Sixth Seal: Cataclysmic Disturbances: Part 1 of 4 (series: Lessons on Revelations)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Commentary on the Book of Revelation

By: Tom Lowe Date: 11/17/2015


Lesson: III.B.6: Sixth Seal: Cataclysmic Disturbances (Revelation 6:12-17)


Revelation 6:12-17 (KJV)

12 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;
13 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.
14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
15 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;
16 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:
17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?


Introduction

Verses 12-14. The opening of “the sixth seal” precipitates a series of ominous cosmic phenomena: first, “a great earthquake”; then “the sun became black”; the “moon” turned to “blood”; the “stars fell” to “earth” like “figs” in a storm (v. 13); the sky vanished as if it was rolled up like a “scroll” (v. 14; compare 21:1) and every “mountain and island” was moved from its position (v. 14: compare 16:18). Earthquakes were a common occurrence both in Asia Minor and in Revelation (compare 8:5; 11:13, 19; 16:18). A number of these same omens precede the day of the Lord in Joel 2:10 . . .

“The earth shall quake before them;
the heavens shall tremble:
the sun and the moon shall be dark,
and the stars shall withdraw their shining.”

The falling of the “stars” like figs and the rolling up of the heavens “like a scroll” were predicted in Isaiah 34:4— “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.” These cosmic disturbances, both celestial and terrestrial, are a sure sign that the end of this age is drawing close, and that the martyrs will soon be avenged for their sufferings.

Verses 15-17. These terrible signs on earth and in heaven cause all people on earth, from the highest to the lowest, both free and slave, to be filled with great fear. In their fright they vainly seek safety by fleeing to the “caves” and “rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains” to fall on them so as to hide them from the “face” of God and the “wrath of the Lamb.” They realize that “the great day of their wrath,” which no one can withstand or escape, has arrived.


Commentary

12 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;

The martyrs cried, “Avenge us!” but the unbelievers on earth will cry, “Hide us!” The opening of the “sixth seal” will produce worldwide convulsions and catastrophes, including the first of three “great earthquakes” (Revelation 6:12; 11:13; 16:18-19). All of nature will be affected: the “sun, moon, and stars,” as well as the heavens, the mountains, and the islands. Compare this scene with Joel 2:30-31 and 3:15 as well as with Isaiah 13:9-10 and 34:2-4.

The breaking of the sixth seal results in catastrophe on a world-wide scale. This is not the final judgment; it is not the end of the world. The judgments issuing from the first four seals were at the hands of the Antichrist, but with the opening of the sixth seal, the judgments are supernatural and come from heaven. This is evidently the beginning of the last half of the Great Tribulation. The great day of His wrath is before us. The Great Tribulation opens and closes with these upheavals in the natural universe: (1) The beginning of the Tribulation (compare Joel 2:30-31 with Acts 2:20) and (2) the end of the Tribulation (see Joel 3:9-17; Isaiah 13:9-13; 34:1-4; Matthew 24:29). While the first five seals will result from human activity God used to accomplish His purposes, at this point He begins direct intervention (Matthew 24:29; Luke 21:25). The events described

in this seal unleash the seventh, which contains the trumpet judgments (chapters eight, nine; 11:15) and the bowl judgments (chapter 16).

There have been many earthquakes prior to this (Matthew 24:7), but this will be more than an earthquake. All the earth’s faults will begin to fracture simultaneously, resulting in a cataclysmic global earthquake. The fact that we are having an increase in earthquakes today is no fulfillment of prophesy at all. This is to take place in the Great Tribulation. But the interesting thing is that in the past earthquakes have really destroyed a great deal of the population of this earth. Professor R. A. Daley, in his book Our Mobile Earth, has written this: “In the last 4,000 years earthquakes have caused the loss of 13,000,000 lives, and the most awful earthshock is yet to come.” “And there was a great earthquake, such as there was not since there were men upon the earth, so great an earthquake, so mighty; and the cities of the nations fell” (Revelation 16:18). What a picture we have here! The earthquakes today are not a fulfillment of this prophesy. They merely show that it could happen as God’s Word says it will.

Accompanying the earthquake will be numerous volcanic eruptions; and large amounts of ash and debris will be blown into the earth’s atmosphere, blackening the sun and giving the moon a blood-red hue— “On that day the sources of light will no longer shine, yet there will be continuous day! Only the Lord knows how this could happen. There will be no normal day and night, for at evening time it will still be light” (Zechariah 14:6, 7).

Even more dramatic than the earthquake was the transformation of the heavens with “the sun” turning “black” like sackcloth{2], the “moon” turning “blood” red, and “stars” (v. 13) falling like late “figs” from a “fig tree” (v. 13). The Apostle Peter, in the speech he gave on the day of Pentecost quoted the prophets who foretold of a day when the heavens would become dark (Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7). Peter told the crowd, “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20); it was fulfilled shortly after that by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Peter’s listeners could remember the supernatural darkness at noon on Good Friday seven weeks before; whatever darkened the sun on that day may well have caused the Paschal{1] full moon to rise blood-red. That was the day of the Lord, the day when this feature of apocalyptic symbolism was experienced by hundreds, maybe thousands, and the Holy Spirit has recorded it in our Bible as rock-solid fact. The two images of sackcloth and blood are meant to convey the destruction that is coming. Blood symbolizes death, and sackcloth represents the mourning that comes along with it.

The reason the sun and moon are both a part of this vision is that God is going to move at the same time all over the world; in some places it will be night and in other places it will be day. Notice the sun will be black as sackcloth. This is a reference to the black sackcloth worn by mourners. The garments were made out of the hair of black goats so they were naturally very dark. If the sun ever became that dark, there would be no light. Without light, the entire world will be disoriented.

If the sun goes away, the natural fallout will be that the light given from the moon will also cease to exist, since it merely reflects the sun’s light. John records that the moon looks like blood. The idea is that there is a covering of the moon to such a degree that it will give no light. Instead, there will be darkness and the moon will look as if it has been covered in blood. Remember that blood is maroon in color when in large quantities, so this describes a darkening of the moon more than a reddening of it. One theory of how this will be accomplished is that accompanying the earthquake will be numerous volcanic eruptions; and large amounts of ash and debris will be blown into the earth’s atmosphere, blackening the sun and giving the moon a blood-red hue— “On that day the sources of light will no longer shine, yet there will be continuous day! Only the Lord knows how this could happen. There will be no normal day and night, for at evening time it will still be light” (Zechariah 14:6, 7).

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