Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 6:9

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained;
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Martyrdom;   Persecution;   Scofield Reference Index - Death;   Remnant;   Thompson Chain Reference - Martyrdom;   Martyrs;   Suffering for Righteousness' S;   The Topic Concordance - Day of the Lord;   Seals;   Vengeance;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Martyrdom;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Day of the lord;   Humanity, humankind;   Martyr;   Persecution;   Revelation, book of;   Soul;   Witness;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Death, Mortality;   Hades;   Murder;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Intermediate State;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Altar;   Heaven;   Revelation of John, the;   Witnesses;   Zacharias;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Persecution in the Bible;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Beast;   Prayer;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Abel;   Altar;   Apocalypse;   Benedictus;   Eschatology;   Esdras, the Second Book of;   Lazarus;   Parousia;   Soul;   Soul ;   Type;   Witness;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Revelation, the;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Abel (1);   Ascension;   Hades;   Persecution;   Psychology;   Resurrection;   Revelation of John:;   Rome;   Soul;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Altar;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for October 10;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The fifth seal - There is no animal nor any other being to introduce this seal, nor does there appear to be any new event predicted; but the whole is intended to comfort the followers of God under their persecutions, and to encourage them to bear up under their distresses.

I saw under the altar - A symbolical vision was exhibited, in which he saw an altar; and under it the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God - martyred for their attachment to Christianity, are represented as being newly slain as victims to idolatry and superstition. The altar is upon earth, not in heaven.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/revelation-6.html. 1832.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:

The opening of this seal intimately concerns the fortunes of God's church, showing that, "God is not unmindful of the death of the martyrs."[34] "John is still in heaven, therefore the altar represents the altar of incense in heaven";[35] but, to be sure, there is no actual altar in heaven; the thing being symbolized is that of the saints being, in some sense, in the presence of God, despite their having been slain on earth. Here is a powerful intimation of life after death.

Who are these deceased martyrs? We cannot agree that only the ancient saints of Judaism[36] are meant, nor that those alone who "perished in the persecution under Nero,"[37] are intended. This is a dispensational picture, and all of the saints who ever perished for the word of God are they of whom John spoke; especially those who are Christians were meant. Stephen, the first martyr, was surely among them, and James the apostle, and all who had suffered for the testimony which they held.

[34] J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 1079.

[35] F. F. Bruce, op. cit., p. 644.

[36] Charles H. Roberson, op. cit., p. 43.

[37] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 524.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/revelation-6.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And when he had opened the fifth seal,.... Of the seven seals of the sealed book; here is no beast speaking here, nor horse and rider presented to view; it was now a very dark time both with respect to the church of God and ministry of the word, and the Roman empire. This seal refers to the times of Dioclesian, and the persecution under him; and instead of the voice of one of the living creatures, John hears the voice of martyrs:

I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain; these include not only all the martyrs that were put to death in the persecution of Dioclesian, but all those that suffered in all the persecutions preceding; for this, being the last, involves them all. "Souls", being immaterial and incorporeal, are invisible to the bodily eye; these therefore were either clothed with corporeal forms, as angels sometimes are, or rather John saw them in a visionary way, as he saw the angels: and these were the souls of such as "were slain"; their bodies were dead, but their souls were alive; which shows the immortality of souls, and that they die not with their bodies, and that they live after them in a separate state: נשמתין דקטולי, "the souls of them that are slain", is a phrase used by Jewish writersF1Tosaphta in Zohar in Exod. fol. 79. 4. , and who have a notion that the souls of those that are slain are kept in certain palaces, under the care of one appointed by GodF2Shaare Ora, fol. 31. 2. : and these were seen "under the altar"; either this is said in allusion to the blood of the sacrifices, which was poured out at the bottom of the altar, Leviticus 4:7, in which the life and soul of the creature is; or because that martyrdom is a sacrifice of men's lives, and an offering of them in the cause of God and truth, Philippians 2:17; or with some reference to a common notion of the Jews, that the souls of the righteous are treasured up under the throne of gloryF3T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 152. 2. Zohar in Numb. fol. 39. 4. Abot R. Nathan, c. 12. Raziel, fol. 39. 1. Caphtor, fol. 15. 2. & 112. 2. Nismat Chayim, fol. 16. 2. they have also a saying, everyone that is buried in the land of Israel is as if he was buried "under the altar"F4T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 111. 1. ; for they think that being buried there expiates their sinsF5Maimon. Hilchot. Melacim, c. 5. sect. 11. ; to which they add, that whoever is buried "under the altar", is as if he was buried under the throne of gloryF6Abot R. Nathan, c. 26. ; yea, they talk of an altar above, upon which Michael the high priest causes the souls of the righteous to ascendF7Tzeror Hammor, fol. 85. 3. . Christ may be meant by the altar here, as he is in Hebrews 13:10, who is both altar, sacrifice, and priest, and is the altar that sanctifies the gift, and from off which every sacrifice of prayer and praise comes up with acceptance before God; and the souls of the martyrs being under this altar, denotes their being in the presence of Christ, and enjoying communion with him, and being in his hands, into whose hands they commit their souls at death, as Stephen did, and being under his care and protection until the resurrection morn, when they shall be reunited to their bodies which sleep in Jesus: and they were slain

for the word of God; both for the essential Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose faith they professed; and for the written word, they made the rule of their faith and practice, and which Dioclesian forbid the reading of, and sought utterly to destroy; and for the Gospel principally, which is contained in it:

and for the testimony which they held; the Syriac and Arabic versions read, "for the testimony of the Lamb"; and so the Complutensian edition; either for the Gospel, which is a testimony of the person, office, and grace of Christ, the Lamb, which they embraced, professed, and held fast; or for the witness they bore to him, and the profession which they made thereof, and in which they continued.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-6.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

7 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:

(7) The sixth sign is that the holy martyrs who are under the altar, by which they are sanctified, that is, received into the trust and teaching of Christ (into whose hands they are committed) shall cry out for the justice of God, in a holy zeal to advance his kingdom, and not from any private disturbance of the mind, in this and the next verse, and that God will comfort them in deed, sign and word; (Revelation 6:10).
Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/revelation-6.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

great men  …  bondman  …  freeman”; the seventh, to the silence in heaven. The scene changes from earth to heaven; so that interpretations which make these three last consecutive to the first four seals, are very doubtful.

I saw — in spirit. For souls are not naturally visible.

under the altar — As the blood of sacrificial victims slain on the altar was poured at the bottom of the altar, so the souls of those sacrificed for Christ‘s testimony are symbolically represented as under the altar, in heaven; for the life or animal soul is in the blood, and blood is often represented as crying for vengeance (Genesis 4:10). The altar in heaven, antitypical to the altar of sacrifice, is Christ crucified. As it is the altar that sanctifies the gift, so it is Christ alone who makes our obedience, and even our sacrifice of life for the truth, acceptable to God. The sacrificial altar was not in the sanctuary, but outside; so Christ‘s literal sacrifice and the figurative sacrifice of the martyrs took place, not in the heavenly sanctuary, but outside, here on earth. The only altar in heaven is that antitypical to the temple altar of incense. The blood of the martyrs cries from the earth under Christ‘s cross, whereon they may be considered virtually to have been sacrificed; their souls cry from under the altar of incense, which is Christ in heaven, by whom alone the incense of praise is accepted before God. They are under Christ, in His immediate presence, shut up unto Him in joyful eager expectancy until He shall come to raise the sleeping dead. Compare the language of 2 Maccabees 7:36 as indicating Jewish opinion on the subject. Our brethren who have now suffered a short pain are dead under (Greek) God‘s covenant of everlasting life.

testimony which they held — that is, which they bore, as committed to them to bear. Compare Revelation 12:17, “Have (same Greek as here) the testimony of Jesus.”

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/revelation-6.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Under the altar (υποκατω του τυσιαστηριουhupokatō tou thusiastēriou). “Under” (υποκατωhupokatō), for the blood of the sacrifices was poured at the bottom of the altar (Leviticus 4:7). The altar of sacrifice (Exodus 39:39; Exodus 40:29), not of incense. The imagery, as in Hebrews, is from the tabernacle. For the word see Matthew 5:23., often in Rev (Revelation 8:3, Revelation 8:5; Revelation 9:13; Revelation 11:1; Revelation 14:18; Revelation 16:7). This altar in heaven is symbolic, of course, the antitype for the tabernacle altar (Hebrews 8:5). The Lamb was slain (Revelation 5:6, Revelation 5:9, Revelation 5:12) and these martyrs have followed the example of their Lord.

The souls (τας πσυχαςtas psuchas). The lives, for the life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11), were given for Christ (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6).

Of the slain (των εσπαγμενωνtōn esphagmenōn). See Revelation 5:6. Christians were slain during the Neronian persecution and now again under Domitian. A long line of martyrs has followed.

For the word of God (δια τον λογον του τεουdia ton logon tou theou). As in Revelation 1:9, the confession of loyalty to Christ as opposed to emperor-worship.

And for the testimony which they held (και δια την μαρτυριαν ην ειχονkai dia tēn marturian hēn eichon). See also Revelation 1:9. Probably καιkai equals “even” here, explaining the preceding. The imperfect tense ειχονeichon suits the repetition of the witness to Christ and the consequent death.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/revelation-6.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Altar ( θυσιαστηρίου )

See on Acts 17:23. The altar of sacrifice, as is indicated by slain; not the altar of incense. The imagery is from the tabernacle. Exodus 39:39; Exodus 40:29.

Souls ( ψυχὰς )

Or lives. See on 3 John 1:2. He saw only blood, but blood and life were equivalent terms to the Hebrew.

Slain ( ἐσφαγμένων )

See on Revelation 5:6. The law commanded that the blood of sacrificed animals should be poured out at the bottom of the altar of burnt-offering (Leviticus 4:7).

They held ( εἶχον )

Not held fast, but bore the testimony which was committed to them.

Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/revelation-6.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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 when he opened the fifth seal — As the four former seals, so the three latter, have a close connexion with each other. These all refer to the invisible world; the fifth, to the happy dead, particularly the martyrs; the sixth, to the unhappy; the seventh, to the angels, especially those to whom the trumpets are given.

And I saw — Not only the church warring under Christ, and the world warring under Satan; but also the invisible hosts, both of heaven and hell, are described in this book. And it not only describes the actions of both these armies upon earth; but their respective removals from earth, into a more happy or more miserable state, succeeding each other at several times, distinguished by various degrees, celebrated by various thanksgivings; and also the gradual increase of expectation and triumph in heaven, and of terror and misery in hell.

Under the altar — That is, at the foot of it. Two altars are mentioned in the Revelation, "the golden altar" of incense, Revelation 9:13; and the altar of burnt-offerings, mentioned here, and Revelation 8:5; 14:18; 16:7. At this the souls of the martyrs now prostrate themselves. By and by their blood shall be avenged upon Babylon; but not yet, whence it appears that the plagues in the fourth seal do not concern Rome in particular.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/revelation-6.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Under the altar; no altar is mentioned before. Emblematical visions like these are not to be expected to be coherent and consistent in their details.--The souls; the disembodied spirits.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/revelation-6.html. 1878.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

9.] And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar (it is an altar of sacrifice which is here meant; ἐσφαγμένων, which follows, seems plainly to imply this: see below) the souls (i. e. departed spirits. It is manifestly idle to enquire, seeing that the Apostle was in a state of spiritual and supernatural vision, how these disembodied spirits became visible to him. That they were not, as Eichhorn, clothed with bodies, is manifest) of those that have been slain on account of the word of God and on account of the testimony which they had (i. e. which was committed to them to bear, and which they bore: see reff., especially ch. Revelation 12:17. The testimony is one borne by them, as most Commentators: not one borne to them by the faithful Witness, as Düsterd. and Ebrard, most unnaturally: for how could the testimony borne to them before the Father by Christ (so Ebr.) be the cause of their being put to death on earth?

Much has been said about the souls of the martyrs not being their departed spirits, which must be conceived of as being in bliss with Christ (cf. Hengstb.), and in consequence it has been imagined that these were only their animal lives, resident in the blood and shed forth with it. But no such difficulty really exists. We know, whatever be the bliss of the departed martyrs and confessors, that they are waiting for the coming of the Lord, without which they are not perfect: and in the holy fire of their purified zeal, they look forward to that day as one of righteous judgment on the ungodly world. The representation here, in which they are seen under the altar, is simply symbolical, carrying out the likening of them to victims slain on an altar. Even as the blood of these victims was poured under the altar and the life was in the blood, so their souls are represented as under the symbolical altar in heaven, crying for vengeance, as blood is often said to do. After this, it hardly need be said that no inference can be drawn from this vision respecting the intermediate state between the death of the saints and the coming of the Lord): and they cried with a great voice, saying (viz. αἱ ψυχαί, which are identified in the sentence with the persons themselves: not, as Ebr. and Düsterd. the ἐσφαγμένοι as distinguished from the ψυχαί) Until when (i. e. how long: see reff.), thou Master ( δεσπότης is the correlative of δοῦλος, cf. σύνδουλοι below, Revelation 6:11, and see ch. Revelation 1:1; Luke 2:29; 1 Timothy 6:1. It is God who is here addressed; with Him rests the time when to avenge His elect, cf. Luke 18:7-8) holy and true (see on ch. Revelation 3:7, for the sense of ἀληθινός in such connexion: here it is too evidently intended of subjective truthfulness for the other meaning even to be brought into question: and it is wonderful that Düsterd. should have insisted on it, “der Herr welcher in Wahrheit diesen Namen verdient.” For the voc. expressed by the nom. with the art., see reff., and Winer, edn. 6, § 29. 2), dost thou not judge (give decision in the matter of; with ἐκ, see reff.) and exact vengeance for our blood from (reff.: ἀπο is found in Luke 18:3) them that dwell upon the earth (i. e. the ungodly world, as distinguished from the church of God)?

As hitherto, so here again, the analogy and order of our Lord’s great prophecy in Matthew 24:11 is closely followed. “The signs of His coming, and of the end of the world” were there announced by Himself as war, famine, and pestilence, Revelation 6:6-7. And when He had declared that these were but the beginning of sorrows ( ὠδίνων), He next, Revelation 6:9 f., announces the persecution and martyrdom of His people. Similarly here, after the judgments already announced, we have the prayer for vengeance on the part of the martyrs, and the announcement of more such martyrdoms to come. And as our Lord’s prophecies received a partial fulfilment in the events preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, and may have done so again and again since, but await their great and final fulfilment when the day of His coming approaches, so it is with these. The cry of the martyrs’ blood has been ever going up before God since Stephen fell: ever and anon, at some great time of persecution, it has waxed louder: and so on through the ages it shall accumulate and gather strength, till the great issue of the parable Luke 18:1 ff. is accomplished. And there was given to them [each] a white robe (there will be no real difficulty in understanding this, if we are careful to mark its real place and interpret it accordingly. The white robe, in this book, is the vestment of acknowledged and glorified righteousness in which the saints walk and reign with Christ: cf. ch. Revelation 3:4; Revelation 7:13 ff., al. This was given to the martyrs: but their prayer for vengeance was not yet granted. The Seer saw in vision that this was so. The white robe was not actually bestowed as some additional boon, but seemed in vision to be thus bestowed, because in that vision one side only of the martyrs’ intermediate state had been presented, viz. the fact of their slaughter and their collective cry for vengeance. Now, as over against that, the other more glorious side is presented, viz. that though the collective cry for vengeance is not yet answered, yet individually they are blessed in glory with Christ, and waiting for their fellows to be fully complete), and it was said to them that they should rest (not merely, abstain from their cry for vengeance, be quiet (so De W., al.):—but rest in blessedness, see ch. Revelation 14:13, and ref. Daniel) yet a little while until (construction, see reff.) their fellow-servants (see above on δεσπότης) also and their brethren (the καὶ.… καί may be taken as “both … and,” in which case two different sets of persons are indicated by the σύνδουλοι and the ἀδελφοί, which distinction it would not be easy to give an account of. So that I prefer regarding the first καί as “also,” “as well as themselves,” and the two substantives as describing (notwithstanding the repetition of the οἱ before ἀδελφοί) the same persons; those who are οἱ σύνδουλοι αὐτῶν and οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτῶν: the former term reminding them of the necessity of completeness as far as the service of their one Master is concerned: the latter, as far as they belong to one and the same great family) shall have accomplished (scil. “their course.” Considering that this absolute use of πληροῦν without an object following is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, it is strange that Ebr. and Düsterd. should designate πληρώσωσιν as an explanatory reading for πληρωθῶσιν. If this latter be read, then we must render, shall have been completed (in number); a meaning found Luke 21:24; Acts 7:23; Acts 7:30; Acts 9:23; Acts 24:27; cf. also Colossians 2:10, which suggests another reason for altering to - θῶσιν), who are about to be slain as also they were.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/revelation-6.html. 1863-1878.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

9 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:

Ver. 9. Under the altar] i.e. Under Christ, Hebrews 13:10, under his custody and safeguard; or, under the altar, that is, lying at the bottom of the altar, as beasts newly slain for sacrifice. See Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6. The ten persecutions and (after them) the invasions of the Goths, Vandals, Huns, and Herula, heaped on massacres of martyrs.

Which they had] Gr. ειχον, which they had, and would not be drawn by any terrors or tortures to part with. They may take away my life, said one, but not my faith; my head, but not my crown.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/revelation-6.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Revelation 6:9

The Waiting of the Invisible Church.

We may gather with all certainty from this wonderful revelation of the inner mysteries of the heavenly court—(1) that God has a fixed time for the end of the world; (2) that God has fixed that time according to the measures of the work which He has to finish. Even as Christ had a work to finish on earth, so that we read again and again that His "hour was not yet come," in like manner now in heaven He has a definite foreseen scheme for the administration of His mediatorial kingdom; and according to the accomplishing of this work will be the time of His coming. So much in a general way, but in this passage we have something more definite and detailed.

I. He has shadowed out to us the nature of the work that He has to do before the end comes; that is, to make up a certain number whom God has foreseen and predestined to life eternal. This then in general is the nature and direction of the mystery of this seemingly entangled world Out of the midst of it He is drawing the children of the regeneration, knitting them in one fellowship, in part still visible, in part out of sight. When the Son of God passed into the heavens He began to draw after Him a glorious train of saints, like as the departing sun seems to draw after him the lights which reflect his own splendour, till the night starts out full of silver stars.

II. Again, in this gathering out of the mystical body of His Son, God is carrying on the probation of mankind. In the inscrutable secrets of His providential government, He is so ordering the strife of the seed of the woman with the seed of the serpent, of the Church with the world, as to fulfil the manifold purposes of love and of long-suffering. And (1) we see that this long-permitted strife is ordained for the perfecting of His saints. (2) This mysterious work has an aspect of long-suffering towards sinners. It is thus that God gives them a full season for repentance. (3) We see from all this what ought to be the master aim of our lives; that is, to make sure of our fellowship in that mystical number.

H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. i., p. 333.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/revelation-6.html.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Here we have the fifth seal opened; under which Christ represents to St. John the condition of those precious souls of the holy martyrs who died for the testimony of Christ, by the bloody hands of tyrants; the design whereof is to support and encourage all that were to come after in the same bloody path.

Observe here, 1. The vision which St. John saw, namely, the souls of the martyrs.

But how could they be seen?

Ans. Not by the external senses, being immaterial substances, but in spirit they were seen by him; he had a spiritual representation of them made to his mind.

Observe, 2. The place where he saw them, under the altar; that is, lying at the foot of the altar, as sacrifices slain, and presented unto God.

Where note, That however men look upon the death of the martyrs, yet in God's account they die as sacrifices: and their blood is no other than a drink-offering poured out to God, which he highly prizeth, and graciously accepteth.

Observe, 3. The cause of their sufferings and death described, it was for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held; as one of the martyrs in the Marian days held up his Bible at the stake, saying, "This is that hath brought me hither."

They die not as malefactors, but as martyrs, giving a threefold testimony of the truth, a lip-testimony, a life-testimony, and a death or blood-testimony: they held the profession of their faith faster than they held their own lives.

Observe, 4. What St. John heard, a loud cry, saying, How long?

Note, 1. That souls can speak audibly, to the ears of men;

Note, 2. That they have sense of sufferings when they are in glory: it doth not imply that souls there are in a restless state, or that they want true satisfaction and repose when they are out of the body; much less,

3. doth this cry suppose that they carried with them to heaven any angry resentments, or revengeful dispositions, towards their murderers: but this cry supposes in them a vehement zeal for the glory of God, a flagrant desire that God would clear their innocency, and make known his justice among men, that he would abolish the kingdom of Satan, and consummate the kingdom of Christ, making all his enemies to become his footstool; so that they pray for what Christ waits in glory, Hebrews 10:13 all the revenge here desired was only a vindication of God's holiness and truth, which he himself had promised.

Observe, 5. The gracious answer which God gave to the cry of these gracious souls, in which he speaks satisfaction to them these two ways,

1. By somewhat given them for the present,

2. By somewhat promised them hereafter.

First, white robes were given at present to every one of them, that is, large measures of heavenly glory, as the reward of their sufferings and services, beyond other saints; as if God had said, "Though the time be not yet come to satisfy your desires in the final ruin of Satan's kingdom, yet it shall by well with you in the mean time, you shall walk with me in white, and enjoy my glory in heaven."

Secondly, That is not all, but the very things they cry for shall be given them after a little season, for God had more to call unto sufferings besides them, and they having conquered shall be crowned together; as if God had said, "You my faithful witnesses, wait a little while until your brethren be got through the Red sea of suffering as well as you, and then you shall see the feet of Christ upon the necks of all his enemies, and justice shall fully avenge the precious innocent blood of all the saints, which in all ages has been shed for the testimony of the gospel, from Abel the martyr to the last sufferer: Rest, for a little season, until your fellow-servants also, and your brethren, shall be killed as you were."

Now from the whole learn these lessons of instruction.

Learn, 1. That the souls of men perish not with their bodies, but do certainly outlive them, and subsist in a state of separation from them; the bodies of these martyrs were destroyed by divers sorts of torments, but their souls were out of the reach of danger, they were in safety under the altar, and in glory, clothed with their white robes, when their bodies were either turned to ashes, or torn to pieces by wild beasts; we shall not cease to be, when we cease to breathe; our souls do not vanish with our breath.

Learn, 2. That as the soul is alive in a state of separation from the body, so it is awake also, and doth not sleep with the body.

Mark, These souls cried with a loud voice; then they were not asleep, though their bodies were alseep in the dust; the opinion of the soul's sleeping with the body, until the resurrection, is a wicked dream; it is granted that the organical acts of the soul, that is, such acts as do depend upon the members of the body, must cease when the body ceases; but we find when we are asleep, that our soul can act of itself, without the assistance of the body; the soul grieves and rejoices, hopes and fears, chooses and refuses, therefore the soul is not only alive, but awake also, in its state of separation from the body.

Learn, 3. That there are not only praises, but prayers in heaven, and that for justice to be inflicted upon persecutors here on earth. O the miserable condition of bloody persecutors! when heaven and earth both pray against them.

Learn, 4. That there is no sin committed upon earth, which doth more loudly call for vengeance from God in heaven, and which he will more certainly and severely punish, than persecuting and wronging of his saints and servants.

Learn, 5. That one reason why the suffering servants of God are not presently delivered from their persecutions, is this, because more of their brethren must suffer besides them, before their persecutions are ripe and ready for signal vengeance.

Learn lastly, That the souls of God's martyrs shall by under the altar in heaven clothed in white, enjoying divine glory, before the fatal day of final vengeance come upon the persecuting world; for though the patience of God suffers long, yet the holiness of God cannot permit that innocency should always suffer, and violence with persecution go unpunished, but in the mean time they shall put on their crown and their robes.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/revelation-6.html. 1700-1703.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Revelation 6:9. καὶ, and) The fifth, the sixth, and the seventh seals relate to invisible things; the fifth, to those who have died well, namely, martyrs; the sixth, to those who have died badly, kings, etc.; comp. Ezekiel 32:18, and following verses; the seventh, to angels, especially those illustrious ones, to whom the trumpets are given.— ὑποκάτω) With this agrees that which the seventh of the brothers says, 2 Maccabees 7:36, οἱ μὲν γὰρ νῦν ἡμέτεροι ἀδελφοὶ βραχὺν ὑπενέγκαντες πόνον ἀεννάου ζωῆς υπο διαθήκην θεοῦ πεπτώκασι: for which the Latin translator, For my brothers, having now sustained moderate pain, have been brought [effecti sunt] under the covenant of everlasting life. Not only the Church fighting under Christ, as the world does under Satan, but even the Church in its consummated state, and the kingdom of darkness, are described in this book. Moreover, the actions of the forces of the good and wicked alike on the earth, and their removals from it to a happier or more wretched state, succeeding one another at different times, distinguished by various degrees, celebrated by various applaudings, and the increments of the expectation itself and of the rejoicing in heaven, and of the terror itself and punishment in hell, are at the same time shown. See ch. 4. 5. 6. 7. 14. 19. and following, and the notes.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/revelation-6.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

And when he had opened the fifth seal: this and the next seal’s opening, is not prefaced with any living creature calling to John to

come and see. We must consider:

1. The number of the beasts was but four, who all had had their courses.

2. Some have thought that it is, because here is no mention of any new persecution, but a consequent of the former.

3. But this vision was so plain, it needed no expositor.

I saw under the altar; still he speaks in the dialect of the Old Testament, where in the temple was the altar of burnt-offering and the altar of incense; the allusion here is judged to be to the latter.

The souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held; from whence we may not conclude, that the souls of men and women when they die do sleep, as some dreamers have thought. These are said to be the souls of them that were slain

for the word of God, & c., for preaching the word, and their profession of the gospel, bearing a testimony to Christ and his truths. Mr. Mede thinks that under this seal is comprehended the ten bloody years of Dioclesian’s persecution, which of all others was most severe; paganism at that time (as dying things are wont) most struggling to keep itself alive. This tyrant is said, in the beginning of his reign, within thirty days to have slain seventeen thousand, and in Egypt alone, during his ten years, one hundred and forty-four thousand. He thinks that the souls of those which this wretch had slain throughout all his dominions, within his short period of ten years, were those principally which were showed John upon the opening of this seal.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/revelation-6.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

пятую печать Эта печать описывает силу молитв праведников за Божье отмщение. Эти события начнутся в первой половине и продлятся до середины 7-летнего периода, который называется великой скорбью (2:22; 7:14; см. пояснения к Мф. 24:9, 15; Дан. 9:24-27; 2Фес. 2:4). Вторая половина (3,5 года) этого периода (11:2; 12:6; 13:5) показывает день Господень, когда Бог обрушивает Свое наказание и гнев на землю усиленными потоками (см. пояснение к 2Фес. 5:2).

под жертвенником Вероятно, это ссылка на жертвенник с благовониями, который символизировал молитвы праведников, возносившиеся к Богу (5:8; ср. Исх. 40:5).

души убиенных Христиане, замученные за веру (ср. 7:9, 13-15; 17:6; Мф. 24:9-14; см. также Мк.13:9-13; Лк. 21:12-19).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/revelation-6.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

The souls of them that were slain; the souls of the martyrs in Christ’s cause represent a period of severe persecution. These are seen under the altar, which may mean either the altar of burnt-offering in the court before the temple, or the altar of incense in the outer sanctuary. If, as seems probably, the altar of burnt-offering is meant, the idea will be that they have been sacrificed on God’s altar as victims in his cause, and their blood poured out beneath it. Those who understand the altar of incense, which was the symbol of intercessory prayer, explain their position from their words as recorded in verse Revelation 6:10.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/revelation-6.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The altar John saw was evidently in heaven (cf. Revelation 8:3; Revelation 8:5; Revelation 14:18). Earlier John had seen a throne-room in heaven (chs4-5), but now he saw a temple. Probably the concepts of palace and temple communicate aspects of God"s magnificent dwelling-place in heaven (cf. Psalm 11:4; Psalm 18:6; Psalm 29:9-10; Isaiah 6:1 : Habakkuk 2:20). This altar was evidently an altar of sacrifice rather than an incense altar (cf. Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-5; Revelation 14:17-18). Under this altar were the souls (Gr. psyche, lives) of people who had died for their faith in God and their faithfulness to Him during the period just described ( Revelation 6:3-8; i.e, in the Tribulation so far). Some amillennialists believe these martyrs are all Christians who die for their faith during the entire church age, which according to their view, is all believers who die from Christ"s ascension to His second coming. [Note: E.g, ibid, p396.] Preterists view these people as Christians who died in the first century of the church"s history. [Note: E.g, Swete, p92.] Perhaps the idea is that the lives of these martyrs were sacrifices to God (cf. Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6). The "and" (Gr. kai) is again probably ascensive (cf. Revelation 1:2; Revelation 1:9) meaning the word of God "even" the testimony they maintained.

These people must be those who died after the Rapture since all Christians living at the time of the Rapture will experience bodily resurrection and go directly into Jesus Christ"s presence then ( 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Consequently the people John described in this verse are evidently those who come to faith in Christ after the Rapture (cf. Matthew 24:9; Luke 21:12). They became believers during the first half of the Tribulation and then suffered martyrdom for their faith. John did not see their resurrected bodies because God had not resurrected them yet. The resurrection of Tribulation saints will not occur until the end of that seven-year period (cf. Revelation 20:4).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/revelation-6.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 6:9. And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slaughtered because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they held. With the opening of the fifth seal we pass into scenes of a kind in many respects distinguished from those of the first four. No voice of one of the living creatures now cries ‘Come:’ there are no horses and their riders: we make a transition from what is of earth to what is not of earth.

The Seer beholds first ‘the altar.’ We have already seen that the whole imagery of the heavenly abode is taken from the structure of the Tabernacle, afterwards copied in the Temple. The only question, therefore, is whether we have here the altar of incense which stood in the holy place, or the great brazen altar of burnt-offering which stood in the outer court. One answer is given to this question by all the most eminent commentators, and it would seem as if one only could be given. It is the latter of the two; and if any difficulty be found in accepting this owing to the fact that we might expect the souls of the saints to be preserved in the inner rather than in the outer sanctuary, the answer will be found in the first consideration to be immediately submitted when we inquire who the saints are. But whether that answer be correct or not, there can be little doubt that we have here a vision of the brazen altar. What is seen under it is the blood (see below) of those slaughtered in sacrifice. Nothing of this kind found a place at the altar of incense, while the command of the law was that the blood of animals sacrificed should be poured out ‘at the bottom of the altar of burnt-offering, which is before the tabernacle of the congregation’ (Leviticus 4:7). Those here referred to had been sacrificed. The word used, the same as that applied to the Lamb in chap. Revelation 5:6, leaves no doubt upon the point. They had been sacrificed in the same manner as their Lord; their blood had been shed as His was, and their bodies had been laid upon God’s altar to be consumed as an offering acceptable to Him. It corresponds with this that what St. John sees under the altar is in all probability blood. He speak indeed of ‘souls,’ or rather ‘lives;’ but to the Hebrew blood and life were equivalent terms; ‘the life of the flesh,’ he said, ‘ is in the blood’ (Leviticus 17:11). No shadowy spectres, therefore, were beheld by the Seer. He beheld only blood, but he knew that that blood was the souls or lives of men.

Two important questions demanding consideration meet us. First, What is the period to which these martyred saints belong? Secondly, Are they martyrs in the sense in which that word is usually employed, or do they include a larger number? In reply to the first of these questions, we have to urge that these saints belong neither to the period of the Neronic persecution, nor to any longer period of Rome’s history, nor to the whole Christian era from its beginning to its close. We must agree with those who think that they are saints of the Old Testament Dispensation. (1) Mark where the blood lies. It is under the brazen altar in the Court. The way into the Holiest of all had not yet been manifested. (2) Observe the manner in which their ‘testimony’ is described. The word used for ‘testimony’ occurs nine times in the Apocalypse, and in every case (including even chap. Revelation 12:11), except the present and chap. Revelation 11:7 which may be in some respects similar, it is associated in one form or another with the name of Jesus. The absence of any such addition in the words before us can hardly be thought of otherwise than as designed; and, if so, a distinction would seem to be drawn between the ‘testimony’ here alluded to and the full ‘testimony of Jesus.’ (3) The word ‘Master,’ not ‘Lord,’ of Revelation 6:10 is remarkable. It can hardly be referred directly to Christ: it is rather an epithet of God Himself, to whom it breathes the feeling of Old Testament rather than New Testament relation (comp. Acts 4:24; Jude 1:4, Revised New Testament margin). (4) The parallelism of thought between Revelation 6:10 and Revelation 6:11 of this chapter and Hebrews 11:39-40 is very marked, and confirms what has been said. (5) A powerful argument tending towards the same conclusion is that the saints of the New Testament receive during their lift on earth that very ‘white robe’ which is here given to the souls under the altar. Thus in chap. Revelation 7:14, after they have been described as ‘standing before the throne and before the Lamb,’ it is said of them, in the Elder’s inquiry, Who they are and whence they came, that they had ‘washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,’ words evidently implying that the cleansing and whitening referred to had taken place during the period of their mortal pilgrimage. In Revelation 3:4, they who are described as the ‘few names’ must have been already clothed in the ‘white garments’ which they had not ‘defiled.’ In chap. Revelation 19:8 the Lamb’s bride is made ready for the marriage which has not yet taken place, by its being given her to array herself ‘in fine linen, bright and pure;’ and in the 14th verse of the same chapter, at a time when the Church’s victory has not yet been completed, the Rider on the white horse is followed by the armies of heaven ‘clothed in fine linen, white and pure.’ To the same effect is the counsel addressed to the Church of Laodicea in chap. Revelation 3:18, that she shall buy of her Lord ‘white garments,’ as well as the description in chap. Revelation 19:8 of what ‘fine linen’ means, ‘for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.’ It is true that in chaps, Revelation 7:9; Revelation 7:13 and Revelation 4:4, these white robes are also those of glory in heaven, but it is unnecessary to dwell upon the fact that the believer appears there in the same perfect righteousness as that in which he is accepted here. The ‘white robe’ of the present passage, therefore, is a more complete justification than that which was enjoyed under the old covenant. It is that referred to by St. Paul when, speaking to the Jews at Antioch of Pisidia, he said, ‘By Him every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses’ (Acts 13:39). It is that robe of righteousness which had been promised in Isaiah 61:10 and Zechariah 3:4, that complete reward for which David longed (Psalms 51), and to which both Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:34) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36:25) had pointed as the great gift of Gospel times. The promise of the Old Testament, which the saints of God who then lived did not ‘receive,’ was not simply that of a better country, but of the ‘day’ of Christ, with all the blessings that should accompany it. In that hope they ‘exulted,’ and at length they ‘saw it and rejoiced’ (comp. note on John 8:56). Not until Christ came were even Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their faithful seed perfected. At death they passed into a place of holy waiting until the great work of redemption should be finished; and then only did they receive what is now bestowed upon the follower of Jesus even during his earthly life. Only under the Christian Dispensation have they been made equal to us; and at this moment they wait, as we wait, for the making up of the full number of the redeemed, and for the open acknowledgment and acquittal which shall yet be granted them. (6) Finally, it ought to be noticed that in the verse before us the saints referred to are not said to have been killed under the fifth seal which, like all the others, starts from a point of time contemporaneous with the beginning of the Christian age. It is rather distinctly implied that they had been killed before. The moment the seal is broken their blood is seen.

These ‘souls underneath the altar,’ therefore, are the saints of the Old Testament waiting for the completion of their happiness by having added to them their ‘fellow-servants’ of New Testament times.

The second question is not less important than the first. We cannot enter upon it fully, and it will meet us again. In the meantime it is enough to say that the analogy of other passages of the Apocalypse leads to the conclusion that the persons alluded to are not confined to those who had actually been killed in the service of God. It includes all who had remained faithful unto death, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the long line of those who, whether known or unknown, had died in faith. All were offerings. All had a life of struggle. All shared ‘the reproach of Christ’ (Hebrews 11:26); and all had an interest in crying, ‘Lord, how long?’ If, therefore, martyrs in the ordinary sense of the term are to be first thought of, it seems to be only as the type and emblem of the whole company of those who had lived and died in faith.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/revelation-6.html. 1879-90.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

the opening of the fifth seal, the souls of the martyrs under the altar cried aloud for justice, saying, how long, &c. Out of zeal for God's honour, and the good of the Church, they pray that the enemies of Christ, and of the Christian faith, may be humbled, and that all may acknowledge and fear the justice of God, by the punishment of his enemies, and the reward of his faithful servants. St. Jerome, by under the altar, understands Christ himself, under whom, as under their head, are all the martyrs. Some who doubted or held that the blessed were not admitted to see God, in heaven before the day of general judgment, have turned this expression, under the altar, or at least the expressions of some of the fathers upon these words, as if they were favourable to their error, which is sufficiently disproved, even by the words that follow, that white robes were given to each of them one, in which they are said to walk with him wherever he goeth. (Chap. iii. 4. and Chap. xiv. 4.) (Witham) --- Under the altar. Christ, as man, is this altar, under which the souls of the martyrs live in heaven: as their bodies are here deposited under our altars. --- Revenge our blood. They ask not this out of hatred to their enemies, but out of zeal for the glory of God, and a desire that the Lord would accelerate the general judgment, and the complete beatitude of all his elect. (Challoner) --- These holy souls, who had been slain for the word of God, do not beg the Almighty to revenge their blood, through any hatred of their enemies, but through the great zeal with which they were animated, to see the justice of God manifested: that by this severity they might be moved to fear him, and be converted to him. Thus in the Scripture we often read of the prophets beseeching the Almighty to fill their enemies with confusion, to humble them, &c. (Perer; Bossuet; Du Pin, &c.) --- And white robes. To console them, they each had given them a white robe, as a mark of their innocence, and as an assurance that on account of it they would in due time receive full measure of beatitude. They should rest yet a little while, most probably to the day of final retribution, when the number of those destined to be their brethren in bliss should be completed. Then they should all together receive full recompense, and their persecutors be covered with confusion. (St. Augustine, serm. xi. de sanctis; Gregory the great, lib. ii. Moral. cap. iv.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/revelation-6.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

altar. Greek. thusiasterion. First of eight occurances.

souls. See App-110and App-170Compare App-13.

were = had been.

word. App-121.

God. App-98.

testimony. See John 1:7.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/revelation-6.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word 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:

The three last seals relate to the invisible, as the first four to the visible world; the fifth, to the martyrs who died as believers; the sixth, to those who died, or shall be found at Christ's coming, unbelievers-namely, "the kings ... great men ... bond man ... free man;" the seventh, to the silence in heaven. The scene changes from earth to heaven; so that interpretations which make these three last consecutive to the first four are doubtful.

I saw - in spirit. Souls are not naturally visible.

Under the altar. As the blood of sacrificial victims on the altar was poured at the bottom of the altar, so the souls of those sacrificed for Christ's testimony are symbolically represented under the altar in heaven; for 'the life (animal soul) is in the blood,' and blood is often represented as crying for vengeance (Genesis 4:10). The altar in heaven, antitypical to the altar of sacrifice, is Christ crucified (Hebrews 13:10). As 'the altar sanctifies the gift,' so Christ alone makes our obedience, and even our sacrifice of life for the truth, acceptable to God. The sacrificial altar was not in the sanctuary, but outside; so Christ's literal sacrifice, and the figurative sacrifice of the martyrs, took place, not in the heavenly sanctuary, but outside, here on earth. The only altar in heaven is that antitypical to the temple-altar of incense. The blood of the martyrs cries from the earth under Christ's cross, whereon they may be considered virtually to have been sacrificed: their souls cry from under the altar of incense, which is Christ in heaven, by whom alone the incense of praise is accepted before God. They are under Christ, in His immediate presence; shut up unto Him in joyful expectancy, until He come to raise the sleeping dead. Compare the language, 2 Maccabees 7:36, as indicating Jewish opinion. 'Our brethren who have now suffered a short pain are dead under God's covenant [ hupo (Greek #5259) diatheekeen (Greek #1242) Theou (Greek #2316)] of everlasting life.'

Testimony which they held - i:e., bore, as committed to them. Compare Revelation 12:17, "have (hold) the testimony of Jesus."

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/revelation-6.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(9) I saw under the altar . . .—Read, when He opened, and, instead of “were slain,” &c., had been slain because of the Word of God, and (because of) the testimony which they held. The seal indicates that the mission of the Christian Church can only be carried out in suffering. An altar is seen, and at its foot tokens of the martyrs who had laid down their lives upon it. The word “souls” is to be taken as the equivalent of “lives”; the vision tells that their lives had been sacrificed. The blood of the victims was in the temple service poured out at the foot of the altar. St. Paul makes use of the same imagery—“I am now ready to be poured out” (“offered” in English version). In union with Christ Christians are called upon to suffer with Him, even to carry on to its great end the work of Christ in the world, and so fill up that which is lacking of the sufferings of Christ (Colossians 1:24). The word “souls” has been made a resting-place for an argument respecting the intermediate state. There is no ground for this: it is quite beside the object of the seal, which simply exhibits the sufferings of Christ’s people as the necessary accompaniment of the progress of the gospel. These sufferings are because of the Word of God and the testimony which they held. It was because of the Word of God and the testimony that the sacred seer himself suffered (Revelation 1:9). The words here remind us that the same issue which St. John fought, the suffering ones of after ages would be fighting. Their witness and his was the God-man; to this testimony they clung. They were not ashamed of Christ, or of His words, and they suffered for their courage and fidelity.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/revelation-6.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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:
I saw
8:3; 9:13; 14:18; Leviticus 4:7; John 16:2; *Gr: ; Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6
the souls
20:4; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23
slain
1:9; 2:13; 11:3-7; 12:11-17; 19:10; 2 Timothy 1:8
Reciprocal: 2 Kings 9:7 - I may avenge;  2 Chronicles 24:22 - The Lord;  Psalm 9:12 - When;  Psalm 44:24 - forgettest;  Psalm 72:14 - precious;  Isaiah 26:21 - also;  Isaiah 47:3 - I will take;  Isaiah 63:4 - GeneralJeremiah 11:20 - let;  Jeremiah 26:19 - Thus;  Daniel 7:25 - shall wear out;  Daniel 11:33 - yet;  Matthew 10:18 - for a;  Matthew 21:35 - GeneralMatthew 24:9 - shall they;  Mark 9:42 - it;  Mark 13:9 - take;  Luke 21:16 - and some;  Romans 9:22 - endured;  1 Corinthians 1:6 - the;  1 Corinthians 4:9 - as;  Hebrews 12:4 - GeneralHebrews 13:7 - word;  Revelation 1:2 - bare;  Revelation 7:14 - came;  Revelation 8:1 - And;  Revelation 12:17 - and have;  Revelation 16:7 - out;  Revelation 17:6 - the martyrs

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/revelation-6.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

This verse brings to the fifth seal but nothing is said by either of the four creatures. Evidently by this time John"s interest had been so centered on the drama being enacted before him that it was not necessary to call his attention. He was shown an altar because this is a book of symbols that are used to denote some literal facts. The present symbol is drawn from the temple of the Jews in which the altar was the center of their worship. At the bottom of the altar the blood of the sacrifices was poured, the bodies having been laid on the altar to be burned. (See Leviticus 4:7.) From this imagery it was fitting to represent the Christians as victims that had been sacrificed to the cruelty of their persecutors, and also to picture their souls as being poured out at the foot of the altar. It is interesting to note that the bodies only had been put on the altar which left the souls still alive and able to speak intelligently. (See Matthew 10:28.) The word for is used twice which is from the Greek word nu. The Englishman"s Greek New Testament renders this word "because of." The point is that these Christians had been killed "because of" their defense of the word of God. It is the same word that is used in chapter1:9 where John was banished to the isle of Patmos. Hence both John and these Christians who had been slain were martyrs, because the word means one who is faithful to the word of God regardless of threatened consequences.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/revelation-6.html. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 6:9

Revelation 6:9 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:

under the altar

It was not for treason against the emperors, but for the testimony of Jesus; and they loved not their lives unto death. { Revelation 12:11} The place where John saw them, was under the altar: the altar here may not be understood literally; for there was then no material temple, that in Jerusalem being destroyed, and the Jewish worship abolished; but this altar, metaphorically taken, doth signify the happy state, and blessed condition of the martyrs of Jesus. The altar stood in the most holy place of the temple, as being a type of Christ, who is our altar. { Hebrews 13:10} This altar was typed out by the golden altar of incense, place before the Ark of the Testimony in the tabernacle. { Exodus 40:5-6; Exodus 40:10}

The Souls of them that were slain;

that Isaiah, the martyrs of Jesus, whose bodies were killed, murdered and slain,

for the word of God, and for the Testimony which they held.

The testimony which those martyrs held, was two fold; first, negative; they would not worship idols. {as Daniel 3:16-18} Positive; they did worship the only living God in Spirit and in truth. { John 4:22-24; Daniel 6:13-16} Both Eusebius and Mr. Fox, in their Histories of the Church, testify, that thousands in a day were killed for professing themselves Christians; and in that some places of Roman Empire whole churches full of Christians were burned together, and whole cities where burned for refusing to worship idols, and whole legions of soldiers were destroyed for being Christians, and worshipping God. The primitive Christians, in those times of the ten bloody persecutions of the Roman pagan tyrants, would not give their soldiers, who were sent to kill them, any xczola; that Isaiah, any old cast cloth or rag to save their lives; and when any soldier pulled or plucked any cloth of rag from them by force; they would follow the solders, crying out, and saying, they were Christians; I am a Christian, etc.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hkc/revelation-6.html.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

9.Under the altar—The altar of the temple in Revelation 11:1, namely, of the scenic earthly Jerusalem. Note Revelation 4:11. It is not the altar of incense, but the grand altar of sacrifice. The law was, The whole blood of the bullock shall be poured at the bottom of the altar of burnt-offering, which is before the tabernacle of the congregation.

Leviticus 4:7. And as the blood is the animal soul or life, so symbolically the souls of those who had been sacrificed for their faith are represented as lying below the altar, and crying to God for retribution. Not that the blood symbolizes souls, but the souls themselves are seen, shadowy forms, by the seer’s spiritual eye. Hengstenberg maintains that souls here means, not the disembodied spirits of the martyrs, but their blood, which cries for vengeance, poetically, like the blood of Abel. But how could blood speak of avenging our blood? Hengstenberg’s evasion, that it is the slain who thus speak, is inadmissible. Where were the slain, as seen by John, crying, if they were not the souls? Alford and Elliott both interpret this of really disembodied souls whose condition symbolizes the repression of the cause of Christ under power of antichrist. And yet, in Revelation 20:4, where these same souls reappear to reign, as symbol of the triumph of Christ over antichrist, these interpreters maintain the souls of the beheaded martyrs to be their bodies!

 

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/revelation-6.html. 1874-1909.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Revelation 6:9. The scene changes from earth to heaven, which appears as a replica of the earthly temple with its altar of burnt offering. As the blood of sacrifices flowed at the base of the altar (Revelation 16:7), the blood representing the life, the symbolism is obvious. It was mediated by rabbinic ideas of the souls of the just (e.g., of Moses) resting under the divine throne of glory; cf. R. Akiba’s saying, “quicumque sepelitur in terra Israel, perinde est ac si sepeliretur sub altari: quicumque autem sepelitur sub altari, perinde est ac si sepeliretur sub throno gloriae” (Pirke Aboth, 26). The omission of after . may suggest that the phrase is intended to include not so much the heroic Jews who fell in the defence of their temple against Rome (Weyland) as pre-Christian Jewish martyrs (cf.Hebrews 11:39-40) who are raised to the level of the Christian church, and also those Jews who had been martyred for refusing to worship the emperor (cf.Revelation 7:9, Revelation 17:6, and Jos. B. J. vii. 10, 1). But the primary thought of the Christian prophet is for Rome’s latest victims in the Neronic persecution and the recent enforcement of the cultus under Domitian. The general idea is derived from Zechariah 1:12, Psalms 79:10, and En. xxii. 5 (“and I saw the spirits of the children of men who were dead, and their voice penetrated to the heaven and complained,” from the first division of Sheol).

 

 

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/revelation-6.html. 1897-1910.

The Bible Study New Testament

9. Then the Lamb broke open the fifth seal. This is still a vision. I saw ... the souls. He sees an altar, and under it the SOULS (not bodies) of those who were being slaughtered under the second seal. Their lives were both a sacrifice and a testimony to Christ.

 

 

 

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Revelation 6:9". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/revelation-6.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.