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Worthy is the Lamb: Fall on us ... hide us!

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The sixth scroll is broken ushering in the Great Tribulation.

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Text: Revelation 6:12-17
Theme: The sixth scroll is broken ushering in the Great Tribulation.
A Christian martyr is a person who is killed because of their testimony for Jesus. The late David Barrett of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, estimates that since the day when Stephen—one of first deacons of the church—was stoned to death there have been 70 million Christians martyred for the faith. As the 5th Seal is opened the Apostle John sees the souls of those who have been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. He writes, “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?”” (Revelation 6:10, NIV84). The answer is soon coming. God's response to the "how long" of the martyrs, is both immediate and final. The imminent end of all history is pictured in the shaking of the heavens that, throughout the Old Testament, initiates the Day of the Lord.
Commentators have long struggled with the meaning of this seal. Throughout Old Testament apocalyptic writings such a scene is the final act before the end of history, while here in Revelation more is yet to come. With the opening of the 6th Seal, begins a period known in the Bible as The Day of the Lord. It is not a single event, but a period that ushers in the end of the world and the coming of God’s Anointed One. It is a time of terrible judgment upon rebellious men and nations, but a time of redemption for God’s Elect. It is repeatedly spoken of by the Old Testament Prophets. Joel, Haggai, Amos, Isaiah, Zephaniah, Ezekiel, Malachi, and Jeremiah all speak of this Day. And in his Olivet Discourse Jesus uses the same catastrophic language. ‘“Immediately after the distress of those days “ ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.(Matthew 24:29, NIV84)
The Day of the Lord begins with cataclysmic events. It’s a time when the entire earthly order will be shaken. Eventually, out of the ruins of judgment will emerge a new redeemed order which John calls new heavens, and a new earth (Rev. 21:1).
But before then, a catastrophic period will ensue that will last seven years. The breaking of the 6th Seal introduces us to the beginning of this period. The passage contains three simple points:
• The Cataclysm
• The Cry
• The Coming

I. THE CATACLYSM IN WORLD EVENTS

“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, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” (Revelation 6:12-14, NIV84)
1. many New Testament scholars and theologians and pastors believe that the Apostle John uses seismic language to describe the political, economic, and social upheaval that will occur shortly before our Lord’s Second coming
a. I believe that societal turbulence may well be included in the events that transpire with the breaking of the 6th Seal, but the plain reading of the text clearly indicates an unparalleled natural catastrophe
b. John speaks of a megas seismos—an earthquake of remarkable or out of the ordinary size and effect
2. natural catastrophes in the ancient world occupied with the same frequency and caused the same destruction and loss of life as they do now
a. we know that the cities of Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea—cities mentioned in Revelation 3:1-22—were all devastated by a powerful earthquake in the 1st century
b. some of the cataclysmic events of the ancient world must have, indeed, seemed like “world ending” events
ILLUS. In 1645 BC —about midway through the Hebrew’s Egyptian enslavement—a volcano erupted on the island of Thera (now called Santorini). Geologists believe it was the single-most powerful explosive event ever witnessed in recorded history. When the volcano erupted explosively it literally blew out the center of the island, and the sea rushed in. Many historians believe that Thera is the basis for the story of Atlantas—Plato’s city that sunk into the ocean. But the volcano beneath Thera didn't just blow a massive hole into the island—it set the entire ancient Mediterranean world onto a different course. Minoan culture, the dominant civilization in the Mediterranean at the time, crumbled within decades as a result of the eruption, changing the political landscape of the ancient world indefinitely. Environmental effects were felt across the globe, as far away as China and even North America.
1) if you had been anywhere in the Mediterranean on that day, you may have thought the world was ending
c. some of the cataclysmic events of the modern world must have, indeed, seemed like “world ending” events
ILLUS. The 1958 a megatsunami hit Lituya Bay, Alaska. Sonny and Howard Ulrich—a father and his son—were on their boat fishing in the bay, and managed to survive. On July 9 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the area, that triggered a rockslide into the bay. One whole side of Fairweather Mountain simply gave loose and slide into the bay displacing the water. The result was an initial wave towering 1,710 high. To get some perspective, that’s the height of the Freedom Tower in New York City. That’s a big wave! The megatsunami that rolled through the bay was 300 feet high. Because of the remoteness of the area, only five people died.
1) if you had been in the Lituya Bay on that day, you may have thought the world was ending
d. some of the cataclysmic events in our own state’s history must have, indeed, seemed like a "world ending" event
ILLUS. If you had been living in southeastern Missouri in 1811-12 you might have thought the world was coming to an end. Between December 16, 1811 and February 7, 1812, four earthquakes measuring between 7.5 - 8.8 on the Richter earthquake magnitude scale (and an estimated 2,000 aftershocks) devastated the Bootheel region of Missouri. These earthquakes were so strong that they caused church bells to ring in Boston, and brought down chimneys in Cincinnati, Ohio. The earth cracked open, and the stench of sulfur filled the air. Geysers of sand and water called “sandboils” shot dozens of feet into the air. After the February 7 earthquake—which those who experienced it referred to as “the big one”—the Mississippi actually ran backwards for several hours, and created two temporary waterfalls in the river. The skies turned dark during the earthquakes, so dark that lighted lamps didn’t help. Explosions were heard as earth fissures appeared up to five miles long.
1) if you had been in Hayti, MO in late 1811 or early 1812, you may have thought the world was ending

A. CATASTROPHE WILL BEGIN THE DAY OF THE LORD

“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD." (Joel 2:31, NIV84)
“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. ” (Isaiah 34:4, NIV84)
‘“Immediately after the distress of those days “ ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:29, NIV84)
1. these are just a few of the many other passages in the bible that connect natural catastrophe with the Day of the Lord, and the end of the world
a. our text speaks of a violent earthquake, the light of the sun blotted out, the moon having a red tinge to it, stars falling from heaven, and the sky splitting
b. the megaquake is so severe that mountains and islands becoming displaced
1) the topography of the Earth will be radically changed
ILLUS. Some of you are old enough to remember one of the great natural disasters of the late 20th century. In May 1980 Mt. St. Helens—a long dormant volcano in the state of Washington—erupted. On a Sunday morning, the entire north face of the volcano was blasted outward, and in mere moments the height of the mountain decreased by 1300 feet leaving a two-mile wide crater! An eruption column rose 15 miles into the atmosphere and deposited ash in 11 U.S. states. At the same time, snow, ice and several entire glaciers on the volcano melted, forming a series of large mudslides that reached as far as the Columbia River, nearly 50 miles away. Hundreds of square miles were reduced to wasteland in less than ninety minutes. It was a reminder at just how quickly—and violently—the Earth’s landscape can change.
2. the apocalyptic events we witness with the opening of the 6th Seal reminds us that the entire universe will be affected, and the earth will undergo a complete and chaotic change

II. THE CRY OF THE WORLD’S LOST

“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. 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!17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”” (Revelation 6:15-17, NIV84)
1. for those people who reject Christ and curse God, the upheavals in nature and society are a picture of terror and dread they are unable to escape
a. of this time, Jesus said
"‘There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken." (Luke 21:25-26, NIV84)

A. THE TERROR OF THE LORD WILL AFFLICT ALL MEN

1. John essentially lists two groups of people that, in the end, includes all men
a. 1st, there are the elites of the culture—the people in charge
1) Kings of the earth, Princes, Generals, and the Rich a) these are wrapped up in one word ...the mighty
b. 2nd, there are the ordinary, the peasants, the plebeians—weather slave or free
2. all levels of humanity, from top to bottom, will face the coming judgment
a. a rich and powerful lost sinner, and a poor and powerless lost sinner have one thing in common ... they are lost sinners at enmity with God
1) just as God is no respecter of persons when it comes to His redemption, neither is God a respecter of persons when it comes to His wrath
b. having rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, these multitudes are unable to escape the wrath of God and the Lamb
3. the natural instinct of sinners is to hide from a Holy God
a. it’s an instinct that comes naturally, inherited from their initial progenitors—Adam and Eve
ILLUS. Remember their story? They ate the forbidden fruit, and they became morally aware of their nakedness and disobedience. And when they heard the voice of God, the first thing they did was to hide. But just as it was impossible to hide in the Garden, neither will caves nor rocky crags shield sinners from the wrath of God at the Great Day of the Lord.

B. THE TERROR OF THE LORD WILL BE SO GREAT MEN WILL BEG FOR DEATH

1. so fearsome will be the wrath of God, and the Lamb that men will cry out for death to hide them the wrath of the Lamb
a. they will hide in caves and among the rocks of the mountains, but God’s avenging angels will find them
2. since hiding will not work, they will call for the mountains to fall on them thinking that in death they will be out of the reach of God
a. men will fear both the face of the One who sits on the throne, and the wrath of the Lamb
1) the Lamb That Was Slain, now rises up as the ferocious Lion of Judah
3. the primary purpose of the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls is to display the wrath of the righteous God to a world that has rejected him
a. the judgment on the earth-dwellers is called "the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God" in Revelation 19:15
4. it is a fearsome thing for lost sinners to fall into the hands of an angry God
a. and here is the sadness behind the judgement that will fall on lost men
b. they know that God is behind this cataclysmic event and that it is the beginning of His judgment
1) earthquakes and their side affects have been happening since the Fall
2) for thousands of years they were attributed to the anger of the gods
3) with the arrival of the Age of Enlightenment, and modern scientific enquiry we have learned that earthquakes are the result of Plate Tectonics and natural forces deep within the Earth’s crust
c. but the indication is that this megaquake, and its side affects will be so catastrophic that all of mankind will instinctively know that this is the beginning of the Day of the Lord
1) but instead of crying out in repentance they will cry out in fear to the earth itself; “Hide us” and to the mountains “Fall on us!"

III. THE COMING OF THE RIGHTEOUS ONE

“For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”” (Revelation 6:17, NIV84)
1. whose wrath has come?
a. the wrath of the One on Heaven’s throne, and the Lamb the was slain

A. THE DAY OF THE LORD IS A DAY OF CALAMITY

1. the day of the Lord means destruction of the godless
a. the Prophet Isaiah describes it as a massive leveling; whatever is lofty will be brought low
“The LORD Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled), 13 for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty, and all the oaks of Bashan, 14 for all the towering mountains and all the high hills, 15 for every lofty tower and every fortified wall, 16 for every trading ship and every stately vessel. 17 The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day, " (Isaiah 2:12-17, NIV84)
1) it will be a time of cosmic upheaval
2) it will be a time of social upheaval
2. the Apostle ends the chapter with a rhetorical question ... "... and who can stand?”
a. for us the answer is clear, “No one shall be able to stand in that day except those who are in Christ.”
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, NIV84)

B. THE DAY OF THE LORD IS A DAY OF SALVATION

1. The Day of the Lord Brings Salvation for Israel a. as we shall see in chapter 7
2. The Day of the Lord Brings Salvation for the Nations
“The LORD will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land. ” (Zephaniah 2:11, NIV84)
3. The Day of the Lord Brings Salvation (Or Restoration) to the Natural Earth
a. in Paul’s letter to the Romans we read "... the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22, NIV84)
1) it’s groaning because of sin—our sin, your’s and mine
b. but when the Day of the Lord arrives that groaning will cease
“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. ” (Romans 8:19-21, NIV84)
4. The Day of the Lord Brings Ultimate Salvation—our Glorification—to Christ’s Followers
a. in the New Testament the day of the Lord is more precisely the Day of Jesus Christ and especially the manifestation of his glory
b. while this revelation of the person of Jesus spells calamity for unbelievers, for believers it means to be caught up to be with Christ our Redeemer forever

IV. APPLICATION

A. THE SOVEREIGNTY AND MAJESTY OF GOD AND THE LAMB IS ABSOLUTE

1. the day of the Lord is a day of God’s vindication
a. in the battle between evil and God, it is God who is victorious and vindicated
2. He is the ultimate power to whom is given the final word and against whom no force can stand
“The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,” (Isaiah 2:17, NIV84)

B. THE TOTALLY DEPRAVITY OF MAN IS ON DISPLAY

1. fully understanding that the chaos that has come upon the world is from God, men would rather hide from God rather then repent to God
ILLUS. If you were watching the news this week you noted that Steven Hawking died. He was a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author, and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge. He also had ALS that gradually paralyzed him over the decades, and confined him to a wheelchair for most of his life. He was lauded as one of the greatest minds of our age. Sadly, he was also a confirmed Atheist. Hawking wrote: “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” I saw a cartoon this week that showed Hawking in his wheelchair going up a handicapped ramp toward the gates of heaven. The thought bubble reads, “Evidently, not all my calculations were correct.”
2. in the Day of the Lord multitudes of the world’s lost will discover that not all their calculations about heaven and hell and God were correct

C. THE WRATH OF GOD AGAINST SIN AND DISOBEDIENCE IS FEARSOME

1. God will exact His vengeance against everyone who has denied his reality and His Christ
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them. ”” (Deuteronomy 32:35, NIV84)
a. in that day there will be no second chance to receive Christ
b. your battle for eternity is won or lost in this world
2. the Day of the Lord addresses the question of theodicy—the theology of evil and suffering
a. all our questions about the existence of evil and suffering will be answered
1) ambiguities will be resolved
2) the message of the Day of the Lord is that evil be trounced and evildoers will in the end receive their due
3. there is justice after all
a. God will settle his accounts with all that is godless and anti-God, arrogant and pridefully hostile against the Almighty
The contents of chapter 6 should put to rest the false teachings that God, being a God of love, could not judge a wicked world. It also raises the important question contained in the closing words of vs. 17: Who can stand? Only those who have availed themselves of the grace of God before the time of judgment will be able to stand when God deals with the earth in this final period of great distress. The Psalmist tells us, “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:11-12, NIV84
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