Revelation 6:12-17

Wednesday Night Bible Study

April 9, 1997


With the beginning of chapter six, we have entered into what is known in prophecy as the "tribulation" period.

As we've seen, this is a period of seven years, where God's wrath is poured out on the earth, and God brings the nation Israel back to Himself.

The tribulation period ends with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

We've seen that John has been writing things down from the perspective of heaven, as he's been caught up before God's throne, to witness the events as they occur.

Jesus, the Lamb that was slain, has been opening up a seven sealed scroll, beginning the process of redeeming the earth back to God.

As each seal is opened in heaven, events occur on earth. Here's a review of the seals so far:

    1. The antichrist comes into power.
    2. War breaks brought war on the earth.
    3. Inflation and famine, economic chaos.
    4. Death, with ľ of the earth dying.
    5. The souls of those martyred during the tribulation cry out for Godís justice.

:12-17 The Sixth Seal

:12 I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal

beheld Ė John has actually used this specific word quite a lot in the book of Revelation (68 times).

Just in chapter six alone, itís used in verses 1,2,5,8,9,12 and is translated "saw", "looked", and "beheld".

What John is doing is recording his observations, the things heís observed or seen.

He had opened Ö - as weíve seen before, this is Jesus Christ, opening up the scroll, that causes things to happen upon the earth.

:12 there was a great earthquake

The Greek is, seismoj megaj. We get our word "seismic" and "mega"

seismos - a shaking, a commotion; a tempest; an earthquake.

Note: The word means "shaking". It might not be an actual earthquake caused by tectonic plates rubbing against each other. Perhaps something else is causing the shaking Ö

There are three "great earthquakes" in Revelation, this being the first one. (there are two minor "quakes" in heaven, but theyíre not described as "great", Rev. 8:5; 11:19)

The second quake is in chapter 11, after the two witnesses are killed in Jerusalem, raised from the dead three days later, and are called up into heaven (Rev. 11:13). A tenth of the city is destroyed, and seven thousand people are killed.

There will one last earthquake just before Jesus returns, the worst earthquake the world has ever seen. (Rev. 16:8)

In that quake, the "great city" is divided into thirds, and all the islands and mountains are leveled (not a good time to be in Hawaii!).


There is a parallel with the six seals so far, and what Jesus taught in Matthew.

We often look at this passage in Matthew as things to look for today, but I wonder if it isnít more properly looked at as a roadmap of the tribulation period itself?

Itís a roadmap given to Jewish disciples, those who might be believers during the tribulation period.

(Mat 24:3-8 KJV) And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? {4} And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. {5} For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. {6} And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. {7} For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. {8} All these are the beginning of sorrows.

The six seals are in this order: Antichrist, war, famine, death, martyrs, earthquake.

Jesus says that these are only the "beginning of sorrows".

In other words, you think itís tough now, you ainít seen nothiní yet!

:12 the sun became black as sackcloth of hair

black as sackcloth of hair Ė sackcloth was a rough cloth, often woven from the hair of animals, in this case the hair of black goats.

This could be caused by:

An eclipse

Smoke in the atmosphere

It will happen later on that way as well -

Re 9:2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit.

:12 the moon became as blood;

I take this literally.

I think this is probably due to debris in the atmosphere, possibly smoke.

This appears to be a fulfillment of a prophecy of Joel.

(Joel 2:28-32 KJV) And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: {29} And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. {30} And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. {31} The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. {32} 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.

Note Joelís progression:

An outpouring of the Spirit.

Then signs in the sun and moon.

Then crying out for salvation.

Some have used this to say that there will be again, one more outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Thatís certainly possible, but itís interesting to note that at least in one respect, that portion of the prophecy has already been fulfilled.

Peter used this text to explain what happened on the day of Pentecost.

(Acts 2:16-21 KJV) But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; {17} And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: {18} And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: {19} And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: {20} The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: {21} And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Peter wasnít saying that the signs in the heavens had been fulfilled, but that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit had been fulfilled.

It is possible though, that there may be a double fulfillment (as there was in John the Baptist being a partial fulfillment of Elijahís coming)

I think we need to be a little careful in how we put the prophecies together concerning the sun and the moon, because they can be confusing.

For example, Jesus describes something similar to this, and seems to place this event at the end of the tribulation, rather than in the middle, as it would seem in Revelation:

(Mat 24:29-30 KJV) Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: {30} And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

To me, the clarification comes when we look closely at the wording, and see that the only places where the moon is turned into blood are here in Revelation 6, and in Joel 2 (as well as Peterís explanation of the event in Acts 2).

There is on the other hand, ANOTHER prophecy by Joel in which the sun and moon are "darkened" (with no mention of blood).

It is Joelís description of the battle of Armageddon -

(Joel 3:9-17 KJV) Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: {10} Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. {11} Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. {12} Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. {13} Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great. {14} Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. {15} The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. {16} The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. {17} So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.

This is also mentioned in Isaiah 13:9-11.

These things can be seen later on in Revelation 16, with the final bowl judgments just prior to Jesusí return.

The fifth bowl judgement is darkness on the antichristís kingdom (Rev. 16:10), and it happens just before the sixth bowl which is gathering of the armies for the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:16)

I think that this is probably what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 24, the events of Revelation 16, not the events of Revelation 6.

Extra idea: Could the verse about the eagles gathering about the carcass refer to the gathering of the armies for Armageddon?

(Mat 24:27-28 KJV) For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. {28} For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

:13 the stars of heaven fell unto the earth

Possible ideas:

1. This could refer to angels Ė

Job 38:7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Re 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

This does have some merit, considering there is a time when the dragon (Satan) will take a third of the angels with him Ė

Re 12:4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

    1. This could refer to actual celestial bodies impacting the earth.

The Greek word used for "star" (the usual word, by the way) is asterej (asteres), from which we get "asteroid" and even "disaster" ("bad star")

Itís interesting that with the appearance of the "Hale-Bopp" comet, thereís been even more concern and speculation about the earth being susceptible to being struck by large meteorites, asteroids, or even comets (no, we arenít going to even get close to "Hale-Bopp", donít worry about that one!).

This comes from Newsweek, March 24, 1997, page 64 -

How to defend Earth against collisions

By Adam Rogers

"It has happened before; someday, odds are, it will happen again. Sixty-five million years ago a five-mile-wide object hit the Yucatan Peninsula and wiped out the dinosaurs. In 1908 a 200-foot rock blew up over Tunguska, Siberia, flattening thousands of square miles of forest. A meteorite just half a mile wide could throw enough debris into the atmosphere to block out the sun, plunging us into a years-long night. It happens every 100,000 years or so, but it could happen any time."

"Is there anything Earth can do to protect itself? The planet has taken a first step, developing a rudimentary early-warning system. Of the roughly 2000 Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) more than half a mile wide, scientists have charted about 300. Two programs in the United States watch for asteroids: Spacewatch, in Arizona, and Near-Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) in Maui. "They cover less than 10 percent of the sky per month," says David Morrison, director of space at NASA Ames Research Center. "With the present system... the first you would know is when you felt the impact and saw the fireball over the horizon." In 1991 Morrison chaired the Spaceguard Survey, a NASA study requested by Congress that recommended an array of telescopes, three in each hemisphere, at about $10 million a year -- 10 times the current budget. That program has not been funded, but telescopes in China and Italy are coming on-line, and a close call might stimulate more action."

"An alarm system is necessary but hardly sufficient. With a little notice, scientists are confident they could go to a war footing and knock the intruder out of the sky. "If you had something coming at you that was a couple of kilometers across, and you only had a year's warning, then you have a couple of different options," says Greg Canavan, an expert in NEO interception at Los Alamos National Laboratory, "but basically they all involve nuclear explosives." Planners would prefer not to wait for the alarm to go off; they're awash in schemes they'd like to see tested (diagram). It's Ronald Reagan's Star Wars program, with a vengeance. In one scenario, a rocket carrying 10 tons of lead might knock an asteroid off course, or a series of projectiles might turn it to rubble. The tricky part is making sure the pieces are under 65 feet in diameter, or they could obliterate a city instead. The favorite plan calls for a "standoff" blast, where the nuke explodes next to the object. Done right, the blast and the debris coming off the surface impart enough momentum to change the rock's direction."

But what if there isnít sufficient warning?

What if something sneaks through in the 90 percent of the sky that is unwatched?

What if an object hits earth before the earth has all itís fancy plans in place?

:13 even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind

untimely figs - olunthos - an unripe fig which grows during the winter, yet does not come to maturity but falls off in the spring.

The idea is a large gust of wind comes along, and the unripe figs are blown off the tree.

:14 the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together

It has been said that this could be a good description of a nuclear blast (Hal Lindsey, "Thereís a New World Coming", pg. 110.

Or perhaps itís the same kind of effect, caused by the collision of a large meteor with the earth.

:14 every mountain and island were moved out of their places

A very "moving" experience.

:15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men

This sounds like all the important people of the world.

:15 every bondman, and every free man

This sounds like all the rest of the people.

:15 hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains

Could this be descriptive of "bomb shelters"?


This cannot be parallel to Revelation 16 as some say, because in Revelation 16, the armies of the world are gathered together against Jesus, not hiding from His wrath!

We get this clarification at the description of Jesusí return:

(Rev 19:19 KJV) And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.

Chuck Missler -

He thinks this is one of the ties between the book of Revelation and the book of Joshua. (interesting idea!)

The book of Joshua was all about redeeming the Israelites land back to the proper ownership (after all, God promised it all to Abraham).

Itís a book of judgment on the sins of the Amorites.

In Joshua, during one of the battles, the enemy kings all flee for safety and hide in a cave. (Josh 10:16-27)

Joshua trapped them in the cave with huge bolders, and when he was done with the rest of the battle, he had the kings brought out and hanged.

: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:

Itís kind of ironic saying "the wrath of the Lamb".

You donít often think of a Lamb as something very scary.

Two things here Ė

    1. There are no atheists in foxholes.

Here great calamity is hitting the earth, and the people on the earth recognize that this is the day of the wrath of God.


Apparently Madeline Murray OíHare hasnít made it back from her disappearance yet.


"What sinners dread most is not death, but the revealed Presence of God" (Swete).

2. Note the response of the people of the earth.

They are not repenting, instead they are hardening their hearts. Some cynical people say, "Well I'll wait until the tribulation to accept Jesus". Not necessarily so, many will come to Christ, but many will by hardened

:17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

Good point.

The Bible says,

Ps 1:5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

God has a way out of condemnation, the only question is whether or not youíll take it.

(John 3:16-18 KJV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. {17} For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. {18} He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

For the person who refuses to accept the Lord on this side of the tribulation, there is no guarantee that youíll really do it on the other side.

And it could come at any time, quickly and suddenly.

(1 Th 5:1-12 KJV) But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. {2} For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. {3} For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. {4} But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. {5} Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. {6} Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. {7} For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. {8} But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. {9} For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, {10} Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. {11} Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

This whole time period is whatís known as "the day of the Lord", and it could come very quickly.

But we have the warnings now, there is no reason not to be ready.