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Saturday, 10 December 2016 22:59

43. Opening the sixth seal, Part 1: Signs in the sky * Revelation 6:12-17

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12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casts its unripe figs, when it is shaken by a mighty wind.

14 And the heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the generals , and the mighty men, and every slave, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens 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 that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

17 For the great day of his wrath has come; and who shall be able to stand?


PART 1 - Revelation 6:12-14


*** Background ***: we find both in the Old and New Testaments, texts that talk about the exact events described in the opening of the sixth seal, in chapter 6 of Revelation. In all the other Bible texts, the events described have a prophetic nature, but are describing actual events, not symbolic ones. They all describe the events during the Second Coming of Christ.

Revelation 6:12-17

Isaiah 13:10,13

Isaiah 2:12-21

Matthew 24:29-30

Luke 21:25-27


The Earth will be shaken from its place

The Earth trembles



Black sun

The sun will be dark


Sun is darkened

Signs in the sun

Moon as blood



Moon will not give its light

Signs in the moon

Falling stars

Stars will not flash their light


Stars will fall from heaven

Signs in the stars

Heaven opens as scroll

The heavens will tremble


The powers of the heavens will be shaken

The powers of heaven will be shaken

Islands and mountains moved from their places




The sea and the waves roaring

People hiding in dens and rocks of the caves from the wrath of the Lamb


Men will go into caves of the rocks, and holes of the ground, the clefts of the cliffs, before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty

The tribes of the Earth will mourn

Upon the Earth, distress of nations, men’s failing from fear

The day of the wrath has come

The day of His burning anger

The Day of the Lord

They will see the Son of man coming in the clouds

And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Who is able to stand?






After we compare these texts, we can see that the events associated with the opening of the sixth seal have a literal meaning. In the fifth seal, the souls under the altar were asking how long they had to wait until their blood was avenged. The sixth seal brings a description of the events that will lead to the day when justice will take place. The Second Coming of Jesus is often described in the Old Testament as the Day of the Lord (Zephaniah 1:14-18; Joel 2:31). Historically, the things described in the sixth seal may have started somewhere in the middle ages, right after the fifth seal. But, at the same time, these references may describe the events surrounding the immediate coming of the Lord, some time in the future.

Historicists have identified some of these events as having been fulfilled around the 18th and 19th centuries. Bible students of the time, who believed that prophecy had already been fulfilled, were then part of what became known as the Second Great Awakening, which was a great revival among Protestants. They witnessed the birth of several Bible societies. Missionaries started to travel to different parts of the world, going out to preach the Gospel.

Weather or not the signs described in the opening of the sixth seal have been fulfilled already, they represent markers for the chosen people, so they can know the time of the Day of the Lord is near. The Seventh Plague (Revelation 16:17-21) describe similar events, but those seem to be more specific to the very end time, immediately before the Second Coming. It is possible that the signs of the sun, moon, stars, the earthquake and the shaking of the heavens have happened in a lesser degree, and that they will all happen again, in a more intense way on the last day.

*** Earthquake ***: Earthquakes are often associated with the coming of the Lord in the Old testament (Ezekiel 38:19-20; Joel 2:10; Amos 8:8; Haggai 2:6). There is another earthquake mentioned in Revelation 16:18, which fragments the end-time Babylon. Some Bible commentators believe the shaking in the beginning of the sixth seal happens much earlier than the one in chapter 16. Historicists have identified the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 as being the possible fulfillment of this prophecy. This earthquake reached an 8.5-9.0 on the magnitude scale, and led to fires and a tsunami. The death toll may have reached 100,000 people, making this earthquake one of the deadliest in history.

*** The sun, the moon, and the stars ***: with all three, we have a pattern that emphasizes the literal nature of this passage. Each of the texts starts with the literal (sun, moon, and stars), and ends with the symbol (sackcloth, blood, and shaken fig tree). The literal and the symbol are connected with the word “as”, or “like”, depending on the translation. We use this same pattern today, all the time. If someone says: “I slept like a log last night”, we understand clearly that ‘log’ is a symbol for how deeply the person slept. The person is the literal element in the sentence, and not a symbol for anything. We know that because of the word connecting the literal element to the symbol: ‘like’. In this section of Revelation, John is describing a literal condition in the sky, and he is comparing it to symbols in order to strengthen the understanding of what he is describing.

The sun darkened, and became black as sackcloth, and the moon became as blood: The darkening of the sun was described in the Old Testament (Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15; Isaiah 50:3; Isaiah 13:10,13). Historicists have dated this event as possibly being fulfilled in May 19, 1780, when an unusual darkening of the day was reported in the New England states and parts of Canada, and lasted about a day and a half.

The stars fell down as a fig tree casts its unripe figs: Isaiah 34:4 has a similar description of the falling stars: “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falls off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.” Jesus also said a similar statement in Matthew 24:29. Historicists believe that this was fulfilled in the great meteor shower on November 13, 1833, where a meteor shower lasted for about 9 hours. It was estimated that during that time, over 240,000 were seen.

*** The sky was rolled up as a scroll ***: Once again we have a literal element (the sky), being compared to the symbol (scroll rolled up). The image of the sky being rolled up as a scroll is also taken from Isaiah 34:4. The prophet was describing God’s wrath. As we have mentioned before, the signs involving the \ may occur from time to time throughout history, but they have also been described in the Bible as the immediate events preceding the coming of the Lord on the last days. Let’s for a moment consider the concept of the scroll. In the Greek manuscript, the word used to qualify the scroll is apochórizó, which means: separate, part asunder, split apart. Some translations use the word ‘departed’, ‘receded', or 'split apart'. During the last days, the sun, moon and stars will be shaken out of the sky or darkened. The splitting of the sky could mean that a different dimension or a more complete understanding of the situation will be revealed to us. God’s supernatural domain over the laws of physics, which goes beyond our current comprehension, will be unveiled. The events John describes in verses 12-14 are not a type of cyclical phenomenon that can be described by human science. The split in the sky will happen because the finger of God will put it there. Jesus, talking about his Second Coming, taught His followers the parable of the fig tree. He finished the parable saying: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35).

*** Islands and mountains moved ***: Haggai 2:6-7 mentions a great shaking before the coming of the “desire of all nations”: “For thus says the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.” Jeremiah 4:24 also talks about an earthquake that moved mountains: “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved to and fro.” This shaking seems more severe than the first one mentioned in Revelation 6:12. The earthquake in Revelation 6:14 is able to move entire islands and mountains out of their place. This one is more in line with the final earthquake mentioned in Revelation 16:18. This event is still to be fulfilled.

*** Overview ***: The descriptions in these Revelation and Old Testament texts, give us the impression that the planet will be going through convulsions and changes, as if in a backward process of creation. In Genesis, we read about the Creation, and the process of going from a planet that was empty and shapeless, to one with atmosphere, light, sun, moon and stars, vegetation, and animal life. The Biblical descriptions of the Day of the Lord seem to describe this exact sequence, but in reverse. This passage for us today is not determining if the prophetic elements have already been fulfilled, or if they will happen more closely to the Second coming of Christ. The point here is that the Coming of the Lord will bring about the purification from sin, not only to the people, but also to the planet.

© Hello-Bible 2016