Revelation 6: The Fifth Seal—Martyrs
Revelation 6 includes the fifth and sixths seals. It describes the martyrs who had been slain and Terror of tribulation in the sixth seal.
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9. When he had opened the fifth seal. Judgment will continue.
I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God John saw them.
Those slain are the martyrs who were killed during the judgments.
Macarthur indicates that they were killed during the Tribulation. (MacArthur, John. New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11. [Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999], 194)
McGee states that these souls are Old Testament prophets. (McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible: Volume V: [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983], 945)
The word of God may mean “the gospel”. (Easley, Kendell H., Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation. [Nashville: B&H, 1998], 109)
If this is during the Tribulation believers will be telling others about God’s judgment and to repent and believe the gospel. (MacArthur, 194)
This will not be allowed as believers will be persecuted and killed which made them martyrs.
This happened for the testimony which they held.
They took up their cross and followed Jesus. Matthew 10:38; 16:24
They were telling others about Jesus and became martyrs.
Seals are God’s Wrath
10. These seals are about God’s wrath which is against the evil and ungodly. (MacArthur, 195)
Those who have been martyred are asking God to impose promised vengeance on those who persecuted them.
Cried out with a loud voice.
They wanted the Lord to hear them and to take action.
How long, O Lord,
“Lord does not translate kurios, the common New Testament for Lord, but the stronger term despotēs (“master,” “ruler”). It speaks of God the Father’s might, power, majesty and authority.” (MacArthur, 195)
Holy and true
“Because God is holy, He must judge sin.” (MacArthur, 195)
Psalm 5:4-5 Habakkuk 1:13 Acts 10:42; 17:31 Romans 2:16; 3:6 2 Timothy 4:1
Because He is true, He must be faithful to His word and keep His promises.
Numbers 23:19 1 Samuel 15:29 Luke 21:33
How long…dost thou not judge and avenge our blood
They want to see Satan destroyed, and Jesus’ reigning over the earth. (MacArthur, 196)
On them that dwell on the earth?
This refers to doing evil and wicked things. The unbelievers.
11 And white robes were given unto every one of them;
When arriving in heaven those who have been martyred will be given a white robe.
These robes “symbolize all the glory that redeemed saints will enjoy in heaven”. (MacArthur, 196)
But they should rest yet for a little season.
Enjoy heaven until it is time for God to bring wrath to the unbelievers.
Until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
“God knows how many martyrs there will be.” (Easley, 110)
Two groups of people:
- Fellow servants
- “Alive and willing to die like the martyrs.”
- All are willing but some will not be martyrs.
- “Those who will be killed.” (MacArthur, 197)
There will be more persecution than we can imagine.
There will be many who are sealed by their own blood.
They will be with Jesus.
Revelation 6: The Sixth Seal—Terror
12. In the sixth seal God does not use people or animals as in the first five seals.
Three-and-one-half-years have passed, and the final stage of the tribulation begins.
It is called the “Great Tribulation”. Matthew 24:21
- Antichrist has desecrated the temple in Jerusalem
- Abomination of desolation Daniel 11:31
- The world worships him
- Massive persecution of Jews and Christians is happening
- Business as usual for most people
- The first five seals are ignored
- Sixth Seal
- Only God can accomplish what happens
- World will know
- Christian preachers’ warning of divine judgment is accurate (MacArthur, 203)
- Matthew 24:29 Luke 21:11 Luke 21:25-26
John recorded six frightening natural disasters associated with the opening of the sixth seal.
1. A great earthquake
I have woken up in the morning and people at worked asked, “did you feel the earthquake?”
No, I was asleep, so I have not felt the shaking and trembling personally.
I have known people who live where earthquakes happen frequently.
They tell items on shelves rattling and other places in their home shaking.
But this is a great earthquake. One like no other. Joel 2:10
“This is the first of five references in Revelation to an earthquake (Revelation 8:5; 11:13,19; 16:18).¹ (110)
Thank you, Jesus, that I will not be here.
2. The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair
When I think of sackcloth my memory brings up images of a burlap sack that was worn as clothing.
A burlap was filled with feed or oats. When it was used as clothing it would be very scratchy.
In this case the sackcloth was made of black goat hair.
It was used for mourning. (Easley, 110)
“I clothe the heavens with blackness
And make sackcloth their covering.” Isaiah 50:3
You may want to re-read number two above: The sun became black
This is something beyond my comprehension!
Except when clouds come between the sun and earth it is shining brightly.
Here it is not shining at all. The sun is black
3. The moon became like blood
“The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood
Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” Joel 2:31
The prophet Joel predicted this happening.
Because of the great earthquake there will be volcanoes spewing ash into the sky. (MacArthur, 205)
That must affect the sun and the moon.
4. [13.] The stars of heaven fell to the earth
Stars falling and hitting the earth are unlikely because they would burn up before striking the earth. (MacArthur, 206)
“We speak of ‘falling stars’ or ‘shooting stars’ emanating from a meteor shower.” (Easley, 111)
In some places of the world there have been asteroids and meteors hitting the earth.
This would likely be the case. They would be like nothing the earth as experienced.
“There will be so many such bodies hitting the earth that John, in a vivid analogy, likens the scene to a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.” [NASB] (MacArthur, 206)
We have a huge fig tree, but I have not observed any unripe figs shaken by a great wind.
Easley gave us a better image which many can relate to:
“Acorns falling from an oak tree in a winter wind.” (Easley, 111)
5. [14.] And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together;
“John likens the sky to an unrolled scroll that splits in the middle and rolls up on either side.” (MacArthur, 206)
In Isaiah 34:4 John already had a picture of a scroll splitting in the middle and rolling up.
6. Every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
It is hard for me to imagine mountains and islands moving.
Mark 13:8 tells us that “there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”
If earthquakes and famines are just the beginning, I think I could believe that mountains and islands could move.
My God is big enough to accomplish this.
15a. The kings of the earth
These are the political leaders in the world.
The great men
These have great power in the government of each nation.
The chief captains
The generals of the military
The rich men
The business leaders
The mighty men
Those with influence in the world
Every bondman, and every free man
The common people; the lower classes
All will be terrified! (MacArthur, 207)
15b. Hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
All of this kinda makes one want to run and hide where no one can see them!
With the earthquakes and other things happening will anywhere be safe? (MacArthur, 208)
Amos 9:2-3 tells us there is nowhere to hide from God.
See also Psalm 139:7-12
16. And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us
People will finally realize that these events are the result of the Wrath of God.
They do not want to repent so they ask the mountains and rocks to fall on them so they will be hidden from God. (MacArthur, 208)
They do not realize there is no escape from the wrath of God.
They will be cast into the eternal lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15
And hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne
God is sitting on the throne.
And from the wrath of the Lamb
The Lamb is Jesus who is judging the world.
Day of Wrath
17. for the great day of wrath is come,
The great day of wrath is another term for the Day of the Lord. (MacArthur, 209)
The seventh seal includes the trumpet (Revelation 8:1-9:21) and bowl (Revelation 16:1-21) judgments. (MacArthur, 209)
Who shall be able to stand?”
The only escape is to put your faith in Jesus Christ and accept Him as your Savior.
In this article Scripture quotations taken from KJV.
NIV Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB1995. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
Easley, Kendell H., Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation. Nashville: B&H, 1998
MacArthur, John. New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible: Volume V. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983