END OF THE AGE CELESTRIAL SIGNS
6:12-17 And MTH. 24:29-31
(12) I looked
when He 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. (13) 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. (14) Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out
of its place. (15) 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 caves 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 who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! (17) For the great day of His
wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Unlike the other five seals,
the text of the sixth seal is straightforward and uncomplicated. Only a few of the details in the description require
more than a brief comment in explanation. Far more important to understanding this seal as a judgment is the effect the signs
have on the people of the earth.
The seal opens with "a great earthquake"
(Revelation 6:12), a common indicator of God appearing (see Judges 5:4; Psalm 68:8; 77:18; 97:4; Habakkuk 3:10;
Haggai 2:6-7), working out His purpose (see Exodus 19:18; Matthew 27:51-54; 28:2; Acts 16:26),
and/or striking out in displeasure and judgment. In terms of anger and punishment, God caused an earthquake to open
the ground in the wilderness and swallow Korah and his fellow rebels (Numbers 16:31-32). In Psalm 18:7, David
writes, "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was
angry" (see Isaiah 5:25; Nahum 1:2-5). God prophesies in Isaiah 13:11, 13, "I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. . . . Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of
her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger."
Earthquakes occur frequently
in Revelation, of which this one is the first. Seismic activity
accompanies the seventh seal (Revelation 8:5), the resurrection of the Two Witnesses (11:13), the seventh trumpet
(11:19), and the seventh bowl or vial (KJV) of God's wrath (16:18). Evidently, massive earthquakes—the kind that
strikes dread and panic into every soul caught in them—will frequently punctuate the Day of the Lord.
Certainly, the heavenly signs that occur in tandem with the great
temblor are astounding, especially if all of them should occur within a short span of time. Joel 2:30-31 describes
the same event: "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun
shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD." In the Olivet
Prophecy, Jesus repeats the warning: "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"
(Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-25). Luke's rendition adds a few details:
And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity,
the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming
on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. (Luke 21:25-26)
The Sun Darkened: John describes the darkness of the sun as "black as sackcloth
of hair" (Revelation 6:12), comparing it to the black goat hair used to make sackcloth and tents in his day. This
may depict a solar eclipse or possibly a massive dust storm caused by a volcanic explosion. The Ninth Plague covered Egypt
with a "darkness which may even be felt," a "thick darkness" (Exodus 10:21-22), and perhaps God
will repeat it on an even grander scale. Whatever the case, visibility will be severely limited, even during the daylight
The Moon Like Blood:
This chilling sight presages calamity and death, particularly in war, as in the color of the second horse (Revelation 6:4).
Sometimes lunar discoloration occurs naturally when unusual amounts of dust are suspended in the atmosphere, particularly
after a volcanic eruption or an earthquake. Incidentally, many manuscripts read "full moon" rather than simply "moon."
The Stars Fall: John's imagery reflects
countless late figs blown down by the violent winter wind (verse 13). This seems most likely to predict a meteor shower of
immense proportions, possibly containing larger-than-normal meteorites, thus increasing the effect and making it seem as if
the stars themselves are falling. Because stars are a biblical symbol of angels, some have suggested that this verse
parallels Revelation 12:7-10, the casting out of Satan and his demons from heaven. However, for this to have
any credence, the concurrent celestial events must also be taken symbolically.
The Sky Recedes: Of these four wonders, this event is the most puzzling (Revelation
6:14). The apostle compares it to a scroll rolling up, or we might think of it in terms of opening a spring-loaded window
blind. Joseph A. Seiss, in his The Apocalypse: Exposition of the Book of Revelation, comments: "Great, massive,
rotary motion in the whole visible expanse, is signified, as if it were folding itself up to pass away forever." Perhaps
John saw clouds building to thunderheads, roiling, and flying at breakneck speed across the expanse of the sky. Such turbulence
could make an observer on the ground think the sky was splitting apart. Isaiah 34:4 describes the Day of the Lord similarly.
The Mountains and Islands Move: As a result
of the great convulsion of the earth, massive land transformations occur, shifting mountains on land and undersea. Obviously,
such a violent shaking will create unprecedented destruction and loss of life. As the conclusion of the sixth seal's disturbances,
this displacement of terra firma is the calamity that most terrifies earth's inhabitants. Suddenly, nothing is
stable—not even the earth under their feet!
Finally, God has their attention!