Reading through Revelation – Chapter 6, The Lamb opens the sixth seal


 


Revelation 6:12-17

NASB

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?”


Thoughts

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.”

Matthew 24:29-30

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 [a]the sky, and the powers of [b]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.

Isaiah 13:10

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

Commentaries

Historicist

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse 12 

“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.

Verse 17

“. . . 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’. . .”

Fulfillment

“. . . 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).”


Commentaries

Futurist

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 24:1-23Isaiah 34:2-4Joel 2:30-31; Zephaniah 1:1-18; Haggai 2:6-7.”

Isaiah 34:2-4

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. . .”


 

Ezekiel’s Temple Vision – The Non-literal or Spiritual View


The Book of Ezekiel

Chapters 40 through 48

NASB

Vision of the Man with a Measuring Rod

40 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was taken, on that same day the hand of the Lord was upon me and He brought me there. 2 In the visions of God He brought me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, and on it to the south there was a structure like a city. 3 So He brought me there; and behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze, with a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand; and he was standing in the gateway. 4 The man said to me, “Son of man, see with your eyes, hear with your ears, and give attention to all that I am going to show you; for you have been brought here in order to show it to you. Declare to the house of Israel all that you see. . .”


 

Introduction

This post isn’t meant to cause dissension. It’s the result of questions I’ve had during discussions with bloggers I respect. They and other devout Christians believe in the literal fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision during a literal Millennium. But, is the literal approach the best way to understand this vision? I’ve studied the literal approach to Ezekiel’s Temple in the respected Bible teachers Charles C. Ryrie and John F. Walvoord but have come to believe that a spiritual or symbolical approach is needed. I’m not baiting anyone and will welcome your comments without arguing with you. There are a few links within this post leading to articles and a book that present the literal view. Also, please note that this discussion isn’t about ongoing efforts in Jerusalem to build a Third Temple, by The Temple Institute, or how that might fit into future prophetic fulfilment.

A non-literal approach to this Old Testament prophecy and others doesn’t mean that I deny the future redemption of the Jewish people. May that never be! Please be assured that I believe the Bible clearly teaches that someday, maybe quite soon, the Jewish people will love and worship the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and that their newfound faith will indeed be “life from the dead.” 

For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?  Romans 11:15

So then, returning to Ezekiel’s Temple – what is it? Is it a physical structure in which actual animal sacrifices will be offered someday? Here are several fairly brief treatments of this subject from a non-literal viewpoint.

File:Visionary Ezekiel Temple.jpg

The Visionary Ezekiel Temple plan drawn by the 19th century French architect and Bible scholar Charles Chipiez.


Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1965

“God was to ‘dwell in this temple forever’ (43:7). This language can scarcely be predicated of a literal material Temple. It must be a figurative representation of something; for Jesus, in John 4:21-24, abrogated Temple worship; and in Heaven there will be no Temple (Revelation 21:22).”

John 4:21-24  

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Revelation 21:22

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.


Eschatology Q & A — What About Ezekiel’s Vision of the Temple (Ezekiel 40-48)?

Kim Riddlebarger

“. . . Revelation 21 presents Ezekiel’s vision in its consummated fulfillment.  In other words, John is given a vision of the same temple, but now from the vantage point of Christ’s death and resurrection and the dawn of the new creation – something which would have made no sense whatsoever to Ezekiel or his hearers.  As Beale points out (pp. 346-345)*, the new heavens and earth are now the holy of holies, as well as the new Jerusalem, and the new Eden.  On the last day, all creation becomes the temple of God.  The temple has been expanded (extended) from a building, to a city, to all of creation.

“This means that Ezekiel’s vision is a prophecy not of an earthly temple (although the prophet uses earthly language his readers could understand), but of an eschatological temple, depicted in its consummated form and unspeakable glory by John in Revelation 21-22.”

*G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (New Studies in Biblical Theology)

Jesus, the True Temple

Kim Riddlebarger

“When Jesus declared of himself, ‘I tell you, something greater than the temple is here,’ (Matthew 12:6) and when he told a Samaritan woman that he can give her ‘living water’ (John 4:10-14), we are given a major clue that the authors of the New Testament have reinterpreted the pre-messianic understanding of God’s temple in the light of the coming of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah.”


Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible

Ezekiel 40

“. . . Now if we were to expect to find in the vision directions for the reenactment of the temple-ritual, this would be quite unaccountable. But if we view these selected rites in relation to the temple-building, and give to that building its true symbolic character, all is found to be just and harmonious. The vision is intended to depict the perpetual worship of the God of heaven in the Kingdom of Christ. To the mind of an Israelite the proper figure to represent this would be the temple and its services, with people, priest, and prince, each doing their fitting part. The most appropriate services to exhibit this worship would be those of continual recurrence, in which day by day, week by week, month by month, prayer and praise ascended to the throne of heaven; namely, the Morning Sacrifice, the Sabbath and the New moon festival. Here we have the Israelite symbol of perpetual public adoration.

“This will also account for the absence of all mention of the high priest and his office. In the old dispensation the chief function of the high priest was the performance of the great Act, which typified the atonement worked by the sacrifice and death of Christ for the sins of the world. This atonement was effected once for all upon the Cross, and in the new dispensation Christ appears in the midst of His people as their Prince and Head, leading and presenting their prayers and praises day by day to His Father in heaven . . .”


Does Ezekiel describe a literal temple?

Doug Cox

Doug has gone home to be with the Lord, but his WordPress blog is still available.

“What was the reason for Ezekiel’s attention to detail? Perhaps it was intended to show, not that a literal temple was in view, but that everything in the spiritual temple is to be ‘measured,’ and compared against the standard of God’s word. Ezekiel gave the dimensions of the various parts of the temple in order to show that the temple of God, the church, is designed, and prepared, according to God’s purpose; it is well suited for its purpose, in every age. Nothing in it is out of proportion. Everything has its proper place. This spiritual meaning can be appreciated only if one’s mind has been freed from the chains and shackles of literalism. How could Whitcomb*, along with other dispensationalists, who view the temple of Ezekiel’s prophecy as a literal one, have missed noticing how frequently Ezekiel mentioned the word ‘measured,’ and words related to it? That the temple of God, which is the church, and everything in it will be ‘measured,’ is the key concept in Ezekiel’s prophecy. By a very simple interpretation, it means the saints, and their beliefs, and their works, will be compared against God’s word, which is the standard represented by the ‘reed,’ and the ‘line,’ and by which we will all stand or fall. To be opposed to God’s word is to be found ‘naked.’ That is, unclothed with the spiritual clothing that is provided for us by Christ.”

*John C. Whitcomb, The Millennial Temple of Ezekiel 40-48 (An Exercise in Literal Interpretation)

Why did Ezekiel describe a temple?

Doug Cox

“A temple is where people offer sacrifices to God. Some wonder why Ezekiel described an altar, and sacrifices, if his temple has to do with the Christian church, as those things have passed away; but in Hebrews we read, ‘We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.’ [Hebrews 13:10]

“In the New Testament, the saints are described as a temple. [Ephesians 2:20-22] They offer spiritual sacrifices. The sacrifices offered in Ezekiel’s temple must be types and figures of these spiritual offerings. Peter said, ‘Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.’ [1 Peter 2:5]

“Some claim that in the millennium, animal sacrifices will be resumed, but that contradicts scriptures such as Isaiah 65:25, ‘The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.’ How can animal sacrifices be offered, if nothing may be hurt there?

“Peter said the saints are ‘a royal priesthood,’ who ‘shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’ [1 Peter 2:9]

“John said the saints who overcome will be made pillars in the temple. [Revelation 3:12] In his vision of the New Jerusalem, John saw no temple, but said ‘the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.’ [Revelation 21:22]. . .

“The spiritual temple, located in the promised land, is not an earthly, literal one. The land where it is located represents the ‘better country’ in Hebrews 11:16, ‘But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.’ It is the ‘place’ Jesus said he would prepare for his saints:

John 14:1-3

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.


Top 5 Commentaries on the Book of Ezekiel, Keith Mathison, Ligonier Ministries

Helpful Definitions

Theopedia

Amillennialism

Amillennialism teaches that the thousand year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation 20:1-6 is symbolic of the current church age, rather than a literal future 1000 year reign. It contends that the period described in Revelation 20 was inaugurated (i.e. began) at Christ’s resurrection and will continue until His Second Coming. Amillennialism holds that while Christ’s reign during the millennium is spiritual in nature, at the end of the church age Christ will return in final judgment and establish a permanent physical reign. Also taught by amillennialism is that the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:1-3 has already occurred, and means that “he might not deceive the nations any longer” (Revelation 20:3) by preventing the spread of the gospel.

Anthony Hoekema, Amillennialism

.
The Analogy of Faith and Biblical Theology

The analogy of faith is a Reformation principle for the interpretation of Scripture, which can be expressed as “Scripture interprets Scripture”. The fundamental principle of biblical theology is that of progressive revelation, which states that God reveals Himself in increasing measure throughout history, and that His revelation climaxes in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

As a result of these principles, we expect the New Testament to interpret to the Old, all the while showing us God, in Christ, more clearly.


Gateways of Ezekiel's Visionary Temple, as described in the Book of Ezekiel, chapters 40-42, drawn as literally as possible by he dutch architect Bartelmeüs Reinders (1893-1979)

Gateways of Ezekiel’s Visionary Temple, as described in the Book of Ezekiel, chapters 40-42, drawn as literally as possible by he dutch architect Bartelmeüs Reinders (1893-1979)