“[…] I saw underneath the altar the souls of those slaughtered […]. A white robe was given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little while longer, until the number was filled of their fellow slaves and their brothers who were about to be killed as they had been.”
After the four horsemen account, this passage says there are “souls” shouting out for justice. (Rev. 6:10)
God’s Word explains that someone’s soul, or person, is in their blood. (Lev. 17:11)
The imagery of a person’s blood calling for justice is not new. (Gen. 4:10)
And Christians who died before Christ’s second coming were actually dead and not lingering in some sort of afterlife. (1 Thess. 4:15,16)
If the “souls” shouting out for justice are representative of Christians’ shed blood, in what sense are they given white robes?
This chapter begins by dynamically describing Christ’s coronation and subsequent catastrophic events on earth. (Rev. 6:2-8)
Between then and the ‘number of fellow slaves being filled,’ there was a moment in which dead Christians who were meant to rule with Christ in heaven were raised and each granted a white robe.
They have been resurrected to immortality and the white robes symbolize their righteous acts. (Rev. 3:5; 19:8)
They “rest” in the sense that they must patiently wait for God’s judgment day before being allowed to avenge their deaths. (Rev. 7:3,4; Rev. 17:14)
So while initially the word “souls” represents the shed blood of loyal Christians, halfway through the passage it is referring to their resurrected selves.
“[…] A promise of entering into his rest remains […].”
Although Jehovah God rested from his creative works on the “seventh day” of creation, there remains a figurative “sabbath” day into which God’s people will enter. (Gen. 2:2,3; John 5:17) This will be when the earth becomes a paradise free of evil, pain or sin, as was God’s original purpose. (Ps. 37:9-11; Is. 33:24; Matt. 5:3-6; 12:8-13; Luke 13:10-13; John 5:5-9; 9:1-14)
That God’s original purpose of a paradise earth will be accomplished is guaranteed by his own word, which is immutable. (Heb. 6:17,18)
Whether we end up entering into God’s rest in person or through the resurrection, we can be sure that our efforts to listen to him and do what is right are never in vain. (Heb. 6:9,10)
“[…] The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”
Was Jesus referring to a future judgment in heaven or on earth?
The Hebrew Scriptures describe the resurrection hope as taking place on earth:
“He will swallow up death forever, And the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will wipe away the tears from all faces. The reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth […].” (Is. 25:8)
Who are those “in the memorial tombs?”
The term used here is derived from the Greek verb meaning to remember (mimneskomai), implying that the person who has died is remembered by God, regardless of where their body winds up physically.
Jesus used the verb when he offered hope of living in paradise to the felon being executed alongside him on a stake. (Luke 23:40-43)
Jesus made a covenant for a heavenly resurrection with those who stuck out his trials with him. (Luke 22:28-30)
But for most of us, faith in being in Jehovah’s memory and the promise of an earthly resurrection is our most viable longterm hope.
In the restored paradise, we will have a clean slate to chose eternal life or destruction by the choices we make then. (Ro. 6:7; Rev. 20:12,15)
“From now on the Son of man will be seated at the powerful right hand of God.”
Jesus kept a positive outlook throughout his trials, even knowing he was about to be executed.
He could have focused on the immediate pain and humiliation, the recent betrayal of his friends, or the impending agony he was about to endure on account of the sins of others.
Instead of doubting his father’s will, he proudly announced his solid hope of being reunited with his father before the ungodly violent audience of men who held his immediate fate in their hands.
More evidence of Jesus’ optimism comes from the words he told Peter even while knowing Peter would deny knowing him:
“[…] And you, once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32)
Jesus never doubted the good in Peter’s heart and openly assured him of it.
This leads me to ask myself if I am as open to seeing the good in others and offering reassurance.
Do I focus on the moment so much that I lose sight of what really matters, like my standing before God?
A hopeful attitude can turn a painful situation into a blessing.
“In fact, neither can they die anymore, for they are like the angels, and they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection.”
While Jesus was asked about the earthly resurrection, his answer seems to apply to the heavenly resurrection, a new concept to his audience.
The earthly resurrection will be in the flesh, much like that of Lazarus or the little girl he rose from the dead. (Luke 8:53-55; John 12:9-11)
But here Jesus speaks of a spiritual resurrection, likening those resurrected to angels.
This begs the question: can angels not die?
In order to die, Jesus had to leave his angelic body and become a man.
When he was born again as a spirit, death no longer had power over him. (Rom. 6:9)
God’s Word never refers to angels as being immortal, the way faithful anointed servants hope to be. (1 Co. 15:53)
Nor does the Bible ever mention the death of an angel.
As my husband pointed out, it is only fallen angels, or rather, demons, who await God’s judgment. (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6)
I personally would like further insight into this topic, but it is clear angels who remain faithful to God cannot die.
“From now on you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Jesus knew he was about to be executed, but he never lost sight of the greater picture. (Matt. 26:55,56)
He understood his role in God’s purpose and was positive he would fulfill it. (Da. 7:13,14)
He had resolved to obey his father, even at great personal cost. (Matt. 26:39,42,44)
He became the “Perfecter of our faith,” the model whom we can follow when we start to lose hope. (Heb. 12:2,3)
“Regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, who said: ‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’? He is the God, not of the dead, but of the living.”
In the gospel of Luke, the account adds: “For they are all living to him.” (Luke 20:38)
On being asked about the plausibility of a resurrection, Jesus quoted Jehovah’s words to Moses.(Ex. 3:6; Matt. 22:23)
When God referred to himself as the God of Abraham, Abraham had been dead for hundreds of years.
Though the prophets are literally dead, the promise of the resurrection is so sure to be realized that to God, it is as if they are living. (Eccl. 9:5,10; Ro.4:16,17)
Likewise, a person who is physically alive may as well be dead to God if that person commits themselves to an immoral lifestyle. (Ge. 2:17; 1 Tim. 5:6)
When we try to see life and time from Jehovah’s point of view, we can find true comfort in the resurrection hope.