THE SIXTH SEAL
"And I beheld when He had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind." Rev. 6:12,13.
It is one of the Denomination's fundamental beliefs that the prophecies of the sixth seal began to be fulfilled with the great Lisbon earthquake of November 1, 1755. Following the earthquake, May 19, 1780, the sun was darkened, and the moon appeared as blood the following night. Then came the "falling of the stars," the great meteoric shower of November 13, 1833 (The Great Controversy, pp. 304-309, 333, 334).
Looking forward to these celestial demonstrations (the signs of the times), Jesus forewarned that they were to appear "immediately after the tribulation" had ceased (Matt. 24:29). So, while peace, wars, commercialism, script, and persecution are the signs of the times and the identification of the first five seals, in like manner the earthquake, the dark day, and the meteoric shower are the signs of the times and the identification of the sixth seal.
These global disturbances and celestial exhibitions between the years 1755 and 1833, in themselves, however, appear to be forecasts of the things which take place during the great and dreadful day of the Lord." If this be true, then the earthquake foreshadows the forthcoming shaking, sifting, among the nations, as predicted by the prophets:
"Behold, the name of the Lord cometh from far, burning with His anger, and the burden thereof is heavy: His lips are full of indignation, and His tongue as a devouring fire: and His breath, as an overflowing stream, shall reach to the midst of the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity: and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err." "And the fir trees shall be terribly shaken." Isa. 30:27, 28; Nah. 2:3.
The darkening of the sun would bespeak the closing of the gospel, the end of probationary time, the time when man "shall run to and fro to seek the Word of the Lord, and shall not find it." "For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people." Amos 8:12; Isa. 60:2.
The moon, associated with the sun, makes a fitting symbol of the church, the agency by which the Word of God, the light of the world, is reflected. The moon's becoming as blood immediately following the darkening of the sun, refusing to reflect light, would be an appropriate omen of the church's having finished her work of salvation, no longer needing to reflect the Light of the gospel. And the church herself is, of course, at that time imbued with eternal life, delivered from destruction as were the firstborn in the dwellings where the door posts had been painted with the sacrificial blood on the evening of the Passover in the land of Egypt.
The falling stars are suggestive of the great and terrible day of the Lord -- the day in which "the heavens...pass away" (2 Pet. 3:10), the day in which all their host is dissolved, and in which the Devil and his host, also the wicked in the church and in the world, "shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree." Isa. 34:4.
All these signs stand as faithful witnesses that the sixth seal, the sixth period of time, brings the great day of God, the wrath of the Lamb.
"And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" Rev. 6:14-17.
In these verses are pictured the fate, the fear, and the smitten conscience of all who are not able to stand in the day of the Judgment of the living, the great and dreadful day of the Lord -- the wrath of the Lamb in the great "time of trouble such as never was" (Dan. 12:1), the day following the appearance of the antitypical "Elijah the prophet" (Mal. 4:5) -- yes, the day in which those who have not clad themselves in the wedding garment, are cast into outer darkness, there to gnash their teeth (Matt. 22:11-13).
Also in these scripture (Rev. 6:14-17), asserts the Spirit of Truth, "two parties are brought to view. One party permitted themselves to be deceived, and took sides with those with whom the Lord has a controversy. They misinterpreted the messages sent them, and clothed themselves in robes of self-righteousness." -- Testimonies, Vol. 9, p. 268.
Thus it is that while the first four seals carry us through the periods of the day in which the works of man are made manifest, the last three seals carry us through the day of God, the day in which His Truth and His works are made manifest.
That there should be a climax of some kind in the Judicial work at this particular point of the Scriptures (Rev. 6:14-17), is not a mystery. Its being stamped with the events which end the reign of sin, and this being realized by even the sinners themselves, is a very good indication that during the sixth seal the Judgment of the dead closes, and the preparations for the Judgment of the living begin. It is the "dreadful day" for the wicked.
Moreover, as the first phase of the Judgment passes with the sixth chapter of Revelation, the second phase begins with the seventh chapter; that is, it begins with the sealing of the living saints, the first fruits. It is the "great day" for the righteous.
"And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
"And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel." Rev. 7:1-4.
From the implication that "the four winds" are to blow and the four angels are to hurt as soon as the servants of God are sealed is seen looming the "time of trouble" such as never was (Dan. 12:1).
Moving from the four corners of the compass, the winds must represent a worldwide disturbance of some kind. Very obvious it is, too, that their blowing and the angels' hurting, represent two armies in conflict. The wind's blowing is, of course, the anger of the nations against the saints; and the angels' hurting is doubtless the Lord's judgment falling upon His enemies. In other words, the angels and the winds together represent a trouble between God and the nations involving both saints and sinners. Indeed, it is the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
The difference between the "great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world" (Matt. 24:21), and the "time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation" (Dan. 12:1), is that during the "great tribulation" the saints are slain (Matt. 24:21, 22), whereas during the "time of trouble" they are delivered (Dan. 12:1).
That the angels' holding the winds does not denote their restraining the nations from warring among themselves, is made clear by the fact that the winds were not held from clashing wind against wind (nation against nation), but rather from hurting the earth, the sea, and the trees. Moreover, that the nations from the north and from the south, from the east and from the west were engaged in World War I, and also in World War II, although the 144,000 are not yet sealed, is another irrefutable evidence that the trouble which is forecast by the winds' blowing and the angels' hurting, is yet future. That it is a global disturbance, is again seen in the fact that the winds on the one hand, and the angels on the other hand, are to trouble both earth and sea.
It being a foregone conclusion that Satan is against the saints, and that the Lord is against the truth-hating and evil-doing multitude, the subject becomes crystal clear: When let loose, the winds are to strike against the faithful "remnant," against those who are left after the earth has opened her mouth and swallowed up "the flood," the "tares" (Rev. 12:16, 17); but the angels who are stationed to hurt, are to smite those who make war against the remnant. Those whose names are found in the book, are "delivered." Dan. 12:1. Seeing that the 144,000, the servants of God, are not as yet sealed (not yet enclosed, protected, guarded, and ready to take their stand with the Lamb on Mt. Sion, but rather are still commingled with the tares) the angels are commanded to forestall the clash.
Consequently, when this sealing work is completed, then the angels who hold the winds, will let the winds blow, and the angels who are to hurt the earth, sea, and trees, will then commence their given work. Otherwise stated, to let the winds blow, is to permit the two-horn beast to decree "that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed" (Rev. 13:15); and to let the angels hurt, is to allow the Lord's decree to take its course: "If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb." Rev. 14:9, 10. This warning is followed by the forecast:
"The four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men." Rev. 9:15.
Both decrees will be in force after the 144,000 are sealed.
Here is seen that from among the first fruits of the harvest, come the 144,000, the servants of God for the closing work of the great harvest. These are the first saints ever to have been relieved of the "tares" among them. Get ready, Brother, Sister, for the time is at hand.
We have now seen that the first six seals reveal a phase of truth covering the history of the world from Adam's time on to our time. This phase of truth reveals the sealing of the first and second fruits: From among the first fruits come the 144,000 -- 12,000 out of each of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. Down through the centuries they have descended first as Jacobites and then as Christians. After these, come the second fruits, the great multitude out "of all nations." Rev. 7:9-17.
(The theory that the living saints at the coming of the Lord are only 144,000 in number, is discredited in that it leaves no chance for even one person to be saved from a nation other than the descendants of Jacob, not even from the descendants of Abraham, save through Jacob himself. Moreover, the theory makes the term "firstfruits" a vain thing because it does not advocate second fruits.)
The remainder of The Revelation, is wrapped in THE SYMBOLIZATION OF THE SEVENTH SEAL.
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