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CHAPTER SIX - THE FIRST SIX SEALS

Revelation 6:1

(1) Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of (2) the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, (3) "Come."

1. Then I saw = is a very important linking phrase used thirty-three times throughout the book of Revelation. It can introduce a new vision or a major segment of a continuing vision. Here it is obviously introducing a new segment in a continuing vision. The Lamb receives the scroll in chapter five and breaks the first seal in chapter six. There is no indication of a time lapse between these two chapters. One could argue that the Lamb has not actually received the scroll, but one day in the future will and thus will execute its content. This will prove a very important interpretive key to John’s Revelation. That is, distinguishing between the events that have historically occurred and those merely described as occurring, but will in fact occur in the future.

2. The four living creatures = this is the first example of an angelic being commanding another angelic being to do a particular deed. This indicates a hierarchical structure among the angelic host.

3. Come = this verb can mean "to go" or "to come" depending on the context. The more natural sense seems to be something like "get going."

Revelation 6:2

I looked, and behold, (1) a white horse, and he who sat on it had (2) a bow; and (3) a crown was given to him, and (4) he went out conquering and to conquer.

1. A white horse = the fact that the horse is white is symbolic. However, what is symbolically represented by the white horse is not certain. Equally, the rider on the white horse is not certain. Some argue that the rider is Jesus Christ--a position that does not contextually fit. That the Lamb is breaking the seals and at the same time represented as a rider is unlikely. Equally, there is no prophetic indication that Christ comes at the beginning of the eschatological events. The only similarity between the rider of Revelation 6 and Revelation 19 is the "white horse," which is hardly a basis to claim equality. The identity or actions indicated by the breaking of the first seal can only be discerned from prophetic parallels throughout Scripture. A conquering rider fits best with the lawless one prophetically depicted in II Thessalonians 2.

2. A bow = is used in Scripture in both a literal and figurative manner. It is hardly possible that a literal bow is intended here. It was not the favorite weapon of choice for Roman soldiers and in modern warfare, a bow would be useless. The bow is used figuratively in Scripture as a symbol of war.

3. A crown was given to him = a crown is a symbol of authority or right to rule. Was given indicates that this rider does not take authority, but that it is given to him. This is an example of the passive voice in which the subject is acted upon instead of doing the acting. In other words, the subject receives the action. The particular Greek word used here appears 22 times throughout the book of Revelation. The giver is not explicitly identified, but context indicates that either God or Satan is the ultimate cause behind each action indicated in these passages.

4. He went out conquering and to conquer = here we see the purpose of the rider. He conquers. What he conquers is not indicated.

There are several questions, which the seals foster. First, what is the relationship of the Lamb to the events unleashed by the broken seals? The second question: who is the rider on the white horse? The last question concerns the timing of the rider’s conquest.

It is clear that the first four seals are different from the final three seals, a distinction also recognized in the trumpet judgments. In addition, it is clear that the breaking of a seal inaugurates the events of that seal. Therefore, what term properly reflects the Lamb’s relationship to these events? Does the Lamb cause or allow the events? Is He directly or indirectly responsible for the events?

In relation to the first four seals, a third party causes the first, second, and fourth seals. The third seal indicates that "a voice in the center of the four living creatures" announces the impact of the third seal. David Aune concludes that these facts support the conclusion that God commissions or enables these events (Aune, Revelation 6-16, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 393). We, therefore, agree that God is the direct cause of these events. This is not to say that the first four seals are the wrath of God. A point proven by the question of the fifth seal martyrs, which we will discuss later. Rather, these are prophesied events of the future, which God will superintend to insure fulfillment. As all events on earth are controlled by heaven, the first four seals are broken in heaven to allow the riders to ride on earth. As in all cases, God allows evil, but is never its author or agent.

The second question fostered by the first seal concerns the identity of the rider. Out of the many possibilities offered, we prefer the person who will later be identified as the beast from the sea (Rev 13:1). As the primary antagonist and counterpart to the Lamb in the Revelation, the beast best accords with the description given in the first seal.

First, the rider is mounted on a white horse. This is compared to the Lord who rides a white horse when He comes at Armageddon as detailed in Revelation 19:11-21. This has led some commentators to argue that the reader is Christ Himself. This can hardly be the case given that Christ breaks the seals. Equally, it is clear that the seals initiate events on the earth in connection with the end of the age during which the Lord will return to earth from heaven. During this period, there is no prophetic indication that the Lord will initiate this period by conquering on the earth. The white horse imagery is the first indicator of the rider’s identity. As the imitator of Christ and world-deceiver, the beast fulfills his destiny. The white horse is a part of his deception.

The second descriptive detail associated with this rider is a bow. The bow is an ancient instrument of war. This rider is prepared for war. The third descriptive detail concerns a crown. The crown (stephanos) denotes rule or authority (II Sam 12:29-30). The fourth and final descriptive detail concerns the rider’s conduct—"he went out conquering and that he might conquer." To rule over others by conquest is the goal of this rider. As will be evident later, these are descriptive details related to the beast.
The Lord Jesus predicted that the end of the age would begin with a dramatic increase in false proclaimers. These false proclaimers will proclaim one message, but have false motives (Matt 24:5).

Revelation 6:3-4

When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come." And another, (1) a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, (2) it was granted to take peace (3) from the earth, and (4) that men would (5) slay one another; and (6) a great sword was given to him.

1. A red horse = is the color designation for the second horse. Unlike white, which is a possible color for a horse, fiery red clearly is not intended to be taken literally. Given the nature of the second seal, fiery red may be intended to be symbolic of bloodshed.

2. It was granted = is another indication that a third party is controlling these events.

3. From the earth = suggests that this rider’s influence will be felt worldwide. John does not intend that every nation on the face of the earth will be at war, but that the climate of the earth will be one of warfare and unrest.

4. That = indicates the purpose of the unrest caused by the rider.

5. Slay one another = connotes violence and savagery (Louw-Nida, § 20.72). This does not mean that all nations will be at war, but that many will be at war and death will be brutal.

6. A great sword = is symbolic of authority to put to death (Rom. 13:4). Again, the agency of a third party is required. This proves what heaven authorizes earth executes.

Revelation 6:5-6

When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come." I looked, and behold, (1) a black horse; and he who sat on it had (2) a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like (3) a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of (4) wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a (5) denarius; and (6) do not damage (7) the oil and the wine."

1. A black horse = is symbolic of famine. Since black is a possible color for a horse, some are tempted to argue for a literal black horse here. However, this horse, as the previous ones, represents a condition about to be let loose on the earth.

2. A pair of scales = represents the dire situation some will face on the earth. A balance scale would be used for weighing bread only in a severe famine. Leviticus 26:26 and Ezekiel 4:16-17 both indicate that weighed bread is a condition of severe famine.

3. A voice in the center of the four living creatures = is previously identified as the Lamb (Rev 4:6, 5:6). The voice declares the condition of the earth. Again, heaven is actively involved in the events connected with the seals. However, at no point can the first four seals be shown to be the wrath of God.

4. Wheat…barley = is one of two harvest in the Middle East. Wheat is necessary for bread and barley for porridge and the stalk for feeding animals.

5. Denarius = was indicated to be a day’s wage by the Lord in Matthew 20:1-16.

6. Do not harm = the Greek suggests that no harm has come to the earth prior to this command.

7. Wine and oil = is the second of two harvest in the Middle East. Olives and grapes are spared destruction.

Revelation 6:7-8

When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come." I looked, and behold, (1) an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name (2) Death; and Hades was following with (3) him. (4) Authority was given to them over (5) a fourth of the earth, (6) to kill with (7) sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.

1. An ashen horse = green, which indicates a symbol, perhaps of life.

2. Death and Hades = is referred to here as a person. This is called "personification" and is a figure of speech. This occurs four times in the Revelation (1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14). The term death is always followed by the term Hades. Since Hades is a result of death (there would be no Hades if there was no death); death is primary.

3. Him = death, which is spoken of as a person.

4. Authority = dominion.

5. A fourth of the earth = is speaking either geographically or demographically.

The focus is clearly on the people of this "fourth of the earth." The beast will be given "a fourth of the earth," but he will attempt to take control of the whole earth. Based on Daniel 2 and Ezekiel 38 the final Beast Empire will consist of peoples from modern day Iraq, Iran, Syria, Ethiopia, Libya, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia and Germany. These nations at present combine populations equal to about one-tenth the total population of the earth. However, geographically, these nations equal one-fourth the earth’s total landmass. (9 million square miles)

6. To kill = this is the purpose of Antichrist’s dominion. This does not mean that he will kill "a fourth of the earth," but that he could if he wanted to do so. The "fourth of the earth" references does not refer to Christians. If "a fourth of the earth" was Christians and the beast killed them all, there would be none left when the Lord appears from heaven.

7. Sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts of the earth = Commentators are quick to find an Old Testament parallel for this phrase. While it is true that God used the sword, famine and pestilence to discipline Israel in the past (Jer 24:10, Ezek 12:16). There is no prophecy of a future judgment of this nature against Israel. There is only one occurrence where "wild beasts" is added to the list—Ezekiel 14:21. Context limits that judgment to the city of Jerusalem only.

However, Revelation 6:8 speaks about "a fourth of the earth" suffering the events mentioned above. The fact that the term "wild beasts" is used in some translations has led some to a false interpretation. It should be first admitted that "wild beast" is not the correct translation of the Greek in Revelation 6:8. The word is tharion and its basic meaning is beast. It can be translated beast (Titus 1:12) or wild beast (Acts 11:6). Context determines which translation is best. It is used thirty-nine times in the book of Revelation. In thirty-eight occurrences, the term refers either to the beast, the false prophet (the second beast) or the image of the beast, and it is correctly translated beast. However, the translators attempting to clarify the meaning in Revelation 6:8 incorrectly translated the text wild beasts.

There is no grounds for the translation wild beast in Revelation 6:8. Since beast (antichrist) (Rev 13:7), the false prophet (Rev 13:15), and the image of the beast (Rev 13:15) all have power to put to death; and since both the beast (Rev.13:1) and the false prophet (Rev 13:11) are of the earth, they are better referents for "beasts" in Revelation 6:8.

Revelation 6:9-11

And when he broke (1) the fifth seal, I saw underneath (2) the altar (3) the souls of those (4) who had been slain (5) because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they creed out with a loud voice, saying, (6) "How long, O Lord, holy and true, (7) wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging (8) our blood on (9) those who dwell on the earth?" And there was given to each of them (10) a white robe; and they were told that they should (11) rest for a little while longer, until the number of their (12) fellow servants and their brethren (13) who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also.

1. The fifth seal = initiates a second series of seals that are unlike the first four. Gone are the horses and riders who initiate events. The fact that death reigned over "a fourth of the earth" in the fourth seal makes the fifth seal a probable result. The relationship between seals five, six and seven is the wrath of God: seal 5 asks for it; seal 6 announces it; and seal 7 depicts it.

2. The altar = a very definite altar is in view here. Yet, this is the first of eight occurrences of the term in the Revelation. Two distinct "altars" are represented in the Revelation. The altar of incense is mentioned in Revelation 8:5 and 9:13. The altar of burnt offerings is mentioned in Revelation 6:9; 11:1; and 16:7. The altar of burnt offerings was located in the court of the priests. The altar of incense was located in the holy place before the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place. Therefore, the altar mentioned in Revelation 6:8 is likely the altar of incense which may suggest why the souls "cry out with a loud voice."

Why would these faithful souls be kept underneath this particular altar? No explicit reason is given. However, inasmuch as these individuals paid the ultimate sacrifice for God (physical death), they are symbolically kept at the place nearest to God, the very place from which God receives fragrant aromas, the altar of incense. We should discern that God finds great pleasure in these souls.

3. The souls = this term is used twice in the Revelation (Rev 6:9 and 20:4). In both cases, those represented have not been resurrected.

4. Who had been slain = the term used here occurs throughout the Revelation. It can be used to describe death from a variety of causes. In Revelation 5:12 and 13:8, it describes the Lord’s death by crucifixion. In Revelation 18:24, it describes the death of "all who have been slain on the earth." Therefore, we can say that this term does not focus on any particular mode of death. The result is the important issue—death. The same cannot be said for the martyrs mentioned in Revelation 20:4. There, the specific issue of beheading is important as the mode of death. It is important to remember concerning the martyrs of Revelation 6:9 that all believers of all the ages are not represented by this reference. Only those recently killed are in focus. This point is defended by the martyrs’ own statement that God is to avenge their blood "on those who dwell on the earth." Those living on the earth at this time are the only ones responsible for the death of the martyrs since they are the only one who will receive God’s judgment. Nothing is stated about the dead would also include some who would be guilty of the death of God’s righteous ones.

5. Because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained = here we have two reasons given for the physical death of these saints.

a. Because of the word of God = concerns truth. These people died for the truth, which they could not deny.

b. Because of the testimony which they had maintained = both this and the phrase above is similar to the statement of Revelation 1:2 and 9. There, testimony is followed by of Jesus Christ. These individuals died for the same reason John suffered. They maintained or continued to witness to the fact Jesus is Lord. This clearly establishes what the primary issue will be for those who claim the name of Jesus during the persecution of "death and hades": the word of God and the believer’s testimony for Jesus, the Christ. There is nothing here to preclude these people from being members of the body of Christ as was John, the apostle.

6. How long = the importance of the martyrs comes to light at this point. They question the Lord concerning their persecutors. The phrase "how long?" in the context of a prayer is not uncommon in Scripture—particularly the Old Testament (Pss 6:3-4; 13:1-2; 35:17; 74:9-10; 79:5; 80:4). The martyrs cry out for vengeance. Their question echoes the sentiment that too much time has passed between the deed and punishment. This is very similar to many Psalms which demand of God that He punish evil doers (Pss 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 139). King David prayed such a prayer (2 Sam 3:28-29). Nehemiah prayed a similar prayer (Neh 4:4-5).

7. Wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging = this is the essence of their question. The Greek literally says, "how long you not judge and avenge?" The words will and refrain from do not appear in the original Greek. Both the verbs to judge and to avenge are in the present tense, but it is a special use of the present tense, thus the insertion of the terms will and refrain from. It is critical that the reader understands that at this point in the narration God has not begun to judge and avenge. The verb to avenge will appear again in Revelation 19:2, which depicts the end of God’s wrath. No clue has yet surfaced to indicate that the wrath of God has begun through Revelation 6:10.

8. Our blood = this is the reason God is implored to take vengeance. Blood is used here as a figure of speech. Blood stands for the act that caused it to be poured from the body. In other words, blood stands for murder. These individuals died violent deaths, which demands justice.

9. Those who dwell on the earth = is a technical phrase that refers to the same group each time it is used in the book of Revelation. It is used nine times in the book:

a. Revelation 3:10 – those represented by the phrase are the object of the test that faithful followers of Christ are promised deliverance from.

b. Revelation 6:10 – they are directly responsible for the violent deaths of the faithful followers of Christ under the altar in heaven.

c. Revelation 8:13 – they are the expressed objects of the three "woes" expressed in trumpets five, six and seven.

d. Revelation 11:10a – they rejoice when the beast from the bottomless pit is finally able to put the two witnesses of God to death.

e. Revelation 11:10b – they are the objects of the torment of the two witnesses.

f. Revelation 13:8 – they are the non-elect worshippers of the beast who comes up out of the sea.

g. Revelation 13: 14a – the beast that comes up out of earth deceives them.

h. Revelation 13:14b – they make an image of the beast that comes up out of the sea.

i. Revelation 17:8 – they are the non-elect who wonder at the restoration of the beast from the abyss.

In each verse quoted above, those represented by the phrase "those who dwell upon the earth" are either hostile to the people of God or supportive of the beast and his endeavors.

10. A white robe = white garments are clearly the proper attire of those in the presence of God. Notice it will be the attire of:

a. The overcomers, (Rev 3:4-5, 18).

b. The Elders, (Rev 4:4).

c. The martyrs, (Rev 6:11).

d. The universally innumerable multitude, (Rev 7:9).

e. The armies of heaven, (Rev 19:14).

It is not altogether certain that literal "white robes" are the intent of John. More than likely, "white robes" are a metaphor (a figure of speech) that connotes moral purity. Moral purity can be possessed in this life as well as the life to come in the presence of God. John indicates that the Lord instructs the church at Laodicea "to buy from Me…white garments that you may clothe yourself." In other words, they can wear the robes, now. Yet, the Sardis church is promised "white garments" when the Lord returns. This supports the conclusion that "white garments" represent moral purity and not necessarily literal attire.

11. Rest = this is the second of two commands the martyrs receive from God. Louw-Nida indicates about the verb to rest that "the focus of meaning seems to be upon the restorative character of rest rather than mere cessation of activity" (Louw-Nida § 23.80). This indicates that the souls were in a state that allows for refreshment from the labors of this life.

12. Fellow servants and their brethren = an important question to be answered about this phrase is whether one or two groups are represented. There is no significance to a possible difference. Both will be killed. The phrase Fellow servants (sundouloi) is used three times in the book of Revelation (6:11; 19:10; 22:9). Twice, the apostle Paul uses it (Col 1:7; 4:7). In every case, faithful followers of God are intended. These are clearly church-age saints. There is nothing to preclude them from it.

13. Who were to be killed = is a clear indication that God has set a number of those who will be killed during the period represented in the Revelation. Equally, this indicates that death is not a sign of unfaithfulness, but in fact might be a sign of faithfulness. Some believers will die, no doubt, because of their unfaithfulness, but these are killed for their faithfulness. How many people will actually be killed may be indicated by the phrase "a little while longer." This tells us how long the killing will last. The exact Greek grammatical phrase occurs in John 7:33 and 12:35. The time represented by the phrase in John’s gospel could be from several days to a little more than a year. We are unable to be dogmatic, but the time represented in the Revelation by "a little while longer" is certainly not indefinite. Therefore, the number of those to be killed is not unlimited. Of particular interest is the fact that Revelation 10:6 announces that "there shall be delay no longer." This is a possible reference to Revelation 6:11. (A point to be discussed at length at location.)

Revelation 6:12-17

And I looked when He broke (1) the sixth seal, and (2) there was (2a) a great earthquake; and (2b) the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and (2c) the whole moon became like blood; and (2d) the stars of the sky fell to the earth, (2e) as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. And (2f) the sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up; and (2g) every mountain and island were moved out of their places. (3)And the (3a) kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, (3b) hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and (3c) they said to the mountains and to the rocks, (3d) "Fall on us and hide us (3e) from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and (3f) from the wrath of the Lamb; (3g) for the (3h) great day of their wrath has come; and (3i) who is able to stand?"

1. The sixth seal = the sixth seal continues a pattern begun at seal five, which demonstrates a difference between seals one through four and seals five through seven. No horse and rider is indicated. The question of the Martyrs is answered indirectly. The sign that announces the imminent arrival of the wrath of God is given in the form of earthly and cosmic disturbances unparalleled in human history. The impact is obvious—"men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world (Luke 21:26)."

2. John introduces earthly and cosmic disturbances, which are unparalleled in human history. This event has both Old and New Testament parallels.

2a. A great earthquake = the first sign of the imminent outbreak of the wrath of God is "a great earthquake." The NASB’s translation at this point may be a bit misleading. Seismos (the Greek word from which we get the English word seismology) literally means shaking. Whether the heavens or the earth is shaking is not clear here. Luke 21:26 indicates that "the powers of the heavens will be shaken." This is also supported by both Matthew 24:29 and mark 13:25. However, Isaiah 12:13 and Joel 3:16 both indicate that both the heavens and the earth will be shaken during the Day of the Lord. Therefore, both the heavens and the earth will shake violently. It is not clear how the shaking of the heavens will be experienced by those on the earth.
The evangelists indicate that "the powers of heaven will be shaken."

2b. The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair = this phrase indicates that something very dramatic will happen to the sun. The figure of speech—black as sackcloth made of hair—indicates that the sun will not give light, i.e. darkness in the universe. This point is echoed in Matthew 24:29. Now some find this point difficult to understand and therefore would rather understand this event to be symbolic and not literal. After all, they reason, it would not be just a matter of loss of light, but heat as well. This seems impossible, but this event will be unparalleled in human history. Many would have argued the impossibility of stopping the sun at high noon for twelve hours, but Joshua would argue differently, particularly given the effects of a solar eclipse. A total solar eclipse renders the earth dark, but does not cause a drop in temperature.

2c The whole moon became like blood = this third sign concerns the moon’s loss as a light source. The term Like blood indicates a figure of speech is used here.

Metaphors and similes are two examples of a particular kind of figure of speech that deals with comparisons. A metaphor says "one thing is another thing", i.e., "the Lord is my shepherd." In this case, this statement intends every attribute of a shepherd. In other words, everything about a shepherd is exactly what the Lord is. However, a simile is different in what it imports. A simile says one thing is like or as another, i.e., "the Lord is like a shepherd." Now this statement is much narrower than the metaphor. Unlike the metaphor, which is very broad in its application, the simile focuses on a contextually defined attribute. Usually that attribute is defined in the context. In our example above, "the Lord is like a shepherd" in that He protects me from my enemies.
Therefore, when John says, "the moon became like blood," we discern quickly that a simile is used. Now the question is this: what attribute of blood does John intend here? Based on the context and given what happens to the sun and the stars, John’s point concerns light—specifically the absence of light. Therefore, the moon will cease to be a light source for the night. Matthew 24:29 states, "the moon will not give its light."

2d. The stars of the sky fell to the earth = this is the fourth sign that will indicate the imminent outbreak of the wrath of God. Immediately, we have a problem. Given modern science, we know that it would be impossible for the stars, given their size, to fall literally upon the earth. However, the context suggests that a figure of speech is intended. The loss of their light is what is meant here.

2e. As a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind = this simile explains John's intent concerning the stars. Echoing Isaiah 34:4, which depicts both the leaves and the figs dropping, John highlights the figs. Matthew 24:29 states, "the stars will fall from the sky." Mark 13:25 says, "the stars will be falling from heaven." Joel 3:15 records, "the stars [will] lose their brightness." This is in concert with that which happens to the sun and the moon, i.e. the stars give off no light. It will look as if the stars have fallen from the heavens. There will be no light in the universe.

2f. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up = this is fifth cosmic disturbance John records. Literally, the text says the heaven. "The heaven was split," John says. The verb used here has several nuances. It can mean, "to split" or "to disappear." The simile, "like a scroll when it is rolled up," is not helpful at this point. Both nuances are possible. Many have experienced the phenomenon of placing on a desk a map that is continually rolled up. It will only lay flat as long as force is applied, but immediately if let go, the map will roll up quickly. In this sense, the map disappeared. However, a tightly wound up map recoils with a fast rate of speed when let go by a tight grip. Therefore, it is possible that John is emphasizing the speed with which the heaven will split.

Isaiah 34:4 is helpful at this point. There the prophet states, "And the host of heaven will rot, and the sky will be rolled up like a scroll…." The Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) uses the same word to translate the Hebrew that is used in the Revelation—to roll up. The sense is this: the sky will split apart in the same way a scroll is rolled up. The Hebrew scrolls of Isaiah’s day were rolled between two spindles. The issue of speed is therefore removed. A rolled up scroll removes the content of the scroll from sight. The heaven will move apart, which will allow the earth dwellers to see the spectacular descent of the Lamb from the very throne of God.

2g. Every mountain and island were moved out of their places = is the final event of this spectacular display of cosmic and earthly signs to signal the imminent outbreak of the wrath of God. Every single mountain and island will be moved out of its original place. This should not be confused with the seventh and final bowl judgment of Revelation 16:20. There, John indicates that no mountain shall be found and every island will flee away. Here the emphasis is on disappearance or ceasing to exist, but in Revelation 6:14 the emphasis is simple transition from one place to another. This textual detail should not be overlooked or minimized. Two distinct events are described in these two passages and only by minimizing the textual details can these two passages be described as the same event.

Clearly, these six cataclysms are designed to accomplish one thing—to get man’s attention. No man on the face of the earth at this time can possibly conclude anything other than the fact that the great God of heaven is coming in wrath, particularly when the Lamb is seen descending from heaven!

These six signs described above have a rich history in the Old Testament. The single most important event prophetically depicted in the Old Testament is the eschatological wrath of God—The Day of the Lord. John has eclectically gathered from Isaiah and Joel those cataclysms, which the Lord Jesus Himself depicted in Matthew 24:29-30.

Significantly, Joel 2:31 places an important time marker in relationship to these events. Joel declares, "The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes." Any and everyone who attempts to make the sign that initiates the Day of the Lord and Day of the Lord equal must violate this verse. Joel is clear: the sign occurs before the Day of the Lord comes. Whatever else the first four seals are, they are not a part of the eschatological wrath of God, a fact to be substantiated later.

3. The second significant portion of the sixth seal is the response of "those who dwell upon the earth" in Revelation 6:14-17.

3a. Kings…the great men…the commanders…the rich…the strong…every slave…free man = John lists a very broad cross section of humanity who respond to the sign that signals the imminent outbreak of the wrath of God. This list is intended to show that all unbelievers living on the earth at this time are the subjects of the coming wrath. Revelation 19:18-19 indicates that these are the very groups God shall sacrifice to the birds at His great supper.

3b. Hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains = this phrase indicates that the wide circle of humanity recognizes the import of these signs. This supports our claim that the "mountains" and "islands" do not disappear at this point, but move out of their original locations. Notice, they "hid themselves," which is past tense. These people are in the caves and mountains.

3c. They said to the mountains and to the rocks = indicates that the wicked desire death.

3d. Fall on us and hide us = this phrase is a bit strange. Perhaps, the strangeness of this verse demonstrates the level of fear the wicked are experiencing at this point. Death is not the immediate goal of the wicked at this point. Obviously, if the mountain falls on them, they will die, but they request not only to die, but also to be hidden from the sight of God. This suggests that the "presence of God" is beyond human appreciation unless man is holy. A wicked man in the presence of a holy God is beyond human tolerance. To be dead is not enough. To merely commit suicide is not enough. For the wicked, even to be dead in the presence of a holy God is not enough. They want to be buried. They want to be out of sight.

3e. From the presence of Him who sits on the throne = is a clear reference to God the Father. Throughout the book of Revelation, and in this context (notice the Lamb), God the Father is seated on the throne. Some argue that "the presence of Him who sits on the throne" is a roundabout way of referring to God the Father without mentioning His name directly. Who is seated is not an issue! For this author, we are more interested in what is seen by the wicked.

Isaiah 2:19 states, "And men will go into caves of the rocks, and into holes of the ground before the terror of the Lord, and before the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble." The terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty may refer to the glory of God. Peter declares in his second letter that Jesus, "received honor and glory from God the Father…the Majestic Glory…." Job 13:11 records, "Will not His majesty terrify you, and the dread of Him fall on you?" The point is this: there is going to be a manifestation of God the Father at this event. It will involve His glory, which might be depicted through a great throne since God is invisible.

3f. From the wrath of the Lamb = is the second object of terror for the wicked who seek death and burial as an escape. It is clear that the Lamb is Jesus Christ, the second member of the Trinity.

With the Lamb is connected wrath. This is the first explicit usage of the term wrath in the book of Revelation. That it is connected with the Lamb should not be taken lightly. Jesus is the eschatological Judge (John 5:27, Acts 10:42 and Daniel 7:13-14). He executes the Father’s wishes.

3g. For = indicates the reason for the conduct of the wicked. The reason the wicked call upon the mountains and the rocks to kill and bury them is because of the great day of wrath initiated by the cataclysms.

3h. Great day of their (His) wrath has come = is an important clause for several reasons. However, before we look at the significance of the complete clause, the reader may be aware of a slight difference in wording of this verse in different translations. Their verses His wrath is an ongoing discussion. One cannot be dogmatic either way. There is no theological difference regardless of the adopted reading. The Lord Jesus clearly states that He and the Father are one in ever way important. Therefore, His wrath is their wrath and their wrath is His wrath.

The context clearly identifies this day as the eschatological Day of the Lord, which in the Old Testament is God the Father’s day of wrath. However, in the New Testament, the term Lord comes to represent Jesus as well (Acts 2:36). Therefore, the Day of the Lord is both Jesus’ and the Father’s eschatological wrath.

Has come properly translates the grammatical construction, but the sense of the Greek verb is missing. The Greek suggests the sense "is about to come." The emphasis is on the initiation of the action. This fits well with the question of the Martyrs in the fifth seal. The fifth seal requests the coming of the wrath of God. The sixth seal announces the impending or imminent arrival of the wrath of God and the seventh seal demonstrates the wrath of God.

3i. Who is able to stand? = This rhetorical question demands an answer, which is "no one!" There is no wicked person able to stand up against the wrath of God.

 

Next Section: Chapter Seven - Deliverance

 


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