Revelation 6:7-11
(Rev 6:7 KJV)
And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

Then John is commanded to come and see the opening of the fourth seal which gives a new vision but builds on the previous one.

(Rev 6:8 KJV)
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

This horse is actually a pale-green horse which is considered to be the color of a dead corpse. This horse seems to be the culmination of the prior three horse judgments. The rider’s name is called Death. Since physical death has been around since the time of Adam, the type of death which is in view here also includes that of the second death because we see that Hell follows this rider. Physical death does not necessarily mean eternal damnation except in the case of the unbelievers who have followed the deception of false teachers and gospels. Power (authority) was given to this rider also over the fourth part of the earth.

The fourth part of the earth here does not mean that exactly one fourth of the earth’s population has been killed. It means that at this point, there is a limitation placed upon the fourth seal judgment. We will see this number increase in the vial and trumpet judgments. In the trumpet judgments we see one third of the earth affected. (Rev. 8:7-12) and then in the bowl judgments we see the totality of the earth being affected. (Rev. 16:1-17)

(Ezek 14:13-21 KJV) Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it: {14} Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD. {15} If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts: {16} Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate. {17} Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it: {18} Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves. {19} Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast: {20} Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness. {21} For thus saith the Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?

In the book of Ezekiel, God is telling Ezekiel that the land of Judah has sinned against Him and He is going to send four judgments upon the land. The number four stands for universality or the total location which is in view. In Ezekiel God is speaking about the land of Judah, in Revelation, He is speaking about the fourth part of the earth. Both of these are limited judgments because the areas are named in specific. Unlike the bowl judgments where the entire world will be affected. The same four judgments mentioned in Ezekiel which God will use against the sinning nation of Judah, He will use against one fourth of the sinning earth. Remember in Revelation we are going to see a progression of intensity of the divine judgments which will culminate in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the ultimate destruction of Satan and the unsaved.

The first judgment we see here is that of the killing by sword. This judgment is being intensified in our day as we see massive amounts of war all over the world and most of these are on local levels. We see terrorism, suicide bombers, governments which approve mass extermination especially under the guise of religion, etc. Governments who hold to religions like Islam have no problems allowing the murder of Christians in their countries.

The second judgment is that of famine or hunger. In today’s world we are seeing much famine but it is, at present, limited in scope. It is amazing though that in developed nations there are actually people who do go hungry. As we get closer to the last day, the problem of hunger will increase.

The third judgment is death. We see much death surrounding us today. Not only does death come by war, but by disease. It is said that there are millions who have AIDS in Africa alone. As I am writing this, the day before a major earthquake just happened in India and Pakistan which killed between 35-100 thousand. Natural disasters seem to be happening at an increasing rate. Everywhere you look there seems to be some type of disaster which has claimed multiple lives.

Then the fourth judgment is by the beasts of the earth. God had warned Israel that He would send beasts among them as a judgment if they broke the covenant.
(Lev 26:22 KJV) I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate. The beasts would not only destroy cattle which could also represent crops, but the animals would also attack people. With land developers continuing to tear down forests, animals are now coming into in habited places because they are running out of food. With the forests disappearing, the animals must forage for food elsewhere. In every city there is a continuing rat problem. Not only will animals attack people but this judgment will also include insect infestations. In my home state of New Jersey, there is an escalating bear and deer problem.

These four judgments will affect a part of the earth and based upon the Ezekiel account, even those who are saved like Daniel, Job, and Noah, will have no power to stop these judgments. This means that the believers who are on earth at this time will also be affected by these judgments. Christians die from disease, they die in plane crashes, they die in government sponsored pogroms, they die in personal attacks by individuals, they are killed for their testimony of Christ.

(Josh 23:14 KJV) And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.

(1 Ki 2:1-2 KJV) Now the days of David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son, saying, {2} I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and show thyself a man;

The Christians must suffer the same things on earth as the unbelievers do, as we see in the statements by David and Joshua. As long as we are in these physical bodies, we will be susceptible to all the things that can kill a human body, whether natural or manufactured. The great difference comes after death.

(Rev 6:9 KJV)
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:

In verses 1-8 in this chapter, we saw the divine judgments which were meted out upon the world and within those judgments, there were many Christian martyrs. When God sends tribulation into the life of a Christian it is to purify them. When the fifth seal is opened, we see the focus shift from the divine judgments sent out to the martyrs in heaven. John now sees the martyrs which have already been slain for their testimony of faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ. These martyrs are those who have been slain from the beginning of time up till the present time of John. The Lord Jesus in Luke 11:49-51 states that the blood of the Prophets was shed from the beginning of the world and was required of that generation.

(Luke 11:49-51 KJV) Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay 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 unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

It must be noted that there is no time frame given in the Bible for a specific generation. Some say 40 years and some say 70 years but in this case the generation which the Lord is speaking of is the present generation of evil which extends from Adam to the end of the world.
(Gal 1:4 KJV) Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: (Eph 1:21 KJV) Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: The Bible speaks of two ages. The present evil age and the age to come which is eternity.

Notice that we have in view those who were martyred for their faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ which resulted in their strong Christian testimony. John saw their souls underneath the altar. This altar is mentioned a few times in the book of Revelation. In the tabernacle and the temple there was an altar of sacrifice where the animal sacrifices were performed. Sometimes there were so many sacrifices that the blood ran down the altar. The Lord Jesus Christ is symbolic of that altar of sacrifice.

(Isa 6:6-7 KJV) Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: {7} And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

In the book of Isaiah, when he received his commission, a seraphim took a live coal from the altar and placed it upon his mouth which cleansed it. The coal is the Gospel and the Gospel emanates from the Lord Jesus Christ who is the living altar of sacrifice. In Revelation 6:9, these souls being under the altar symbolizes them being under the shed blood of the Lamb, even though they were martyred in the physical realm. In the heavenly realm they are safe and secure where their persecutors can never get to them. The blood of the Lamb covers them completely and keeps them safe from all harm.
(Lev 4:7 KJV) And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. This is symbolized as far back as the time of the Exodus in the book of Leviticus when the priest would pour some of the blood under the altar of burnt offering which symbolized Calvary and the shedding of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. These martyrs were under the shed blood of Christ which made them fit for heaven.

(Rev 6:10 KJV)
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?

These same martyrs who were under the Altar had begun to cry out with a loud voice. The word in the Greek for “cry” is “scream.” Their request for the Lord, who is holy and true, was how long did they have to wait before those who murdered them would be brought before the bar of God’s justice. These martyrs had been killed any time after the time of Abel who was the first martyr for righteousness. John is also seeing into the future when there will be many millions more who would be martyred for the cause of Christ. The middle ages would yield millions of Christian martyrs. Apparently these martyrs knew that they were killed for the cause of Christ and wanted the Lord to avenge their deaths. The Bible teaches that vengeance belongs to the Lord and that is why they are asking the Lord when will their evil acts be judged? 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10 gives the scenario in which the martyrs will be avenged when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. Even those in heaven already desire the end of the present evil age so eternal peace can begin and all evil will no longer be present.

(Rev 6:11 KJV)
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.

In the letter to the church at Sardis, the Lord promised those who overcame that they would be dressed in white raiment.
(Rev 3:5 KJV) He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. These martyrs in Heaven were being given those white robes as temporary covering because the time is not yet fulfilled till the end when they will receive their full glorified bodies. The truth which was given to these martyrs was that there were more who were going to give their lives in the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. The time frame given is the “little season” which means a “little time.” In the realm of eternity a few thousand years is but a drop in the bucket.

(1 John 2:18 KJV) Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

In 1 John 2:18, John refers to the present time as the “last time” and in the Greek it is really the word for “hour.” John, in light of eternity, sees the period from the cross to the last day as the last hour as if it was 11 PM to midnight. These martyrs would have to wait until the plan of God is completely filled and then the end will come. It is interesting that the last days are measured in terms of those who must give their life until that number is fulfilled. Those who give their life in the service of the Lord are truly those who have overcome and are great examples of those who have endured to the end. The endurance does not end after they are martyred, it continues into heaven as they endure the time they must wait until the last one is martyred and then comes the judgment on the oppressors.