The fifth seal seems to be opened at a point in time when there is a major change in the direction and intensity of the work of the Four Horsemen and the intervention of Jesus Christ into human affairs. Although understanding the meaning of the fifth seal is not too difficult, there are some foundational things about the human creation that are important to know prior to analyzing this seal.
The Physical Life Force
"For the life of the flesh is in the blood: . . .Therefore I said to the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood,. . . For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof . . ." (Lev.17:11-14 KJV).
Today, we understand that the heart circulates the blood throughout the body and sustains the physical body.
Body and Spirit
The Bible describes two major events that take place at the death of a human being. These events are extremely important to the final outcome of the individual's future existence.
At death, the physical body that is made from the elements of the earth ceases all functions including cerebral functions; there is no more thought process, no memory, no knowledge, and no access to this world. Death terminates the individual's interaction with this physical dimension of existence.
The spirit that is composed of material from the spirit dimension of existence returns to God the Father and is stored with him to await its resurrection. See Jn.5:24-29; Heb.6:2.
"Then the dust shall return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it" (Ecc.12:7 Para.).
Revelation 6:9-11 Paraphrased
"And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those having been slain for the word of God, and for the witness which they had" (v9).
Here, John sees a representation of righteous individuals who have been martyred for their obedience to God and his way of life. The phrase word of God (Greek: 'logos theos') is sometimes used to describe the Creator God who became Jesus Christ as well as the proclamations and literal words of God. The text is unclear as to which is meant. However, because both meanings are, in essence, representative of God, this phrase does not change the context, basic concepts, or thoughts in verse 9.
Beginning with righteous Abel and continuing throughout human history, the righteous have been persecuted and murdered for their belief, practice, and witness of God and the truth of God.
The Spirits Cry Out
"And they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, holy and true Master, do you not judge and take vengeance for our blood, upon those dwelling upon the earth?" (v10).
Here, we see the lives of the righteous dead whose spirits have been returned to the Father from their earthly bodies. Although the spirits under the altar are unconscious, and unaware of anything happening on earth or anywhere else, they symbolically cry out for justice to be done and for God to avenge their deaths upon the wicked. See also Gen.4:10; Heb.11:4.
"And there was given to each one a white robe. And it was said to them that they should rest yet a little while, until it came to pass that their fellow-servants and brothers who were about to be killed as they were, had been killed" (v11).
Each of these righteous individuals who has been martyred throughout the centuries is symbolically given a white garment to show that each has obtained a position and reward in the Family and Kingdom of God. However, they are to rest a little while longer because another phase of God's plan is about to commence that will cause more of the elect to be martyred. But what could cause another major martyrdom of the elect of God?
When we review what Jesus said to his disciples about the end of the age, it becomes clear that the later martyrdom spoken of in the fifth seal is to occur at the very end of the age, and it probably will begin about four years before the return of Jesus Christ. This martyrdom will be brought about by the preaching of the true gospel message:
"And they shall deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake" (Matt.24:9 KJV). See also Mk.13:9,13; Lk.21:12-16; Jn.16:2.
"And I saw thrones and they that sat upon them. And judgment was given to them, and the lives of the ones having been beheaded because of the witness of Jesus, and because of the word of God, and who had not worshiped the Beast nor its image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and in their hand. . ." (Rev.20:4 Para.).
By B.L. Cocherell b2w13c