“And I watched when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became black as a tight woven sack, and the whole moon became like blood; the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its summer figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky split open like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was dislodged from its foundations. Earth’s kings and magistrates and military leaders, and all people – rich and powerful, slave and free – hid themselves in caves and in the crags of mountains; and they said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from before him who is enthroned and from the wrath of the lamb; for the great day of their anger has come, and who is able to face it?'”
The Apocalypse 6.12-17
This last of the six “precursor” prophecies is the most difficult to put into the picture with any confidence. Is it simply using symbolic language to tell us that fear will grip the earth as the other predictions prove true? Or is it to be taken literally?
What was John seeing when he had this vision? Was there a massive volcano spewing so much smoke that the sun became black and the moon red? Were meteors bursting into earth’s atmosphere in such a way and of such size that it looked to John like the stars were falling from heaven? If there is a literal dimension to this prophecy, then we have not yet seen its ultimate fulfilment. However, we have seen enough and we have learned enough to know that our earth and our solar system has the potential to produce any of these things.
In any case, there can be little doubt that mankind is already facing fear in increasing measure. I am writing these comments on March 23, 2016; and looking in the papers today (as a random sampling) I immediately find a description of people in Brussels who have just faced terrorist suicide bombings this week. Here is an excerpt from today’s online Time Magazine:
Brussels is a city which had learned to live with fear. Not an all-consuming terror which stays with you every waking moment, but a nagging sense of insecurity playing at the edges of your mind, a surreal kind of fear which forces you to become accustomed to the unthinkable….
…One key issue is how to reassure a people that you can keep them safe when despite all the warnings—all the promises of intelligence-sharing across borders, all the police and army in the streets—terror hits in the very places which were meant to be protected?
What about in America? Is it fear that is driving the hyper conservative “Donald Trump” bid for the US presidency? For what reason other than fear would people in this day and age support such offensive election promises as closing the border to anyone of a Muslim background?
However, let us suppose for a minute that the predictions contained in this sixth prophecy should find literal fulfilment. Given the upheaval already being experienced on the earth, what would it do to us if even the earth and sky started to show signs of discontinuity?
The very position of this prophecy as last in the sequence of six seems to give it pride of place: it looks like a trigger-like development signalling that the next phase of the Apocalypse is ready for release. Since the first five precursor prophecies are coming to fulfilment quite literally, it seems to me that something more than mere subjectivity is anticipated here. It is not inconsistent with the literary context to expect that cosmic anomalies previously unseen are going to break in upon the earth and signal that the time of reckoning for the human race is at hand.
Well, what do you think? Click here to join the conversation.