Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

What say the martyrs? (Rev. 6:9-11)

The fifth seal of the scroll received by Jesus is different from the others because it moves the readers from the experience of earth (as depicted in the previous four seals) to the response of heaven. Like the four seals, it describes details that picture what goes on in the period when Jesus is opening the seals.

In this seal, we are given a snapshot of heaven and are shown a picture of the church in heaven. No doubt, many Christians would have died because of the causes mentioned in the previous seals. Like them, this seal also ends in death, although for unique reasons. 

John’s attention is drawn to those who have suffered martyrdom because of their loyalty to Jesus. At the time of receiving this vision, about sixty years had passed since the ascension of Jesus. During those decades, many believers had been slain for their witness to Jesus. This seal informs readers that those believers are conscious in heaven, that they are not in some kind of inertia. They can recall the past and anticipate the future, and they have conversations with Jesus.

What is the concern of the believers who have reached heaven? Perhaps surprisingly, for us at first, they cry for God to bring justice to the world. This is not because they are vindictive, for heaven rejoices in mercy being displayed. Instead they long for God to act on all the horrors of history, to take on his role as avenger of the weak and needy.

The temporary answer to their concern is to experience what is signified by the white robes: participation in the victory of Christ and purity of heart in the perfect world. They are also encouraged to rest, to refresh themselves with the beauty of heaven.

They are also informed that the church on earth will continue to suffer, and many others will join their number. This was to be the norm. Yet their suffering will not be in vain. As was noted long ago, ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.’ Many Christians become more devoted disciples when they hear accounts of dedication unto death and many opponents are won as they see the love and loyalty of the believers.

One value for us of receiving the details connected to the fifth seal is that they explain troubles that Christians faith. Nothing is chaotic or out of control; rather it is under the control of Jesus. 

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