The sixth seal marks an epoch turning moment in world history and the history of the Church. It brought great relief to the persecuted saints, no doubt in answer to many prayers, cryings and tears but at the same time it laid a foundation for apostasy from the faith at a depth and breadth hitherto unknown. It also marked the end of the reign of the sixth head of the beast (the sixth phase of Roman government) and the commencement of the reign of the seventh head/phase of the beast. (More to come later on the beast, its seven heads, its horns and its eventual eighth head.).
This seal marks the moment in history when a military tribune named Constantine ascended to Roman supremacy (313) under the so called ‘banner of the cross’. (You can research ‘Battle of the Milvian Bridge’ for more on this if you wish). Constantine ‘converted’ from paganism to ‘Christianity,’ albeit a highly politicised and still semi-paganised version of so called Christianity. This event was a mega ‘earthquake’ moment in both world and Church history. We still use this ‘earthquake’ metaphor today when reporting major political upheavals. This marked the end of pagan Rome and the commencement of the seventh phase of Rome, ‘Christianised Rome’ and also eventually led to the East-West split of the empire (395).
In reading the descriptive details of the sixth seal you may well feel like you’re reading about the end of the world. In fact, you are. This, however, is not the end of the world in quite the way people imagine and use that phrase today. In fact, even in the ultimate end of the story, from a proper biblical understanding, the world is not going to end at any stage. That may surprise you but we will encounter more on that topic as we reach the final chapters of The Revelation, where we will see that God’s plan is to ‘renew’ the earth – God never gives up on His projects!
What we do see in the sixth seal is that this is the end of a long-running and powerful ‘age’ – the age of Pagan supremacy. There are at least six large and powerful successive empires mentioned in the Old Testament. Four are the focus of Daniel’s prophecies – Babylonian, Medo/Persian, Greek and Roman but these are preceded by the Egyptian and Assyrian empires and there are lesser empires referenced too. In all of this history, going back to at least 2000 BC and up to the time of Constantine all of the world empires were pagan.* Regardless of Constantine’s personal understanding of true Christianity his rise and reign marks the cataclysmic moment in world history when the supremacy of the pagan world was brought to an end.
Sun, moon and stars are all used in tune with biblical prophetic language again. Regarding the latter, stars, these may be said to be the great and mighty leaders and influencers of the Roman pagan world at that time. These perceived the ‘Cross’ and the ‘Christianity’ of Constantine’s armies as being the wrath of The Lamb coming upon them, whose people they had so long and so ruthlessly persecuted. We may even see such scenes played out again in our day should this prove to be a time when God brings exposure and justice to many of the corrupt elites (stars) of this present world – politicians, businessmen, pop stars and movie stars – it is no accident that we still talk of the ‘stars’ of our day – these may once again hide in their holes and wish for the rocks to fall upon them!
*(Israel at its height, under David and Solomon, may be said to have been an empire but clearly it was not of the same reach and extent of other more major empires. In any case, under Solomon it too was highly paganised).