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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 6:9-17

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The Last Set of Three Seals

9. 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.
10. 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?”
11. 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.
12. When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood,
13. and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.
14. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
15. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains,
16. calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,
17. for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

The Fifth Seal: End-time martyrdom

Now we come to the second division, which involves three seals, and we have no mention of the four living creatures. Instead, when the fifth seal is opened, the souls of martyrs in heaven speak. We are taking this literally, understanding that there are conscious souls in the throne room of God, under the altar. I suppose that they are those, who have been martyred from the time of the apostles and up until the end times (v.9).

They are under the altar and the imagery of Leviticus is extremely important for our understanding of the sacrifice of Christ and our salvation: “The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Lev.17:11). Paul saw that his martyrdom was relative to the drink offering in Leviticus: “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (2 T.4:6).