Martyred Witness

When the Lamb opened the fifth seal John receives the revelation of the martyred souls abiding under the altar. Where does this image of an altar originate? So far, what has been revealed is what is taking place in the throne room. The living one sits on the throne and is surrounded by the heavenly hosts who render praise and worship. This seems to indicate that the altar is the throne on which the living one sits. Under the throne of God is revealed a gathering of souls, the souls of those who had died for their word and witness. The “One” upon the altar was also slain. The image that is revealed in this scene is one where that which is above the altar and that which is below the altar is sacrificed blood, life given for word and witness. This is a hopeful vision. John is being told that the church, the suffering and ultimately victorious church, is built upon the foundation of the human soul that has been sacrificed, just as the life of the divine has been sacrificed to redeem those souls. The divine sacrifice and the human sacrifice are both essential. The divine above, the human below, convey the image of a church that is circumscribed by the redemption that has already taken place. There is further indication of this in the reply of the divine to the cries of the souls for vindication. They are given the white robe, the mark of redemption and renewal, along with the encouragement that their wait will not be long. They are awaiting the souls of those who are to come. The church of the present and the church of the future are seen in this vision, and there is continuity and sameness in their condition. The opening of the fifth seal is a proclamation that present and future church are built on the solid foundation of divine and human sacrifice. That two-fold sacrifice comes together in one place, in one person, in the Lamb who is opening up the seal. The Lamb is revealing himself, the divine human, the incarnate one, who is the foundation, the future church. The opening of the fifth seal is a self-revelation of the divine in the person of the Lamb who was slain, in whom there is hope for those who suffer.

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