(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.