The Way It Happened

Revelation 6:12-14, The End of the World?

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. 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.

//A number of Revelation interpreters continue to read these verses literally. Please don’t. Such images may seem bizarre to us today, but they had grown into common symbolism long before Revelation appeared. They denote the wrapping up of a nation, such as Babylon (as told by Isaiah) and Egypt (by Ezekiel). For example, Isaiah 34:4 reads, “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 this has nothing to do with the end of the world. If you doubt this, please take time to verify for yourself: Isaiah 13:1, 13:19, 14:22, 21:9, 48:14, 48:20. See also the “little apocalypse” describing the fall of Jerusalem in Mark 13:24-27 and the other Synoptic Gospels.

This apocalyptic imagery probably evolved from an ancient hymn to the storm god, Baal, describing his advance into combat:

    The heavens roll up like a scroll,
    And all their hosts languish
    As the vine leaf withers

    As the fig droops

In the case of Revelation and the Gospels, the imagery surely signifies the end of the Jewish state in 70 A.D., which would not be restored again for nearly 1,900 years! More about Revelation’s symbolic roots can be found in my book, at

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