Interpreting the Seven Seals -- By: Robert W. Myrant
JMAT 1:2 (Fall 97) p. 48
Interpreting the Seven Seals
Adjunct Professor, Baptist Bible Seminary
This study is designed to be rather narrowly focused, answering these questions: (1) What are the identity and contents of the book on the right hand of the One sitting on the central throne in the scene of Revelation chapters four and five? (2) What are the relationships of the seven seals, seen by John on the book, to the trumpet and bowl judgments? Involved in this question are the nature and meaning of the seven seals.
There are certain presuppositions to this brief discussion. The first is a futurist interpretation of Revelation, coupled with a dispensational interpretation. Chapters one through three are mainly tied to the Church age, which will be followed immediately by the rapture. Chapters four through nineteen are seen as containing revelation concerning events in the tribulation period. As Ryrie says:
If one follows the plain, literal or normal principle of interpretation he concludes that most of the book is yet in the future.1
Another presupposition is that the judgments flowing from the seven trumpets and seven bowls should be taken literally, just as seen in the visions. This simply reflects the approach in the above paragraph combined with a consistently literal hermeneutic. This hermeneutic involves recognizing the supernatural character of the judgments, with divine use of both natural elements and supernaturally created special instruments in the trumpet and bowl judgments.
Another assumption is that the interpreter must become a spectator, as John was with very close attention to details of
JMAT 1:2 (Fall 97) p. 49
the dramas depicted. The interpreter must seek to see exactly what John saw, and let that vision drive the interpretation. However, it is recognized that one must attempt to go behind the scene to determine what the truth is that is reflected by the dramatization.
It is obvious to even the casual reader that the contents of Revelation contain much that is symbolic (sub-surface reality) as well as much that is to be taken literally (surface reality). Thus, the primary task of the interpreter is to determine what is symbolic and what is literal. The basic system of interpretation assumed in this present study is literal, but with recognition of frequent use of the symbolic, which is always the dominant motif in prophetic drama.
This interpretive task must be based upon one’s knowledge of other biblical apocalyptic literature and other clear (at least in the eyes of the individual interp...
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