Revelation 6:9-11 describes a dramatic scene in God’s throne room in heaven: souls under the altar are crying out to God to answer their prayer. We can learn much from this scene that will help us persevere in the Christian life.
Revelation, the last book of the Bible, describes what will happen “in the end”. Our God, holy and righteous, will judge sin once and for all. He will pour out His wrath on Satan and on all sinners, those who have not accepted Christ’s payment on the cross for their sins. God will replace our current sin-cursed heavens and earth with a beautiful new heavens and earth that is free from sin. This is where God will live with His people forever, in love, peace, and joy.
The “souls under the altar” scene in Revelation 6:9-11 occurs just prior to God’s final judgment on sin.
“9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.”
Who are “the souls under the altar”? Verse 9 reveals that they are martyrs, killed because of their faith. They were “slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained”. Revelation 12:17 clarifies what this means: They kept the commandments of God and held to the testimony of Jesus, even to death. The Bible calls those who live their lives in this manner “overcomers” (1 John 1:4-5; Revelation 2,3,21).
Overcome means to subdue, to conquer, to prevail, to get the victory. To those who overcome, Jesus promises great rewards (See Matthew 5:10-12; Revelation chapters 2,3,21). If we endure to the end, we will be saved (Matthew 24:9-14). Jesus will grant to us to sit down with Him on His throne (Revelation 3:21). We will inherit all the treasures of heaven (Revelation 21:7).
How can we overcome? The Bible gives us a strategy. We must pray, and study and obey God’s Word. We must pay special attention to Jesus’ warnings about the end times in which we live. (See Matthew 5:10-12, 10:28-39, and 24:9-14; Mark 13:9-13; Luke 12:4-12 and 21:12-19; John 15:18 – 16:4). Jesus told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling” (John 16:1).
Jesus warns that if we follow Him, we will encounter opposition, persecution, and possible death because of His name. Our enemies may be from our own family. Behind the scenes is our greatest enemy, the devil. He uses many strategies, such as the cares of life, to distract us from devotion to God. His goal is to entice us to become angry with God, to be offended by His Word, and to deny our Lord Jesus.
The Holy Spirit will show us the strategies of the devil. He will help us overcome in every situation. But we must do our part. We must pray, and study and obey God’s Word. We must decide ahead of time, before we are persecuted or threatened with death, that we will continue to confess Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
What else can we learn from the “souls under the altar”? Revelation 6:10-11 records the prayer these martyrs wanted God to answer. They wanted justice. They wanted God to avenge their blood. They knew that God is perfectly just and true to His Word.
God replied to their prayer by giving them white robes and telling them to rest until the number of martyrs would be “completed”. He is allowing a certain number of His people to be killed before He pours out His wrath. We must not be offended if we are among those called to die for Christ. God will avenge us in His own time.
When opposition comes, we must pray for and bless those who mistreat us (Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14). Our love will be a powerful witness to God’s true nature. He is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Are you a Christ-follower? Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3). Choose to be an overcomer. Then, like the “souls under the altar”, you will receive great reward.
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
What Do You Think?
Do you have assurance that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, and that you will go to be with Him in Heaven someday? If so, I encourage you to fix your hope on His return and on the wonderful inheritance that will be yours. I encourage you to renew your mind with God’s Word so that you will be able to put 1 John 3:3 into practice: “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
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