Revealing Revelation – The Fifth Seal


Lev 4:7  The priest shall then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense that is before the LORD in the Tent of Meeting. The rest of the bull’s blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.

Just as the blood of the sacrificed animal would be poured out upon the foot of the alter so we have the description of the placement of those who have been martyred to brith the early Church and the we are given the reason for this judgment that is about to befall apostate Israel.

Rev 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

With this seal we have more reason to believe that the actual events described in the scroll have yet to begin. The martyrs are still crying out for vengeance. This would mean that the judgment and tribulation set against the persecutors of the Church have yet to begin and are only being hinted at.

This theme of the cry of the martyrs begging for vengeance against their persecutors can be traced back to the beginnings with Abel.

Gen 4:10 And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground

This theme is even carried though the words of Christ in His scathing indictment of the religious leaders of His day.

Matt 23:35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah…

This cry for vengeance is bottled up and held up against first century Jerusalem. This fact is indisputable as the above passage from Matthew clearly determines as Jesus continues His diatribe against them…

…36Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

These martyrs are those who have fallen during the persecution of the early Church at the hands of primarily the Jews and some at the hands of the Romans. The emphasis here is on the Jewish persecution since it is said to have been set against those who dwell on the earth or land. Here again, the word is “ge” and is most relatable to the word land and specifically the Holy Land, or Israel.

This is not a surprise and should be expected as it was also clearly predicted in the Olivet Discourse. Jesus told His disciples that they would be killed for the sake of the Gospel before the end of that generation. This is mentioned in all three Gospels that contain the Olivet Discourse.

Matt 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake

So, just who are the “they” that Matthew is referencing? Remember the context here is the Jewish religious leaders that Jesus has just condemned along with their Temple. But the parallel passages in Mark and Luke answer more directly.

Luke 21:12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.

Mark 13:9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.

Did this happen and are these the ones pictured under the altar? Note first the answer to the second part of this question that is found in the passage under consideration.

Rev 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.

Just like Jesus proclaimed in the Olivet Discourse there would be many would be persecuted and slain for the sake of the Gospel. Now consider just a sampling of examples found within the pages of the New Testament.

Acts 4:1-3 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them…[3] And they arrested them and put them in custody

2 Cor. 11:24-25 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. [25] Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned

Acts 5:17-18 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy [18] they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.

Acts 12:1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.

Acts 23:24 Also provide mounts for Paul to ride and bring him safely to Felix the governor.”

They were arrested, beaten, imprisoned and killed. They stood before governors and kings. They did all this for the sake of the Gospel and were persecuted by the Jews. This is just as described in the Olivet Discourse and pictured here in the fifth seal of Revelation.

The call for vengeance is proclaimed and predicted by Jesus in the story of the unjust judge. The cry for retribution fell on the deaf ears of the unjust judge for a while, but even he was overcome be the constant cry of the victim. So how much more would the Father in Heaven hear the pleas of His elect and avenge them?

Jesus even hints at the way in which this vengeance will be carried out at the hands of the Romans.

Luke 13:1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Here Jesus warns the Jews that they were in danger of suffering at the hands of the Romans just as the ones mentioned. This even includes being thrown off the towers of the wall.

Finally it is important to note that those who did these deeds – including those who pieced His side – were alive at the time of the writing. These first century martyrs were crying out for vengeance against those that persecuted and killed and who were currently living “in the land.” This couple with the statements above from the Olivet Discourse and the fulfillment of the Olivet Discourse makes this passage most obviously related to the first century. No other generation could fulfill these predictions and deserve these judgments.


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