REVELATION 6:9-17: THE FIFTH AND SIXTH SEAL
Last week, we began our look at the seven seals on the scroll. I hope that you remember that the scroll signifies some sort of title or property deed that only Jesus is worthy to open, and each time that Christ opens one of the seals, something huge happens in our world. Last week, we looked at the first four of the seven seals. These four seals are commonly known as the four horsemen of the apocalypse. We talked about how the four horsemen will most likely serve to usher in the reign of the antichrist. But we also talked about how God is in complete control of the situation; and even the antichrist cannot do anything that God does not allow him to do. Tonight we are going to finish up Revelation chapter six, which revolves around the breaking of the fifth and sixth seals. So I ask you to turn in your Bibles to Revelation chapter six, and we will be reading verses nine through seventeen of this chapter. Again, Revelation 6:9-17.
“And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?’ And white robes were given unto them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. And I beheld, when He had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondsman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:’ for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
Let’s pray together.
Tonight’s study lays out very nicely into two halves. The first half is the view of the martyrs before the throne, and the second half is the view of the wicked on planet earth. Just so that we can get a good look at the fifth seal, let’s read verse nine again. “And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” Ok, a couple of quick things to notice about this verse. The first thing to notice is the use of the word “altar.” Now, when we think of the word “altar” in today’s churches, we think of these benches down here where people can come and make commitments to God. But, is that how John understood the word “altar?” No, how did John understand the word? That’s right, he understood the word to be the place where sacrifices were made in the temple. The second thing I want you to notice is who was gathered here at this altar. The Bible says it was the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God. As you are well aware, we call these people martyrs. I think that it is fascinating that the martyrs are gathered at the altar before the throne of God. What do you think that says about the martyrs? Yes, I agree. The spilled blood of the Old Testament sacrifices were meant to bring honor and glory to God, and the spilled blood of the martyrs did that exact same thing. But, when you think about the death of martyrs, do you think the murderers were attempting to honor and glorify God? Absolutely not! But even through their vile deeds, God is glorified because of the faithful witness they bore.
Look at what the martyrs say in verse ten. “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?’” In this verse, the martyrs ask God how much longer He is going to wait before He judges the wicked for what they’ve done. While I am not sure how appropriate it is to ask this question is to the God of the universe, I can’t say I blame them for asking. But look at how our God responds in verse eleven. “And white robes were given unto them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” The Bible says that God gave the servants white robes. You know as well as I do that white in the Bible symbolizes purity and innocence. God gave them these robes to signify that they were pure in His eyes. Then God told them to rest for a little while longer, until the very last of His servants had died for Him. What is this talking about? What we in the church have to be prepared for is that the time of tribulation will be a time of intense persecution for the church. After the antichrist firmly establishes himself, he will begin turning up the heat on those that claim the name of Jesus Christ. And, as you know, I believe that the church will go through this period of tribulation. In other words, if these events happen in our lifetimes, then we need to be prepared for a world that will no longer tolerate the presence of churches. Will every Christian die? No, I do not think so. But will many Christians die? Yes, they will. But for those that do give the ultimate sacrifice, the Bible gives the promise of a white robe before God, which is surely worth any amount of physical suffering we could ever go through.
And if you are here tonight, and you are suffering for your faith, whether it is harassments from your co-workers or family members, just remember that your suffering rises up as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God, and He is well-pleased when you are willing to suffer for His name.
And that is the end of the fifth seal. The fifth seal is somewhat hard to quantify, because it leaves us wondering what this will look like on planet earth. If this happens in our lifetimes, will we know what it looks like when the fifth seal is broken? Maybe not, but the main idea is that the end times will be characterized by a time of intense persecution of the followers of Christ. Let’s now look at seal number six.
Look at what verse twelve reads. “And I beheld, when He had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.” Wow! While we may not know exactly when the fifth seal is broken, there can be no doubt about this one! One thing I want to point out about this verse is the use of the word “earthquake.” The Greek word is seismos, which is where we get our word seismograph. Anyways, the word basically means “shaking.” So a more literal translation of this verse would be that there will be a great shaking. If we read the verse this way, we can see that the shaking is not only happening on earth, but it is happening in the sky as well. This verse says that along with this great shaking, the sun will go black, and the moon will look like blood. In the Greek, the word for “moon” implies that it will be a full moon. The judgment continues in verse thirteen. Verse thirteen reads, “And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” Understanding the “earthquake” as something that happens in the sky as well really helps us to understand verse thirteen. When the apples on an apple tree are ripe, very often they will fall to the ground just from their own weight. But when an apple is not ripe yet, it takes a very strong wind to knock the apple off the tree. Apparently figs are the exact same way. The Bible says that the stars will fall from the sky just like unripe figs fall when there is a mighty wind. Just as the tree shakes and shakes until the fruit falls, so the sky will shake and shake until the stars fall. But I think that we must interpret this verse from the perspective of someone watching from the ground. Obviously, if literal stars fell from the sky, our entire solar system would be obliterated just like the Oklahoma City Thunder were in the conference finals. But I think the idea is that the stars will “appear” to fall. I think that this will be a meteor shower of an epic scale. Who knows, maybe the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter will be shaken loose and some of them will catapult to earth. I don’t want to speculate too much, I’m just trying to make the point that I do not think that literal stars will crash on our planet.
If you look at verse fourteen, you will see how this great shaking will very much apply to land, as well. The earthquake will be so strong that the mountains and islands will be visibly moved from their old resting places. While obviously this is a judgment on the part of God, it will also be an act of mercy in that not everyone dies in this earthquake!
Look again at verses fifteen through seventeen. “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondsman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:’ for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Verse fifteen makes it apparent that this earthquake will not be racist, sexist, or elitist. No, this earthquake will affect everybody. Well, almost everybody. Verse sixteen makes it clear that this earthquake will come directly from the wrath of the Lamb. In fact, while I will not endorse the Left Behind books, in that series this earthquake is called “The Wrath of the Lamb” earthquake. But church, are we in any way susceptible to the wrath of the Lamb? I mean, we know that God will chastise us for our sins, but will we ever face His wrath? While I do deserve God’s wrath, the Bible is clear that God’s wrath has been removed from my life by the blood of Jesus. So, while I cannot be sure, I believe that Christians will be miraculously spared from this massive earthquake. It seems as if many, many people will die; but I do not believe that the Church will be among them.
So, in essence, both of these two seals deal with death on a grand scale. The fifth seal deals with the death of Christians, as there will be an intense persecution in the Tribulation. And the sixth seal deals with the death of many non-Christians, who will die in the great shaking that will emanate from the Lamb of God. The sun will turn black, the moon will turn crimson red, and stars will fall from the sky. The shaking will be so bad that mountains and islands will find new resting places. And yet, I firmly believe that the saints of God will not be touched. Will we be touched by the swords of an evil ruler? Yes, we may be. But we will not be touched by the wrath of God, because we have been saved from the wrath of God!
So what does this passage mean for us here today? Well, I think we can take two things from it. The first thing we can take from this passage is that God has His hand of protection on His people. God is not going to just arbitrarily allow His servants to die without meaning. If God allows one of His servants to die, it is because He has a plan that is greater than anything we could imagine for that person. So church, let us remember that God is always looking out for the people that are called by His name. And the second thing I want us to remember is that like the saints gathered around the altar, we must be willing to make the ultimate sacrifices as Christians. While I pray that no one in this church will ever be killed for their faith, I pray that God will make all of us willing. My prayer is that we will always stand boldly for the King that died for us, even if it means we die in the process. My prayer is that if someone holds a gun to my head and asks if I will deny the name of Jesus Christ, I will triumphantly say that I could never deny the One that has been so faithful to me. But obviously, we live in a country that does not normally kill people for their faith, so how can this help us right now? Well, my prayer is that we will never allow the opinions of man to impact the message that comes out of our mouths. While you will not be killed for preaching the gospel, you may be ridiculed for it. Is that going to stop you? Your uncle might try to avoid you if you tell Him about Christ, but is that going to stop you? You might even be passed up for that promotion at work because you are known as a radical Christian, but is that going to stop you from living for Christ that way you should? My prayer is that our love and obedience for Christ would be a worthy sacrifice to God, whether or not we are ever called to make the ultimate sacrifice. I pray that we at First Free Will Baptist Church will always remain faithful, even if that faithfulness costs us everything.
Let’s thank God for His goodness.
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