“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 witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth’” (Rev 6:9-10)?
As John moves on from the revelation of the Four horsemen of the Apocalypse, he sees something, not bursting onto the scene, but rather teeming beneath the altar of God – the souls of believers who had been persecuted and then killed for their steadfast faith in Jesus. They have been waiting for release into heaven once God brings judgment on those who killed them.
When the martyrs cry out to God in perfect unity with him, they are not being impatient or disobedient. They are simply affirming that they are ready to go and take their places of worship in the Kingdom of God:
“Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Rev 6:11).
This gives me chills. I have read it before, but just yesterday we saw something that clarifies what God is waiting for. The individual states in India have been empowered by the national government to enact “anti-conversion” laws, forbidding any person to convert from Hindu to Christianity, at a time when such conversions are increasing dramatically. Because of this new law, missionaries just like those under the altar in John’s vision will soon be killed if they convert to Christianity.
So don’t read Revelation as something purely in the future. Things are happening right now that have been put in place in India by missionaries for decades.
What God is telling the living souls under his altar is that there is a specific number of martyrs who must be killed in order for God’s ultimate judgment to be released, and that they are the very center of who God will use in the new Jerusalem to come.
Prior to John’s access to the throne room, these martyrs were hidden from sight, but their numbers were increasing. With the opening of the fifth seal, they are visible, full of anticipation for ruling under the majesty of Jesus, and patiently requesting to know how much longer until that great day!
The martyrs of the faith are not dead and gone. They are resting in the comfort of their King, while their brothers and sisters of the faith slowly join them until the right number needed to govern the new Jerusalem is in place.
Please pray often for the heroes who will fulfill that number, especially right now for the impending martyrs of India!