿月變紅像血。13 天上的星晨墜落於地，如同無花果樹被大風搖動，落下未熟的果子一樣。14 天就挪移，好像書卷被捲起來。山嶺海島都被挪移離開本位。
12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
This is the formal unveiling of the seven years of the great tribulation; it is the great tribulation at full blast. What we are experiencing now is only the beginning of the disasters; they are like labor pains before childbirth. The most excruciating pain comes at the exact moment of giving birth. The disasters during the seven years of the great tribulation will be very obvious, there will be an earthquake of unprecedented magnitude, the sun and the moon will change colors drastically, the stars in the sky will fall to earth , the continents will be submerged in water, there will be changes in the Earth’s crust, the worst natural disasters will happen at that time.
15 地上的君王、臣宰、將軍、富戶、壯士、和一切為奴的、自主的、都藏在山洞和巖石穴裡，16 向山和巖石說：倒在我們身上罷，把我們藏起來，躲避坐寶座者的面目和羔羊的忿怒。17 因為他們忿怒的大日到了，誰能站得住呢？
15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
People will not be able to cope with this catastrophic event. No matter how advanced their technology is, they will not be able to cope with these natural disasters.
這裡給滅亡的人一個特別的名字，是住在地上的人(10, 15) 。他們是地上的公民，我們是天國的公民，我們的家在天上。住在地上的人就是所有拜偶像與拜獸的人。所有這些人都以別神代替耶和華，他們的愁苦必加增，因為沒有愛存在。保羅說：末世人的愛心漸漸冷淡，人間沒有愛，也沒有信心，更沒有盼望，所以是最痛苦的時刻。
Here, a special name is given to those who will perish, they are called “the inhabitants of the earth” (10, 15). They are citizens of the earth, we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, and our home is in heaven. The inhabitants of the earth are all those who worship idols and the beast. All these people who have replaced the Lord Jehovah for other gods will suffer greatly because there is no love in them. Paul said that in the last days the love of most will grow cold, they will not have love, faith or hope; therefore, those times will be unbearably painful.
They are the money worshipers, those upholding the ideologies of science, technology and education. Everyone including slave or free. They might be people with power, influence, ways or means but at that time they will cry to the heavens for deliverance; when facing the disaster which they could not cope with, they will call on nature to protect them.
In the beginning people thought they could conquer heaven. They relied on science, technology and wealth, thinking that those things could save them. At the end they realized the power of nature was far more than anyone could have imagined. Now they come back to rely on nature hoping that the mountains and the rocks could protect them. Those who believe in the Lord rely on the Creator, the most powerful source in the universe, not on things created.
WITNESSES DURING THE GREAT TRIBULATION
1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.
These visions are inside the seventh seal, because the great tribulation can be considered a wind. We have already spoken about the “four winds from heaven”, which are four social trends. Now, four winds will blow on the earth, these winds have become a storm, the great tribulation is a great storm.
This great storm is a disaster that will affect the whole world, which is why the angels are standing at the four corners of the earth. Four corners means the whole earth, four is a number that represents the whole entire world. A great storm on the earth will come upon the land, the sea and the trees. The wind on the land represents a religious storm; the wind on the sea represents a political storm; and the wind on the trees represents an economic storm. Thus, during those times the religious, political and economic sectors will suffer tremendous harm.
2 我又看見另有一位天使，從日出之地上來，拿著永生神的印。他就向那得著權柄，能傷害地和海的四位天使，大聲喊著說：｢3 地與海並樹木，你們不可傷害。等我們印了我們神眾僕人的額。｣
2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: 3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
四方的天使，正要開始執行大災難的刑罰，忽然另有一位天使出來說：｢等一等，有一件事先要做。就是為這七年中的見證人印上印。｣When the four angels were about to carry out the punishment of the great tribulation, suddenly another angel came and said: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Those are the servants of God who will be witnesses during the seven years of the great tribulation.
The fifth angel came from the east. The great door of the Jewish temple faces east. Every day when the sun rises and shines through the door, it is as if God was illuminating them. The angel coming up from the east means that he came from God.
在宗教界、政治界、經濟界發生大風暴之前，他要先為這些見證人做好保安的措施。為他們印上神的印，使他們蒙神的保護看顧。當那幾個領域發生大風暴的時候，神的僕人們也必受影響。有了神的印記，就得了神的保護。像該隱怕漂流在外的時候，被恨他的人所殺害，所以他也要求神給他一個記號( 創4:15) 。
Before the great storm comes upon the religious, political and economic sectors, he must first take security measures for these witnesses. He puts God’s seal on them so that God will protect them and care for them. When the great storm battles those sectors, God’s servants will also be affected but with God’s seal upon them, they will surely be protected. Like when God put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him as he wandered restlessly on the earth. (Genesis 4:15) .
This imprint from God is called a seal, it is similar to a watermark; it is not like the mark of the beast which is visible. It is also called the seal of the Holy Spirit. A seal is mainly used to keep something from being opened or for protection. The seal on the forehead means that their ideas, thoughts, concepts and beliefs will be protected. These witnesses will have to confront severe mental and spiritual tests during the great tribulation.
4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
These witnesses, God’s servants, were not taken during the rapture; they were left behind to go through the great tribulation. The reason was that when Jesus came back to take those who belonged to Him, which is the rapture of the church, this group did not belong to the Lord yet, they did not have the seal of the Holy Spirit. Many of them were God’s people, Israelites. Though they claimed they belong to God, they have not accepted Christ. They will not realize the truth until the great tribulation begins.
144,000 is a symbolic number. 12 is the number for the Kingdom of Heaven, 12 apostles, 12 tribes, the tree of life bears 12 kinds of fruits, etc. Multiples of the number, multiplied by 100, 1,000, 10,000, it is their complete number, the sum of it. Like the height, length and width of the New Holy City is 12,000 furlongs. When a geometrical progression of a square root number is used, ie 12×12, 40×40, or 666, it represents the essence or the elite. 144,000 represent the total sum of the elite.
The names of the twelve tribes here are a little different. Originally, the twelve tribes were the households of the twelve sons of Jacob. But from the twelve tribes, Levi was set apart to minister in the temple full-time. They did not have an inheritance or a land. Thus, Joseph was divided into two tribes, each of his sons leading a tribe, Ephraim and Manasseh. But, on this list the names of Joseph and Levi also appear.
Originally Levi was part of the twelve tribes. Even though they did not have an inheritance on earth, they possessed an inheritance in heaven. But if Levi was included in the twelve tribes and so was Joseph’s tribe, it would have been the original setting. But there is a problem, if Joseph’s tribe is included, Joseph’s son should not be on the list, yet the tribe of Manasseh appears on this list. If the names of Joseph’s two sons appeared on the list, then there would have been two more tribes, too many.
But here, two tribes are not listed. One is the tribe of Dan and the other one is Ephraim’s tribe. Why were these two tribes eliminated from the list? Originally, when the northern and southern kingdom were divided, the northern kingdom of Israel was afraid that their people would go to Jerusalem, which was in the southern kingdom, to worship God; thus, they set up an altar with a golden calf between the tribes of Dan and Ephraim so they did not have to go to the Temple to worship God, they could just worship the golden calf. This set up had an extremely detrimental effect on Dan and Ephraim. Not a God-fearing person was found among the descendants of these two tribes.
As it turns out, the blessings imparted by God for those who love Him and are faithful to Him are not just for the present generation. God said that He would show love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. Actually , the fate of future generations is closely related to whether or not we love God wholeheartedly.
另外還有一個問題是，猶太人自己恐怕很多都不知道自己屬於哪一個支派，當他們重建聖殿，需要祭司的時候，從哪裡確定他們是利未支派的呢？過去倚賴家譜決定，現在在DNA 的研究上突飛猛進，在人身上六萬億個細胞中，無論哪一個細胞，都可以跟先人的DNA 比較而知道親屬關係，神早就在人身體上寫下這些密碼，祂當然知道誰是誰的後代。
There is yet another problem. The Jews themselves do not even know which tribe they belong to. When they rebuild the Temple and need priests, how are they going to determine who belongs to the tribe of Levi? In the past they relied on their genealogy , now as DNA research is so advanced, just by taking a single cell from the sixty trillion cells in the human body, and comparing it with the DNA of their ancestors, scientists can determine the family relationship of a person. God was the one who had originally placed this special code in humans, of course God knows who is whose descendants.
Maybe they had not yet accepted the Messiah at the time they were sealed. However, God already knew beforehand who belonged to Him and so He sent an angel to seal them first. Often happen to Christians that we do not understand. Yet, we feel that God already knew we belonged to Him before we actually believed in Him. Before we made the decision to accept Christ as our Savior, He was already taking care of us and giving us His protection. Even when we were a little kid and did not understand the truth, God was already taking care of us sending His guardian angel to protect us.
THE GREAT MULTITUDE THAT WAS RAPTURED STANDING BEFORE THE THRONE
9 此後我觀看，見有許多的人，沒有人能數過來，是從各國、各族、各民、各方來的，站在寶座和羔羊面前，身穿白衣，手拿棕樹枝。10 大聲喊著說：願救恩歸與坐在寶座上我們的神，也歸與羔羊。
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
There is another group of people here; a great multitude that no one could count. They were not just from one nation, but from every nation, tribe, people and language. John must have thought this was an extraordinary sight, a great multitude of people of different colors and different languages gathered together; a very unique assembly, all wearing white robes; new resurrected bodies.
13 長老中有一位問我說：這些穿白衣的是誰？是從那裡來的？14 我對他說：我主，你知道。他對我說：這些人是從大患難中出來的，曾用羔羊的血把衣裳洗白淨了。
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
This multitude was raptured at the beginning of the great tribulation, “these are they who have come out of the great tribulation,” meaning they were taken out from the great tribulation. These are all the saints from past generations who resurrected and were raptured together with the other believers that were still alive. They were all standing before the throne.
他們手拿棕樹枝。在摩西的律例裡面，手拿棕樹枝的時候，是與住棚節有關的( 利未23:40) ，在該節期中表示歡樂，表示神與人同住之意。這一大群人被提到主的寶座前，表示將要歡樂地與神永遠同住。後面15 節也說：｢坐寶座的要用帳幕覆庇他們。｣這群人不需要受印，因為都已經有了聖靈的印記。
They were holding palm branches in their hands. In the times of Moses, whenever people were holding palm branches it was usually related to the Feast of the Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:40). There was joy during this festival because it represented God dwelling with people. This great multitude that was raptured and was standing before the throne of God represented the great joy of having God live among His people throughout eternity. Verse 15 says: “He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence .”This multitude does not need to be sealed because they already have the seal of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, before the great tribulation begins, the Church will be taken up to be before the judgment seat of Christ. The multitudes will hold palm branches as they rejoice and worship the Lord. The people on the earth will see great chaos and confusion, but in the heavenly sanctuary there will be an atmosphere of peace and great joy as the perfect plan of God comes to completion step by step. It will be a time of great jubilee as the saints wait for the moment when they can live with the Lord forever .