posted on May, 9 2010 @ 12:24 PM
I want to offer some thoughts on Revelation ch6 vv12-17.
These are the events of the "sixth seal", of course. In my previous threads, I was looking over the first four seals- the event of the "Four
Horsemen"- and then at the "fifth seal"- the reaction of the martyrs, the "souls under the altar".
Now we come to the sixth seal. But I'm not interested so much in the events themselves.
Instead I'm going to be asking the question; what do these events mean for us. These are descriptions filled with echoes of Old Testament
passages- so what is that telling us?
The first echo is the "great earthquake". We don't know where that earthquake may be, but it should be reminding us of the earthquake which defines
the beginning of Amos.
The collected prophecies of Amos help to mark a change in the way God was dealing with his people. In the past, he had been guiding them, through his
prophets, with a mixture of rebuke and encouragement, as the need arose. But the newer "writing prophets" of Israel and Judah were symptoms of a
time when God's people were, increasingly, failing to listen. It was now increasingly necessary that God should be warning them about the dangers of
So the earthquake which Amos talks about marks a moment of shift, from one emphasis to another. It marks the beginning of a great theme of
"judgement", which finally culminated in the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.
So the earthquake in this passage, in the same way, indicates the beginning of the great process of God's judgement upon the world.
So the message in the event is the beginning of God's judgement.
We see events in the heavens; the sun darkens, the moon turns red, and the stars disappear from view- "as the fig-tree sheds its winter fruit when
shaken by a gale". The sky then vanishes "like a scroll that is rolled up". In physical terms, these could be the result of something in the
atmosphere, interrupting the light.
But what matters for my purposes is that all these things are full of echoes.
We read in Isaiah ch34 v4 that;
"All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll.
All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig-tree."
This prophecy belongs to a time when "the Lord is enraged against all nations"- Isaiah ch34 v2.
And, again, we are told in Joel (ch2 v31) that "the sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood", in the time before "the great and
terrible Day of the Lord".
"The Day of the Lord", in the Old Testament, is essentially the time when God is expected to come with power to impose his will upon the
world and put things right. It would be a "great day" in any event, but it becomes a "terrible day", a time of judgement, for anyone who is part
of what needs to be put right. In the New Testament, this becomes what Paul calls "The Day of our Lord Jesus Christ"- which appears to be much the
So the message in these events is the imminence of God's judgement.
Then there's the human response to all these things, which brings another collection of echoes.
We see the kings and great men of the earth hiding in caves and among the rocks. This is exactly what people are doing in Isaiah ch2 v19, when the
Lord of Hosts "has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up and high" (Isaiah ch2 v12).
The same kind of thing is happening in Jeremiah ch4;
"I looked on the mountains, and, lo, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro"- v24
"For this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above be black"- v28
"At the noise of horseman and archer, every city takes flight;
they enter thickets; they climb among rocks."- v29
And all this is part of the prophet's warning about the destruction of Jerusalem.
When they reach their refuge, they call upon the mountains to fall upon them and hide them- just like the people of Samaria in Hosea ch10 v8.
Their own assessment of the situation is that "the great day of their wrath [of God and the Lamb] has come, and who can stand before it?" This
brings us right back to the central teaching of Joel; "For the Day of the Lord is great and very terrible, who can endure it?"- Joel ch2 v11.
So the message in all these reactions is that the peoples of the earth are recognising the coming of God's judgement.
This is the other side of the coin to the reaction of the martyrs "under the altar", at the opening of the fifth seal.
The martyrs can see the work of God in all these events, and they welcome it.
The people of the world at large can see the work of God in all these events, and it makes them horrified.
In fact, we can now see the "fifth seal" and the "sixth seal" as one of the many "contrasting pairs" of Revelation.
They're both talking about the judgement of God- but they're presenting two different ways of receiving the judgement of God.
(I had, originally, been intending to make some observations about the fact that most of these Old Testament allusions refer to episodes of God'
wrath against his own people - but I now think the point is important enough to deserve separate treatment).
This is the fifth time that I've been looking at one aspect or another of the "seven seals" of Revelation, and I think I've succeeded in
demonstrating the overall structure of the episode;
First, there is what I've been calling the "implied background" of ch6- the oppression of God's people, to which God would have been responding. I
covered that in "4 Horsemen- Why?"
Then there is the devastating destruction of the "Four Horsemen" event itself, described under the first four seals, which I covered in "4
Then there is a pair of reactions to this destruction;
The reaction of the martyrs, in the "fifth seal", described in "Souls under the Altar"-
And the reaction of the rest of the world, described in this thread.
Finally, at the beginning of ch7, the destruction comes to an end, for the time being. There is a time of truce.
As I was explaining in "Silence in Heaven", the "time of truce" continues during the "half-an-hour" mentioned at the opening of the seventh
This sets the scene for the next stage, the rise of the Beast, and what he does.
And that sets the scene for the final stage, the destruction of the Beast.