Revelation 6:12–17 (NKJV)
After the discussion of the Tribulation Martyrs who were redeemed by their faithfulness, the Revelation turns to the sixth seal, which describes several cosmic, or natural disasters.
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. 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. 14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. 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, 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! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”Revelation 6:12-17
As the sixth seal is opened, a great earthquake occurred on earth. The indication here, though, is that this was more than just an earthquake happening in a region of the world. Instead, this appears to be a powerful shaking of the heavens and the earth, disrupting orbits and relative positions of the planets. The ensuing reactions included the sun seemingly becoming dark, black as sackcloth. “Sackcloth (a dark-colored fabric made of goat hair or camel hair originally used for making grain sacks) was worn for several reasons….”1 In this case, it appears that the color of sackcloth signified a need for mourning or submission. Along with the sun’s darkening, the moon turned to blood, or became blood-red in appearance. Additionally, the stars of the heavens fell down to the earth just like a fig tree drops its fruit when the wind of the late harvest blows mightily. The last two signs are the the splitting of the sky, described as a scroll rolling up in the sky, and the mountains and islands moving out of their places. These are further effects of the shaking of a massive earthquake.
The reaction of the people on earth is expectedly dire. The kings, great men, rich men, and military leaders, slave and free, hide in caves and beg the mountains and rocks to fall on them, hiding them from the wrath of the Lamb of God and Him who sits on the throne. This day of the Lord is ominous and fearful, and ungodly men, still unrepentant, want only to hide from the Lord, not to repent. This definitely seems to be the Day of the Lord, but yet there are many judgments and wraths coming with the trumpets and bowls to follow. However, this is obviously a powerful foretaste of the judgment that will come. There are some interludes of activity that happen prior to the seventh seal being broken, but this is an ominous beginning of the judgement of the Lord.
1David E. Aune, Revelation 6–16, vol. 52B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 611.