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A Question For Premillennial Dispensational Rapture Believers: Explain The Fifth Seal In Revelation!

Posted by Job on September 25, 2009

Revelation 6:9-11 reads

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? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.

The Word of God for the elect people of God. Glory be to God.

For my premillennial dispensational brethren who believe in a pretribulation (or prewrath) rapture that spares the church from the time of sorrow, please explain this text. Who are those slain for the Word of God? Are they Christians? And when will these Christians be slain for their testimony? Does it refer to those believers slain in times past, whether in the Old Testament or at the time that Revelation was written? Or does it refer to believers slain during the great tribulation? (If so, how can any Christian stand under persecution, even martyrdom, without being emboldened by the Holy Spirit, which according to premillennial dispensational doctrine has to be taken from the earth along with the church? Please recall the difference between Peter and the apostles before the Comforter – cowering and fearful and running from their lives – and afterwards – bold and brave witnesses even unto death. As a matter of fact Peter himself went from being the worst – the one who denied Christ three times – to being the boldest. And how can anyone even be saved during the great tribulation without the work of the Holy Spirit? Recall: the Holy Spirit was indeed present during the time of the Old Testament saints. Indeed, the Bible states that the earth’s very existence cannot so much as even be sustained without the Spirit of God.) Or does it refer to believers slain during all ages, from the first (Abel) until the last before the return of Jesus Christ?

To interpret this passage with scripture, let us go to another one in Revelation that touches the martyrdom of the saints, which is Revelation 18:24. Please recall that this chapter refers to the fall of Babylon,  which since the Tower of Babel incident and particularly since the destruction of the temple in 586 has been used to symbolize people and systems that rebel against and oppose God and persecute His elect covenant people, and that Revelation extends this symbolism with personification, describing all that opposes God as a harlot (prostitute), which in this verse is called “her”:  And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth. Now as much as I love my King James Version, allow me to quibble with their translation of “kai” to “and” in the phrase “and of all that were slain upon the earth.” Many times, “kai” is just used for emphasis, as an amplifier of degree or a focus of attention. This text should probably read:

“And in her [Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and of saints, indeed all [prophets and saints] that were slain upon the earth.”

However, if you go with the King James Version, which granted carries much more weight and authority than my own, and all which follow its tradition on that text, then “and of all that were slain upon the earth” simply means that in Babylon was the blood of every person that has been murdered, all innocent blood that has been shed. This means that the prior clause “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints” means that “the prophets and saints” (a  New Testament idiom which refers to old covenant and new covenant believers) which means that the blood of Stephen and all other Christian martyrs ever since is contained in Babylon. So with reference to the elect the meaning is the same: the blood of everyone killed because of their faith in God is in Babylon.

So, if we interpret Revelation 6:9-11 with Revelation 18:24, when the fifth seal was opened the martyred souls viewed under the altar should very likely be interpreted to include every Christian martyr since Stephen. This would support the idea of a church that has always been under continuous tribulation. Such an interpretation would be consistent with, indeed fulfill the words of Jesus Christ in John 15:18-20.

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.

The Word of God for the people of God. Glory be to God.

Now one can hardly claim that those words were only aimed at the apostles. Those words are for all Christians for all time. So what basis is there for believing that there will be a rapture to save the church from a persecution that A) Jesus Christ said that we would face and B) Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to withstand? Now this is not an endorsement of the historicist, preterist or amillennial position that there will be no seven year literal great tribulation. Instead, it is to say that if there will be such a seven year literal great tribulation, the church will be present for it just as it has been present for all other tribulations, the “lesser” tribulations.

Now the prewrath (and mid-wrath) rapture adherent does have Revelation 3:10, which reads “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth”, in his favor. However, that could be fulfilled in a number of ways, including 1) a place of refuge (which ironically rapture believers commonly propose will exist for those who will saved during the great tribulation … again these people will have to be saved despite the absence of a church to preach the gospel or a Holy Spirit to perform regeneration) or 2) death. Do not let the “death” option astonish you, but instead study the scriptures, especially the Old Testament but also in the New Testament. It is a consistent theme that death is a way of being preserved, saved, spared from times of great evil … to be absent from the troubles of this world and present with God! Perhaps the best example of this is the death of Abijah, son of the wicked king Jeroboam, who died according to God’s will so that he would not be corrupted by Jeroboam and also not share in their judgment in 1 Kings 14. A New Testament example: at the time that he wrote Philippians 1:20-26, Paul viewed death as being removed from the extremely trying circumstances that he was living and exchanging it for a better fate. In that passage Paul stated “to die is gain”, but it appears that the rapture adherents have transformed it into “to be raptured is gain.”

So, the idea that there must be a rapture in order for Christians to be spared martyrdom seems to be inconsistent with Biblical revelation. It is also an idea that only makes sense for Christians living in the west. Practically everywhere else in the world, Christians face persecution: marginalization, poverty, disease, imprisonment, death. There are two doctrinal systems that have the effect of promoting the idea western Christians should have no part in what Christians in Indonesia, China, Iran, Palestine (and Israel!), India and Mexico (where Roman Catholic/pagan syncretists are persecuting Protestants) by simple right of geography of birth: pretribulation rapture and covenant theology. Pretribulation rapture teaches that Christians not currently under persecution now will never have to face it, because persecution will only come to “the good parts of the world” (i.e. “Christian nations” or “western nations” or “non-socialist nations” … you know, what Glenn Beck was referring to) when the anti-Christ (which 8% of New Jersey residents regard Obama to be) takes over it.

Now ask yourselves … why is it that Christians can be persecuted in some places (including Israel … and read this too!) now without the anti-Christ, but it requires the anti-Christ to happen in others (especially America)? Or that the saints in other places (and times, including in the west … remember the 30 Years War and the Anabaptists?) are not spared persecution, but only the modern American saints are? Only the idea that contemporary western (especially American and possibly British!) Christians are somehow better than Christians living in other times and places, and this fact would be due to America having some special status before God as a unique elect covenant nation, giving us special status within the Body of Christ. Of course, the Bible makes it clear in the Roman and Corinthian epistles that there is no special group or people with a special status, special favor, or special standing before God in the Body of Christ, but instead that we are one Body. Further, the Bible makes it clear that those who are accounted greater according to rank or authority (not standing or value) demonstrate this through being servant roles that cause us to A) serve those who are of lesser rank and authority and B) endure even greater persecution than those who are of lesser rank and authority. So, even if America did have some special standing before God, instead of our being wealthy decadent privileged Laodiceans, we would be poor, oppressed and serving everybody else! If you deny this, read the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ!

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Keep in mind, the version in Luke reads “Blessed are the POOR!”)
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

The Word of God for the people of God. Glory be to God.

Now earlier I mentioned the covenant theologians, from whom the modern concept of the “Christian nation” originated. Covenant theologians believe – or at least believed – that people in “Christian nations” would or should be spared persecution only because in a church-state Christians would control the government, economy, military, police, and religion in a theocracy after the manner of Old Testament Israel. That is why such extreme theonomists and reconstructionists as Gary North and Rousas John (R. J.) Rushdoony deny that the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount apply to Christians, instead stating that it only applied to Jews living in that time. (Curiously, hyperdispensationalists believe the same.) While I believe the covenant theology position to be in error, this statement is aimed primarily at premillennnial dispensationalists.

So if America were this special, Christian nation, it would be marked by our poverty and service, not by our decadent delusions of religious nobility which makes us believe that we are somehow exempt from the sufferings of Christians living in Belarus or Namibia, or for that matter the Christians of the early church. After all, when Paul wrote his statement insisting that those in the Body of Christ were equals, the statements were direct AGAINST two groups of people: the Jewish Christians in the Roman church and the wealthy Christians in the Corinthian church. The Jewish Christians regarded themselves to be superior to the Gentile Christians because of nationality, and the wealthy Corinthian Christians regarded themselves as superior to the poorer believers because of their riches. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to tell both groups that they were wrong. So, then, how can we justify believing that a rapture will come and rescue us from the type of persecutions and deaths at the hands of Muslims that are going on all over the Middle East, Asia and Africa right now, such as the two million Christians that were killed in Sudan, many of whom were tortured, raped, doused with gasoline and set on fire, had their limbs chopped off, or were sold as slaves because they refused to renounce Christianity?

Ironically, the world, including the media, the activists, and the government of our own “Christian nation”, did their level best to ignore this genocide, choosing instead to focus on Muslims murdering other Muslims in Darfur. And let us not forget that the term for which the word genocide was originally invented and applied to, that of the Armenians by the Turks, is still not recognized as such by the U.N. or by the government of our “Christian nation.” It is still more ironic when you consider that the Armenian genocide happened in the same general area that the letters in Revelation were sent, in the Turkey region. That persecution kicked off what was the bloodiest period of Christian persecution in history, the 20th century, that saw 45.5 million Christians killed!

So if there were any geographical or political entity within the Body of Christ that had special status, it would be those Christians because of their poverty and persecution who would come first, not us . It is those to whom the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ were addressed, and premillennial dispensationalism completely rejects that truth for the belief that the rapture will save Christians not yet under persecution from ever having to experience it because the saints who have it easier are the ones who fulfill Revelation 3:10! Never mind that the rich church that was not facing persecution was Laodicea, and the church that Revelation 3:10 was addressed to was Philadelphia. Why was the promise of Revelation 3:10 given to the Philadelphians? It is in Revelation 3:8, which reads “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” The Philadelphia Christians were being persecuted, and similar to the Sudanese Christians, they refused to yield to the persecution by denying Jesus Christ. In other words, they refused to do the same as the apostle Peter did THREE TIMES before he was empowered by the Holy Spirit, yet dispensationalism teaches that this Holy Spirit will be taken away, and those converted during the great tribulation will have to face the greatest time of sorrows ever without it, and will yet somehow stand? How? Why? Because of their free will? Or because of their inherently good human nature untainted by original sin? Followers of Reformed/Calvinist believers in the rapture like John MacArthur and Albert Pendarvis (the latter’s bookstore sells the Scofield Reference Bible) have to answer these questions! In any event, those who claim that Revelation 3:10 refers to Christians being raptured to escape persecution have to deal with the fact that the text was in reference to a Philadelphia church that was enduring it!

Make no mistake. I believe in a bodily literal return of Jesus Christ which I believe will occur after a literal great tribulation which will include a literal and personal anti-Christ. However, I also believe that the church will endure this tribulation, and that we need to be preparing ourselves and those who will follow us in the faith for it in a manner that is consistent with scripture as opposed to believing that we – or our WESTERN descendants – will have an experience of escaping it that will be unique to Christians living in other times and places. At the very least, someone must explain why western Christians alone should enjoy this pleasure!

The Three Step Salvation Plan


10 Responses to “A Question For Premillennial Dispensational Rapture Believers: Explain The Fifth Seal In Revelation!”

  1. Patricia said

    Heaven’s Fifth Seal Saints –

    We see those who have died in Christ throughout the ages in heaven at the (yet future) Fifth SEAL, wherein these saints are ALL given white robes. (Re.6:9-11)

    Before the opening of the Seventh, and final, SEAL these same saints, who are seen under the altar at the Fifth SEAL (Re.6:11), are again seen this time before the throne of God, wearing the white robes that were given at the Fifth SEAL. They are a great multitude, which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues (Re.7:9).

    The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh SEAL events will have a three-day time frame.

    At the Seventh, and final, TRUMPET (1Thess.4:16-17, 1 Cor.15:52, Rev.10:7), the ascension, the entire body of Christ will be in heaven. From that point we see the ENTIRE body of Christ in heaven as the Seven Last Plagues are given to be poured out (Re.15:1-3, Re.16:1), and we again see the body of Christ in heaven after the fall of Babylon (Re.19:1-2, 5, 10).

    Patricia © Bible Prophecy on the Web

  2. Dave James said

    Daniel’s 70 weeks have not been fulfilled. The 7-year tribulation (which you believe in) is the 70th set of seven years. The first 69 years were in a pre-church dispensation. The current dispensation has as its “bookends” the beginning of the church on the earth and the end of the time the church is on the earth. So, in a sense the 70th week returns things to a pre-church situation.

    Yes, the Holy Spirit is the agent of regeneration at all times – he was, is and will be. The difference during the church-age is Spirit-baptism into the Body of Christ.

    The Tribulation martyrs are not Christians because they are not Spirit-baptized into the Body of Christ. However, they do become believers as did those prior to the beginning of the church. Their martyrdom under the anti-christ is because they have become believers – but it says nothing about whether or not they have withstood persecution as someone would have between Pentecost and the Rapture. All we know is that they will die because of their faith.

    There are many biblical reasons / texts that demonstrate that the church will not go through the tribulation. One of the strongest arguments, in my opinion, is the fact that the Tribulation is Daniel’s 70th week – and the church cannot be on earth during the time of any of Daniel’s weeks.

    The multiple questions you pose do not in any way pose any significant problems to the concept of a pretribulation rapture of the church.

    Dave James
    The Alliance for Biblical Integrity

    • Job said

      Dave James:

      And precisely how will these people withstand martyrdom? During the time of the Maccabees Israel withstood persecution and martyrdom because they had 1500 years of preparation, the religious and national memory of the exodus, the tabernacle and temple, the priesthood and monarchy etc. And the church is emboldened by the Holy Spirit. The tribulation martyrs will not have either that ingrained religious or national memory or the indwelling Holy Spirit to sustain them. What will?

      Also, I would like for you to show me a single verse that states that the Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth during the tribulation. Please do not claim 2 Thessalonians 2:7, because an accurate translation of the Greek does not support the idea that the Holy Spirit is being removed. Also, explain how this removal does not break the promise of Jesus Christ to believers in John 14-17.

      Now your answer using weeks is novel. However, was this gap between weeks predicted, or is there a precedent for it in prophecy? And are you a “gap-theory creationist” per chance? Also, if you abandon the “we are still in the 69th week” idea, then the 70th week ended in 70 AD. Go 70 weeks from Daniel’s prophecy and it ends with the destruction of the temple and the end of the Jewish age, the age of Daniel’s people and nation, in 70 AD.

      Finally, I would like for you to provide me with the scripture texts that state that there will be a rapture of the saints.

      • Dave James said

        Since we are obviously plowing already well-tilled ground, you already know all of my answers ahead of time – and I already know all of yours. So, there’s not much point in taking the time to it would take to go back and forth for several iterations. Of course, this could be construed as a “cop-out” – but I hope that you can give me the benefit of the doubt on this and accept that it is not.

        I do find it interesting and unfortunate that in these kinds of discussions, so few can seem to resist incorporating at least some sarcasm in their replies – as is the question about the gap-theory. It doesn’t seem that this is way we should interact with others – believers or otherwise – in a discussion of the Word of God.

        Concerning martyrdom: Since martyrs all die by definition, then no one stands indefinitely. Besides this, some OT saints withstood intense persecution and they were arguably not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, if they were, then Tribulation saints would be indwelt in the same way. Although I think indwelling and Spirit-baptism are connected, if OT saints were indwelt, then these two aren’t inherently connected – although they happen simultaneously in the present dispensation. If they are necessarily connected, then again, OT saints and Tribulation saints would be on an equal footing with regard to persecution and martyrdom – and if that is Daniel’s 70th week, then Tribulation saints are arguably in the last 7 years of the dispensation of the Mosaic Law.

        Concerning Daniel’s 70th week: If we’re talking about this concluding in 70 AD, then when was the covenant made and when was it broken mid-way through and when did the abomination of desolation occur – and when did 1/2 of the population of the earth occur and when was the Glorious Appearing when the Messiah came to the Mount of Olives – and when has the lion layed down with the lamb – and when could a child play with a poisonous snake – and when were swords beaten into plowshares – and when was a 70 year old man still seen as a child – and when did Messiah rule the nations with a rod of iron – and when was Satan bound for 1000 years, or even any significant length of time. There is just no way to responsibly apply the prophecies of Revelation to any time frame in the first century.

  3. John Kaniecki said

    Dave James,

    Hi hope you are well.

    If there is every going to be meaningufl dialouge on this subject we would need to see your scriptures that back what you say.

    Regarding people being saved by another way Peter tells us in Acts 2:39, after telling us how to get into the Church that “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.”

    Perhaps you can start to explain why you feel the Church can’t be here in Daniel’s 70 weeks.



  4. Alan K said

    The prewrath position asserts that the Church will encounter the persecution of the Antichrist’s Great Tribulation (the fifth seal); then it will be raptured followed by the Day of the Lord’s wrath upon the ungodly.

    Thank you,

  5. Fiona said

    A most interesting web item titled “Edward Irving is Unnerving” flashed across my vision recently and I am still reeling. I found it on “Our Daily Bread” on Nov. 12 hosted by Joe Ortiz. It has belated evidence that a Rev. Edward Irving should have been known all along as the “father of dispensationalism” and not the much touted John Darby! Are you shocked? Fiona

  6. Kyle said

    The elephant in the room everyone is avoiding is that premillennial dispensationalist believe in Zionism to the point where Israel can do no wrong and the Jews are to be blessed in all matters.

    This lie is coupled with the premillennial dispensationalist doctrine which was foisted upon us by Darby and scofield.

    The next time your wishing for the third temple maybe you should think about the Palestinian Christians who are OUR brothers and sisters in Christ and not the Talmudic Khazar Jews.

    • Dave James said

      It is a broad misrepresentation to assert that “premillennial dispensationalist [sic] believe in Zionism to the point…”

      It may be true of a few – but I don’t hold this to be true and in 25 years of interacting with many other dispensationalists, I have never once encountered this thinking. Israel can and does make mistakes in matters of domestic and international policy – in both position and action. And we are very well aware of our Palestinian brethren. I do think that nations need to be careful to not set themselves against Jews in terms of their policy – and do not heed this at their own peril because God is not finished with the nation of Israel. However, this caution hardly constitutes Zionism.

      Dave James
      The Alliance for Biblical Integrity

  7. Di Wang said

    We should keep Sabbath on Saturday as it is the seventh day.

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