Revelation 6:9-17 picks up straight after the first four seals and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse have been released. The 7th seal is separated from the 6th by 7:1-17, so these two seals stand together. The 5th seal are the martyrs who have suffered at the hands of the hostile world for the message of Jesus Christ, while the 6th seal is the fate of the world at the hands of Jesus Christ. This provides believers with huge encouragement and strength in order for us to continue to stand witness regardless of the opposition we face in the name of the Lord.
With the 5th seal we see that the souls of the martyrs are under the alter, where the blood of the sacrifices run. These souls, these martyrs, want vindication. They want justice from God, because they have been punished by human hands. They plea "how long" before God provides that justice. This is a common plea found throughout the prophets. This cry for justice and the purge of evil from the earth. God however waits for the sin of this world to be so wide spread, just as He did before the Isrealites could enter Canaan.
In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:16)
The book of Revelation proposes that the oppression believers face by Imperial and pagan powers will see the conversion of all nations and that believers, including the martyrs of the 5th seal, will be given white robes. These robes show forgiveness, purity and righteousness in the face of the filth of this world. We gain these through the work of Christ upon the cross.
The 6th seal shows the complete desolation of the heavens under the creators wrath. We see this image of the entire universe being rolled up like a scroll. (Isaiah 34:4). This cosmic judgement is punishment against the wicked nations.
How does this judgement differ from the judgement of the four horsemen? Could it be that the four horseman is the judgement brought against nations now, (conquest, war, famine and death), while seals 5 and 6 speak of the final judgement.
This final judgement sees the wrath of the Lamb. A striking and terrifying image. A lamb, the most docile and vulnerable of God's creatures has wrath. We again see that the Lamb is the orchestrator of this final judgement. He has the power and the authority given to Him by God, His father.
These two seals present us with the truth that rank and role, power and position mean nothing (v15), only those who are believers, those loyal to Christ, will have protection from the wrath to come.
Keeping the thinking going
Do we live a life of a martyr? Do we proclaim the Gospel regardless of the consequences?
Are we available as sacrifices for the Lord?