Applying Revelation 6: The Sixth Seal


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This is a continuation of Applying Revelation 6: The First Five Seals.

In Chapter 6 of Revelation, Jesus breaks six out of seven seals on a scroll that He took from Yahweh. In our last lesson, we learned about the first five seals. Now we come to the sixth one.

I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from a tree shaken by a strong wind. The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places.

Then everyone—the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person—all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of Their wrath has come, and who is able to survive?” (Rev. 6:12-17)

Notice how the term “Their wrath” clearly identifies multiple Beings. Notice how the Lamb is recognized as a separate and distinct Entity from “the One who sits on the throne”. This “God is three in one” business that gets shoved on you in the Church is utter nonsense. We have three Gods.

Now clearly this sixth seal is depicting some kind of epic disaster, but before you get too excited, realize that none of this language is original. It’s yet another recycle of Old Testament imagery—imagery that is now centuries old. While many foolish teachers in the Church today try to freak you out with these references to geological chaos, these were very common metaphors which we find popping up throughout the Old Testament.

Here in Revelation we find a reference to “the great day of Their wrath.” Before the Jews knew about Christ, it was always “the Day of Yahweh’s wrath.” We find the term the Day of Yahweh used quite a bit in the Old Testament, and it’s often paired with themes of Divine wrath and judgment.

Now for the most part, God works through human third parties down here—parties that we often don’t even associate with Him. Today you don’t hear people describing Adolf Hitler as an agent of Divine destruction, because when people start dying in nasty ways, we start trying to write God out of the equation. But now and then God refuses to let us get away with this game. Instead of leaving room for us to pretend He had nothing to do with the natural disaster that just leveled our neighborhood, or the with the terrorist who just killed our friends, He finds a way to get in our faces and force us to see His hand at work. The ten plagues in Egypt were a perfect example of this. Yahweh didn’t show up in a visible form, but He had Moses trumpeting His Name all over the place, and then He kicked off each plague in a way that forced people to see a purposeful will at work. Even today, we see the ten plagues not as a series of freak events, but as God’s work. This is what happens when God puts the reality of His sovereignty in our faces.

In the Bible, we find a recurring theme in which one of our Gods predicts a time when He will descend on the earth in such a way that everyone will suddenly become acutely aware of His Presence. In these moments, humanity is always depicted as cowering in terror or feeling overwhelmed with mournful distress. This is because most of humanity is rebelling against God, and when He shows up in some awesome, in-your-face way, all of these rebels are going to realize that they’re in big trouble. Listen to how negatively Jesus describes His second coming in Matthew 24:

“Immediately after the distress of those days: ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” (Matt. 24:29-30)

Jesus describes the world as mourning, not cheering, when He shows up. The imagery He uses here is an intentional copying of imagery that Yahweh used several times in the Old Testament. If we jump back about 700 years, we return to Isaiah, in which we find Yahweh describing the day of His judgment this way:

“See, the day of Yahweh is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.

The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.” (Isa. 13:9-11)

Often in the midst of predicting His coming judgment against some particular nation, Yahweh will slip in some description of global judgment and the total destruction of mankind. He follows the same pattern here in Revelation. The main focus of this book is the fall of the Roman Empire, yet in the midst of talking about Rome’s collapse, God slips in a reference to some future day when there will be global terror. He’s been dropping hints about that epic day for thousands of years. The key is to not run amuck with these hints and miss the main point of a particular passage.

In the Bible, you won’t find anything close to a detailed blow-by-blow of what the true end times will be like. You’ll only find hints of a final day of judgment that will be worse than all those which came before, and those hints will be inserted into the middle of nation specific prophecies. Isaiah 34 is another good example of this.

Come near, you nations, and listen; pay attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world, and all that comes out of it! Yahweh is angry with all nations; His wrath is on all their armies. He will totally destroy them, He will give them over to slaughter. Their slain will be thrown out, their dead bodies will stink; the mountains will be soaked with their blood. All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree. (Isa. 34:1-4)

Right after this, Yahweh zooms the focus in on one particular neighbor of ancient Israel who the Jews especially despised: Edom. After reading about Yahweh predicting the fall of Edom in very graphic terms, we come across this interesting line:

Search the scroll of Yahweh, and see what He will do. (Isa. 34:16)

Isaiah served as a prophet 700 years before Christ was born on earth. Way back then, we find a reference to searching through Yahweh’s scroll to get a glimpse of His Divine plan.  Now a similar scroll has shown up in Revelation.  Are you seeing how unoriginal this book is?

Now in this age of rapid technological advancements, our cell phones are constantly getting more and more sophisticated. Today new cell phones come equipped with very nice cameras. If you turn on the camera feature of your phone and then hold up your hand about a foot away from it, you’ll see the image go from blurry to sharp as the phone automatically adjusts its lens to compensate for the distance of the object in front of it. After the image of your hand is in focus, if you were to then move your hand away, the lens would then fixate on another object which is farther away and adjust itself to get a clear image of that new, more distant object. Whenever you’re reading through biblical prophecy, you need to be like that camera lens: swiftly adjusting your focus as God leaps back and forth from the immediate future to the distant future. The beginning of Zephaniah is a classic example of this. Listen to how Yahweh starts out global then zooms the focus in on one nation in just a few verses:

“I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares Yahweh. “I will sweep away man and animal; I will sweep away the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, and the ruins along with the wicked. I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth.”

“I will stretch out My hand against Judah and against all who live in Jerusalem. I will destroy every remnant of Baal worship in this place, the very names of the idolatrous priests— those who bow down on the roofs to worship the starry host, those who bow down and swear by Yahweh and who also swear by Molek, those who turn back from following Yahweh and neither seek Yahweh nor inquire of Him.” (Zeph. 1:2-6)

Today, scholars encourage you to keep your lens in distant future mode when reading through Revelation. They tell you that the whole thing is about the final end of the earth. But no, it’s not. When God prophesies to people in the Bible, He spends most of the time addressing their current frustrations. God isn’t interested in telling us about the distant future, because such information is guaranteed to lead us astray into useless obsessions. When God predicts the distant future, His main purpose is to flaunt the fact that He is the One defining what the future will be because He is totally in control.

Now just as you can make your camera lens zoom in and out by putting your hand in front of it and then taking it away again, your interpretation of prophecy needs to be flexible and willing to zoom in and out as the Holy Spirit prompts. It’s when we stop listening to God and we start trying to force ancient prophecy to talk about the things we care about today that we become like these idiot prophets who sit around pontificating about 666 and the rise of some antichrist. God isn’t talking to us in Revelation, and this fact must not be minimized. To learn the lessons that God wants us to learn, we must consider how His original audience would have interpreted this message.

So what is the point of showing ancient Jewish Christians something like this sixth seal?

I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from a tree shaken by a strong wind. The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places.

Then everyone—the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person—all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of Their wrath has come, and who is able to survive?” (Rev. 6:12-17)

Are these Jews going to see the fulfillment of these things? No—they will die long before the final destruction of the earth. Both Yahweh and Jesus know this, so why bring it up? Why does Yahweh ever talk about wiping mankind from the face of the earth in the Old Testament when He knows that that event is still thousands of years away? Well, let’s consider the cultural context of these messages.

The ancient world was full of gods, and those gods were all considered valid. Every religion had its own way of explaining the origins of the earth. Every religion had one or more gods which were credited with creating the universe. So how does Yahweh set Himself apart amid a sea of powerful gods? Well, when Yahweh talks about singlehandedly wiping mankind off the face of the earth, that’s the same as saying He’s utterly supreme over all other beings. You see, in these times, there were gods who controlled the sky, gods who controlled fertility, gods who controlled the water. What does it say about the power of the sea god Poseidon if Yahweh can destroy the whole earth by fire? In these times people worshiped celestial objects like stars and the moon, and they considered these things to be gods. What is Yahweh saying about the validity of these so-called gods when He describes snuffing the sun out and knocking all of the stars to earth? These dramatic descriptions of global destruction are claims of total supremacy. It’s not “Yahweh and His fifty billion angel helpers will destroy the earth,” it’s Yahweh saying, “I will wipe mankind off the face of the earth.” Yahweh will do it all by Himself. He doesn’t need anyone’s help. He doesn’t have to get anyone’s permission. In the Old Testament we find Yahweh emphasizing over and over again that He has ultimate power and He can wield that power any way He wants whenever He wants. Now here in Revelation we have two Gods flaunting Their ultimate power. We have two Gods reminding everyone that Their patience is limited and that Their wrath is terrifying.

The Jewish Christians are panicking because they think their Gods have lost control over the situation. In these times, every nation had national gods. When the people warred, they believed that their gods were warring as well, and it was the nation with the strongest god who won the battle. If this is what your worldview is, what do you make of the fact that the Roman gods appear to have Yahweh and Jesus locked in a closet somewhere? The fact that Christians are being assaulted is hardcore evidence that the Christian Gods are being triumphed over in the supernatural realms. This is why it is so important that Yahweh and Jesus flaunt Their total control over this situation by showing John images which prove that everything is going according to Their Divine plan. The Christians aren’t getting slaughtered because the Roman gods have the upper hand—the Christians are getting slaughtered because the Christian Gods want them to be. It’s a very tough pill to swallow, but this is what it means to have Sovereign Creators—They control both the good and the bad.

So far these seals have revealed to John that the Divine plan for Rome is to grant her still more success, and then to slowly dismantle her. Right now we’re only in 96 AD. Today when historians look back over the history of the Roman Empire, they see her peaking at around 117 AD. The first seal that Jesus broke released a rider who went out and had many military victories. In real life, Rome will have many more military victories for the next two decades before starting a long, slow decline. Today we can look in the history books and see the first five seals fulfilled because the Roman Empire is gone. When we get to this sixth seal, we have to zoom out and look at the big picture. Our Gods control all life on this planet—a point that these ancient Jewish Christians need to be reminded of. When we lose sight of God’s sovereignty, we quickly crumble into panic, and this is why God keeps putting His sovereignty back in our faces. In the Old Testament, Yahweh was constantly reminding distressed people of His absolute control over all things. Here in the New Testament, we find Yahweh and Jesus exalting Themselves as co-Rulers who reign supreme over all things. The bottom line is this: stop worrying. The Christian Gods are in control. The powers of darkness haven’t won the day. The fall of the Roman Empire has already been planned out in Yahweh’s secret scroll.

Well, so far this has been a mixed message. Seeing the Roman Empire suffer is certainly satisfying, but this bit about Yahweh and Jesus intentionally killing off more Christians is tough to swallow and there’s still one more seal intact. But before Jesus breaks that seal, He’s going to take a moment to give His Jewish audience some extra assurances about the joys waiting for them in Heaven. After all, it is difficult to hear God say that He’s not done killing off His own people.

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