OVERVIEW – The sixth seal ushered in the Day of the Lord, the time of wrath upon the inhabitants of the earth, and Who can stand? – Revelation 6:12-17.
Next, the “Lamb” opened the sixth seal, which caused celestial and terrestrial trauma as the “day of wrath” dawned. This was nothing less than the “great day of the wrath of God and of the Lamb.” Men from every societal rank panicked, but every attempt by the “inhabitants of the earth” to hide from the wrath of the “Lamb” and the “One Who sits on the Throne” was in vain. There was no escape, for no one could “stand” before the onset of that day.
- (Revelation 6:12-17) – “And I saw when he opened the sixth seal, that a great earthquake took place; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the full moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig-tree sheds her winter figs, when by a great wind it is shaken, and the heaven was withdrawn like a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island out of their places were shaken. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rulers of thousands, and the rich, and the mighty, and every bondman and freeman, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains; and they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; because the great day of their wrath is come, and who is able to stand?”
When the sixth seal was opened, destruction was unleashed on all the “inhabitants of the earth,” and the entire created order was thrown into chaos. All this tumult set the stage for the question – Who will stand before the Lamb on that day? And this is the crux of the matter.
The opening of the fifth seal left events dangling. The martyrs “under the altar” pleaded for vindication but did not receive it, at least not yet. Instead, they were told to wait until the full number of the witnesses destined for suffer martyrdom was assembled.
The sixth seal produced “a great earthquake,” which initiated chaos throughout the Cosmos. The picture borrows language from several Old Testament passages related to the “Day of Yahweh, for example:
- (Joel 2:10) – “The earthquakes before them; the heavens tremble; the sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining…for great is the day of Yahweh and awful exceedingly, Who then shall endure it?”
- (Joel 2:30-32) – “And I will set forth wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awful Day of Yahweh.”
- (Isaiah 34:3-5) – “Then shall be dissolved all the host of the heavens, and the heavens shall roll up as a scroll, Yea, all their host shall fade like the fading and falling of a leaf from a vine, and like what fades and falls from a fig-tree.”
- (Isaiah 2:17-21) – “And the haughtiness of mean men shall be humbled, and the loftiness of great men shall be laid low, and Yahweh alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols shall wholly pass away, and they shall enter into the holes of the rocks and into the caves of clay, because of the terribleness of Yahweh and for his majestic splendor when he arises to shake terribly the earth. In that day shall the son of earth cast his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which had been made for him to worship, into the hole of the mice and to the bats; that he may enter into the clefts of the rocks and into the fissures of the crags, because of the terribleness of Yahweh and for his majestic splendor, when he arises to shake terribly the earth.”
The sixth seal anticipated the “Day of Yahweh.” The disruption was universal, not local. The overthrow of the existing order prepared for the arrival of the New Creation. This day was not another series of plagues; it was the end of the age, the hour of final judgment.
The cosmic chaos caused terror at all levels of society. Neither political rank nor economic standing could save anyone from the impending “wrath.” All hope was gone.
This is the predicted “hour of trial” that was to come on the “whole habitable earth,” an event from which Jesus promised to spare the church at Philadelphia. The martyrs under the altar were told to wait for the completion of their number before receiving their vindication. Yet at this point in the narrative, no one is prepared for the arrival of wrath, hence the question – “Who can stand?” – (Revelation 3:10).
In the book of Revelation, “wrath” or orge refers to the final judgment on the “Day of the Lord,” not to preliminary judgments and plagues – (Revelation 11:18, 14:10, 16:19, 19:15).
At this point, the question is unanswered – Who can stand before the Lamb? This will be addressed in the next vision when the multitude of the redeemed is found “standing” before the “Lamb and the One on the Throne.”