Seal 5: Martyrs
After the 4 seals, Jesus opens up the 5th seal and we see the souls of martyrs that were slain for their testimony which they had (Revelation 6:9). I previously touched on the 5th seal martyrs in my study of the 24 elders mainly pertaining to the timing of events. I believe a big give away is they cry “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:10). When I was still new to revelation, I believed that this group of believers where martyrs killed throughout the 2,000 years of church history. However, as my knowledge increased I realized this couldn’t be the case due to the rapture. In my study on the 24 elders, I stated that I believe the 24 elders represents the newly raptured and glorified body of Christ in heaven.
We know that the rapture is a “two-part” event in a sense; first a resurrection of the dead in Christ, then those who are alive will be transformed and meet Jesus in the air. Those who came to the saving knowledge of Christ throughout church history and were killed for their faith will be resurrected and given resurrected (glorified) bodies so they can’t be the 5th seal martyrs. This must mean these martyrs were killed after the rapture took place, otherwise they would’ve been a part of it. I believe this group may be getting killed in a span of time that exists between the rapture of the church and the 7 year tribulation. We need to remember that the tribulation itself doesn’t start with the rapture but it starts once the covenant is signed by the antichrist and with many for a length of a “week” or 7 years (Daniel 9:27).
Once the antichrist is revealed and he signs this covenant, it can be assumed that many who will be saved during this time will be able to understand the events going on and have a general idea of the timeline at that point. However, the martyrs are asking God how long till they’re avenged. If the tribulation was already occurring they would have been getting “avenged” and the question wouldn’t need to be asked. More importantly, once it’s seen that a covenant of 7 years is signed by an individual and “many”, it will be understood that this event marks the beginning of the tribulation. With that in mind however, we don’t have a concrete idea of how much time will be a part of this possible “gap”.
In Revelation 6:22, the souls are then given robes which is interesting to me because they’re stated to be “souls” in verse 9. Souls don’t have bodies so between verse 9 and 11 are they given resurrected bodies? Despite asking how long they have to wait until they’re avenged, they aren’t given an answer to their question but are instead told to rest until their fellow servants and their brethren are killed like they were (Revelation 6:11). This is what I believe is the great multitude that later appears that are said to be coming out of great tribulation (Revelation 7:14). We can see this finally comes to a close by the end of the tribulation in an event known as the “first resurrection” (Revelation 20:4-6).
Seal 6: Cosmic Disturbances
After Jesus opens the 5th seal and we see the martyrs, he opens the 6th seal. The 6th seal causes numerous cosmic disturbances: first a great earthquake, then a solar eclipse and blood moon, “the stars of heaven fell to the earth” which is most likely a type of meteor shower, and finally the sky itself recedes like a rolled up scroll (Revelation 6:12-14). Every mountain and island was moved from its place due to the great earthquake that occurred. I can’t imagine how powerful this would have to be to move all the tectonic plates on earth.
From Revelation 6:14, it seems that the atmosphere may have been removed which would have disastrous consequences later on. Also at this point human beings may be able to see into heaven as they say to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Revelation 6:16). God is sending a clear message to the inhabitants of earth at this time, that judgement is here. He’s shaking up the world literally and people understand what is happening.
However, as we continue throughout Revelation we’ll see that despite the inhabitants of earth knowing that God is the one executing these judgments, they choose not to repent and even blaspheme God for what he’s doing. This may simply be due to the depravity of the human heart at this time or the effectiveness of the deception that occurs during this period or a combination of both.
Something also worth noting here is that “the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains” (Revelation 6:15). This could be literal caves but we also know in our modern time “doomsday bunkers” are being built by the wealthy. Could what John be seeing here also be people fleeing into bunkers as a means of protection from the judgments to come?
Seal 7: Silence in Heaven
Once Jesus opens the 7th seal there’s a half hour of silence and 7 angels each with a trumpet prepare to sound their trumpets. The 7th seal is a prelude to the 7 trumpet judgments that come next. What we also see happening is temple imagery or a type of “service” occurring that would be done in a temple.
There is one angel who is performing this “service”. He has a golden censer and is given incense that will be offered with the prayer of the saints on an altar. “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake” (Revelation 8:5). Thus begins the next set of judgments – the 7 trumpets.
When I read this passage, I’m reminded of the services done by God’s people in various parts of the bible at an alter or temple. We can see a great example of this in Exodus 30:1-10 when Moses was commanded by God to build an altar for burning incense. This altar is overlaid with gold just like the golden altar in heaven (Exodus 30:3-5, Revelation 8:3). God also commands Moses to put this altar in front of the mercy seat where God will meet him (Exodus 30:6). We see the same thing in Revelation 8:3 as the golden altar is before God’s throne.
We should be reminded that what the angel is doing here doesn’t resemble what has been done on earth by God’s people but rather what God has commanded his people to do through temple services is a resemblance to what’s done in heaven. It’s a minor detail but changes one’s perspective. The altar of incense built by Moses as well as the system of burning the incense as an aroma to God is a type or shadow of what we see done in heaven, not the other way around. A great example being the law and the sacrificial system, “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect” (Hebrews 10:1).
Something worth looking into here also is the prayer of the saints. The prayer of the saints is first mentioned in Revelation 5:8, “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints”. But what are the prayers of the saints?
The “saints” these prayers originate from aren’t special individuals with some higher status, but rather prayers originating from all of God’s people throughout history. Several examples of this can be seen in passages such as Proverbs 2:8, Daniel 7:18, Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Ephesians 1:1, and Philippians 1:1. A common idea with this passage is that these are prayers from saints in heaven interceding for us. I do not see the bible alluding to this as Christ is our only intercessor (1 Timothy 2:5). We also shouldn’t be praying to dead believers or dead family members as that won’t aid them or us in any way and may even be considered necromancy to some degree which God deems as an abomination (Deuteronomy 18:9-11).
The image of these prayers shows that each one is special to God as they are depicted as golden bowls of incense. Incense is important to God – a “sweet aroma”. We can see this imagery in Psalm 141:2 as well, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice”. The 7th seal not only shows us the worth of each of our prayers to God, but also the role the culmination of prayers may have at this point in time. Why is it that these prayers are included with the silence in heaven and the eventual earthquake, noises, lightnings and thunderings? Many believe the silence is caused by the heavenly host witnessing the severity of what is to come on the earth, but do our prayers play a role in this somehow in bringing this about? I believe so.
There is a prayer Jesus gave us a model that many Christians throughout history have prayed, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13).
This is one of the many prayers prayed to the Lord for almost 2,000 years now and it seems that it will now be answered. Our prayers are important to God and the bible makes this message clear, “…The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). We ourselves may be underestimating the true worth and power of not just our individual prayers but the prayers of the collect body of Christ. Revelation 11:15 may just be the answer to this prayer of “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”; “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’”
If you enjoyed this study, you can find similar studies on the book of Revelation here including the 7 Churches of Revelation, the 7 spirits of God, the 24 Elders, the 4 living creatures, 4 Horseman, etc.