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 of those who had been 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 they were 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 scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed 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 rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?'" (Revelation 6.9-17)✞

Being Executed

Jerusalem TempleThe design layout for the Wilderness Tabernacle and the Temple in Jerusalem are similar and described in detail. Their design features seem to be repeated in the future Temple in the New Jerusalem. Instead of animals' blood running into the altar base, John of Patmos sees the martyrs who shed their blood for Christ, kept their testimony and the Word of God.

Sovereign Lord

Christian Martyr being ExecutedThe Greek phrase for "their brothers and sisters," which is "adelphoi" in Revelation 6.11, also 12.10 and 19.10, refers here to believers, both men, and women, as part of God's family who were martyred. The "martyrs" from the Greek word meaning "witnesses" are lifted and each given a white robe of purity and victory. God tells them to wait as still more Christians lose their lives for their belief in Christ. The Christian martyrs cry out from under the altar in heaven for vengeance on their murderers! From the Temple, the martyrs beg God for vindication, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" But they are told to wait for God is holding back until they reach a certain target number of martyrs, "until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters are killed just as they have been." He promises that those who suffer and die for their faith will not be forgotten but will be vindicated and honored soon.

Messiah

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 come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The people of Israel, however, believe that God will not act until all this has taken place.

The Great Earthquake

PeopleThe great earthquake in Revelation when the moon turned to blood causes princes, generals, the rich, and the poor even kings to hide in caves out of fear. The "Great Earthquake" of Revelation is truly a frightening thing. It is so enormous that people hide in caves and behind rocks in the mountains to save themselves. It may be compared to the "1960 Valdivia earthquake" otherwise called the "Great Chilean Earthquake." Various studies place the Chilean quake at 9.4-9.6 on the moment magnitude scale. It only lasted ten minutes but sent out a tsunami wave up to 80 feet high, which affected Southern Chile, Japan, Hawaii, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand. The death toll from the Chilean Quake ranges between 1000 and 7,000 killed. The monetary cost could be between $3.9 to $6.78 Billion in today's money. Compared to this, the well known California San Francisco earthquake in 1906 caused over 700 deaths and raging fires. The Great Earthquake in Revelation is likely to be of equal if not greater magnitude than the Chilean Earthquake. We read, "For the great day of their wrath has come," meaning "For the great day of His wrath has come," indicating not a natural disaster but God's intended punishment. The people cry out to be protected "from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!" The listing of various occupations in society indicates the breadth of those who are experiencing such 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, mighty, and 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 prophesies a similar disaster for the occupants of Samaria in Hosea 10.7-8, "Samaria's king will be destroyed, swept away like a twig on the surface of the waters. The high places of wickedness will be destroyed — it is the sin of Israel." The "high places of wickedness" use 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 final justice. No suffering for the sake of God's kingdom, however, is wasted. In the face of a great earthquake, warfare, famine, persecution, and death, Christians will be called on to stand firm for what they believe. God rewards those who endure to the end. These verses remind us that Jesus does not promise Christians an easy way of life but instead, that persecution is possible. The poet Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) from Vineland, New Jersey expresses 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 © 2019

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