It has become almost a commonplace to view chapter 7 as an "interlude" or "parenthesis" in the progressive opening of the seals (for example, Wall 1991:115), as if John were able to step out of the sequence after 6:17 and back into it again in 8:1, when the seventh seal is opened. Perhaps the traditional chapter divisions have contributed to the popularity of this theory. But there is no evidence at all for such an interlude, nor even a hint of what an "interlude" might mean. Are we to imagine that the Lamb says to John, "Time out! I have something else to show you over here before we proceed"? The phrase after this in 7:1 does not signal a new vision or a change of scene at that point any more than it does when it is repeated in 7:9. Rather, the vision of the sixth seal continues.
What then does 6:12-17 contribute to chapter 7? In what sense can it be considered necessary background to the vision of the redeemed in that chapter? The simplest answer is that 6:12-17 describes in vivid detail the terrible judgment from which deliverance is promised in chapter 7. We might even argue that 6:12-17 is simply introductory to the vision proper, which comes in chapter 7. If the fifth seal dealt with the suffering people of God, looking toward the day when "the number of their fellow servants and brothers" would be completed (6:11), it is natural that the sixth seal should continue to focus on that group and mark the completion of that number (see 7:4).
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
Try Bible Gateway Plus, a brand-new service that lets you experience Bible Gateway free of banner ads! It also gives you instant access to over 40 Bible study and inspirational devotional books, including the NIV Study Bible. With Bible Gateway Plus, you can experience and understand God's Word in life-changing new ways, without the distraction of ads. Try it free for 30 days—you can cancel at any time. Following your 30-day free trial, Bible Gateway Plus is only $3.99/month.