Revelation 6:12-17, The Cataclysm
In my previous Bible study on Revelation, World War X, we discussed the relationship between second, third, fourth, and fifth seals are all related to each other, and to the first seal, which revealed a rider on a white horse. We concluded that a great world war took place, and that those who worship God and follow Christ were persecuted.
In this lesson, we will explore the sixth seal, and its possible relationship to the other first five seals.
Earthquake, Blood Moon, Eclipse
According to John, when the Lord Jesus Christ opened the sixth seal, there was a cataclysm: there was a great earthquake, the sun became black like sackcloth of hair (like the hair of a goat), the moon became like blood (red), the stars fell to the earth, the sky vanished out of sight like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
- Black sun
- Red moon
- Stars fall
- Sky vanishes
- Mountains and Islands removed
Each of the previous five seals has represented events that will take place on Earth. In the case of the first four seals opened by the Lamb, it appears at first glance that the events (conquest, wars, inflation, deaths) are all related to symbols (the riders on the horses). Nevertheless, these symbols were not just symbols, but visions of spirits that caused the events to happen.
The event on the fifth seal is hardly symbolic. John specifically tells us that he sees the souls of those that were martyred: from a biblical perspective, souls do exist.
Consequently, there is no reason to suppose that the events related to the sixth seal are at all symbolic. These events are equivalent to the conquest, wars, inflation, deaths, and persecution that took place when the fifth seals were opened: they are real events that John predicts will happen.
However, what would cause such phenomena to take place on Earth is not stated. We may think that the black sun refers to a solar eclipse, that the red moon refers to a lunar eclipse, and that the stars of heaven falling to the earth are arrows (or missiles), but we cannot be dogmatic about it: they could be supernatural signs also, like when God through Moses turned the waters of the Nile into blood, and when He brought darkness upon the land of Egypt.
The stars hat fall to the earth are not necessarily stars as you and I understand them in this modern age, but they could be asteroids. The vanishing of the skies could also be explained by a rapid great cloud of dust rising to the atmosphere.
Another interesting and possible cause for the sixth seal could be a super volcano.
Thus, the exact nature of these events is not revealed, but they will be recognized when they take place.
The Catclysm Foretold by The Prophets
The prophet Isaiah foretold that the day of the Lord would include the events related to the sixth seal.
"For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.... Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger." (Isaiah 13:10-13, KJV)
Although, in context, Isaiah was prophesying about the invasion of Babylon by the Medes, prophecies in Isaiah have a tendency to speak about events in the near future and the distant future as if they were all happening simultaneously.
The prophet Joel also foretold similar events in relation to the day of the Lord.
"The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come." (Joel 2:31, KJV)
What is interesting about Joel's prophecy of the events related to the sixth seal is that it is preceded by events that had their fulfillment in the book of Acts (Joel 2:28-30, Acts 16:21), but the events regarding the sixth seal are still future events (similar to Isaiah's timeline of prophetic events). This shows that when the prophets received revelation about future events, they did not necessarily understand the timing of such events (maybe this explains why Paul, in some of his writing, sometimes appears to believe the Lord's second coming would take place in his lifetime).
The Cataclysm Foretold by the Lord
Although Revelation gives us many more details about this cataclysm, the Lord Jesus Christ, during his ministry on Earth, also foretold the cataclysm.
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken." (Matthew 24:29, KJV)
"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken." (Mark 13:24-25, KJV)
What is interesting here is not only that the Lord also foretold the cataclysm, but that the Lord makes reference to events that correspond to the second, third, fourth, and fifth seals. In the gospels (Matthew 24:7, Mark 13:8, Luke 21:10), the Lord foretells wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes, which events correspond (for the most part) to the events related to the first four seals and the horsemen. In other verses (Matthew 24:9, Mark 13:8, Luke 21:12-19), He foretells the persecution of his disciples, which seems to correspond to the fifth seal.
Fear Overtakes The World
John tells us that after the cataclysm, the leaders of the nations, the rich, the captains of armies, the slaves, and the free (all kinds of people) hid themselves inside caves and rocks in the mountains.
Then they called on the rocks and the mountains to fall on them so they would be hid from God and the Lamb (Jesus Christ), for the day of his wrath had come, and they realized no one would be able to withstand the wrat of God and Christ.
This is similar to what the prophet Isaiah foretold concerning the last days and the day of the Lord.
"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." (Isaiah 2:19, KJV)
Moreover, according to Luke, the Lord also foretold the fear of all people when they experience these events.
"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." (Luke 21:25-26, KJV).
Of course, it is not unimaginable that such a cataclysm would cause fear on all kinds of people throughout the world. What is interesting here is that the people of the world appear to relate the cataclysm to the wrath of God and the wrath of Lord Jesus Christ: it appears that, according to John (and maybe even to Isaiah), the people of the world understand that God is the ultimate cause of the cataclysm.
Questions for Reflection
1. Do God and Christ have the right to judge the world?
2. Are God and Christ right to judge the world so severely?
3. Why is it easy to believe that such a cataclysm could occur on Earth?
Lord, you are the Creator of all and you are God over all. You are also righteous in all your ways, and you abhor evil and sin.
You sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to save the world; but the world rejected Him. For this reason, you will judge all the inhabitants of the Earth, all who have unrighteously rejected Him.
But we, who have believed in Jesus Christ and received Him in our hearts, will be objects of your salvation, according to your gospel.
Praise be to you, Lord! Let everyone revere you and welcome you in their hearts!
I would like to invite you to share your thoughts, questions, and insights on the comments section below. I also would like to invite you to click on the links below to read the other devotionals I have written on the book of Revelation.
© 2019 Marcelo Carcach