Saturday, 28 November 2020
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. Revelation 6:12
John’s attention is now redirected once again with the breaking of the next seal. The first four seals dealt with the judgments upon the earth, symbolized by the four horsemen. The fifth seal took us to the heavenly altar and the souls of those who were martyred for faith in Christ during those judgments. John is now directed back to the earth and the “two great lights” of Genesis 1, the sun and the moon. The scene begins with, “I looked when He opened the sixth seal.”
A new judgment is coming. Whether these judgments are chronological or not is debated, but probably not. Each is simply something that occurs during the tribulation period, and it is introduced in a logical sequence for the reader to understand. For example, it is certain that the consequences of the four horsemen will fill the entire tribulation period. For now, however, John is directed to the events surrounding this sixth seal, saying, “and behold, there was a great earthquake.”
The word translated as “earthquake” is seismos. It signifies a shaking, or even a storm (as in Matthew 8:24). Despite being a “shaking,” the translation of “earthquake” is certainly correct. The Bible records several earthquakes in the past and in the future. One such example is found in Ezekiel 38 –
“‘And it will come to pass at the same time, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,’ says the Lord God, ‘that My fury will show in My face. 19 For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: “Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel, 20 so that the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all men who are on the face of the earth shall shake at My presence. The mountains shall be thrown down, the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.”’” Ezekiel 38:18-20
The timing of earthquakes, such as the one in Ezekiel, is propitiously placed when redemptive events occur. One of the most notably propitious timings of all such events in human history is found in Matthew 27 –
“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Matthew 27:51-53
Another such event is prophesied to occur at Christ’s second coming when His feet stand on the Mount of Olives. At that time, it will be split in two according to Zechariah 14:4. God’s purposes for moving history along in a predetermined manner include His use of the elements to effect those purposes.
John next says, “and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.” It is two separate things, but they are the result of one event. Because the events are mentioned after the earthquake, this terminology is surely to be taken literally. What is most likely being described is an earthquake large enough to cause volcanoes or some other natural disaster that will spew great volumes of dust and debris into the atmosphere. This will cause the darkening of the sun during the day and the moon looking red like blood at night.
This is seen at times from other such events. Sandstorms from Africa will cause the sun and moon to darken over the United States. The oil fields burning during the Iraq war caused this to occur for an extended period of time in many parts of the world, and so on.
As the events of the Bible are generally surrounding the Middle East, it is certain that this is the view that will be seen from there, and particularly in Israel. Based on the terminology in the rest of this chapter, it is likely that this will not be isolated to the Middle East though, but it could possibly encompass the whole earth. Such an event is prophesied by Christ Jesus in Matthew 24 –
“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. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:29-31
The two accounts between Matthew and Revelation parallel exactingly. The events of the first five loosing of the seals closely match the events Jesus speaks of in Matthew 24 that precede His coming as prophesied there. The words of Matthew 24 match the verses here in Revelation 6. And so, even if not completely chronological in the opening of the seals, they do follow the overall pattern of what Jesus first spoke of to Israel.
Life application: The events spoken by Jesus in Matthew 24 were spoken to Israel, under the law, and in anticipation of events in their history leading up to the kingdom age. Christ was not speaking to the Gentile-led church, and it is not until Acts 10 that it was even known that Gentiles would be a part of what was going on. And, not until the introduction of Paul was this mystery most fully understood (e.g., see Ephesians 3:1-7).
The events of Revelation that parallel the events of Matthew 24 are directed to Israel during the tribulation period, not to the church – which has been taken out at the rapture. In mixing dispensations, one will always (not sometimes, but always) have confused theology. There will be contradictions that are not resolvable because the events and theology for the various dispensations apply only to those dispensations.
All of Scripture is useful for the disciple of Christ to understand the redemptive narrative, but not all of Scripture is directed to everyone at all times. Have sound theology, keep things in context, and do not mix theology between dispensations. In this, you will do well, and your eschatology will be sound.
For example, in Acts 2, Peter speaks of the sun turning into darkness and the moon into blood. His words are quoting Joel chapter 2, and they are applied to Pentecost in the year of the resurrection of Jesus in a symbolic fashion, but this isn’t a full picture of what Peter was speaking about.
Instead, he was saying these things would come because of Jesus’ completed work, but not that they had necessarily come in their fullness at that time. The context of Peter’s words must be evaluated based on the original prophecy in Joel. Further, they must be evaluated based on who Peter was speaking to – the Jewish people only. Some of those events are future to us, even now, and they will be fully realized after the rapture of the church, in and through the people of Israel.
How great and wonderful You are, O God. You have given us a look into future events and what is coming upon the whole world. And, You have also given us the way to avoid being caught up in them – by calling on Jesus now. Help us to focus our thoughts, hearts, and minds on Jesus and to tell His message to others before that Day comes. Amen.