The Fifth Seal – The cry of the martyrs under the altar
Rev 6:9-11 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 testimony (of the Lamb, in the Greek) which they held. They cried: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
In the book of Revelation, references are made to the heavenly sanctuary every now and then. For example in Rev 1:12.13., it mentions Christ who is our High Priest standing among the seven lampstands in the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary. The Lamb was slain Rev 5:6. The altar of burnt offering where the blood was poured out at the base of the altar Rev 6:9.10. Incense offered at the golden altar before the Lord Rev 8:3.4. The temple of God and the altar was measured Rev 11:1. The temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple (In the Most Holy Place). Rev 11:19.
OK! Which altar did the apostle John see in his vision? Was it the altar of burnt offering or the altar of incense? The only altar where it refers to blood under the altar or at the base (bottom or foundation) of the altar is in Ex 29:10-13 at the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. They had just killed a bull and burnt all the fat and entrails on the altar and afterwards they poured the blood out at the base of the altar Ex 29:12.
In Lev 4:7. And the priests shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord, which is in the tabernacle of meeting; and he shall pour the remaining blood of the bull at the base (bottom or foundation) of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
So it is the altar of burnt offering John saw in vision. What about the souls under the altar? Where they really souls? We have to remember that this was a vision and not reality. Why? Because when we die, we lie in the grave until the day of resurrection, when Christ shall appear and call us out of the grave at the Second Coming of Christ. (See the title on my website, “what happens when we die?”) So this is a vision of people who had been slain for the word of God.
From which time?
Math 23:29-35. (This is Christ talking about the woes upon the scribes and Pharisees). Verses 34.35. Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
St. Bartholomew’s massacre
So all who have been slain for the word of God would refer to all believers from the time of Abel to the time of Zachariah and thereafter. This would include all the millions that were slain during the Dark Middle Ages by the papacy in the Roman Catholic Church.
Rev 6:11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the (number) of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
Rev 6:9.10. Refer to all the believers who have been slain for the word of God through all ages. Rev 6:11 refers to a time in the future when Christians who keep the Ten Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ will be slain. These white robes which were given to the those slain under the altar are related to the white robes given to the great multitude standing before the throne of God in heaven, after the Second of Coming of Christ. Rev 7:9. Even more so, those slain for the word of God during all ages would be related to the 144,000, who will be sentenced to death in the future, because they will not worship the image of the beast Rev 13:15. The souls under the altar of burnt offering are related to the 144,000, because the text Rev 6:11 states “until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” Therefore, those who were killed for the word of God through all ages of time, are related to those who will be killed for the word of God in the future, just before Christ´s Second coming.
To explain more about those slain for the word of God through all the ages and the 144.000, I would like look to use Ellen G. White´s writings to clarify this text in Rev 6:9-11. (To find the literary source of Ellen G, Whites writings see the link: www.whiteestate.org
Referring to Rev 6:8-11 White writes, “Here were scenes presented to John that were not in reality, but that which would be in a period of time in the future.” ((1)). Ellen G. White wrote this article in 1898, so the future is after 1898 and not before.
The earth was filled with transgression (Refers to the seven plagues in the future Rev 16:). The voices of those who had been sacrificed to human envy and hatred were crying beneath the altar for retribution. ((2)).
When the fifth seal was opened, John the Revelator in vision saw beneath the altar the company that were slain for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. After this came the scenes described in the eighteenth of Revelation, when those who are faithful and true are called out from Babylon. ((3)).
This citation is referring to the text in Rev 18: and applies to the time before the Second Coming of Christ.
For example in Rev 18:2 And he cried mightily with a loud vice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!
Rev 18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” (Babylon in this text is referring to all the false churches throughout the world who do not keep the Ten Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus Christ. Rev 12:17, Rev 14:12).
Rev 18:8 Therefore her plagues will come in one day – death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her. (This is referring to the seven plagues in Rev 16: which will come upon all Christians worshipping in these false churches worldwide).
Rev 18:24 In her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and all who were slain on the earth. (In parallel with Rev 6:9 this text gives the reason why the plagues will fall on these false churches worldwide. Because they are responsible for shedding the blood of innocent Christians who believe in God with all their hearts and all their minds).
Rev 17:16 And the ten horns you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot (Babylon), make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. (The ten horns represent all the political kingdoms on the earth. When they realize that they have been deceived by all the false churches in the world, who preach that we should not keep the Ten Commandments of God e.g. Keeping Sunday as a holy day and not the Sabbath which is on a Saturday. Then they will persecute all the cardinals, bishops, priests and false Christians in all the false churches worldwide).
Rev 6:9.10. Refer to the past, from the blood of Abel to the present time. However, Rev 6:11 refers to the future. Rev 6:11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the (number) of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.
The white robe is related to the white robes given to the great multitude in heaven Rev 7:9.13. However, these fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed, refers to a time in the future and refers to a special group of Christians namely the 144,000 in Rev 7:1-8.14.15. Rev 14:1.
By condemning the people of God to death, they have as truly incurred the guilt of their blood as if it had been shed by their hands. ((4)).
This citation applies to the 144,000 living just before the Second Coming of Christ. They will experience the war of Armageddon, were they will be condemned to death by the beast coming out of the earth, who had two horns like a lam and spoke like a dragon.
Rev 13:15. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
However, Christ will rescue all those who are condemned to death, at his Second Coming. Therefore, Ellen G. White says in the citation, “by condemning the people of God to death, they have as truly incurred the guilt of their blood as if it had been shed by their hands.” ((5)).
- Ellen G. White, Lt. 65-1898. 22.
- White, Review & Herald, July 17, 1900.
- White, Manuscript 39, 1906.
- White, Confrontation (Grantham, Lincolnshire: The Stanborough Press, 1978), 628.
- Ibid., 628.