Welcome back to our series on Revelation chapters 6 and 7. In our last post, we talked about what happened when the first four seals were opened—a great war will begin that will involve nations in one-fourth part of the world, located in the Middle East. Out of that great war will emerge the personage the prophet Daniel described as the “little horn.” In this post, we’re going to talk about what happens when the fifth and sixth seals are opened. We’ll talk a little about the seventh seal, even though the seventh seal isn’t opened until Revelation chapter 8. Let’s begin!
Revelation Chapters 6 and 7
Second in a Five–Part Series
By Karen Thompson
The Martyred Souls
Rev. 6:9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
When the Lamb opened the fifth seal, John said, “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held…” (v. 9). The souls under the altar of God are Christians that were slain. It’s important to emphasize that it doesn’t say they were slain because they were in battle fighting a war. It doesn’t say they were slain because of famine or disease. It says very specifically they were killed because they were Christians, because of their faith. Those that killed them did not share their Christian faith, and that is why they were killed. This tells us that religion is a major factor in this time of wars and rumors of wars.
When John saw them, they were crying out to God: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (v. 10). Their deaths were unjust. They were innocent. They wanted to know when those who had killed them would be held accountable. They were told to rest for a season “until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled” (v. 11). Sadly, there would be more Christians that would be killed simply because of their faith. For the time being, they were told to rest. They can rest in the assurance that God will avenge theirs deaths. As Psalm chapter 94:1 says, vengeance belongs to the Lord. These saints were given white robes; white robes are an overcomer’s reward (Rev. 3:5).
The Beginning of Wrath
Rev. 6:12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; 13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. 14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
The Lamb opened the sixth seal and when He did, it set off a violent shaking of the earth. John described it saying, “there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind” (vv. 12–13). The earthquake was so powerful that mountains and islands were moved out of their places! Thus, the wrath of God began.
The first question that comes to mind is, what is it that initiates the wrath of God being poured out? John doesn’t tell us outright, so we must figure it out by examining all the words of the prophets. We learn that the violent earthquake is God’s response to when the little horn invades Jerusalem for the first time.
In fact, the little horn will invade Jerusalem a total of three times: at the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week, in the middle of the week, and at the very end of the week. The first time the little horn invades Jerusalem is when he uproots the three horns we read about in Daniel 8:9: “And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south (Egypt), and toward the east (Iraq), and toward the pleasant land (Israel).” Egypt will be the first to be uprooted, Iraq next, and then Israel (Dan. 11).
Based on the present geopolitical relationship among the nations, we can surmise that the invasion of Israel will cause an uproar, especially from the United States. The ensuing outrage and threats will somehow force the little horn into peace talks, which will result in a seven-year covenant among 10 Middle Eastern nations: “And he shall enter into a strong and firm covenant with the many for one week [seven years]” (Dan. 9:27 Amp.). We can only speculate on how the covenant comes into being, because the prophets don’t provide us with the specific details.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of the End Time Kingdom
But we know from Daniel that the relationship among these ten nations and the little horn will be tenuous at best. Daniel chapter two tells us about the little horn’s end time kingdom through a dream experienced by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. The king had a dream of a fierce-looking man made up of different metals. The king sought for a wise man to interpret what the dream meant. The Lord gave Daniel the interpretation.
Daniel described the metal man thusly. His head was made of gold, which Daniel said symbolized the Babylonian Empire. The metal man’s breast and arms made of silver symbolized the Medo/Persian Empire. His belly and thighs were of brass, symbolizing the Grecian Empire. His legs of iron symbolized the Roman Empire. And then Daniel described the end time empire of the little horn as feet made up partly of iron and clay (Dan. 2:32–33). This vision of the metal man was to foretell the full length of the times of the Gentiles, when Gentile nations would rule over Israel. Daniel went on to describe the end time kingdom made up of both iron and clay saying, “the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay” (Dan. 2:42–43). This means these ten nations will be aligned with each other, yet their union will be both strong and weak at the same time.
One thing we do know for sure is that the little horn will be the one with the answers for Middle East peace. We can deduce that because of Daniel’s description of the little horn: “…a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand” (Dan. 8:23–25).
The Hebrew word chiydah translated as “understanding dark sentences” means “riddle, difficult question, parable, enigmatic saying or question, perplexing saying or question.” The little horn will understand “dark sentences,” meaning he will be able to solve difficult problems. Down through the years, powerful men have tried to solve the Middle East conflict and bring about peace in that region. All efforts have failed. But the little horn, described here as a “king of fierce countenance,” will be the one with the answer. He’ll come up with a plan that will bring about peace. Ten nations will go along with his plan, and the result will be peace in the Middle East. For a time, at least.
This brings us to the second time the little horn will invade Jerusalem. He will break the covenant and invade Jerusalem in the middle of the seven years, after three and one-half years of peace. Upon his second invasion of Jerusalem, he will fulfill the prophetic word about him that says “by peace [he] shall destroy many” (Dan. 8:25). He first lulls the Jewish people into a covenant of peace and then breaks the covenant by invading Jerusalem. An earthquake takes place. It is during this second invasion that the little horn becomes the Antichrist/beast figure.
The third time Antichrist will invade Jerusalem is after the Jewish people have successfully regained control of the city. This happens at the end of the seven years. When Antichrist hears the bad news, he will be busy fighting in the northern continent of Africa. (Dan. 11:44–45) In fury, he rushes back to Jerusalem to regain control, and together with the other Middle Eastern horns, they burn down Jerusalem. (Rev. 17:16) An even more violent earthquake takes place at that time, so powerful that mountains and islands are obliterated.
God’s Wrath Begins and Ends in the Same Place
Let’s talk more about the earthquake. In the book of Revelation, we see the wrath of God begins and ends in the same place, completing a full circle. God’s wrath will begin with an earthquake so powerful that it will move mountains and islands out of their places, and it will end with another earthquake so massive that islands and mountains will disappear altogether! (Rev. 16:18–21)
John said the earthquake would be so strong that mountains and islands would be moved out of their places. We’ve already experienced earthquakes powerful enough to move islands out of their places. One of the most famous is the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck near Indonesia on December 27, 2004, which set off a destructive Tsunami. The earthquake resulted in the island of Indonesia moving about 100 feet to the southwest. The 8.9 earthquake in Japan on March 11, 2011, was so powerful that it moved Japan’s coastline by 13 feet, and it shifted the earth’s access 10 inches!
And, moreover, mountains can certainly be moved out of their places and disappear as well. You might remember the eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington State on May 18, 1980. Mount St. Helens was a beautiful mountain, but when the eruption took place, the northern half of the mountain simply crumbled and slid away.
In addition to the earthquake that moved islands and mountains out of their places, John said there were other disturbances in the heavens above. The sun became black, the moon turned the color of blood red, the stars of heaven fell to earth, and the sky rolled up like a scroll. Looking at this from a natural standpoint, it seems John was describing a great earthquake followed by volcanic eruptions.
Scientists have discovered that large earthquakes trigger an increase in volcanic activity in volcanoes nearby. That’s what happened with Mount St. Helens. Two months before it erupted, there were a series of earthquakes that occurred in the area. Studies say earthquakes and volcanic eruptions go hand in hand. As you probably already know, the earth is divided into sections called plates which float on the earth’s inner molten magma. Disturbances within the earth’s inner magma cause the earth’s tectonic plates to shift, which sets off earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Perhaps what John saw when the sixth seal was opened was an earthquake followed by volcanic eruptions. Volcanic ash being spewed into the atmosphere would certainly block out the sun’s rays so that the sun would become black. John described the heavens departing like a scroll being rolled together; this sounds like a very good description of billowing smoke rolling in on itself. Mount St. Helens spewed out a column of smoke and ash as high as 80,000 feet into the atmosphere and the ash landed in eleven U.S. states!
As far as the moon turning the color of blood red, there are only three reasons for the moon turning red. The moon turns the color of red when there is a lunar eclipse, or when the moon is low in the sky, or when there are particles in the air like from a forest fire or a volcanic eruption.
Also, John’s description of the stars falling from heaven like a fig tree losing its figs to a mighty wind could possibly be attributed to bits of molten lava being spewed from the volcano. Of course, this is all speculation; we won’t know exactly what it will be until it actually happens.
The prophet Joel also prophesied about this day. In Joel chapter two, he called it the “great and terrible day of the Lord”: “And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call” (Joel 2:30–33).
Fear Falls on All
Rev. 6:15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; 16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
The severity of this earthquake will be frightening. The response by the people living in this area of the world will be that of terror. John lists seven categories of men that will experience fear: kings, great men, rich men, chief captains, mighty men, bondman, and free men. As noted before, the number seven denotes fullness, completion. Verse 15 says they will try to hide in dens and in the rocks of the mountains! They’ll say, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb?” (v. 16). Everyone will be in fear. No one will escape this terror. They will know it’s from God.
When the earthquake and Tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004, I remember listening to the news media reporting the rumblings of people wondering if this was sent from God as judgment. Reporters interviewed pastors, asking them for their opinion. Some said, “Yes, definitely, this is God’s judgment,” while others were adamant, “No, this is just an act of nature.”
When this earthquake happens, there will be no mistake. People will know it is the beginning of His wrath being poured out. And the response will be to hide from His presence. They will proclaim, “The great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Indeed, who will be able to stand?
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