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“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: 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?” (Rev 6:9-10).

Death is one of the most misunderstood subjects today. To many it is a mystery that evokes feelings of fear and hopelessness.
Others believe that their dead loved ones are not dead at all, but instead alive in spirit. With others believing that when you die you go straight to heaven.

The above verses (Rev 6:9-10) are often cited in support of the belief that when we die we go straight to heaven and also that the dead can see and communicate with the living. However the Bible clearly tells us that the dead doesn’t know anything (Ecc 9:5). Therefore what is the meaning of the verses above?

First and foremost it is essential to remember that Revelation is written in symbols. In the verses above it sounds as if John the revelator is observing the conscious living souls of martyred Christians in direct conversation with the Lord.
Oddly enough, though, these ‘souls’ are seen under an altar, surely no one believes that the righteous beings who die literally are taken to heaven to lie under the altar. This simply shows us that this is all figurative language.

As a point of reference, it will be helpful to look first at the biblical account of the first martyr, Abel: “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
And the Lord said unto Cain, where is Abel thy brother? And he said I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, what hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand,” (Gen 4:-11).
Abel’s blood, not Abel himself, cried out to the Lord. Clearly this did not happen in a literal sense. Abel’s shed blood cried out from the ground to the Lord symbolically, for justice to be done, for his blood to be avenged, just like in Rev 6:10.

Just as Abel’s blood cried out symbolically for justice to the Lord, so does the blood of the martyrs ‘under the altar’.
The cry in Revelation 6 was figurative as was the cry of Abel’s blood. According to the Bible our dead loved ones are resting in their graves waiting for the resurrection morning (1 Thes 4:16-17). Death is a state of unconsciousness in which there are no thoughts, emotions, works, or relationships of any kind (Eccl 9:5-6, 10; Ps.115:17; Ps. 146:4).

Bopoto Gwinyai (7663 8191)

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