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Revelation Lesson 21 - When the Sky Began to Fall

Revelation Lesson 21 - When the Sky Began to Fall

Series: Revelation
Ref: Revelation 6:12–17

There are two instances in Scripture where mankind attempts to hide from God. The first is at the beginning of time when Adam and Eve sinned against the Lord, and the second is at the end of time when God comes back to judge the world. The thunder of God's footsteps echo upon the earth, and those who remain are faced with a terrible realization: you can't hide from Omniscience.

Transcript

When the Sky Began to Fall

Revelation 6:12-17

Chicken Little delivered a prophecy.    

She was eating her lunch one day and an acorn fell on her head and she went into a panic, running around yelling, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling.”  And she headed out to warn the king.

This old fable is mistakenly attributed to Aesop’s Fables, but it actually originated in the Far East, 600 years before the birth of Christ.

In the English version that dates centuries back, the chicken runs toward the palace, gathering all sorts of animals along the way whom she convinces the sky is truly falling.  They all get in a panic.

All the animals had rhyming names, you remember?  Names like, “Henny Penny and Turkey Lurkey and Goosey Loosey.

We’re really going deep today.

Then who comes along but Foxy Loxy . . . remember him?  He promises the animals that he can protect them from the falling sky, but lures them into his trap and eats most of them up; except for Chicken Little who escapes with her life.

Every version – except the newest Disney movie version which actually reversed the moral of the story – the basic theme has always been, “Don’t believe everything you hear . . . don’t believe it.”

In past generations, the story was even given a political makeover; the silly chicken jumps to the wrong conclusion and whips the populace into mass hysteria, which then allows conniving foxes an opportunity to manipulate and harm the innocent but misguided. 

Adapted from Wikipedia.com/ChickenLittle/Fable

What has survived all of these centuries with this tale of Chicken Little, among other things, is the phrase we use to speak of some alarmist who predicts the worst and we say, “They think the sky is falling.”  And it’s sort of a mocking gesture, “Oh they think the sky is falling . . . the sky is falling.”

In other words, don’t believe the doomsayers.  They are deluded people, running around like silly chickens.

The sky is not falling and the sky will never fall.

What’s interesting to observe in our generation however, is the change in most people; the tune has changed.

One author put it this way, “Forty years ago, Hollywood’s futuristic movies were utopian” – life evolved into something perfect and wonderful – “but today, they are apocalyptic.”

Richard A. Swenson, Hurtling Toward Oblivion (NavPres, 1999), p. 18

In other words, movies about the future have changed.  The world isn’t getting better . . . the world in the future is now a world of wild creatures; earth is either uninhabited or unlivable; the planet is either filled with danger or it’s a barren wasteland.

So it’s not unusual anymore to hear a philosopher like Alfred North Whitehead say, “It is the business of the future to be dangerous.”

Ibid

Carl Sagan, the astronomer and secular humanist who’s television program was watched by an estimated 600 million people where they were led to basically worship the universe; in fact, his pseudo-science laid the groundwork for the current rage where people are told to communicate their wishes to the universe who will, by the laws of attraction, fulfill their wishes.  About 10 years ago, Carl Sagan died and met his maker . . . but he wrote in 1980, “We may have only a few decades until Doomsday.”

Ibid, p. 23

George Walk, chairman of the biology department at Harvard University, and a Nobel prize winner said, “Human life is threatened as never before in the history of this planet; not by one peril, but by many.  And they are all working together, coming to a head about the same time.  I am one of those scientists who find it hard to see how the human race [will survive much longer].”

Ibid

And nobody accuses any of these men of being Chicken Little.

“The sky is gonna fall” – and the average person today knows it’s true.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a great opportunity to deliver the truth. 

We can announce to our generation that their inborn fear of the future; the sense that doomsday is coming; the suspicion that earth and the human race cannot keep going forever without encountering global, apocalyptic terror – all of it is true!

There is a coming day when the sky will begin to fall!

Let me show you where it begins . . . let’s rejoin our study of the opening of the next seal in Revelation chapter 6 and verse 12.

And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13.  And the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14.  The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.  15.  Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders, and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16.  And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17.  For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

The prophets, often ridiculed or ignored for their prophecies of coming judgment, spoke centuries ago with predictions of this coming day of wrath.

Isaiah wrote of that time when “men will go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble.” (Isaiah 2:21)

Further in chapter 13, Isaiah prophesied, “For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light.” (Isaiah 13:10)

Hosea spoke of men one day begging the mountains to cover them and the hills to fall on them. (Hosea 10:8)

The Prophet Nahum said, ‘Mountains quake because of Him and the hills dissolve; indeed the earth is upheaved by His presence, the world and all the inhabitants in it.  Who can stand before His indignation?  Who can endure the burning of His anger?  His wrath is poured out like fire and the rocks are broken up by Him.”  (Nahum 1:5-6)

One more – the Prophet Zephaniah prophesied, “Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly . . . a day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and battle cry

 . . . who will be able to deliver them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth. (Zephaniah 1:14-18)

You need to understand this phrase, “the day of the Lord” is an expression used often to describe different periods of time when God intersects a group of people, a nation of people, or, as in the final day of the Lord, the entire world with great judgment.

The phrase, “the day of the Lord” is not limited to future, final wrath, but sometimes refers to imminent historical judgments.

Joel is an example of this – in chapter 2 he describes the final universal Day of the Lord; but in chapter 1 he describes an actual locust plague that came on Judah.  This act of judgment was intended by God to preview the Day of the Lord which would come on Judah in the coming invasion of Babylon, seen in chapter 2:1-17.  And the invasion by Babylon presented a preview of the ultimate Day of wrath discussed in the latter part of Joel chapter 2.

John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 1 (Moody Press, 1999), p. 200

So the phrase, “the Day of the Lord” can be used for near events and yet illustrate even greater, future events.

The Old Testament uses the phrase 19 times.  It’s found in the New Testament 4 times, which broadens it even more.

Paul tells the Thessalonians that the Day of the Lord begins in the Tribulation period in 2 Thessalonians 5:2 and the Apostle Peter even uses the phrase, the Day of the Lord, in 2 Peter 3:10, to include the end of the millennial kingdom

That’s a little longer than 1,000 years. 

No wonder Peter addressed the length of that time period by reminding us, “One day with the Lord is as 1,000 years and 1,000 years like one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)

 

By the way, and you need to know this for the test, any effort to limit the Day of the Lord to the middle part of the Tribulation, or to the Battle of Armageddon only at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, are simply not defensible by the record of Scripture – beginning with the prophets and ending with the Apostles.

Adapted from Robert L. Thomas, Revelation: Volume 1 (Moody Press, 1992), p. 458

One thing’s for sure; when the first seal is broken and the first rider rides out and the early days of the Tribulation begin to unroll; days that soon include war and murder and famine and pestilence so much so that one fourth of the world’s population dies, men and women will assume the end of the world is near.

In the Gospel of Luke, Christ said of these final days, “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves; men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world. (Luke 21:25-26a)

The word translated “fainting” literally means “to breathe out – or, to stop breathing.” 

Fritz Rienecker/Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Regency, 1976), p. 205

In other words, when the Day of the Lord comes, beginning with the Tribulation – and all these things begin to unfold people are going to literally drop dead from fear.  And those who are left will try to end their lives out of terror for what might happen next.

This is the wrath of the Lamb – the awful, terrifying day of the Lord.

There are those that believe the Rapture will occur here at the end of Revelation 6 – following the 6th seal is a trumpet call and there are some who believe that is the trumpet call of the rapture.

This view is referred to as the “pre-wrath” view – and I get asked about it often.

We’ll deal with these trumpet calls later in detail – there are actually 7 of them. 

But for now, this paragraph alone should end that particular view simply because the rapture doesn’t even rescue these people from this outpouring of wrath and terror.

Furthermore, notice what most of humanity says, in verse 17 – “For the great day of their wrath – that is, the wrath of the Lamb – has come.”

PUT  UP  SLIDE  HERE AND LEAVE UP FOR DURATION OF THE SERMON

The tense of that verb “has come” is aorist indicative which means that these people are concluding the wrath of the Lamb has been poured out, not only in this 6th seal, but in all the previous seals.

In other words, they are correctly concluding that everything which has happened up to this point – now 3 and ½ years long; the bloodshed, the war, the famine, the pestilence, and now the cosmic disturbances, are in fact, the obvious wrath of God.

Now, before I go any father, let me address a question most believers would have in our larger church world.

Why do we even bother with this information?  In fact, why does God inform us about all this terror and bloodshed and death and earthquakes and blackened sun and blood red moon and falling stars; why?  Is He trying to ruin a good night’s sleep? 

Somebody might be tempted to ask, “What good does all this information do for me?  It doesn’t help me understand my third grader – unless I redefine the word ‘earthquake’ . . . you outta see his room.”

Seriously, all this wrath and doom doesn’t help me understand my spouse or even give me some sort of little nugget to help me deal with my crabby boss on Monday morning, although he could certainly use a little of God’s wrath.

Part of the reason we think this is all just take it or leave it and I for one never once heard a sermon on the 6th seal or any seal for that matter, is that our attention, church wide, like never before, is riveted on ourselves.

We are consumed with us . . . we’re focused on our lives.  Now, we expect the world to be focused on themselves, but in the church, like never before, most of the sermons and books are focused on overcoming the aches and pains of life and how to resolve everything from having had bad parents to solving bad health and bad credit. 

And here’s the irony of it all; our world is now admitting the stress of acute guilt and feeling a sense of dread about life now and hopelessness in the coming future while the church is absorbed with how to have your best life now.  Yes, that is the title of a best seller.

And guess what – instead of being like our forefathers who at least sounded a warning – we are completely missing the moment!

There’s more to this than raising third graders or getting out of debt. 

Don’t misunderstand, those are good and noble duties, but there is a bigger picture to understand!

In fact, understanding the larger purpose of God for planet earth and human history actually deepens our passion to invest in the work of the church prior to end of the church age. 

Understanding the coming terror gives us a greater desire than ever to not just raise civilized third graders – if that’s even possible – but to lead them to the truth of the gospel of this righteous and soon coming King!

But think of the irony of this tragedy today.  At the very time in our generation when people are fairly convinced that doomsday is coming – that something bad is going to happen – that the human race needs rescuing from itself and an aging planet – we are determined never to talk about what – doomsday . . . wrath and judgment.

And we’re missing the moment.  The moment when we can say to a receptive audience, “Listen, that thought you’ve got about coming trouble; that sense of doomsday coming for the human race . . . that movie you just watched about the end of civilization as we know it . . . the basic idea is actually true . . . in fact, let me tell you why you don’t want to be here when it happens!”
 

There is the promise of rescue from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10) – and it is believing in this Lamb of God who can forgive your sin and secure your future with Him forever.

Frankly, studying the coming wrath of the Lamb develops in me a greater gratitude of the grace of the Lamb.

Now, let’s take a closer look at what happens as this 6th seal is broken and the scroll unrolls a little further.

We’ll call these:

5 Disturbances on Earth you’d rather watch from Heaven.

  1. The first disturbance in verse 12 is a great earthquake (v. 12a)

The original language calls this a mega seismos  (megaV seismoV).  We use the word mega – to refer to something large – this is a mega earthquake.  The Greek word for earthquake – seismos – is used to this day for seismology – which is the science of studying earthquakes.

John is an eyewitness to a monster quake; literally, a shaking of the earth.

  1. The second disturbance is the total eclipse of sun and moon (v. 12b)

John records, “And the sun became black as sackcloth – literally, black as hair.”  This is a reference to the black goat hair worn by those in a funeral, mourning the loss of their loved ones.

It’s as if the sun is covered with the sackcloth used in mourning the dead.

The moon is eclipsed as well and the description John provides is that the color of the moon is like blood – hos haima (wV aima) – which fits perfectly with the deep reddish color of the moon during an eclipse.

Thomas, p. 453

The fact that these things bring terror to the planet, ash and debri spewing up from the effects of the earthquake wouldn’t create any new sense of terror.

But an earthquake, followed by total darkness would.

The world at large still attaches great superstitious and religious beliefs to an eclipse.

In 1989, in Nigeria, a solar eclipse brought rioting as Muslim gangs burned and looted homes, trying to atone for the sins of the infidels.

Just 2 years ago in that same country, a solar eclipse made many believe it was the conjuring of witches and wizards.

News24.com/29/03/2006

Many Hindus of India are busy before a solar eclipse placing leaves on food items to ward off the demonic rays; pregnant women are kept indoors, afraid to scratch themselves at any time during the eclipse, believing that if they do their newborn will have scars.

On Indian newspaper advised expectant mothers not to go outside during the eclipse to avoid having a blind baby.

The Hindustan Times reported, those who are holding a knife or axe during the eclipse will not be able to keep from cutting themselves.

Ibid

Many will take to the holy rivers to cleanse themselves after the eclipse.

 

You say, these people are ignorant of basic astronomy.  Not so, says the Times of India.  One article interviewed a 32 year old computer executive who said she believed during an eclipse the number of germs increases, therefore , no food is eaten or cooked during an eclipse and any food cooked before the eclipse is thrown away.

timesofindia.indiatimes.com 8/1/2008

In other words, millions of pounds of good food throughout India and other countries are literally thrown away, believing they were contaminated.

A lunar eclipse has been believed by millions in the Far East to be the gobbling of the moon by some cosmic beast and the creeping red color is the moon’s blood spreading across its face.

Certainly the civilized world can explain lunar and solar eclipses – but no one can explain them happening at the same time, accompanied by the shaking of the earth.

For all of humanity, it will be terrifying.

Yet there’s more to come.

  1. The third disturbance is the stars that begin to collide with planet earth (13a)

John writes in verse 13, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.

The word stars – from asthr - refers to any luminous body in the sky other than the sun and moon.    The stars here are what we would call “shooting stars” . . . these could be meteors or asteroids that literally pummel the earth.

Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record (Tyndale, 1986), p. 122

On November 13, 1833, eyewitnesses testified that hundreds of shooting stars could be seen simultaneously.  People actually fell to their knees and begged God for mercy.

Stewart Custer, From Patmos to Paradise (BJU Press, 2004), p. 81

NASA scientist Don Yeomans, who manages the Near Earth Asteroid Tracking program, said, and I quote, “The probability of an asteroid impacting Earth is low, but it is also a high-consequence event” – don’t you love the way scientists talk – “it would be a high-consequence event.”  The last major asteroid to cause damage on Earth occurred in a sparsely populated region of Siberia in 1908, and it’s impact literally toppled 700 square miles of forest.

Imagine that.  The city of Raleigh and Cary combined is 130 square miles – the impact of one asteroid, leveled 700 square miles of forest.

It was humorous to read one scientist/astronomer who works for a research laboratory in California; he said, “The most sensible thing to do about earth striking asteroids is to try and not think about it.”

Quotations from Adrian Rogers, Revelation: Unveiling the End Times in Our Time (Broadman and Holman, 2004), p. 92

In my research I saw an illustration of what an asteroid collision would look like.  Stunning and terrifying at the same time.  It’s literally a ball of fire hurtling through the atmosphere, striking the earth with the power of a nuclear bombs.

If you can imagine this scene.  The earth is shaking and then the sky goes black – the moon appears in red, blood-like color and then through the darkened sky you see screaming toward earth fireballs the size of boats.  All you can see through the darkness are what appears to be stars scorching hot, racing toward earth.

You hear the collisions, you see the bursts of flame, you feel the rush of hot air from some nearby impact . . . trees are bursting into flame along with homes and skyscrapers alike.

And people can only think of one thing – the sky is falling . . . it’s the end of the world . . .

  1. The fourth disturbance in verse 14a is in the atmosphere.

It splits apart and rolls back in two opposite directions

Thomas, p. 454

It’s as if the atmosphere high above the planet is shriveling up like paper. 

This is the best way that John can describe the horrific effects of the fiery ordeal.

  1. The fifth disturbance in verse 14b is the change in geography.

John writes in verse 14b, The mountains and islands were moved out of their places.

The planet is still shaking, the sky is still dark, the earth is pummeled with fire balls the size of busses explode to the earth; and everything is in so much upheaval that mountains are moving and islands are disappearing. 

The crust of the earth begins to shift and move.  The devastating natural disasters accompanying the sixth seal that John doesn’t even mention – hurricanes that are caused by this; tsunami’s that sweep inland drowning untold numbers – are the most terrifying yet.

John MacArthur, Because the Time Is Near (Moody Press, 2007), 136

The devastation is unbelievable.

Just who is affected by these disturbances?

John gives us the six categories of people impacted by the 6th seal:

  1. First, he mentions in verse 15, the kings of the earth

These are the heads of state – the rulers, presidents, prime ministers of the nations of all the earth. 

At this moment, they recognize that their power is powerless.

  1. Second, John mentions, the great men

These are high ranking officials – senators and senior ranking officials from all walks of life.

  1. Third, John mentions the commanders caught up in the panic along with everyone else.

The word for commanders is the same word used elsewhere for the Roman officers who commanded a legion of men.

These are the unflappable Generals, experienced in battle – they keep their composure like General Douglas MacArthur who used to go out on the hill near his bunker and watch as the Japanese pilots would fly in low and strafe the ground with bullets. And there he would stand, unmoved, unafraid.  At one point, in his biography that I recently finished, General Patton visited him as a bombing raid was taking place.  They were standing out in the open, and Patton wondered if MacArthur would even blink as bombs fell around them.  Finally, one particular bomb came screaming through the air and landed very close to where they were.  Patton winced, to which MacArthur winked and chided Patton by saying, ‘Now General, you never hear the one that hits you.”

Adapted from William Manchester, Douglas MacArthur: American Caesar (Little, Brown and Company, 1978)

He was legendary among his troops for standing as close to the enemy lines as he could without every crouching down.

Those kind of men are here . . . commanders . . . battle worn . . . 5-star . . .  medal decorated warriors . . . but now, they are cowering in caves with everyone else, crying like children for help.

  1. Fourth, John mentions, the rich

John uses the words, from which we get the phrase, the “hoy poloi”.  A reference to the rich and famous.  The hoy poloi . . .

None of their wealth can buy them safety now.  Their money is worthless on a planet where everything seems to be on fire.

  1. Fifth, John mentions the strong.

This is a reference to those who influenced people – you could think of them as “mighty”.  

These were the movers and shakers of the planet; but now they are on a planet that is being moved and shaken by an unseen hand.

  1. Finally, John sort of wraps everybody else up in the reference to slaves and free citizens near the end of verse 15

This is a reference to all classes of people – free and enslaved – free and imprisoned.  This is the way to say, “and everybody else” of the human race.   Even they are without relief. 

In other words, from Kings to common laborers, they are all running to try to find safety somewhere, anywhere; screaming, literally out of their minds as we can only imagine; many of them dropping dead with heart attacks from the sheer terror of it all.

Now what happens next is utterly amazing to me.

Notice the latter part of verse 15.  And they hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16.  And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “fall on us and hide us. 

In other words, all these terrifying events spark the biggest prayer meeting the world has ever seen.  This is a universal call to prayer and all of humanity is praying it.

But they are not praying to God – they are praying to objects of nature. 

They are praying, as it were, to Mother nature as it were and not the Creator God of nature.

And yet, in their unbelievable rebellion, like Pharoah of old, they refuse to submit to the terrors of these plagues and harden their hearts.

Notice again, they cry out, “fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.”

In other words, they know God is behind their terror . . . more than likely as these seals have progressed, they’ve had access to the Book of Revelation, studying . . . summarizing . . . correctly concluding that the God of nature is behind these upheavals of nature.

Yet, in spite of that, they reject the Rock of ages and pray to the rocks.

And they pray to be hidden from the face of God or die, rather than face God.  One author said it this way, “They would rather hide from God in fear than run to Him in faith.”

Sam Gordon, Revelation: Worthy is the Lamb (Ambassador, 2000), p. 166

But they are tragically wrong.  They think that death will bring them an escape.  It won’t . . . for, It is appointed unto man, once to die and after that the what, the judgment (Hebrews 9:27)

But you imagine this scene . . . they’ve seen enough . . . it implies that they even have access and understanding of the word of God – they have, by now through these 3 years of world madness figured out that God is behind this and it is His wrath.  In fact, it is the wrath of the Lamb – the Son of God.

And they’d rather die, than trust in Him.

This is where I believe God judicially abandons them as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, these will be those who will be sent a strong delusion so that they believe the lie of the antichrist. (2 Thessalonians 2:11).

After the dust settles, and the earth settles back down and the fires are put out, the antichrist will move in Jerusalem to desecrate the altar of the newly constructed temple, and claim to be God.  Perhaps he will claim to have done something to stop these disturbances from continuing.

It won’t be long for the Beast to take over the planet and begin even greater times of bloodshed and horror.

Are you ready to be rescued from all of this, should Christ come for His church today?

If you know the Lamb, the wrath of God has already been released against Him and you will never experience the terrors of these seals.

If you do not know the Lamb, you may very come back next week and only a handful of people are here, wandering around the campus.  Believe in Christ today.

You say, well, I don’t like your preaching one bit.  I’ve visited here long enough.

When the Surgeon General of the United States first issued dire warnings that smoking increased the possibilities of cancer, he wasn’t very popular, but he saved lives.  I once read about a man who was so concerned from the newspaper articles about the dangers of smoking that he decided to give up the newspaper.

Quoted in David Jeremiah, Escape the Coming Night (W Publishing, 1990), p. 127

Listen, you can call me Chicken Little if it makes you feel better.  But it won’t change the message.  The sky will one day fall . . . but there is a way out! 

There is a way up and away from the wrath to come. 

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