The Seven Seals of the Apocalypse

In Revelation 5 we get the most important key for understanding the parables and the prophecies in the New Testament concerning the impending apocalypse and their relation to the works of Josephus in the book of Revelation with the “book with seven seals”:

The Book with the Seven Seals

“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon… And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”

– Revelation 5:1-5

As we have shown in the previously the apocalypse and the second coming of Jesus (and the destruction of the temple) already happened in Judea, nearly two thousand years ago and exactly one generation after the first coming of Jesus. And the book of Revelation is also talking about the return of Jesus and the apocalypse and armageddon, so it would make sense to see some similarities with the only book recording the literal/historical fulfillment of biblical prophecy, namely “The Wars of the Jews” by Josephus who witnessed the apocalypse first hand. And so, this prophecy about a book with seven seals of the apocalypse which only a Jew is worthy to read, it turns out, was also fulfilled:

I have comprehended all these things in seven books, and have left no occasion for complaint or accusation to such as have been acquainted with this war; and I have written it down for the sake of those that love truth, but not for those that please themselves [with fictitious relations] {they are unworthy to open the book or even to look thereon;}. And I will begin my account of these things with what I call my First Chapter.”

– Josephus, The Wars Of The Jews, Preface:12

Oh, really, Josephus, you’re going to call your first chapter “your First Chapter”? Wow, that sounds amazing, I cannot wait to read it. Anyway, what we see here is called a “parallel”, one passage in Josephus and one in the New Testament which seem to be telling almost the same story.  This short passage from the preface of Wars of the Jews and the passage describing the book with seven seals in Revelation both have three rather complicated story elements in common: a “book with seven seals”, “you have to be worthy to read it” and it seems that this Jew or “son of David is worthy”.  These two short passages are telling the exact same story.  It would appear that this passage is not only “prophesying” post factum about the war in general or even the works of Josephus in general, but it seems to be imitating that passage from the preface of Josephus’ the Wars of the Jews with its seven books. Let’s go through each of the seven seals of the apocalypse and we will see each of them meet their “fulfillment” in the seven books of “The Wars of the Jews” in the correct order:

The First Seal: Rider on a White Horse

“And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.”

– Revelation 6:1-2

These events described in the first seal of the little book have a literal fulfillment in Book 1 of the Wars, where Josephus is describing the history of Israel before the apocalypse began. We can see there three common plot points within a single verse in the first book of the Wars and the first seal of the apocalypseAntony is given a bow and makes war against Caesar and Herod assists him but is later forgiven by Caesar and given a crown:

“BUT now Herod… sailed to Rhodes, where Caesar then abode… but spoke thus before his face: “O Caesar, as I was made king of the Jews by Antony… I have used my royal authority in the best manner… I did not desert my benefactor after the bow that was given him at Actium; but I gave him the best advice… I told him… I would… assist him in his war against theeI have laid aside my diadem, and am come hither to thee… and I desire that thou wilt first consider how faithful a friend, and not whose friend, I have been.” Caesar replied to him thus: “Nay, thou shalt not only be in safety, but thou shalt be a king…” When Caesar had spoken… [he] put the diadem again about his head…”

– The Wars Of The Jews, Book 1, 20:1-3

That is a somewhat impressive coincidence for book one and the first seal both having crowns and bows given and war. Still, crowns bows and wars can frequently come together though not necessarily always in the first of seven books…

But now we look at the Second Seal:

Second Seal: War

“And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.”

– Revelation 6:3-4

This passage about the second seal could be interpreted to refer to the sword that was given to the Sicarii who then took peace from the earth through their insurrections in Book 2 leading up to the rebellion which began the war:

“…And when they had joined to themselves many of the Sicarii, who crowded in
among the weaker people, (that was the name for such robbers as had under their bosoms swords called Sicae,) they grew bolder, and carried their undertaking further; insomuch that the king’s soldiers were overpowered by their multitude and boldness; and so they gave way, and were driven out of the upper city by force…”

– Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 2, 17:6

So, sure enough, in Book 2 of Josephus we find a passage that very well fits the description of the second seal, swords and taking peace from the “earth” or Israel.  Again, it could be a coincidence, swords are often used for taking peace from the earth and kill people, although the probability is less due to the fact that it is in the right sequence, being in Book 2. Let’s see Book 3:

The Third Seal: Famine

“And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.”

– Revelation 6:5-6

The title of the third seal is “famine”, although no mention of famine appears in the passage itself, except for this strange mention of the pricing of wheat and barley, but this prophecy very clearly meets its literal fulfillment in Book 3 while Vespasian and the Romans besiege Jotapata to punish the Jews for their uprising. He had a battering ram which was hung “like the balance in a pair of scales” but decided to try and defeat the population through famine hoping they would petition for provisions (we already saw the set prices in the third seal above) while the Romans were just lying around outside the wall trying to stop the Jews from plundering their goods (don’t hurt the oil and the wine):

“And now Vespasian was plainly irritated… at the boldness of the citizens of Jotapata; for… they made fresh sallies upon the Romans, and had every day conflicts with them by parties, together with all such contrivances, as robbers make use of, and with the plundering of all that came to hand, as also with the setting fire to all the other works; and this till Vespasian made his army leave off fighting them, and resolved to lie round the city, and to starve them into a surrender, as supposing that either they would be forced to petition him for mercy by want of provisions, or if they should have the courage to hold out till the last, they should perish by famine: and he concluded he should conquer them the more easily… when they were weakened by famine; but still he gave orders that they should guard against their coming out of the city.”

– Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 3, 7:11

The pair of balances would appear to represent the battering ram which Vespasian used to subdue the Jews when the famine didn’t finish them off a few passages later:

“…therefore, Vespasian… determined to make use of his battering ram. This battering ram… with a thick piece of iron at the head of it… is slung in the air by ropes passing over its middle, and is hung like the balance in a pair of scales…”

– Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 3, 7:19

Vespasian is the one who has a pair of balances in his hand which he uses to destroy cities and he has the power send famine upon the people and sets the price for grains if you want to petition any, all in Book 3 of JW. These coincidences are now far too many to ignore. The seven seals are just picking out defining passages from each book and giving a short, almost cartoonish representation of each. Let’s keep going.

The Fourth Seal: Death

“And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hungerand with deathand with the beasts of the earth.”

– Revelation 6:7-8

The title of the fourth seal “death” and would appear to have its literal fulfillment in the fourth book, with terror, torture and death when the Idumeans arrive at Jerusalem before the Romans, thinking this would be the safest place for them to defend from the Romans, and try to take over the city beginning an internal civil war:

“Now after these were slain, the zealots and the multitude of the Idumeans fell upon the people as upon a flock of profane animals, and cut their throats; and for the ordinary sort, they were destroyed in what place soever they caught them. But for the noblemen and the youth, they first caught them and bound them, and shut them up in prison, and put off their slaughter, in hopes that some of them would turn over to their party; but not one of them would comply with their desires, but all of them preferred death before being enrolled among such wicked wretches {ah, that must have been hell;} as acted against their own country. But this refusal of theirs brought upon them terrible torments; for they were so scourged and tortured, that their bodies were not able to sustain their torments, till at length, and with difficulty, they had the favor to be slain. Those whom they caught in the day time were slain in the night, and then their bodies were carried out and thrown away, that there might be room for other prisoners; and the terror that was upon the people was so great, that no one had courage enough either to weep openly for the dead man that was related to him, or to bury him… for if they did, those that mourned for others soon underwent the same death with those whom they mourned for {ah, they were killed with death;}. Only in the night time they would take up a little dust, and throw it upon their bodies; and even some that were the most ready to expose themselves to danger would do it in the day time: and there were twelve thousand of the better sort who perished in this manner.”

– Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 4, 5:3

That appears to fit the fourth seal very well with six plot elements or events in common including the chronology being in the fourth book.

The Fifth Seal: Martyrs

“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and truedost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth {Israel;}? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”

– Revelation 6:9-11

And as it just so happens, Book 5 discusses the martyrs that had died and wanted revenge, just as predicted by the fifth seal, when the Roman armies approach Jerusalem:

“…God himself demonstrated that his pains would prove of no use to him, by bringing the Romans upon himTitus, when he had gotten together part of his forces about him, and had ordered the rest to meet him at Jerusalem, marched out of Cesarea. He had with him those three legions that had accompanied his father when he laid Judea waste, together with that twelfth legion which had been formerly beaten with Cestiuswhich legion, as it was otherwise remarkable for its valor {testimony;}, so did it march on now with greater alacrity to avenge themselves on the Jews, as remembering what they had formerly suffered from them….”

– Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 5, 1:6

That is really a great match, with “valiant martyrs”,  “remembering what they had suffered”, “wanting revenge” and “God demonstrating his judgement”, giving five common plot elements, counting that it is in the fifth book, the chances of coincidences have already become essentially zero that all five seals would match the first five books so well and in the proper order.  Notice how each seal says “I opened the fifth seal and then I saw”, martyrs or famine and so on.  This description of the seven seals of the apocalypse seems to be a description of someone that picked up Josephus’ book and started thumbing through the various books.  But wait! These martyred saints belong to the Roman Imperial Cult! They are pagans!

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower… when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].””

– Thomas 1:22

Oh, I get it… The apocryphal (not included in the New Testament) gospel of Thomas seems to think that the key to understanding Christianity is to view it as a kind of bizarro world, where up is down, left is right, front is back, Romans are Jews, Israel is the Earth and Caesar is God… then you will enter the kingdom and it will be given to you to understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. This is done so that they seeing, see not, neither do they understand.

The Sixth Seal: Terror

“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

– Revelation 6:12-17

Of course the sixth seal is fulfilled in Book 6 as the Roman soldiers begin to break through the walls of Jerusalem and enter the city, with terror falling upon
the Jewish rebels
, everyone hiding underground and not being able to stand as God exercises his wrath upon these insolent wicked wretches:

“…But for the seditious, some of them, as despairing of saving the city, retired from the wall to the citadel; others of them went down into the subterranean vaults… Now as soon as a part of the wall was battered down, and certain of the towers yielded to the impression of the battering rams, those that opposed themselves fled away, and such a terror fell upon the tyrants, as was much greater than the occasion required; for before the enemy got over the breach they were quite stunned, and were immediately for flying away. And now one might see these men, who had hitherto been so insolent and arrogant in their wicked practices, to be cast down and to tremble… when those that came running before the rest told them that the western wall was entirely overthrown, while others said the Romans were gotten in, and others that they were near, and looking out for them, which were only the dictates of their fear, which imposed upon their sight, they fell upon their face, and greatly lamented their own mad conduct; and their nerves were so terribly loosed, that they could not flee away. And here one may chiefly reflect on the power of God exercised upon these wicked wretches, and on the good fortune of the Romans…”

– The Wars Of The Jews, Book 6, 8:4

We just found all the details that we are supposed to expect from in Book 6 from the sixth seal of the book of Revelation:
1) God’s wrath,
2) No one can stand
3) Terror
4) Hiding underground
5) Even the towers are battered down “as a fig tree casteth her
untimely figs, when she is shaken”.

These are the same story and it is in Book 6 exactly where we would expect it for the sixth seal! These passages have far too much in common to be a coincidence, especial given all the other parallels from the first five seals before matching perfectly.

144,000 Sealed and Praise from the Great Multitude

Then the book of Revelation tells us that there were 144,000 souls saved from Israel:

“And after these things I saw… another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads {Nero the beast also puts marks on peoples foreheads;}. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel {the earth;}. Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand… These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him {i.e. captives;} day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”

– Revelation 7:1-17

It is Jesus’ second coming and the end of the world and the only people who get sealed up to go be angels in heaven are from the twelve tribes of Israel?  Only Jews?  This prophecy of the 144,000 saved seems to have its fulfillment in Josephus as well, during the “triumph” celebration after the end of the war, in the form of slaves who came from great tribulation and are now in white garments:

“Now it is impossible to describe the multitude of the shows  as they deserve, and the magnificence of them all… these pompous shows  having also about them such magnificent ornaments as were both extraordinary and surprising. Besides these, one might see that even the great number of the captives was not unadorned, while the variety that was in their garments, and their fine textureconcealed from the sight the deformity of their bodies… There was also… many resemblances of the war, and those in several ways, and variety of contrivances, affording a most lively portraiture of itself…it exhibited what had been done to such as did not see it, as if they had been there really present…”

– Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 7, 5:5

“Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was
collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege eleven hundred thousandpersons that were pure and holy; for as to those that have the leprosy, or the gonorrhea, or women that have their monthly courses, or such as are otherwise polluted, it is not lawful for them to be partakers of this sacrifice…”

– Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 6, 9:3

Well, a ninety-seven thousand Israeli slaves, that is definitely a fulfillment of biblical prophecy! Ok, 144,000 is a bit of an exaggeration from the 97,000 taken captive, who had their deformities concealed from God and they don’t have to suffer in the war any more because they will be angels and serve God night and day.  But 144,000 is a nice way of rounding up to the nearest 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel (twelve being one of the most revered numbers in Judaism, really a great number by any account), and it would be too obvious if they used exactly the same number of 97,000.  Plus it flatters the kindness of the Romans by “saving” those soles from their seditions.

“And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads… And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth {Israel;}. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men {Israel;}, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.”

– Revelation 14:1-5

Yes, clearly, these 144,000 redeemed from “Earth” sang a song which none of the angels in heaven nor even God himself could learn because they don’t speak Hebrew, the language of slaves, they speak Latin and Greek in heaven.

The Seventh Seal

“And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.”

– Revelation 8:1-5

And the biblical prophecy of the seventh seal is of course fulfilled in Book 7 of Josephus, with prayers which go up, shouts and silence, also during the triumph celebration:

“…And as soon as ever it was day, Vespasian and Titus came out crowned with laurel, and clothed in those ancient purple habits which were proper to their family… Whereupon the soldiery made an acclamation of joy to them immediately, and all gave them attestations of their valor; while they were themselves without their arms, and only in their silken garments…then Vespasian accepted of these shouts of theirs; but while they were still disposed to go on in such acclamations, he gave them a signal of silence. And when every body entirely held their peace, he stood up, and covering the greatest part of his head with his cloak, he put up the accustomed solemn prayers; the like prayers did Titus put up also…”

– Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 7, 5:4

OK, let’s see, a vision of a sea made of glass mingled with fire, all nations worshiping, those who defeated the beast {Nero, after he sent his images into Jerusalem to be worshiped by them;} now praise God, visions of seas made of glass and fire and seven golden vials from the temple and opening a temple in heaven: all of these “prophecies” are fulfilled in Book 7, chapter 5 of the Wars of the Jews recalling the triumph celebrations after the war (VII:5:5)

So we can see that the seven seals from the little book described in the book of Revelation correlate perfectly with the seven books from the “Wars of the Jews” which Josephus wrote. These parallels are now far too many and far too perfect, with temples in heaven and martyrs, war and famine, the destruction of Israel and Jerusalem, all in seven books all in the same order, all happening within one generation of Jesus’ ministry.  This definitively proves a textual dependence between these two books. The book of Revelation is not describing the war from the point of view of an omniscient God or prophetic Jew, it is describing the book that Josephus wrote, the Wars of the Jews.  It even admits having seen that book with the seven seals and seeing all of those events in it in the right order, so we know that the plagiarism is on the part of the book of Revelation.  If it were a fulfillment of prophecy, why would it be a prophecy about a book and not about the war?  This proves definitively that the book of Revelation is based upon the Wars of the Jews by Josephus, which anyway makes more sense since the Wars of the Jews was published in 75 AD and the book of Revelation and the Gospels are believed to have been written between 80 and 110 AD. But we’re only just getting started.

NEXT:  To better understand the relationship between these post factum “prophecies” and the book with the seven seals (The Wars of the Jews), continue reading with A Greek Tragedy.

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