The Opening of the Fifth Seal
Read Revelation 6:9-10. What is happening here?
The word “soul” in the Bible denotes the whole person (Gen. 2:7). The martyrdom of God’s faithful and persecuted people is portrayed here in terms of the sacrificial blood poured out at the base of the earthly sanctuary’s altar of sacrifice (Exod. 29:12, Lev. 4:7). God’s people have suffered injustice and death for their faithfulness to the gospel. They cry out to God, asking Him to step in and to vindicate them. These texts concern the injustice done here on earth; they are not saying anything about the state of the dead. After all, these people do not appear to be enjoying the bliss of heaven.
Read Revelation 6:11 along with Deuteronomy 32:43 and Psalm 79:10. What was heaven’s response to the prayers of God’s martyred people?
The martyred saints were given white robes representing Christ’s righteousness, which leads to their vindication - His gift to those who accept His offer of grace (Rev. 3:5, Rev. 19:8). Then, they were told that they would have to rest until their brothers, who would go through a similar experience, are made complete. It is important to notice that the Greek text of Revelation 6:11 does not have the word number. Revelation does not talk of a number of the martyred saints to be reached before Christ’s return, but of completeness regarding their character. God’s people are made complete by the robe of Christ’s righteousness, not their own merit (Rev. 7:9, 10). The martyred saints will not be resurrected and vindicated until the second coming of Christ and the beginning of the millennium (Rev. 20:4).
The scene of the fifth seal applies historically to the period leading up to, and following, the Reformation, during which millions were martyred because of their faithfulness (Matt. 24:21). It also brings to mind the experience of God’s suffering people throughout history, from the time of Abel (Gen. 4:10) until the time when God will finally avenge “the blood of His servants” (Rev. 19:2, NKJV).
“How long, O Lord?” has been the cry of God’s suffering people throughout history. Who has never struggled with the lack of justice in this life? What comfort do you find in the scene of the fifth seal, knowing that one day justice will, indeed, be done?