Search results for: Revelation 6

Revelation 6-7: Download the free study

We are continuing to work through the Book of Revelation with a focus on four major views of the so-called Apocalypse of John, as well as a firm conviction that in this book are many clear doctrinal truths around which all believers may rally. We still have a long way to go in our study. You can read the commentary to date by clicking here.

Whether you’re a preterist, who sees the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christian era, a historicist, who views the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history, a futurist, who sees most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled, or an idealist, who sees Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil, there are important truths the Lord reveals to all of us in this book.

We would do well to approach Revelation with caution — and with great anticipation, knowing God will fulfill all His promises to us. We also should be comforted by the fact that Revelation is the only book in Scripture specifically promising a blessing to those who hear its prophecies and keep them.

With that in mind, and to make it easier to keep our notes together, we have captured the commentary into single Adobe files (pdfs) that you may download, print and share. Click on the links below to capture notes on chapters 6-7. If you missed the link to notes on chapters 1-3 or 4-5, links are provided as well.

Download the pdf: Revelation 6-7

Download the pdf: Revelation 4-5

Download Introduction to Revelation and chapters 1-3

The great day of Their wrath has come — Revelation 6:12-17

Previously: “Fall on us and hide us” — Rev. 6:12-17

The scripture

Rev. 6:12 – Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; 13 the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; 14 the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?” (HCSB)

The great day of Their wrath has come

Why are the wicked hiding? Because “the great day of Their wrath has come” (v. 17a). The word “Their” no doubt refers to the Father and Son, although some manuscripts read “His,” likely referring to the Son since the Father has entrusted all judgment to the Son (John 5:22).

In closing out chapter 6, John quotes the wicked, who ask, “And who is able to stand?” The obvious implication is that no one is able to stand. This may be taken in one of two ways. First, who is able to withstand God’s judgment? No one. All of the wicked will be consumed. Second, who is able to stand justified before God? Again, the answer is no one. Believers already have been justified – declared righteous before God; acquitted of their sins – by faith. The wicked, who have no faith in God, who have not received God’s gracious offer of forgiveness, have no works to offer on their own behalf. If they did, God would not accept them.

As Paul declares, “He saved us – not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). God does not need our works; He delights in our faith. “Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). It’s not that the wicked have no works. Clearly they do. But when these works are examined before the great white throne, they will not determine degrees of reward but degrees of punishment (Rev. 20:11-15). “And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire,” reads verse 15. How are names entered into the book of life? By God’s grace through faith.

Drawing a parallel between God’s judgment of Israel in 70  A.D. and His judgment of the wicked at the end of time, Matthew Henry writes, “As men have their day of opportunity, and their seasons of grace, so God has his day of righteous wrath; and, when that day shall come, the most stout-hearted sinners will not be able to stand before him: all these terrors actually fell upon the sinners in Judea and Jerusalem in the day of their destruction, and they will all, in the utmost degree, fall upon impenitent sinners, at the general judgment of the last day” (Rev. 6:9-17).

The great day

Finally, what are we to make of the phrase “the great day?” Likely, this is a reference to the oft-mentioned Day of the Lord. In the Old Testament this phrase sometimes is aimed at God’s judgment of Israel for her unfaithfulness, or the promise of deliverance from evil enemies (Isa. 13:6, 9; Ezek. 30:3; Obad. 15). “The Day of the Lord is thus a point in time in which God displays His sovereign initiative to reveal His control of history, of time, of His people, and of all people,” according to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 397-98).

New Testament writers pick up this expression to point to Christ’s return and use several expressions: “day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6); “day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8); “Day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Thess. 5:2); “day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10; 2:16); “day of judgment” (1 John 4:17); “this day” (1 Thess. 5:4); “that day” (2 Tim. 1:12); and “the day of wrath” (Rom. 2:5).

Futurists often interpret these New Testament terms differently, with some referring to the rapture, or the tribulation or the millennium. Others see these terms as synonymous, describing in general terms the full work of Christ in His return, judgment and establishment of His kingdom. In any event, we may be sure that one day God will exercise His sovereignty over the earth, judge all people, usher in His kingdom, and create new heavens and a new earth.

Four major views

So, how do proponents of the four major interpretations of Revelation see the sixth seal?

  • Preterists – who see the seal, bowl and trumpet judgments as fulfilled in the first centuries of the church age, either at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. or at both the fall of Jerusalem and later at the fall of Rome in the fifth century – say this vision depicts the end of the Jewish state and the fall of its leaders. While most of the language is to be regarded figuratively, some may be taken more literally, such as the Jews’ seeking to hide in the rocks and caves. Jewish historian Josephus writes, “So now the last hope which supported the tyrants and that crew of robbers who were with them, was in the caves and caverns underground; whither, if they could once fly, they did not expect to be searched for; but endeavored, that after the whole city should be destroyed, and the Romans gone away, they might come out again and escape from them. This was no better than a dream of theirs; for they were not able to lie hid either from God or from the Romans” (Wars, 6:7:3).
  • Historicists – who view the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history – say these apocalyptic signs symbolize the fall of paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire, associated with the conversion of Constantine. Others, however, place the events later in the history of the empire, either its division into East and West or the invasions of the Goths and Vandals in the late fourth century and early fifth century. Earthquakes, they argue, are symbolic of political or spiritual revolutions. And the sun, moon and stars are metaphors for earthly dignitaries – the “pagan firmament” as some call them.
  • Futurists – who argue that the events of Revelation are largely unfulfilled, especially chapters 4-22 – tend to see these events as future signs of Messiah’s imminent return. Not all futurists see these events literally; some read them figuratively or as a combination of literal and symbolic. Others, however, insist this prophecy is to be taken at face value. These catastrophic events are calculated “to strike terror into the hearts of men living on the earth…. At this point men will know assuredly that the tribulation has begun, for they recognize it as ‘the great day of his wrath’” (Henry Morris, quoted in Revelation: Four Views, p. 125). Hal Lindsey, author of The Late, Great Planet Earth and other futurist commentaries, argues that the sixth seal describes an exchange of nuclear weapons, leading to what astronomer Carl Sagan once called “nuclear winter.”
  • Idealists, or spiritualists – who see Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil – are divided. Some say the sixth seal describes God’s final judgment upon the earth, while others contend it is too early in the book for the return of Christ; rather, they say, these calamities represent the judgment of God upon those oppressing believers in John’s day. Some point out that this seal features seven structures of creation (earth, sun, moon, stars, sky, mountains and islands) and seven classes of people (kings, nobles, military commanders, the rich, the powerful, slaves and free persons) in order to symbolize the universality of these disasters, thus spelling the end of the universe as we know it.

Next: The sealed of Israel — Rev. 7:1-8

“Fall on us and hide us” — Revelation 6:12-17

Previously: The kings … hid in caves (Rev. 6:12-17)

The scripture

Rev. 6:12 – Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; 13 the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; 14 the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?” (HCSB)

“Fall on us and hide us …”

The earth’s wicked cry out to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb …” (v. 16). There is an interesting parallel between this verse and other places in scripture where the wicked, who have shunned God in favor of idols made of earthly elements, are left calling upon these elements for help.

One such example may be found in the apostate people of Israel in Jeremiah 2. Take note:

  • First, the leaders get comfortable in God’s grace and stop seeking the Lord. “They [the fathers] stopped asking: Where is the Lord … The priests quit asking: Where is the Lord? The experts no longer knew Me, and the rulers rebelled against Me. The prophets prophesied by Baal and followed useless idols” (Jer. 2:6a, 8).
  • Next, the people embrace idols. “My people have exchanged their Glory for useless idols….For My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer. 2:11b, 13).
  • Then, they insist they have done nothing wrong; in fact, they celebrate their religious diversity. “[Y]ou have said: I have not sinned” (Jer. 2:35b).
  • Finally, God’s judgment falls. “Have you not brought this on yourself by abandoning the Lord your God while He was leading you along the way … Your own evil will discipline you; your own apostasies will reprimand you. Think it over and see how evil and bitter it is for you to abandon the Lord your God and to have no fear of Me…. The stain of your guilt is still in front of Me” (Jer. 2: 17, 19, 22b).
  • Rather than acknowledge their sin, confess it and repent of it, the people are left invoking their idols for deliverance. “They, their kings, their officials, their priests, and their prophets say to a tree: You are my father, and to a stone: You gave birth to me. For they have turned their back to Me and not their face, but in their time of disaster they beg: Rise up and save us! But where are your gods you made for yourself? Let them rise up and save you in your time of disaster if they can” (Jer. 2:26b-28a).

In Romans 1 the apostle Paul describes a similar spiral of descent for the Gentile world. Having rejected the evidence for God in creation and conscience, the wicked suppress the truth, embrace unrighteousness, celebrate ungodliness and, as a result, are without excuse. In fact, Paul writes that God delivers them over to “sexual impurity … degrading passions … [and] a worthless mind” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).

As the sixth seal is opened in Revelation 6 and God’s wrath falls on the wicked – both those who boast “a form of godliness” (2 Tim. 3:5 KJV) and those who openly embraced paganism – there is clear recognition that God is the author of this judgment. Just as it is clear to the apostate Israelites in Jeremiah 2 and the wicked Gentiles in Romans 1 (“they know full well God’s just sentence,” Rom. 1:32), there is no escaping the reality that a day of reckoning with the Lord has come. Yet they would rather be covered by tons of rock and dirt than cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. The utter depths of man’s depravity are echoed in the mountain caves as the wicked respond to God’s wrath the only way they know how – by calling on the mountains and rocks to hide them.

“The contents of chapter 6 should put to rest the false teachings that God, being a God of love, could not judge a wicked world” (J.F. Walvoord, R.B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Rev. 6:15–17).

From whom do the wicked wish to hide? From “the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb” (v. 16). Obviously, this a reference to God the Father – the One seated on the throne – and His Son, the Lamb. There is a singular wrath from these two Persons of the triune Godhead. Our sins offend a holy God, who exists as three co-equal, co-eternal persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yet the Father sent His Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14) and then sent the Holy Spirit to convince lost sinners of their desperate need for Christ (John 16:7-11).

Those who reject God in spite of His gracious offer of salvation have chosen God’s wrath and preferred to cast their eternal lot with “the ruler of the world” for whom hell was created (John 16:11; Matt. 25:41). God is angry at sin – so angry, in fact, that He judged sin in His own Son on the cross. Should not His wrath be poured out on those who both sin and reject God’s provision for forgiveness?

Next: The great day of Their wrath has come (Rev. 6:12-17)

The kings … hid in caves — Revelation 6:12-17

Previously: The sixth seal (Rev. 6:12-17)

The scripture

Rev. 6:12 – Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; 13 the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; 14 the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?” (HCSB)

The kings … hid in the caves

John lists seven classes of people seeking to escape God’s wrath. Just as God shows no favoritism (Acts 10:34) and welcomes people from every tribe, language, people and nation into His kingdom (Rev. 5:9), people of all economic, social and political stripes choose to reject Him and thus partake as equal partners in His wrath. John specifically mentions kings, the nobles (statesmen and high civil officers), military commanders, the rich, the powerful (a reference to physical strength), slaves and free persons.

Those who are most feared on earth become the most fearful, and those who are from the lowliest castes receive no special mercy for having rejected the exalted place offered them in Christ’s kingdom. “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” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Rev. 6:9-17).

All are sinners; all have rejected God’s Son and His provision for their sin through His sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross; all have taken part in abusing His grace and persecuting His people; and now all of them together know that His righteous wrath is falling equally on them. Whether this is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D, as preterists and some historicists contend, or to the yet-future Day of the Lord, as futurists insist, there is no mistaking that God is bringing His judgment to bear on the world’s wicked.

We would be wise at this point not to overlook the lesson for believers. Though John is describing God’s wrath toward the wicked, He holds us accountable for our stewardship as saints. Before we become too smug in our satisfaction as we watch unbelievers get their just desserts, Paul reminds Christians that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). The apostle John indicates that some of us will be ashamed at His coming (1 John 2:28), while Paul writes that some of us will emerge from this judgment like a person escaping a burning house (1 Cor. 3:15). For believers and unbelievers alike, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).

Next: “Fall on us and hide us” (Rev. 6:12-17)

The sixth seal – Revelation 6:12-17

Previously: Until their fellow slaves were killed (Rev. 6:9-11)

The scripture

Rev. 6:12 – Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; 13 the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; 14 the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?” (HCSB)

When Jesus opens the sixth seal, terrifying natural disasters take place on the earth and in the heavens. There is a violent earthquake. The sun turns black and the moon turns blood red. The stars – perhaps meteors – fall to earth. The sky parts and the land masses shift. But these are not merely natural calamities; they are God’s judgments, and the wicked on earth know this. Rather than repent of their sins, however, they hide themselves in the earth and call upon the rocks and mountains to shield them from the wrath of God.

When do these events occur? What is the great day of God’s wrath? And why do the wicked refuse to repent? How do John’s first-century readers understand this passage? And what does it mean to us today?

The sixth seal

The sixth seal matches a portion of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25. Just as the second and third seals – portending sword, famine and pestilence – echo Jesus’ words in Matt. 24:6-7; and just as the fifth seal – describing martyrdom – matches our Savior’s prediction in Matt. 24:9-10; so the sixth seal – foretelling cosmic calamity – is eerily similar to Christ’s words in Matt. 24:29: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the celestial powers will be shaken.”

What follows in Matthew 24 is Jesus’ return “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (v. 30). The people of the earth will mourn, He says, a fitting match to the response of the wicked who know the day of God’s wrath has come. “Fall on us and hide us,” they cry to the rocks and mountains, “from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16).

The sixth seal previews the destruction of the first heaven and earth, some commentators say (see Rev. 20:11; 21:1). Others argue that this seal describes God’s judgment on Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 A.D. Perhaps both views are true since there are times when prophecies in scripture have both a near-term and long-term fulfillment. In any case, John’s words have terrifying relevance to his first-century readers. Most of the seven cities mentioned in Revelation 2-3 experienced devastating earthquakes in the century prior to John’s Apocalypse. Christians in these cities may graphically envision the day of God’s wrath. What’s more, earthquakes in scripture often announce the terrifying arrival of the Lord in His glory (Ex. 19:18; Ps. 97:5; Ezek. 38:19-20). But His final coming shakes both heaven and earth.

Let’s look more closely at what occurs:

  • “A violent earthquake” (v. 12). While many commentators take this literally, as a great seismic shaking, some interpret this religiously (the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem) or politically (the crumbling of the once-unshakable Roman Empire).
  • “The sun turned black like sackcloth make of goat hair” (v. 12). Again, some see this as a natural, God-ordained occurrence such as a total eclipse of the sun or, perhaps, the smoke from a violent earthquake masking the sun’s light. Others see this from a political posture as the light goes out on the leaders of Judaism and the Roman Empire.
  • “The entire moon became like blood” (v. 12). Atmospheric conditions can change the color of the moon, making it appear a dark red. But for those viewing this event figuratively, this is a reference to “lesser lights” in Jewish and Roman leadership positions.
  • “The stars of heaven fell to the earth” (v. 13). This could be a reference to a meteor shower – a spectacular night-time show that also results in dangerous debris falling to the earth. Or, as some interpreters insist, these are men of note in Judaism or the Roman Empire.
  • “The sky separated like a scroll being rolled up” (v. 14). For the literalist, God is moving the heavens with the ease of a scribe closing a scroll. For others, this is the end of Judaism’s great era, or the end of the Roman Empire’s chapter in world history.
  • “Every mountain and island was moved from its place” (v. 14). All of creation is shaken violently in preparation for its renovation into new heavens and a new earth, although some see this in figurative terms as the dramatic end to the times of the Jews and/or the Roman Empire.

While there may be good reason to see these events in figurative terms, parallel passages in the Old Testament seem to favor a more literal interpretation. Note:

  • Isa. 13:9-10: “Look, the day of the Lord is coming – cruel, with rage and burning anger – to make the earth a desolation and to destroy the sinners in it. Indeed, the stars of the sky and its constellations will not give their light. The sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shine.”
  • Isa. 34:2-4: “The Lord is angry with all the nations – furious with all their armies. He will set them apart for destruction, giving them over to slaughter. Their slain will be thrown out, and the stench of their corpses will rise; the mountains flow with their blood. All the heavenly bodies will dissolve. The skies will roll up like a scroll, and their stars will all wither as leaves wither on the vine, and foliage on the fig tree.”
  • Joel 2:30-31: “I will display wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and awe-inspiring Day of the Lord comes.”

Note how R.B. Sloan helps set the stage for the rest of Revelation: “The earthquake is a consistent sign in Revelation for the destruction that immediately precedes the end (see 8:5; 11:13, 19; 16:18–19) of history and the appearance of the Lord. The repeated references to the earthquake at strategic spots in Revelation do not mean that history itself repeatedly comes to an end but that John employed the well-known literary technique of ‘recapitulation’ (see Gen. 1–2), that is, the retelling of the same story from a different ‘angle’ so as to focus upon other dimensions of and characters in the same story.

“Thus, in Revelation we are repeatedly brought to the end of history and the time of Christ’s return. But John withheld his final (and fullest) description of this world’s end until the end of his document (19:1–22:5). In the meantime he used the literary technique (among others) of retelling to prepare his readers for both the traumas and hopes of human history” (“The Revelation,” in D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman Concise Bible Commentary, p. 672).

Next: The kings … hid in caves (Rev. 6:12-17)