Friday, January 5, 2018

Revelation 6:12-17 Sixth Seal: Nature in Convulsion


KEY TEXT: Revelation 6:12-17 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" 

KEY THOT: The sixth seal corresponds to Matthew 24:29-31, where Jesus described similar convulsions in nature (both terrestrial and celestrial): "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 heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."  

Note an important fact in Jesus' saying: the sound of the "loud trumpet call" takes place after the tribulation when the church will be gathered up by the angels (rapture). This gathering of the elect corresponds to Paul's description of believers being "caught up" in the air to meet the Lord at the "sound of the trumpet of God" (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Effectively, these two passages by Jesus and Paul, plus the John's sixth seal confirm that the church would have to live through the tribulation before it hears the trumpet sounded and be "raptured" when the Lord appears in the heaven.

The description of the convulsions in nature is unlike anything we have ever seen nor experienced before. One possible reason for such a scenario would be the fallout from a thermonuclear detonation: "there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place" (Rev. 6:12-14). A thermonuclear explosion would trigger off a major earthquake and flatten any mountain. Islands would simply disappear (if one H-bomb from N. Korea happens to land on Singapore, it would disappear in a second!). 

The explosion would also throw up enough earth, soot, and dust into the stratosphere which could block all light from the sun and the moon, creating an immediate blanket of darkness, which could be described as "the sky vanished like a scroll". Under such condition, the moon would look blood-red and the sunlight would be completely shut out, creating what scientists call the the beginning of "nuclear winter" when temperature on earth would drop dramatically because of absence of sunlight. No life forms can survive this nuclear winter as there will be radiation fallout that remain on earth for thousands of years to come. Earth will become uninhabitable.

Whether the convulsions is caused by nuclear explosions or a supernatural act of God, it would be so severe that only Christ's return could bring this terrible convulsions to an end. Peter wrote about this in 2 Peter 3:11-13, "Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." Christ's coming will mean the complete destruction of this old earth and old heavens and the establishing of a "new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." 

Consider the current geo-political tensions: Arab nations' anger against Israel over Jerusalem, Russia and US in contention over Ukraine and Eastern Europe, US and China over South China sea, Iran and North Korea seeking to acquire ICBMs to use against US and Israel. The stage is set for a final showdown. 

But before the Final War of Armageddon can take place, Christians will be persecuted even as the gospel is being proclaimed to the end of the earth. According to Philip Jenkins, the gospel has already gone out to the world. In his book, The Next Christendom (Oxford University Press: 2011), Philip Jenkins describes today's church as existing largely outside traditional "Christian" Europe and North America. There are now more Christians in Africa, Latin America, China and South-east Asia than in Europe and North America combined. And the greatest growth is taking place among non-traditional indigenous churches that are often independent and sharing the characteristics of the Pentecostal/charismatic theology, viz., the practice of healing, deliverance and working of miracles and promise of God's intervention to bless believers with the abundant life now, rather than later. 

What this means is that Jesus' words of prophecy regarding the end-times is right now being fulfilled: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14). 

We are truly living in the Days of Elijah--the last days! As St. Peter asks the question: "what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness?" so we should also examine ourselves. Are we living lives committed to holiness and godliness? Are we getting ready for the coming harvest and for His coming. Wwatch and pray!

Abba-Father, You have shown us that we are truly living in the last days, maybe even in the last hours. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven! May we be urgent in season and out of season. For Christ's sake, Amen.

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