The Wrath of the lamb, rev.6 pt.2
V. Martyrdom, v.9-11
V. Martyrdom, v.9-11
The fifth seal:
This is different than the first four. There is no horseman. Instead the opening of the seal reveals
Underneath the altar the souls of those having been slain because of the Word of God and because of the testimony which they had
Some may ask why this apparent interlude is here. It doesn't seem to fit the seals of judgment pattern. However, it may be that it shows that Christians during this time of judgment will not be immune from the suffering. They will be killed for their faith. Patterson points out that this cannot be talking about all the martyred of all time, because their killers would already be dead. It would make no sense to ask that those already dead be judged. They are already experiencing that. So this refers to those who are martyred during the tribulation.
'underneath the altar' has reference to the practice of pouring out the blood of the sacrifices at the base of the altar, Ex.29:12
And thou shalt take of the blood of the bullock, and put it upon the horns of the altar with thy finger, and pour all the blood beside the bottom of the altar.
some would say that this altar is actually the altar of incense where the High priest once a year would pour out the blood of the sacrifice on it and then burn incense on it, Ex. 30:1-10. this then would refer not only to the sacrifice of the martyrs, but also the prayers of those same martyrs.
And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
This shows that these martyrs are like sacrifices to God. They are acceptable sacrifices to God. It is like Paul said, that he viewed his coming death as a drink offering to be poured out, 2 Tim. 4:6 for I am now ready to be offered; and the time of my departure is at hand;
Phil. 2:17 yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.
The fact that they had been slain also brings to mind the same sacrifice of Christ on the cross. So that those who follow Jesus in giving up their lives will also experience the same thing Jesus did turning defeat into victory.
These are slain during the tribulation for two reasons:
1. the word of God. They proclaim, rely on and follow the Word of God. They stand on that which changes not. This obviously irritates those who do not wish to believe, listen to, or follow God's Word. The use of the Word of God today is also turning heads. There are those who are clearly rejecting the Word as nothing but myth. Our universities and colleges have turned away from the Bible. For the most part academia has outright rejected the bible as anything worth referring to. Anyone who tries to use the Bible is mocked. Sometimes when a person tries to follow the bible in their business or work they lose business or are reprimanded, even fired. Like the Atlanta fire chief who was fired for teaching a bible study in his church and referencing homosexuality. What is happening in our text is going to be far more severe. Believers will be killed because of their practice of doing what the Bible says. . The word of God has impacted and directed the lives of these believers. It has led to the next reason:
2. their testimony/witness -actually the word we get 'martyr' from. They testified to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It costs them their physical life on earth. Here they live their lives based on the Bible and their faithful witness to the Lord, their refusal to recant or to compromise the truth leads to their death. note Rev. 12:11 where it says the brethren overcame the accusers accusations by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. Could it be that the word of God in this verse is the same as the blood of the Lamb in 12:11 and their testimony equal to that of 12:11. The idea then that they may have perished in martyrdom but they really overcame the enemy by their faith in the Lamb and they demonstrated their love and faith in the Lamb because they were willing to give up their lives for the Lamb rather than to denounce Him? I think that is a good possibility.
In other words, they gave their lives in being faithful to God by living for Jesus Christ.
The Bible says, "all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." John was suffering for his faith on the Isle of Patmos, Rev. 1:9. others had been imprisoned, still others killed for their faith in Christ.
Now they cry out to God, v.10
There might be some who say, 'wait a minute, this isn't very Christlike. Stephen prayed for those who were stoning him, "lay not this sin to their charge"Acts 7:60 and Jesus from the cross prayed "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Luke 23:34. So isn't this prayer of the martyrs at odds with that mindset?
The answer is no.
We have to consider what they are actually praying for. At first glance it appears they are praying for vengeance, but that would be a self-centered or focused prayer. Instead this is a God centered prayer as I think you will see.
First of all, they are praying to the Lord/Master. The word used here is despot. it is one who has supreme authority, the master over his slaves. One who holds complete power over another. When Simeon the priest held baby Jesus he blessed God and said, "Lord/despot now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word." Luke 2:29. When Peter and John were released from prison and returned to their fellow believers they prayed, "Lord/despot thou art God, which made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them . . . ."
In other words, they address the one who has complete authority, the creator of the universe. This despot/the Lord God is working His plan and purpose for His creation of which they, the martyrs are a part. He has all power to be able to do what He wants with His creation. However, His actions are always dependent upon His character. We also do what is in keeping with our character. And so they . . .
Second, they call attention to His character,
He is holy and true. He is totally separate from evil. he is completely holy, there is nothing unholy in him. He is totally true, nothing false in him. He is what Holiness and truth is. In other words, His judgments are based on holiness and truth. God is the standard of holiness and truth and so his judgments stand that test. They are calling for God to demonstrate holiness and truth by bringing justice upon those who persecute the saints. In other words, they are asking God to fulfill His judgment as He said He would. His judgment is in keeping with God's holiness and truth.
Rev. 16:7 and I heard another out of the altar say, even so, Lord God almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments; with regard to the third vial where the water is turned to blood.
19:1,2, I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: 2 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. Jesus is called “faithful and true and in righteousness he doth judge and make ward.” v.11
So These martyrs recognize that God is all powerful. He has absolute power over all creation. He is 'despot'. And He can only act in accordance with His character of holiness and truth. They are then asking for God to act accordingly.
Then They ask 'how long?' This alludes to the OT expression for questioning when God will finally punish the persecutors of his people and vindicate the oppressed: Ps. 6:3; 13:1 are just two of a dozen or so references in the Psalms that ask this question. They are called imprecatory psalms. Their intention is to appeal to God to act according to His holy Character.
pass judgment on and avenge our blood . . . This too is an allusion to Ps.79:10. In psalm 79 he asks how long will it be before He reveals He exists by avenging the blood of thy servants. cf. vss. 5,6 how long; vss. 9 uphold your name; v.10 show you exist;
We could go to Zechariah one and show a similar vein of 'how long'
So then we can conclude that what the martyrs are praying for is not so much to avenge their persecutors, but for God to uphold His name. In other words, to show Himself True and Holy. They were simply praying for God to bring to fulfillment His plan of redemption for the saints and judgment for those who reject the gospel.
Now we can notice what God does do for them.
First, a white robe was given to them. The white στολε is the robe that reaches to the feet. It is given to those in chapter 7:9, 13,14 who were slain and their robes washed white in the blood of the lamb. This robe is not a gift or reward to them. Rather Like God's character of holiness and truth, it is a statement of their character; of who they are. White stands for righteousness, purity, holiness, So these believers have demonstrated their holiness by their stand for the Lord, through their faith in Him. In other words, they have white robes given them because they are holy/righteous in Christ. They are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
Then He said to them
rest a little while until they are fulfilled and their fellow servants and their brothers who are about to be killed as also they were.
What is this? Just as Jesus rested after his death and resurrection. So these believers in Christ are able to rest a little while.
As we think about this rest we can look to Rev. 14:13 where John speaks of those who die in the lord resting from their labors. The Labor in our text is that of crying out to God. The word rest can mean the concept of 'stop'. So that God tells them to stop crying out knowing that the number of those who are to be martyred for their faith has not been fulfilled yet. We also might need to think of the concept of 'sabbath rest' which doesn't mean the cessation of activity as though we sit around home doing nothing, but rather it is a rest in Him, where our activity is no longer one of laboring in creation. Instead, it is resting in God, it is being at peace in Him, focusing our attention upon Him, worshipping Him.
If their prayer is that of asking God to vindicate His name and fulfill his plan, then they can stop praying for that fulfillment because it will be accomplished. Rev. 20:4-6
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Putting both the cessation of praying for God to vindicate them and the idea of resting in Him, this is a picture of assurance. God assures them that He will accomplish His judgment of those who reject His gospel. They can rest in peace knowing that God will accomplish His purposes.
This is the kind of rest that God spoke of Israel experiencing when they entered the promised land and conquered the inhabitants. Afterward, they would experience rest from their enemies and enjoy God and His creation forever. That is this rest He speaks of them enjoying now. They can rest in God knowing God will act according to His character. He will defeat the enemy. Now they can sit back and enjoy the presence of God forever.
VI. Cosmic calamities, vss. 12-17
VI. Cosmic calamities, vss. 12-17
This seal follows on the heals of the question of the Martyrs - How Long?
Well, this seal begins the answer to that question and the certainty that they will be vindicated.
the Sixth seal:
there was a great earthquake and the sun became black as sackcloth hair and the whole moon became as blood
These passages show that Jews recognize these images for they are common in the OT
I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.
For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day:
And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
So this was something that Jewish people were acquainted with in regards to the day of the Lord.
and the stars of heaven fell into the earth as Fig tree casts her unripe figs by the shaking of a great wind
And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
and The heavens separated as a scroll being unrolled and every mountain and island was moved out of their places
and the kings of the earth and the highly important persons and the ruler of thousands and the rich and the strong and every slave and free hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains
and they said to the mountains and the rocks fall upon us and Hide us from the face of the One who sits upon the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.
because the Great day of the their wrath has come and who is able to stand?
The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.
And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?
The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.
Jesus quotes these words from Hosea to the women who are wailing over him on the way to the cross. He was calling them to realize they will not escape the judgment. For if they will not repent when the Lord is here in there presence and they crucify Him, how much worse it will be for them when the wrath of God is unleashed on them. And so the same is true here . The wrath of God is being felt by those who reject Jesus. Who can stand?
The sixth seal results in a global and universal cataclysm. The earth is set on edge with all kinds of seismic activity that completely rearranges the land and seascape. The Heavens are completely restructured with the Sun, moon and stars being radically altered. Or if not altered they are at least altered in terms of man's perception of them.
All of this results in mankind from all walks of life being in fear for their lives. And they recognize this is not just a natural disaster. This is the wrath of God and the lamb. And all they can do is try to hide themselves. They recognize they cannot stand against such power and authority.
Black as sackcloth of hair, - this refers to the black goats hair that is used in bedouin tents The hair is woven together providing a cool garment in which the cool winds are felt, but when it rains the hair swells matting together making a rain protector. It was used to indicate mourning.
Again the event has a similar effect on the moon and stars. The moon didn't become blood, but was red like blood. the stars fell like unpicked figs when shaken by the wind. This might refer to meteor showers. there are many factors naturally that could account for these sorts of things, like volcanic activity, weather patterns that could cause high winds and fires that would cloud out the sun or turn the moon red in color. The rolling up of the heavens like a scroll, might be a reference to tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes. it seems that what is being described here are weather events that are catastrophic and global in nature.
it is not uncommon for insurance companies to call these sorts of things today as 'acts of God'. How much more when these things happen on the scale described will people call them the wrath of God and the Lamb.
all men no matter their status will be reduced to the common denominator as the fear of God takes them.
God who is presently depicted as this great one who lives to make life pleasant for us, as many are taught. Especially with regard to Jesus Christ. He is mister nice guy. Well, all that will be changed as they witness the once perceived gentle Lamb become this raging angry wrathful Lamb.
Who can stand against the wrath of the Lamb? obviously no one. Consider such events as the flood, Gen.6:3ff; Sodom and Gomorrah, Nah. 1:6 Nahum records the judgment of God as he takes vengeance on His enemies. Nahum asks regarding the enemies of God "who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him." in the next verse he points out that it is only those who trust in Him.
Mal. 3:2 when the Lord comes to his temple Malachi asks, but who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap:
the point is that those who reject God will not be able to stand at his judgment. Only those who know the Lord are able to stand in that day.
All those mentions of the 'Day of the Lord" Well that day has come with this sixth seal. The prayer of the martyrs in the fifth seal is being answered in this sixth seal.
People in that day are unrepentant. They would rather hide from the wrath of God out of fear, like Adam and Eve did, than to repent and turn to God by faith.
John points out two things about this day:
1. There will be universal fear
2. People will seek some place to hide.
We have a similar response today.
Those who are caught in sin either fear God or man. You have a choice today to fear God and either hide or surrender to Him and fall on His mercy.
Those who stand are going to be those who have put their faith in Christ and though martyred will be like Christ on the cross. Though evil will think it has the edge the reality is that death is swallowed up in victory. As Christ returned from the dead so His people will also claim victory out of death.