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…
I. THE MARTYR-CRY. It is the widow's cry, "Avenge me of mine adversary." "How long, O Lord (or, O Master), holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth!" This has been that long and bitter cry of the ages. It may seem" narrow," or worse than narrow — it may be called bigotry, or worse than bigotry — to sympathise with such sentiments; but these words stand. Let modern sentimentalists tell us what they mean, or else boldly proclaim them false and cruel.
II. THE MARTYR-HONOUR. "White robes were given them." What a contrast to the poverty of their raiment here, as they came out of prison; to the blood-stains and filth upon their earthly apparel!
III. THE MARTYR-REST. They get immediate rest as well as honour. "To you who are troubled," the apostle says, "God will recompense rest with us" (2 Thessalonians 1:7). The fulness of the rest — the Sabbatism (Hebrews 4:9) — is a reserve for the Lord's revelation from heaven; but rest, meanwhile, is theirs; rest, how sweet after the torture and toil of earth! It may be that there is peculiar rest for the martyr-band; and yet there is rest for all who are the Lord's, even though they may not have passed to it through the flames.
IV. THE MARTYR-HOPE. It is not expressly mentioned here. It is something which shall be given when the whole band is gathered; the whole martyr-band from the beginning. The seven epistles reveal that hope; and the three closing chapters of this book unfold it more fully. It is the hope of the first resurrection; of reigning with Christ; of entry into the celestial city; of the crown of life; of the inheritance of all things.
(H. Bonar, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: