Revelation 6:9-11

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Rev 6:9  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:
Rev 6:10  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?
Rev 6:11  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.

Introduction

The fifth and sixth seals are the souls under the altar, the great earthquake, the heavenly signs and the great day of God’s wrath. These two seals graphically demonstrate the ‘is, was and will be’ nature and character of Christ and His Words. Christ told us plainly that His words “shall not pass away.”

Mat 24:34  Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Mat 24:35  Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

All we will cover today is the fifth seal and the souls under the altar, but this entire prophecy is the “signified” words of Christ. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ:

Rev 1:1  The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and sign ified it by his angel unto his servant John:

As is always the case with “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”, it will be a challenge for us to remember the words of verse one and the words of verse three as we read about the loosing by the Lamb of the fifth and sixth seals.

Rev 1:3  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.

How will Rev 1:3 be applied to these two seals? How will we read, hear and keep the souls under the altar. How can we justify their desire for vengeance on those who have slain them? The only way we can do that is to remember that this entire prophecy is within us and about us, and about the necessary steps that bring us to see ourselves for the beasts we are and our need to die to that beast within. The only way we can even hope to understand “the things written therein” is to remember that the entirety of God’s word is all about just two men, and even then we must remember that both of those two men are within each of us.

We must remember the fact that just as “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luk 17:20-21), so too, there is first a ‘seed of the serpent’, a beast with seven heads and a harlot within us, and they are all to be seen as within these seven seals. If we cannot see that these seven seals must be loosed before we can look behind us and see that we have read, heard and kept the sayings of the prophecy of this book as part of the process of entering into that kingdom, then we will get nothing out of this revelation of Jesus Christ. If ever we lose sight of this inward application to the signs and symbols of this prophecy, then we, too, will be relegated to speculating about what all these symbols mean, and we, too, will be subjected to placing all of this prophecy without ourselves onto someone else and into the future or into the past.

But the Truth is that the ‘seven heads and ten horns’ are all within and upon  this one beast, which is, by the mercy of God dying daily as it is being transformed from a vicious, poisonous, wild beast into a beast which can be found in the middle of and round about the throne of God.

Rev 17:9  And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
Rev 17:10  And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.

This week we will only cover the loosing by the Lamb of the fifth seal, which is the souls under the altar.

Who are the souls under the altar?

Rev 6:9  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:

The only “souls under the altar” are those souls who have been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. Have you been “slain for the word of God and for the testimony” which you hold? If you have not, then you are not one of the souls under the altar. But remember Rev 1:1. This is a book of symbols, which symbols are interpreted only by “what has been written.” We are never to so much as “think above what is written.”

1Co 4:6  And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and [to] Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think […] above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

As far as the scriptures or secular history is concerned, John himself was never physically “slain for the word of God and for the testimony which he held.” But any and all who know what Christ meant by ‘a corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying before it can bring forth fruit’, knows that “being slain for the word of God, and for the testimony we hold” is the symbol of our baptism by the water of the word. Here is what is meant by being slain for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ:

Rom 6:3  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Rom 6:4  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:5  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Rom 6:6  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

So once again, we see the ‘is, was, and will be’ nature of Christ and His Words. “Our old man IS being crucified with Him.”

Gal 2:20  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Contrary to what many of us have all been taught, these “souls under the altar” are not simply a future reality for those with eyes that see and ears that hear and know the ‘is, was and will be’ nature of the Word of God. These “souls under the altar” are you and me at this very moment, if we are indeed being “crucified with him.”

The question we need to answer now is what is “the altar” under which these souls are found? The altar, in ancient Israel, is the place where a repentant Israelite would bring his spotless sacrifice, place his hands upon the head of that sacrifice, thereby identifying with that sacrifice and then that repentant Israelite would slash the throat of that spotless sacrifice, thereby confessing that he is indeed the slayer of that spotless sacrifice. That is what happened at the altar of ancient Israel.

Lev 3:2  And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.

What is this ‘altar’ in the New Testament? Where is this sacrifice offered in the New Testament?

Joh 19:17  And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:

Joh 19:18  Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

That is right; the altar is the cross where we have crucified our Lord. It was you and me who placed our hands upon the head of that sacrifice and cut its throat. If it is granted us to acknowledge our part in that dastardly deed and to see that it was not the Romans and the Jews, but it was us, we are both the Romans and the Jews. We, His own people, are the very ones who have, with unjust hands, crucified our Lord. If we are granted to see and acknowledge this, then we may be granted a deep seated repentance for what we are and what we have done.’

What then are we to do? Here is what is meant by “the souls under the altar.”

Rom 12:1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Rom 12:2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

If we “present our bodies a living sacrifice,” we may also be granted to be counted as ourselves being “slain for the word of God and for our testimony” and to become one of the “souls under the altar.”

Act 2:23  Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye [“men of Israel” – vs 22] have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

This is the blessing of being one of the souls under the altar. Like our Lord we are “crucified and slain”.

Mat 10:25  It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?

Col 1:24  Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:

1Jn 4:17  Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

What is “the word of God and the testimony which they held?”

The answer to that question is in the second verse of Revelation one. Right after being told that this is a book of symbols, the holy spirit tells us this:

Rev 1:2  Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

So “the word of God and the testimony” which they held is the same as “the word of God and of the testimony of Jesus Christ.” In other words, the souls under the altar are there because they refuse to compromise on the word of God in the face of losing their lives. No “carnal… babe in Christ can stand up to this pressure, and we all first “lose our first love” (Rev 2:4). We live by every word of God, so that is what we all do to begin with. In doing so, we live out these verses:

Mat 13:20  But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
Mat 13:21  Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

We all do that, but afterward, if God is merciful to us, He shows us our own weakness, and if it is His work in us, Christ replaces our old man, and we develop “root [Christ] within ourselves,” and we begin the “dying daily” process that places us as “souls under the altar.”

Who has slain the souls under the altar?

That is right, it was each of us who placed Christ on His cross.

1Co 15:3  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

Gal 1:4  Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

1Jn 4:10  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

It was not the Romans or the Jews who drank the same cup our Lord drank. It is his own household, His own disciples, who drank ‘the wine of His blood’ in the New Testament. What do we think Christ meant when He told His disciples ‘I want you all to drink of this cup.’ It is His own household who has hated and denied Him and blasphemed His name among the heathen.

Mat 26:27  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

So they all did drink of that cup:

Mat 26:71  And when he was gone out into the porch, another [ maid] saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.
Mat 26:72  And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.
Mat 26:73  And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
Mat 26:74  Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
Mat 26:75  And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

Luk 22:59  And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean.
Luk 22:60  And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
Luk 22:61  And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Luk 22:62  And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

That was a loving and pitiful “look” from our Lord upon Peter, because you and I are Peter. But until we acknowledge our own guilt like Peter did, and our own culpability in the death of our Savior and in the death of the souls under the altar; until we too, repent of how we have so often denied our Lord by our actions and words; until we all “go out and weep bitterly,” we will not be one of “the souls under the altar.”

As always we learn that we are both the souls under the altar as well as those who have slain them for the word of God and for the word of their testimony.

Do God’s elect seek vengeance?

Rev 6:10  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?

Did not Christ forgive those who crucified Him? Yes, He did.

Luk 23:34  Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.

Why would the souls under the altar do any differently? Whenever we forget the inward, spiritual, “keep the things written therein,” ‘is, was and will be’, ‘live by every word’ character and nature of the words of our Lord, that is when “the letter killeth”, and His own words begin to appear to be contradictory and are actually used by God Himself as a means of deceiving us.

Eze 14:9  And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.

“The Lord” Himself has indeed deceived that prophet, and has blinded the multitudes who listen to those prophets. So we are plainly told:

Eze 14:10  And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him;

Joh 9:39  And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.

2Co 3:6  Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

The Lord has deceived, and blinded us all at our own time.

The explanation of this verse where the souls under the altar cry out for vengeance is a good place to mention what a brother called and told me, after our study last week. He said that the words “and see” in all four instances where the King James Version reads “Come and see”, were not to be found in the majority of the Greek manuscripts. He said that the structure, voice and tense of this word is actually the same as the structure, voice and tense of the word ‘come’ in this verse:

Rev 22:20  He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

I asked Steve Morris, who has a good understanding of the rules of grammar, to check out these observations, and to get back to me. Steve agreed that even though the Textus Receptus, which is one of the older manuscripts, has the words ‘and see’, the fact nevertheless is that the majority of the manuscripts, and many of our modern translations, do not include the words ‘and see’. What then are the four beasts doing when they say “Come?” What they are doing is the same thing the souls under the altar are doing when they ask to avenge their blood on those who dwell on the earth.

Rev 6:10  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?

That’s right, as noted above, we live by every word of God. What that means is that we are both the souls under the altar, as well as those who are yet dwelling on the earth. God’s elect are not asking God to take revenge on other men who have oppressed them. As we already know, “the earth” is Bible-speak for the old carnal man within each of us. That is the “them that dwell upon the earth” who God’s elect want to see destroyed by the brightness of the coming of Christ into their own lives. That is why the “four beasts”, each and every one, as the symbol of those who have been redeemed out of every nation; when the Lamb opens each of the first four seals, say to the rider of each horse, “Come… even so come Lord Jesus, and ride each of your powerful horses through my life so that I might wage war against the beast within and be crucified daily with you, and die daily to the carnal beast that dwells on my earth, in this body, and which loves this “earth” within me.”

None of this changes the truth of Eph 3:10:

Eph 3:9  And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Eph 3:10  To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [ places] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

But knowing that the four beasts are inviting Christ to come and do His work in their lives, is quite an adjustment in our thinking about the work and words of the four beasts.

Just as surely as one head of our beasts can receive a deadly wound while the other six heads within us can remain as a healthy carnal wild beast, so too, can “our brothers which must die as we have” be within us, still in need of being purged of all the wood, hay and stubble and all the false concepts and doctrines which keep us from being “gold tried in the fire”.

So just as the four beasts call out to Christ, imploring Him to do the powerful work of His four powerful horses, waging war within us and purging us of all that needs to be purged, so too, do the souls under the altar ask the lord to avenge them of that which is yet in need of being destroyed within.

Rev 6:11 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.

Our “fellow servants and our brothers that should be killed as we are”, are words coming out of the mouth of Christ, which will never pass away, and by which we must somehow live:

Mat 4:4  But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

So the souls under the altar are just another one of the many symbols needed to show us who are God’s elect. The souls under the altar are the same people who are symbolized by the four beasts of Rev 4 and 5, and like those beasts, the souls under the altar are laying their lives down “for the word of God and for the testimony they hold.” It is the fact that they are seeking to die to the old man and his army of lies that causes them to ask, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” While you and I are “the souls under the altar”, we are also, at the same time, “them that dwell on the earth” against whom we are seeking vengeance. We must always remind ourselves that it is we who must “keep the things written therein”; not just the good and positive “things written therein,” but rather “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

What are ‘white robes’ and what is ‘the rest’?

What are the “white robes” given to the souls under the altar? There is no room for speculation:

Rev 19:7  Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
Rev 19:8  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

What is the rest they enter into while they await the death of their brothers and fellow servants?

Heb 4:9  There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
Heb 4:10  For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
Heb 4:11  Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Christ is both “the righteousness of saints”, symbolized by the white robes, and also the rest into which the souls under the altar symbolically enter.

As always, these verses are also all centered around the Christ. The souls under the altar are themselves the Christ of Christ who are “filling up in their own bodies what is behind of the afflictions of the Christ” (Col 1:24).

Summary

Once again we see that the entire word of God is completely centered around Christ. But Christ is called both the first and the last Adam. Once again we have seen that all of God’s Word concerns these two Adams as the first Adam is being made to conform to the image of the last Adam.

So we saw that we are both the souls under the altar as well as first being those who slew them for the word of God and for their testimony. We saw that the word of God and their testimony is nothing less than the revelation of Jesus Christ as we “keep the things written therein.”

We have seen that the vengeance sought by the souls under the altar, is nothing more than seeking to die daily and to be crucified with Christ and to “fill up in my body what is behind of the afflictions of the Christ, for His body’s sake which is the church.”

We saw that the white robes and the rest into which the souls under the altar enter, are the righteousness of Christ, and Christ Himself, as we enter into Him, who is our rest.

Next week, Lord willing we will find out about the sixth seal:

Rev 6:12  And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
Rev 6:13  And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
Rev 6:14  And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
Rev 6:15  And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
Rev 6:16  And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
Rev 6:17  For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

 

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