(read Rev. 6:9-11)

The first 4 seals have had to do with happenings on earth, now comes the question what’s happening in heaven? In verse 9, “And when He opened the 5th seal, and i saw underneath the altar…” – the altar has been much discussion among commentators. Is this the altar of sacrifice or the altar of incense? There are different ways of looking at that, and i don’t think that makes much of a difference. The rabbis say that under the altar of sacrifice was especially a holy place, and this is the place of the martyrs. So, I think the altar of sacrifice is probably best, but we can’t be really dogmatic on it. The souls seem to be disembodied – those who have been slaughtered for being faithful to God’s message. And there are many times we talk about people being faithful to God’s message in their testimony, we see it Rev. 12:11; 19:10-15; 20:4. Those people were faithful to the very end, and it is very important to note that this book was written in a time of terrible persecution. Now notice as it says, “and they cried with a loud voice, saying, how long O Master, the holy and true…” – the word Master here is rendered as ‘despotes’ (used of God in Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; and of Christ in 2 Pet. 2:1). It emphasizes God’s sovereign and complete power. Now it says, “…dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” – I think these martyrs are crying out for justice. Their martyrdom seems to be a failure, and their enemies (unbelievers) triumph over their tragedy. Heaven seems to be silent, and the victory of evil seems to be accepted by the world. However, if you jump into Rev. 14:8-13, we find the mystic Babylon which killed God’s martyrs is judged, and the martyrs are avenged and vindicated. And they pass into history as God’s heroes.

“Then a white robe is given to each of them and they were told to keep quiet a little while longer.” – the white robe symbolizes justification, and the fact that it was given to them, shows that fallen men do not justify themselves. God justifies them. Some say the color white (robe) symbolizes rest, or peace, or maybe victory. We’re just not exactly sure. It can’t be resurrection day. It’s not time for that yet. now, “…until their fellow servants also and their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled their course.” – shows that God is in control, even of the martyrs. God is in control of history. Down here in chapter 7 verse 1, God holds back the judgement until the right time. God’s in control of the persecution as well as He is in control of history. And He says, “trust Me, I know you Christians are having a hard time. I know some of you are being killed, but I love you and you’re precious to Me and I’m going to work it out. I’m going to end evil soon, trust Me!” I would say that the wonderful throne room scene of chapters 4 and 5, as well as the rest of the book show that God indeed is in control of history. The passages on the churches testify to the fact God knows what the church is going through, and loves them, and is going to work it out for their good. They just need to hang in there!