The Sixth Seal – Terror
12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
Below, I’ve given some history related to the sixth seal when it’s interpreted historically, expositions by historicists and futurists, and a passage from Eusebius describing what it was like when centuries of persecution came to an end in the Roman Empire.
History related to the Sixth Seal when interpreted historically
Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1965, pp. 713-714
The Day of Wrath at Hand
“Revolution. Upheaval. Convulsion. Consternation. Sun Darkened. Stars Falling. Heavens Rolled Up. Mountains and Island Removed. Kings and Peoples Frightened. . . Jesus had used similar language, in speaking of the Time of His Coming Again (Mathew 24:29,30; Luke 21:26). . . So had Isaiah, in predicting the Fall of Babylon (Isaiah 13:10). And Ezekiel, in predicting the Fall of Egypt (Ezekiel 32:7). . . Whatever else this Seal may refer to, it seems like a prediction of 4th century Upheavals in the Roman Empire.
“The Empire Ceased its Persecution of the Church. Emperor Constantine became a Christian (A.D. 312). Issued an Edict of Toleration (A.D. 313). Made Christianity the religion of his court. In A.D. 325 he issued a general exhortation to all to embrace Christianity. Moved his Capital to Constantinople. Theodosius (A.D. 378-395) made Christianity the State Religion of the Empire, and Church Membership Compulsory. A.D. 395 the Empire was Divided: the West with Rome its Capital, the East with Constantinople its Capital. This was the beginning of the break-up of the Mighty World Empire that had for 300 years tried so hard to destroy Christianity.”
29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.
10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not flash forth their light;
The sun will be dark when it rises
And the moon will not shed its light.
Western Roman Empire Timeline [Decline]
Ancient History Encyclopedia
285 CE – The Roman empire is split into the Western and Eastern Roman empires.
367 CE – Picts, Scots, Saxons, and Franks attack the Roman Empire.
378 CE – Eastern Roman Emperor Valens defeated at the Battle of Adrianople. Historians mark this as the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire.
391 CE – Emperor Theodosius closes pagan temples.
402 CE – Ravenna becomes the capital of the Western Roman empire.
410 CE – Alaric of the Visigoths sacks Rome.
451 CE – Aetius defeats Attila of the Huns at the Catalaunian Fields, together with Rome’s allies.
455 CE – Vandals sack Rome.
476 CE – Emperor Romulus Augustus is deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer. This is the ‘official’ end of the Roman Empire.
476 CE – Romulus Augustulus, the last Western Roman emperor, deposed by Odoacer and sent into forced retirement in Campania.
480 CE – Julius Nepos, the last Western Roman emperor, dies. This is the ‘unofficial’ end of the Western Roman Empire. . .
Total Solar Eclipse, 9 March 2016, from Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, Ezagren ~ Lunar eclipse September 27 2015 greatest Alfredo Garcia Jr
Adam Clarke Commentary
“A great earthquake – A most stupendous change in the civil and religious constitution of the world. If it refer to Constantine the Great, the change that was made by his conversion to Christianity might be very properly represented under the emblem of an earthquake, and the other symbols mentioned in this and the following verses.
“The sun – the ancient pagan government of the Roman empire, was totally darkened; and, like a black hair sackcloth, was degraded and humbled to the dust.
“The moon – the ecclesiastical state of the same empire, became as blood – was totally ruined, their sacred rites abrogated, their priests and religious institutions desecrated, their altars cast down, their temples destroyed, or turned into places for Christian worship.
“. . . Dr. Dodd observes that the fall of Babylon, Idumea, Judah, Egypt, and Jerusalem, has been described by the prophets in language equally pompous, figurative, and strong. ‘Now,’ says he, ‘it is certain that the fall of any of these cities or kingdoms was not of greater concern or consequence to the world, nor more deserving to be described in pompous figures, than the fall of the pagan Roman empire, when the great lights of the heathen world, the sun, moon, and stars, the powers civil and ecclesiastical, were all eclipsed and obscured, the heathen emperors and Caesars were slain, the heathen priests and augurs were extirpated, the heathen officers and magistrates were removed, the temples were demolished, and their revenues were devoted to better uses. . . Maximin, Galerius, Maxentius, Licinius, etc., with all their adherents and followers, were so routed and dispersed that they hid themselves in dens, etc.; expressions used to denote the utmost terror and confusion. This is, therefore, a triumph of Christ over his heathen enemies, and a triumph after a severe persecution; so that the time and all the circumstances, as well as the series and order of the prophecy, agree perfectly with this interpretation.'”
The Final Prophecy of Jesus: An Introduction, Analysis, and Commentary on the Book of Revelation, Oral Edmond Collins, ©2007, pp. 154-157
Excursus on Celestial and Terrestrial Signs
“The language obviously intends to indicate a great revolution—a decisive and terrifying act of Divine judgment. Nevertheless, this text should derive its specific meaning from the use of such apocalyptic language in the Bible. What this implies may best be seen by examining the Old Testament occurrences of the symbols which describe this seal. . . As Joseph Mede in his ground breaking analysis of Apocalyptic structure indicated in 1632 (and many after him), such symbolism is a common way of referring to ‘the ruin of states and. . . their entire subversion’. . .”
“. . . when we look for the fulfillment of this seal, we should look for a nation or government central to the unfolding revelation of this book which falls in consequence of a Divine judgment. Moreover, the chronology of the seal prophecies indicates that this judgment should have occurred soon after the persecutions of Diocletian predicted by the fifth seal. . . Just such an event did in fact occur, an event historians are unanimous in identifying as a major turning point in history—the fall about A.D. 325 of the pagan Roman Empire. Contemporary historians recorded with great wonder this unanticipated and revolutionary event.”
Compelling, whatever your view!
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book 10, Chapter 1, (4) through (7)
“(4) Thus, as the Scriptures command upon us to sing a new song, we shall accordingly show that after those dreadful and gloomy spectacles and events, we have been privileged to see such things, and to celebrate such things as many of the pious and martyrs of God before us ardently craved to see and did not see them and to hear and did not hear them. (5) But they, indeed, hastening on their course, obtained ‘what was far better,’ being transferred to the heavens themselves and to celestial pleasures. Freely acknolwedging this state of things in our day as better than what we could expect, we have been astonished at the magnifitude of the grace manifested by the Author of our mercies and justly do we admire and adore him with all the powers of our mind. We bear witness to the truth of those declarations recorded, where it is said, (6) ‘Come hither and behold the works of God, the wonders that he hath done upon the earth; he removeth wars until the ends of the earth, he breaketh the bow and snappeth the spear asunder, and burneth the shields in fire’ (Ps. 46:8-9). Rejoicing in these things fulfilled in our day, we shall pursue the tenor our history. (7) All the race of the enemies of God were destroyed in the manner we have stated and were thus suddenly swept away from the sight of men, as the divine word again declares: ‘I saw the wicked lifted up and exalted like the cedars of Lebanon, and I passed by, and lo, he was not; and I sought, and his place was not found’ (Ps. 37:35).”
Got Questions: What are the seven seals of Revelation?
“. . . John writes, ‘I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals’ (Revelation 5:1). This scroll contains the judgments of God; the fact that it is written on both sides indicates the extensive nature of the judgment pending. . .”
Arno Gaebelein’s Annotated Bible
Arno Gaebelein was a dispensationalist and an evangelist to the Jewish people.
“Are the things mentioned under this seal to be taken in a literal sense or symbolically? Most of it is symbolical, yet at the same time great physical phenomena are also involved. The earthquake possibly means a literal earthquake. ‘Earthquakes in diverse places’ our Lord predicted. And they increase as the age draws to its close. But the language is symbolical. Everything is being shaken in this poor world. The civil and governmental powers on earth all go to pieces; every class from kings to slaves is affected by it and terrorized. The political and ecclesiastical world is going to pieces. And when these shaking times have come, when thrones fall and anarchy reigns, when the great collapse of civilization and human society has come with signs on earth and in heaven, the earth-dwellers will see in anticipation the approaching day of wrath. Terror fills every breast and those who sneered at prayer, as the Christ-rejectors do now, will gather for a prayer-meeting to appeal to the rocks to cover them. Read the following Old Testament passages in connection with this seal: Isaiah 24:1-23, Isaiah 34:2-4; Joel 2:30-31; Zephaniah 1:1-18; Haggai 2:6-7.”
4 And all the host of heaven will wear away,
And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;
All their hosts will also wither away
As a leaf withers from the vine,
Or as one withers from the fig tree.
The Sixth Seal: The Day of Divine Wrath (6:12-17)
John F. Walvoord
“There are a number of reasons for preferring to take this passage in its literal meaning. While this is not the final breakup of the world as described later in Revelation, when a further period of terrible judgments will be poured on the world, it does seem to indicate that beginning with the sixth seal God is undertaking a direct intervention into human affairs. The judgments of war, famine, and death, and the martyrdom of the saints have largely originated in human decision and in the evil heart of man. The judgment described here, however, originates in God as a divine punishment inflicted upon a blasphemous world.
“In view of the catastrophic and climactic character of the period, there is no good reason why there should not be precisely the elements mentioned here, namely, disturbances in the heavens and earthquakes on the earth. This is borne out by the effect upon the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the chief captains, the mighty men, bondmen, and freemen mentioned in verse 15, who hide themselves in dens and in the rocks of the mountains. The events are of such character that all are impressed with the fact that the day of the wrath of the Lord has come and their judgment is now about to take place. . .
“The day of wrath is at the beginning of the day of the Lord, that extended period when God is going to deal directly in governing the entire world. It is significant that early in the book of Revelation the day of wrath is declared as having already come. It is another evidence that the great tribulation is already under way.
“The day of wrath is in contrast to the day of grace. Though God in every dispensation deals with believers and saves them by grace, the present age is supremely designed to manifest grace not only as the way of salvation but as the way of life. Today God is not attempting to bring divine judgment to bear upon sin. Though there may be some forms of immediate retribution, for the most part God is not settling accounts now. Neither the righteous are rewarded nor the wicked judged in a final sense today. This day of grace will be followed by the day of the Lord which features early in its progress the day of wrath. . .”