The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
The Concordant Version
And when It opens the fifth seal, I perceived underneath the altar the souls of those who have been slain because of the word of God and because of the testimony which they had.
10And they cry with a loud voice, saying, "Till when, O Owner, holy and true, art Thou not judging and avenging our blood on those dwelling on the earth?"
11And to each of them was given a white robe, and it was declared to them that they should be resting still a little time, till their number should be completed by their fellow slaves also, and their brethren, who are about to be killed even as they were.
THE SOULS UNDER THE ALTAR
WE now stand upon the highest peak in the great divide of divine prophecy. Behind us lies the shadowy scene of human sin and misgovernment and alienation from God. Some distance ahead we can see smiling plains brightened by the beams of divine mercy, the longed-for millennium. But, before we reach that restful haven we encounter the most terrific storm earth has ever known. Thunder and lightning, blood and fire, heaven and earth, man and Satan, all conspire to wreck and ruin the human race. Directly in the center of the tornado's path are the saints of the Circumcision whose lot will be cast in the time of the end.
Judgment is God's strange work. He always hurries through it and He condescends to explain the motive that prompts Him to it. Just as the storm is the relief of nature's strained elements, so judgment follows the pent-up impulses of mercy. What cannot be cured by kindness, must be corrected by coercion. Love demands that such measures should be swift, severe, and sudden. Grace lingers long. For nearly two millenniums it has swayed its sweet scepter over man. It is like the sun's beneficent beams. Judgment is the lightning flash, which is gone before its thunderous reverberations reach the car.
Redemption is by blood and by power. Israel was sheltered by the sacrificial lamb from the death stroke of Yahweh's messenger and from the Egyptians by the overwhelming waters of the Red Sea. This was but a feeble type of the true Passover Lamb that was slain on Calvary and of the fearful judgments which will engulf the world when Israel's redemption draws nigh.
The Parallel Passages for the Great Affliction
9 "Then shall they be giving you up to affliction, and they shall be killing you, and you shall be hated by all of the nations because of My name.
10 And then many shall be snared, and they shall be giving one another up and hating one another.
11 And many false prophets shall be roused, and shall be deceiving many.
12 And, because of the multiplication of lawlessness, the love of many shall be cooling.
13 Yet he who endures to the consummation, he shall be saved.
14 And heralded shall be this evangel of the kingdom in the whole inhabited earth for a testimony to all the nations, and then the consummation shall be arriving.
15 "Whenever, then, you may be perceiving the abomination of desolation, which is declared through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him who is reading apprehend!);
16 then let those in Judea flee into the mountains.
17 Let him who is on the housetop not descend to take away the things out of his house.
18 And let him who is in the field not turn back behind him to pick up his cloak.
19 "Now woe to those who are pregnant and those suckling in those days!
20 Now be praying that your flight may not be occurring in winter, nor yet on a sabbath,
21 for then shall be great affliction, such as has not occurred from the beginning of the world till now; neither under any circumstances may be occurring.
22 And, except those days were discounted, no flesh at all would be saved. Yet, because of the chosen, those days shall be discounted.
23 "Then, if anyone should be saying to you, 'Lo! here is the Christ! or 'Here!' you should not be believing it.
24 For roused shall be false christs and false prophets, and they shall be giving great signs and miracles, so as to deceive, if possible, even the chosen.
25 Lo! I have declared it to you beforehand.
26 "If, then, they should say to you, 'Lo! in the wilderness is he!' you may not be coming out' 'Lo! in the storerooms!' you should not be believing it.
27 For even as the lightning is coming out from the east and is appearing as far as the west, thus shall be the presence of the Son of Mankind.
28 Wheresoever the corpse may be, there will the vultures be gathered.
9 The beginning of pangs are these. Yet you be looking to yourselves, for they shall be giving you up to the sanhedrins, and in synagogues shall you be lashed, and before governors and even kings shall you stand on My account, for a testimony to them.
10 And to all the nations first must be heralded the evangel.
11 "And whenever they may be leading you off, to give you over, do not worry beforehand what you should be speaking, neither be meditating, but whatsoever may be given to you in that hour, this be speaking, for it is not you who are speaking, but the holy spirit.
12 And brother will be giving up brother to death, and father, child. And children shall be rising up against parents and shall be putting them to death.
13 And you shall be hated by all because of My name. Yet he who endures to the consummation, he shall be saved.
14 "Now whenever you may be perceiving the abomination of desolation, declared by Daniel the prophet, standing where it must not (let the reader apprehend), then let those in Judea flee into the mountains.
15 Now let him who is on the housetop not be descending into the house, neither let him enter, to pick up anything out of his house.
16 And let him who is in the field not turn back to that behind, to pick up his cloak.
17 "Now woe to those who are pregnant and those suckling in those days!
18 Now be praying that your flight may not be occurring in winter,
19 for in those days will be affliction such as has not occurred from the beginning of the creation which God creates till now, and under no circumstances may be occurring.
20 And, except the Lord discounts the days, no flesh at all would be saved. But because of the chosen, whom He chooses, He discounts the days.
12 Yet before all these things they shall be laying their hands on you and they shall be persecuting you, giving you up into the synagogues and jails, being led off to kings and governors on account of My name.
13 Yet it shall be eventuating to you for a testimony.
14 Ponder, then, in your hearts not to be premeditating a defense,
15 for I will be giving you a mouth and wisdom, which all those opposing you shall not be able to withstand or contradict.
16 Yet you shall be given up by parents also, and brothers and relatives and friends, and they shall be putting some of you to death.
17 And you shall be hated by all because of My name.
18 And a hair of your head should by no means be perishing.
19 By your endurance shall you be acquiring your souls.
20 "Now whenever you may be perceiving Jerusalem surrounded by encampments, then know that her desolation is near.
21 Then let those in Judea flee into the mountains, and let those in her midst be coming out into the country, and let not those in the country be entering into her,
22 for days of vengeance are these, to fulfill all that is written.
23 Yet woe to those who are pregnant, and to those suckling in those days; for there will be great necessity in the land and indignation on this people.
24 "And they shall be falling by the edge of the sword and shall be led into captivity into all nations. And Jerusalem shall be trodden by the nations, until the eras of the nations may be fulfilled. 9 And when It opens the fifth seal, I perceived underneath the altar the souls of those who have been slain because of the word of God and because of the testimony which they had. 10 And they cry with a loud voice, saying, "Till when, O Owner, holy and true, art Thou not judging and avenging our blood on those dwelling on the earth?" 11And to each of them was given a white robe, and it was declared to them that they should be resting still a little time, till their number should be completed by their fellow slaves also, and their brethren, who are about to be killed even as they were.
Just as the central object in the great judgment of the past is a lonely cross and a bleeding Victim, so the judgment of the future centers our attention on an altar. The immediate cause of earth's woes is the cry of the martyrs for vengeance. What a mighty contrast between the One Who prayed "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!" and the cry of those under the altar, calling for judgment on their persecutors! The answer to the cry of Christ has stayed judgment for nearly twenty centuries. The petition of the saints will bring swift vengeance for thirty months.
It is important to understand the character of these judgments. When the kingdom is set up all nations will be summoned before the Son of Man for trial. Their sentence will not be based on their personal sins but upon their attitude toward God's people Israel. When the most terrible persecution visits God's earthly people, the Jew's, it becomes the test of righteousness. Those who succor them are blessed with them. Those who do them no favor are judged accordingly. Those who oppressed and slew them will perish in the previous visitations. The act that provokes the most terrible afflictions that earth shall ever see, is a gigantic outburst of anti-Semitism, but directed especially against those of the nation who are true to Yahweh and His Christ at the time of the end. These are the souls under the altar.
We may rest assured that none of the saints of this day of grace are included in this company. This is not a day for vengeance, but grace. Now a martyr should pray for his enemies, and implore for his persecutors. Then all will be changed. Grace will retire. Justice will unsheath its sword. Israel's saints will call for vengeance.
Perhaps no one seriously considers this scene a literal one. A large cavern is still shown under the site of the ancient altar on Mount Moriah where the blood of the sacrifices was poured. But no one would deem it a great boon to be thrust into such a reeking receptacle as a reward for martyrdom! It would be worse than death itself. It is an undoubted figure of speech. As our understanding of this great crisis depends on a clear grasp of its significance, we shall seek to unfold it fully.
First we must correct the misleading translations which connect life with the blood. Life, in the original Scriptures, is never connected with the blood, but with the spirit. It is the soul which is associated with the blood. Leviticus 17:11 should read, "For the soul of the flesh, it is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul." If we connect this with the fact that the blood of the sin-offering was poured out at the bottom of the altar (Lev.4:7,18) we have the key to the whole scene in the Unveiling.
There were seven great festivals every year in Israel. These form a prophetic outline of the nation's spiritual history. We give a list, together with the month and the day on which they were observed, and also suggest the antitype which was its fulfillment.
These festivals and their fulfillment are worthy of a whole volume by themselves, but all we wish to point out at present is the place of the day of atonement. There are two groups of festivals. One starts in the first month and the next six months later. One gives us the judgment of Calvary and the results that followed (1 Cor.5:7; James 1:18); the second is the judgment now before us, and its results.
The Trumpets will immediately bring to mind the seven trumpets which we are about to study. The Tabernacles celebration is a beautiful picture of the kingdom which the trumpets inaugurate. In between we have the day of atonement. It prefigured the great affliction which will fall upon them just before the kingdom comes. It was on the tenth day of the month (Lev.23:27). We have already seen that some in Israel will suffer affliction for ten days (Rev.2:10).
The point we wish to press is this: On the day of atonement the chief duty of an Israelite is to afflict his soul (Lev.23:27). There was to be no joy, no feasting, nothing to please the senses. This is a type of the sufferings and martyrdom of the faithful in the time of their greatest affliction. It is this suffering, at the hands of the alien nations, which precipitates the political judgments of the apocalypse.
Let us clearly grasp the close connection between the soul and the blood. Our Lord poured out His soul unto death (Isa.53:12). Literally, He shed His blood. And this is not a reference to His death, but to the sufferings which led up to His decease. This is one of the earliest figures used in the Bible. The blood of Abel cried to God from the ground (Gen.4:10). No one imagines that it became miraculously articulate. It was the suffering of Abel that appealed to God for vengeance.
The position of the souls shows us that God regards them as sacrificial victims. Every time their enemies murdered one of them for His sake it came up before Him as a reminder of the One great Sacrifice, Who also died at the hands of His enemies. Their blood, consequently, is poured out underneath the altar. In Solomon's temple, and Herod's as well, there was a vast cistern beneath the altar to receive the blood of the victims. But their souls are in the blood, hence we read of "the souls under the altar."
This is one of the most pregnant and impressive figures in the whole range of scripture. Throughout this period Israel is before Him and they are the key to His judicial acts. Are we to view the infliction of wrath upon the nations? First we are shown the great fact that it comes because they have persecuted and murdered His elect, just as the position of what remains of the nations will be determined in the kingdom by their treatment of His people. We are given no description of the sufferings the saints endure. That is found elsewhere, especially in our Lord's own account of these days. This section of the Unveiling deals rather with the great judgments on the nations, and God's reason for their infliction. Israel's "great affliction" must be avenged! Immediately an awful change sweeps over the very face of nature. Deception, war, famine, and pestilence are very bad, but they have seldom been wholly absent from the earth. It is only their intense severity which makes them so terrible at the time of the end. But even then God is hidden. They may be accounted for by natural causes.
Now, however, God steps forth as the champion of His people. He bares His mighty arm in the face of all nations. The tide of human affairs has turned. Man's day is ended. The Lord's day begins. Now no one any longer dreams that God is dead or has forgotten His creatures. His judgments are in the earth. He shakes it. He trains the artillery of heaven above upon it. He sends a scourge from beneath out of its very bowels.
Great is the day of Yahweh!
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