“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.”Revelation 6:9 NKJV
What happens to martyrs who would choose to die instead of renouncing their faith in Christ?
The fifth seal judgment shows us a very special place in heaven where these people are waiting patiently for God’s justice. This seal reveals God’s abounding love, mercy, and grace toward anyone who has loved their testimony and the word of God more than life.
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.Revelation 6:10-11 NKJV
Let’s begin with understanding the term martyr.
Merriam Webster defines a religious martyr as a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion.
Jesus Himself prepares us in Matthew 24:9 for the possibility of facing persecution, hatred, and death for our testimony and our faith in Him. A commitment to follow Christ is a serious decision, and not one to take lightly. As wonderful as the free gift of salvation and assurance of heaven are, wisdom flags us to heed Christ’s warning. In our present day, the church and the world are rapidly falling into Satan’s traps of deception and apostasy, including Anti-Semitism and Anti-Christ sentiments.
‘For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.’Mark 8:35 NKJV
Have any of us suffered as martyrs for our Christian beliefs?
Although not yet common in the United States, martyrs exist in other places around the world, such as the Middle East and Communist countries. This topic is unfamiliar in America and one we don’t often hear preached from the pulpit. Although we pray for innocent Christians around the world who are captured and killed for their faith , we can hardly grasp making a choice between renouncing Christ or losing our own lives. We can’t because we haven’t taken a walk in the shoes of these precious martyrs. However, a day may soon be coming upon the entire world where martyrdom becomes commonplace.
What would we do if we found ourselves in this situation?
Only God knows the number of martyrs who have been killed for their testimony and the word of God. Probably millions fall into this category, beginning with Abel in Genesis, to prophets and all of the apostles, and continuing down the centuries to 2023.
Let’s look at the biblical account of a well-known martyr for powerful inspiration.
Stephen, one of the most famous Christian martyrs, was stoned to death by a synagogue who claimed he had blasphemed. After delivering a defense that cut them to the quick, Stephen summed up their resistance to the Holy Spirit:
‘You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.‘Acts 7:51-53 NKJV
Upon Stephen’s witness of the Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of God in heaven, the brutal crowd cast him out of the city and stoned him to death. Stephen’s response as he died was, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (see Acts 7:54-60).
Jesus predicted His own suffering on the cross. His blood had to be shed to forgive our sins. When God looks on a believer washed in the blood of the Lamb, He sees us through the blood of Christ’s righteousness (see Colossians 1:13-14).
From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.Matthew 16:31 NKJV
The Apostle Peter’s encouragement
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.‘1 Peter 3:14 NKJV
Future martyrs will join those waiting under the altar in heaven. God will give each one a white robe and encouragement to wait patiently for that day when He will avenge the blood of all who have been killed for their testimony and the word of God. What a wonderful promise!
For more stories on Biblical martyrs, click HERE for Jewish Martyrs for Christ.
Let’s conclude with the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to Timothy.
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.2 Timothy 1:8, 12 NKJV
Dear Father God, thank you for your promise to avenge the blood of every Christian martyr. Let us follow in Your sufferings and glorify Your Name in all the earth. Give us courage and boldness to never be ashamed of the gospel and the Name of Jesus. In His Name we pray, Amen.
The Fifth Seal’s Judgment Cry of the Martyrs by Karen Jurgens copyright ©2023 All rights reserved.