The Fifth and Sixth Seals: Cry of the Martyrs and The Day of Wrath

                We come now to a very sobering time in our study of the book of Revelation. We saw the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in 6:1-7. As we come to the opening of the fifth and sixth seals, we are at the mid-point of the tribulation period. The first 3 ½ years are coming to a close and the last half of this terrible time period is about to begin, which we refer to as the Great Tribulation.

Cry of the Martyrs. Notice what Revelation 6:9-11 says. 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 which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 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.”[1] Here we find those who had been killed due to their belief and trust in God. “When the Old Testament priest presented an animal sacrifice, the victim’s blood was poured out at the base of the brazen altar (Lev. 4:7, 18, 25, 30). In Old Testament imagery, blood represents life (Lev. 17:11). So, here in Revelation, the souls of the martyrs “under the altar” indicates that their lives were given sacrificially to the glory of God. The Apostle Paul had the same idea in mind when he wrote Philippians 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:6. The Greek word martus, which gives us our English word martyr, simply means “a witness” (see Rev. 2:13; 17:6). These saints were slain by the enemy because of their witness to the truth of God and the message of Jesus Christ. The forces of Antichrist do not accept the truth, because Satan wants them to be deceived and accept his lies (see Rev. 19:20; 20:10; also 2 Thes. 2:9–12).”[2] These souls are those who came to faith in Christ during the first half of the tribulation and were killed by the forces of the anti-Christ. These souls could also represent those who were martyred in other dispensations of time. Warren Weirsbe holds to this view as he writes, “Since their murderers are still alive on earth, these martyrs are apparently from the early part of the Tribulation. But they represent all who have laid down their lives for Jesus Christ and the cause of God’s truth, and they are an encouragement to all today who may be called to follow them. They assure us that the souls of the martyrs are in heaven, awaiting the resurrection (Rev. 20:4), and that they are at rest, robed in heavenly glory.”[3] On this point, I would personally argue, that the souls may represent those who also were martyred in previous ages, but the literal souls of those who were martyred in previous ages are not seen here. The reason for such a conclusion is that at the rapture of the church, the graves of the saints who have died will be opened and their bodies will be changed and those bodies would reunite with their souls. Therefore, the souls mentioned in Revelation 6:9 could only be literally those who are martyred during the tribulation, since those who are martyred in this age experiences the resurrection which takes place at the rapture. All of the martyr’s, however, of every age, I believe, will receive a special white robe as a reward for their faithfulness unto death as mentioned in Revelation 6:11.

Looking more closely at verse 10, we find the prayers or the cries of the martyrs. These prayers are the prayers of all martyrs from all dispensations of time. Their cry comes in the form of a question. Notice what it says again in verse 10. “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”[4] One thing that needs to be understood here, is that the martyrs are not seeking revenge. Their desire is that the evil one, the anti-Christ, would be destroyed. ‘Those who dwell on the earth’ are the ungodly which have been deceived and are following after the anti-Christ. The martyr’s desire is that the deception would come to an end and that the forces of Satan would be destroyed so that no more will be deceived and so that no more will be killed. Their cry is a cry for mercy and love. They want God to once and for all bring to an end the forces of evil that have led so many astray. As we see in the following verses, God is about to answer their prayers.

The Day of Wrath. “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. 13 And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. 14 Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. 15 And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”[5] The opening of the sixth deal is essentially the introduction to the last half of the tribulation. This is the time in which God unleashes His wrath about this evil world. I believe that what see happening here should be taken literally. These things will happen. The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out, “Many expositors have attempted to see a figurative fulfillment to this prophecy. It is preferable, however, to take this prediction literally. The trumpet and bowl judgments, to be revealed later in Revelation, also include great disturbances in the heavens and on the earth before Christ’s second coming.”[6] We should read the text in a literal way. The moon, for example, will change in its appearance. It will not become literal blood, but it will literally become ‘like’ blood in its appearance. In addition to this, the sun is no longer seen and celestial objects will fall to the earth. The mountains will be moved and the islands will be moved. All of these things take place as a result of a great earthquake. But, how can this happen? Can a great earthquake cause such horrific events? Absolutely! Think about the earthquake that hit Japan a few years back and the one that cause the massive tsunami in Indonesia. Those quakes alone caused massive damage and changes. Consider this report from CNN on the Japan earthquake: “At this point, we know that one GPS station moved (8 feet), and we have seen a map from GSI (Geospatial Information Authority) in Japan showing the pattern of shift over a large area is consistent with about that much shift of the land mass,” said Kenneth Hudnut, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Reports from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy estimated the 8.9-magnitude quake shifted the planet on its axis by nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters).”[7] An entire island nation was moved and the whole earth itself shifted. Now, imagine an earthquake so massive that it strikes the whole planet. Volcano’s erupt all over the globe, sending massive amounts of ash into the atmosphere causing the moon to appear blood red. Every island and mountain shifts their position. The sun cannot be seen due to the destruction to the atmosphere. Perhaps the quake is triggered by asteroids and meteors bombarding the planet. Most scientist will tell you that such an event is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’. The Bible confirms what scientist have studied and predicted. There will be a day when such an event will take place on this planet. That event, however, will not be the result of global warming or some man-made cause. The event described in Revelation 6 comes from the very hand of God as He strikes the earth in judgment and wrath. This, however, is just the beginning. The event described in Revelation 6 is simply the introduction to the wrath of God. More is to come. That day will be so terrible that the people on the earth, and even kings, will run and hide and beg the mountains to fall on them in order to somehow escape God’s wrath. This event will be so great that there will be no denying that it is an act of God, confirming once and for all that God does exist!

One question that many may ask, is why? If God is so loving; why would He do such a thing? Why does God allow suffering even today? The answer is found in the Bible. All the way back in the book of Genesis when Adam and Eve fell. God has given mankind many opportunities to get it right. Yet, we continue to choose sin. We continue to reject His free gift of salvation. God is not the cause of what is to come, man is. It is the sin of man that causes God’s wrath to fall. Yet, God is still loving. Even during that terrible time of tribulation, He still gives opportunity for people to get it right and come to Him and believe. Even today, He has not destroyed us because He loves us. God is ever merciful. The reason we have lasted this long is only by the grace of God. Think about it. This all powerful God also loves you with a special kind of love. He loves you so much that He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in your place for your sins. He has paid for and has given to you the free gift of salvation. Right now, during this age, before that dreaded day comes, you have an opportunity to accept His gift of salvation. Why not receive that gift today by faith before it is too late?

[1] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 6:9–11). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 588). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 588). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 6:10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] The New King James Version. (1982). (Re 6:12–17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 948). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[7] CNN

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