May 07, 2021

The Souls of Martyrs

Revelation 6:9-10

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.

—  Revelation 6:9

With the opening of the fifth seal, God’s story brings us to the altar where God gathers the souls of followers who have died for their faith in him. The enemy tries to silence believers who are faithful to God’s Word and to put an end to their testimony. Although they can be killed on earth, God keeps their souls safe in heaven. And they are not silent! The souls of the martyrs cry out with the passion of ancient laments to the Lord of all lords (see Psalm 13:1-2; 74:10; 94:3; 119:84).

We may not know the names of the people whom God gathers beneath his altar. But we do know they are the people Jesus acknowledged when he said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11).

These martyred saints have a special place in God’s design to help us live by faith in his Word. They provide us with a one-of-a-kind, holy witness to what following Christ looks like. Faith is willing to sacrifice to stay true to God.

Give thanks today for the little-known and often unnamed saints who paid and are paying with their lives for being faithful to God. Thank God that the voice of the martyrs is not silenced. “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders . . . and run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Thank you, Lord, for the example of the martyrs. Guide us to be your faithful witnesses, we pray. Amen.

About the author — Jim Poelman

Pastor Jim Poelman and his wife, Linda, served five churches in Ontario and British Columbia for thirty-nine years. They enjoy family gatherings with their extended household of children and grandchildren—29 members in all—often creating lots of happy noise.

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