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Sixth Seal - Agitation 6:12-17

I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. 13 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. 14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. 15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves 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 who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?". - Revelation 6:12-17

The opening of the sixth seal reveals a great earthquake, terrifying events in the skies, and a general fear of God who apparently causes all these terrible events. It is called the "great day of His wrath." Thus this sixth seal reaches right to the very end of the Tribulation period: the time of the Battle of Armageddon.

Actually, references to the Battle of Armageddon appear at various places in the Book of Revelation. This helps us understand the organization of the book. The Seven Seals cover the entire seven-year period, while the Seven Trumpets focus on the second half of the period, and the Seven Vials refer to the events toward the very end, leading up to the return of Christ. With this in mind, we may also refer to this multi-faceted event as the "Campaign of Armageddon."

Different aspects of Armageddon are considered at seven Points in the book. We will study them in detail as we get to them, but for now, to see the overall flow of the vision, realize that each time this cataclysm is described in the book, it describes the end-point of another sequence of events that all line up with the end of the Tribulation.

References to Armageddon in Revelation
Revelation 6:12-17 -Near the end of The Seven Seals
Revelation 9:13-21; 11:13-19 - Near the end of the Seven Trumpets
Revelation 14; 14-20 - The harvest of unbelievers
Revelation 16:16-21--Last of the Seven Vials of the Wrath of God
Revelation 17:1-18--Punishment of the woman and the beast
Revelation 18:1-19:5 - Judgment of Babylon the Great
Revelation 19:11-21-Return of Christ/ Battle of Armageddon
Also see "Chart of the Revelation of Jesus Christ" in Appendix F.

John wrote, I looked when He opened the sixth seal. When Jesus, the Lamb, opened this next seal, He was able to unscroll the message a little further, to read this tragic prophecy. He read, and behold, there was a great earthquake

Seismos, the Greek word for earthquake, is used 9 times in the New Testament - 6 of them in Revelation (6:12; 8:5; 11:13; 11:19; 16:18 -twice). All of these references in Revelation give different perspectives on the last major event before the coming of Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:11-21)

The Old Testament recorded many great earthquakes including the, "Third day of Creation" event that changed the whole geography of the Earth, causing the continents to appear (Genesis 1:9-10), the Universal Flood in Noah's days (Genesis chapters 6-9), the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-28). And the "Great Earthquake" predicted by Amos (Amos 5:18-20; Isaiah 2:10-21; 5:25; Micah 1:3-6). (Stephen A. Austin, "Greatest Earthquakes of the Bible,"

The last chapter of the Old Testament prophecy of Zechariah gives a detailed preview of this greatest earthquake that will accompany the return of the Lord Jesus:

Behold, the day of the LORD is coming,
And your spoil will be divided in your midst.
2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem;
The city shall be taken,
The houses rifled,
And the women ravished.
Half of the city shall go into captivity,
But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
3 Then the LORD will go forth
And fight against those nations,
As He fights in the day of battle.

4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives,
Which faces Jerusalem on the east.
And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two,
From east to west,
Making a very large valley;
Half of the mountain shall move toward the north
And half of it toward the south.
5 Then you shall flee through My mountain valley,
For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal.
Yes, you shall flee
As you fled from the earthquake
In the days of Uzziah king of Judah.
Thus the LORD my God will come,
And all the saints with You.
6 It shall come to pass in that day
That there will be no light;
The lights will diminish.
7 It shall be one day
Which is known to the LORD-
Neither day nor night.
But at evening time it shall happen
That it will be light
.- Zechariah 14:1-7

This reminds us of the promise made to Jesus' disciples when He ascended into Heaven from the Mount of Olives:

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." - Acts 1:9-11

So, comparing Zechariah 14 with Acts 1, it seems that this greatest earthquake will be initiated by Jesus touching down on the Mount of Olives, splitting it in two, and triggering the reshaping of the Earth once again, with Jerusalem elevated above the rest.

Accompanying this historical tremor, the message of the Sixth Seal continues... and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair. Sackcloth was a coarse material made from the hair of animals. No light would penetrate it. Darkness often accompanies earthquakes, and especially volcanic activity, which will surely be caused by this earth-rending event. Of course, the smoke of the epic battle of Armageddon, which will be fought at this future point, possibly including nuclear explosions, could also contribute to this black-out.

Even without such an earthquake or horrendous warfare, there have been mysterious dark days recorded in history. Here is a brief account of one such event:

New England's Dark Day refers to an event that occurred on May 19, 1780, when an unusual darkening of the day sky was observed over the New England states and parts of Canada. The primary cause of the event is believed to have been a combination of smoke from forest fires a thick fog, and cloud cover. The darkness was so complete that candles were required from noon on. It did not disperse until the middle of the next night.
(Wikipedia, "New England's Dark Day",

Furthermore, the message of the Sixth Seal says, and the moon became like blood. Several instances of blood moons have been in the news in recent years. This is now a predictable event caused by the rare alignment of the Sun, Earth and Moon. It happens briefly when the Earth is exactly between the Sun and the Moon, and casts its shadow over the Moon.

This dimming of the light from the Sun will probably not be caused by an eclipse, but by the smoke of battle and natural disasters. Jesus explained this to His disciples.

"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven." - Luke 21:10-11

In our days of advanced astronomical knowledge, some phenomena, like blood moons and known comets, are understood, and therefore not terrifying. But other partially understood events-solar flares, newly discovered asteroids, and space junk caused by our own satellites, can cause fear.

Toward the end of the Great Tribulation this message of the Sixth Seal predicts that, during this awful earthquake and the Battle of Armageddon, the heavens will indeed evoke terror. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth. Stars, as we know them now, are objects like our Sun. All of them are huge, almost beyond our imagination, so they will not fall to the Earth. The Greek word used here is aster - asteroids. We now know there are thousands of "near-earth objects." Astronomers who have started keeping track of such things, had already found 10,000 of these potentially dangerous neighbors by 2013 (Miriam Kramer, Asteroids Galore! 10,000th Near-Earth Object Discovered, 6/26/2013
. Some of these that have come the closest were not even noticed until shortly before they whizzed past our planet.

It is not a great stretch of our imagination to visualize the path of our planet crossing a large field of asteroids that could cause this terrifying experience. It is also possible that some or all of the thousands of man-made satellites will plunge to Earth, burning up on the way like asteroids. In any case, there will be so many that it will be as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. It should also be noted that the text does not say all the stars will fall.

Jesus predicted the turmoil that will precede His return to Earth:

"And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near." - Luke 21:25-28

The stark warnings of this Sixth Seal continued: Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up. Few people have ever observed such a sight, but one possible explanation is that it will be produced by nuclear explosions during this battle of Armageddon.

On August 1 and 12, 1958, nuclear warheads were detonated in missiles over Johnston Island in the Pacific. These detonations were accompanied by impressive visual displays seen over wide areas, leading observers to the opinion that the detonations took place at very high altitudes. The phenomenon was even seen on Samoa, some 2,000 miles from Johnston Island. (Nuclear Weapons Effects in Space,

The prophet Isaiah was also given a vision about the awful climax of this battle, and how it will even affect the heavens:

For the indignation of the LORD is against all nations,
And His fury against all their armies;
He has utterly destroyed them,
He has given them over to the slaughter.
3 Also their slain shall be thrown out;
Their stench shall rise from their corpses,
And the mountains shall be melted with their blood.
4 All the host of heaven shall be dissolved,
And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll;
All their host shall fall down
As the leaf falls from the vine,
And as fruit falling from a fig tree.
- Isaiah 34:2-4

This sixth seal is all about that unimaginable last and greatest earthquake that will transpire when the Lord Jesus returns to Earth. The next description of this future judgment is a sobering summation of the event-- and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.

Not only will our Savior conquer the evil armies of the world that will gather against Him, but in the same multi-miraculous demonstration of His creative power, He will redesign the entire globe in preparation for His glorious Millennial Kingdom. Like the flood of Noah's time, this judgment-as terrible as it will be for His enemies-will result in a beautiful and peaceful planet for the next phase of human history. We will consider this at length when we study Revelation 20.

As for the vast armies of the world, who will have hardened their hearts against the Lord Jesus, the next verse laments their plight. 15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains.

On that dark day it will not matter what any one's status might be. Human life will be so vulnerable, and the events so terrifying that mortal fear will grip everyone's mind. They will not pray for deliverance. This prophecy records their response: 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us."

Did you notice that these desperate people will not ask for God's help? Apparently everyone at this point will have made up their minds. They will have received the "mark of the beast," which we will consider in Revelation chapter 13, and will have hardened consciences. Nevertheless, they will not be ignorant of the awful truth that their chosen enemy really is God. They will be admitting it when they cry out, "and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne." They will be intensely aware of God's reality, and afraid of His face. Their best hope then would to be killed quickly by an avalanche. Furthermore, they ask to be delivered "from the wrath of the Lamb!"

This outpouring of judgment comes from God the Father, who sits on the throne, and from God the Son, characterized here as "the Lamb." When Jesus Christ is described as the Lamb, the emphasis is on His sacrificial death in behalf of those who would believe in Him and acknowledge Him as their savior. John the Baptist identified Jesus this way:

Behold! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! -John 1:29

Earlier in the same chapter, the Apostle John wrote this:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: - John 1:12

This is the only place in the Bible that this expression: "the wrath of the Lamb," is used. It provides a shocking contrast to the comforting image of Jesus as a gentle lamb being sacrificed for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.

Theologians explain that Jesus came the first time in love, to offer salvation, but when He comes again, it will be in judgment for those who have rejected His sacrifice. The Apostle Paul addressed this dilemma, foreseeing the future influence of Antichrist:

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
- 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

"He who restrains" is undoubtedly the Holy Spirit, who, during this past nearly 2000 years has made humans aware of sinful behavior and of their need for a Savior. After the Rapture of true believers (See the notes on Chapter 4, verse 1) godly Christians will be gone, and those who will become new believers at that time will be killed or driven underground. So, in essence, the restraining work of the Holy Spirit will be withdrawn, and those who will not believe in Christ will develop hardened hearts.

The Sixth Seal ends with this question: 17For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?.

Sadly, the answer to this rhetorical question is "No one."

However, in our present world situation-such a mixture of good and evil-we have the matchless privilege of responding to the Gospel by receiving Christ as our own Savior and Lord, and of sharing that blessed truth with others in our generation.

As we wrote at the beginning of our study of this Revelation, while we are here we are ambassadors, representing Christ and His Kingdom.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. - 2 Corinthians 5:20

During this time, we establish outposts of the Kingdom in our homes, churches, missions, and other Christian enterprises. We seek constantly to gain new members of the Kingdom by following His example of ministering to their needs and giving them the Gospel. There is much "Kingdom work" to do now even though it has not yet been established on earth (See the notes in Volume 1, Chapter 1, verse 5).

Come back soon for the next installment of our verse-by-verse study of the Book of Revelation.


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