The five Seals of the Apocalypse
The opening of a seal is a revelation. The opening of the seven seals that secure the divine scroll is the progressive revelation of God’s Plan to the Church.
Each of the seven revelations belong to the Church of the time when it was given, but for the latest members of the Body of Christ represented by the Apostle John, they are all in front of their eyes, in a global vision of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Saints, because, as the pastor Russell says: ‘The teachings of the past should never be forgotten.’
With the opening of the seventh seal the whole divine Plan is revealed. The Seals are opened by the Lamb, the man who ‘deserves’ to do it; the opening, though, is destined to those who deserve to see inside the scroll of God’s Plan (Apoc. 5, 5-9). ‘In order to be able to understand what is revealed in the scroll one must be sincerely willing to know the details of God’s Plan and cooperate with it. It means to understand and appreciate God’s deep things written in the scroll’ (C. T. Russell).
The first seal is opened from Our Lord at the time of primitive Church; it brings important revelations on the equality of all the believers, because Jesus Christ is their only leader and the twelve Apostles are the only dignitaries of the Church inspired by God. The rumbling thunder that accompanies the opening of this seal represents the great controversy between Christ’s truth and the mistake of Apostolic Succession. The first living creature, the Lion, becomes prominent on the other three that accompany it. It represents the power of God in the saints, which overwhelms the other attributes of the divine character when, through the apostles, the original Church obtains all the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit (‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit will reach you’, Acts 1, 8). This special condition of the Church, due to the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the people consecrated by the apostles through the imposition of hands, would be slowly exhausted with their death. Only the Apostles had those gifts and could pass them on.
Then God allows evil to come and tempt his people. Symbolically he is the first living creature to say to evil: ‘Come!’. The horse is a symbol of doctrine. White means pure, fair. A white horse is pure doctrine, namely the Gospel of Our Lord. Who is the unmentioned knight? The consecrated believers of the time of the end, represented by John, are able to ‘see him’, viz. to recognize him as the most terrible seduction presented at the beginning of the Age of the Gospel. The seduction is even cleverer because it is based on Christ’s doctrine. In the Greek text the crown that the knight receives from the Church itself is ‘Stephanos’, namely the laurel wreath conquered by the winner of a competition, symbol of honors and authority in the Church itself. The crowns on Jesus Christ’s head in Apocalypse 19 are ‘Diadems’, viz. proper crowns for kings, symbols of authority and government on the whole humankind.
Even if the knight on the white horse in Apocalypse 6 looks like Christ, he is not; the Lamb, namely Jesus Christ, opens the first seal and shows the knight, which of course can’t represent himself. Furthermore Jesus is seen riding a white horse only on his Second Advent and not on the First, when he went to Jerusalem on a hinny.
Furthermore the nature of the knight in Apocalypse 6 is to be a conqueror, which rides and sweeps away all that hinders his will to win and his thirst for power. Like Christ, this knight holds a bow. Jesus, though, uses his bow only on his Second Advent to hit the hearts of the humankind at the beginning of his earthly Kingdom (‘Your arrows are sharp. The nations fall under you, with arrows in the heart of the king’s enemies’, Ps 45,5), whilst the unknown knight uses it at the beginning of the Christian era to hit with his arrows, which are subtle syllogisms and sophisms, the heart of the members of the Church and seduce them (Ps 64, 2-6, Jer. 9,3). The ecclesiastic hierarchy, which stood out during the 2nd Century around the figure of the ‘monarchic’ bishop, supreme interpret and heir of apostles, doesn’t start as an original institution.
The Christian Church itself, from the origins up to Constantine, went from spontaneous forms of self-government to a hierarchic system; from the waiting for a radical change of society to the acceptance of the status of things; from the refusal of ‘this world’ to the attempt to control from the inside the traditional instruments of power ‘on the world’ (A. Donini, History of Christianity, 1975). Historians as well know that since the time of apostles and in particular after their death, many bishops imposed themselves as monarchs on the Church, so much that in 150 a.C. their absolute power as vicars of Christ and successors of the Apostles was recognized. (‘I know how thou canst not bear them that are evil, and thou hast tried them, who say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars’, Apoc, 2-2).
As St. Paul ironically stated: ‘You are already filled. You have already become rich. You have come to reign without us. Yes, and I wish that you did reign, that we also might reign with you.’ (1 Cor, 4-8). The white horse represents the doctrines that the Clergy drew from the Gospel; they manipulate them and used them to conquer the power and they still use them to keep it. Clericalists in the Apocalypse are called Nicolaites: ‘But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaites, which I also hate.’ (Apoc. 2, 6). Nicolaite means ‘winner on the people’; he is the symbol of those who want to take the lead of their brothers as successors of the apostles, because they are invested with special dignity. The meaning of the word ‘Nicolaite’ is opposite to the sense of those who overcome the world, the flesh and the devil (Apoc. 2, 7), which will inherit the glory of God’s Kingdom. The winner on the brothers doesn’t inherit the Kingdom but the condemnation of God.
The Antichrist is notoriously the Papacy, but it represents the adult ‘man of illegality’. The Nicolaites is the embryo of the Antichrist. It grows inside the womb of the Church, which is corrupted by the first knight and therefore by Satan the devil. Indeed ‘no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light. It is no great thing therefore if his ministers also masquerade as servants of righteousness’ (2 Cor. 11, 14). St. Paul wrote on the subject: ‘But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguilded Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ. For you bear… if he exalts himself, if he strikes you on the face.’ (2 Cor. 11, 3-20).
This is the original sin of the second Eve, which is the Church. Jesus warned us: ‘Be careful that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name (Christians) saying: ‘I am (represent) the Christ’ and will lead many astray.’ (Mt 24, 4-5). Likewise St. Peter (in 2 Peter 2, 1-3): ‘There will be false prophets.’ When John was already old he wrote that during his time there were many antichrists which prepared the imminent advent of the embryo of the Antichrist; he revealed that their presence indicated the ‘last hour’ of the apostolic era’. (‘Little children, these are the end of times, and as you heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen. By this we know that it is the end times.’ (1 Jn 2, 18).
‘Once the Apostles were dead the Church, lacking a biblical education, overrated its Bishops or Pastors and it mistakenly attributed to them a Divine Inspiration similar to what the twelve Apostles had. Two hundred years later the mistake was revealed and they tried to correct it, but the wrong path was taken. It had to be acknowledged that the Bishops taught contradicting doctrines, which of course couldn’t have been inspired by the Holy Spirit’ (C. T. Russell). Therefore the truths hidden under the first seal are: Jesus Christ is the only leader of the Church; the twelve Apostles are the only dignitaries of the Church inspired by God; Apostolic Succession doesn’t exist.
The opening of the second seal involves the revelations made by our Lord through Arius during the 4th Century A.D.; it claims the unity of God against the Trinitarian mistake (1 Tim 2, 5). John, viz. the latest members of the body of Christ, which ‘can see’, is aware of the mistake concerning the Apostolic Succession and the Trinitarian mistake. The second living creature, which rules on the others at the opening of this seal, is the Calf, symbol of love pushed to sacrifice. It shows the spiritual condition of the Church at the opening of this seal of progressive truth: a Calf killed by the terrible persecutions of the pagan Rome. The Roman Emperors found amusement and relief to the boredom they inflicted to the innocuous followers of Jesus, whose mission in the world was to: ‘do what is good toward all men, and especially toward those who are of the household of faith’ and to prepare to be accepted by the Redeemer in His next Kingdom (Gal. 6, 10). Why did God allow persecutions?
The answer is that the proof of faith and loyalty towards God was necessary to Jesus as well as His followers for the same reason; to develop and give an adamantine shape to the character. This corresponds to the persecution and crucifixion of Christ. This is why he said: ‘It was necessary that the Son of man suffered to enter His glory.’ The Elected walk on His path. (C. T. Russell).
Indeed the Lord tells the true Church of the time: ‘I know your works, oppression and poverty (but you are rich) and the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, (who praise God, therefore true Christians) and they are not, they are a synagogue (Church) of Satan (the pagan roman Empire)’, namely the Nicolaite Bishops (Apoc. 2, 9). It then carries on: ‘Don’t be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days (303-313, the ten years of the most terrible persecution by Diocletian). Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life’ (Apoc. 2, 10). After the martyrdom of so many Christians represented by the Calf, God allows another evil to appear. The Calf says: ‘Come!’. The Church forgot the inspired Message and mistakenly thought that the teachings of the Bishops had the same authority as teachings of the Apostles. The price of this mistake was the loss of precious truths. Lord, in his book ‘the old roman world’, stated: ‘In the second century there were humble courageous bishops that preached to their flock in sheds and they didn’t belong to any hierarchy. During the third century the Church was a powerful institution. Eventually, when Christianity became the court religion in the fourth century, it was used to support the abuses that it had originally fought against. The ambitious and mundane clergy sought titles and honors. They became lazy, arrogant and proud. The Church joined forces with the Government and the religious dogmas were imposed by the sword of the magistrates’. (C. T. Russell).
At this point another horse or doctrine appears. It is deep red, that is the color of the Dragon representing the Roman Pagan Empire (‘Another sign was seen in heaven. Behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns and on his heads seven crowns’, Apoc. 12, 3). The knight that rides the pagan doctrine is the roman Empire itself. Ammianus Marcellinus (a 4th century A. D. historian) says that the standard of the roman Emperor in the capacity of Supreme Pontiff, head of the pagan religion, is a big red snake or dragon (‘purpureum signum draconis’). ‘The emperor Constantine (not christened) summoned all the ‘Apostolic Bishops’ to the Council of Nicaea in 325 A. D.; a third of them attended, that is 384. They were ordered to establish a Creed. They discussed for months without any success. The emperor finally established the so called ‘the Nicene Creed’. Those who refused to endorse the Creed had to face exile.’ (C. T. Russell).
This act accomplishes the statement in Apocalypse 12, 4: ‘His tail (of the Dragon) drew one third of the stars of the sky (of the Bishops), and threw them to the earth (leading them to apostasy)’. The Nicene Creed states that God is one and trine, and that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three gods and one god at the same time. It is the first dogma of Christianity and it is a deep red horse because its origin is pagan.
For Eusebius of Caesarea (335 A. D.) Constantine’s kingdom accomplishes God’s kingdom; the Church must not wait for it any more, since it has happened. The wait for a new world is then replaced by the ‘promise of compensation, after death, for injustices and suffering in everyday life’. (A. Donini, Op. Cit.). The trinity is therefore followed by the faith in a false kingdom of God and in the immortality of the human soul. Constantine approves the Nicene dogma as the Maximum Pontiff or Supreme Priest, King of Kings, Bishop of Bishops, Priest of Priests; basically as Vicar of Christ. He is the newborn Antichrist (the man who replaces Christ), created in the 4th century by the womb of the Church itself. It will have to grow to become Papacy. Later the Emperor Theodosius I chairs the Council of Constance as Maximum Pontiff, Theodosius II chairs the Council of Ephesus and Marcian that of Chalcedon. Jesus Christ said: ‘Do you think that I have come to give you peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.’ (Luke 12, 51). Likewise the Antichrist: ‘And there went out another horse that was red. And to him that sat thereon, it was given that he should take peace from the earth; and that they should kill one another. And a great sword was given to him.’ (Apoc. 6, 4). Constantine in his capacity as a magistrate uses the great sword of his power to emanate an edict that condemns all the dissidents to exile, so that the Christian people is divided into Trinitarians (Roman-Catholic) and Antitrinitarians (Arians, followers of Arius, accused of heresy and excommunicated).
The imperial knight removes peace, harmony and unity to the Christian society at that time; likewise later on the two parts produce reciprocal accusations of heresy and mistake and excommunicate each other. Such hatred among brothers is a crime (1 John 3, 15) and therefore it is as if they killed one another. Christ’s sword refers to the Truth that would reap the Judaic age and therefore a division between Judeans and Christians. The division put into place by the Antichrist as an imitation of Christ wasn’t wanted by God and therefore it was against His Plan. The wars between Catholics and Arians start just after 325 A.D. Arianism starts declining after 361 A.D., surviving only among barbarians. The fight ends in 539 A.D., when the last fortress of Arianism, the Ostrogoth power, is definitely defeated by the army of Emperor Justinian on behalf of the Pope. After the recognition of the Roman Church from the imperial authority, the Roman Catholic liturgy becomes bigger and stronger. The hidden truths under the first and second seal are therefore: Jesus Christ is the only head of the Church; the twelve Apostles are the only dignitaries of the Church inspired by God; Apostolic Succession doesn’t exist; Jehovah is the only true God; Jesus Christ is the Son of God; the Trinity doesn’t exist.
The last three truths disappeared with the end of Arianism in 539; they came back only a thousand years later with Michael Servetus, at the time of the Reform.
The third seal is opened by Our Lord in the dark centuries, during the feudal age, through the revelations brought by
A) Claudius of Turin (839) who wrote against the adoration of images and the crucifix, stating: ‘God orders us to carry the cross, not to adore it; those who adore it do so because they don’t want to carry it neither with their spirit nor with their body.’ He also wrote against the papal absolutism, stating that Peter wasn’t superior to the other Apostles and that the Apostolic Succession didn’t exist.
B) Berengar of Tours (c. 998-1088) was called by the posterity ‘the Protestant of the 9th Century’; he wrote against the mistake of the sacrifice of the mass, because the Holy Supper is a commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice and not its repetition, the unleavened bread a symbol of Christ’s body and the red wine a symbol of His blood. He said about the Roman Church: ‘Vanitatis concilium et ecclesia malignantium…non apostolicam sed sedem Satanae’.
C) Peter Abelard (1079-1142) criticized the Catholic tradition of the so-called ‘Fathers of the Church’.
D) Arnold of Brescia wrote against the profiteering of the monasteries, the corruption of the Clergy and he supported the separation between Church and State. The main mistakes denounced by true Christians at this time are the following:
The doctrine of Purgatory, instituted by Gregory the Great in 593. The prayers to Mary and the Saints, which started in 600. The Pope’s right to temporal power, which started in 750 during the kingdom of Pippin the Younger. The adoration of the Cross, images and relics, which started in 786. The third living creature has a man’s face, symbol of divine wisdom, which is the prominent character of the true Church in the 1260 years where it was separated from the world, isolated in the desert but miraculously fed on spiritual nourishment by God (Apoc. 12, 6); like Elijah was fed on material food in the desert in the 1260 days when it didn’t rain on Israel (1 King 17, 2-6). In the meantime, the nominal Church, highly mundane and corrupted, is compared to the wicked queen Jezebel: ‘But I have against thee a few things: because thou sufferest the woman Jezabel, who called herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants, to commit fornication and to eat of things sacrificed to idols.’ (Apoc. 2, 20). Jezebel means ‘The lord is her husband’. Feeding on things sacrificed to idols means to accept the wrong doctrines above mentioned. Fornication is the association between State and Church; the most sensational example of this occurred in 799, when Pope Leo III nominated the Emperor Charles the Great king of the ‘Holy Roman Empire’, crowning him on Christmas Day 800. This Holy Roman Empire lasted a thousand years, which was the false millennium of the Papacy as vicar of Christ.
It was destroyed by Napoleon in 1800. The living creature represents the need for God’s wisdom in consecrated people in an age of ignorance, obscurantism and darkness. To his command we have a black horse, viz. the mistaken and dark doctrine of mystery (in Latin ‘sacramentum’). It consists of the catholic Creed made of dogmatic human teachings and based on the pagan tradition. The doctrine of Jezebel is very attractive; it talks about renunciation, as Jesus did when he said: ‘So therefore whoever of you who doesn’t renounce all that he has, he can’t be my disciple.’ It says to sacrifice all the earthly possessions and to give one’s life for the wonderful and glorious celestial good. It therefore seduces Christ’s disciples through ‘Satan’s depths’ (Apoc. 2, 24). In 533 A.D. the Emperor Justinian wrote to the Bishop of Rome: ‘We have committed all the Eastern priests to join and submit to Your Holiness…as Head of the Church’. The peace between the Emperor and the Pope is made possible from the end of the reign of Ostrogoths in Italy in 539 A.D. In the ‘Corpus iuris civilis’ (Codex, 529 A.D., Digestum, 533 A.D.) the emperor condemns any arbitrary interpretation of the Bible that doesn’t follow the teaching of the Roman Church. This occurs only from 539 A.D., when the Papacy finally has Rome and the rights that the Emperor gives it. The prohibition of private readings of the Bible starts 1260 years of drought of the word of God and famine of spiritual nourishment. This period goes from 539 to 1799 A.D. ‘Let’s remember that only a few in the past could read and a Bible was very expensive. Furthermore, it was believed to be useless because of the mistaken faith in Apostolic Bishops and their Creed’. (C. T. Russell).
The lack of spiritual nourishment was foreseen by the prophet Amos: ‘Behold the days come, saith the Lord, and I will send forth a famine into the land: not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the word of the Lord. (Am. 8, 11). Isaiah as well said: ‘their nobles (the Clergy, the Bishops and the Pope) have perished with famine, and their multitude were dried up with thirst’ (Isa. 5, 13). Likewise Hosea wrote: ‘My people have been silent because they had no knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will reject thee, that thou shalt not do the office of priesthood to me: and thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I also will forget thy children.’ (Hos. 4, 6). The prophet Amos also foresaw the will to ‘lessen the measure’ (the quantity of spiritual nourishment), ‘increase the sicle’ (the cost of spiritual nourishment) and ‘convey in deceitful balances’ (Am. 8, 5). The knight on the black horse as well has in his hands (in his power) a balance, which represents the judiciary power. ‘The two scale pans mean that the religious and civil powers are joined in the person who has the executive power of the government and can express his authority both on the Church and on the State’ (W. Miller).
A voice raises from the middle of the four living creatures, that is from the middle of the Church; it is Jesus Christ, who speaks via the accusations made by eminent members of the true Church at the time, stating that the balance of the Papacy is used to defraud the believers giving them two pounds of wheat, viz. a small quantity (the scarce spiritual nourishment drawn from the New Testament) to obtain a lot of money and ‘thrice two pounds of barley’ (the scarce spiritual nourishment drawn from the Old Testament, which is about three times the New) to obtain a lot of money. The wheat of the New Testament is the bread of life, Jesus Christ himself. It is wrongly offered, as a sacrifice in the mass for the sins of living and dead. The Papacy has then obtained a full victory on the Dragon (the civil powers of Christianity) as Antichrist; he can freely measure with money any form of assistance, and ask for rigorous payment for any services provided.
The Greek word ‘Liturgy’ indicates any service of public utility that must be paid for by the richest citizens. Such trade of spiritual things is called simony (from Simon Magus, who asked to buy the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, as if they could be sold); it is strictly forbidden by God: ‘Keep thy money to thyself, to perish with thee: because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money’ (Acts 8, 20). ‘Who must be reproved, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.’ (Titus 1, 11). ‘And they violated among my people, for a handful of barley, and a piece of bread, to kill souls which should not die, and to save souls alive which should not live, telling lies to my people that believe lies.’ (Ezek. 13, 19).
‘God’s grace can’t be bought with money’ (C. T. Russell). The voice among the four living creatures implores the Church not to damage oil or wine: the oil of the Holy Spirit (Spirit of Consecration, which the true Church must use to keep its lamp lit) is short and likewise the wine of Truth.
Therefore the truths hidden under the first three seals are: Jesus Christ is the only head of the Church; the twelve Apostles are the only dignitaries of the Church inspired by God; there isn’t an Apostolic Succession; Jehovah is the only true God; Jesus Christ is the Son of God; the Trinity doesn’t exist; Iconolatry (the adoration of images and the cross) is a mistake; simony (the trade of spiritual things) is a mistake; the Holy Supper is a commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ and not its repetition; transubstantiation is a mistake; the Church must be separated from the State and it must not have temporal power.
The fourth seal is open by Our Lord from the time of Peter Waldo (1178) to the Protestant Reformation (1518) for 360 years, the ‘time to do penance’ that God gave Jezebel (Apoc. 2, 21). From Waldo to Luther genuine Christians try to reform the Catholic Church itself in an attempt to spiritualize it and free it from corruption. The seal is opened thanks to the enlightening work of medieval adherents to Pauperism, Marsilius of Padua, John Wycliffe, Jan Hus and their followers.
Many of them die as martyrs for the Antichrist’s will. They think that the only guide for the Christian is the Bible rather than tradition; also that Papacy, Antichrist and the Church of Rome are the Great Babylon of Apocalypse. In 1160 Peter Waldo translates for the first time the Bible in vernacular (Provencal language). The truth claimed by the Waldensians are: the duty to preach without regard to ecclesiastical rules; the authority and the popular use of the Holy Scriptures in vernacular; the right of men and women to teach; the inexistence of Purgatory; the uselessness of prayers for the dead; the uselessness of invocation of Saints; the inexistence of Apostolic Succession, since Jesus Christ is the only head of the Church. The motto of Waldensians is: ‘Lux luced in tenebris’ .
The fourth living creature, the Eagle, represents divine justice, which is much higher than human justice: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.’ (Isa 55, 8-9). Divine Justice shows the biggest unfairness in the history of Christianity to the latest members of the Body of Christ. At the time of Peter Waldo Pope Innocent III forbids the translation of the Bible in vernacular and institutes the Holy Inquisition during the fourth Lateran ecumenical council (1215). This immediately turns into a Crusade against Waldensians, Albigenses and Cathars, which ended in a bloodbath (John 16, 2). ‘How do we explain… the era of obscurantism when the followers of Jesus thought they would honor God by torturing their brothers?’ The scholars of the Bible are unanimous in concluding that the difficulties originated from the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession, based on the principle that the Bishops of the Church were inspired as much as the twelve Apostles… Catholics and Protestants are keen on qualifying the Inquisition everything but Holy.
If we consider these events with clemency, we must remember that they belong to less favorable times. With the light of knowledge, thanks to God, we have reached a purer sense of Justice and Love given to us by Jesus: ‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you.’ (Mt. 5, 44, Mk. 3, 13). The Law given to Israel on the Sinai Mountain only expressed Justice in its rules: ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’.
How mistakenly were God’s words interpreted during the persecutions of the Inquisition! There wasn’t any love or pity; furthermore Justice was violated in the widest sense of the word’ (C. T. Russell). Indeed Justice, whose sense was deeply felt by the believers at that time, said to the fourth knight: ‘Come!’.
Here the greatest injustice comes, represented by a horse or doctrine which is pale-colored, greenish, livid, the color of death and terror. It is the basic doctrine of the Holy Inquisition, saying that Heretics must be persecuted, tortured and killed. Its knight is the Antichrist represented by the Inquisitor, who rides such despicable doctrine for centuries in order to preserve the absolute power of the Papacy. ‘There is in the human heart an insidious disposition to evil and this is the only excuse we can find to Inquisition. Judeans found an excuse to the crucifixion of Jesus and the stoning of Saint Stephen, etc.; likewise Inquisitors found an alibi to their persecutions and they thought they were serving God, like Saul of Tarsus. Things have changed enormously since but persecutions are still practiced in a different way – ostracism, slander, boycotting’ (C. T. Russell).
The name or character of the Inquisition is the Death, viz. the death penalty for Heretics. It is closely followed by Ades, which represents the collective grave rather than the individual one, meaning that thousands of Heretics are killed. It also means that the Heretic condemned to death is quickly and inexorably tortured because Ades follows Death.
The Dragon (civil powers) gives the Papacy (therefore Death and Ades) the authority to ‘kill’ the fourth part of the earth, namely the society of the time. This is represented by Catholics, Jewish, Muslims and Heretics; the latter are the fourth part of the earth. They are ‘killed’ by being excommunicated, isolated, and deprived of any religious benefit and freedom. ‘And it was given unto him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And power was given him over every tribe and people and tongue and nation.’ (Apoc. 13, 7).
This happens through the sword (power) of magistrates, the famine due to the poverty in prison, the death penalty, ‘inventing the cruelest and bloodiest instruments of torture of all times and giving death in every possible form that any man or demon can think of. Thousands and tens of thousands died suffering the most brutal torments that the Inquisition could devise.’ (W. Miller).
The savage beasts are civil authorities at the service of Papacy, the so-called ‘secular arm’ of the Catholic Church. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, has the keys to Death and Ades to lift the humankind from the Edenic condemnation (Apoc. 1, 18) and not to annihilate it like the Antichrist.
It follows that the hidden truths under the first four seals are: Jesus Christ is the only head of the Church; the twelve Apostles are the only dignitaries of the Church inspired by God; there isn’t an Apostolic Succession; Jehovah is the only true God; Jesus Christ is the Son of God; the Trinity doesn’t exist; Iconolatry (the adoration of images and the cross) is a mistake; simony (the trade of spiritual things) is a mistake; the Holy Supper is a commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ and not its repetition; transubstantiation is a mistake; the Church must be separated from the State and it must not have temporal power; the Bible is the only guide for Christians; Papacy is the Antichrist; the Roman Church is the Great Babylon of the Apocalypse.
The events that accompany the opening of the fifth seal don’t resemble at all those linked to the four previous ones, which reveal the important parts of the ‘mystery of iniquity’, viz. the Antichrist. The opening of the fifth seal coincides with the time of the protestant Reformation and it lasts until the French Revolution. During this period in the history of Church a bigger light starts appearing; this allows to see the many thousands of Heretics killed by the Papacy, which were not martyrs of faith. The true Church has been tried by a bloody persecution which left a deep impression in the believers; only the protestant Church rehabilitated the martyrs of the past. In the vision of John under the altar of sacrifices that represent Christ, appear the soul (lives) of those who were killed for the Word of God and the testimony they gave (Apoc. 6.9). Their crying can be heard. ‘The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth to me from the earth’ (Gen. 4, 10). The merit of the death of Christ – which will be applied at the end as the price for the redemption of the world’s sins – apparently doesn’t cover completely the crime. It would repair the part due to the weakness inherited from Adam, but a part of it would still be unaccounted for.
Therefore we can assume that a certain amount of responsibility would be left to those who commit crimes and therefore they must undergo a punishment for their mistakes and misdeeds. At the end of the age of Jewish, the Judeans had a long period of tribulations. God allowed such suffering to be endured by innocent people as well, so that the debt of Justice on the shoulders of those who had committed serious crimes could be lighter. In the light of this we can understand this statement: ‘That on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar.’ (Mt. 23, 35-36).
This was the acme of the anger that came on Jerusalem and it appears to have settled the debt with the past. A new start occurred at this point, because a new economy started. Antitypical priesthood and antitypical Levites appeared on the scene; through the age of the Gospel the Lord had full conscience of the death of all His consecrated people. If anyone is guilty for the death of one of the Saints sacred to the Lord, he has a particularly big debt. It means that there is a heavier weight of justice on the culprit or responsible for the death and persecution of His Saints. There is a mention of this in Apoc. 6, 9-10, where the souls of those beheaded for the testimony to Jesus and the Word of God are said to cry: ‘How long, O Lord, doust thou not judge and revenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?’.
This is a symbolic illustration and not the cry of individuals; they are dead and therefore they don’t have knowledge or appreciation for anything. ‘The dead don’t know anything’, but Justice screams, like in the case of Abel after he died.
‘Everybody admits that there has been a wide class of this kind during the age of the Gospel, which lasted more than 1800 years. Many suffered because of the justice for the name of the Lord and apparently the Lord has the purpose, at the end of this age, to do as he did at the end of the Judean age, namely to have an account and satisfaction of Justice. At the end of this era there will be a class that we call ‘the Great Crowd’, which must die because that was its pact of consecration. It receives the generation from the Holy Spirit on this condition.
Therefore if God will complete this work of Grace giving it a spiritual nature, the death of its flesh must occur. There isn’t an alternative, there’s no escape. Since the members of the ‘Great Crowd’ have failed in carrying out their sacrifice and proceeding with the zeal and alacrity of His true followers, they are dissociated from the class of the small flock. Nevertheless, instead of being thrown to the second death, they are allowed to carry out their own death.
Since their death is not recognized as a sacrifice, like the death of the members of the Body of Christ, the proposition seems to be that they will die as a substitution for the transgressions of those who did wrong towards the members of the Body of Christ at this time. In this sense the ‘souls under the altar’, and their blood, cry out for revenge; in this way revenge is done. The cry for justice will be satisfied by the death of innocent people belonging to the Great Crowd in the time of need. We can assume that the death of Nero’s victims will be compensated by the death of those who are innocent and suffer. The debts of Justice will then be satisfied.’ (C. T. Russell).
The Protestants wonder when the day of need will come; their chronological calculations are wrong, because it is not time yet to understand the biblical chronology. For this to happen we must wait the opening of the sixth and seventh seals.
Luther and other Protestants invite the Christians to accomplish a full and total consecration, mistakenly believing that the number of members of the Body of Christ is going to be complete as soon as the time of need comes. The great truth of the full and total consecration is then brought out again by a big number of people.
Luther in his 95 thesis includes the sleep of death; he doesn’t accept the immortality of the human soul. This is why the martyrs of the past are told to rest in the sleep of death until the time when the number of martyrs for faith will be complete. ‘And it was said to them that they should rest for a little time till their fellow servants and their brethren, who are to be slain even as they, should be filled up’ (Apoc. 6, 11). To be ‘slain’ means to undergo the ostracism and persecutions of religious fanaticism. We have clear examples of this in the massacre of fifty thousand Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s night (1572), the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), the cruelty in the Piedmontese valleys with the killing of many Waldensians (1655), the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685). Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and others had their share of persecution, hindering their biblical studies and the adoration of God according to their conscience. (2 Tim. 3, 12). ‘What kind of people should we be, then?’ Especially since we have known the wicked persecutions of the past and the hard path of those that followed only Jesus, we should forgive arrogance and bigotry.
We all should detach from human traditions and all that is contrary to the Bible (2 Peter 3, 11)’ (C. T. Russell).
The ‘rest’ of the martyrs of the past lasts one time, that is a year of 360 days; for the rule of a day per year, it corresponds to 360 years. This period starts with Luther’s excommunication (1518) and ends with the resurrection of the Saints in 1878, when their rest ends. The four fundamental truths expressed by the Reformation are: Christ is the only head of the Church, since there isn’t an Apostolic Succession. The Church is made by consecrated people; each of them is a priest, since there isn’t a division between clergy and laity. Only the Bible is the Christian’s guide. The justification is only for faith and not for deeds. Indeed only with the Reformation it is stated that each of the Saints of the past has the right to receive ‘a white robe’ (Apoc. 6, 11), which is the clothing of justice obtained by faith. In other words they are fully recognized, as preached by Luther, who loved to repeat this mot: ‘The just man liveth by faith’ (Rom. 1, 17).
‘In Geneva, Switzerland, in 1912 was erected a monument with the following inscription: ‘In memory of Michael Servetus – victim of the religious intolerance of his time, burnt for his convictions in Campbel, 27th September 1553, erected by the followers of John Calvin three hundred and fifty years later, as an expiation for that sin and to repudiate every coercion in matter of faith’. Calvin’s followers have demonstrated to the world their progress on the teachings of their leader in the spirit of true Christianity, Justice and Love. Calvinists therefore deserve the praise of all Christians – Catholics and Protestants – which have progressed in the same way in the last four centuries. Nobody could find today a justification for Calvin condemning Servetus to the stake’ (C. T. Russell).
Michael Servetus was martyred in 1553 because in one of his books, where he describes for the first time the blood circulation between heart and lungs, he also speaks about the unity of God; like Arius he condemns the mistake of the trinity, already revealed with the opening of the second seal. For this reason he dies and his scientific discovery is ignored for more than two centuries.
Therefore the truths hidden under the first five seals are: Jesus Christ is the only head of the Church; the twelve Apostles are the only dignitaries of the Church inspired by God; there isn’t an Apostolic Succession; Jehovah is the only true God; Jesus Christ is the Son of God; the Trinity doesn’t exist; Iconolatry (the adoration of images and the cross) is a mistake; simony (the trade of spiritual things) is a mistake; the Holy Supper is a commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ and not its repetition; transubstantiation is a mistake; the Church must be separated from the State and it must not have temporal power; the Bible is the only guide for Christians; Papacy is the Antichrist; the Roman Church is the Great Babylon of the Apocalypse; the many thousands of Heretics killed by the Pope are martyrs of faith; the Church is made by consecrated and each of them is a priest, since the division between Clergy and Laity is a mistake; the justification can be for faith and not for deeds; the dead rest in the sleep of death waiting to resurrect, since the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is untrue.
The truth of the sleep of death is soon forgotten because of John Calvin, who characterizes the whole of the thoughts of the Reformation; he is also a great supporter of the mistake of the immortality of the soul and the hell of fire. We will have to wait for three centuries, when William Miller will resurrect the truth of the death of the soul and extinguish the fire of hell.
By Athos A. Altomonte