Revelation 5-7: A Book with Seven Seals

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 167–168

In his vision, John saw the throne of God. He also saw that God held a book that was sealed with seven seals (see Revelation 5:1). Jesus Christ was the only one worthy to open this book, which He did, one seal at a time. As He opened each seal, John saw a vision of what was contained in that part of the book. Revelation 6:1–11 tells about the opening of the first five seals. The opening of the sixth seal begins in Revelation 6:12 and continues through chapter 7. Doctrine and Covenants 77:6–7 teaches us that the seven seals symbolize one thousand years of history. Thus, what John saw as each seal was opened symbolized events that occurred during that thousand years of history—the first seal representing the first thousand years after the Fall, the second seal representing the second thousand years, and so forth.

Understanding the Scriptures

Revelation 5

The Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David (v. 5)Jesus Christ (see Genesis 49:9; Isaiah 11:10) 
Vials (v. 8)Containers, bowls 
Odours (v. 8)The pleasant smell of burning incense 

Revelation 5:1, 5 (see also Revelation 1:4; 2:1; 8:2)—What Is the Significance of the Number Seven?

The number seven occurs throughout the book of Revelation. For example, John wrote to seven branches of the Church (see Revelation 2–3). He saw a book with seven seals (see Revelation 5), seven trumpets announced judgments upon the earth (see Revelation 8–9; 11), and seven vials of wrath were poured upon the earth (see Revelation 16). The Hebrew word for the number seven, sheva, is a word that represents the idea of fulness or perfection and may be part of the symbolism in John’s account of his vision. His writing to seven churches may be a symbolic way of speaking to the whole Church.

Revelation 5:1–2, 5 (see also Revelation 6:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12)—Seals

In ancient times, official documents, scrolls, and records were closed shut with a seal of wax that usually had an imprint signifying the one who sealed it. Documents thus sealed were only to be opened by one with authority and in the presence of witnesses. In this case, the “will, mysteries, and works of God” (D&C 77:6) were recorded in the book John saw. Only Christ had authority and was worthy to open it. The same is true of eternal life. “He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in” (“There Is a Green Hill Far Away,” Hymns, no. 194; italics added).

Revelation 6

Balances (v. 5)Scales for weighing 
Avenge our blood (v. 10)Exact justice for the martyrs 
Sackcloth of hair (v. 12)In ancient Israel, when people were or wanted to show they were repentant they put on as clothing the hair, or hide, of a black goat. 
Bondman (v. 15)Slave 
Wrath (vv. 16–17)Anger 
balance scale

Revelation 6:1, 3, 5, 7 (see also Revelation 4:6–9)—The Four Beasts

The four beasts were identified as being the highest, or most powerful, beasts of their kind—the lion among wild animals, the ox (or calf) among domesticated animals (those used by humans), the eagle among the birds, and man among all living things. Doctrine and Covenants 77:2–4 gives inspired commentary on these four beasts.

Revelation 6–7—Symbolism in the Six Seals

Modern revelation teaches us that each of the seals represents a thousand-year period of history (see the introduction to Revelation 5–7 above).

When the first seal was opened, John saw a man with a crown riding a white horse and conquering. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said that this represents Enoch, who helped his people conquer their enemies—including Satan—and establish a city of purity and righteousness symbolized by the white horse (see Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:476–78). The opening of the second seal revealed the violence, death, and destruction that occurred in the time of Noah and the Flood.

The opening of the third seal represented a time when God’s people were affected by famines. Abraham moved because of a famine, and the history of Jacob’s (Israel’s) family was very much affected by famines. The opening of the fourth seal reminds us that the time between 1000  B.C. and Christ’s birth was a time of warfare among the covenant people. It was a time when they were conquered, taken captive, and scattered throughout the world by foreigners. The fifth seal revealed what faithful Saints of John’s day were then encountering—giving their lives for their testimony.

Events depicted in the opening of the sixth seal are more detailed. They pertain to the dispensation in preparation for the Savior’s Second Coming.

Revelation 6:6—What Is the Significance of the Price of Wheat and Barley?

A measure of wheat was enough to feed one man for a day. A penny was the wage for a day’s work in those times. This shows that food was expensive because of the famine. Barley was cheaper, but it was of lesser quality and only used by man in times of famine. The image of the man carrying the balances in Revelation 6:5 suggests that food was given out in precise amounts—again suggesting a time of famine.

Revelation 7

Arrayed (v. 13)Beautifully dressed 
Tribulation (v. 14)Trials and persecution 

Revelation 7:3–8—Sealing the Servants of God in Their Foreheads

It was a common practice in John’s day for people who worshiped false gods to mark their foreheads (or sometimes their hands) with the name or symbol of their god. Those who believed in the Savior’s teachings did not mark themselves. From Revelation 3:12 and 22:1–5 we learn that the righteous are given the name of God. This indicates that they are god-like themselves and receive “his image in [their] countenances” (Alma 5:14). The symbol might signify to us that their thoughts are always upon their God—that they “always remember him” (see D&C 20:77, 79).

Some prophetic explanation of the sealing of the 144,000 is found in Doctrine and Covenants 77:9–11.

Studying the Scriptures

Do at least three of the five activities (A–E) as you study Revelation 5–7.

Activity A iconExplain an Important Doctrine

What is the answer to the question the angel asked in Revelation 5:2?

Activity B iconHow Can He Be Both?

  1. 1.

    What are the names Jesus is called in Revelation 5:5–6 that are symbolically opposites of each other?

  2. 2.

    Explain how each of those names represent Jesus and how He can be both of those things.

Activity C iconHonoring the Savior

  1. 1.

    Describe what Revelation 5 tells us the individuals in heaven did to praise and honor Jesus. Why do you think they continue to honor Him in heaven?

  2. 2.

    Name at least two ways you could honor Jesus here on earth. Include one that is not described in Revelation 5 and explain how you think your action would honor Him.

Activity D iconPrescribe a Remedy

  1. 1.

    What was the name of the rider of the horse in John’s vision of the fourth seal? Who followed close behind?

  2. 2.

    With the help of 2 Nephi 9:6–14, describe how those two can be overcome.

Activity E iconSpiritual Protection in the Latter Days

  1. 1.

    The events John saw at the opening of the sixth seal prior to the Second Coming of Christ are especially significant to Saints today. He described it as a time of wrath and wondered who would be able to endure it (see Revelation 6:17). From Revelation 7, what did John see that signified how the righteous would be preserved in a day of judgment?

  2. 2.

    In addition to the 144,000 who received this blessing, how many others were included? (see Revelation 7:9).

  3. 3.

    Based on the description in Revelation 7:13–17, why were those people preserved? Why would you want to be among them? (Consider also the explanation of “sealing” in the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for Revelation 7:3–8.)

  4. 4.

    What do you think are two of the most impressive symbols or images in Revelation 7 that you could use in a talk about spiritual protection in the latter days? Explain how you would use them.