Who are the souls under the altar?

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By BibleAsk Team


The apostle John in the book of Revelation wrote: “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 they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9, 10). The apostle John saw merely pictorial representations (Ezekiel 1:10).

To interpret these “souls” as the disembodied spirits of dead martyrs goes against the rules of interpretation of symbolic prophecies. The apostle John, in Revelation chapter 6, was not shown a view of heaven as it really is because there are no white, red, black, or pale horses there with warriors on them. And Christ is not there in the Likeness of a lamb with a bleeding wound. And the four beasts do not represent real winged creatures. Likewise, there are no “souls” under an altar in heaven. The whole scene was only a symbolic scene given to inspire with a specific message.

A Message of Comfort

The symbolization of the fifth seal was given to comfort those who will face death for their faith, and give them the affirmation that despite the apparent victory of the enemy, God will finally triumph. This message of comfort was particularly needed for those living in the time of the horrible persecutions of the Dark Ages. To them, it must have appeared that the long time of persecution would never end. The message of the fifth seal was a confirmation that God will be victorious over the powers of evil. And this same hope will be applied to those that will go through the end-time crisis just before the second coming of Christ.

Death Is a State of Sleep

Millions believe that after a person dies, the soul possesses a natural immortality but not even one time in the Bible is the soul referred to as being immortal or undying. According to God’s Word, man is mortal (Job 4:17). Only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15, 16). The Scriptures teach us that when a person (Christian or non-Christian) leaves this life, he sleeps (John 11:11; Daniel 12:2; Psalm 13:3) in the grave until the end of the world and the day of Resurrection. For more on the state of the dead, check: https://bibleask.org/bible-answers/112-the-intermediate-state/

Resurrection of Saints at the Second Coming

At the second coming of Christ, He will come to judge the world (Matthew 25:31-33). And He will raise the dead in the Lord and reward “every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12). Those who have accepted Christ’s sacrificial death to redeem them from the penalty of sin will be raised from their graves. They will be given perfect and immortal bodies and will be taken to heaven.

The apostle Paul declared, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 also 1 Corinthians 15:51–53).

But those who have rejected Christ’s sacrificial death will die for their sins.  “Those who committed the evil deeds” will be raised in the “resurrection of judgment” to receive their punishment (John 5:29 also 12:48; 8:24). These will not gain eternal life (1 Corinthians 6:9).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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