THE SIXTH SEAL: THE GREAT EARTHQUAKE (6:12-17). This is the first of five earthquakes in the book of Revelation:
1. Breaking of the seventh seal, 6:12
2. Before the first trumpet, 8:5
3. Marks the middle of the Tribulation, 11:13
4. Opening of Heaven, 11:19
5. Marks the Second Coming of Christ, 16:13
Historicists view these signs as the fall of paganism to Christianity in the time of Constantine. The sun, moon and stars represent earthly dignitaries, political authorities, and “great lights” in the political or religious “heavens.” The great earthquake is the shaking of the foundation of the Jewish church and state that affect all mankind (every mountain and island).
Preterists tie these disasters to the day of the LORD predicted by Malachi, John the Baptist, Paul and Peter.
Idealists see the catastrophes as representing the judgment of God upon Rome for its oppressing of Christians in John’s day. Most see the Second Coming of Christ pictured here.
Futurists hold different views. Some hold to a strictly literal interpretation of the Phenomena mentioned; others see both symbolic and literal; and others entirely symbolic.
Similar language is used in the prophecies of the Day of the LORD in Isaiah 13:10 and of the end times or the overthrow of Pharaoh in Ezekiel 32:7-8. Likewise, Jesus uses this kind of language to describe His Second Coming in Matthew 24:29.
The reaction and actions of the inhabitants of the earth indicate that this seal does not belong to the return of Christ, but the coming of His wrath. With the opening of this seal, the world will be aware they are in the Tribulation—the time of the Lamb and God’s wrath.
Some passages point to a literal interpretation (cf. Isaiah 2:10, 19, 21; 13:10; 24:4; Jeremiah 4:29; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:31; 3:15). It is difficult, however, to take these things literally, since the preceding seals use symbolic language to describe literal events of the future. For instance, no one would suggest that Death actually rides a literal horse. The sun, moon and stars are figurative of people and rule in Joseph’s dream.
Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” (Genesis 37:9-10).
Some contend that a nuclear exchange is pictured here triggering the great earthquake. Others envisage meteors striking the earth and causing these catastrophes.
God’s wrath is evidence of His holy love for all that is right and His holy hatred for all that is evil. Revelation reveals that the peoples of the earth during the Tribulation will face:
1. The Wrath of God and the Lamb (6:16-17 11:18; 14:10; 16:19; 19:15)
2. The Wrath of Satan (12:17)
3. The Wrath of the Nations (11:18)
PRE-WRATH RAPTURE VIEW. Until the sixth seal, the Antichrist is the instrument of the Lamb and Satan’s wrath. Those who espouse the Pre-wrath Rapture view place the catching up of the Church here. To do so, they have divorced divine wrath from the first five seals. Consequently, they hold that the Day of the LORD begins with the sixth seal, which they place in the middle of the latter three and one half-years of the Tribulation Period. Hence, the Church participates in most of the distress of this time.
Pre-Wrath View of Daniel’s Seventy Seven
1. The Rapture of the Church will occur immediately prior to the beginning of the Day of the Lord.
2. The Day of the Lord commences sometime within the second half of the seventieth seven.
3. The cosmic disturbances associated with the sixth seal will signal the approach of the Day of the Lord.
4. The Day of the Lord will begin with the opening of the seventh seal.
The sixth seal is a prelude that unleashes the seventh seal events covering the balance of the Tribulation Period. However, before the seventh seal is opened, John writes a parenthesis.