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Selected editorials from Dr. Katherine Albrecht, Ed. D.



The 6th Seal

Have the prophecies of Revelation already begun to be fulfilled?




By:  David Deschesne

Editor/Publisher, Fort Fairfield Journal

September 26, 2018



   Of all the books in the Bible, the Book of Revelation is the one I have spent the least amount of time on.  This is because it seems there are as many different interpretations of it as there are Christian denominations (some estimates are 20,000 different Christian denominations in the world).  Every interpretation draws different conclusions and comes up with different imagery and timelines.  Since they all can’t be right, I’ve decided to not expend a lot of energy on that particular book.

   With that said, I am willing to at least entertain a discussion on the 6th Seal of the book of Revelation since it seems to be the crux of a widespread Christian theory that ties various world events into the fulfillment of that prophecy and a sign of the end of days.  Some Christian denominations have developed an entire theology around this seal, and have purported it to have been fulfilled, even if out of order with the rest of the seals and prophecies.

   The text under consideration here is:


“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken in a mighty wind.”

- Rev. 6:12-13 KJV


   The Christian narrative utilizes several historical world events in order to massage a fulfillment of this prophecy focusing on the following:


- a great earthquake

- the sun becomes black

- the stars of heaven fall


   The development of the theory on the fulfillment of this prophecy was formed in the early 1800s by William Miller, a farmer who was a member of the Baptist religion, whose views ultimately were adopted by Ellen White and her followers and incorporated into the Adventist theology.  Not to pick on Adventists, it is also important to note that Joseph Smith of the Mormon religion also shared similar views on some of the following historical events, as did some preachers in England’s protestant churches of the time period.


Christian Correlation of the 6th Seal Prophecies with Historical Events

A Great Earthquake

   The first part of the Christian thesis on this prophecy is a great earthquake.  The one this correlation relies on is the Great Lisbon Earthquake.

   The Great Lisbon Earthquake struck the kingdom of Portugal, in Lisbon on the morning of November 1, 1755.  The citizenry at the time were preparing for the celebration of All Saints Day and candles were lit throughout the city.

   The estimated magnitude of the quake was 8.5—9.0 (there were no modern seismographs at the time) and its epicenter was somewhere nearby in the Atlantic Ocean.

   The quake caused massive fissures up to 16 feet wide to open in the center of the city.  As the multitude of All Saints Day candles toppled over, a huge fire broke out in the city.  About forty minutes later, the sea receded as far as the eye could see, which is the precursor for a tsunami,  the subsequent tsunami rushed up the Tagus river as fast as a horse’s gallop and was followed by two more waves.

   The death toll was an estimated 10,000 to 100,000 people.

   This is the “great earthquake” believed to begin the fulfillment of the prophecy of the 6th seal.


The Sun Became Black

   Twenty-five years later, on the other side of the Atlantic, was the “Great Day of Darkness” when the sun disappeared for most of the day and noontime resembled night.

   This event was centered on the Northeastern United States and parts of Eastern Canada.  The early morning of May 19, 1780 started out with the sky clear, then appearing yellow or coppery by about 9:00 a.m., then as noon approached it became as dark as midnight.  Hens roosted, flowers closed up and horses returned to their barns as the black cloud covered the entire area.  

   This apocalyptic-appearing event stirred the imaginations of many a protestant preacher in the area as they declared the end of the world was near.  Later, in her book, The Great Controversy, Ellen G. White wrote, “Since the time of Moses no period of darkness of equal density, extent, and duration, has ever been recorded.  The description of this event, as given by eyewitnesses, is but an echo of the Lord, five hundred years previous to their fulfillment: ‘The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.’ -Joel 2:31”1

   Nighttime came and by the next morning the sky had cleared and the sun was back to normal.


The Stars of Heaven Fall

   On the evening of November 13, 1833 it seemed as if the heavens opened up as a flurry of falling stars filled the nighttime sky over north America.  Ellen White describes it as the “most extensive and wonderful display of falling stars which has even been recorded.” She then cites R.M. Devens, “Never did the rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell toward the earth; east, west, north and south it was the same.”2

  Before 1833, meteor showers were not fully understood so pastors and clergy of that day took the event literally as the stars falling and plugged that into their book of Revelation 6th seal prophecy narrative.

   The storm that year was very intense and the event led to the first formulation of a theory on the origin of meteors.3


   This is a really fast, brief synopsis of happenings that led to the belief that these particular events were the fulfillment of the 6th Seal Prophecy in Revelation. 

   Putting your brain back into the time of the late 1700s thru early 1800s you will have to admit that the scientific knowledge and communication systems we enjoy today weren’t as sophisticated as they are  now.  It was very easy for the people of that time to draw conclusions of a supernatural nature based upon these events.  One of the most noteworthy was William Miller. 

   William Miller used these events, as did other pastors of the time, along with a prophecy in the Book of Daniel to formulate a thesis where Christ’s second coming and the subsequent “end of the world” would take place sometime between March 21, 1843 and  March 21, 1844.  When that event failed to be realized, many followers left his movement.  He then revised his figures to October 22, 1844.  Hundreds of his remaining followers disposed of their property and gave away their goods as that great day approached.  As October 22, 1844 came and went with no second coming of Christ, or end of the world, vast numbers of his followers lost interest and returned to their former churches.4


An Objective Analysis of the 6th Seal Events


The Great Earthquake

   The Great Lisbon Quake, while large, was not the largest in history, nor the most destructive to human life.  As large earthquakes go, it was actually a little below average.

   For example, the deadliest earthquake in the history of the world was recorded a couple hundred years prior to Lisbon.  On January 23, 1556 a magnitude 8 earthquake struck Shensi, China, killing around 830,000 people.  Four hundred years earlier than that one was the earthquake of Aleppo, Syria on August 9, 1138.  That quake killed 230,000 people.  Other quakes in that time period in Iran, each killed 150,000 to 200,000 people respectively.

  As for sheer magnitude, the estimated 8.5 to 9.0 of Lisbon actually falls in the middle of the top ten for all earthquakes recorded with a modern seismograph.  So far, the highest magnitude quake recorded with modern equipment is 9.5 in Bio-Bio, Chile in 1960.  Southern Alaska experienced a 9.2 magnitude quake in 1964 and the number three earthquake of modern history was a 9.1 which hit off the West coast of Northern Sumatra in 2004.5

   So, as for Great Earthquakes, the Lisbon quake—while powerful at the time—was not the most powerful, nor the most deadly.  Ergo, it was likely not the “great earthquake” of the 6th seal prophecy in Revelation, or any other prophecy for that matter.


The Sun Became Black

   While unnerving and curious, the Dark Day of 1780 was not the prophesied day the “sun became black as sackcloth of hair.”   The first clue is that it was a regional event—the sun did not become dark over the entire daylight side of the world.  The event was isolated to the New England States of Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont, as well as portions of Eastern Canada.  While that would be a noteworthy event, it doesn’t really rise to the level of Biblical proportions as it was being presented by preachers.

   There were no volcanoes in the area at the time and no solar eclipses so it was difficult to understand what could have caused the darkness of night to fall in the middle of the day.

   Around thirty years ago, researchers at the University of Missouri’s Department of Forestry conducted research into the tree rings of tree trunks in New England.  They found fire-scarred rings in tree trunks dating back to the period of the “Dark Day.”  As it turns out, the cause of the Dark Day has now been attributed to a major forest fire in Ontario, Canada in an area that is now the Algonquin Provincial Park.  It is believed a low pressure weather system carried the dense smoke to the New England States where it mixed with fog from the ocean and darkened the sun over that area for about twenty four hours.

   Additionally, there have been many “dark days” in recorded history.  Physicist William Corliss found 46 accounts of “dark days” around the world between 1091 and 1971.

  A more recent “Dark Day” took place in Bradford, Pennsylvania on September 24, 1950.   Like the Dark Day of 1780, Bradford was plunged into nighttime darkness in the middle of the day where the sun was almost completely blacked out.   Unlike the 1780 Dark Day which preachers attributed to the end times, people at Bradford, living in the middle of the Cold War with Russia and the fighting in Korea attributed the mysterious darkness to military maneuvers, or a secret weapon.  However, it seems the culprit was once again a major forest fire.  This time, burning in Wanham, Canada, about 340 miles northwest of Edmonton.  More than 700 firefighters battled nearly 30 individual forest fires over 300 square miles of land.  Some people in Bradford refused to believe the forest fire thesis, though, and continued to believe the sun was darkened by the military.


The Stars of Heaven Fall

   What the people in north America didn’t know in 1833, that we know now, is the flurry of stars falling from the sky in November of that year was a normally recurring phenomenon called the Leonid Meteor shower, named after the constellation, Leo where they originate in late fall of every year.

   The Leonids are a part of the tail of the comet Tempel-Tuttle which has an orbital period of 33 years around the sun.  As the comet nears the sun, the heat melts off the ice and rock particles and leaves them suspended in space.  As the earth revolves around the sun each year it passes near or through the tail of that comet debris.  This is what creates the Leonid meteor shower in November of most years.  Some years the meteor shower is greater than others, depending on how much of the comet’s tail the earth passes through on the nighttime side.  In November, 1833 the people in North America were treated to an exceptional show as the earth passed directly through the debris trail of comet Tempel-Tuttle which was left when it passed by the sun in 1800.  This major event displayed hundreds of meteors per minute, but it is not unique.  The Leonids had similar spikes in activity in 1866, 1965, 1994, 1998, and 1999.6 

   The Leonids did not start in 1833, they had been recorded with regularity as early as 868 AD when it is believed Tempel-Tuttle crossed the Earth’s orbit for the first time.7


  These three historical events are still believed by some to be the fulfillment of the Sixth Seal of Revelation. But using their original logic, any of the past earthquakes which were followed by a dark day, then followed by an exceptional showing of the annual Leonid meteor shower could just as easily qualify.

   In attempting to capture the attention of followers and sell their prophecy narrative, many pastors could be tempted to take the model in Revelation 6:12-13 and plug in historical events to make it look like a prophecy had been fulfilled. Given the vague, open-ended prediction in Rev. 6:12-13, and a willingness to allow for an indeterminate period of time between events, the laws of chance alone are enough to predict a “fulfillment” if enough time is allowed to pass.  However, a plain reading of Rev. 6:12-13 seems to indicate those events all happening at once, not randomly spread out over several  decades.


An Alternate View of Revelation

   It has been postulated by some that the Book of Revelation is not even original, but its catastrophes are inspired by select chapters from the much older Egyptian Book of the Dead, which is a funeral guide for the deceased as they navigate toward the Fields of Peace (i.e. “Heaven”) in the afterlife.  This collection of texts predates Christianity by over 2,000 years and was still in widespread use in some areas of Egypt during the time John wrote his Revelation. 

   In his 2009 book, Egyptian Origin of the Book of Revelation, John Pippy makes a compelling argument for the Book of the Dead, among other ancient Egyption religious texts, as the source material, or at least inspiration for, the Book of Revelation.  He points to the similarities in Revelation to Chapters 146, 149 and 150 of the Book of the Dead to the descriptions of active volcanoes and how many of the instances of darkening of the sun, earth quaking and stars falling from the skies could have been imagery adapted from the Book of the Dead where it discusses volcanoes.8

  Many portions of Revelation also appear to be adapted from ancient astrotheological myths associated with the original story encoded in the Zodiac of Babylonia.  But, this is a topic outside the scope of this study.



1.  The Great Controversy, E.G. White, 2008 ed., p. 168

2. op cit. p. 182


4.  Handbook of Denominations, Frank S. Mead, 1970 Abingdon Press, pp. 17-18.




8.  Egyptian Origin of the Book of Revelation, John H.C. Pippy, 2009 pp. 250-279


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