The Messianic Judgments, 6:1-16:21
1. The judgment of the seven seals, 6:1-8:5
iii] The opening of the sixth seal.Synopsis
John now sees the Lamb open the sixth seal and as it opens he witnesses cosmic disintegration which extends to the secular powers on earth, a destruction causing great tribulation.
The kingdom is come, the Great Day of the Lord, the day of judgment, is upon us. It brings with it the dethroning of all powers and authorities, illustrated in cosmic dissolution, Mk.13:24-27, cf., Isa.34:4, Joel,2:30-31, Hag.2:6-7.
i] Context: See 6:1-8.
ii] Background: See 1:1-8
iii] Structure: The opening of the sixth seal:
Cosmic signs, v12-14:
"the heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up."
Terror on earth, v15-17:
the great day of God's wrath has come, "who can stand?"
The Great Day of the Lord entails the unveiling of the face of God. It is good news for those who stand with Jesus, clothed in their white robes, but for the rest it is a day of divine "wrath". The tribulation of this terrible day is illustrated in cosmic dissolution, imaged on earth with the collapse of secular authority, anarchy. As it was once said of the reign of king Stephen in England, "God and his angels sleep."
Each seal reveals a different aspect of this terrible day, ie., they are not sequential. In the fifth seal we witnessed the persecution of Christ's followers, and now we witness anarchy. Of course, throughout history we have tasted the tribulations of the Great Day. The destruction of Jerusalem serves as the classic paradigm for that Day, and Jesus uses this very apocalyptic imagery to depict it, cf., Matt.24:29. The four horsemen of the apocalypse have often gone forth, and we are sure to see them again due to our love for war and conquest. Yet, John is witnessing realized eschatology; the Great Day is upon us, "and who can withstand it?" John will answer this very question in Interlude #1 and 2.
The apocalyptic imagery of cosmic dissolution: The imagery gets quite a run in the New Testament and there are even allusions to it in the accounts of Christ's crucifixion. God's judgment is evidenced when the "earth quakes, .... the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining", Joel 2:10. In Isaiah 34:1-4 this judgment imagery is applied to Edom, v5, "my sword appears in heaven. See how it descends in judgment on Edom." The imagery is used to depict the dethroning of secular powers and authorities, with its consequential anarchy, ultimately extending to all spiritual powers and authorities, ie., Christ's victory on the cross over Satan and his minions. So, again we need to note the danger of treating apocalyptic imagery as if it is a factual description. This is not to say the world won't end "rolled up like a scroll" (folded up like a Monopoly board!), although given the way we are going, it will more likely be by the depletion of natural resources through overpopulation producing a dustbowl devoid of life - we die out with a whimper rather than a bang. However it may be, It is God's Great Day, a day of "wrath", and "who can withstand it?"
Text - 6:12
The opening of the sixth seal, v12-17: i] Cosmic signs, v12-14. The "Day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and anger"; a day when stars "will not give their light, the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light", a Day when God "will punish the world for its evil" and "put an end to the pride of the arrogant", Isa.13:9-11.
oJte "-" -[and i saw] when [he opened the sixth seal, and a great earthquake occurred]. This temporal conjunction is more structural than temporal. As a structural indicator serving to introduce the next seal, it may be ignored (as NIV has finally done with this seal); "when he opened the sixth seal ...", ESV = "and these are the things I witnessed as I watched the Lamb break the sixth seal", Cassirer.
wJV "like [sackcloth]" - [and the sun became black] as [sackcloth made of hair and the whole moon became] as [blood]. Here, as with "like [the color of blood]", serving as a comparative, as NIV.
tou ouranou (oV) gen. "[the stars] in the sky" - [and the stars] of the heaven [fell to the earth]. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / local; "the stars which are situation in the sky." "Heaven" obviously with the sense "sky", as NIV.
wJV "as" - as [a fig tree casts off the unripe figs of it]. Comparative, "like, as"; "just as / like a fig tree sheds its winter fruit." "Stars falling from the sky like figs shaken from a fig tree in a high wind", Peterson.
seiomenh (seiw) pres. mid./pas. part. "when shaken" - being shaken. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.
uJpo + gen. "by [a strong wind]" - This preposition is only rarely used to express means, as here. We would have expected an instrumental en.
elissomenon (elissw) pres. mid./pas. part. "[like a scroll] being rolled up" - [and the heaven was separated as a scroll] being rolled up. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting scroll; "a scroll which is being rolled up."
ek + gen. "[was removed] from [its place]" - [and every mountain and island were moved] from [the places of them]. Here expressing separation, "away from"; "There was no mountain, no island, that was not moved from its place", Cassirer.
ii] Terror on earth, v15-17: The apocalyptic symbols of divine judgment, namely cosmic dissolution, are now actualized for humanity. The Great Day, the day of divine wrath, is "a just recompense for evil that has been perpetrated against God and God's people .... those who have resisted Christ's lordship and have persecuted those who witnessed to that lordship", Blount. This judgment falls on a typical list of both great and small, and like any people facing an invading army, they run for the hills and hide in caves, Jer.4:29. Would that rocks could cover the cave mouth, for this is a terrible day "and who can withstand it?", cf., Joel.2:11, Nah.1:6, Zeph.1:14-15, Mal.3:2.
thV ghV (h) gen. "[the kings] of the earth" - [and the kings] of the earth [and the persons of greatness and the military commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free hid themselves into the caves]. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / subordination; "the kings who rule over the earth." No one can escape the terrible Day of the Lord.
twn orewn (oroV gen. "[among the rocks] of the mountains" - [into the rocks] of the hills, mountains. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / local; "the rocks which are found in the mountains." "Rocks" may well mean something like "rocky crags, crevices." "Hid in mountain caves and rocky dens", Peterson.
toiV oresin (oroV) dat. "[they called] to the mountains" - [and they say] to the mountains [and to the rocks]. Dative of indirect object of the narrative present verb "to say." So also the dative "to the rocks."
ef (epi) + acc. "[fall] on [us]" - Spacial; "upon, on."
apo + gen. "[hide us] from [the face]" - [and hide us] from [face]. Expressing separation; "away from."
tou kaqhmenou (kaqhmai) gen. pres. mid. part. "of him who sits [on the throne]" - of the one sitting [on the throne]. The participle serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, possessive.
tou arniou (on) gen. "[the wrath] of the Lamb." - The genitive may be viewed as adjectival, possessive, "the wrath / anger which will characterize the Lamb on the day of judgment", or verbal, subjective, "the wrath / anger exhibited by the Lamb."
oJti "for" - because [the great day of the wrath of them came]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why they call on the mountains and rocks to cover them; "because ......"
thV orghV (h) gen. "[the great day] of [their] wrath" - [the great day] of the wrath. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / temporal; "the great day when their wrath comes."
autwn gen. pro. "their" - of them. Adjectival, possessive, "their anger", ie., the anger of God and the Lamb. May also be taken as verbal, subjective, ie., God and the Lamb have holy anger against sin.
staqhnai (iJsthmi) aor. pas. ind. "who can [withstand] it?" - [who is able] to stand. The infinitive is complementary, completing the verb "is able."