PART 3: ETHICAL STIPULATIONS – The Seven Seals (Revelation 4-7)

David Chilton

Narrated By: Daniel Sorenson
Book: The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of The Book of Revelation


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Chapter Text


The third section of the covenantal treaty (cf. Deut. 5:1-26:19)[1] declared the way of Covenant life required of the vassals, the laws of citizenship in the Kingdom. As St. Paul declared, all men “live and move and exist” in God (Acts 17:28); He is the Foundation of our very being. This means that our relationship to Him is at the center of our existence, of our actions and thinking in every area of life. And central to this relationship is His Sanctuary, where His subjects come to worship Him before His Throne. Thus the major concern of the Stipulations section is the thorough consecration of the people to God, with special importance placed on the establishment of one central Sanctuary:

You shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God shall choose from all your tribes to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. (Deut. 12:5; cf. all of ch. 12)

As Meredith Kline observes, “The centralization requirement must… be understood in terms of Deuteronomy’s nature as a suzerainty treaty. Such treaties prohibited the vassal to engage in any independent diplomacy with a foreign power other than the covenant suzerain. In particular, the vassal must not pay tribute to any other lord.”[2] The centrality of the Sanctuary helped to underscore the fact that it was an image of the Sanctuary in heaven (Ex. 25:9, 40; 26:30; Num. 8:4; Acts 7:44; Heb. 8:5; 9:23).

This is also the emphasis of the Stipulations section of Revelation. The passage opens with St. John’s ascension to God’s Throneroom, and this provides the central vantage point for the prophecy as a whole: All things are seen in relation to the Throne. The judgments that are bound on earth were first bound in heaven.[3]

Obviously, an important aspect of the Stipulations section in Deuteronomy is the Law itself, the sign of God’s covenantal lordship. Moses takes great care repeatedly to remind Israel of the Covenant at Sinai, with the Ten Commandments engraved on the tablets of stone (Deut. 5, 9-10). Similarly, this section of Revelation (ch. 5) deals with a Covenant document that, like the original stone tablets, is written on both front and back.

The laws of the Covenant decreed a program of conquest over the ungodly nations of Canaan: Israel defeated its enemies through the application of the Covenant. The holy war simply carried out the death sentence declared in the courtroom; it was fundamentally an ethical, judicial action, bringing the death penalty against the wicked.[4] The program of conquest, based on the law of God, thus issued from the central Sanctuary. (It is interesting that as this program is spelled out in Deuteronomy 7, Moses speaks symbolically of “seven nations” to be destroyed.)[5] Of course, the law provides not only for the judgment of the Canaanites, but also for Israelites who apostatize from the Covenant: Those who repudiate God’s authority and follow after other gods are to be put to death, a judgment that, like the others, proceeds ultimately from the altar in the central Sanctuary (Deut. 13:1-18; 17:1-13).[6]

As Deuteronomy 20 makes clear, this Sanctuary-judicial aspect is central even to the warfare waged against foreign nations, beyond the borders of the theocracy: Battles were consecrated by the priest to the glory of God and His covenantal Kingdom (v. 1-4). A war of this kind was always preceded by an offer of peace; if the offer were refused, all the men of the city would be put to the sword. Kline explains the typology: “In Israel’s offer of peace (v. 10) and in the submission of the Gentile city as a covenant tributary to Yahweh (v. 11) there was imaged the saving mission of God’s people in the world (cf. Zech. 9:7b, 10b; Luke 10:5-16). The judgment of those who refuse to make their peace with God through Christ was exhibited in the siege, conquest, and punishment of the unsubmissive city (v. 13).”[7]

We find all this in Revelation as well – with the difference that, as a Covenant Lawsuit against apostate Israel, the judgments once decreed against the ungodly Gentiles are now unleashed on the lawless Covenant people, who had rejected Christ’s offer of peace. As the book of the Covenant is opened, the cherubic creatures carrying the altar cry out: “Come!” – and four horsemen ride out to conquer the Land, bringing destruction and death in fulfillment of the covenantal curses, applying the just and holy judgment of the Sanctuary in heaven.

Another major subject of the Stipulations section in Deuteronomy is the requirement to appear at the sacred feasts, involving three annual pilgrimages to the central Sanctuary: for the feasts of Passover/Unleavened Bread (16:1-8), Pentecost [Weeks] (16:9-12), and Tabernacles [Booths] (16:13-15).[8] The same order is followed in this section of Revelation. Chapter 5 contains imagery from Passover, where we see worshipers in the sanctuary giving thanks for “the Lamb that was slain.” Chapter 6 takes up the theme of Pentecost (the anniversary of the giving of the Law at Sinai): The lawbook of the Covenant is unsealed, bringing a series of judgments patterned after Habakkuk 3, a synagogue reading for Pentecost.[9] Then chapter 7 brings us into a vision of the eschatological Feast of Tabernacles,[10] in which the countless multitudes redeemed from every nation stand before the Throne with palm branches in their hands (cf. Lev. 23:39-43), praising God as their Redeemer-King (cf. Deut. 26:1-19)[11] and receiving the fullness of blessing foreshadowed in this feast: “And He who sits on the Throne shall spread His Tabernacle over them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the Throne shall be their Shepherd, and shall guide them to the springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:15-17).

[1] See Meredith G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963), pp. 62-120.

[2] Ibid., p. 80.

[3] Cf. Matt. 18:18, which literally reads: “Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” In delivering righteous judgments, ministers on earth are manifesting the Judgment of heaven.

[4] See Ray R. Sutton, That You May Prosper: Dominion by Covenant (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987).

[5] Cf. Kline, p. 68.

[6] Ibid., pp. 84ff., 94ff.

[7] Ibid., p. 106.

[8] Ibid., pp. 91-94.

[9] M. D. Goulder, The Evangelists’ Calendar: A Lectionary Explanation for the Development of Scripture (London: SPCK. 1978), p. 177.

[10] See David Chilton. Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1985). pp. 44ff., 60.

[11] See Kline, pp. 118ff.