Welcome to a Revelation of Jesus. We are continuing the series on the Seven seals. In this video we will consider the sixth seal, which has baffled and derailed many commentators. In order to sort this out let’s review a few key concepts we have discovered in this series.
First of all, we looked at the Revelation timeline and saw that there are actually two timelines, one focused on events taking place on earth, and the other focused on events taking place in heaven. The seven seals begin in Revelation chapter 4, and the symbols and scriptural links show that they described heavenly activity, specifically, the judgment of people whose names have been written in the book of life.
The four horses of chapter 6 symbolize four categories of people who at one time or another have responded to God. In the last video we looked at the fifth-seal martyrs, who have a special place of honor in the judgment.
With this in mind, we would expect the sixth seal to also focus on the judgment of a category of people. But at a first glance, the activity seems to have shifted from heaven to events on earth.
“[John] looked when [the Lamb] 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. 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. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place” (Revelation 6:12-14).
Many commentators have noticed that this passage mirrors the events in Matthew 24 that Jesus said would precede His Second Coming. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:29-31).
Notice the parallels:
|Revelation 6, Sixth Seal
|The sun will be darkened
|The sun became black as a sackcloth of hair
|The moon will not give its light
|The moon became as blood
|The stars will fall from heaven
|The stars of heaven fell to the earth
|The powers of the heavens will be shaken
|The sky receded as a scroll
The only sign that Jesus did not mention is the great earthquake, and this earthquake is featured again in Revelation chapter 19.
In the sixth seal John said, “Behold, there was a great earthquake…and every mountain and island was moved out of its place” (Revelation 6:12-14).
In the seventh Last Plague, just before the Second Coming of Christ, there will be “A great earthquake…then every island fled away and the mountains were not found” (Revelation 16:18-20). As we will see when we study the seven last plagues, the next event on the timeline is Jesus returning to earth with “the armies of heaven” (Revelation 19:14).
It would be easy to conclude that the sixth seal describes the events at the very end of time, just before the return of Christ in glory. But this has been very confusing to commentators because there are other passages in Revelation that also depict the Second coming, most notably, Revelation 16:14-16 and 19:11-16.
This has led many futurist commentators to conclude that the sixth seal is not set at the second coming, despite the clear link to Matthew 24. In their view, it describes just one of a continuing series of last-day plagues.
Historicists maintain that the history of the church, culminating with the second coming, is repeated two or even three times in the book of Revelation, including in the seven seals. Other commentators have concluded that Revelation does not have a timeline, but instead jumps from one event and time period to another.
What these commentators have not noticed is that the sixth seal does not really focus on the Second Coming of Christ. It mentions the signs that surround the Second Coming in order to set the chronological context, but the focus is on a group of people who are alive at that time.
“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 rocks of the mountains, 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!” (Revelation 6:15,16).
This is the category of people that are judged in the sixth seal.
Let’s notice a few things about them.
First of all, they are a very diverse group, all the way from kings, military commanders, and rich people down to slaves. What they have in common is they are not glad to see Jesus; they would rather be buried in an avalanche of rocks than meet him face to face.
They don’t seem to understand that Jesus the Lamb of God loves them so much that He died for them; all they can discern is what they interpret as wrath
We find this same group listed in Revelation 19, but in that passage they are dead and their corpses are being eaten by birds. “An angel standing in the sun cried to all the birds, saying, ‘Come and gather together…that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of commanders, the flesh of mighty men…the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great” (Revelation 19:17,18). Let’s look at the context of chapter 19 to find out more about this group.
In future videos we will see that on the Revelation timeline this passage in Revelation 19 depicts the Second Coming of Christ. John “saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse. And He who sat on it was called Faithful and true, …He was clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God” (Revelation 19:11-13). Here we see Jesus, with His robe dipped in blood, returning to earth on a symbolic white horse.
The Bible describes the Second Coming from several different points of view, but in Revelation 19 John focuses on what seems to be a military operation: “In righteousness He judges and makes war…, the armies of heaven, clothed in fine linen, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations” (Revelation 19:11-15).
In this scene we also see that Jesus has adversaries that are opposing Him. “[John] saw the beast, the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army” (Revelation 19:19).
We will have a lot more to say about the beast in future videos, but briefly, he is the leader of a coalition that arises during the time of trouble, which seeks to annihilate God’s faithful followers. In chapter 13 we will see that they will set up the mark of the beast that will include a death decree against those who do not submit to them.
In chapter 17 we will see that this group works hand in hand with the “harlot…[who is] drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:3-6). In other words, the Second coming as depicted in Revelation 19 is a rescue mission to save Jesus’ followers from imminent annihilation.
But the beast and his followers will be completely defeated: “The beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast…these two were cast alive into the lake of fire…and the rest were killed…and all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Revelation 19:19-21).
s we already saw, the people who are eaten by the birds are the same “kings… commanders… mighty men… and all people, free and slave (Revelation 19:18) who in the sixth seal cry for the rocks to fall on them.
Now we can see why the kings and their cohorts in the sixth seal are so anxious for the caves and rocks to hide them from the face of the Lamb: they have been fighting against Him by persecuting His followers. And they will get what they wished for: they want the rocks to fall on them and kill them so that they won’t have to keep looking at Jesus and die they will.
With this in mind, we can see that the sixth seal, like the other seals, depicts the judgment of a category of people. In this case, it is those who have rejected and opposed Jesus, and who are alive at the time of Christ’s Second coming.
Unlike the other seals, the investigative phase of their judgment will take place while they are still alive, just before Jesus returns. They are key players in the climax of the great controversy, and as Satan’s foot soldiers in his plan to defeat and destroy God’s followers they deserve a special category in the judgment.
This time period is unique in human history, and this also makes the judgment of those who are alive at this time unique. Before the Second Coming God will extend an unprecedented invitation to every person on earth. “The gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
Babylon, the antichrist power that will become a persecuting superpower during the time of trouble, will be exposed for what it is—“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit” (Revelation 18:2).
With world-illuminating power all the people on earth will hear the entreaty, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins and lest you receive of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4). So it’s not like these people who are crying for the rocks to fall on them have accidentally or ignorantly believed some false religious doctrines or have some bad habits that are contrary to God’s commandments.
They have focus on the judgment of a category of people
The fact that they will be judged while they are still alive is in contrast with what happens to the groups of people symbolized by the four horses or the martyrs under the altar, that we studied in the first five seals.
The book of Hebrews teaches that ordinarily “each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Those who have responded to the Holy Spirit have had their names written in the Book of Life, and during the investigative phase of the judgment their names will be retained for eternal life or blotted out, depending on how they responded to Jesus and the Holy Spirit for the rest of their lives.
But those who are alive when Jesus comes will go through an experience similar to what happened in the days of Noah when the door of the ark was finally shut. This is sometimes called “the close of probation,” a time at which everyone on earth will have made their final decision for or against Christ. Isaiah informs us, ‘Look, your Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes” (Isaiah 62:11). This verse shows us that when Jesus returns the people who are alive will have already been judged, and Jesus will bring His reward for them.
Those who have loved and accepted Him, “who are alive and remain, shall be caught up…in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus [they] shall always be with the Lord” (1Thessalonians 4:17). Those who have rejected and opposed Him will be “consumed with the breath of His mouth and destroyed with the brightness of His coming” (2Thessalonians 2:8-12).
Tragically, the persecution and violence perpetrated by these unbelievers will be done in the name of Jesus. When we studied the apostasy of the dark ages as outlined in the messages to the seven churches, we saw that the persecution of God’s faithful followers during the inquisition was carried out by those who claimed to be part of the true Christion church.
When we study chapter 13 we will see that history will be repeated.
The power that imposes the mark of the beast and the death decree has “horns like a lamb”, in other words, it has features that seem to be gentle and Christ-like. But this beast “speaks like a dragon”. There is a satanic heart that deceives and coerces those who have not fully given themselves to Christ until they are willing to participate in the accusations and violence that will dominate the Time of Trouble.
Jesus Himself warned of overwhelming deceptions that will be present during what He referred to as “the great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21). He said, “many will come in My name, saying ‘I am the Christ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:5). “Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11). The ultimate fulfillment of these warnings will be the “beast and the false prophet” who will “work signs…by which they [will] deceive those who receive the mark of the beast” (Revelation 19:20).
The difference between those who remain faithful and those who are deceived does not have to do with their understanding of prophecy. The key is their love for God and willingness to know and obey Him through the Holy Spirit.
Today most people are indifferent to God and are not really interested in finding out anything about Jesus. But this will change abruptly when we enter the Great Tribulation. Then, everyone will suddenly become very religious as they try desperately to get life back to normal. Satan will exploit their desperation and attempt to manipulate as many as he can to carry out his agenda.
“He performs great signs so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth…telling [them] to make an image to the beast…and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Revelation 13:13-15).
The apostle Paul prophesied this same dynamic: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved.… but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2thessalonians 2:9-12).
Here we see what the real problem is. Those who are deceived, and who end up cooperating with Satan, “perish because they did not receive the love of the truth” and “they do not believe the truth [because they are] having pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12). In practice this means that they reject the Holy Spirit because He condemns the sin they love.
Because they have rejected the Holy Spirit, the revealer of truth, they accept the lies and delusions of Satan and follow his leadership, even to the point of seeking to destroy God’s faithful followers. As Jesus said to His disciples, “the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” (John. 16:2)
But during the tremendous upheavals of nature just preceding Christ’s Second Coming they will suddenly realize that they have never really known Jesus. As they see Him coming they will try to “hide themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains” (Revelation 6:15), seeking any possible way to flee “from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16).
Wrath and Lamb seem to be a contradiction, the Lamb being a symbol of God’s mercy.
God’s wrath is not like human anger. Rather, it is an expression of His glory and His character of love. The raw, blinding energy of love that radiates from God will be life and joy to those who love Him, but will provoke an overwhelming sense of guilt and condemnation in those who have loved and cherished sin. On the day when His glory fills the whole earth, He will not force anyone to live in His glorious presence if they have cultivated a character that would make His presence a continual torment.
And that is what it would be for this sixth seal sub-group, as evidenced by their final cry, “The great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:17). This cry brings us to the real focus of the sixth seal and the focus of chapter 7 and the next video: those who are able to stand in that great and dreadful day.
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