Thursday, 26 November 2020
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Revelation 6:10
John begins the verse with, “And they cried with a loud voice.” This is referring to “the souls of those who had been slain” from the previous verse. They had held to the word of God, and they had kept their faithful testimony. Because of this, they were slain. In this, their souls cry out, “saying, How long.”
The Greek reads, “Until when.” It is as if with each succeeding person who is slain, there is another cry. “Surely, it must be time.” And then another soul is added, and the cry is, “Until when! Surely it must be time.” And another soul is added, and the cry repeats again. And the cry isn’t just one of personal woe that fades into vapor. Rather, they cry out, “O Lord, holy and true.”
Here, the term ho Despotēs ho hagios kai alēthinos, or the MASTER the HOLY and TRUE, is used. It is the last time that the term despotés, or “master,” is used in Scripture. It signifies an authority figure with complete jurisdiction and unrestricted power. There are no restraints or limitations on His authority. One can see the connection to the question “Until when?” As the Lord is completely sovereign, then He has a plan and has determined the scope of it, including every aspect. But the souls who are added to the number don’t know that plan, and so the question is made of the One who does know.
But more, in saying, “the HOLY and TRUE,” it is acknowledging these qualities define who He is, and therefore there must be a reason for the death of these souls. The Holy God would not otherwise allow His saints to be so destroyed, and the God who is True would not commit any falsity. As these are understood, those who have been slain are stuck in a mental conundrum, not able to understand the perceived disparity between the two.
To understand the sentiment, one needs to look no further than those who constantly await the return of the Lord today. We look around at the world at the continuously increasing immorality, and at the wickedness that is growing exponentially, and we think, “How Long, O Lord?” We cannot see how the God who is HOLY and TRUE can allow the perversion, murder, and immorality to continue. And yet, it does. Therefore, we feel there is a disconnect between what we are seeing and experiencing, and that which should happen. This is because we are not God, and we do not have all of the information He does. And so, we must trust.
For these slain, the question to the Master is, “until you judge and avenge our blood.” Here, we see that the cry is not specifically for personal vengeance, but for correcting that which is wrong. In Genesis 4:10, the Lord said to Cain –
“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.”
Likewise, in 2 Chronicles 24:22, Zechariah cried out while being stoned –
“The Lord look on it, and repay!”
Abel was the first martyr of the Old Testament; Zechariah was the last. There is the understanding in both that an injustice had been committed, and the Lord was aware of it and was being called to right the wrong. The blood of these souls is calling out for the same. “Our blood has been shed, it was not in accord with Your moral state, and therefore judgment is due upon the offenders.”
In this, the cry is for the Avenger of their blood to take action to right the wrong. In the Old Testament, the term gaal was used in two ways. One was as a kinsman redeemer, and the other was as an avenger of blood. This was a next of kin who had a personal stake in either redeeming a near kin’s property or in avenging the death of the near kin. Christ fulfills both roles. He is our Redeemer, and He is our Avenger of blood. To understand this concept, one can watch or read the Ruth sermons from the Superior Word (Redeemer), and also the Numbers 35 sermons (Avenger of Blood). Together, a fuller understanding of what is occurring in this passage from Revelation will be obtained. With this in mind, the verse finishes with a request for judgment and avenging “on those who dwell on the earth?”
Here, the ungodly of the earth are being referred to. They hate the word of God, they hate the moral standard that has been set in the heart of men, and they hate those who hold to the faithful testimony of those things. They are set in contrast to those who have been martyred, and the call is for them to be judged.
As to who these souls are, there are various interpretations. Is it all of the faithful souls from Abel until the end? Is it only the Old Testament martyrs? Is it the martyrs since the inception of the church? And so on. The exact identification of them is less to be concerned over than the general precept. The blood of the saints is precious in the sight of the Lord. It calls out for justice, and it will be executed. The Lord is not slack in His judgments. Rather, He has a plan, and the faithful of the world are to accept that their short-term call for justice may not necessarily be in accord with the Lord’s long-term view of redemptive history.
But, to give a best analysis of who these are, each category can be considered. Is it the Old Testament martyrs? Probably not. Jesus said this to the leaders of Israel –
“Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ 50 that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.” Luke 11:49-51
Is it those who are martyred during the church age? Probably not. Paul says that all of the dead in Christ, and those who are alive at the coming of Christ, will be taken at the rapture. Any who were martyred during the church age will be vindicated through Christ’s call to the church at the rapture. It is its own form of judgment upon the world.
Understanding this, and as the events of Revelation are focused on the tribulation period, this is more surely referring to those who are martyred during that period. They will be willing to give up their lives for the testimony of Christ. And there will be many of them, as is testified to in the coming chapters. But Christ will avenge their blood in due time.
Life application: The Lord is the Avenger of Blood. The avenger had the responsibility to take the life of the person who killed a near relative, willingly or by accident, but provisions were also set up to protect the person who killed unintentionally. However, when the murder was intentional, “The avenger of blood himself shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death” (Numbers 35:19).
As noted, the gaal is the same term applied to the kinsman redeemer and the avenger of blood. Jesus is both to us because He is our nearest relative. The people, as it said in the previous verse, were martyrs – thus implying that they were God’s witnesses of Jesus Christ. They are saved believers, either anticipating the coming of Christ, or who proclaim that Christ has come (as noted above, surely the latter – tribulation saints). Because of this, they are to be avenged. Their cry of “How long?” is one also seen several times in the Old Testament.
Isaiah wanted to know how long he had to witness to the people of Israel. Zechariah asked the Lord how long He would withhold His mercy from Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah. And Daniel cried out to God wanting to know how long until the visions he was given would come to pass. The Lord is working on His own timetable and we must be patient as we wait on His plans.
These martyrs in Revelation call out to the Lord with a rare word that signifies a master with full and absolute authority. In this, they are recognizing Christ’s divine authority to judge. And He will. This verse is one that pleads for the people of the Lord to allow Him to conduct His affairs according to His wisdom. He will not let any wrong deed go unpunished, and He will work in the most effective manner to receive the full glory that He is due. He will also receive the greatest praises from His people when they see His effective hand of completing the redemptive narrative. He is all wise, and He is fully capable of completing the task set before Him. He is JESUS!
Lord Jesus, it is comforting to know that You are our Avenger and that You will surely judge any who come against us. It is also comforting to know that You are our closest relative, even closer than a brother. You are our glorious Kinsman Redeemer and You have paid the ransom price for our souls with Your own precious blood. Thank You, O Lord! Amen.