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Revelation 6:12-17 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:48 mins 34 secs

Sixth Seal; Wrath of the Lamb Rev. 6:12-17

Revelation 6:12 NASB "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?'"

They now know for sure that the source of these judgments is God. They are not saying they don't believe in God, that He doesn't exist, they have to figure out some legislative or scientific solution to all these environmental disasters. They will finally realise that it is God who controls history and all of these events, and rather than submit to His authority, rather than face God and trust in Him, they will shake their fists at Him and be buried alive in the mountains. This is a picture of what the Old Testament depicts under the category of the hardening of the heart. It can apply to either unbelievers who are in complete resistance to God or it can apply to believers. Just because one is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and just because an Old Testament individual was a believer in the promise of coming salvation, and thus regenerate, does not mean that they cannot rebel, that they cannot resist God and reject God, because they would rather think in terms of the limited categories of creatureliness than think in terms of the expanded truth of divine viewpoint which is revealed in the Word of God. Because to think in terms of divine viewpoint means that we have to submit our thinking and everything that we do in life to the authority of God. It is not a matter of salvation; it is a matter of our spiritual life.

Hardening the heart is the idea of resisting God, strengthening the resolve to disobey God. What preceded this with Pharaoh was a passage in Romans chapter one that gives us the pattern that occurs among most of humanity—those who reject God. Here we have again a reference to that concept of divine wrath or judgment, and this is a judgment that occurs in history. It has occurred in history, it is not just a future judgment. Romans 1:18 NASB "For the wrath of God is [continuing in present time] revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in [by means of] unrighteousness." The very fact that we have this word "the truth" indicates a specific truth. It is a truth that is revealed in God's Word. There is a truth, one and only one truth; there are not multiple competing truths. This is the truth that has always existed from eternity past to eternity future in the mind of God as the creator who stands completely apart from the creation. He is the one who in His thinking has defined and designed and constructed all of physical reality, all of the universe. The laws of the universe work as a result of His design, and as the creator who stands outside of the creation He can change, manipulate, those laws because they are His. That is how a miracle occurs. But He has placed within His creation the clear evidence that it has been established by a designer, an intelligent being, so much so that the text in verse 21 says: "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Evidence of God's power and creation had been made to them because His existence had been made known within them. So internally and externally every human being has more than sufficient evidence of God's existence and God's reality, making them accountable.

We live so much in the present that we forget about the future. This affects the destiny of unbelievers but it also impacts the future of believers. So now we focus on the second example of hardening which relates to believers. Exodus 17 is a depiction of one of the great key events in the Old Testament. Whenever we look at the Psalms, the prophets, the teaching of Jesus in the great discourses of the sermon on the mount, the upper room discourse, the Olivet discourse, the long speeches that are given by men such as Stephen and Paul in the book of Acts, and books like Hebrews and even Revelation, we note that all of these consistently refer back to a set of key historical events that occurred in the Old Testament. They constantly go back to things like the creation or the fall or the Noahic flood or the call of Abraham or the Exodus event or the rebellion in the wilderness. It is from those historical events that doctrines in the New Testament are developed and built. That is the core idea of framework thinking really. And it is unique to Christianity that the doctrines that we have revealed to us in the Scriptures are not just abstract philosophical thoughts but they have been revealed by the Creator-God of the universe and thus the creator of history. And they have been revealed in the context of history in real space-time events involving true, genuine historical individuals, places and people. So to question the veracity of God's Word in relation to its historicity and the existence of these people and the historical validity of the text is to question the doctrines associated with it. You can't come in, if you are logical, and surgically separate the doctrine from the historical event. So it is in the Old Testament that we see the origin of these doctrines within history, within relationship within people's lives. The New Testament, then, goes back and develops these even further with application for the spiritual life of the church age believer.

There are basically two concepts going on in Exodus. The first part has to do with the redemption of an enslaved people; the second part has to do with the lifestyle, the living of a redeemed people. The Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt under the various Pharaohs for several generations and there was no hope for them other than the promise of God given to Abraham in Genesis that there would be a time when his descendants go out of the land for approximately 400 years and then God would bring them back to the land that He had promised to give to Abraham. So the first part of Exodus deals with how God redeems them and the final picture that we see of that judgment is the Passover event where the angel of death is sent to take the life of the firstborn son of every family, and the only provision to escape that judgment was to apply the blood of a sacrificed lamb without spot or blemish, picturing his perfection and innocence in a legal sense, and that that applied blood on the doorposts would cause the angel of death to pass over so that there would be no application of that judgment. It is a perfect picture of the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul said Christ is our Passover; John the Baptist said: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." They are the Old Testament pictures fulfilled in Jesus Christ who as our Passover Lamb was slain on our behalf, and it is the application of the principles of His death, believing in Him as our saviour, that the eternal debt, the condemnation of all those who reject Him is taken from us and we have eternal life.

So these events depict the redemption of the people. Then they passed through the Dead Sea, which is a picture of their identification with Moses, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 10, the baptism of Moses—baptism meaning identification. It is a foreshadowing of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that the church age believer experiences because of our identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. These people coming out of Egypt had seen incredible proofs, evidence, convincing proofs of God existence, God's grace, God's deliverance of them time after time after time. They sing a great hymn of praise in Exodus chapter fifteen called the song of Moses. Then they leave that place and go on, and as they get into the wilderness there is a lack of water. They get thirsty and rather than turning to God in trust they grumble against God. Exodus 15:4; 16:2, 7, 8; 17:3; Numbers 14:2, 27. Again and again the response of the Israelites is to ignore the empirical evidence of God's grace and love, and to complain that He is not giving enough. That is so true of many believers. Rather than putting the focus on all that God has given us we constantly put our hope in having the details of life, and we don't have, thinking that that is the source of happiness.

In the latter part of Exodus 15 God provides water for them at a place called Meribah (bitterness). God tells Moses to take a tree and put it in the water, and when he does the bitter waters there at the spring are sweetened and made drinkable. Water is provided for the Israelites. So we would think that they would learn once again that God is able to sustain us in any situation. There is no set of circumstances, no problem, no difficulty in life that is too great for the grace of God. But the problem is we want it done our way. That is hardening our heart; that is negative volition. We want God to dance to our tune, we don't want to submit our will to His will. In Exodus 16 they come to a set of springs at a place called Elim, and again God provides water for them but they find something else to complain about. God provides food for them in the form of manna, which means "what it is." They didn't know what it was but God provided special food for them in a special form, and because they go bored with it day after day after day they began to complain about that. Then in Exodus 17 we have another water problem.

Exodus 17:1 NASB "Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink." Once again, rather than trusting God, rather than identifying the problem and turning to Him in prayer and requesting sustenance, they complain. It is a test that reveals the real nature of their character. They quarrel with Moses. The word for "quarrel" is a Hebrew word that is used in an technical sense for bringing a law suit against somebody, but it is used in a generic sense to refer to those who just quarrel and complain and get involved in bitter verbal disputes. Exodus 17:2 NASB "Therefore the people quarrelled with Moses and said, "Give us water that we may drink." And Moses said to them, 'Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?' [3] But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, 'Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?'"

So Moses cries to the Lord. He is the one who has a divine viewpoint orientation. Exodus 17:4 NASB "So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, 'What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.' [5] Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go." Note that God doesn't rebuke the people here. That is the longsuffering of God. The Scripture says that is His grace in action. So many times He could just squash them but He continues to deal with them in grace and in supplying their needs. [6] "'Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.' And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. [7] He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, 'Is the LORD among us, or not?'" Massah is from the Hebrew word which means testing; Meribah is from the root rib, and so it is called the place of testing or the place of quarrelling because the people quarrelled with Moses and tested God. They wanted God to prove Himself to them on their terms, but had he not done that again and again and again? Man does not want to submit to God, that is the real issue. The issue isn't a question of evidence. The issue is a question of historical veracity; the issue is human volition; it is a spiritual issue and man sets his heart against God, he resists God, and this can happen to both unbelievers as well as believers.

This event is picked up by the psalmist in Psalm 95, a psalm of worship as well as a psalm of warning. The first seven verses focus on God, praise to God. Psalm 95:1 NASB "O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation." The rock that Moses struck in the wilderness is a type of Christ. Christ is the rock, the one who is unshakeable, strong, mighty, and yet He was struck down in the first advent by those who opposed Him and was crucified on the cross where He paid the penalty for us. [2] "Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. [3] For the LORD is a great God And a great King above all gods [recognition of His authority], [4] "In whose hand are the depths of the earth, The peaks of the mountains are His also. [5] The sea is His, for it was He who made it, And His hands formed the dry land." Again we see the fact that it is God who controls the environment, the geophysical realities of the planet; He is the one who made everything, the one who sustains everything. Therefore our response is to come and worship Him and to kneel down before Him. [6] "Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker." A picture of our submission of our will to His will. [7] "For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice" – don't wait until tomorrow, it is a challenge to start making this a reality today.

The warning is then given. Psalm 95:8 NASB "Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness." Here we have the same word used to describe the hardening as back in Exodus. [6] "When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work." Empirical evidence isn't the issue, the issue is what is your volitional response to God, your responsibility, and are you one who responds to God's Word in submission or are you one who responds in antagonism and resistance? [7] "For forty years I loathed {that} generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways." Here is another example of how the word "heart" is used in reference to both thought and volition. They have constructed their own view of reality that is divorced from reality. It is a fantasy because they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. They "do not know my ways," they have rejected doctrine, the teaching of God's Word. All they are wanting to follow is a construct of their own emotion, their own imagination. The result is that God makes a judicial decision, [11] "Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest." That generation would be prohibited from entering into the promised land; they would all die in the wilderness. Day after day after day there would be thousands of funerals as a commemoration to the rebellion that occurred at Kadesh-barnea because the people rejected God's grace, power and provision.

But this is not restricted to an Old Testament event. In Psalm 95 the word "harden" is translated into the Septuagint with the verb sklhruno [sklhrunw] which means to be hard, to become harder, stubborn, to be fixed in negative volition toward God, to be stiff-necked or obstinate. This word is used in Hebrews chapter three where the writer is addressing Jewish believers who have come out of Judaism and who now are thinking of going back, rejecting what they have learned of God's Word. So the writer of Hebrews warns them. Hebrews 3:12 NASB "Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God." Any believer can do this. This is not a loss of salvation; this is a departure from the truth, operating on the arrogance of one's own sin nature. [13] "But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is {still} called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." This is simply a recognition of the fact that believers are to encourage one another not to fall away but to remain and to be strong. It gives the mechanics of hardening: "by the deceitfulness of sin." When a believer gets out of fellowship he is operating on the sin nature and that then generates a false view of reality which is deceptive.

In the book of Hebrews on three different occasions in chapters 3 & 4 the writer quotes this verse verbatim. He is making a very strong point his readers, and that is that church age believers have an even greater revelation of God's Word. We have this revelation in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and we have a revelation of God's Word in the completed canon of Scripture. So the warning to us is to not harden our hearts in resistance to the truth of God's Word. Psalm 95 is quoted in Hebrews 3:15; 4:3, 7, 8. Again and again there is this emphasis for the believer to not harden his heart. There is not one of us that cannot get into a place of arrogance in our spiritual life, a time when we put our focus on the finite details of life and get distracted from the real issues of our spiritual life, living in light of our future destiny. Scripture makes it clear that the church age believer is unique among all believers in history. The church has a significant role, not only today, but in the future because we are called the bride of Christ and the book of Revelation constantly reinforces the truth that we are living today in light of the future reality of ruling and reigning with the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is our training time now, and if we don't learn to align our thinking to the truth of God's Word, and if we don't learn to be responsive to His authority in our lives, submitting our wills to His will, then there are consequences. For the believer they are not consequences of eternal judgment but they are consequences of loss of reward and loss of inheritance in the same way that those Jews in terms of history, in that first generation of the Exodus, lost their inheritance and were not allowed to enter into the rest of the promised land. This is a strong warning to every individual to take their spiritual life very seriously to make sure that they do not succumb to the same form of arrogance.     

Illustrations