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Fifth Seal Martyr

Revelation 6:9-11

Revelation 6:9 - When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.

When Jesus opens the fifth seal, John's attention draws back to the heavenly throne. John sees an altar. Underneath the altar are the souls of those slain for the word of God; they died for their faith in Christ:

Romans 8:36 - As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."

In the earthly tabernacle, the "altar of burnt offering" represents the heavenly altar that the saints are under. (Click here for a schematic of the tabernacle).:

Exodus 40:29 - And he put the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, and offered upon it the burnt offering and the grain offering, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Just as the martyrs are under the altar, the priest poured out the blood of the Old Testament sacrifice at the "base of the altar":

Leviticus 4:7 - And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of meeting; and he shall pour the remaining blood of the bull at the base of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.

Recall from Revelation 2, Symrna was a persecuted church. Christ encouraged them to remain faithful, even to death. The name "Symrna" is Greek for the bitter spice "myrrh." As the crushed myrrh is a fragrant aroma, the Lord sees those who are faithful, even to the death, for His sake:

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 - Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

The "life of the flesh is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:11-14). The martyrs under the heavenly "altar of burnt offering" sacrificed their lives as an offering, which is a fragrant aroma, precious to the Lord:

Psalms 116:15 - Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.

Note the martyrs are "souls" not resurrected yet. Some believe this group includes all the martyrs since Stephen (Acts 7:59-60). However, the Church body will receive their resurrection bodies at the rapture, before the Tribulation begins. Therefore, these are people who become believers after the rapture. Also, those responsible for their deaths still dwell on earth, as we will see in the next section (Revelation 6:10), which suggests these souls are recent martyrs.

After the "Great Middle East" and "Gog and Magog" wars, God will "reduce to nothing all the gods of the earth" (Zephaniah 2:11) and God will make Himself known to many nations (Ezekiel 38:23). Many will come to accept Jesus as their Savior after these two supernatural wars, which I believe take place near the beginning of the Tribulation (Click here for more on this view).

These Tribulation martyrs will die by the "word of their testimony," which is their testimony of the word of God, who is Jesus Christ:

Revelation 12:11 - And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
John 3:32-34 - And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.
1 John 5:9 - If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

It appears that the breaking of the fifth seal is the point at which God allows Satan and the powers of darkness to persecute and kill believers without restraint, until the Lord brings in the last of the harvest of the souls of believers in Revelation 14:13-16. The harlot religion "Babylon the Great" will slaughter the saints in the first half of the Tribulation, and Satan and the antichrist will slaughter them in the second half of the Tribulation:

Revelation 17:5-6 - And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.
Revelation 12:11, 17 - And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.... And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 13:10-12, 15 - He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.... He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

Revelation 6:10 - And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"

At first glance, the fifth Seal judgment looks like martyrdom on believers in the Tribulation. However, as the four living creatures called out the horses of judgment, these slain believers call out for justice and judgment against those who dwell on the earth, particularly those who spilled their blood before Jesus breaks the fifth seal. In other words, the fifth Seal judgment is not on the martyrs, but is a curse announced by the martyrs on the earth dwellers; particularly on those who murdered them.

The earth dwellers are clearly God's enemies in the Tribulation. They rejoice when God's two prophets are slain (Revelation 11:10) and they worship the image of the beast (Revelation 13:12-14). However, an angel presents these earth dwellers with the Gospel at the end of the Tribulation (Revelation 14:6), which suggests not all of them will reject Christ. Indeed, the following passages specify the earth dwellers that make allegiance to the beast, who overcomes the saints, are those not written in the Lamb's "Book of Life," meaning they are the eternally lost earth dwellers:

Revelation 13:7-8 - It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Revelation 17:8 - The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

The martyrs call out to the Lord, and address Him as the one who is "holy and true." Recall from Revelation 3:7, this title shows that the Lord sets Himself apart from sinfulness and He is faithful. The martyrs are confident in their imprecatory prayer against those who killed them for their faith in the Lord. If an ungodly man avenges a widow, the Lord will certainly avenge His own:

Luke 18:1-8 - Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.' And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' " Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"

The martyred saints ask the Lord "how long," until He judges and avenges their blood. The Psalmist's plea is the same as the martyrs under the altar:

Psalms 94:1-6, 14-15 - O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongs - O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth; render punishment to the proud. LORD, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked triumph? They utter speech, and speak insolent things; all the workers of iniquity boast in themselves. They break in pieces Your people, O LORD, and afflict Your heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless.... For the LORD will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance. But judgment will return to righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.

Righteous judgment will come, but it will be in God's timing. God is longsuffering to give opportunity for all to come to repentance:

2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Even during the Tribulation judgments, God gives opportunity for repentance, but most will still reject Him:

Revelation 9:20-21 - But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Revelation 16:9, 11 - And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.... They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.

When the Lord returns, the opportunity for repentance will end, and He will avenge His servants:

Isaiah 61:1-2 - "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn."
Isaiah 63:1-4 - Who is this who comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this One who is glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? - "I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save." Why is Your apparel red, and Your garments like one who treads in the winepress? "I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, and trampled them in My fury; their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My robes. For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed has come."

In the Old Testament, the Law called for each family to have an "avenger of blood," against any who might murder one of their relatives:

Numbers 35:19-21 - The avenger of blood himself shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death. If he pushes him out of hatred or, while lying in wait, hurls something at him so that he dies, or in enmity he strikes him with his hand so that he dies, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.

The Hebrew translated "avenger" is "gaal," which is the same word used for "kinsman redeemer." Recall from Revelation 5:5, Jesus is the "Kinsman Redeemer" to man, therefore He is also the "Avenger of Blood" for His redeemed murdered for their faith:

Deuteronomy 32:43 - "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people."
Psalms 9:10 - And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.... When He avenges blood, He remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the humble.

Recall from the Revelation 6:9, the harlot religion "Babylon the Great" will slaughter the saints in the first half of the Tribulation (Revelation 17:5-6), and Satan and the antichrist will slaughter them in the second half of the Tribulation (Revelation 12:11, 17, 13:10-12, 15). The Lord avenges the blood of His saints when He judges the harlot religion, and Babylon, the capital city of the antichrist's global government:

Revelation 19:1-3 - After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her." Again they said, "Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!"
Revelation 18:10, 20 - ...Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.... "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!"

It is interesting to note, Jeremiah prayed to see vengeance on those who tried to kill him, and the Lord answered this prayer, as He will the martyred saints' prayer under the altar:

Jeremiah 11:19-23 - But I was like a docile lamb brought to the slaughter; and I did not know that they had devised schemes against me, saying, "Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be remembered no more." But, O LORD of hosts, You who judge righteously, testing the mind and the heart, let me see Your vengeance on them, for to You I have revealed my cause. "Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the men of Anathoth who seek your life, saying, 'Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD, lest you die by our hand' - therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; and there shall be no remnant of them, for I will bring catastrophe on the men of Anathoth, even the year of their punishment.' "

On the other hand, during the "dispensation of grace" in the Church Age, Paul admonishes believers to show love to their enemies:

Romans 12:19-20 - Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."

Both Jesus and Stephen prayed for God to forgive their enemies, not for vengeance:

Luke 23:34 - Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." And they divided His garments and cast lots.
Acts 7:60 - Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

As discussed in the "Pre-Tribulation Rapture" study, grace and judgment cannot work concurrently. Imprecatory prayer, or prayer calling for judgment, is not in the New Testament, except for in the book of Revelation, which covers the "dispensation of judgment." Clearly, the "dispensation of grace" is over before the martyred saints ask the Lord to vindicate their death. Indeed, the fifth Seal judgment continues against the "earth dwellers" over the course of the Tribulation, with vengeance specifically taken against Babylon the harlot religious system (Revelation 19:1-3) and Babylon the city (Revelation 18:10, 20).

Revelation 6:11 - Then a white robe was given to each of them...

Recall from Revelation 1:14, white represents cleansing from sin:

Isaiah 1:18 - "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
Psalms 51:5-7 - Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Atonement means that sin is "covered." Therefore, being clothed with a white garment symbolizes the covering of sin with the blood of the Lamb (Exodus 30:10, Hebrews 9:11-14).

Recall from Revelation 3:5, the Lord promises a white garment to all those who overcome. An overcomer is one who believes Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:4-5). In Revelation 4:4, twenty-four elders represent the Church, who wear white robes. But the Church is not the only group who believes Jesus is the Son of God. The Tribulation saints are also overcomers, acknowledging that the blood of the Lamb is their only means for salvation. Here we see the constant stream of Tribulation saints entering Heaven, clothed in white robes, and washed in the blood of the Lamb:

Revelation 7:9, 13-14 - After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.... Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?" And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Revelation 6:11 - ...and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer...

Those who overcome keep the commandments of God:

1 John 3:23-24 - And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
1 John 5:3-5 - For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Here we see that the martyred saints are overcomers, who will rest from their labors after they die:

Revelation 14:12-13 - Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' ""Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them."

Their labors are undoubtedly the work they did spreading the Gospel, which is what they died for. The following verses support that notion:

Matthew 11:28 - Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
John 4:35-38 - "Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors."
1 Thessalonians 2:9 - For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.
Revelation 2:2-3 - I know your works, your labor, your patience... and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.

Jesus tells the martyrs to rest a "little while longer," which is for nearly seven more years.

Revelation 6:11 - ...until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

The martyrs are to rest until the number destined to die is complete. Here we see Jesus, as the Son of Man (Revelation 1:13), reaping the last of the harvest of souls at the end of the Tribulation:

Revelation 14:12-16 - Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them." Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

The differentiation between "brethren" and "servants," is that brethren refer to kin, and servants are typically slaves or hired help. Being a brethren or servant is not necessarily mutually exclusive. As in the case of Jacob, Esau was both a brother and servant to Jacob:

Genesis 27:37 - Then Isaac answered and said to Esau, "Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?"

When Jesus referred to His brethren, He was talking about Jews. On the other hand, His servants include both Jew and Gentile. Since John sees both brethren and servants, the martyrs under the altar probably include both Jews and Gentiles. In other words, the martyrs are all fellow servants, but they are not all brethren or kin with each other, being both Jew and Gentile.

Revelation 6:12-17

Revelation 6:12 - I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.

John looks back toward the earth when the Lord breaks the sixth seal. The earth experiences a great earthquake. At the same time, there is an eclipse of both the sun and the moon. While the first five Seal judgments bring catastrophes greater in magnitude than anything seen on earth since the flood, there have always been wars, famine, pestilence, and martyrdom of God's people. In the sixth Seal judgment, something never seen before by man will occur. This judgment will affect even the cosmos. Even God's enemies acknowledge He is the source of this terrible judgment (Revelation 6:16).

Haggai also prophesied about this great shaking of the cosmos, when God would come to judge the nations in the Tribulation:

Haggai 2:6-7, 21-22 - "For thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the LORD of hosts.... Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying: 'I will shake heaven and earth. I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overthrow the chariots and those who ride in them; the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.'"

Isaiah and Joel describe both the global earthquake, and the cosmic shaking and darkening of the moon and sun:

Joel 2:10 - The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble; the sun and moon grow dark, and the stars diminish their brightness.
Joel 2:30-31 - "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 coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD."
Isaiah 13:9-13 - Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. "I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger."
Isaiah 24:18-23 - And it shall be that he who flees from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit, and he who comes up from the midst of the pit shall be caught in the snare; for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth are shaken. The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; its transgression shall be heavy upon it, and it will fall, and not rise again. It shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will punish on high the host of exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth. They will be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and will be shut up in the prison; after many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be disgraced and the sun ashamed; for the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before His elders, gloriously.

Notice Isaiah describes the earth moving like a drunkard and that the Lord will shake it out of place. This suggests something alters the earth's gravitational field, moving it out of its normal orbit. Heavenly bodies that are massive enough and/or move close enough can affect the gravitational and magnetic fields of other heavenly bodies, such as other planets, stars, large asteroids, or comets.

Also, consider that John witnesses a darkening of both the sun and the moon. The sun will look like black sackcloth, which is a dark course material people wore as a sign of mourning or repentance. A blood moon describes the reddish-brownish hue seen during a lunar eclipse. The massive global seismic activity described by the prophets may set off volcanoes around the world, spewing ash and blotting out the sun and making the moon look red (source).

However, for the sun to appear dark globally, volcanoes would be going off all over the world, as the blackening of the sky only occurs near the volcano. While this is not out of the question, and the "pillars of smoke" described in Joel 2:30 above support this notion, another possibility, is that a foreign heavenly body moves between the earth and the sun. If this foreign body is large enough and moves close enough, it could affect the gravitational field and cause a global earthquake, in addition to the volcanic activity described by Joel.

As discussed in the next few sections, it is possible a foreign body like a comet or large asteroid passing between the sun and earth could cause both a solar and lunar eclipse, darkening both the sun and moon, if the moon is at or near its full phase as shown below:

Cosmic disturbances

Note that the darkening of the sun and moon in the sixth Seal judgment is not of the luminaries themselves. Instead, something is blocking the light.

A partial darkening of the luminaries will occur at the fourth Trumpet judgment:

Revelation 8:12 - Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.

The complete physical darkening of the sun and moon occurs at the end of the Tribulation, right before Jesus returns at the "great and awesome day of the Lord," also known as the 2nd Coming:

Matthew 24:29-30 - "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, 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."
Mark 13:24-26 - "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory."

Revelation 6:13 - And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.

After the earthquake and darkening of the sun and moon, "stars" fall to the earth. Obviously, these are not stars like the sun. John is probably describing what we refer to as meteors, or "shooting stars," which is space debris that falls to the earth, glowing due to the heat, as it enters the atmosphere. If a large heavenly body passes by the earth, these falling "stars" could be part of the debris field that typically follows a foreign body like a comet or large asteroid:

The following passage in Isaiah is about the Tribulation, because it describes judgment against the "whole earth" and "all the nations." The "Assyrian" is a title of the antichrist, as discussed in: "The Nationality of the Antichrist." God will destroy Babylon at the end of the Tribulation by fire (Revelation 18:8-9). Note how Isaiah describes this destruction as a "broom":

Isaiah 14:22 - "For I will rise up against them," says the LORD of hosts, "And cut off from Babylon the name and remnant, and offspring and posterity," says the LORD. "I will also make it a possession for the porcupine, and marshes of muddy water; I will sweep it with the broom of destruction," says the LORD of hosts. The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, "Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, and as I have purposed, so it shall stand: That I will break the Assyrian in My land, and on My mountains tread him underfoot. Then his yoke shall be removed from them, and his burden removed from their shoulders. This is the purpose that is purposed against the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations."
Comet looks like a broom
                Sources: Wikipedia Pic 1 Pic 2

God's "broom of destruction" could be a comet, as a comet looks like a broom. If a comet passes by earth at the beginning of the Tribulation in the sixth Seal judgment, the debris following in its tail could plague the earth for years. Some debris can enter the earth's gravitational field. Also, the earth would move through the debris field every year, like it does other debris fields left by other comets (sources: 1 2 3).

Other Tribulation judgments might originate from a comet and its debris tail. Comets consist of ice. If pieces of a comet break off and fall to earth before it melts, it would look like hail. Comet particles would also burn as they enter the atmosphere:

Revelation 8:7 - The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

The second Trumpet judgment could be a comet fragment the size of a mountain:

Revelation 8:8 - Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood.

In both the first and second Trumpet judgments blood appears. The Greek word for "blood" is "haima," which is where we derive our words like "hemoglobin" in human blood, which consists of iron, and "hematite," describing the blood-red color of iron oxide (source). Iron oxide has been found in comets (sources: 1 2 3 4). Iron oxide could cause water to look like blood (sources: 1 2 3). Iron oxide in dust particles have been known to form blood rain (source). Therefore, comet fragments entering the atmosphere could look like hail and fire, mingled with blood (Revelation 8:7), and a sizable fragment could make a large body of water become as blood (Revelation 8:8).

Comets contain hydrogen cyanide, which has a bitter taste (source). If a piece of a comet enters the atmosphere, it could rain down this gas on waters or streams, and/or hit a significant water source that could make rivers and streams bitter:

Revelation 8:10-11 - Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.

John describes the stars falling like "late figs" shaken off the tree by a "mighty wind." Late or ripe figs are loose, and if shaken, fall easily from the tree:

Nahum 3:11-12 - You also will be drunk; you will be hidden; you also will seek refuge from the enemy. All your strongholds are fig trees with ripened figs: If they are shaken, they fall into the mouth of the eater.

If a mighty wind shakes many figs from a tree, the imagery could easily describe a large meteor shower, worse than the Leonid shower pictured here:

Late figs fall by mighty wind
Sources: Wikipedia Pic 1 Pic 2

Meteor falling courtesy NASA
                Source: Wikipedia

In the following parallel passage, Isaiah also describes the falling stars as leaves falling from the vine. When the leaves turn in the fall, a windy day will make the leaves rain off the trees and vines, much like a fig tree would drop its late figs. The brilliant color of the fall leaves captures the fiery look of falling stars, or meteors:

Isaiah 34:2-4 - For the indignation of the LORD is against all nations, and His fury against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to the slaughter. Also their slain shall be thrown out; their stench shall rise from their corpses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; all their host shall fall down as the leaf falls from the vine, and as fruit falling from a fig tree.

Late figs fall by mighty wind

As an interesting side note, when God will "sift the nations," His breath is "like a stream of brimstone," which sounds like a comet:

Isaiah 30:27-28, 30, 33 - Behold, the name of the LORD comes from afar, burning with His anger, and His burden is heavy; His lips are full of indignation, and His tongue like a devouring fire. His breath is like an overflowing stream, which reaches up to the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of futility; and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err.... The LORD will cause His glorious voice to be heard, and show the descent of His arm, with the indignation of His anger and the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, tempest, and hailstones.... For Tophet was established of old, yes, for the king it is prepared. He has made it deep and large; its pyre is fire with much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, kindles it.

Similar wording is found in the "Gog and Magog War," which I believe parallels some of the Seal judgments, as discussed in Revelation 6:8:

Ezekiel 38:19-22 - "For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: 'Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel, so that the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all men who are on the face of the earth shall shake at My presence. The mountains shall be thrown down, the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.' I will call for a sword against Gog throughout all My mountains," says the Lord GOD. "Every man's sword will be against his brother. And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone."

Some believe the "stars" falling to earth are speaking of the fallen angels cast out of Heaven:

Revelation 12:6-9 - Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days. And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

While angels are called "stars," as discussed in Revelation 1:20, the timing of the war in Heaven is toward the middle of the Tribulation, when Israel flees to the wilderness (Matthew 24:15-22). While some believe the Lord spreads the Seal judgments evenly through the first half of the Tribulation, I believe the evidence supports the Lord opening the seals in rapid-fire succession near the beginning of the Tribulation.

History has shown that the consequences of conquest and war depicted in the first four seals naturally occur immediately afterward. Also, the "half hour of silence" in the seventh Seal judgment (Revelation 8:1), the timing of the two witnesses' ministry (Revelation 11:3) and the seven years to burn weapons after the "Gog and Magog War" suggest that Jesus breaks all the seals at the beginning of the Tribulation. Therefore, I do not believe the "stars" falling in the sixth Seal are angels, but literal shooting stars from the debris tail of a heavenly body, near the beginning of the Tribulation.

Revelation 6:14 - Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.

The cosmic disturbances and the great earthquake happen in tandem. John tells us that "every mountain and island was moved out of its place" in the great earthquake. Isaiah indicates this great earthquake that shakes the foundations of the earth has to do with "open windows." During this earth-shaking event, people will hear a fearful "noise":

Isaiah 24:1, 18-20 - Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants.... And it shall be that he who flees from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit, and he who comes up from the midst of the pit shall be caught in the snare; for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth are shaken. The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; its transgression shall be heavy upon it, and it will fall, and not rise again.
Earth's core
          Source: Wikipedia

Interestingly, fluctuations in the earth's magnetic field have been observed before earthquakes occur (sources: 1 2). The magnetic field forms by the movement of the liquid iron outer core. The tectonic plates move over the liquid mantle.

Study of plate tectonics has shown that the magnetic field has reversed several times in earth's history. A magnetic reversal means the earth's magnetic north and south poles in the crust and the inner core poles reverse:

Reverse polarity

The following is a hypothesis on what might occur in a magnetic pole reverse:

    In popular literature, many conjectures have been suggested involving very rapid polar shift. A slow shift in the poles would display the most minor alterations and no destruction. A more dramatic view assumes more rapid changes, with dramatic alterations of geography and localized areas of destruction due to earthquakes and tsunamis.

Scientists believe that the magnetic field becomes weak in a polar reverse. In other words, our protective shield from solar activity would be down. This could be what Isaiah was speaking of when he said the "For the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth are shaken" (Isaiah 24:18).

A polar reverse may have occurred at the time of the flood. Note that when the flood began the "windows of heaven were opened," and the water broke through the earth, which suggests massive tectonic activity occurred:

Genesis 7:11 - In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

Massive tectonic activity appears to have continued for a few generations after Noah. Many believe the completion of the division of the continents occurred during the days of Peleg:

Genesis 10:22-25 - The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram. The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arphaxad begot Salah, and Salah begot Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother's name was Joktan.

While it is generally thought the "windows" opened at the flood were the collapse of the water canopy, which caused the rain for forty days, it does not fit Isaiah's description of the "windows" for the Tribulation. Since God promised He would never flood the earth again, it makes more sense that the open "windows" are the shield of the magnetic field being down during a pole reversal, causing the collapse of the water canopy and tectonic activity in the flood, and less protection from the sun, as described in the fourth Bowl judgment (Revelation 16:8-9).

As discussed in the last few sections, the sixth Seal appears to be a foreign heavenly body passing between the earth and the sun. If such a body enters the earth's magnetic field, the magnetic field of both the earth and the foreign body will interact with each other. Based on the small fluctuations observed before earthquakes today, imagine what kind of earthquake would occur if a foreign body wreaks havoc with the earth's magnetic field.

Research has suggested that polar reversals can happen repeatedly and rapidly when the magnetic field is unstable (source). Polar reversals tied to massive tectonic activity may explain how the earth rapidly transformed during the flood, and again during the Tribulation:

Revelation 16:18-20 - And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

Interestingly, the migration of the poles has accelerated in movement and the magnetic field has weakened in recent years (sources: 1 2). There have also been numerous reports of mysterious sounds heard all around the world. These sounds have been reported as hums, low rumbles, booming, and even the sound of metal clanging, thought to be related to changes in the magnetic field (source). If the magnetic field is already making noise because of small fluctuations in the magnetic field, imagine the noise that is heard throughout the world if the magnetic poles reverse. Perhaps, this is the fearful noise spoken of by Isaiah, when the Lord shakes the earth's foundations (Isaiah 24:18).

Both John and Isaiah tell us the sky will recede like a rolled-up scroll:

Isaiah 34:2-4 - For the indignation of the LORD is against all nations, and His fury against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to the slaughter. Also their slain shall be thrown out; their stench shall rise from their corpses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; all their host shall fall down as the leaf falls from the vine, and as fruit falling from a fig tree.
Aurora Borealis
Source: Wikipedia

The Greek word John uses for "receded" literally means to separate, or part asunder. This is the same Greek word used to describe the parting of ways of Paul and Silas from Barnabas and Mark (Acts 15:39). Revelation 6:16 suggests that the parting of the sky is more than a physical event, where the veil is torn between the physical and spiritual realms. However, a magnetic polar reverse may make the sky physically appear as a rolled scroll moving across the sky.

The Aurora Borealis occur at the poles, caused by solar activity interacting with our magnetic field. During high solar activity, the aurora belt expands southward. The Aurora Borealis often looks like a rolled-up scroll:

Scroll/Aurora Borealis

During a magnetic polar reverse, there would be numerous "poles" on which the Aurora Borealis would manifest. Theoretically, the Aurora Borealis, which looks like a rolled-up scroll, could appear all over the world during a magnetic polar reverse, because there would be numerous "poles" set up in a weakened magnetic field during reversal:

Polar reverse simulation
Click here for simulation

Revelation 6:15 - And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains...

Taking refuge in the earth is a sign of great distress, as when Saul attacked the Philistines and they gathered a large army, preparing to retaliate:

1 Samuel 13:4-7 - Now all Israel heard it said that Saul had attacked a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel had also become an abomination to the Philistines. And the people were called together to Saul at Gilgal. Then the Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude. And they came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth Aven. When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger (for the people were distressed), then the people hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits. And some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

The terror of the sixth Seal judgment drives people of all classes to hide underground. Isaiah describes this as a humbling experience for those who are "proud and lofty":

Isaiah 2:10-12 - Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up - and it shall be brought low.
Isaiah 2:17-21 - The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day, but the idols He shall utterly abolish. They shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily. In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made, each for himself to worship, to the moles and bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the crags of the rugged rocks, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily.

Another cosmic disturbance drove kings to hide in the earth, during the conquest of Canaan by Joshua. The large hail that killed the Canaanites may support a close encounter or hit by a comet and its debris tail, or other body that briefly affected the orbit of the sun and moon, as discussed in Revelation 6:13:

Joshua 10:5-11 - Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered together and went up, they and all their armies, and camped before Gibeon and made war against it. And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp at Gilgal, saying, "Do not forsake your servants; come up to us quickly, save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the mountains have gathered together against us." So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. And the Lord said to Joshua, "Do not fear them, for I have delivered them into your hand; not a man of them shall stand before you." Joshua therefore came upon them suddenly, having marched all night from Gilgal. So the Lord routed them before Israel, killed them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, chased them along the road that goes to Beth Horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. And it happened, as they fled before Israel and were on the descent of Beth Horon, that the Lord cast down large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword.
Joshua 10:12-17 - Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: "Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon." So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge Upon their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel. Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal. But these five kings had fled and hidden themselves in a cave at Makkedah. And it was told Joshua, saying, "The five kings have been found hidden in the cave at Makkedah."

Isaiah shows that a fearful noise causes the people to seek refuge underground. Recall from Revelation 6:14, disturbances in the earth's magnetic field can cause such a noise. Apparently, some people will become trapped underground and die. Those who resurface will face the "snare" of the Tribulation judgments (Luke 21:25-35):

Isaiah 24:17-22 - Fear and the pit and the snare are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth. And it shall be that he who flees from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit, and he who comes up from the midst of the pit shall be caught in the snare; for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth are shaken. The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; its transgression shall be heavy upon it, and it will fall, and not rise again. It shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will punish on high the host of exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth. They will be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and will be shut up in the prison; after many days they will be punished.

John classifies the people as "the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man." Kings are rulers over the nations (Psalm 2:1-2). The "great men" are men who have great influence on people, but do not have an official ruling position (2 Kings 10:6). The "rich men" are the global elite, and the ones really in charge, as the whole world has become indebted to them (Proverbs 22:7, James 5:1-5). "Commanders" are military leaders (Judges 11:6, 1 Samuel 9:16). "Mighty men" are men of valor, or men of renown in battle. Slaves are people in bondage, and free men have liberty (Jeremiah 34:8-11, 2 Peter 2:19). Every class of people will seek refuge underground from the terror of the sixth Seal judgment.

These people hiding in fear at the beginning of the Tribulation become hardened like Pharaoh to the supernatural judgments (Exodus 7-14), as they continue in rebellion and eventually gather to fight against Christ in the battle of Armageddon:

Revelation 19:17-19, 21 - Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great." And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.... And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

It should raise a few eye brows that a recent trend, among governments, doomsday "preppers," and especially the elite, is to build lavish underground bunkers (sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8). Some protest this is a conspiracy theory and that we would know about a heavenly body approaching the earth that has the potential to cause the destruction described in the sixth Seal judgment, thus the Tribulation cannot happen until someone discovers such a heavenly body. I contend that the elites would keep such a discovery, if made, from the public, because it would cause mass panic. Even with the rise in amateur astronomers, we might be at the mercy of a few select scientists who have access to advanced technology and government funding. Then again, God could knock a heavenly body off course that nobody would see coming until it was too late.

It is interesting that many of the doomsday "preppers" see the activity of the elite as a sign that something is coming and are following suit. Oh, the irony it would be if these lost souls trying to physically save themselves, have a better idea of the closeness of the Tribulation than the Church!

Revelation 6:16 - ...and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!"

The people at the beginning of the Tribulation will be so fearful of God's wrath that many contemplate death as a means of escape, like it was for Israel during the Assyrian conquest, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem during the Roman siege in 70AD:

Hosea 10:8-10 - Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. The thorn and thistle shall grow on their altars; they shall say to the mountains, "Cover us!" And to the hills, "Fall on us!" "O Israel, you have sinned from the days of Gibeah; there they stood. The battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them. When it is My desire, I will chasten them. Peoples shall be gathered against them when I bind them for their two transgressions."
Luke 23:28-30 - But Jesus, turning to them, said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!' Then they will begin 'To say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"'

The people that seek refuge underground are not only afraid of the cosmic disturbances, but also of the "face of Him who sits on the throne." Jesus is the "One" who sits on the throne in Heaven (Revelation 4:2), and He is the Lamb (Revelation 5:6). The Lamb is the Son of God, who will take His inheritance after destroying His enemies in His wrath:

Psalms 2:5-12 - Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: "Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion." "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.'" Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

Those who seek the Lord's face are the righteous (Psalms 17:15, 24:4-6, 27:5-9). Those who want to hide from the Lord's face are evil and/or ashamed:

1 Peter 3:12 - For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
Psalm 34:16-15 - The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
Ezra 9:6 - And I said: "O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens."

God sees everything man does:

Job 34:21-22 - For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps. There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.
Hebrews 4:13 - And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

But God hides His face from those not reconciled and made righteous through Jesus (Romans 5:10-17):

Deuteronomy 31:17-18 - Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, 'Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?' And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods.
Micah 3:4 - Then they will cry to the LORD, but He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them at that time, because they have been evil in their deeds.
Isaiah 59:1-2 - Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.

God sets His face against those He judges in wrath:

Jeremiah 44:11-12 - Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: 'Behold, I will set My face against you for catastrophe and for cutting off all Judah. And I will take the remnant of Judah who have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to dwell there, and they shall all be consumed and fall in the land of Egypt. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine. They shall die, from the least to the greatest, by the sword and by famine; and they shall be an oath, an astonishment, a curse and a reproach!
Ezekiel 38:18 - "And it will come to pass at the same time, when Gog comes against the land of Israel," says the Lord God, "that My fury will show in My face.""

The Psalmist cuts right to the heart of the issue with these wicked souls:

Psalms 10:3-6 - For the wicked boasts of his heart's desire; He blesses the greedy and renounces the LORD. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts. His ways are always prospering; Your judgments are far above, out of his sight; as for all his enemies, he sneers at them. He has said in his heart, "I shall not be moved; I shall never be in adversity."
Psalms 10:7-11 - His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is trouble and iniquity. He sits in the lurking places of the villages; in the secret places he murders the innocent; his eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless. He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; he lies in wait to catch the poor; he catches the poor when he draws him into his net. So he crouches, he lies low, that the helpless may fall by his strength. He has said in his heart, "God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see."

People foolishly believe if God hides His face from them, He will not hold them accountable for what they do. But God gives them over to their sin and judges them:

Romans 1:18-29, 22, 24-26 - For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.... Professing to be wise, they became fools.... Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions....
Romans 1:28-32 - And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

A literal interpretation of seeing the face of the Lord would be a physical view of the throne in Heaven by the "earth dwellers." Some believe that the sky receding like a scroll (Revelation 6:14) is a veil pulled back between the physical and spiritual realms, like in the following passages:

Ezekiel 1:1 - Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.
Matthew 3:16 - When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
Acts 7:55-56 - But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"
Acts 10:10-11 - Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth.

The following passage includes parallel wording about hidden men underground, and God not hiding His face from Israel when He brings them back from the global exile, which will be complete by the end of the Tribulation:

Jeremiah 16:14 - "Therefore behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "that it shall no more be said, 'The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,' but, 'The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.' For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers. "Behold, I will send for many fishermen," says the LORD, "and they shall fish them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity hidden from My eyes."

The wording about fishermen and hunters may allude to believers sharing the Gospel with the Jews (fishers of men - Matthew 4:19), and the antichrist and his minions (antichrist/hunter types: Nimrod - Genesis 10:9 and Esau - Genesis 25:27) persecuting the Jews during the Tribulation. The following passages below, support that God will use persecution to bring the Jews home, which we have witnessed in our day since the Holocaust. The persecution in the Tribulation will work to bring all the Jews home:

Deuteronomy 4:27, 29-31 - And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice (for the LORD your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them.
Ezekiel 11:16-17 - Therefore say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone." ' Therefore say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel."'

Revelation 6:17 - "For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"

The "wrath of the Lamb" has come, as described by the evil earth dwellers (Revelation 6:16). The Lamb is the Son of God (Revelation 5:6), who took the "purchase deed" to the earth (Revelation 5:7). Before He returns to physically inherit that which He bought with His blood, He evicts the rebels from the earth in His wrath:

Job 21:30 - For the wicked are reserved for the day of doom; They shall be brought out on the day of wrath.
Psalms 2:7-12 - "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.' "Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.""
Psalms 110:1-2, 4-6 - The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool." The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! "...The LORD has sworn and will not relent, "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries.
Isaiah 13:11-13 - I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger.

A "day" in scripture may refer to a span of time, and not necessarily a literal 24-hour day (source). The Lamb's "day of wrath" encompasses the seven year Tribulation, or "Daniel's 70th Week." The wrath of the Lamb begins with the breaking of the first Seal Judgment, and ends when He returns to the earth:

Malachi 3:2-7 - "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like launderers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness. "Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasant to the LORD, as in the days of old, as in former years. And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien - because they do not fear Me," Says the LORD of hosts. "For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from My ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you," Says the LORD of hosts. "But you said, 'In what way shall we return?'"

As noted in the passages above, one purpose of the judgments in the Tribulation is to draw Israel back to God. These passages also answer the question "Who can stand?" Only those who return to God and survive the refining fire of the wrath of the Lamb will be able to stand. A remnant of Israel will find salvation through this "time of Jacob's trouble":

Jeremiah 30:7 - Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.

The prophet Nahum broadens the scope of those "who can stand" through God's wrath to all those who trust in Him:

Nahum 1:5-7 - The mountains quake before Him, the hills melt, and the earth heaves at His presence, yes, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.

Many believers will die during the Tribulation (Revelation 13:7, 17:16), but not one enemy of God will stand at the coming of the Lord (Revelation 19:20-21). Only believers will enter the kingdom:

Matthew 25:31-36 - "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'"
Matthew 25:41-43, 46 - "...Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me....' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Some believe that God's wrath does not begin until the sixth Seal judgment. But the Lamb of God opens every seal, resulting in unimaginable catastrophe on the earth, on a scale not seen since the flood:

Revelation 6:1 - Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals...
Revelation 6:3 - When He opened the second seal...
Revelation 6:5 - When He opened the third seal...
Revelation 6:7 - When He opened the fourth seal...
Revelation 6:9 - When He opened the fifth seal...
Revelation 6:12 - I looked when He opened the sixth seal...
Revelation 8:1 - When He opened the seventh seal...

It is at the sixth Seal judgment when unbelievers first acknowledge that God is pouring out His wrath. The Greek word translated "has come" is in the aorist tense, which generally depicts a past tense. In other words, when Jesus breaks the sixth seal, unbelievers recognize that all that has befallen them has been God's wrath. We live in a world today that rejects any notion that God metes out judgment through His creation. Even after the rapture and the global catastrophes that follow in the first five Seal judgments, it is going to take a shaking of the cosmos for man to finally admit that God is pouring out judgment on them.

Conclusion - Why the Seals have not been broken yet

A theory becoming popular is that Jesus has broken the first five seals over the last couple of millennia, and the rapture will occur when He breaks the sixth Seal Judgment because an earthquake occurred after Jesus died on the cross:

Matthew 27:50-54 - And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God!"

Those who believe this theory suggest if an earthquake occurred during Jesus' and the Old Testament saint's resurrection, then an earthquake should also occur at the resurrection and rapture of the Church saints. However, it is unclear from this passage if the earthquake occurred at Jesus' death, or three days later when the resurrection occurred. In addition, there is no mention of the earth quaking in the clear rapture passages in Scripture. Besides, as we saw in Revelation 4, the Church saints are already present in Heaven before Jesus takes the scroll in Revelation 5.

The global nature of the Seal judgments alone proves that Jesus has not broken any of them yet. The first seal depicts global conquest through the spirit of lawlessness (Revelation 6:2). The second seal describes peace removed from the earth (Revelation 6:4). The fact that the world has not dissolved into anarchy is evidence that the Lord has not broken this seal yet. The global hyperinflation and scarcity described in the third seal (Revelation 6:5), which would naturally follow global anarchy, has not occurred yet. The wealthy appear untouched, while the rest of the world falls into poverty (Revelation 6:6). Today, there is still a healthy middle class in the world, even as the world enters the perilous birth pangs and volatile times that foreshadow the Seal judgments.

Some believe the fourth Seal judgment finds fulfillment in the dire conditions found in most Muslim countries today. Yet, unnatural death by sword, hunger, death, and wild beasts is not rampant in these nations, as "death" characterizes the fourth seal and compounds the global judgments of the first three seals, for a fourth of the earth. While it is true that about a quarter of the world's population is Muslim (source), the Greek text indicates that a quarter of the world's land is subject to the fourth seal, not the population, as discussed in Revelation 6:8.

If a fourth of the global population was in view, over 1.5 billion Muslims would be subject to unnatural death by sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts. The only time in history death occurred on such a scale was during the "Black Death" in Europe. Clearly, even the brutal conditions in most Muslim countries do not even come close to what occurred as a result of the "Black Death" in Europe.

Note that Muslim nations only cover about a fifth of the earth's landmass. However, as discussed in Revelation 6:8, the nations involved in the "Gog and Magog War" roughly cover a fourth of the earth:

Muslim Nations
        Muslim Nations - Source: Wikipedia
Gog and Magog Nations

As discussed in Revelation 6:10, the martyrs calling out for vengeance in the fifth seal does not fit in the "dispensation of grace." In addition, their call for vengeance is on those who killed them, which indicates their murderers are still alive on earth when Jesus breaks the fifth seal. This does not fit the theory the Jesus broke the fifth seal centuries or millennia ago.

As noted in Revelation 6:17, the aorist tense in the Greek shows that unbelievers come to realize at the sixth seal that the Lamb has been the one behind all the catastrophes that have befallen them up to the cosmic disturbances. Clearly, the Seal judgments have not yet taken place, and all are the wrath of God that affects all of creation.

As we will discover in Revelation 7, the four winds are the four horses in the first four Seal judgments. This interlude shows that the angel seals the 144,000 Jewish servants before Jesus breaks any of the seals on the scroll. Since the sealing has not taken place yet, neither have the Seal judgments.

On an end note, the Lord breaking each seal is like an incremental removal of Himself from a world that hates Him. The Lord removes that which the world has taken for granted and reveals His wrath by turning them over to their sinful desires, allowing them to reap what they sow (Romans 1):

Seal Judgment Names of God Meaning
1 Conquest by unrestrained lawlessness Tzaddik Righteous One (Psalm 7:9)
2 Peace taken from the earth Sar Shalom Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)
3 Global famine and hyperinflation Yahweh Yireh Provider (Genesis 22:14)
4 Death by sword, famine, pestilence, and beasts Raphah
El Ch'ay
Healer (Psalm 103:3-4)
God of Life (Jeremiah 10:10)
5 Vengeance against those who overcome the saints Rach'um
Mercy (Deuteronomy 4:31)
Refuge (Psalm 46:1)
6 Cosmic disturbances
Tectonic instability
Rock (Psalm 18:2)
Stronghold (Psalm 43:2)
7 Silence in Heaven
No Judgments for a "half hour"
Arek Aph
Slow to anger (Nehemiah 9:17)
Gracious (Joel 2:13)

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Revelation Flow Chart

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