The Fifth Seal: Martyrs Under The Altar
“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 fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.”(Rev.6:9-11).
Biblical scholars have long recognized the parallelism between the Olivet Discourse in Matt.24, and Rev.6. But when we examine the Olivet Prophecy in Matt.24, we observe that there is no segment of it parallel to the Fifth Seal(Rev.6:9-11). The reason is simply because the Fifth Seal is in its entirety a heavenly scene. Christ is the author of both the Olivet Discourse and the Scroll Of Revelation. In the Olivet Discourse, Christ tells us what is going on here on Earth during the 70th Week of Daniel. In the Scroll Of Revelation, He gives more light by showing us what is going on Earth as well as in heaven. He wants us to know that He is in sovereign control of the events both on Earth as well as in heaven. This does not mean however, that He is responsible for the activities of wicked men. God permits evil, but does not approve of it, neither does He perpetrate it.
The first four seals of Rev.6 are sequential, consecutive and progressive. But the Fifth Seal is concurrent, coincident, and simultaneous with the fourth seal. The Fifth Seal does not advance the chronology of events here on Earth in the 70th week of Daniel. It occurs in heaven during the fourth seal. In consonance with the parallelism of the Olivet Discourse and Rev.6, the fourth seal is the Great Tribulation. During the Great Tribulaion, believers are being hounded, ferreted out and killed, and some taken captive. Our Lord Jesus told us in the Olivet Discourse believers shall be led captive into all nations(Luk.21:24). The Scroll Of Revelation tells us that those who will be taken captive were so destined. So also those who are to be killed. “He that is destined to go into captivity, into captivity he goes; and the he that is destined to be killed with the sword, with the sword the one shall be killed.”(Rev.13:10). The Great Tribulation shall be worldwide but the epicenter shall be the Land of Israel and its holy and capital city, Jerusalem.
During the Great Tribulation, the fourth seal, believers are being killed, and their disembodied spirits and souls are arriving in heaven. There is no distance in the realm of the spirit. As soon as these believers are killed, their disembodied spirits and souls arrive in heaven and are quartered under the golden altar of incense in the Holy Place in the Temple Of God in Heaven. This is the fifth seal. Remember that the Tabernacle in the wilderness was patterned after the Temple of God in Heaven. God reminded Moses: “see that thou do everything according to the pattern shown thee on the Holy Mount.”(Exod.29:9,40; Heb.8:5b). No Israelite who is not of the High priestly family of Aaron has access into the Holy Place, not even the Levites. In like manner, no Israelite who is not the High Priest, and of the family of Aaron has access into the Holy Of Holies, and that once a year, only on the Day Of Atonement, and after he has offered sacrifices for himself and the errors of the people of Israel(Heb.9:6,7). Any violations of these ordinances attracted the death penalty.
That the Fifth Seal martyrs merited to be quartered under the Golden Altar Of Incense in the Holy Place Of The Temple in Heaven indicates that they were priests. And Christ has made us kings and priests. “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”(Rev.1:4-6). If the fifth seal martyrs were Jews who did not believe in Jesus, they would not have access to the Holy Place. They are believers both Jews and Gentiles who share a common faith in the finished and soteriological works of Christ on the Cross Of Calvary.
The Fifth Seal martyrs asked God how long it would be before He avenges their death on their murderers. If the wrath of God has already begun in the Day Of The Lord from the commencement of the 70th week as pretribs teach, would it not have been proper for God to tell them:
“Can’t you see, I have already begun to punish those wicked murderers: the antiChrist has emerged on the World Stage, he has formed a coalition of ten nations. He has also tried to win the rest of the nations of the world to his side through subtle peace diplomacy. That has failed, and he has now resorted to war. There are wars and commotions, rumors and threats of wars. Nations have risen up against nations and kingdom against kingdom, and as a result, there are famines, pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places. My servant Michael has cast down my enemy Satan to the Earth. He is now angry with the inhabitants of the Earth, knowing that he has but a short time. He has possessed the antiChrist who has moved his headquarters to Jerusalem. He has desecrated my Temple, and is demanding that men worship him in place of Me. He is killing my saints who refuse to worship him, and that is how your souls come to be under the golden altar in my temple in heaven?”(Rev.6,12,13).
Ridiculous you would say, and you are right. How can the antiChrist come to power in the Day Of The Lord and complish all these things including the martyrdom of the Fifth Seal martyrs at a time when God alone is to be exalted, in the day no man shall be exalted and the haughtiness of men brought low, in the Day when the idols shall be abolished, and the gods that had not made the heavens and the Earth perish from under the Earth and under these heavens?(Isa.2:18-22; Jere.10:11).
If the wrath of God had already begun, they did not need to wait: in fact, there would have been no need for their question how long. God admonished them to wait until their fellow saints to be martyred had been accomplished. There is a certain number of saints to be martyred. It is a secret number known only to God. The secret things belong to God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and our children(Deut.29:29). Those to be martyred were so destined, and those to be taken captive were also so destined. This is the patience and faith of the saints(Rev.13:10). It is a display of ignorance to denigrate and cast aspersions on the Fifth Seal martyrs, and to make them the butt of a joke of being made the “bottom” of the altar. The Scripture did not say they were made the “bottom” of the altar, but that they were kept under the altar pending the completion of the number of the saints to be martyred during the Great Tribulation that was going on at that time.
If the Great Tribulation were allowed to run throughout the whole length of the three and one-half years allotted to the antiChrist, no believer will be left alive to be raptured. But because some believers must be raptured alive, God will cut short the Great Tribulation(Matt.24:22). Also no Jew or Gentile who did not take the Mark of the Beast will survive the second half of the 70th week. But some Jews will survive and be reconciled to God on the 3rd day of the 30-day Reclamation Period when the Mystery Of God is finished and His spiritual kingdom complete(Rev.10:7). And some Gentiles will survive the second half of the 70th week to appear at the Sheep And Goat Judgment(Matt.25:31-46). The Sheep will be justified to enter the Millennium in their mortal bodies to repopulate the Earth alongside their Jewish counterpart. The goats shall be executed and their souls banished to Hell.
God will cut short the Great Tribulation with cosmic and celestial disturbances(Matt.24:29-31). This is the sixth seal which will send all the wicked scurrying for non-existent cover and protection under the rocks and mountains in fear of the wrath of the Lamb before which no man shall be able to stand, abruptly bringing the Great Tribulation to a halt(Rev.6:12-17). The Fifth Seal martyrs were executed for the word of God and the testimony which they held. They should be admired and congratulated not denigrated and disparaged.
We must distinguish the wrath of God from the wrath of Satan(Rev.6:16; 12:12). The wrath of Satan comes first and is directed against the saints of the Most High. “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”(Rev.13:7-10).
The wrath of God comes last and is directed against the wicked Earth-dwellers who worship the antiChrist and the Great Dragon and have murdered the saints of the Most High during the Great Tribulation. This is the theology of the second. Carnal things first before spiritual things. “Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”(1 Cor.15:46-49). The saints must be tested first to purify them before the sinners shall be subjected to the wrath of God.
“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”(Eph.5:3-8).
Apart from the sins listed in the above quoted segment of the Scriptures, the other reason anyone would be subject to God’s wrath is to take the mark of allegiance to the antiChrist. “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”(Rev.14:9-12).
God will recompense tribulation(the wrath of God) to those who have troubled us the saints during the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist(2 Thess.1:6). It takes time for sin to pile up to heaven. God cannot punish the wicked until their cup of iniquity is full. Until they have killed the saints in a rage that reaches up to heaven, God cannot begin to punish them for their evils. The wrath of God does not begin until after the breaking of the sixth seal.
The first four seals have nothing to do with the wrath of God, but have everything to do with the wrath of Satan; in fact, the Great Tribulation is the Great wrath of Satan which does not begin until Satan is cast down to the Earth at the midpoint of the 70th week and possesses the antiChrist ceding his power and authority unto him to act on his behalf, and the Restrainer is removed. As Christ is God’s representative on Earth to administer His wrath against the wicked Earth-dwellers and worshippers and adorers of the Dragon-Beast, so also is the antiChrist Satan’s representative on Earth to administer his wrath against the saints of the Most High, the Jews and Gentiles, who reject his Mark of allegiance.
The Fifth Seal martyrs were not feeble saints who missed the first roundup, for the Rapture has not yet occurred. The Scriptures make it clear in both the Olivet Discourse and the Scroll Of Revelation that the Rapture occurs after the Tribulation of those days, after the breaking of the sixth seal with the attendant cosmic and celestial disturbances, shortly before the breaking of the seventh seal. The same day the Shekinah Glory(the appearance of the Son Of Man) appears in the heavens, the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel are sealed for protection, and the saints raptured to take them away from the scene of the Great Tribulation and the wrath of God which is about to begin at the breaking of the seventh seal(Matt.24:29-31; Mk.13:24-27; Rev.7:1-17).