"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: 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? 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."
Persecution against the
faithful saints of God has been going on since Cain slew Abel. That was the
first religious persecution. Cain's attempt at worship was based on a work's
system, whereas, Abel's worship was based on a belief in the grace of God thru
his atoning sacrifice. Nothing has changed. Those who hold to the word of God
and bear testimony of his grace are persecuted by those who believe their
salvation is through the keeping of a system of works or laws or commands. The
first give praise and glory to God for what he has done, whereas, the second
gives praise and glory to man for what they believe he accomplishes.
Persecution was manifest in the early church with the beheading of John Baptist
and the stoning of Stephen and the killing of James. All of the apostles were
ultimately put to death for preaching the gospel of the grace of Christ with the
exception of John. Such has been the case since that time with the feeding of
the disciples to the lions, the burnings of the disciples at the stake, and the
papist persecutions and slayings of what has been estimated into the millions of
the true disciples of Christ.
The persecution for the
cause of Christ was manifest when the fifth seal was opened. It will be noted
that the bible number five is associated with the subject of death.
"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?"
We see in the scriptures the voice of the persecuted slain crying out to God for
vengeance: Gen. 4:10 "And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy
brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. 11 And now art thou
cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's
blood from thy hand." While the Lord is longsuffering, yet ultimately
vengeance will be had of the Lord: Rom. 12:19 "Dearly beloved, avenge not
yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is
mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." The Lord's vengeance for the
persecutions of the nation of Israel against his faithful servants came with the
destruction of Jerusalem as the Lord told them it would: Lk. 11:51 "From the
blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and
the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation."
"And white robes were
given unto every one of them." As we
have before seen white is associated with righteousness. We are righteous
through the shed blood of Christ. Yet we can walk with Christ in righteousness
as a way of life: Rev. 3:4 Thou hast a few names even in
Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and
they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy."
These who were persecuted unto death were certainly blessed to walk with the
Lord in a righteous walk and it was manifested by their willingness to die for
the cause of Christ.
"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."
There are several thoughts that come
out of this verse. First persecution is ongoing. It didn't end with the
slaying of the apostles. Persecution is still going on today, even though we
have constitutional freedom from fear of being killed for what we believe.
Second, God's vengeance is sure, but is meted out at God's appointed time.
Third we who are persecuted for righteousness sake can rest with the assurance
of God's sure judgment, even if it doesn't happen in our lifetime.
Rev 6:12-17 "And I beheld
when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and
the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her
untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. 14 And the heaven
departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island
were moved out of their places. 15 And the kings of the earth, and the
great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and
every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks
of the mountains; 16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and
hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of
the Lamb: 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be
able to stand?"
In studying this passage of
scripture it is necessary that we first understand the signs before we can delve
into the significance of the passage.
The first sign is that of a
great earthquake. An earthquake by its very nature is a cataclysmic
rearrangement of the earth's surface. An earthquake not only brings about a
great shaking, but often changes the scenery and topography of the surface
affected. At the resurrection of Christ there was a great earthquake: Matt.
28:2 "And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord
descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat
upon it." The resurrection of the Lord was a cataclysmic event as it
completed the Lord's victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave. In addition
by all practical purposes the law service had been completed and was no longer
valid as a means of worship of God. During the time of the apostles, Paul and
Silas had been put in prison for preaching the gospel and with an earthquake God
providentially delivered the two: Acts 16:26 "And suddenly there was a great
earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately
all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed." This great
earthquake showed the power of the Holy Spirit in bringing about the furtherance
of the preaching of the gospel and the futility of man to try to stop it. It
will also be noted that this earthquake did no harm to anyone, but opened the
doors of the prison and loosed the bonds of the captives. The gospel does the
same thing to those who are prisoners of legalism. It delivers them from the
prison of a works system and looses their bonds of trying to establish their own
The second sign is "the sun
became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood." Our
understanding of the significance of these signs is found in a passage of
scripture in the book of Joel and its interpretation in the second chapter of
1. Joel 2:28 "And
it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh;
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream
dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And also upon the servants
and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. 30 And I
will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars
of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into
blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. 32 And it
shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be
delivered: for in mount Zion and in
Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom
the LORD shall call."
2. Acts 2:16
"But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall
come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all
flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall
see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants
and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall
prophesy: 19 And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the
earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned
into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the
Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the
name of the Lord shall be saved.
From the above we can be
assured that the sun being turned to darkness and the moon into blood came to
pass at the time of Pentecost. The sun is sometimes used in the scriptures to
represent the law given at Mt. Sinai. The moon is sometimes
used in the scriptures to represent the ceremonial law given to the children of
Israel through the pattern God showed him in the mount. Blood signifies death.
We have previously shown that black is associated with sin in the scriptures.
The next sign is the stars
of heaven. The stars of heaven are associated with a great multitude:
1. Gen. 26:4
"And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto
thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth
2. Ex. 32:13 "Remember
Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own
self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven,
and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they
shall inherit it for ever."
3. Deu. 1:10 "The
LORD your God hath multiplied you, and, behold, ye are this day as the stars of
heaven for multitude."
The first two verses are
applied to the entire elect family of God and the last verse is associated with
the children of Israel.
The final sign deals with
the great day of God's wrath. The following passages deal with the day of God's
1. Is. 13:9
"Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to
lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give
their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall
not cause her light to shine. 11 And I will punish the world for their
evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the
proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. 12 I
will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge
of Ophir. 13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall
remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of
his fierce anger."
2. Mark 13: 24
But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the
moon shall not give her light, 25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and
the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. 26 And then shall they see
the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And
then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four
winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven."
3. Job 21:30
"That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought
forth to the day of wrath."
4. Ps. 110:5
"The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.
6 He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead
bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries."
5. Ezek. 38:19 "For
in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day
there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; 20 So that the
fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and
all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the
face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown
down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.
21 And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith
the Lord GOD: every man's sword shall be against his brother. 22 And I
will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him,
and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing
rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. 23 Thus will I magnify
myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations,
and they shall know that I am the LORD.
6. Zep. 1:15
"That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness
and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick
darkness, 16 A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities,
and against the high towers. 17 And I will bring distress upon men, that
they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and
their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. 18
Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of
the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his
jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the
7. Rom. 2:4 "Or
despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not
knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5 But after
thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the
day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;"
Each of the above scriptures
speaks of a "day of God's wrath." Ref. 3 speaks of a day of God's eternal wrath
upon the wicked. Ref. 1, 5, and 6 are speaking of the day of God's wrath in
judging Israel either in the Babylonian captivity or the destruction of
Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or both. Ref. 2 speaks of the day of God's wrath in
judging Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem at A.D. 70. Ref. 7 speaks of a
day of timely wrathful judgment against the sinner.
Now we will go back to the
narrative and give our understanding of what is being taught. When the Lamb had
opened the sixth seal of the book of salvation there was a great earthquake. In
the experiences of the lives of God's people sometime after they are born of the
Spirit there comes a great earthquake that shakes the very foundation of their
lives. They become experimentally knowledgeable of their sinful condition.
Thru the law written in their heart they become aware that they are condemned
sinners and mourn over their sin guiltiness (the sun became black as sackcloth
of hair). (The sun represents the law. Black represents sin. Sackcloth is
associated in the scriptures with mourning.) Examples of the above are set
forth in the following scriptures:
1. Is. 6:5 "Then
said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I
dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the
King, the LORD of hosts."
2. Lk. 18:13
"And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto
heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner."
3. Acts 2:37
"Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter
and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
4. Rom. 7:9
"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin
revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life,
I found to be unto death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment,
deceived me, and by it slew me."
Thus God's people experience
the condemnation of the law and see themselves slain by the law of God (moon
become as blood). What followed in our text passage is based on the experience
of sin guiltiness that God's born again elect go through in their heart and
mind. They see themselves condemned under the law (fallen to the earth) and
thus guilty before God because of their sins. Furthermore they could no longer
go to the law for their refuge for the law condemned them (the heaven=law
covenant). This is indicated as the "heaven departed as a scroll when it is
rolled together." Neither could refuge be found in the high places or in the
isolated places of our lives (mountains and islands moved out of their place).
"And the kings of the
earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the
mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens
and in the rocks of the mountains."
Note that this experience was not restricted to certain classes of people but
was universal to God's people in all stations of life (kings of the earth, great
men, rich men, chief captains, mighty men, bondmen, free men). There certainly
is an attempt once we become plagued with sin guiltiness in our heart to try to
find refuge from God's wrath. Adam and Eve sewed fig lives together and hid
themselves amongst the trees of the garden. The legal ceremonies, keeping a set
of rules or commandments, trying to do lots of good works, rigidly adhering to a
creed, hiding behind the statement that everybody else is doing it are all
examples of how people will try to hide from the day of God's wrath. Thus they
say to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him
that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: 17 For the great
day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?"