The Sixth Seal (Rev. 6:12–17)
With the opening of the first five seals, God has revealed His plan thus far. First, he sent His Eternal Word, incarnated, and became man without sin (the first seal). Then God made the Lord Jesus Christ sin by carrying our sins (the second seal) and becoming a curse (the third seal). Finally, through the eternal Spirit of God, Christ tasted death (the fourth seal) and went to Hades (the fifth seal).
In sequence, it makes much sense to view breaking the sixth seal as revealing the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and leading to the glories that follow (Rev. 6:12–17).
6:12 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.
The opening of the sixth seal revealed what looks like worldwide catastrophes, including the first of three great earthquakes, mentioned in (Rev. 6:12; 11:13; 16:18–19).
If we take these events literally, they will describe a scene that frightens even the most courageous person. All of nature has been affected: the sun, the moon, and the stars, as well as the heavens, the mountains, and the islands.
However, such a literal view does not go well with the message of the Gospel and Revelation. The One who opened the sixth seal is the meek and gentle Lamb of God (Matt. 11:28–30), who also said, “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47). The Lamb of God would not open the sixth seal to destroy God’s creation but renew it.
In general, the Bible uses earthquakes as symbols of God’s power (2 Sam. 22:8), presence (Ps.68:8), revelation (Ex. 19:18), and judgments (Ezek. 38:19–23). When God raised His Son from the dead, He manifested the exceeding greatness of His power (Eph. 1:18–20).
According to the gospel of Matthew, an earthquake occurred at Christ’s crucifixion, leading to the resurrection of many saints. Coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went to the holy city and appeared to many (Matt. 27:51–53).
After the Sabbath, St. Mary Magdalene and the other St. Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it (Matt. 28:1–2).
If a massive earthquake hits any place, it will destroy everything. However, through the destruction, something goos may come out. The old things would go away, leaving space for rebuilding new things. Likewise, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matt. 9:16–17). Old things have to go away to have a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
With the resurrection of Christ, God's divine power spiritually hit all the universe like a massive earthquake. It shook the foundations of heaven and earth to usher at the beginning of a new creation.
In (Rev. 6), the rest of the vision tells us about God’s plan of getting rid of the old things. Then, finally, (Rev. 7) tells us about God building up new things.
On the heels of the earthquake came what looked like a second disaster, as “the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair” (Rev. 6:12). Sackcloth was a rough cloth, usually made from the hair of black goats and worn by mourners. Thus, following the violent earthquake that devastates the earth, the sun will turn black as a mourner’s robe. The third disaster is closely connected with the darkening of the sun, as “the whole moon became like blood” (Rev. 6:12).
Isaiah also described this strange and terrifying phenomenon. The sun would be dark when it rises, and the moon would not shed its light (Isa. 13:10). According to Joel, the sun and the moon would grow dark (Joel 2:10,31; Acts 2:20).
The Lord God created the sun and the moon. He set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light to the earth, rule over the day and over the night, and divide the light from the darkness. And “God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:17–18). So, would the Lamb of God offer His life on the cross and open the sixth seal to strike what God saw was good? Certainly not! These disasters are not describing the sun and moon literally but figuratively.
In Genesis 37, Israel, formerly known as Jacob, mentioned the sun and the moon figuratively. Joseph had a dream. He saw the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to him in his dream. So, he told his father and brothers what he saw. Israel understood that the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars are himself, his wife, and his children, who, together with Joseph, became the twelve tribes (Gen. 37:10). After Joseph’s father heard the dream, he rebuked Joseph, saying, “Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?” (Gen. 37:9–11).
Thus, the sun and the moon figuratively are Isreal and his wife. They refer to of light of Israel, according to the flesh, the nation of Israel. With the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the light of Israel has faded. Blindness, in part, has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom. 11:25–26).
Now, in Christ, circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping God’s commandments is what matters (1 Cor. 7:19). Therefore, St. Paul said, “For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God's Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people” (Rom. 2:28–29, NLT).
With the death and resurrection of Christ, the light of the old covenant faded, making way for the new covenant. The Old Testament’s ministry system has gone, making way for the better ministry of the New Testament, through the blood of Christ.
The Father gave Christ a more excellent ministry. He has also become the Mediator of a better covenant, established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then there would not be a new one. Therefore, God’s promised, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Heb. 8:8–10).
6:13 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.
The word “stars” in the Bible is a generic term for all the heavenly bodies, including the stars, planets, comets, and meteors, excluding the sun and the moon. In this general sense, the phrase “the host of heaven” sometimes refers to all the astronomical phenomena visible in the night sky (2 Kings 17:16; 21:3–5; 23:4–5).
Some commentators believe the falling of the stars is most likely a reference to asteroids or meteor showers bombarding the earth. Modern experts believe the effects of such phenomena would cause much-unprecedented destruction. John portrayed the scene as “a fig tree that casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind” (Rev. 6:13).
The word “star” is also used figuratively to describe angels. Job 38:7 speaks of “the morning stars” (angels) singing together and all “the sons of God” shouting for joy. This symbolic usage is most evident in (Rev. 8:10–11 and 9:1–2). Not only are the holy angels called “stars,” but Satan himself is called a “morning star” (Isa. 14:12).
In (Rev. 6:13), the fall of the heavenly bodies refers to the fall of Satan and his angels. This vivid picture finds a parallel in Isaiah 34, where all the stars will dissolve, the heaven rolls up like a scroll. All the starry hosts will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree (Isa. 34:4).
Isaiah 14:12–15 and Ezekiel 28:11–19 furnish a picture of Satan’s original condition and the reasons for his loss of that position. Isaiah initially addressed these passages to the kings of Babylon and Tyre. But many scholars believe they refer to Satan himself. They tell of an exalted angelic being, one of God’s creatures, who became proud and ambitious and determined to take over the throne of God for himself. But God removed him from his position of great dignity and honor.
Satan persuaded one-third of the angels to join him in his rebellion (Rev. 12:3–4). Throughout the Old Testament, Satan sought to destroy the messianic line. (Rev. 12:4–5) says Satan tried to eliminate the Messiah Himself when He became a man. God threw Satan and his angels out of the celestial sphere (Rev. 12:7–12).
The Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18), and he also “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31). (Rev. 20) notes that Satan is bound for a “thousand years” and then finally cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:2, 10).
6:14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.
John described the sky as an unrolled scroll that splits in the middle and rolls up on either side. Nothing stays in its place. Every mountain and island moved from their space (Rev. 6:14).
After the death and resurrection of Christ, heaven and earth moved from their old state toward their renewal. According to God’s promises, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isa. 65:17). John also saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away (Rev. 21:1).
Christ is “the Beginning [and the head of] of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14), the “new creation.” Until the restoration of all things, the anticipated time of the renewal of heaven and earth, Christ shall be in heaven with His Father (Acts 3:21). Until this happens, heaven and earth are in continuous movement (Rev. 6:14). This movement refers to the groaning and the birth pangs of the creation looking for its redemption (Rom. 8:22–23).
6:15 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,
John saw a hopeless massive human escape before God and the Lamb. (Revelation 6:15) uses seven categories to embrace the concept of discrimination and the law of segregation: “the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave, and every free man.” Such segregation is of the old sinful nature, not the act of new creation in Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek in Christ, there is neither slave nor free, and there is neither male nor female; all are one (Gal. 3:28). Therefore, we may view the massive hopeless people on the run (Rev. 6:15) as the disappearance of old sinful nature living in people that makes them segregate people.
6:16 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!
While God loved the world to the extent that He offered His only begotten Son (John 3:16, 16:27), some tried to hide from His face. So they hid in the rocks and the mountains. So likewise, those living with the old sinful nature try to hide from God and His Son (Rev. 6:16).
The phrases “wrath of the Lamb” and “the great day of His wrath” are two expressions taken from the lips of the panicked crowd. But “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9). Moreover, the phrase “wrath of the Lamb” is not consistent with the nature of “the Lamb,” who is meek and lowly in heart (Matt. 11:28–30). The “wrath of the lion” would be more consistent. But people with old sinful nature have a misconception about the Father and His Son.
6:17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
The day of God’s wrath is not against people. It is against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people (Rom. 1:18). God has judged Babylon, the city of evil (Rev. 16:18–19).
The good news of the sixth seal is that, by the power of Christ’s resurrection, God took away the sinful nature of man, the corrupted by its deceitful desires. He gave us the heart of the “new man.” God buried our old sinful nature with Christ in baptism and raised us to a new life with Christ. Therefore, we should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk (Col. 2:12; Eph. 4:22).
In conclusion, the sixth seal is not about ecological destruction, devastation, or cosmic disturbances. It is about God’s plan of His “great and awesome day,” the day of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2:20), the day David and many others anticipated, and a day that many witnessed. Peter preached an entire sermon about it on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
It is the day to be glad and rejoice, not to be frightened. It is the day of joy for those who are new creations in Christ. “This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps.118:24). The rest of the good news revealed in the opening of the sixth seal will follow in (Rev. 7).