It seems that most of Revelation has taken place, but I’m confused about
the seals, trumpets, and bowls of Gods wrath. Can the OT/NT, or other
historical writings help us understand when these events happened?


When you say that “most of Revelations has taken place,” I assume that you
believe the majority of what is prophesied in this book has already been
fulfilled during the time of the Roman empire and the persecutions of the
church by Rome. I agree with this general picture in the sense that, as
John said in Revelation 1:1 that the vision concerned things which “must
quickly take place.” The letter focuses on the heavenly battle which
occurs parallel to the attacks on the church and the saints on the earth
during the time of the emperor Domitian and the persecutors who followed
him. Strong evidence for this view is found, for example, in Revelation
17:9-18, which refers to “the great city that has an empire over the kings
of the earth.” (v. 18). Here one learns that the vision in Revelation
5-16 concerns this kingdom with its ten horns (kings) who make war on the
saints. This is a clear parallel to Daniel chapter seven, which is a
prophecy of the persecutions of Domitian, the tenth emperor of Rome. All
this is described in some detail in my book, “Daniel, Prophet to the
Nations” (

Much more could be said to support the case that the primary emphasis of
Revelation is on the church in the first centuries and the persecution of
the saints. This brings me to the seals, trumpets and bowls and their
specific interpretation. I will confess that the detailed interpretation
of the many symbols in Revelation is not my specialty. I will recommend
to you two books which I find to be very helpful. One is “Revelation” by
Jim McGuiggan published by International Bible Resources, Lubbock Texas.
The other is “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” by Gordon Ferguson, available

Having given you some references, let me attempt to help you to understand
the specifics of the seals, trumpets and bowls. The seals are opened in
Revelation 6:1-8:6. The trumpets are blown in Revelation 8:7-11:19 and
the seven bowls are poured out in Revelation 16:1-21. You should be aware
that this is apocalyptic literature. The dramatic imagery of apocalyptic
writings such as that in Revelation and parts of Ezekiel, Joel, Zechariah
and others should be interpreted symbolically rather than literally.
These visions concern the judgment of God against those who would oppose
him. In the context of Revelation, they are especially about God’s
judgment against those who attacked the saints during the time immediately
following the vision given to John. It would involve too much for me to
give interpretation of each of these visions. Let me give you a few
comments and let you use the sources I mention above. For example, in Rev
6:1 the lamb who opens the scroll is Jesus. The white horse is the one
Jesus rides on (figuratively, of course). Red (Rev 6:4) represents war.
This is a common usage of the color in apocalpytic language. The black
horse (Rev 6:5) represents suffering and famine. The pale green/grey
horse (Rev 6:8) represents death and destruction. The red, black and pale
horses together represent the judgment which God will bring on the earth
and on the enemies of God. The fifth seal (Rev 6:9) represents the saints
who were killed by those who attacked the church. This is a hint about
the cause of the judgment referred to in the second, third and fourth
seals. The sixth seal (Rev 6:12) is again about God’s judgment, this time
on the kings and the rulers who oversaw the attacks on God’s people.

I will stop there. Hopefully, you will get the idea. These visions of
seals, trumpets and bowls are not historical prophecies such as Psalm
22:16, “They have pierced my hands and my feet.” which have a definite
point in time when they are fulfilled. Rather they are a dramatization
of God’s judgment on those who oppose Jesus and his saints. They are a
heavenly drama with a parallel in earthly reality. For this reason, one
cannot say that Revelation 6:12 was fulfilled in 134 AD. That is not the
nature of the apocalyptic visions in Revelation. Clearly, a lot more can
be said about the seals, trumpets and bowls, but I will leave you to do
your own more advanced study through one of the commentaries mentioned
above or another. I would suggest finding a commentary which does not
make the mistake of projecting most of the prophecies of Revelation into
the present time or a time in the near future, as this is clearly not the
principle focus the vision given to John. There are many books which
attempt to interpret Revelation in light of current events. Such books
may make for interesting reading, but they are not likely to help you
understand the intent of the original author.

John Oakes

Comments are closed.