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

"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar, the souls slain because of God's word and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the earth's inhabitants and avenge our blood?' Then each of them was given a white robe and told to wait a little longer until their fellow servants' full number, 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 goat's hair sackcloth, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as fig tree figs drop 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 earth's kings, princes, generals, rich, 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 Scriptures describe the floor plan of the wilderness tabernacle and the Jerusalem Temple. They are similar in detail. New Jerusalem's future temple repeats these design features. 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 God's Word.

Sovereign Lord

Christian Martyr ExecutedThe Greek phrase for "brothers and sisters" is "adelphoi" in Revelation 6.11. Revelation 12.10 and 19.10 also refers to martyred men and women 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 believers are to lose their lives for their Christian beliefs. Christian martyrs cry out from under heaven's altar 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?"

Wait Time

But the martyrs are told to wait, for God is holding back until a specific number of disciples have been martyred. "Until the full number of their fellow servants, 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 vindicated and honored.


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

Revelation's Great Earthquake

PeopleWhen the moon turned to blood, a great earthquake causes princes, generals, rich, poor, and even kings to hide in caves from fear. It is exceptionally frightening and so enormous that people hide in caves and behind rocks to save themselves. We can compare this to the "Great Chilean Earthquake," otherwise called the "Valdivia earthquake," of 1960. Various studies placed the Chilean Quake at 9.4-9.6 on the magnitude scale. It lasted just ten minutes but sent out an 80 feet high tsunami tidal wave, which affected Southern Chile, Japan, Hawaii, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand. The Chilean Quake's death toll was between 1,000 and 7,000. It cost between $3.9 and $6.78 Billion. The San Francisco quake in California in 1906 caused over 700 deaths and extensive raging fires. ✞

Lamb's Wrath

EarthquakeRevelation's great earthquake is likely to be more significant than the Chilean one. We read, "the great day of their wrath has come," or "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 list of various society occupations indicates the breadth of those experiencing the great earthquake's widespread terror. ✞

Terrifying Sight

At the sight of the face of the one sitting on the throne, all human beings are terrified. They call for the mountains to fall on them to hide them from God's face! Hosea prophesied a similar disaster on 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 "wicked high places" 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 God's kingdom's sake, is needless. God calls on Christians to stand firm for their beliefs in the face of a great earthquake, warfare, famine, persecution, and death. God rewards those who endure to the end.

Daily Strength

These verses remind us that Jesus does not promise an easy ride in life but possibly persecution. The poet Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) from Vineland, New Jersey, expressed it so clearly in her poem,

"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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