We continue to explore another of the famous images of The Book of Revelation – the seven seals. We begin this episode in the midst of the sixth seal, evaluating how it relates to a prophecy from Joel in the Old Testament and a prophecy from Jesus in the gospels. These seals center on the wrath of God and his unchanging nature. He is perfectly just and perfectly merciful.
We’re continuing in chapter 6 of Revelation, and let’s just go back to 6:1 so we can remember where we are.
And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals—What we’re doing is we’re unrolling this scroll, and the Lamb of God who was found worthy to open the scroll. It looked for a minute like nobody was going to be able to open it. John cried. And the lamb was found worthy and could open the scroll. So he breaks the first seal.
What’s happening is the lamb is breaking these seals and unrolling the scroll, and every time he breaks a seal and unrolls the scroll, a story comes to life. And we’ve seen the first five seals broken; and now we’re going to see the sixth seal.
The wrath of God
Before we do, let’s just skip over to Revelation 15:1 so we can just see where we’re headed here. And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them the wrath of God is complete.
What we see here we’ve got seven seals and the seventh seal is seven trumpets. And the last trumpet is seven bowl judgments. And of the bowl judgments is the fullness of the wrath of God. We will see God’s righteousness and his justice actually come to complete fruition. That’s where we’re headed. We’ve got seals and then trumpets and then bowls. And right now, we’re finishing the seals.
The sixth seal
Let’s go back to chapter six, and we’ll do the sixth seal. Verse 12. I looked when He—he here would be the Lamb, so the Lamb keeps breaking the seals and unrolling the scroll. I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became as 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. 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, 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! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
We’re getting progressively more severe as we go through these incidents. Now we have some great cosmic events that are taking place.
The first thing is a great earthquake. The Greek words here are megas seismos. You probably could have figured that one out, right? And the sun became as black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs.
Prophesied by Joel
These particular things are interesting because they are predicted as far back as Joel. Look at Joel 2:31. Joel 2:31 says,
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
This phrase day of the Lord is something that basically doesn’t have a technical meaning. It’s a day when God is acting and usually bringing judgment. But the great day of the Lord is basically what we’re talking about now in Revelation, but there are multiple days of the Lord. The great and awesome day of the Lord, is basically what we’re talking about here. Perhaps it refers to several events. But for sure the sun is going to be turned into darkness and the moon into blood. That’s all the way back in Joel.
Peter quotes Joel’s prophecy
This reference, Joel 2:31 is quoted by Peter in Acts 2:20. Peter is giving a sermon, and he says,
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
Let’s look at the context in which he’s saying this. It’s very interesting.
If you go back to verse 14, this is after the day of Pentecost, and people are speaking in other languages. And they accuse the people there of being drunk. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk as you suppose, since it’s only the third hour of the day. That would be 9:00 in the morning. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
So that is what had just happened. The Holy Spirit is now coming to live inside of us as part of our experience of being a child of God.
The Holy Spirit came upon people and indwelt them in Old Testament times, but the Spirit would come and go. It was for special service. Now the Spirit has come to indwell and brand new, amazing things are going to happen because of that Spirit.
I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
It seems what’s happening here is what Peter’s saying, a new age has been inaugurated. And we know that now it’s the church age, the age of the Gentiles. We had the age of Israel and specifically the 69 weeks of years that Daniel spoke of where the Jewish nation is the focus of history.
But when Jesus was rejected that clock stopped and a new clock began, and it starts with the Holy Spirit being poured out, and it’s going to end with these cosmic disturbances we are now speaking of.
Jesus prophesies his return
Jesus also spoke of this. He spoke of it in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Let’s just look at Mark 13:24. But in those days—Jesus said, his words—after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
The first time the Son of Man came, what did he come with: service, lowliness. He came as the bondservant, to serve.
And he’s saying, there’s going to be these great cosmic disturbances, and then I’m going to come back in power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds—In this particular context, if you go to Mark 13:14, this is the particular tribulation he’s speaking of that follows. Because he says, “after this tribulation.”
The Great Tribulation begins with the abomination of desolation.
If you look at verse 14, it says, So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet—and what we know is in the 70th week of Daniel, this seven-year period that begins when the antichrist makes a covenant with Israel, and the Jewish clock then ticks, the age of the Gentiles now ends and the age of Israel begins again, this seven week period—in the middle of that week, there will be an abomination of desolations. And that’s when the Great Tribulation starts, this three and a half years, this 42 months which, were it not shortened, the whole world would not survive.
He says when this happens, this tribulation, after this, you’re going to see these great signs take place, these cosmic disturbances. These are things now happening that have been predicted from Joel and then from Jesus and then from Peter. Peter obviously had been taught this from Jesus that this is part of what is now happening, and we are an integral part of this age.
The stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs—Now this is a very interesting one, because of some of the verses that we’re going to see in Revelation shortly.
Let’s just look at a few of them: Revelation 8:10. Then the third angel sounded—We’re now in the trumpet judgment and the third trumpet has sounded—And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of the water. The name of the star is Wormwood. Hold that thought.
Go to Revelation 9:1. Then the fifth angel sounded: And I saw a star fallen from heaven to the earth. To him was given the key to the bottomless pit. Isn’t that interesting?
All of these words, by the way, it is the Greek word aster, like asteroid, star. So this star is an angel. This angel falls from heaven and is given a key to the bottomless pit. Keep that in mind.
Revelation 12:4. His tail—Now we’re seeing a sign in heaven. Now we’re seeing the dragon. And his tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Well what are these stars?
Look at 12:9. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
So the third of the stars equals a third of the angels.
So what is being cast to earth here? The stars of heaven falling to earth. Is it physical stars falling to earth? Or is it the angels falling to earth? Or is it both? Are they somehow connected?
We will also see as we unroll these events that a third of the stars are not going to be visible anymore to the human eye. You know, this is very fascinating. C. S. Lewis I think picked up on this in his space trilogy and in other writings he had. In the Narnia Chronicles, for example, he actually has an angelic creature physically connected with a star. When one does something, the other does something with it. Maybe that’s part of what’s going on.
In any event, we see once again the intricate connection between what’s going on in heaven and what’s going on on earth. Remember, we’re in the throne room here. And we break the seal, and the rider on the white horse is given the authority to go conquer. And death and hades are given the authority to go execute death on a fourth of the earth. We’re going to see this over and over again.
One of the main messages in this book: God is on his throne. No matter how out of control everything looks on earth, everything’s being authorized.
Angelic events and cosmic disturbances are interconnected
So these heavenlies have a tremendous connection. And it’s interesting, we’re going to see before long, the heavenlies are going to be confined to earth in terms of Satan and his angels.
We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, where? In the heavenly places. Because that’s where the powers are now. We can see that in Job. They go back and forth. Well before long, their access to heaven is terminated, and they’re only on earth, and things get a lot worse when that happens.
Angelic events, cosmic disturbances are all interconnected somehow. I’ll be fascinated to find out exactly how that happens. We’re only, I think, given hints here that that’s the case.
More cosmic disturbances
Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. This term every mountain and island, it’s the same word that’s used when they speak of Paul and say, “The whole world has gone after him.” Now when they say “The whole world has gone after him,” do they mean that every single person in the world has gone after him? Well, obviously not because they haven’t gone after him.
What they mean is people from all over the world are going after them, of all sorts. That’s what the idea is here. This doesn’t necessarily mean every island and every mountain. But mountains and islands all over the globe are being affected.
And the sky is receding like a scroll. Now this word scroll is interesting. It’s the word biblion. Everywhere else in the New Testament I could find that biblion shows up, it’s translated as book. Because that’s what we would have. We would have book, not scroll. In this one instance, they translated it scroll because we don’t roll up books. Everywhere else it’s book because they had scrolls and we have books. It’s something you read. But in this case, it’s something you roll up, so they translated it scroll.
Again, I don’t think the main point here is for us to discern exactly what causes the sky to roll up. If I were going to guess, I would say this sounds like the ring of fire around the Pacific rim goes into massive action again. And this sounds to me like volcanic activity because islands are usually volcanic related. Most mountains that are on the sea coast are volcanic related, and you certainly could see the earth roll up and all sorts of effects of the air by volcanic activity. But I don’t know what it is.
When Mount Pinatubo blew up, it was just one volcano, it totally disrupted the weather patterns.
Just think if that happens with, say, a hundred volcanoes or a thousand volcanoes all going off at one time and maybe even magma coming in from the ocean floor.
You know we kind of sit on a ticking time bomb. I think we know that already.
I’m always fascinated by my own reaction to temperature. When it’s 72 degrees, “Man, I’m so comfortable outside.” 78, it’s really nice. 85, it starts to get a little hot. 95, it’s comfortable in the shade, hot in the sun. 100, man, think about how much the earth has to wobble for the temperature to change 50 degrees, and suddenly earth is not habitable anymore. We’re so fragile. Here we tend to think that everything’s so steady. It’s not.
The only reason we’re so steady is because God’s hand is holding all this. And when he authorizes disturbances to happen, they’re going to be substantial.
People beg rocks to fall on them and hide them from God
Verse 15. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man—Who else is there? If you have every slave, every man, every ruler, ever great man, isn’t that everybody? So everybody universally says this: Obviously when you have this kind of cosmic disturbance, this kind of climate change, we’ve got to finally stop fracking. That’s what they say here. No! They do not say that, thankfully.
See, this is one of the most encouraging things about all this. You actually have reality happening here. Because they say, Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
It looks like atheism finally goes on hard times. Nobody is saying here anymore crazy stuff about why things happen. Everybody gets it. Everybody, from the smallest to the greatest, realizes this is Jesus Christ bringing wrath on the earth because we rejected him.
God never changes
That brings up something that is uncomfortable for modern-day evangelicals because isn’t Jesus a pacifist? Isn’t Jesus a very mild-mannered guy, little limp-wristy, who hates wrath now? Because there’s the Old Testament God who was vengeful, but then he grew and became the New Testament God who is always about love, flowers in his hair maybe.
Well, no, of course not. God is God. God never changes.
Let’s look at the idea of God’s wrath. Let’s look at Romans 12:19. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves—Now we like wrath, don’t we? We like to pour out wrath on anyone who didn’t give us what we wanted. We like to give them anger, rejection, perhaps a fist in the face because they defied us. And the Bible tells us don’t ever do that. We don’t get to be the authority in the universe. In fact, God says, I make the rules and I am the enforcer of the rules. Don’t make things about you. You’re not able to handle it. I, God, am able to handle it.
Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to—what?—wrath—Who’s wrath? God’s wrath. ‑‑‑‑for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay—Now this it is written comes from Deuteronomy, and that’s actually speaking of Israel. God is telling Israel before they go into the promised land, you’re going to disobey me. And when you do, I’m going to repay you for your evil. But then, I’m going to bring you back because when I bring you wrath, it’s for your restoration.
Well, in the case of Revelation, it’s restoration as well. It’s not restoration, necessarily, of these people, however. You would think that if they recognized this is all happening because the Lamb of God is causing it to happen, that they would fall down and say, “God have mercy on us!” But their rejection is complete. Their hearts are stone. Because they say, “Just hide me from the wrath of the Lamb.”
Human government until God’s wrath is made full
Of course in the intervening time, until God’s wrath is made full, God left us human government, church government because since we can’t handle bringing wrath ourselves, we need help from our fellow man. And we need the ability to, say, go to the leaders of the church and say, “I have a dispute with this person, and I can’t reconcile it. Would you help us?” Because we can’t be objective.
We need the ability to go to a court and say, “This person won’t pay me. I think he owes me this money. Would you help us reconcile this.” That is God’s wrath; that’s God’s justice. Because, government has the moral authority to hurt people and kill people and incarcerate people and be doing good. In every other context, that’s bad. Kidnapping is bad. Assault is bad. But when a police officer does it, it’s supposed to be good. And if they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, it is.
The bowls are God’s wrath on the earth
Let’s look at one other verse, Revelation 16:1-7: Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls—It’s seven seals, seventh seal, seven trumpets, seventh trumpet is seven bowls. So he’s now giving the order to go pour the bowls. And the bowls are the wrath of God on the earth. That’s the name of the bowls. So they go and start pouring the bowls.
It is their just due
Then look at verse 5: And I heard the angel of the waters saying:
“You are righteous, O Lord,
The One who is and who was and who is to be,
Because You have judged these things.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
And You have given them blood to drink.
For it is their just due.”
That’s what they deserved. We all kind of know this. I mentioned this multiple times but Osama Bin Laden died, and we had a national celebration because it was his just due. We know this instinctively as people.
We saw the martyrs under the altar, and they were saying, “How long are you going to wait before you give our murderers their just due?” And God said, well here’s a robe. Wear this robe because it’s going to take a little while longer because there are not enough of you yet. We have to wait until all your brothers and sisters get here that are going to be martyred, and then they’re going to get their just due.
The bowls that are poured out are an answer to prayers for justice. And these prayers have been going up for millennia. But justice will happen.
God is in control of nature
So now, chapter 7. After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.
So God is on his throne. We’re in the throne room. That’s emphasized over and over again. Any time something happens on earth, it’s authorized in heaven. It’s either happening because of the trigger of the seal, or there’s a specific authorization being given.
Now we’re reminded that God is in control of nature as well. Remember when Jesus was in the boat, he calmed the wind and it stopped. And the disciples marveled and said, “Who is this that even calms the wind?” Well, it’s the creator.
So now we’re reminded God is in control of nature because it looks like nature is blowing up just like there’s supernatural activity blowing up, and massive negative things are happening. But once again, nature is under God’s control. Nothing’s going to happen unless it’s authorized.