The sixth seal, Part 3
Mar 14, 2016
More than a month ago we left off with Revelation 6:14, which speaks of the “scroll” of the word being rolled up, implying that the revelation was sealed up. While no seal is mentioned in chapter six, we find that it is the main topic of the next chapter, when the 144,000 are sealed. The revelation of God is in them, pictured both as “unripe figs” cast to the ground as martyrs and as a scroll that is rolled up.
When these are martyred for the testimony of Jesus, their word remains sealed to those who persecute them. Understanding of the word is diminished in the church during the Age of Pentecost. Even as King Saul, the Pentecostal, persecuted David, the overcomer, so also did the church under Pentecost persecute the overcomers. Even as Saul was cut off from the word that was in David, so also was the revelation of the word cut off from the church during the Age of Pentecost.
Later, as we will see when we study Revelation 7:13-17, we are told that the 144,000 are “the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” This does not mean that they survived this war on the saints. It means the opposite, for verse 15 says, “for this reason they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple.” Verse 16 adds that “they shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore.” The implication is that they are beyond the reach of the persecutors, serving God in His temple in heaven.
Psalm 119:89 says, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” This is the opening verse of the “Lamed” section of the psalm. Lamed is the Hebrew letter that means an ox goad, representing authority. When the overcomers fall prematurely to the earth as unripe figs, their revelation is not lost but is sealed from the church. The authority of the word remains in heaven until an appointed time.
Upheavals among the Nations
Revelation 6:14-17 says,
14 … and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15 And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?”
The persecution and untimely death of the overcomers brings about a lack of understanding of the word, and the result is that the kingdoms of men remain carnal in their relationships with their fellow nations. The natural result is war, disruption, and upheaval, as territory is taken and lost. Conditions on earth have no resemblance to the peaceful Kingdom of Christ that comes after the close of the Pentecostal Age.
These verses give us a quick look at the long-term results of the little horn’s “war with the saints” (Daniel 7:21) prior to the time “when the saints took possession of the Kingdom” (Daniel 7:22).
Hiding in the Mountains
What does John mean when he speaks of men hiding in caves and among the rocks in the mountains? While John does not attempt to interpret this revelation, we know that he drew upon the revelation set forth in Isaiah 2:19-21,
19 And men will go into caves of the rocks, and into holes of the ground before the terror of the Lord, and before the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble. 20 In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, 21 in order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble.
The second chapter of Isaiah, then, provides us with a longer explanation of Revelation 6. Isaiah begins by setting forth “the mountain of the house of the Lord,” which was pictured by the temple on a hill in Jerusalem. The problem, of course, was that the temple had become corrupted by the time of Isaiah, so it was no longer an accurate portrayal of the temple in heaven.
But Isaiah speaks prophetically of this “house” in an age to come, when its construction on earth would be completed. Paul describes it in Ephesians 2:19-22 as a temple built upon the foundation of Christ, the apostles, and the prophets. To complete this house, made of “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5), one must await the final generation when there are sufficient numbers of those “stones” to be placed in the temple walls. Hence, this prophetic temple was for a future time in Isaiah’s day.
Isaiah then gives an invitation to the “house of Jacob” to “walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5). His use of the name Jacob, rather than Israel, shows their deceitfulness and carnality which Jacob himself manifested prior to wrestling with the angel. The prophet further says that God had “abandoned Thy people, the house of Jacob” on account of their apostasy (Isaiah 2:6). They were wealthy and strong militarily (Isaiah 2:7), but their land was full of idols (Isaiah 2:8).
Both the common man and the great men had bowed down to these idols (Isaiah 2:9), so God says through the prophet, “do not forgive them.” This is where he first says, “Enter the rock and hide in the dust from the terror of the Lord and from the splendor of His majesty” (Isaiah 2:10). It is “a day of reckoning” (Isaiah 2:12), where God brings judgment against all who have exalted themselves and their false gods above the God of Israel.
God comes “against all the lofty mountains [nations], against all the hills that are lifted up” (Isaiah 2:14), so that “the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:17).
This is the background to Isaiah 2:19-21 which we quoted earlier, and which John quotes in Revelation 6:15-17. Isaiah concludes the chapter by identifying the root problem in Isaiah 2:22,
22 Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?
In other words, stop following men rather than the God of Israel, and the traditions of men rather than the word of God. To put men and their understanding above God and His word is to worship idols. But when God arises to manifest “the splendor of His majesty,” “the idols will completely vanish” (Isaiah 2:18).
This problem of idolatry (and heart idolatry) has prevailed over the centuries and is the reason for the war against the saints. When the time allotted to the little horn ends, then the saints will be given the Kingdom. This is the time when the glory of God is manifested and “when He arises to make the earth tremble” (Isaiah 2:19, 21). This trembling will shake the nations and the heavens too, as Haggai 2:5-7 says,
5 As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear! 6 For thus says the Lord of hosts, “Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations; and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord of hosts.
Having reviewed Isaiah’s prophecy, let us now return with a greater understanding of John’s words in Revelation 6:15-17. When John tells us that the kings and great men, rich men, slaves and free men will hide themselves in the caves, they are the men who love darkness rather than light. When the light of the glory of God is manifested, those who love darkness will flee.
The Kingdom of Light
When the evil men run to the caves and hide among the rocks in the mountains, they are not fleeing from aerial bombardment. They flee from the light of the word which is the practical extension of the glory of God. Their idols cannot stand in the light of divine revelation. Hence, they flee, lest their deeds should be exposed. Jesus said in John 3:19-21,
19 And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.
It is plain that the light of the word has been with us since God first said, “Let there be light.” But that light has always been opposed by the darkness, spiritually speaking. This describes metaphorically the war against the saints as well, a war which was a continuation of the war that Jerusalem waged against the prophets in the Old Testament.
The legal end of this dispute ends at the appointed time, as Daniel says, with the transfer of authority to the saints of the Most High. The legal end is followed by the practical end of this war, when the manifestation of His glory and majesty arises in the earth. This will not be an instantaneous victory, of course. It speaks of an unknown time during which we will see a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit that manifests in the saints.
John says that those who flee to the mountains and caves say, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence [prosopon, “face, presence”] of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb [arnion, “little lambs”]” (Revelation 6:16). They fled from two entities, who are really one, for it is the glory of God manifesting in His saints that cause them such fear.
This is the topic of Paul’s discussion in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, 10,
9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal [aionian] destruction, away from the presence [prosopon, “face”] of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed… 12 in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him….
This event describes more than just a King coming out of heaven to manifest His glory to those who look upon Him. It describes the saints having the glory of God in them. The Greek word prosopon is the equivalent of the Hebrew word paniym, which describes the glory seen in the face of Moses when he was transfigured in Exodus 34:30.
In 2 Corinthians 3:13, when Paul discussed Moses’ face that glowed with the presence of God, he used the term prosopon, “face.” It is the same prophetically-charged word that John used in Revelation 6:16. It does not refer to men fleeing the face of Jesus Himself, but rather the face of God seen in the faces of the glorified saints. Paul says that they will “be marveled at” in that day. John says that the lovers of darkness will flee and hide.
Either way, it is a picture of victorious overcoming, as John 1:5 says,
5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it [katalambano, “to seize, lay hold of, detect, or overcome”].
This has a double meaning. Darkness cannot comprehend light (truth), and darkness cannot overcome or extinguish the light.
So Revelation 6:17 concludes, “who is able to stand?” In other words, who can withstand, or stand against, the light and glory in the face of the saints? Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:8,
8 And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance [epiphaneia, “brightness”] of His coming [parousia, “presence”].
The lawless one will not be able to win this war. While the saints were to be overcome during the time allotted to the little horn, the day comes when the saints are glorified. Then they go forth to conquer, not by physical arms, but by the power of the glory of God. No one then can withstand them, for their “wrath” pushes back the darkness until all idolatry ends and the whole earth is filled with His glory.
This is part 55 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones