Rev. 6:9 – When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those slaughtered because of God’s word and the testimony they had. 10They cried out with a loud voice: “O Lord, holy and true, how long until You judge and avenge our blood from those who live on the earth?” 11So, a white robe was given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little while longer until [the number of] their fellow slaves and their brothers, who were going to be killed just as they had been, would be completed. (HCSB)
In response to the martyrs’ question about God’s plans for His day of vengeance, the Lord provides each of them with a white robe, and they are told simply to “rest a little while longer” (v. 11). We see white clothing in other places in Revelation:
- In Christ’s letter to the church at Sardis, He tells them, “but you have a few people in Sardis who have not defiled their clothes, and they will walk with Me in white, because they are worthy. In the same way, the victor will be dressed in white clothes” (Rev. 3:4-5a, emphasis added).
- In Rev. 3:18, Jesus urges the Laodiceans to “buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed …” (emphasis added).
- And in Rev. 4:4, we see that the 24 elders are dressed in white clothes. Surely these white clothes represent the righteousness of Christ.
In Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet (Matt. 22:1-14), the one thrown into outer darkness is not dressed in appropriate attire. It’s not that he is too poor, or ill-advised; rather, he refuses to wear one of the white robes the host provides freely to all guests. The white robes given to the martyrs in Revelation 6 no doubt symbolize that they were made white by the blood of the Lamb, and that those clothed in Christ’s righteousness may wait in confident expectation that He will avenge their untimely deaths.
Maimonides, one of the great Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, says the Jews used to array priests, when approved of, in white robes; “thus the sense is, they are admitted among the blessed ones, who, as spotless priests, minister unto God and the Lamb” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, Rev. 6:11).
The martyrs also are told to rest “a little while longer.” None of them presses the issue by asking, “How long is that?” It seems enough to have God’s assurance that He will be true to His word. The timing of the Lord’s plans for the ages is known only to Him and remains a mystery and at times a matter of considerable debate for us. One reason the Book of Revelation is so difficult to interpret is because of the timing of its content. Have most of these prophecies been fulfilled, as preterists argue? Are they fulfilled at various stages in human history, as historicists contend? Are they yet future, as futurists believe? Are they to be interpreted figuratively rather than literally, as spiritualists argue? Or is there perhaps some element of truth in all of these interpretations, as eclectics say? One thing we all can agree on is that God, who is “holy and true” (v. 10), will fulfill His promises. That truth alone enables the saints to rest.
Nowhere in this passage do the saints seek to take vengeance into their own hands. They know what the Lord has said: “Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay … As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen My flashing sword, and My hand takes hold of judgment, I will take vengeance on My adversaries and repay those who hate Me” (Deut. 32:35, 40b-41).
It is interesting to note that when Jesus reads from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth and declares that “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled” (see Luke 4:16-21), He stops quoting the prophet in mid-sentence. He has declared that his earthly ministry involves preaching good news to the poor, proclaiming freedom to the captives, recovering sight for the blind, setting free the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor. But then, abruptly, He stops. If He were to go on, the next line reads, “and the day of our God’s vengeance” (Isa. 61:2). Clearly, Jesus reserves that day of vengeance for a future time more closely associated with His second coming. When we finally get to Rev. 19:2 we see that “He has avenged the blood of His servants …”
The length of the martyrs’ rest is implied but not implicit. It is “a little while,” eti chronon nikron, yet a little time, just a little while. God’s timing is not ours. Peter writes, “Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: with the Lord one day is like 1,000 years, and 1,000 years like one day” (2 Peter 3:8). His delay is an opportunity for repentance (2 Peter 3:9). And judgment most certainly will come, followed by new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:10-13).
Next: Until their fellow slaves were killed (Rev. 6:9-11)
With Easter approaching, as Christians celebrate the finished work of Christ — His death, burial and resurrection — it may increase our joy to see His earthly ministry in light of the Jewish feasts. In this post, we will complete our three-part look at Jesus in the Passover. For a free download of the complete study of Jesus in the feasts of Israel, click here.
Jesus appeared at Passover during each of the three years of His public ministry. Each time He revealed key truths about Himself and His work as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In each appearance, Jesus illustrated His person and work through confrontations and confirmations.
With Easter approaching, as Christians celebrate the finished work of Christ — His death, burial and resurrection — it may increase our joy to see His earthly ministry in light of the Jewish feasts. In this post, we will continue to look at the Passover, which foreshadows Jesus’ substitutionary and sacrificial death. For a free download of the complete study of Jesus in the feasts of Israel, click here.
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during the observance of Passover on the night before His crucifixion. Just as faithful Jews gather for Passover to celebrate God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, Christians take part in Holy Communion, focusing on two elements of the Passover meal — the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine — in remembrance that “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7 HCSB).
The feasts of Israel are religious celebrations remembering God’s great acts of salvation in the history of His people. The term “feasts” in Hebrew literally means “appointed times” and in Scripture the feasts often are called “holy convocations.” They are times God has appointed for holy purposes – times in which the Lord meets with men and women.
While there are many religious celebrations in Jewish history and custom, seven are most significant: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles. God established the timing and sequence of these feasts to reveal to us a special story – most significantly, the work of the Messiah in the redemption of mankind and the establishment of His Kingdom on earth.
Who wrote it?
The author of Revelation identifies himself as “John” four times (1:1, 4; 21:2; 22:8). The earliest church fathers, from Justin Martyr to Tertullian, unanimously agreed that this John was none other than the son of Zebedee, one of the 12 apostles, and the “beloved disciple” of Jesus, the same John to whom is attributed the writing of the Gospel of John and 1, 2 and 3 John.
In the third and fourth centuries, however, some church leaders attributed the book to another John and point out grammatical differences between Revelation and the other writings of the apostle. Nevertheless, the apostle continues to be widely credited as the author of this apocalyptic/prophetic work for several reasons:
- John is described in Acts 4:13 as “unschooled” and may have been incapable of writing in cultured Greek.
- It’s unlikely that anyone in the early church, other than the apostle, was so well-known to identify himself simply as “John.”
- Many expressions in Revelation are common to John’s other writings. For example, the word “Logos” as a term for Christ is used only in John’s Gospel and Revelation (John 1:1; Rev. 19:13). And the term “the Lamb” as a messianic title is found only in the same writings.
While we cannot say with absolute certainly that the apostle John wrote Revelation, we have the testimony of the early church fathers and a lack of sufficient evidence against their claims. The apostle John most likely is the author.
What kind of book is this?
First, Revelation, like most New Testament books, is an epistle, a letter intended for a specific audience. Rev. 1:11 makes this clear: “What you see, write it in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia …” The closing of the book also resembles an epistle: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
The book differs from other New Testament writings, however, in two key ways:
- Unlike other biblical epistles, Revelation is a prophecy (1:3; 22:7, 10, 18, 19), which forthtells the word of the Lord for the present and foretells future events.
- Revelation is apocalyptic literature, a style popular in John’s day but unknown to many modern-day readers. Apocalyptic literature is a special kind of writing that arose among Jews and Christians to “reveal certain mysteries about heaven and earth, humankind and God, angels and demons, the life of the world today, and the world to come,” according to Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Many noncanonical books were written in this style between 200 B.C. and 100 A.D., among them: The Book of Enoch, The Psalms of Solomon, and Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.
Key features of apocalyptic writing include: the appearance of angels as guides and interpreters; authorship during times of intense persecution of believers; the use of vivid images and symbols; and the use of numbers to convey concepts.
When was it written?
Most modern scholars believe Revelation was written about 95-96 A.D., late in the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (81-96 A.D.), who carried out a consistently brutal campaign against Christians. Many evangelical scholars, however, favor an earlier date. Specifically, they believe Revelation was written during the reign of Nero (54-68 A.D.) prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Nero severely persecuted Christians, and scholars who hold to a preterist view of Revelation believe much of what is written foretells the destruction of the temple and God’s judgment of both Romans and Jews who persecuted Christians.
Where was it written?
John tells us that he was on the Island of Patmos when he received the Revelation (1:9). Patmos is in the Mediterranean Sea and lies west of the coast of modern-day Turkey. John was exiled to Patmos for his faithful testimony of the risen Christ.
Why was it written?
According to the HCSB Study Bible, “This prophetic book originally intended to teach that faithfulness to Jesus ultimately triumphs over all the evils of this world and that Jesus will return to earth as King and Lamb-Bridegroom. God’s people who read and study Revelation today should view it with this original purpose in mind.”
How does it affect me?
Revelation teaches us many truths. First, it reminds us that God is sovereign over human events and angelic forces. He is moving human history toward its climax in the return of Christ and the establishment of new heavens and a new earth. Second, this apocalyptic book tells us how the early church faced intense persecution and was encouraged to persevere as believers looked for God to vindicate them and judge the wicked. Third, the prophetic nature of Revelation shows the timeless message of Christ’s redemption as it spoke to believers in John’s day and speaks yet to us today. Finally, Revelation gives us a glimpse, however hazy, of Christ’s certain, future, glorious, personal return to earth. We may proclaim confidently, as John did, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).