The Great Darkness in the Scriptures and its interpretation.
The sixth seal.
The Great Darkness – a worldwide event.
The Day of the Lord breaks.
The Lord takes over the rule in the world.
The Great Darkness is the last event in the first period of the Great Tribulation, the "Tribulation of those days" as the Lord calls it in Mt 24:29. It is at the same time the transition and the portent for the next period in the last days, the "Day of the Lord".
(See also Chapter 03: "The Great Tribulation.")
The Great Darkness, that is to say the darkening of the celestial bodies before the Day of the Lord, is relatively well attested in the Scriptures. We have hints in the prophetic books of the Old Testament as well as of the New Testament.
The most important of these passages from the Scriptures is probably the one in Rev 6,12 – 17. Not only because it attests and describes the final fulfillment of these happenings, which, in the final analysis, all other prophecies in this connection hint at, but because this text is also nearly word for word identical with the statements of the Lord Jesus concerning the last days in the Gospels (Mt 24:29; Mk 13:24 – 25;).
The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood.
Rev 6,12 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; 6,13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 6,14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
6,15 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; 6,16 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;
6,17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" Rev 6,12 – 17;
So, although there is a great number of prophecies in the Scriptures, as we will see below, which hint at this event, many exegetes nevertheless shrink from a literal interpretation. One reason for that may be probably also that often the specific scientific theoretical knowledge is lacking, which would be necessary for understanding such global geological connections and for treating them in the interpretation. But with an appropriate technical offering of evidence these texts can be interpreted without any difficulties in the way they are written here, that is to say literally.
(See also Excursus 01: "The interpretation of the prophetic Scriptures.")
So, let us turn to the concrete interpretation of the passages mentioned, Rev 6,12 – 17. When the sixth seal is broken John sees a tremendous earthquake on the earth. The sun and the moon darken and the stars of the sky fall down upon the earth. Now, if there is a really tremendous earthquake with volcanic eruptions, the disappearance of islands and the collapse of entire mountain ranges, a darkening of the celestial bodies is not surprising. At such an event tons of dust and smoke would be flung into the atmosphere and probably would make the sky impervious to any kind of light rays for a long time.
But what about the stars? It would be absurd to assume that the stars of the sky would actually fall down to the earth. One of these shining planets alone would be many times larger than the earth and would tear it to millions of pieces if there were a collision. The principle of the concrete interpretation forbids us to think of the possibility to interpret these stars as "atom bombs which hit us from spacecrafts on orbits round the earth", because, just as the sun above is the actual sun, and the moon is also the moon, also the stars have to remain the stars here.
So, we have to ask ourselves, what are "the stars" actually? Well, as it is generally known, stars are shining celestial bodies which describe their orbits in the universe. These are, of course, in the main the billions of suns which we can observe in our night skies. But there are also other, much smaller, and even nearly tiny celestial bodies, which sometimes, when they approach the earth, dip into the earth’s atmosphere due to the force of gravity and glow away due to the frictional heat when they are falling. Then we call them meteors. But much more often their orbit runs in a sufficiently large distance so that they escape the force of gravity of the earth. If they are large enough, we can watch them as shining comets, which move past our planet.
All these small celestial bodies, which are also called asteroids (Greek: "similar to stars"), move now through space on various orbits. If they get into the gravitational field of a planet and if their speed is not high enough related to their masses, these asteroids are attracted by the planet and fall down on it. Examples of that are generally known, such as for instance the craters on our moon (more than 30,000) or the points of impact on Mars.
The effects of such an impact of an asteroid on a planet depend on the one hand on the size of the asteroid and on the other hand on the fact if the planet has an atmosphere or not. Without an atmosphere the fall is not braked. That means, the asteroid is not heated up, it remains "cold" and there is no danger that it explodes due to the heat and that the structure of its matter breaks into many pieces already above the surface.
We had such impacts also on the earth already several times in the past. For instance, in the year 1908 an asteroid penetrated into the earth’s atmosphere above the Siberian tundra and exploded already at a height of approximately 2,000 m above the earth’s surface due to the heating (Tunguska meteorite). Its explosion energy amounted to the explosive power of 30 megatons of TNT, this corresponds approximately to the largest atom bomb that has ever been built on earth. The heat of this explosion set fire to 2,000 square kilometers of wood from a height of still 2 kilometers. Fortunately enough, the subsequent blast wave extinguished this fire again so that scientists, who explored this area years later, found only partly carbonized, uprooted, and broken woods on an area of two thousand square kilometers. The aerial photographs reminded one of a Mikado game: For kilometers and kilometers centuries – old huge tress were lying in a mess and broken on the ground.
But there are also reports of explosions of asteroids in the atmosphere, which led only to shatterings and where the individual fragments fell down on the entire earth then. For instance, in the year 1935 three smaller asteroids exploded in the atmosphere above the Brazilian jungle with an energy of 50 – 100 kilotons of TNT and set fire to the rain forest. Eyewitnesses reported that the sun had turned as red as blood. 1,200 square kilometers of rain forest were destroyed by the fire. One of the most gigantic impacts of asteroids on our planet took place near the peninsula Yucatan. There you can find the crater of an impact of an asteroid with a diameter of 500 kilometers. Scientists assume that this event was responsible for the onset of the last Ice Age and the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
Also the gravitation force of large planets is able to make smaller celestial bodies burst. This happened in the year 1994 on the planet Jupiter (Shoemaker – Levy 9), where 21 fragments of a very large comet, which had been burst into pieces due to the gravitation force of Jupiter, fell down on the planet one after the other. But asteroids do not necessarily have to be large all the time. An asteroid of the size of a soccer ball develops the energy of a Hiroshima bomb when it explodes in the atmosphere. If it does not explode and "only" falls down an the earth’s surface, it can still cause great damage due to the enormously high speed with which it flies through space – namely between 50,000 and 200,000 kilometers per hour.
Most of the asteroids in our solar system – there are altogether about 75,000 – have a diameter between 40 meters and 80 kilometers and would be an enormous danger to our planet. The mildest consequences would be worldwide earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and a global climatic catastrophe. The most dangerous effects could throw our planet out of its orbit or could tear the earth into pieces anyway.
The orbits of 1400 asteroids with a diameter of more than 140 meters and therefore potentially dangerous
for the earth with the orbits of Mercury, Venus and Mars and Jupiter. Copyright: NASA, JPL-Caltech
In Rev 8,8 – 9 we also have the situation that "a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea".
And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea.
Rev 8,8 The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, 8,9 and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed. Rev 8, 8 – 9;
Also in this case the catastrophe would be worldwide. If an asteroid of a diameter of only 1.5 kilometers gets into the gravitational field of the earth, and plunges into the sea then, the tidal wave at a height of more than 1,000 meters destroys all towns on the coast and inundates the continents far up to the interior of the land. The entire planet would be shaken. All volcanoes would erupt and would emit thousands of tons of ashes and smoke into the atmosphere. A black cloud cover would cover up the entire planet and would not let through any sunlight for approximately one year.
The consequence of that would be an absolute darkness, icy temperatures and as photosynthesis would not be possible any more, all plants on the earth would die off. Since – in the final analysis – every animal life on this planet depends on an adequate nutritional basis consisting of plants, such a darkness would mean a worldwide famine and with that wide – spread deaths of men and animals.
When interpreting the above text from Rev 6,12 – 17 the question arises therefore, in how far such a downfall of an asteroid could also be responsible for and cause the other phenomena of this catastrophe, that is to say the darkening of the celestial bodies and worldwide earthquakes, in the first place.
We see by that that we do not need much imagination for the interpretation of the statements of the Scriptures in this connection. We only have to take a closer look at the existing and known facts and then we do not have any problems any more, to see the tremendous dimensions and above all the reality of these prophecies.
Apart from this rather scientific argumentation for the plausibility of especially also the text from Rev 6,13 "and the stars of the sky fell to the earth", we also have a written proof of the reliability of these prophecies. For we find a text that is in principle identically worded in the statements of the Lord in the Gospels.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days sun and moon are darkened.
Mt 24,29 "But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Mt 24,29;
(See also Discourse 05: "The parallel course of events of Mt 24 and Rev 6 and 7.")
The stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken.
Mk 13,24 "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be
darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 13,25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Mk 13,24 – 25;
Also here there is talk about the "stars which are falling from the sky", as happens practically nowhere else in the Scriptures in this way. This is a hint at the fact that these statements come from the same "source", and that it was really the Lord Jesus who revealed these secrets to John. And that with the same words as he directed them to his Disciples during his lifetime. And with that it is – of course, as always only for faithful people – a confirmation of the truth of these statements.
Also in the parallel passage, Lk 21,25 – 26, we have the hint at signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars and at the fact that the powers of the heavens will be shaken. At the same time there is also talk about the "roaring of the sea and the waves" here.
There will be signs in sun and moon and stars.
Lk 21,25 "There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 21,26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 21,27 "Then they will see the son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 21,28 "But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." 21,29 Then He told them a parable: "Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 21,30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 21,31 "So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Lk 21,25 – 31;
They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.
Mt 24,29 "But immediately after the tribulation of those
days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its
light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will
be shaken. 24,30 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky,
and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will
see the Son of ma coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.
24,31 "And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and
they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky
to the other. Mt 24,29-31;
But also in the Old Testament these events are well – attested. Here below, in the passage from Isaiah, we find the remarkable statement: "The sun will be dark when it rises". On account of this formulation we realize that the sun does not give any light any more, because it disappeared. No, it is there now as before, it "rises", but its light cannot get through to the earth.
The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light.
Isa 13,10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not flash
forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light. Isa 13,10;
The sun and the moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness.
Joel 2,10 Before them the earth quakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and the moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness. Joel 2,10;
Joel 3,15 The sun and moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness. Joel 3,15;
In order to finally return to the text from Rev 6,13 "and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind", we have to ask ourselves with the knowledge we have today and with the insight we have also into astronomy, how would we have explained the downfall of asteroids in a way that is brief, descriptive, and comprehensible, bearing in mind that the actual contents have to be preserved for thousands of years, to a man of those days when not even the earth itself was perceived as a planet? So we see without any doubt that only one description can fulfill all these criteria, namely the one we find in Rev 6,12 – 13.
In the next passage from the Scriptures, Acts 2,19 – 21, we learn a little bit more. This event, this Great Darkness, is an announcement, a sign of the fact that the Day of the Lord is drawing near.
The sun turned into darkness, the moon into blood, before the great day of the LORD shall come.
Acts 2,19 ‘And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. 2,20 ‘The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the LORD shall come. 2,21 ‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.’ (Joel 3,1 – 5)«. Acts 2,19 – 21;
We already read above, in Lk 21,28: "But when these things begin to take place,
straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." And now we also know why after these events the redemption for the faithful is drawing near: The Day of the Lord shall come.
(See also Chapter 05: "The Day of the Lord.")
This is on the one hand the "day of the revelation of the Lord", the day of parousia, of the return of the Lord Jesus, who comes in order to take his loved ones home in the Rapture. But on the other hand we know from the Old Testament that the Day of the Lord – in its second part – is also the "day of the wrath of God".
After the return of the Lord and the taking home of his loved ones, the Judgment of God will be passed over the godless and impenitent with catastrophes, plagues, and epidemics and finally will – with worldwide earthquakes and the complete reorganization of the present surface of the earth – create the precondition for a peaceful and fertile earth in the Millennium, the kingdom of the Lord Jesus that will last for a thousand years.
The sun turned into darkness the moon into blood before the great day of the LORD comes.
Joel 2,31 "The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. Joel 2,31;
(See also Chapter 08: "The reorganization of heaven and earth.")
Darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon Zion.
Isa 60,1 "Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 60,2 "For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. 60,3 "Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising. Isa 60, 1 – 3;
In this worldwide darkness, now suddenly a light rises. It is neither the light of the sun nor the light of the moon. It comes from Israel, from the city of Jerusalem. On Mount Zion the glory of the Lord rises and lights up the whole world.
Before people already passed away out of fear and in the expectation of the things, which were to come over the whole world, but now they realize that all these signs are not accidental natural catastrophes, but that it is God the Lord, who makes the Gentiles realize that all their idols, however their names may be, are useless trash. There is only one who directs the entire universe. Namely the one who created it: the Almighty.
The moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed when the Lord will reign on Mount Zion.
Isa 24,23 Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, For the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, And His glory will be before His elders. Isa 24,23;
Even if then, after some time of darkness, the black clouds have dispersed, the sun and the moon – although in their full illuminating power – will appear only as glowing lights, because the glory of God above the earth will be that radiant.
The LORD will make darkness into light before them.
Isa 42,16 "I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone." Isa 42,16;
The Lord promises to all the Gentiles that are still left now, to the "blind" as
Isaiah calls them above, to guide and lead them. He will make darkness into light before them. Also they, after they have realized now that there is a God and only one God, will follow this one God and will be received by him.
You who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise.
Mal 4,2 "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. Mal 4, 2;
And finally this manifestation of the Lord is also the redemption for his people of Israel. The sun of righteousness will rise for them with the glory of the Lord.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield he gives grace and glory.
Ps 84,11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. Ps 84,11;
(See also Chapter 10: "The Millennium.")