Revelation 6:12-17

Sermon preached on September 30, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

In the fall of 1974 I was living in Nova Scotia and we got a warning that a hurricane was going to hit. I can't remember its name but it was supposed to be a big one. In Nova Scotia I don't think hurricanes ever inflicted damage like Katrina did to New Orleans. But there were certain precautions that we were always told to take during hurricanes. For example, one of the most fun things to do in a hurricane is to go down close to the shore and watch the waves come crashing in. It's an incredible experience to see the power of the ocean striking against the land. But going down close to the ocean is one of the most dangerous things to do in a hurricane. So we were always warned not to do it. I was on my way to work on the docks when the hurricane started and except for the occasional tree or branches down, it wasn't too bad driving except for the flat tire I got just as I was almost to work. I stopped the car and was going to change the tire but when I looked at what the wind was doing to the car I decided not to. The car was actually going up and down in the wind. The wheels weren't coming off the road but the wind was so strong that the body of the car was going up and down a bit. As soon as I saw that I decided that I wasn't going to jack the car up. I thought it would be asking for trouble. The other unusual thing I remember about that day was about the ships. I was working as a longshoreman at the time and usually in a storm the ships will make for the harbor and stay tied up. But that day the ships didn't stay tied up. We released the lines and the ships went out into the middle of the harbor to ride the storm out. The wind was predicted to be so bad that the people in charge thought that it would be too dangerous for the ships to be tied up, that the lines might break and the ships would be dashed against the shore. I've seen what wind can do to big ships. One time in particular a ship was trying to dock and we were there to catch the lines but the wind kept blowing it away before we could pull the lines up. The ship tried three or four times to dock, but no matter how close she came in, the wind was so strong that it just moved that steel boat away from us before we could get the lines up. So the ship had to go back out in middle of the harbor. It was safer there.

The point is that if you live near the ocean and you get warning that a really bad hurricane is coming—you get ready for it. You don't want to get caught off guard. You respect the ocean. You take precautions. You don't let the warning go unheeded.

The scene before us is a warning. It's a warning that we all need to heed. It shows us the horror that is going to grip those who don't know Jesus on the last day. It's going to be so bad that it will be the worst thing ever. We need to heed the lessons here.

The main thing it teaches is that

God is going to judge the world and the judgment against sinners is going to be horrible.

It gives us the result of the martyr's prayers that we saw in the fifth seal. It pictures the coming of Jesus at the end of time. This may seem surprising since we're only in chapter 6 of Revelation, but we are not to think that the book of Revelation is in chronological order. It's not. This is the first 'picture' of the 2nd coming of Jesus and it's from the perspective of those who those who have rebelled against Him. Other places in Revelation will give us other 'pictures' of the 2nd coming. Revelation as cyclical, not chronological. This is the first picture of the end.

What is it going to be like when Jesus comes again?

The first thing we see here is that

Christ's coming will lead to the dissolution of the old created order.

Revelation 21:1 says,

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
for the first heaven and the first earth
had passed away,
and there was no longer any sea."

In order for the new heaven and the new earth to come into existence, the first heaven and earth have to be destroyed. This is what our text describes—the dissolution of the old order. The old created order will be torn apart by the coming of Jesus. We read, (Revelation 6:12–14)

"There was a great earthquake.
The sun turned black like sackcloth
made of goat hair,
the whole moon turned blood red,
and the stars in the sky fell to earth,
as late figs drop from a fig tree
when shaken by a strong wind.
The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up,
and every mountain and island
was removed from its place."

Vern Poythress writes, (p. 117)

"Phenomena in the heavens indicate the shaking of the old order of the first creation, in preparation for the coming of the new creation…"

Just before the coming of Jesus the old creation will be shaken to its very core and will be destroyed. Grant Osborne refers to the events here as, (Revelation, p. 271)

"a progressive dismantling of creation…"

2 Peter 3:10 tells us about this destruction,

"the day of the Lord will come like a thief.
The heavens will disappear with a roar;
the elements will be destroyed by fire,
and the earth and everything
in it will be laid bare."

Thus, in preparation for the new heaven and the new earth, the old creation will be dismantled, it will be destroyed. As we read in Revelation 20:11,

"Then I saw a great white throne
and him who was seated on it.
Earth and sky fled from his presence,
and there was no place for them."

The earthquake mentioned here is the beginning of that. This great earthquake points to the fact that God is coming and that, (Poythress, p. 117)

"the very foundations of the creation respond to his presence…"

Robert H. Mounce says, (Revelation, NICNT, p. 151)

"The sky will recede like an unrolled papyrus scroll that, should it break in the middle, would roll quickly back on either side."

The stars will fall to the earth. This sounds like a giant meteor shower, but as Grant Osborne, says, the image is 'far more terrifying.' It reminds us of Isaiah 34:4 which says of the judgment,

"All the stars of the heavens
will be dissolved and the sky
rolled up like a scroll;
all the starry host will fall
like withered leaves from the vine,
like shriveled figs from the fig tree."

And every mountain and island was removed from its place. The old creation is going to be dismantled.

The great lesson here is that

when Jesus comes again there will be no safe place for those who do not know Him.

There will be no place of refuge.

In Genesis we read that after
Adam and Eve sinned they heard God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day. They hid themselves because they were afraid. They had a place to hide. It couldn't really hide them from God but to some extend, God provided them with a place of refuge, where they were not confronted with His holy presence, which would have been so terrifying to them.

But on the last day there will be no place to hide. People will want to hide from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb—but there will be no place to hide.

If you're not in Jesus your sins are going to be punished. You will not escape.

The second great lesson here is for Christians. 2 Peter 3 describes the destruction of the first earth and heaven and then asks, (verses 11–12)

"Since everything will be destroyed
in this way,
what kind of people ought you to be?
You ought to live holy and godly lives
as you look forward to the day of God
and speed its coming."

You ought to be living for Christ's kingdom and not for the things of this life.

You remember Lot's wife? We look on her as being foolish because she looked back and longed for her life in Sodom. But it was doomed to destruction.

Are we like that?

Do we have our hearts set on the things of this world? Is this where your treasure is?

This should not be. Your treasure should be in heaven.

But there's another factor to consider.

Are you comfortable with the sin you see all around you?

Romans 8 tells us that the creation groans, longing to be liberated from the bondage that sin brought upon it. We read, (Romans 8:19–22

"The creation waits in eager expectation
for the sons of God to be revealed.
For the creation was subjected to frustration,
not by its own choice,
but by the will of the one who subjected it,
in hope that the creation itself
will be liberated from its bondage
to decay and brought into
the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation
has been groaning as in the
pains of childbirth right up
to the present time."

Does the inanimate creation put you, a Christian to shame? Do you groan waiting for the liberation of creation, for the glorious freedom of the children of God? Paul goes on to saw that Christians, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, (verse 23)

"groan inwardly as we wait
eagerly for our adoption as sons,
the redemption of our bodies."

Do you groan inwardly, being burdened, not only because of your own sin, but the sin of our society? Does Psalm 119:136 describe you? It says,

"Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
for your law is not obeyed."

Are you like Job, who said, (Job 30:25)

"Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?"

Does the injustice that is in our society bother you? Every year millions of babies are aborted in our society. Does it bother you? In other countries Christians are persecuted and put in jail? Does that grieve you and cut you to the heart so that you are crying out to God,

"How long, Soverign Lord,
holy and true…"

We should be. Why are we so much like Lot's wife?

The second thing we see about Christ's second coming is that

it will be dreadful for everyone who is not in Jesus.

No one will escape. In the judgments of the first four seals many in the world escaped the full effects of the judgments. For example, when the fourth seal was opened the rider on the pale horse, whose name was death was only given power over a fourth of the earth. Three quarters were spared.

The Black Plague only took 1/3 of the population of Europe. Two thirds of the people were not affected by the disease. In World War II only a small percentage of the world population was killed, around 2.5 percent. It was higher in countries like Russia but even there it was only around 14 percent killed.

But here it is different. Seven groups of people are mentioned—kings, princes, generals, rich, mighty, slaves and free men. This is basically an inclusive list of the different classes of society. G. K. Beale says that this, (Revelation, NIGTC, p. 400)

"reveals that God is no respecter of persons but judges all on an equal basis regardless of their social, political, or economic standing. They are all alike to be judged because of their idolatry and consequent rejection of Christ's kingship over their lives."

Everyone who doesn't know Jesus will be judged. There will be no exceptions.

If you're not in Jesus don't think that you will escape. You will not. You will have to stand before Him who sits on the throne. You will be undone.

The third thing about the Lord's coming that we see from our text is that

it will be too late for repentance.

It will be a time when it is too late for people to repent. Vern Poythress writes, (The Returning King, p. 117)

"Like Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8), they can only think of fleeing and hiding to avoid expose and punishment."

Romans 1 shows us that when people give themselves up to sin and refuse to repent—He eventually gives them up to it, so that there can be no repentance. So it will be on the last day. Robert H. Mounce writes, (Revelation NICNT, 151)

"Elsewhere in Revelation people are pictured as so adamant in pursuing their own goals that neither demonic plague (9: 20) nor scorching heat is sufficient to make them repent. Nothing short of the awesome dissolution of the world itself will strike terror to the heart of people in the last days."

It will strike terror. Yet it will not cause them to repent. Sin, rebellion and hatred of God will have such a hold on them that their only thought will be of trying to flee—but the rocks, the mountains, the islands will provide no refuge.

God in His mercy has provided a time of repentance for you. It is today. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says,

"I tell you,
now is the time of God's favor,
now is the day of salvation."

When Jesus comes it will be too late. You need to turn from your sins now. You need to repent now. You need to go to Jesus now.

The fourth thing we see about the Lord's coming is

the horrible dread that will seize those who are not in Jesus.

We are told that the people, (verses 16–17)

"called to the mountains and the rocks,
'Fall on us and hide us
from the face of him who sits
on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!
For the great day of their wrath has come,
and who can stand?'"

The dread that is described here is something we should not miss. Their cry is a great warning to all, as it reveals many things. We're going to consider just two.

First, it shows a terror, a dread, a hopelessness, not just a feeling of desperation—but of utter loss of everything.

The earth itself is giving away under them. Psalm 46 tells us of how Christians have God as their refuge and strength,

"Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging."

Christians will be safe on that day. But not unbelievers.

But with unbelievers, it will be different. Their cry is one that wants relief when there is none. They ask the mountains and rocks to fall on them and hide them from the face of Him who sits on the throne and of the wrath of the Lamb. This reminds me of when the prophet Isaiah saw a vision of God on His throne. He said, (Isaiah 6:5)

"Woe to me! I am ruined!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
and I live among a people of unclean lips,
and my eyes have seen the King,
the LORD Almighty."

Isaiah was faced with personal disintegration.

We have something the same here. One commentator calls it an 'irrational terror'. I don't think it's irrational at all. These people see God on His throne—they see His face and they are terrified. They also see the Lamb and they probably see the sword in His mouth and know that He is filled with wrath.

God hates sin. He reacts against it with anger. These people see His anger and flee from Him. They are totally undone. They are filled with horror. They know their fate. Revelation 14:9–10 tells about it.

"If anyone worships the beast
and his image and receives his mark
on the forehead or on the hand,
he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury,
which has been poured full strength
into the cup of his wrath.
He will be tormented
with burning sulfur in the presence
of the holy angels and of the Lamb.
And the smoke of their torment
rises for ever and ever."

Secondly, their cry reveals that

they are not standing their ground.

They will not be boldly standing in front of God arguing their case. There will be no argument. They will know that they are guilty. They will get a glimpse of the face of God and the wrath of the Lamb and know they are undone. They are trying to hide, to get away. They are fleeing the light. Shame, dishonor, humiliation—the Bible often likens the shame of sin to public nakedness. These sinners will not be clothed with the glory of God. They will not be able to bask in His glory, reflecting it for His glory. Instead, their shame will be clear to all. They will want to hide.

Those of you who are not Christians—you want respectability, you want to be honored, you want to be accepted. Sin will not let that come to you. Sin will undo you.

You need Jesus to clothe you with His righteousness. Go to Him. Whatever you do in life you need to avoid this terror, this humiliation coming upon you. You need to be in Jesus. Only He can save you from this.

Lastly, for Christians,

how wonderful God is to you.

What a wonderful salvation we have in Jesus. Because of Jesus you are not going to experience this terror. Psalm 103:10 says,

"he does not treat us
as our sins deserve or repay us
according to our iniquities."

Lamentations 3:22–23 says,

"Because of the LORD'S great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness."

1 Thessalonians 1:10 says that we,

"wait for his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead—Jesus,
who rescues us from the coming wrath."

Because of Jesus, because of His work—you are going to be spared this great terror. I've already quoted Psalm 46—since God is our refuge and strength, we will not fear even though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

Instead of you experiencing terror on that day—what glories await you. What a wonderful day it is going to be for you. In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, we are going to be changed. This perishable is going to become imperishable. This mortal is going to become immortal. We are going to be made perfect—as Philippians 3:21 says Jesus will,

"transform our lowly bodies
so that they will be like his glorious body."

We will be caught up in the air to be with Him.

Christians, love Jesus. Praise Him. Rejoice in Him. He saves you from the worst and in its place gives you the best.