Because the visions constitute a pause in the chronological progression represented by the opening of the seals, they have been called a parenthesis between the sixth and seventh seals, but there is some objection to this because the visions are an integral part of the book’s movement. . . . The natural meaning of the text places the sealing and the vision as a whole just after the sixth seal. Revelation 7+ is an interlude between the sixth and seventh seals. . . . The description is provided to answer the questions of Rev. 6:17+ by way of showing that some will survive and even prosper spiritually under the blessing of God during earth’s terrors. . . . The evidence is sufficient for placing this sealing just before the midpoint of the seven-year Tribulation, at the end of the period called “the beginning of birth pains.” Though the meta touto indicates a change of vision, this does not mean there is no relationship to the sixth seal.3In any case, what transpires in this chapter is an interlude of sorts which is not tied explicitly to any seal, but inferred as being between the sixth and seventh seals. The scene now shifts from the judgments themselves to the people of God, both Jewish and otherwise, who attend this time of wrath upon the earth:
The great day of God’s wrath has come, but the action is interrupted . . . the author introduces an intermezzo between the sixth and seventh members of the series. A change comes over the spirit of his dream. . . . it is a consoling rhapsody or rapture designed to relieve the tension by lifting the eyes of the faithful over the foam and rocks of the rapids on which they were tossing to the calm sunlit pool of bliss which awaited them beyond. They get this glimpse before the seventh seal is opened with its fresh cycle of horrors.4
Chapter 7 comes as a parenthesis between the sixth and seventh seals—a stylistic feature repeated in the trumpet sequence (Rev. 10:1+-11:13+) but not with the bowls (cf. Rev. 16:12-21+). It is not intended to take the reader back to a time before the Four Horsemen are released in order to parallel the trumpets with the seals. It contrasts the security and blessedness which await the faithful with the panic of a pagan world fleeing from judgment. . . . Chapter 7+ also serves as a dramatic interlude. It delays for a brief moment the disclosure of that which is to take place with the seventh and final seal is removed from the scroll of destiny.5four angels
“That no wind might blow upon the earth”—the scene of settled government (Rev. 10:2+; Ps. 46:2); “nor upon the sea”—nations and peoples in anarchy and confusion (Dan. 7:2-3+; Isa. 57:20); “nor upon any tree”—the might and pride of the earth (Dan. 4:10+, 22+; Eze. 31:3-9, 14-18).10
These symbols are easy to interpret. The earth is Israel; the sea, the Gentiles; the trees, as we know from the famous parable in the ninth chapter of the book of Judges, refer to those in authority.11While it is true that each of these entities carries a symbolic meaning in other passages (cf. especially Rev. 13:1+; 17:15+), it is best to understand their use here as literal because of the related passages which follow. The locusts are commanded “not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Rev. 9:4+). The passage concerning the locusts differentiates men from real vegetation (“any green thing”). When trees are destroyed, so too is the green grass (Rev. 8:7+). When the sea becomes blood, living creatures and ships are affected (Rev. 8:9+; 16:3+). If the sea represents the nations here (as it does in Rev. 13:1+ and 17:15+), then what is meant by the living creatures and the ships which ply its waters? Also, when men, cities, or authorities are the recipients of judgments which follow, they are specifically denoted as such (Rev. 9:4-5+, 18+, 20+; 11:13+; 16:2+, 9+; 18:14-19+; 19:19+).
1 The NU text has Μετὰ τοῦτο [Meta touto] , After this (singular).
2 “This ministry of the 144,000 is something that occurs throughout the entire first half and not merely after the sixth seal judgment. In fact, it is going on during the Seal judgments, and it is the means by which the fifth seal saints come to Messiah. The passage begins with After this, which is not chronological, but merely the next vision John sees.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 222.
3 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), Rev. 7:1.
4 James Moffatt, “Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in W. Robertson Nicoll, ed., The Expositor’s Greek Testament, vol. 5 (New York, NY: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), Rev. 7:1.
5 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), Rev. 7:1.
6 Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 7:1.
7 “We use the same expression today without in any way denying that the earth is a sphere, so must allow Revelation the same latitude and not see its thought as ‘primitive’!”—Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 7:1.
8 “Since nowhere in Revelation do we read of the four winds actually blowing, they may be taken as representing the earthly catastrophes that occur under the trumpets and bowls.”—Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), Rev. 7:1-3.
9 Albrecht Durer (1471 - 1528). Image courtesy of the Connecticut College Wetmore Print Collection.
10 Walter Scott, Exposition of The Revelation (London, England: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), 155.
11 Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 143.