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Rock Rattle and Roll

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Rock, Rattle and Roll

(Revelation 6:12-17)


Overview: Everyone in the world today is familiar with earthquakes.  In the 21st Century has seen massive earthquakes in San Salvador, Turkey, and India which resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of lives.  While earthquakes have taken place throughout history, their frequency and severity is on the increase. 

            It should be no surprise, then, when we read of the opening of the 6th seal we find the whole world shaken by a great earthquake.  While their has never been a single earthquake of global proportions, with what we are learning about the coming of the Great Tribulation, it is not difficult to imagine one taking place in those days.  The 1st reveals a coming world dictator; the 2nd, war; the 3rd, famine and death; and the 4th, death and Hades.  The 5th seal revealed the results of mass persecution and murder of the saints of God during the Tribulation.  When the 6th seal is removed from earth’s title deed, the earth is shaken by a massive earthquake and other natural calamites which cause people all over the world to cry out in terror (6:16-17).

            It is probable that with the opening of the 6th seal we move into what is specifically know as “the Great Tribulation”—the last 3 ½ yrs of the seven year period of judgment on the earth.  V.17 has people on earth saying, “the great day of His wrath has come,” indicating an awareness even by the unsaved that God is judging the earth.  As we move from the 6th to the 7th seal, which is the 7 trumpet judgments, the judgment intensifies to a level not seen in the 1st five seals.  It’s hard to imagine it could get worse, but it does.  Combining the 6th seal with Matt 24 and Daniel 9, we arrive at the end of the 1st half of the Tribulation.

            Many people (including Harry Ironside) have taken the events of the 6th seal symbolically, suggesting that they represent turmoil at a political, governmental, and societal level on the earth.  I would disagree, because I don’t see any amount of societal  upheaval could result in the reactions of terror, panic, and fear we see as a response (6:15-17), especially when the “kings” themselves are part of the panic.  I believe we are reading about things that will take place literally in those days—and there are 5 of them in number.

I.                The Shaking of the Earth (Rattle) (6:12)


a.           Jesus Himself said there would be “earthquakes in various places in the end times (Matt 24:7; Mark 13:8; Lu 21:11). 

7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

8 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

And He wasn’t the first.  The OT prophets predicted the same thing (Ez 38:19; Joel 2:10; Amos 8:8; Hag 2:6). 

19 For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel;

10 The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining:

8 Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt.

For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;

The prophets and the Prophet said God’s judgment would be accompanied by earthquakes.  The shaking of the earth had often accompanied great movements of God in history.  The earth shook when Moses received the Law (Ex 19:18); when Jesus died on the cross (Matt 27:51); and at the resurrection (Matt 28:2).  Given the history of predictions or earthquakes and occurrence of earthquakes, it is reasonable to expect the earthquake of the 6th seal to be a literal one.

b.            Proportionally speaking, very few people on earth have ever been through a truly massive earthquake.  The most widely felt earthquake in American history actually was a series of earthquakes.  They hit from Dec 16, 1811 to Feb 7, 1812, with magnitudes estimated at 8.6, 8.4, & 8.7 on the Richter scale.  This makes them stronger than either the disastrous San Francisco earthquake of 1906 or the Alaskan “Good Friday” earthquake of 1964.  They were felt from Canada to Mexico. 

II.             The Darkening of the Sky (6:12)


a.           The darkening of the sun is not a new phenomenon either.  It happened during the plagues on Egypt, at Mt Sinai, and at the Crucifixion of Jesus.  And the prophets included such things in their predictions of the end times (Joel 2:30-31; Zeph 1:15; Is 13:9-10; Ez 32:7).

30 And I will shew 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. Joel 2:30-31

15 That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, Zeph 1:15

9 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. Isaiah 13:9-10

7 And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. Ez 32:7

Jesus also said the sun would be darkened in association with the Tribulation (Mark 13:24 24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, ).  Such a phenomenon will totally disrupt life on planted earth if it occurs over an extended time—a black sun and a blood-red moon (6:12).

b.            Have you noticed how people are effected by whether or not the sun is out or not?  The contrast between darkness and light in Scripture has implications in many realms.  Most crime is committed at night.  Most depression sets in at night.  Satan and sin are associated with darkness.  We can only imagine how prolonged darkness across the face of the earth will impact those who are alive in those days.  In Pharaoh’s case, after only 3 days he demanded that Moses remove it (Ex 10:22-24).  Since food cannot grow without sunlight, what will happen to the world’s food supply (both land and sea)?

III.           The Falling of the Stars (6:13)


a.           The “stars of heaven” which John saw falling to earth are possibly what we would call today meteors or asteroids—not the stars which we see in the heavens on a clear night.  Many of those stars are larger than the earth and light years from us.  More likely these are falling or shooting stars which will pummel the earth.  While there is no record of asteroids hitting the earth in the manner described by John, scientists have long considered it a possibility.

b.            On the night of Nov 13, 1833, the earth apparently passed through a meteor shower as the sky was filled with the trails of meteorites burning up in the earth’s atmosphere.  Many people thought the prophecies of Revelation 6 were beginning to happen and the end of the world was at hand.  That obviously wasn’t the case, but it provided a brief preview of what the falling stars John saw might be and look like.  John says the stars “fell to the earth,” so if they are meteorites they would have to be huge in order to pass completely through the earth’s atmosphere without burning up as most smaller meteorites do.  Could God not arrange for the earth to pass through such an extended bombardment at that exact time?

c.            A shaking earth, a black sun, a red moon, meteors hitting the earth, bodies of water causing untold damage, and tidal waves across the globe.  The 6th seal brings increasing calamity to planted earth.

IV.           The Rolling Back of the Heavens (6:14)

Dr Henry Morris has written that The departing of the heavens like a scroll is more difficult to understand. There seem to be two possibilities. One is that the clouds of dust will gradually spread across the sky, making it appear that the sky is being "rolled up." However, the use of the graphic term "departed," seems to indicate something more spectacular even than this. The other possibility is that the earth's crust, highly unstable ever since the great Flood, will be so disturbed by the impacting asteroids, the volcanic explosions, and the worldwide earthquakes, that great segments of it will actually begin to slip and slide over the earth's deep plastic mantle. Geophysicists for many years have been fascinated with the idea of "continental drift" (although strong evidence has been accumulating against any such phenomenon occurring in the present age). Several have published theories of a past naturalistic catastrophism involving what they call "the earth's shifting crust." Some such phenomenon may actually be triggered under this judgment of the sixth seal, dwarfing the damage occasioned by all the mighty earthquakes of the past. Those who reside in regions above such shifting crustal plates will observe the heavens appearing to move in the opposite direction, and it will seem as if they are being "rolled up."

V.              The Moving of the Mtns. & Islands (6:14)


This is probably tied to the phenomena Dr. Morris described above.  Scientifically, we may not know how to describe what is going to happen in those days .  But theologically, even emotionally, we can imagine it better.  It is as if God has reached down to planet earth—causing everything that is not “tied down” to come loose.  The writer to the Hebrews says the day is coming when God says (Heb 12:26), “Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.” (see also Hag 2:6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;)

VI.           The Cry of the Wicked (6:15-17)

Three lessons to think about from these events of the 6th seal.

A.           Sin’s Horror

Sometimes we thing that the “powerful people” on earth are not frightened by the things which shake the rest of us.  But something so horrible is coming upon planet earth that “the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man” will try to hide themselves from the events of those days (6:15).  The whole fabric of human society is represented—no one will be exempt from the judgment of God.  There seems to be an intuitive fear expressed by those who don’t even profess to know God that what is happening is coming from the hand of God Himself: (read 6:17).  The events of the 6th seal are God’s response to the horror of sin.  No human being can argue with God when they see His divine displeasures at work.  

B.            Sin’s Hiding

The human instinct is to hide when we are confronted with sin.  Whether it’s a child who’s been caught in the cookie jar, or an adult being confronted with rebellion against God, we seek to hide ourselves from holiness.  Nobody sins in the open.  It always takes place in solitude or behind closed doors or under the cover of darkness.  Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden and we have been doing that ever since.  Sin makes us hide.  During the Great Tribulation people will hide themselves any way they can, seemingly to protect themselves from physical harm, but in reality to protect themselves from the all-seeing eye of God.  Thankfully, through Jesus Christ, we no longer have to hide from God because the guilt and shame of our sin has been removed.

C.            Sin’s Hardness

Sin so hardens the heart that even when confronted by God, people would rather die than repent and be forgiven.  John sees people crying out, praying, in a sense, to the mountains to fall on them and shield them from the presence of God.  You would think people who have seen what these people have seen for three-plus years would fall down and repent.  Instead, they would rather die.  We will discover later in our study that, toward the end of the Great Tribulation, “the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands…and they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts (9:20, 21; 16:9, 11, 21).  Is that amazing? It is because of the way sin hardens the human heart.


The message for us is not to take lightly God’s attitude about our sin (Illust. Young man I had breakfast with).  Even though you may be a believer, sin is still sin.  Seeing God’s response to the sin of the world in the 6th seal should have each of us confessing our sins before God as well (1 Jn 1:9).

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