The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 49

Shaking Terribly the Earth

Revelation 6:12.    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.

     The opening of the next seal marked another great catastrophe on earth.  This one, however, was not a continuing condition, as under the four horsemen of the first four seals, but a single great complex of physical convulsions on the earth.  In its brevity and intensity, however, it spoke more clearly and eloquently to the inhabitants of the earth than had any of the others.  They had already been experiencing war and famine and pestilence as well as general violence in the world.  For that matter, even earthquakes had been occurring “in divers places” for many years.  But most men had refused to see in these a divine warning.

     The Lord Jesus Christ had even told his disciples that a worldwide state of war, accompanied and followed by famines, pestilences, earthquakes, fearful sights from heaven, and general troubles, would be a great sign of His coming and the end of the age (Matthew 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11).  All these, He said, would constitute “the beginning of travail” (that is, the first birth pains, presaging the imminent coming of the new age).  This complex of events, in fact, seemed to occur for the first time in history in connection with the first World War, with a second and similar “birth pang” occurring in connection with World War II.

     The same combination of troubles will be repeated in the world for at least the third time as the seals are opened by the Lamb, but the calamities will be far more severe than ever before.  Especially is this true of the great earthquake described here, which – for the first time in history – is worldwide in scope.

     Seismologists and geophysicists in recent years have learned a great deal about the structure of the earth and about the cause and nature of earthquakes.  The earth’s solid crust is traversed with a complex network of faults, with all resting upon a plastic mantle whose structure is still largely unknown.  Whether the crust consists of great moving plates is a current matter of controversy among geophysicists, so the ultimate cause of earthquakes is still not known.  In all likelihood, the entire complex of crustal instabilities is a remnant of the phenomena of the great Flood, especially the breakup of the fountains of the great deep.

     In any case, the vast worldwide network of unstable earthquake belts around the world suddenly will begin to slip and fracture on a global basis and a gigantic earthquake will ensue.  This is evidently, and naturally, accompanied by tremendous volcanic eruptions, spewing vast quantities of dust and steam and gases into the upper atmosphere.  It is probably these that will cause the sun to be darkened and the moon to appear blood-red.

     Joel apparently speaks of this same time: “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come” (Joel 2:30, 31).  Many other prophets speak of the darkness of the day of the Lord: “That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Zephaniah 1:15).  “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.  For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine” (Isaiah 13:9, 10).

Revelation 6:13.    And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a might wind. 

     The “earthquake” of verse 12 actually includes more than the solid earth.  The word (Greek seismos) literally means “shaking,” and can apply to the air or sea, as well as the land.  In Matthew 8:24, it is translated “tempest.”  To those on the earth it will seem that the sky is shaking as well as the earth, and it will appear as though the stars themselves are being shaken loose from their moorings in the heavens and then plummeting the earth.  “For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come” (Haggai 2:6, 7).

     The word “star” (Greek aster) refers to any luminous body in the sky other than sun and moon.  Obviously the “stars” here are not the distant stellar objects we today call stars, but the language of the text seems to denote more than the meteorites commonly today called “falling stars,” which were already, no doubt, as familiar to John as they are to us.

     The most likely identification of these particular falling stars is that of a great swarm of asteroids that pummel the earth.  Such an event has never occurred in historic times, but scientists have long speculated about the probability of either past or future earth catastrophes caused by encountering a swarm of asteroids.

     Such an encounter is a real possibility, and would cause great devastation on the earth near the various points of impact.  A shower of giant meteorites might have much the same effect.  It might even be the trigger that will set off the global earthquake.   

Revelation 6:14.    And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

     This enigmatic prophecy reflects Isaiah 34:4: “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.”  The “host of heaven” is a phrase commonly used in Scripture for the stars.  The stars of heaven will never actually be “dissolved,” because the Scriptures say they will shine forever (Psalm 148:3-6).  However, they will appear to dissolve for the same reason that the sun and the moon are darkened.  The dust and gases from the “pillars of smoke” erupting from the earth’s depths will screen and refract the light from all heavenly bodies.

     The departing of the heavens like a scroll is more difficult to understand.  There seem to be two possibilities.  One is that the clouds of dust will gradually spread across the sky, making it appear that the sky is being “rolled up.”  However, the use of the graphic term “departed,” seems to indicate something more spectacular even than this.  The other possibility is that the earth’s crust, highly unstable ever since the great Flood, will be so disturbed by the impacting asteroids, the volcanic explosions, and the worldwide earthquakes, that great segments of it will actually begin to slip and slide over the earth’s deep plastic mantle.  Geophysicists for many years have been fascinated with the idea of “continental drift” (although strong evidence has been accumulating against any such phenomenon occurring in the present age).  Several have published theories of a past naturalistic catastrophism involving what they call “the earth’s shifting crust.”  Some such phenomenon may actually be triggered under this judgment of the sixth seal, dwarfing the damage occasioned by all the mighty earthquakes of the past.  Those who reside in regions above such shifting crustal plates will observe the heavens appearing to move in the opposite direction, and it will seem as if they are being “rolled up.”

     And, in the process, “every mountain and island [islands are submerged mountains] were moved out of their places.”  It would seem that such an amazing phenomenon must be caused by some such area-wide slippages of the crust.

Revelation 6:15.    And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains.

     Such a mighty display of cosmic power will finally gain the attention of the ungodly world, including all its political, industrial, intellectual, and military leaders – the very ones who had ignored the warnings of the previous judgments and were persecuting and slaying those who were trying to bear witness to the world that the judgments were due to the wrath of the Lamb.

     And if the leaders were awed and frightened by the terrifying convulsions, even more so were ordinary people – both those who still enjoyed a measure of freedom and those who were in bondage (the word doulos could apply both to slaves and to those who, as subjugated peoples, were forced to work in occupations not of their own choosing, such as in Red China and other slave nations).  Wherever possible, people – particularly the leaders – will flee to the great underground civil defense shelters that had been originally designed as protection against nuclear attack or to the great natural caverns such as Mammoth Cave, hoping to escape the falling stars and other devastations on the surface.

Revelation 6:16.    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.

     The inhabitants of the world – including even their leaders – are finally convinced of the foolishness of atheism and evolutionary humanism, acknowledging that the God of Creation is indeed on His heavenly throne.  They also will reluctantly recognize that He whom they had rejected (Psalm 2:1-3) is now speaking to them in His wrath and vexing them in His sore displeasure (Psalm 2:4, 5).  The testimony of those who had borne witness to them of this fact had been silenced by execution, but now the Lamb Himself was angry and “his wrath is kindled but a little” and they were all about to “perish from the way” (Psalm 2:12).  These kings and judges of the earth were no longer boasting and threatening, but were quivering in their holes in the earth.

     They were not safe even there, as the sliding crust and quaking rocks caused many of their shelters to collapse on top of them.  Even this, however, now seemed preferable to facing further judgments from the Lamb, and thy even prayed for such quick destruction. 

Revelation 6:17.    For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

     At least it was salutary that men were finally willing to acknowledge God and His omnipotence.  It is absurd for a creature to “imagine a vain thing” (Psalm 2:1), thinking he can dethrone his Creator, and this terrifying physical upheaval had forced them to recognize this fact.  But like the devils, they merely believed in God and trembled (James 2:19), still refusing to turn to Him for forgiveness and salvation.

     Isaiah also foresaw this day: “Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty.  The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day . . . .  And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth” (Isaiah 2:10-19).

     But then, amazingly, even this would pass.  After these few terrifying days, the stars stopped falling and the terrible shakings ceased.  The survivors emerged from their shelters and began again to rationalize their resistance to God.  After all, these awful calamities could be explained scientifically, so perhaps they had been too quick to attribute them to God’s wrath.  They quickly set about rebuilding their damaged structures and became more resolute than ever in their opposition to the gospel of Christ.

     Nevertheless there were many who had really believed and were saved.  They fearlessly gave a renewed testimony to the Word of God and the imminence of His judgments, and thus quickly they also joined the ranks of the martyrs at the heavenly tabernacle.

Website Builder