VI. The sixth seal (the answer from heaven, Rev. 6:12-17).

We have seen the prayer of the martyred saints and now we see the answer from heaven. We have in these verses the sixth seal that the Lamb opened and in this seal it becomes an obvious truth not just to those in heaven but to those on the earth that the Lamb is the one that is opening the seals. All men will know that the power here is wielded by Christ. The first four seals led to the event of prayer in heaven in the fifth seal. The event of that prayer has led to the event here. What is this event? Let us firmly say that there is no reference point in our study of history that can possibly fit the description of this event. Therefore this is not a description of any historical event from the past. It is not a description of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, or the destruction of the Roman Empire by the Goths, Huns, and Vandals. Not only is there no reference point in history there is no proper analogy which would fit with this event. This is a not picture of the perversions of Rome or of any present day relationship between God and men. It is equally absurd to try to make this event an analogy of the conquering of the church over earthly kingdoms like some of the post millennial persuasion would lead us to believe. So we are not going to draw analogies from our text and try to force the text to say anything other than what it says. The elements of this event do not follow the line of thinking described by this man of God “In the East it was common to liken the king or emperor to the sun, and the stars as the symbols of princes or rulers…. the blackness of the sun and the bloody hue of the moon point out scenes of mourning and bloodshed among rulers and princes. The falling of the stars would indicate the downfall of those who had high places on the earth….” Setting aside any search for events past or the idea of analogy we are ready to face our text for what it is: an accurate description of a real future event which will make all men of this world aware that they are under the wrath and judgment of Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The event here is twofold and describes the shaking of nature and the corresponding shaking of mankind. In history many cultures have seen natural disaster as a sign of the disfavor of the gods and in accordance made penance. Our Puritan forefathers saw natural disaster as a sign of God’s chastening and in accordance would fall on their knees in repentance asking God to show them their sin. Today natural disaster provokes the scorning of the scorners and makes men lift their clinched fist to the sky toward God. There is coming a natural event (Natural always a reference to what the God of nature does) which will shake the very souls of all men and cause them to hide from the face of God. In the beginning men ran and hid from the gentle call of repentance. Here at the end man again will hide from God’s terrible call of judgment. Let us examine the twofold occurrence.

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First, let us consider the shaking of nature. “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.” We remember that the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1). Paul said that nature even reveals the wrath of God and we see that obviously preached by the heavens here. Jeri Combs outlined this text to include three distinct kinds of phenomenon: Seismic phenomena, astrological phenomena, and geographic phenomena.  The seismic phenomenon is simply summed up by saying that “there was a great earthquake.” This fits prophetically with what Christ stated as being part of the beginning of sorrows in which there will be earthquakes in diverse places (Matt. 24:7). There will also be astrological phenomenon which is summed up by these words: “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.” Some look at the darkening of the sun and the blood color of the moon as some kind of unexpected eclipse of the sun. This though seems to be something more than natural phenomenon because it convinces the whole earth that it is Christ Himself that is affecting this event. The sun becomes black and gives no light. The moon becomes red like blood. This is accompanied by a storm of falling stars. This could be an actual change of the actual course of the stars in the sky or as local as a severe meteor storm. The mixture of the phenomena with the sun, moon, and stars is rightly taken by the populace of the world to be an unmistakable sign of the disfavor of Christ. Remember that when God created the sun, moon, and stars He made this declaration: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs… (Gen. 1:14). Added to the astrological phenomenon is the departing of the heaven, which would be the sky, as a scroll. Based on all that follows we can reckon that there is a revealing here of the person of Christ Himself. Men are going to see Christ as coming before Christ actually comes to set His foot on this earth. Since we see the sealing of the nation of Israel in the next chapter we may even come to the conclusion that this is the moment when that nation will look upon the one that they pierced and will be converted to Christ. One thing is for sure: As part of the astrological phenomena the entire world shall see Him and according to other Scriptures all the tribes of the earth shall mourn because of Him. Then there is a geographical phenomenon summed up by the words: “and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” Note here the universality of this captured by the word “every.” The whole geography and topography of this earth will be changed in a moments. Mountains will begin to crumble and islands will move. All that men have come to believe as set and sure things will be seen as moveable and unsure. It is important to remember prophetically that the actual coming of Christ is not here described and there will yet be further shakings of the heavens before that event occurs (Matt. 24:29). But, this is the definite end of the birth pangs and the end is here; which is the duration of the 70th week of Daniel. This, as the men of this earth so judge, is a sure sign that the day of the wrath of God upon this earth is come. Consider the following prophetic utterances. “For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts” (Hag. 2:7, 8, compare with Heb. 12:26). “Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it. For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter. Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree” (Isa. 34). “The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein” (Nahum 1:5). And depending how you far you want to interpret this point the opportunity of salvation is accompanied with these phenomenon: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come… (Acts 2:20 see Joel 2:28-32). But, this will be disillusionment to the plans and schemes of this world: “Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly. Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire. And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision. It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion” (Isa. 29:5-8, see also Isa. 34:1-4). This event will dash the delusions of mankind.

Yes, indeed this event will leave the world with only one interpretation which leads to the shaking of men. We have seen the sign and now we see the event. Jeri Combs stated that the power of human leadership itself was shaken and summed up the remainder of the seal as the flight, plight, and prayer of men. “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?” There is a universality of men here affected by this seal: seven being the number of perfection, we see seven types of men mentioned in this text. Henry stated this: “No authority, nor grandeur, nor riches, nor valour, nor strength, would be able to support men at that time; yea, the very poor slaves, who, one would think, had nothing to fear, because they had nothing to lose, would be all in amazement at that day.” From the highest ruler to the lowest slave men will be made to tremble at the sight of Christ. Again, we that man will seek to hide. Mankind hid from the Lord when sin first entered the world and we see them again hiding from the Lord at the final rebellion. We see their desire to escape through death but unable to find that escape. They will cry out for the mountains to fall upon them. Jeremiah stated this: “Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel” (Jer. 3:23). This event is directly prophesied in two passages. First, it is prophesied by Isaiah in the Old Testament and I will quote this prophecy at length. “Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, And upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, And upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols he shall utterly abolish. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth” (Isa. 2:10-21). This is also directly prophesied by our Lord before He died on the cross. “But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry” (Luke 23:28-31)? This will truly be a terrible time for this earth that seems to be connected with the persecution of the nation of Israel. We shall discuss this further in the proceeding chapters. The men of this earth will make the following observations: they will see that God is on the throne and it is Him that is truly in charge, they will see that that Christ is coming in His wrath to judge this world, they will see that the day which has long been prophesied as the day of the Lord is indeed here (which means they will be properly applying Scripture and will not be ignorant of what is occurring), and they will for a short time see that they are too weak to stand before Him.

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That will leave us with this: How do we interpret this event? In the rapture debate we can say that the wrath of God has definitely come at this point. We are not appointed to wrath according to the Scripture so the rapture at this point will have occurred. But, this text by itself does not define when the wrath of God actually began only that the men will realize that it is here. Whether the saints that were taken in the rapture are seen as in the twenty four elders as we have said as in the pre-tribulation view or whether they are represented in the next chapter as in the pre-wrath rapture view remains to be seen. I believe that this text can be interpreted like this though: From this point all of earth’s inhabitants will know what it is all about and will have to choose sides. They will know that it is either Christ or antichrist and they will choose antichrist. Here for a moment they will say who can stand before the Lord but they will soon change their tune and ask who is able to stand before the beast. We must point this out; all the terrible things after this moment will occur in a world filled with people who know that they are rebelling against Christ. This is a moment of crisis on the earth and men can either choose repentance or rebellion. We see even in our text that they chose death over life. There is no repentance here and thus God will proceed with the judgment of the earth. We should take time to study the whole context of Psalm 2 in order to understand the choice before this world. This is the final refusal of Christ by this world who are told to “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Ps. 2:12). Men will consider this to be a momentary scare and will embolden themselves in their iniquity and choose antichrist over Christ. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Song 8:11). This text describes Christ rejected and further sets the stage for judgment. To follow this is silence from heaven and the pouring out of further and more severe judgment.


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