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THE SEVENTH SEAL, Part 2

 

 

When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Revelation 8:1

 

We started our look into the seventh seal with our last lecture. I suggested that dating the seventh seal is difficult because the text uses the indefinite word about in relation to the half hour mentioned at the beginning of the seal.

Within the Church of God fellowship there are those that believe the seventh seal opened in 1930. We found that theory was originally put forth by W. S. Goodnight in his book Chart Explanations of the Revelation. Others expanded on his theory and eventually the seventh seal was popularized as a condemnation of the Church of God Movement centered in Anderson, IN.

While there were some books and tracts written in the 1950s, most of the proclamation of what is called the seventh seal message was done through preaching.

Some of this preaching was quite effective but most of it devolved into nothing more than a diatribe against what was called the Movement centered in Anderson, IN.

 

Articulation Of What Some Call The Seventh Seal

 

One of the most articulate and literary books coming out of what is called the seventh seal message is a book titled The 7 Sealed Scrolls by Jeanne Trovato, written in 1999.

Trovato follows the traditional church-historic approach of the Church of God movement. Her comments about the 7th seal are perhaps the clearest I have ever read. She notes at the beginning of her comments on the 7th Seal: “At the opening of the sixth seal, there was an “earthquake.” As the seventh seal is opened, there is silence!”[1] Her theory dwells on this silence but does not explain what the 7th Seal is other than it leads up to the “end time harvest of the marriage supper of the Lamb.”[2]

About the silence, she writes:

 

At the close of the sixth Scroll message, we related briefly about the failed Movement of the Church of God. This seventh Scroll is symbolizing that silence which did in fact take place, among the very people God had committed this truth to.[3]

 

About this she writes: “The details of the decline of this Movement are varied and lengthy, for they cover a one-hundred-year span of time.”[4] With that logic we see she follows the thinking of Goodnight.

Trovato blames the silence on compromise and failure to teach the Revelation message.

 

About fifty years into the preaching of the “Evening Light” prophetic message, compromises concerning sound doctrine began to surface.[5] . . . These local fellowships gradually began to lose their rejoicing as the pulpits became silent about the Revelation Prophecy! The zeal and focus of the message, “Come out of her, my people” and “Babylon is fallen, is fallen” was almost eclipsed! A silence was coming over the church!

 

She describes the leaving of people and congregations from the Movement over this condition of silence in these words:

 

An “earthly headquarters” was ultimately established in Anderson, Indiana. . . .Many of the “Evening Light” ministers departed and their truths departed with them. . . . There were many “split offs,” as they were called in derision by those whom they left behind, yet God did continue to bless this remnant who departed.[6]

 

Trovato picks up the invective against the Anderson Movement that became the message of the seventh seal: “What a spiritual indictment against the leadership of the failed movement, who have become lukewarm in these prophetic truths of God”![7]

The only comment she makes about the purpose of the seventh seal other than the condemnation of the Anderson Movement is that “God will continue to accomplish His purpose of a unified body of believers through His Word and by His Spirit.”[8]

Trovato’s treatment of the seventh seal is not unique to her; her words are perhaps the clearest articulation of the theory that came into being at the time. Opinions differ on the seventh seal among those that hold the church-historic interpretation. Some ignore it having no idea what it means; some hold to this theory and have even expanded upon it to “split off” from others of similar opinion; and, some have abandoned the theory waiting for someone to come up with a better theory—hopefully, the revealed truth of what the seventh seal really is.

 

The Silence

 

At this point we will leave this approach to the seventh seal behind us and try to gain some insight from what appears in the text.

As I mentioned in the previous lecture, the “Apostate Anderson Movement” is too narrow a view for the subject of a seal as all the other seals deal with the issues of the church at large rather than on a limited basis. So, the seventh seal must have a more universal consequence than just a small group headquartered in Anderson, IN.

As the Glorified Christ opens the seventh seal there is a silence in heaven. When the sixth seal was opened there were all kinds of noises in the spiritual heavens as there was a great earthquake and people were calling out to the mountains and rocks to hide them from the wrath of the Lamb. After this we see the servants of our God sealed on their foreheads which caused much rejoicing and praising God.

With the opening of the seventh seal we see the two coming together and silence taking over. They had been traveling on different roads during the sixth seal but now in the seventh seal we find a convergence of those roads. The people in the mountains and rocks stop crying out. The rejoicing and praise of the servants of our God cools down. Instead, ecumenical thinking replaces the noise with peace and quiet. It appears that the Lamb’s wrath has passed and the spiritual heaven is quiet.

 

When Does The Seventh Seal Open?

 

It has been observed in history that revivals and awakenings tend to disappear in the third generation.

The first generation is full of zeal and is actively engaged in the battle for truth and righteousness. The doctrinal issues have been identified, the apostate conditions have been identified, and the reformers have a real sense of God’s timing and God’s working through them to revive the church. This generation is self-sacrificing as they give all for the sake of the truth. They suffer persecution, they invest their time and resources in support of the revival, and they form deep bonds of fellowship with those that have this same burden and sense of divine mission. Those of the first generation are true believers and they really are the servants of our God.

The second generation inherits the results of the work of the first generation. They are strong believers in the truths for which the first generation sacrificed so much to bring to light. However, the conflict has passed and this generation has to learn how to be the church with the results of the new light. They build on the work done by others, but there is not that zeal that drove the first generation. The growth this generation experiences is more organic than spiritual.

The third generation finds itself in just another church. The conflict is long past and the original issues are no longer issues. They hear the stories of their grandparents and how God worked through them. While having respect for the first generation, to them that generation seems quaint, charismatic but perhaps overzealous and maybe a little misguided. The organic growth their parents developed has become another established church having its own identity but, in this generation’s thinking, not much different from other established churches. To them the past has been put behind them and the challenge has become how to maintain its identity as just a church among churches.

The seventh seal apparently opens in the third generation of the sixth seal. It is difficult to put an exact date for the opening of the seventh seal. A generation is said to be a period of about 30 years.

Three generations would be 90 years and if we date the sixth seal beginning at 1800, 1890 would be the approximate date for the opening of the seventh seal. However, that does not seem reasonable because that was about the height of the zeal of the sixth seal and there was no real, effective ecumenical thinking going on at this time.

Rather than dating from the opening of the sixth seal, it might be better to date it from sealing of the servants of our God in chapter seven. But when did that happen? Rather than one specific year, that probably happened over a period of time that we can never determine.

If we use the year 1880, as the Church of God Reformation Movement used for the opening of the sixth seal, three generations would put the opening of the seventh seal in about 1970. What is interesting is that at about that time the over-all movement in the United States in its various “split offs” had deteriorated into ineffectiveness in comparison to its origin, certainly giving evidence of a third generation.

I do not propose any of those dates for the opening of the seventh seal and I think it is unwise to try to set a date because of the indefiniteness given in the text.

So, without determining a date, I believe very strongly that the seventh seal has been open for some time and where we are in that approximate half an hour I have no idea. But then, perhaps it is better if we do not know.

 

Ecumenical Thinking

 

Ecumenical thinking replaces the noise of the sixth seal with peace and quiet. The word ecumenical is not an evil word in itself. Its definition is general, universal, pertaining to the whole Christian church. It evokes thoughts of unity that should exist among Christians.

Over time the message of the unity of the biblical church eventually gained credibility among the denominations. The Protestant reformers saw biblical unity in the NT but could never arrive at such unity because of their differences on such things as the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, predestination, and church polity. During the 20th century there were several attempts at unity among previously antagonistic denominations and churches. While some denominations and church groups have merged, practical unity among the church-at-large has never been realized.

While the message of the biblical church and the unity of believers was published extensively during the late 1800s, around the beginning of the 20th century the importance of the message began to be noticed by the denominations as they were experiencing an exodus of God’s people that were responding to the message.

In May 1908, probably the height of the Church of God Reformation Movement, The Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America was formed consisting of 32 denominations. This was an attempt at organic unity and cooperation.

In 1948 the World Council of Churches was formed consisting of 349 global, regional, national and local churches seeking unity for a common witness and Christian service. It is located at the Ecumenical Center in Geneva, Switzerland.

In 1950 The FCC in America merged with some other American ecumenical movements to form the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.  It consisted of 38 Christian faith groups. One of its primary activities has been to effect positive change for the betterment of society—the social gospel. It cooperated with the Civil Rights Movement; opposed the Vietnam War; supports a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict among other social concerns.

In the midst of these things, the real meaning of the gospel and the church has become lost to sight—there is a silence in heaven. This does not mean the gospel is not being taught and people are not being saved; It does not mean that the truth of the biblical church has been again lost to sight; It does not mean that there are no people with the zeal for truth and righteousness; It means that a general apathy has settled in and the prevailing attitude among most of God’s people is to accept things the way they are. As Shakespeare put it: To thine own self be true.

 

Unity?

 

Unity movements have taken place since the days of the Protestant Reformation, but without much success because people were too attached to their doctrinal positions and formulas.

Now an attitude that doctrines, denominational distinctives and practices do not matter has begun to take over the church world: live and let live; we are all the church of God; let’s celebrate our differences and all go to heaven. Those that continue to hold to the distinctiveness of the biblical church as separate from all other churches are considered fanatics, narrow minded, and people with whom not to be associated—and generally such people refuse to associate with others other than themselves.

It is for sure that without the strong influence of the gospel in the world, the spiritual and moral values of the world in general have degenerated and unbelief and false religion have become prominent. Truly, this is a time of silence in heaven. Even where truth is being proclaimed, no one seems to be listening. How long will this silence last? About half an hour.



[1] Trovato, Jeanne,  The 7 Sealed Scrolls,  Privately Published,  1999,  pg. 224.

[2] Ibid, pg. 257.

[3] Ibid, pg. 225.

[4] Ibid, In loco.

[5] Ibid, pg. 226.

[6] Ibid, pg. 227.

[7] Ibid, pg. 233.

[8] Ibid, pg. 234.