(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
1. There are a number of thoughts provoked by this verse. First of all, notice that no one summons John to “Come and see” as when the previous four seals were opened. Second, with the opening of this seal the scene shifts from earth to heaven.
2. Examine the diagram that I have provided for you (See Handout #6). To refresh your memories, there are two resurrections referred to in the Bible. By resurrections, I am not referring to anyone who is raised from the dead in a normal physical body, such as when Jesus raised up the daughter of Jairus or Lazarus. Both Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus subsequently died natural deaths a second time, because theirs was not a resurrection to eternal life. Let us limit our focus on the resurrection that prepares for eternity.
3. Turn to Revelation 20.6, where we read, “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 Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
4. All the saints, whether they are Old or New Testament believers, take part in the first resurrection, while the damned actually take part in what is referred to as the second resurrection, at which time they will stand before Christ at the White Throne judgment, after which they will be cast in the lake of fire, which is the second death.
5. Back to the first resurrection. You might remember from my preaching in First Corinthians chapter 15, the definitive chapter on the first resurrection in the Bible, that I previously stated that the first resurrection, the resurrection of the saved, takes place in three stages. First, there was the resurrection of Christ to a glorified body (the beginning of the church age on your handout), followed by the Rapture in which the church age saints are resurrected to glorified bodies (the beginning of the Tribulation Period on your handout), and then, after the seven year tribulation which falls between the Rapture and the Revelation (which is the second coming of Christ), the Old Testament saints (at the conclusion of the Tribulation Period on your handout). It needs to be pointed out that the first resurrection actually includes the Tribulation Period saints, which are resurrected at the time of Christ’s second coming.
6. Notice that in verse 9 John sees, not the saints under the altar, but “the souls of them slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held” under the altar. The phrasing of John might indicate that those he sees under the altar have not yet received glorified bodies, but are the saints of the tribulation period who are awaiting their resurrection and their glorified bodies. This would fit into the pre tribulation Rapture picture that is illustrated for you in the handout.
7. Another observation at this point is that being under the altar is “in keeping with the fact that the blood of the sacrifices of the Old Testament was poured out under the altar (Exodus 29:12; Lev. 4:7).” But which altar is referred to here, since there are two altars, the altar of sacrifice and the altar of incense? This is “Probably a reference to the altar of incense, which pictured the saint’s prayers ascending to God (5:8; cf. Ex. 40:5).”
(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?
1. Before we do anything else related to this verse, please note this second of eight total times in the Revelation that we find the phrase “them that dwell on the earth.” Of course, this is a technical phrase used by John to describe those who are unconverted. For the saved, this old earth is as bad as it will ever get. But for you who are lost, this world is as good as it will ever get for you, because after this earth there will be only God’s wrath awaiting you.
2. In this verse also, we have additional evidence that points to these being tribulation saints, specifically Jewish believers who have been martyred. Several things to notice about the events in heaven, keeping in mind that there is carnage taking place on earth, with half the population of the earth being slain as we approach the midpoint of the Tribulation Period:
3. First, notice that they are crying out for vengeance. Have you ever noticed, in your personal Bible study, that godly Old Testament saints cried out to God to pour out His wrath on their enemies and to avenge them, while church age saints are instructed to pray for them who despitefully use us, to turn the other cheek to those who smite us, and to meekly endure persecution?
4. Truly, has God instructed His saints to act and react differently under different dispensations, as a reflection of different aspects of His Own nature are emphasized in the different dispensations. Spirituality, in either era, is determined by adherence to the revealed will of God, whatever that will might be. Amen? For a Christian during this era in which we live, the principle is found in Romans 12.19: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
5. Let me now give you another reason for believing that these are unresurrected tribulation saints who are crying out to the Lord Jesus Christ. They are crying out for Christ to judge and seek vengeance against people still alive! That they are crying out for vengeance indicates that they are not church age saints, and that their enemies are still alive indicates that they are not Old Testament saints. These must be tribulation age saints! In addition, none of this information would fit into any system of prophecy besides the pretribulational pre millennial system illustrated by the drawing I have given you.
(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.
1. My friends, there are some perplexing statements made in this verse.
2. First, what about those white robes? I do not really have a problem with white robes, which are given to believers to wear and which represent the righteousness of Christ. But, how do you wear robes when you do not have a body? These souls do not have a physical body, because their dead physical bodies are back on the earth and either rotting or incinerated. They do not yet have glorified bodies. The alternative proposed by some Bible scholars is that when someone dies and goes to heaven, God gives them a temporary habitation for the soul to dwell in until the resurrection occurs in which they receive their glorified body, in which they dwell for all eternity. Something to ponder, but not a weighty matter.
3. Second, these souls were told to wait. Wait until other believers are killed. You see, even when things go completely against you and you think everything that is happening is wrong, it is actually right. There will be multiplied thousands of Christ’s Own killed for Him during the tribulation. Does that disturb Him? Is that a surprise to Him? It certainly shakes up His followers, at least until He calms them down. But remember, Christ is still on the throne. These horrible things are happening to God’s children because these things are supposed to happen. It is all a part of God’s plan, you see.
But, then, that such apparent tragedies are part of God’s plan is much
easier to see when it is happening to others than when it is happening
to you. Amen?
 Luke 8.51-56
 John 11.32-44
 Walvoord, page 133.
 See footnote for Revelation 6.9, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 2001.