Rev 6:9-11               The Witnesses That Were Slain                         5/28/2017      ßà   

 

 

 

 

#1.      The Souls Under the Altar (Rev 6:9, Lev 4:7, 17:11)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2.      How Long, O Lord (Rev 6:10, Acts 7:60)

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3.      The Answer to Their Prayers (Rev 6:11, Isa 1:18, Rev 19:11)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 6:9 (2X). Last week we have seen how The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse rode out into the world, sent by the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in the world, and how the same causes inflicted by the four horsemen do not produce the same effects. To those whom God elected to salvation these four horsemen are a blessing; to those who have not been elected to salvation these four horsemen are a curse. Today we will look at the people who were touched by the rider on the white horse, and were blessed by that experience. The title of today’s sermon is, The Witnesses That Were Slain (2X). Let us now read about these witnesses here in Rev 6:9-11, where the Lamb of God opened:

Re 6:9 ¶  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:

Re 6:10  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?

Re 6:11  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.

When the Lamb opened the first four seals we have already seen that the words are symbolic and visionary. The vision is not for a particular time in the future, or for any special period of time in the past but it applies to the entire NT period of time. Likewise, this vision of the souls under the altar does not apply to a specific period of time, but it applies to the entire NT period of history. It is true that the sequence of these seals is pointing to a certain progress in history, but it is not true that the events belonging to these seals has already taken place in the past, or are reserved for some time in the future. And to make sure that we do not lose our trend of thought while we study these words that are highly symbolic in nature, let us remember that the main goal of this prophecy is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”. The purpose of this prophecy is to show us a clear view, as clear as possible, of Christ and of the second coming of Christ. And thus, the vision of the fifth seal does not have the purpose to tell us if the saints in heaven can see the people on the earth, or if the souls in heaven are grieved by the sins of the people on earth, and so on. That is not the purpose of this vision. But what we definitely see in this vision is that this fifth seal speaks of martyrdom, of being slain for the Word of God and for the testimony which the saints proclaim in the midst of this ungodly world. And this martyrdom does not refer to any specific period in history. This martyrdom occurs all throughout history, both in the OT as well as in the NT period of time. Think for example of Abel, who was killed by his brother Cain. Think of most the OT prophets who suffered violently at the hand of their fellow Israelites. And was not John exiled to the Isle of Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony which he held, as we read in Rev 1:9? Think of the many thousands who have been killed during the persecutions in the Roman Empire. And think of the many thousands who have been killed during the time of the Reformation. Presently Christians are violently persecuted and killed in Africa, simply because they are Christians. And in the future the people of God shall suffer martyrdom all the way to the end of time. This is a fact, stated by these words of Rev 6:9-11. Therefore there will never be a time that physical persecution will cease, because God declared it here in this vision of the fifth seal. But there is more: Look at the tremendous contrast caused by the rider on the white horse, which causes martyrdom for the loyal citizens of the Kingdom of Christ. Our Kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom, which employs no physical force or means, and the subjects of our Kingdom merely testify of the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the mercy and grace flowing out of the God of our salvation. But this is not true of the kingdom of darkness. In order to maintain itself that kingdom is bound to employ force and fights those who oppose it with scaffold and stake. The result is martyrdom for the faithful. It has been so throughout time and it will be so until the end of time. Moreover, this martyrdom was already implied in the fourth seal, which represented the power of death, mowing away both the righteous and the wicked in all manner of ways, killing also by means of violent death the faithful witnesses of the truth. Therefore this fifth seal does not mean to emphasize martyrdom of the saints near the end of time, but the fifth seal already takes for granted that martyrdom exists, and that it will continue till the end of time. And one of the chief purposes of this fifth seal is to show clearly that also the martyrdom of the saints is controlled by the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the world cannot hurt the saints unless the Lord wills it. We must remember who is in control. It is only when Christ opens the fifth seal that there are martyrs slain, and that these martyrs are crying for vengeance. And thus we can conclude that the martyrdom of the saints is an essential element in the progress toward the completion of the Kingdom of Christ. Let us now consider:

#1.      The Souls Under the Altar (Rev 6:9, Lev 4:7, 17:11)

Re 6:9 ¶  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:

What did John see? John saw an altar, and the altar he saw looked like the altar of burnt offering, which originally stood in the outer court of the temple. This is the altar that could be seen by the people, whereas the altar of incense stood inside the temple before the Holy of Holies, and could not be seen from the outside. Moreover, the souls that are under this altar point to the shedding of blood, which is characteristic of the altar of burnt offering, and not of the altar of incense. Moreover, under this altar of burnt offering was a large basin, into which the blood of the sacrificial animals was poured. Let me read to you Lev 4:7, “And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation”. And the sacrifices which were brought on this altar were symbolic of reconciliation to the Lord God. But John does not see the blood of animals under the altar, but the souls of men. Remember the principle, “The life is in the blood” (Lev 17:11). And thus the witnesses of Christ have laid their lives upon the altar of consecration to their God and Savior Jesus Christ. They have fought the good fight and have been faithful to the end. These were men and women who had been touched by the rider on the white horse, so that they have been changed from darkness into God’s marvellous light. They have been regenerated by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, because He has earmarked them unto salvation by paying for the guilt of their sins on the cross. They have been called by His Word. They have obtained a glorious vision of the Kingdom of Christ, who became their Mediator and their Intercessor. And thus the Word of God had become their subjective possession. They were dominated by that Word of God. They knew the truth and they loved it with all their heart. On the basis of that Word they stood and presented themselves to the world. They claimed that in every sphere Jesus Christ is Lord. They firmly believed that there is hope for this world only in the blood of their Redeemer, and that only when a man is touched by the Spirit of Christ, and was regenerated, so that he had a new life, could he possibly be called a subject of Christ. This is what they believed. Can we say this of ourselves? Pray to God that each of us say this with all our heart? This is what we believe! This is not a pie in the sky, or only for those who have attained a high level of spirituality. This is what each Christian must believe, and be committed to the truth. You see, when the rider on the white horse has touched us also, then we will be like them, and we will suffer for Christ’s sake. We read here in V.9 “For the testimony which they held”. What was:

You see, what they believed they also put into action. They did not hide their light under a bushel, but they testified of it openly. When we read about “the testimony which they held”, it does not refer to a testimony which Christ gave of them before the Father in heaven. O No! They were killed for the testimony which they held, and thus it was a testimony that they gave of what they believed the Word of God says. And what they witnessed, we also declare, because our witness is the same witness as of those who have been slain and whose souls are presently under the altar. We witness that all mankind is lost in himself because of his fallen and sinful state, and therefore there is no hope for anyone outside of Christ Jesus and His cross. We witness also of the necessity of regeneration before we can enter into the true Kingdom of God. And we also declare that all that is not in harmony with the principle of the sovereignty of Christ cannot and did not belong to the Kingdom of God. In the blood of Jesus Christ is the only righteousness of sinners, and this perfect righteousness of God is what we must have before we can enter into God’s holy heaven. And thus we can understand that these witnesses, who ended up under the altar, came in conflict with worldly men. We also experience that many who have visited our worship services, or our Bible studies, turn away as soon as they hear of the sovereignty of God. After one visit we don’t see them again. They pretend that they are interested, they pretend that they agree with what the Bible says, they pretend that they are delighted to see these words in the Bible, they pretend to thank us for giving them this new insight into the nature of Almighty God, but then when they stay away we know that it was all a charade. You see, the sovereignty of God and the nothingness of man is not popular with most people. They want to retain their self-worth and their self-esteem and they want a Christ who will accept them with all their self-righteous quirks. And so they want a salvation program where man decides if he wants to be saved or not. And they believe that God will accept them also, because: is He not a loving God who will not turn away anyone who comes to Jesus? They fail to realize that they have turned their eyes toward another Jesus, but not the Jesus of the Bible. It is a Jesus who has been made by man, to serve in a gospel that was made by man in a kingdom that was made by man. They think that they serve in a Kingdom of God, but which is in reality a kingdom of man. You see, the world has also been touched by the rider of the white horse, and thus the world also wants peace, and righteousness, and happiness, and a whole lot more. But that world never confesses that guilt and impotence to do any good. And therefore they must have nothing of the blood of Jesus Christ as the propitiation of their sins, and of the truth that the sinner must be “Born Again” by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so they establish an imitation kingdom, a kingdom without the Christ of the Bible, and they make for themselves a little Christ who is their servant and who will do all their bidding. And so, when the faithful witnesses condemn this kingdom of man, and predict its utter destruction, that is when the enemies of Christ loudly claim that we are narrow minded, and that we only let people into the Kingdom of God when they exactly believe as we do. And yet, the only thing that we hold out rigidly, without wavering, is that every word and every sentence in the Word of God must be believed and be included in our system of beliefs. And this is how we inherit the hatred and the displeasure of the world, because we declare that Jesus Christ is God, and He is the only Sovereign and King over all in this present dispensation. He is the only one who makes decisions. This is also the way these witnesses came in conflict with this world. And this hatred of the world became so bitter toward those who are of Christ, that they finally cast themselves upon these witnesses and butchered them, and killed them because of the testimony which they had. And thus they were slain because of the Word of God and for the testimony of the true Jesus Christ. Is this what God demands from us also? Is this really a requirement from the children of God? The answer is a resounding “YES”! Can we prove this? We have seen what the chief testimony of the faithful witnesses was, but:

Please turn in your Bibles to the Second Epistle to Timothy, 2Tim 1:7 (2X). You find the Second Epistle to Timothy toward the end of the letters of the Apostle Paul, shortly before Hebrews, near the end of your Bibles. God is writing to us these words through the hand of the Apostle Paul writing this letter to his  disciple Timothy, wherein he admonishes Timothy to use the gifts God has given him. God gave him not only the command, but He also gave him the things to say. He says in 2Tim 1:7-8,

2Ti 1:7>  For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

2Ti 1:8>  Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

In this world we should not fear to be His witnesses, for God has given us the spirit of power (power over the Devil) and of love (loving the unlovable enemies of God), and God gave us a sound mind to believe what we read in the Bible. There are those who read, but do not believe, because God has not given them a sound mind. In their own natural mind they conceive a god and then they start to worship that god. Utterly silly! Absolute insanity! And so, paraphrased God says in verse 8, “Do not be afraid or ashamed to declare the truth of the Word of God, but be a partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel, for all this is under the control of the power of God”. All believers are commanded to be verbal witnesses of the Gospel and to be partakers of the afflictions of the Gospel. Now this is very important, because the Lord Jesus backs this up in Luke 9:26, where He says, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels”. Is it not remarkable that here in 2Tim 1 in the following verse God gives us a summary of the Gospel that we must not be ashamed of, and that we must declare:

2Ti 1:9>  Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but   according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.

Paraphrased God says: “He SAVED us. On the cross He guaranteed our salvation. He saved US. He did not pay for the sins of everyone in the whole world, but He saved only US, His elect people. On the cross Christ paid only for the sins of all those whom He elected unto salvation. Then He called us, with a holy irresistible calling, whereby He regenerated our souls and made us able to hear His call. He did not call us according to our good works, or according to something nice we were going to do, for we have nothing to offer to God that is good enough. He did not save us because God looked down the corridors of time and saw that we would turn to Jesus, for then He would have saved us for a work that we would have done. But He called us according to His own purpose and grace, according to the good pleasure of His will. God will save whom He chooses to save. Our God is sovereign. And His purpose and grace was given us before the world began, for “He chose us before the foundation of the world”, according to Eph 1:4”. This then was the Gospel that the faithful witnesses proclaimed, and this must be the Gospel that we tell the world. We will be persecuted for declaring this. You will find an innumerable host of souls under the altar, who were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And what is the reason for all this killing? It is simply the tremendous contrast between the Kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the Devil, the Kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, striving for the possession of the same world. Please turn again to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 6:10 (2X). Remember this is a symbolic picture. The souls in heaven are not crying for vengeance. They are now living in perfect bliss. These souls under the altar make a loud outcry. What do they cry?

#2.      How Long, O Lord (Rev 6:10, Acts 7:60)

Re 6:10  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?

Do these souls in a state of perfection cry out for vengeance? Is there a hatred within these souls for the enemies who killed them? But this is incongruous with the statement of Stephen, when he was stoned to death, he cried out, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”, as we find in Acts 7:60. And so, the cry of the souls under the altar is not a cry for vengeance, but for the final manifestation of justice and righteousness, and for the glory of their God. We have in this outcry a symbolism in the highest sense of the word. The altar under which they are found is visionary and symbolic. And thus the outcry must also be understood as visionary and symbolic. It is an outcry which ascends to the throne of God throughout all the history of the church in the world. It represents a longing for their final justification when they have received their glorified bodies, and for a just retribution on all the unsaved to remove all the unrighteous away from the presence of God. First of all, the saints under the altar address the Lord Jesus Christ, who is exalted at the right hand of God, and who is King over His church and the sovereign ruler over the whole world. Not to God directly, but to Jesus Christ their Lord do these saints address this outcry. It is not an expression of sinful longing for vengeance, but of just and necessary judgment. That is why they are addressing Him as “Holy and True”. According to His holiness, He cannot allow sin to have the victory. He must execute wrath against all iniquity, and injustice, and oppression of men. And according to His truth, He must reveal Himself as He is, in harmony with His holiness and with His justice against all sin and unrighteousness, in harmony with all things that we find in His Word. The souls under the altar, therefore, long and cry for nothing less than the perfect manifestation of the holiness and truth of their King and Master. For His glory they have suffered in the midst of the world at the hands of those that hate Christ. The enemies of Christ have not persecuted them for any unrighteousness that was found on them while they lived in this world, but only because they hated the Name of Jesus and were opposed to His cause in the world. They nailed Him to a tree and they thought that they had cast Him out of the world. But His saints are still on this earth. What the enemies of Christ can no longer do to Him personally, they now do against His people, against the saints who represent Him. And the principle of this persecution of the saints in the midst of the world is the same as that which motivated them in casting out the Christ. To harass, and persecute, and butcher the saints who are still in the world is their manifestation of their hatred against Jesus the Christ. And so, the holiness and truth of Christ is trampled under foot when the world kills His saints.

In the present world this hatred an enmity appears to be quite victorious. It seems as if the enemy can kill and persecute the people of God with impunity. And that is partly true. On this side of Judgment Day Christ does not avenge the blood of His saints. Many years and centuries have elapsed, and rivers of blood of the defenseless and of the innocent have flowed. And the souls under the altar have always been crowded out of the world. But the world still goes on. The enemies of Christ are still trampling under foot His saints, and are still trampling under foot the truth and holiness of the Lord, and they have never been punished for that. Therefore, this is the essential meaning of the outcry of the saints under the altar. It is the blood of the saints that cries out with a great voice. They are especially the souls of the NT saints that are represented here under the altar. Think of the Apostles who were killed for the testimony of Jesus which they proclaimed in an increasingly hostile world. If that world was entertained by the sight of Christians being torn up by lions, then we can say that it was a very hostile world. Their blood has never been avenged. Then there are all the saints who followed the Apostles throughout the history of the church. The Church of Rome, through the Inquisition, made sure that they were severely tortured and burned at the stake. It was the manifestation of the kingdom of the Devil in all its wickedness and evil that this counterfeit kingdom could muster. Their blood has never been avenged. In fact, all the saints of the NT era, as they have suffered in the world for the sake of Christ, are represented by the souls under the altar. Their blood must be avenged. The holiness and truth of their Lord is at stake. Therefore, all history cries out for revenge and for the final manifestation of the holiness and truth of the Lord. And so we hear the outcry which swells and grows louder and stronger as time goes on, a longing for the final day of Judgment, and a longing for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven with all His saints. And what we now see is that the opening of this fifth seal is an important step for the completion of the Kingdom of God and His Christ. That Kingdom cannot come by way of gradual development, like the postmillennial doctrines believe, but it can only appear in a public Day of Judgment and destruction of this sinful world. Millions of Christ’s saints have suffered martyrdom, and the world has rejoiced over their death. Shall their suffering and death be passed by in silence? Shall the justice of God in Christ never be revealed at all? God forbid! These souls under the altar would cry unto all eternity if the Lord would not come, and if He would not avenge them publicly. In a final day of Judgment the righteousness of Christ, the King of His people and the Lord of the world must be made very plain, and it must become manifest that He is holy and true indeed. And thus we see when this fifth seal is opened, and these witnesses cry out for justice, it implies that the Kingdom of God will be completed by a final Day of Judgment. It is because these souls have been slain that the perfect revelation of the righteousness of God must be revealed in the Day of Judgment. The saints cry out, “How long, O Lord?” And what is:

#3.      The Answer to Their Prayers (Rev 6:11, Isa 1:18, Rev 19:11)

Re 6:11  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.

The saints are given a twofold answer. In the first place they receive a white robe. This white robe

is symbolic of their glorified nature. White is the symbol of their justification in the blood of the cross. All their sins have been covered and only white is outwardly visible. God speaks of this covering by the blood of Christ in Isa 1:18, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool”. White is also the symbol of victory in battle. Just like the white horse and its rider is the symbol of victory for the cause of Christ, so also is the white of these robes, given to the souls under the altar, symbolic of the fact that they have conquered in battle, the battle of faith. Moreover, in Rev 19:11 the Lord Jesus Christ appears on a white horse to take possession of all the earth. And thus we can surely say that white is symbolic of victory in battle. And thus, the meaning of Rev 6:11 is as follows: The saints have suffered for the cause of Christ. They have been put to death violently. Therefore, here upon this earth their blood cries out for just revenge and for the manifestation of the holiness and truth of Jesus Christ. But as the saints entered into their blessed heaven they immediately received their white robes, robes that speak of justification, and holiness, and purity, and victory. In the world they were despised. In heaven they are glorified. In the world they were treated unjustly and trampled under foot. In heaven they are justified the moment of their entrance into the Kingdom of God. In the world they seemed to be wrong, and the world seemed right in persecuting them. In heaven they are immediately given the symbols of justification and victory.

In the second place the saints are told that they must wait a little while. Their outcry was, “How Long, O Lord?” The answer they received was, “Not yet, but within a short time”. Centuries have elapsed since this was written, and yet these souls under the altar cry upon the earth. In this prophecy of Revelation we are assured by the Lord Himself that He will come quickly. We know that He comes as quickly as possible. There are some tremendous events that must take place before the time is ripe for the coming of the Lord. How long must they wait? Until their fellowservants and brethren, that should be killed as they were, should have fulfilled their course. And thus the time is not yet ripe for judgment. The world has not yet shown its real character in all the hatred of its corruption. God said in Gen 15:16, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full”, and God waited more than 500 years before He brought judgment on the Amorites by the hand of the children of Israel. Then look at the history of Israel. The Lord Jesus said in Matt 23:37 that they had killed the prophets and stoned the messengers of God who had been sent against them. And yet it seemed as if the Lord would never visit them for their iniquity. But not until they had revealed their hatred to the full, not until they had rejected the Son of God and nailed Him to a tree, could the Day of Judgment come and Jerusalem be destroyed. These judgments are typical of the great day of the Lord that is to come. Also for that day the time must be ripe and the measure of iniquity must be filled. There are still a certain number who must be killed for the Word of God and for the testimony which they hold. And when they have been killed then the Lord will come and avenge His holiness and truth, and establish His Kingdom forever. And so, we also must bear testimony for the name of Christ in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation. And let us never forget that the enemy who persecutes us merely serves as an instrument to bring us to that state in which we shall enjoy the glory of the Kingdom of Christ forever more. The Lord rules! He opens the seals, also the fifth seal. And not a hair of your head shall ever be touched against His will.

AMEN.                 Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.