The Souls Crying Out Under The Altar In Revelation 6
The Fifth Seal
The book of Revelation is filled with prophecy and mystery. It is our job to study God’s word and decipher it’s meaning. The first chapter of Revelation, verse 3, contains this blessing:
“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”
One such prophecy was regarding the Seals of Revelation (also see: What are the Seven Seals of Revelation?), in particular the fifth seal. The fifth seal is described in Revelation 6:9-11:
“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”
When did it take place?
This period represents the Reformation period, an era when the truth is vindicated in spite of the terrible persecutions which had swept away hundreds of thousands of innocent victims. Those martyrs (See Fox’s Book of the Martyrs) are recognized for their true heroism and courage. In the symbolic prophecy, “white robes” are ascribed to them, robes of righteousness. Their faithfulness to truth is now recognized as being a great mark of allegiance to God.
Just as the blood of innocent Abel was represented as crying from the ground in the book of Genesis, crying for vengeance, so here the blood of the martyrs who had died for their faith, is represented as crying out also for vengeance from the persecutors. The unjust death of those Christians demands vengeance.
It was the work of the Reformation leaders and the introduction of the printing press which made it possible to vindicate the multitudes who had gone down to horrible death during the Dark Ages.
The apostle John in the book of Revelation wrote: “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9, 10). The apostle John saw merely pictorial representations (Ezekiel 1:10).
To interpret these “souls” as the disembodied spirits of dead martyrs goes against the rules of interpretation of symbolic prophecies. The apostle John was not shown a view of heaven as it really is because there are no white, red, black, or pale horses there with warriors on them. And Christ is not there in the Likeness of a lamb with a bleeding wound. And the four beasts do not represent real winged creatures. Likewise, there are no “souls” under an altar in heaven. The whole scene was only a symbolic scene given to inspire a specific message.
A Message of Comfort
The symbolization of the fifth seal was given to comfort those who will face death for their faith, and give them the affirmation that despite the apparent victory of the enemy, God will finally triumph. This message of comfort was particularly needed for those living in the time of the horrible persecutions of the Dark Ages. To them, it must have appeared that the long time of persecution would never end. The message of the fifth seal was a confirmation that God will be victorious over the powers of evil. And this same hope will be applied to those that will go through the end-time crisis just before the second coming of Christ.
Death Is a State of Sleep
Millions believe that after a person dies the soul possesses a natural immortality but not even one time in the Bible is the soul referred to as being immortal or undying. According to God’s Word, man is mortal (Job 4:17). Only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15, 16). The Scriptures teach us that when a person (Christian or non-Christian) leaves this life, he sleeps (John 11:11; Daniel 12:2; Psalm 13:3) in the grave until the end of the world and the day of Resurrection. For more on the state of the dead, check: https://bibleask.org/bible-answers/112-the-intermediate-state/
Resurrection of Saints at the Second Coming
At the second coming of Christ, He will come to judge the world (Matthew 25:31-33). And He will raise the dead in the Lord and reward “every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12). Those who have accepted Christ’s sacrificial death to redeem them from the penalty of sin will be raised from their graves. They will be given perfect and immortal bodies and will be taken to heaven.
The apostle Paul declared, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 also 1 Corinthians 15:51–53).
But those who have rejected Christ’s sacrificial death will die for their sins. “Those who committed the evil deeds” will be raised in the “resurrection of judgment” to receive their punishment (John 5:29 also 12:48; 8:24). These will not gain eternal life (1 Corinthians 6:9).
In His service,