White Robe Martyr
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32. White Robe Martyr
Revelation 6.9-17

"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar, the souls slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?' Then each of them was given a white robe and told to wait a little longer until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers, and sisters, were killed just as they had been. I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a rolled-up scroll, and every mountain and island moved from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the mountain's rocks. They called to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the Lamb's wrath! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?'" (Revelation 6.9-17)✞

Executed Martyrs

Jerusalem TempleThe wilderness tabernacle's design layout and the Jerusalem Temple's are similar and described in detail. The New Jerusalem's future temple repeats its design features. Instead of animals' blood running into the altar base, John of Patmos sees the martyrs who shed their blood for Christ and kept their testimony and God's Word.

Sovereign Lord

Christian Martyr being ExecutedThe Greek phrase for "their brothers and sisters" is "adelphoi" in Revelation 6.11. Also, 12.10 and 19.10 refer to men and women martyred believers as part of God's family. "Martyrs" from the Greek meaning "witnesses" were each given a white, pure, victorious robe. God tells them to wait as still more Christians lose their lives for their belief in Christ. Christian martyrs cry out from under the altar in heaven for reprisals on their murderers! From the temple, the martyrs beg God's retribution, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the earth's inhabitants and avenge our blood?" But they are told to wait, for God is holding back until a specific target number of martyrs. "Until the full number their fellow servants, of their brothers and sisters die, just as they have been." This incident reminds us of Jesus waiting for several days after Lazarus' death before coming to raise him. John 11.6-7 recalls, "So when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, 'Let us go back to Judea.'" Jesus' delay is explained in John 11.4 when, "Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may receive glory through it." God promises that those who suffer and die for their faith do so for God's glory and will not be forgotten but be vindicated and honored.


Jesus, the Messiah, seated on a ThroneThis waiting for the full number of martyrs corresponds with the Jewish belief that the coming Messiah called the "anointed one" or "Christ" would not come until a certain number of souls are born. Of course, Christians know and believe that Christ has already arrived in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. However, the people of Israel believe that God will not act until all this has taken place.

The Great Earthquake

PeopleWhen the moon turned to blood, the great earthquake in Revelation causes princes, generals, the rich, and the poor even kings, to hide in caves out of fear. Revelation's "Great Earthquake" is exceptionally frightening. It is so enormous that people hide in caves and behind rocks in the mountains to save themselves. We can compare this to the Valdivia earthquake, otherwise called the "Great Chilean Earthquake" of 1960. Various studies place the Chilean Quake at 9.4-9.6 on the moment magnitude scale. It lasted just ten minutes but sent out a tsunami wave 80 feet high, which affected Southern Chile, Japan, Hawaii, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand. The death toll from the Chilean Quake ranged between 1000 and 7,000 killed. The monetary cost was between $3.9 to $6.78 Billion. Compared to this, the better known California San Francisco earthquake in 1906 caused over 700 deaths and raging fires.✞

Day of Wrath

Revelation's great earthquake is likely to be of equal if not greater devastation than the Chilean one. We read, "For the great day of their wrath has come," or "of His wrath has come," indicating not a natural disaster but God's intended punishment. People cry out for protection "from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the Lamb's wrath!" The listing of various occupations in society indicates the breadth of those experiencing widespread terror from the great earthquake. At the sight of the face of the one sitting on the throne, all human beings, including "the kings of the earth, princes, generals, rich, every slave and every free man," are terrified. They call for the mountains to fall on them and to hide them from the face of God! Hosea prophesied a similar disaster for Samaria's occupants in Hosea 10.7-8, "Samaria's king will be destroyed, swept away like a twig on the waters' surface. The wicked high places will pass away — it is Israel's sin." The "high places of wickedness" uses the Hebrew word "aven," a reference to "Beth Aven," a derogatory name used for Bethel. "Thorns and thistles will grow up and cover their altars. Then they will say to the mountains, 'Cover us!' and to the hills, 'Fall on us!'"

God's Timetable

Justice StatueWe may wish in our human weakness for justice immediately, but we must be patient. God works according to his timetable, and he promises a final redress. No suffering for the sake of God's kingdom is needless. In the face of a great earthquake, warfare, famine, persecution, and death, God calls on Christians to stand firm for their beliefs. God rewards those who endure to the end. These verses remind us that Jesus does not promise Christians an easy way in life, but that persecution is possible. The poet Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) from Vineland, New Jersey, expressed it so clearly,

"God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God has not promised sun without rain, Joy without sorrow, peace without pain."

The poem concludes encouragingly,
"But God has promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love."

"White Robe Martyr"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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