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Revelation: The Fifth and Sixth Seals

June 5, 2011

The fifth seal revealed the central message of the entire Revelation:

Rev 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.
Rev 6:10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”
Rev 6:11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

By this time (circa 95 AD) many Christians had already died for their faith in Jesus. These martyrs cried out for God to avenge their deaths. In response they were reassured with a gift of a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer. There were still more who would be martyred by this oppressor before he would be subdued.

The sixth seal reveals yet more disciplinary action by God.

Rev 6:12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red,
Rev 6:13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind.
Rev 6:14 The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
Rev 6:15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains.
Rev 6:16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
Rev 6:17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

God was assuring the saints that the day was coming when He would avenge their blood. The fearful events that would come on that day were described using familiar symbols from Old Testament prophecy. Again, these symbols would have been familiar to the Christians.

Isaiah prophesied about the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem:

Isa 2:19 Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.
Isa 2:20 In that day men will throw away to the rodents and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship.
Isa 2:21 They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.

In another place, Isaiah compared the fall of Babylon to the stars, the sun and the moon being darkened:

Isa 13:9 See, the day of the LORD is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger— to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.
Isa 13:10 The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.

And in another place Isaiah wrote concerning the fall of Edom:

Isa 34:4 All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.

Hosea wrote concerning the fall of Samaria:

Hos 10:8 The high places of wickedness will be destroyed— it is the sin of Israel. Thorns and thistles will grow up and cover their altars. Then they will say to the mountains, “Cover us!” and to the hills, “Fall on us!”

And Joel wrote, prophesying the events at the time of the cross:

Joe 2:30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
Joe 2:31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

The events unveiled by opening the sixth seal were standard prophetic symbols for the day of God’s wrath. Their meaning was no more literal in Revelation 6 than in the day of those Old Testament prophets. These were symbols, but with a corresponding reality.

We have previously determined that the chief persecutor was Satan, acting through the beast representing the Roman Empire. On the day of God’s wrath, no man would stand — least of all, Caesar. On that day he would find out who is Lord and who is not.

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