|The altar seen here
is taken, of course, from the Tabernacle -- the earthly type of heavenly
things. We need to review how this
altar was used:
|• The Jew was taught
that the blood of an animal was its life;
and therefore they could not eat the blood -- only the meat of a
sacrifice (Leviticus 17:11-14).
|• The blood was to be
poured out at the base of the altar.
(Leviticus 4:7) -- in other words, the “life” in the symbolic sense
flowed under the altar!
|• The altar is not in
heaven -- it is in the world. Remember
that the Holy of Holies is the type of Heaven; the outer court contains the altar.
|• Christians accept
the idea that martyrdom is a form of being poured out as a sacrifice, an
offering, to the Lord (Philippians 2:17)
all interpreters hold that these are the souls of those who have been
martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ.
The distinction comes in theology.
The historicist holds that these have already been martyred (more
below); the futurist that these are
yet to be. There is a divergence of
opinion here in the futurists:
|• Some hold these must
be Jews (based on Romans 11:25, and the dispensationalist theory that grace
is no longer available).
|• More recent
teachers hold that these are simply those who profess faith after the
Rapture. The testing point, by these
writers, is whether or not they will accept the mark of the beast. Chuck Smith goes so far as to state that
all those in that time will see an angel flying about in heaven, warning one
and all not to take the mark of the beast (based on Revelation 14:9-11).
|A very serious issue
is that of vengeance. The cry here is
for vengeance, and we are taught not to seek it. Why, then, this cry?
|• The cry is very
similar to that in Psalm 79:5-10. In
dispensationalist theory, it is therefore justified. Grace is ended; judgment is now the only dispensation left.
|• You can look upon
it as a cry for holy justice, as the only ones left on earth now (in the
futurist theory, at least) are non-believers.
Recall the extermination of the peoples in the land of Israel.
|The division between
these two views does not fit along lines of theory of interpretation.
|The white robes, of
course, signify purity, but as noted during the first seal, may also
|Note that even in
death patience is required. The
historicist adds that martyrs are yet to come; these martyrs are to papal Rome, not pagan
|Did such a
persecution come about? Remember in
Revelation 2:10 that the church of Smyrna was told to expect persecution for
“10 days” (meaning, of course, ten years).
Most historicists of the 19th century agreed with the idea that the
seven churches were the seven ages of the church. This has been dropped, due to the
increasing invective on both sides -- but perhaps common ground should be
sought again. Such a ten year
persecution did occur, and exactly once in the Roman Empire: AD 303-313.
Starting with Diocletian, Christianity was outlawed and hunted. In this period the Christians took to the
catacombs. History records that
700,000 Egyptian Christians alone were slaughtered in this time. Diocletian swore to “erase the name
Christian from the earth.”
|Note the date, AD
313. Of itself, not important, it sets
the starting point for the sixth seal -- and the great divergence in