- “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.”
This passage is sometimes read super-literally to support the teaching of the immortality of the soul, that souls of the dead depart to heaven.
- Suggested answers:
- It is generally taught that souls which go to heaven enjoy a state of bliss, but this passage speaks of souls crying “with a loud voice.” (vs. 10).
- Instead of this passage supporting the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, the context shows the passage to be directly opposed to it. The souls are given white robes. (vs. 11). Can immaterial souls be clothed?
- The souls in this text are under the altar. In which church that teaches heaven-going and immortal souls is this where immortal souls are said to reside?
- It is a principle in Scripture that “the life of the flesh (soul, ‘nephesh’) is in the blood”. (Lev. 17:11). By a form of allegory or personification, here metonymy, a slain person’s blood is said to “cry” or “speak”. (Gen. 4:10 cf. Heb. 12:24). The book of Revelation contains over 500 references to the Old Testament, and in this text the allusion is to the blood of the burnt offering which was poured at the base of the brasen altar. (Lev. 4:7). The passage, therefore, refers to the lives of martyrs given as a testimony to their faith. (Paul makes a similar allusion: “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed [‘poured out’]; the time of my departure has come.” (2 Timothy 4: 6 R.S.V).